Remarks at the UN General Assembly Following the Adoption of a Resolution on the UN Security Council Veto

Ambassador Richard Mills
Deputy U.S. Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
April 26, 2022


Thank you, Mr. President.

The United States knows that the veto is controversial. It was controversial from the very beginning, with heated debates on the veto when the UN Charter was negotiated in San Francisco in 1945. The veto has continued to be controversial until this day, which is the reason the topic remains front-and-center at the UN, as we are hearing in this debate, and in broader public debate.

The United States takes its responsibilities as a Permanent Member of the Security Council very seriously. In Article 24 of the UN Charter, the UN Member States conferred on the Security Council the primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security. By granting to each of the Permanent Members of the Council the ability to prevent the adoption of a resolution, the UN Charter entrusted them with a somber and a solemn duty. There are times when a P5 member will conclude that a particular resolution will not advance international peace and security, and it is within the authority granted by the UN Charter for that member to veto that resolution.

I agree, however, with my Mexican colleague, such authority comes with enormous responsibility – and it must be used wisely, judiciously, in accordance with the purposes and principles of the United Nations and with full consideration of the advancement of international peace and security. At the very least, when a P5 Member casts a veto, that member should be prepared to explain why the resolution at issue would not have furthered the maintenance of international peace and security.

Therefore, the United States sees the virtue of automatically convening a General Assembly meeting when a veto is cast. We agree that the matter should be formally debated in the General Assembly, and we believe the P5 Member who casts a veto should be given the opportunity to explain its decision to the full GA membership in this very chamber.

We note the provision in the resolution that was adopted today that there would be no General Assembly meeting convened on the casting of a veto if the General Assembly had already met on the same situation at a meeting of an Emergency Special Session. Whether the General Assembly convenes an Emergency Special Session or another meeting, we support this forum discussing the matter and would be willing to participate if it is the United States casting a veto.

We also note that it is clear that not every “no” vote cast by a Permanent Five member is a veto.  Rather, a veto is a “no” vote that prevents the adoption of a resolution that would otherwise have been adopted due it having received nine or more “yes” votes.

Mr. President, like we have heard from many others in this chamber, we are deeply concerned about the abuse of the right to veto conferred on the P5 members. In particular, we are extraordinarily troubled by Russia’s pattern of abusing its veto right over the past decade. It’s a long and shameful list. The Russian Federation has vetoed resolutions seeking accountability in Syria, including resolutions that would have continued the mandate of the Joint Investigative Mechanism on chemical weapons. Russia has vetoed a resolution referring the Syria situation to the International Criminal Court. It has vetoed a resolution that would have established a criminal tribunal on the downing of flight MH-17 over Ukraine. And it vetoed a resolution when Russia attempted to illegally annex Crimea. And recently, most outrageously, the Russian Federation has vetoed a Security Council resolution deploring its aggression against Ukraine, deciding that the use of force should end, and deciding on the withdrawal of all Russian forces from the internationally recognized borders of Ukraine.

In short, Russia egregiously violated the UN Charter and then blocked the effort by the UN Security Council to address the situation. We agree, the veto was not intended as a carte blanche for impunity for the P5. It was not meant to confer automatic protection from accountability in perpetuity. By abusing the veto, by preventing the international community from holding Russia to account, Russia has diminished the role and the reputation of the UN Security Council, it has undermined the UN Charter, and it has tarnished the UN as a whole.

We welcome this resolution, Mr. President, as a step towards placing greater attention on the appropriate use of the veto, the solemn responsibilities of the P5 members, and the primary role of the Security Council to maintain international peace and security. For all of the above reasons, the United States was pleased to co-sponsor this resolution.

Thank you, Mr. President.