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Topics Homepage> The U.N. should abolish the Security Council's power to veto

The U.N. should abolish the Security Council\'s power to veto

PRO (6 assertions)


should not- as in what we should do to benefit the U.N. as a whole.



The U.N. Security Council is a group of 15 countries that vote on and pass the only binding resolutions the U.N. can make. A binding resolution means a resolution that a state has to follow- not a mere recommendation or polite request, but a demand. That’s what makes the Security Council so powerful, in that it’s the only part of the U.N. that can make such binding resolutions. Of the 15 countries, five are permanent members and ten are non-permanent- they cycle in and out with the other 180 countries in the U.N. What the PRO will prove to you today, judge, is that the power to veto that the five permanent members of the Security Council have is both abuse and should be taken away.

1. Assertion: The reason why these countries claim the power to veto is obsolete in today’s world

Reasoning: The reason why the five countries were originally given the power to veto was because, fifty years ago, they were the only five countries that were allowed to possess nuclear weapon: U.S., Russia, France, China, and Britain. However, in today’s world, these countries no longer can claim that they are the sole possessors of nukes and are therefore entitled to veto power. According to “The Veto and How to Use It,” BBC News, countries that now have or are capable of creating nuclear weapons include India, Pakistan, North Korea, Egypt, Iraq, and Israel. So if the fact that a country has nukes gives it the right to veto, then shouldn’t these countries also have a veto power? A nuke is a nuke no matter whether its Egyptian or American. Yet only five countries have the veto power. Clearly, judge, the reason why they have the veto power isn’t because these five countries have nuclear weapons.

Evidence: The U.N. Student Handbook, BBC News, U.N. official website

So now, judge, I’ve shown you that the power to veto has no acceptable reasoning behind it, that the reason why countries have it isn’t valid anymore. And now I’ll tell you why the veto power is not only undeserved but also harmful to the U.N. as a whole…

2. Assertion: It is undemocratic

Reasoning: It is no longer viable to argue that nations agreed to join the U.N. as an unequal body. As a global constitution, the U.N. charter must uphold sovereign equality. And, yet, the power to veto violates this principle. Why, judge, is Russia a better country than India? Why should we value an American belief more than a German one? My opponent must answer this question to win this debate. Why is Russia more valuable than India? or Japan? The very nature of the veto is an abuse of democratic principles and is, in a way, racist in that it holds one countries views higher than another’s without justification.

Evidence: In the book U.N. Security Council Reform and The Right of Veto: a Constitutional Perspective‬ by Bardo Fassbender, “If sovereign equality is a fundamental principle of the international legal community, and identified as such by the fundamental law of this community, the natural consequence appears to be that 'All member states should enjoy equal and have equal duties' in the organization.”

3. Assertion: Abolishing the veto will get more good things done

Reasoning: If the veto was abolished, more measures would make it through the general assembly and security council that far better reflect the will of the world community. More would get done in the world because good resolution wouldn’t be slowed by bureaucratic road blocks, allowing the U.N. to act both faster, easier, and help the U.N. to better fulfill its mission to prevent things like war and famine and disease before the happen. This, in turn, would subsequently allow the U.N. to achieve greater credibility in the international system, furthering its ability to get things done.

Evidence: Abraham Lincoln once said, “You can please some of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time.” Allowing one single vote to destroy an entire resolution in the Security Council is by far the most abusive obstacle resolutions must pass to become binding. Even if the vote is 14-1, if that one is a permanent member nation, the resolution can’t be passed.

“The Veto and How To Use It”, BBC News, "Were the veto to be abolished, the majority view at the council would prevail and we might expect more resolutions passed, more situations identified as threats to world security, more cases of states being reprimanded and sanctions being imposed."

4. Assertion: The veto power prevents helpful resolutions from being passed

Reasoning: In the often circumstances in which the veto power has been utilized, it is almost always hijacked by ideological demands and petty national interests. For example, prevented peacekeeping operations proceeding in Guatemala and Macedonia on account of the engagement of those countries with Taiwan. The veto is no longer applied for the maintenance of collective security. Also, in 2008, Russia vetoed a U.S. sponsored resolution that called for the U.N. to condemn the Burmese regime for human rights abuses. Even though 92/113 countries voting voted to pass the resolution, and the human rights abuses in Burma had been widely known, Russia used its power to veto the bill because it was still sore that a different bill it had sponsored was shot down before, according to, and would oppose any U.S. headlined resolution that went up before the Security Council. Lawmakers from 27 different countries called Security Council “silence” shocking, and concluded that “the longer the Council waits, the more people in Burma will die.”

