Statement delivered by Philip Reed at the UN General Assembly debate on Use of the Veto

Philip Reed delivers UK Statement at the UN

Mr President

The founding members of the United Nations vowed to save the generations that followed them from the scourge of war.

They conferred the primary responsibility for maintaining international peace and security on the Security Council.

And, as part of that, permanent members of the Council were given veto power.

The United Kingdom is clear: the veto is a heavy responsibility, to be used to avoid and resolve conflict. The veto should be used responsibly – and with accountability.

Sadly, not all permanent members think alike. In February last year, Russia used the veto to prevent the Council from taking action in response to their illegal and unprovoked war in Ukraine. This came just two months after they vetoed a resolution that would have enabled the Council to take action on climate security – a resolution that counted the highest ever number of cosponsors.

In response, the General Assembly adopted the resolution we are talking about today – to enable the GA to scrutinise the use of the veto, and to hold Council Members using the veto to account. We were proud to co-sponsor that resolution.

Since then, of course, this Assembly has twice met in response to vetoes: in May 2022, when China and Russia vetoed a resolution that would have responded to DPRK’s launch of intercontinental ballistic missiles. And in July 2022, when Russia vetoed a resolution that sought to extend humanitarian assistance to over 4 million people in North West Syria – only to accept a resolution days later with one change: allowing humanitarians to provide help for 6 months, instead of 12.

Is that what the veto was created for? Halving the window for providing humanitarian assistance to people who desperately need it?

For our part, the United Kingdom has not exercised our veto since 1989. We listen carefully and negotiate with Security Council partners to try and find agreement.

The UK also remains committed to never voting against a credible draft resolution on preventing or ending a mass atrocity, as a proud signatory of the Accountability, Coherence, and Transparency (ACT) Group’s Code of Conduct. We encourage all Member States, including the other permanent members of the Council, to support this initiative.

Thank you.

Published 27 April 2023