UN ambassador: UN veto accountability resolution will not change much

Estonia's Permanent Representative to the UN Sven Jürgenson.
Estonia's Permanent Representative to the UN Sven Jürgenson. Source: UN

A recent UN General Assembly (UNGA) resolution requiring security council permanent members to justify their use of veto will not substantively change anything, Estonia's ambassador to the UN Sven Jürgenson says.

Jürgenson made his remarks in the context of the Russian Federation, a permanent UNSC member, using it veto to stymie UNSC resolutions, most recently regarding its invasion of Ukraine.

UNSC resolutions are enforceable under international law; UNGA resolutions are not.

Speaking to ETV morning show "Terevisioon" Friday, Jürgenson said: "There has not been much change in substance either. The UN's reform process has been ongoing for decades now – this includes the number of security council members, veto rights etc."

"But let's see the situation in August, when five countries have a veto and, without their consent, reform cannot, and will not, happen," he added.

The UN does already have a mechanism termed united peace, through which, even if a resolution has been vetoed at the UNSC, it can still be brought before the UNGA and a special session can be initiated, Jürgenson went on.

"However, this current decision has made that an automatic process – following vetoes, the matter moves to the General Assembly within 10 days, where it will be discussed," Jürgenson went on.

"This will not change much in the sense that when we consider the beginning of the war, when Russia vetoed the resolution at the UNSC."

In early March, 141 member states voted in favor of a UNGA resolution demanding an immediate halt to Russia's invasion of Ukraine, with only four states (in addition to Russia) voting against: Belarus, North Korea, Eritrea and Syria. Thirty-five abstained.

This was still symbolic, however, Jürgenson said.

"In terms of isolating the Russians, it worked, but what is the difference between the General Assembly resolutions and the UNSC resolutions is that the General Assembly resolutions are non-binding," he said.

"With the type of conflict we are currently seeing, the UN's hands are clearly tied here," Jürgenson said in summation.

The draft resolution, drawn up by Liechtenstein and adopted on Tuesday, was sponsored by two UNSC permanent members – the U.S. and the U.K. - along with many other member states.

The resolution does not curb the five permanent members' powers, however.

Russia is a permanent UNSC member, a position it inherited as the successor state to the Soviet Union.

Barbara Woodward, Britain's ambassador to the UN, recently called Russia's pattern of issuing vetoes "extremely worrying", adding that Russia has used its veto power 17 times since 2011, blocking the UNSC's efforts to protect the people of Syria, and now, the people of Ukraine.

Estonia was one of 10 non-permanent UNSC members, 2020-2021.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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