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Updated on 28 March 2024

 

Chapter 6:   VOTING

Section 1:   Substantive decisions and the veto

 

Veto statistics adjusted to show votes on issues of international peace and security

 

Since 2000, there has been a marked resurgence in the use of the veto. In this time period, a total of 52 draft resolutions, and one draft amendment, have not been adopted owing to the veto in connection with the following 14 situations:

 

Middle East (Syria):  18 draft resolutions vetoed (18 vetoes by Russian Federation; 10 by China)

Middle East, including the Palestinian question:  17 draft resolutions vetoed (15 vetoes by United States, 2 each by China and Russian Federation) and one draft amendment vetoed (United States)

 

Ukraine:  4 draft resolutions vetoed (Russian Federation)[1]

 

Bosnia and Herzegovina:  2 draft resolutions vetoed (1 by United States, 1 by Russian Federation)

 

Non-proliferation / Democratic People's Republic of Korea:  2 draft resolution vetoed (1 veto by China; two by Russian Federation)

 

Cyprus:  1 draft resolution vetoed (Russian Federation)

Georgia:  1 draft resolution vetoed (Russian Federation)

Mali: 1 draft resolution vetoed (Russian Federation)

 

Myanmar:  1 draft resolution vetoed (China; Russian Federation)

Venezuela:  1 draft resolution vetoed (China, Russian Federation)

 

Yemen:  1 draft resolution vetoed (Russian Federation)

Zimbabwe:  1 draft resolution vetoed (China; Russian Federation)

Foreign terrorist fighters:  1 draft resolution vetoed (United States)

Climate and security:  1 draft resolution (Russian Federation)

Eleven of these drafts, plus one draft amendment, have been vetoed since the adoption on 26 April 2022 of the General Assembly Veto Initiative resolution 76/262.

 

The table below provides veto statistics adjusted to show votes on issues of international peace and security. Please refer to Table 4 on this website for specific details.

An article in The Moscow Times by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber, published on 25 February 2015, states that

 

“Russia has used its veto power more than any of the other permanent members of the council, having blocked 101 resolutions since the UN's establishment in 1945.  By way of comparison, the United States blocked 79 resolutions during the same period.”

 

An abuse of the veto by any Permanent Member is to be regretted. However, the aggregate statistics for the number of vetoes cast over the history of the United Nations need to be adjusted in order to gain an accurate view of the number of times a Permanent Member has blocked action by the Council on issues of international peace and security. 

 

Overall, the Soviet Union / Russian Federation has voted a total of 151 publicly cast vetoes; the United States, 90; the United Kingdom, 30; China, 21 (one cast by the Republic of China before the People's Republic of China took up China's seat at the UN); and France, 18, for a total of 310 vetoes on 256 different proposals.[2]

 

However, 59 of these 310 vetoes were cast by the Soviet Union, the United States or China to block the admission of a country to UN membership. The majority of vetoes against applicants were cast from 1946 to 1961 by the Soviet Union, in response to what it saw as an effort by Western States unfairly to bar Eastern European socialist States from UN membership. Moreover, in some cases applicants for UN membership, once rejected, repeatedly resubmitted their applications, such that in some instances, the Soviet Union vetoed the same applicants several times. 

 

Of the 59 applications for UN membership which were vetoed, 51 of those vetoes were cast by the Soviet Union, six by the United States, and two by China. The Soviet Union voted against UN membership for Austria, Cambodia, Ceylon (Sri Lanka), Finland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Kuwait, Laos, Libya, Mauritania, Nepal, Portugal, the Republic of Korea, Spain and Vietnam. The United States voted against UN membership for Angola, the Republic of South Vietnam, and the Democratic/Socialist Republic of Vietnam. China voted against UN membership for Bangladesh and Mongolia; this latter veto being cast by the Republic of China prior to the People's Republic of China taking up China's seat on the Council.

 

As shown in the attached table, if all vetoes cast against applicants for UN membership and all recorded vetoes against candidates for Secretary-General are set aside, the Soviet Union/Russian Federation has cast 100 vetoes, and the United States has cast 84, on issues of international peace and security.  

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[1]  One of these four drafts was on the proposal to establish an international tribunal in connection with the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17.

[2]  Not included in these totals are one veto each reportedly cast by the Soviet Union and the United States in the context of appointments of Secretaries-General. 

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