Evidence: Aside from the Burma case, other failures to act by the U.N. have gone under scrutiny from all sides of the globe. The U.N.’s failure to prevent genocides in Darfur due to its slow process of passing resolutions, or failing to adequately sanction Iran for continuing its nuclear enrichment program. Also, the U.N.’s failure to act during the Syrian Uprisings led to massacres that totaled over 2700 dead.

Assertions #5, 6

CON (7 assertions)

No framework

1. Assertion: The veto power keeps peace

Reasoning: The 5 veto holding members of the UN SC are unique in that they are the only countries that have nuclear arsenals (not simply a small stock nuclear weapons). They are the only countries with the power to initiate full-scale nuclear war. Therefore, it is important that that they be able to end measures with their veto power to ensure that measures are not realized that could foment serious international tension and possibly nuclear war. The five most militaristically advanced and powerful nation are the ones that are given the veto power in the U.N., to make sure that there isn’t a resolution passed that angers or upsets them to the extent that they use their military against other nations. So, in essence, the veto power is just another method to keep the nuclear weapon holding nations happy to prevent them from having to settle matters on the battlefield.

Evidence: “The Security Council Veto Power, or Got Nukes?” Times Magazine, “You don't give away veto power to be nice. You don't do it to be fair. You don’t do it because it's the right thing to do. As things go, a UN Security Council veto right is one of the single most powerful diplomatic tools there is. You give veto power only to those nations who, if they don't get their way, have the power to express their displeasure by turning the globe into a charcoal briquette. In other words, you give it to the nations who--thanks to their nuclear missiles--already have effective veto power anyway."

2. Assertion: The veto power ensures that the U.N. is backed by the most powerful military nations in the world

Reasoning: If all states are given equal power in the U.N. Security Council, it is possible that the most powerful states in the international system will simply not participate. This is not within the interests of the international community, as the participation of the most powerful states is essential to achieving international objectives, particularly security objectives. Offering veto powers to the most powerful states helps incentivizes the participation of these powerful states, and this ensures the longevity of the U.N. and its objectives.

Evidence: The predecessor of the U.N., the League of Nations (1920-30’s), was a tremendous failure. Why? Many historians point to the fact that it was because the world’s superpowers at the time, U.S. and Russia, didn’t support it and weren’t members of the League of Nation. And since these two huge nations didn’t back up the League of Nations, whatever resolutions it accomplished meant nothing because they couldn’t be enforced by the weaker countries that made it up. And the reason why countries like the U.S. didn’t support it? Because we didn’t want to be confined to one vote and have other countries count the same as us.


3. Assertion: The veto rewards disproportionate contribution to global security

Reasoning: The most important function of the United Nations, as defined in the UN Charter, is the maintenance of international security. But, different states make very different contributions to international security. Thus, it is appropriate to reward states that make a greater contribution to this primary mission of the UN. The veto to the P-5 does this.

Evidence: Bardo Fassbender. UN Security Council Reform and the Right of Veto: A Constitutional Perspective


4. Assertion: The veto ensures measures aren’t passed that the U.N. can’t fulfill

Reasoning: If measures are passed in the UN that even a single of the Great Powers objects to, the chances that the measure will be implemented are very slim, as a Great Power is liable to take unilateral actions to block implementation. The UN will be powerless to carry through its measure, and its credibility will be damaged. Therefore, the veto is something of a safety valve that ensures that no measures are passed that will fail in the face of geopolitical realities.

Evidence: Speech by the minister of foreign affairs of Singapore. October 6th, 1993

"It is not practical nor even desirable to do away with the veto. The fact that the veto has been abused does not detract from the intended function. It is a recognition of the hard reality that great powers will not consent to put their power at the disposal of a sheer majority for the implementation of decisions that they do not agree with. It is a safety valve that prevents the UN from undertaking commitments that it lacks the power to fulfill."

Assertions #5, 6, 7