Misuse of Veto Power

Introduction- Veto power

The literal meaning of ‘Veto’ is ‘I forbid’. A veto is the power to unilaterally restrict an official action, especially the enactment of legislation. The right or power vested in one of the branches of a government, to nil or postpone the decision of another branch, especially the right of a president, governor or other chief executives to reject bills passed by the legislature.

Five permanent members had veto power: –

  • China
  • Russia
  • France
  • United Kingdom
  • United States

Enabling them to forbid the adoption of any substantive resolution.

A Veto is a special power given to the 5 permanent members and this power becomes very crucial while passing any law in the Security Council. The veto power is the most significant difference between the permanent and non-permanent members of the UNSC (United Nation Security Council).

There are five permanent member and all those members of UNSC have veto power.

Russia has used veto power mostly for USA, UK, France and then China. The permanent members have ‘veto power’ which means that if they vote against a resolution, the decision is dropped regardless of how everybody else voted.

Every permanent member of UNSC having constitutional right to forbid the resolution passed by any other state or country of the world is called Veto power. Veto power does not apply to procedural votes as determined by the permanent members themselves.

The veto power originates in Article 27 of the United Nation Charter:

  1. Each member of the Security Council shall have a vote.
  2. The decision of the Security Council on procedural matters shall be made by an affirmative vote of five members.
  3. The decision of the Security Council on all matters shall be made by an affirmative vote of nine members including the concurring votes of the permanent members, provided in decision u/c 6 and under paragraph 3 of Article 52 a party to a dispute shall abstain from voting.[1]
  4. Although the “power of veto” is not mentioned in the UN Charter, Article 27 requires concurring votes from the permanent members.
  5. For this reason, the power of veto is also referred to as the principle of “great power unanimity” and the veto itself is sometimes referred to as the great power veto.

A State which is a Member of the United Nations but not of the Security Council may participate, without a vote, in its discussions when the Council considers that country’s interests are affected. Both Members and non-members of the United Nations, if they are parties to a dispute being considered by the Council, may be invited to take part, without a vote, in the Council’s discussions; the Council sets the conditions for participation by a non-member State.[2]

Misuse of Veto power

United Nations was based as an intergovernmental organization to maintain harmony, peace and security in the world developed friendly relations among nations, and achieve international cooperation. One of the six principal organs of the UN is the United Nations Security Council (UNSC).

UNSC is the most powerful body of the UN. It constitutes of the permanent five members and 10 other temporary members who have tenure of up to 2 years

Current Non-permanent members are: –

  1. Belgium
  2. Dominican Republic
  3. Estonia
  4. Germany
  5. Indonesia
  6. Niger
  7. Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
  8. South Africa
  9. Tunisia
  10. Viet Nam

UNSC meets regularly to assess the security scenario in the world and take measures against

  • Nuclear proliferation
  • Gender based crimes
  • Human rights violation
  • Civilians killings at the time of war etc

All of this seems good only on paper and not in reality because of the veto power enjoyed by the permanent members of the UNSC.

Many times, this power wielded by the permanent has been used by them to protect their own interests, keeping the larger global cause at stake.

The veto power has been used 287 times by Russia. The first veto was used by USSR regarding a resolution concerning the withdrawal of troops from Lebanon and Syria. Veto power is only a prerogative of the permanent five countries and can change any decision being taken by the council.

  1. There is one more aspect which tells us that we are not shown the full picture. This is the concept of “pocket” or “hidden” veto.
  2. This refers to the times when a resolution is not even tabled due to threats of a veto from one of the permanent five countries.
  3. This has raised several concerns and various experts have suggested that five permanent members should not use their veto power in the cases of genocides.
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  5. And if they use this power, they have to provide a reasonable explanation, which has to within the ambit of the UN Charter and international laws.
Veto power used for vested Interests
  1. There have been several instances when personal biases of the five UNSC representative, have to override as a priority over a humanitarian crisis.
  2. US has also recognized Jerusalem as the Israeli capital and has vetoed a UNSC resolution condemning the same. More than 40 times, the US has used its veto power to save the interests of Israel.
  3. There is one issue which has been shot down by the gun called veto. This is the chemical attacks conducted by the Syrian regime.
  4. Most of the UNSC members, both the permanent ones and the temporary ones believe that the Syrian president Bashar al-Assad has been using chemical weapons against its citizen. But Russia and China seem to believe otherwise. Whenever a resolution is tabled in the Security Council regarding the same, Russia has always vetoed it and china had sometimes vetoed it and sometimes abstained.
  5. More than 10 vetoes have been used by Russia to protect the interest of the Bashar al-Assad regime.
  6. Russia and china abused their veto power at the united nation security council, following a vote on a draft resolution that would have helped ensure accountability for the use and production of chemical weapons by all parties to the conflicts in Syria.[3]
  7. Russia has used its veto power 7 times on draft resolution on Syria since the start of the crisis.
  8. Russia’s shameful vote is yet another example of how it uses its veto power to make sure its ally, the Syrian government, evades consequences for its war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Veto used against the interests of India
  1. After the attack on the Indian Air Force base in Pathankot, which was planned by the JeM founder Masood Azhar, India started its efforts in the UNSC to designate Masood Azhar as a terrorist.
  2. This move has been interrupted by China by using its veto power.
  3. US, UK and France have moved a resolution to declare Masood Azhar as a global terrorist, but their efforts always been hampered by china. Beijing considers itself an all-weather friend of Pakistan.
  4. It has its CPEC (China-Pakistan Economic Corridor) project to think of and therefore always shields the country and the terrorists that it harbours within its borders. China has in total vetoed such a resolution by Indian allies in the UNSC four times.
  5. After the Pulwama attack, although china has condemned the attack, there are some sources that say china used the veto to the resolution which will be tabled by the French representative.

According to the UN records, Russia a permanent member of the security council had in 1962 vetoed an Irish resolution that had to encourage India and Pakistan to enter negotiation for settlement of the Kashmir dispute.

Levelling up the Kashmir issue at the united nation, Pakistan has said the use of veto insecurity council prevented solving the longstanding dispute and hindered implementation of UN resolution on the matter.

Pakistan supports expansion of the Security Council only in the non-permanent category”.


As much as I followed international politics, every permanent member UNSC has misused veto power by using it for vested interests rather than considering larger interest.

  • Britain and France misused it by vetoing the resolution that called for an end to military action by Israel against Egypt during the Suez crisis.
  • USA vetoed Palestinian membership at UN.
  • China used veto against India’s bid in the UN Security Council.
  • Terrorism the issue is serious and India has suffered a lot because of state-sponsored terrorism from Pakistan.
  • India has produced critical evidence and has sought help from the international organization; some success has been achieved but it still a long way.

Also Read: Labour and Industrial Laws in India

[1]  Repertory of Practice of United Nations Organs, https://legal.un.org

[2] United Nation Security Council, https://un.org.in

[3]  Amnesty International, https://amnesty.org

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