Vetoed Draft Resolutions in the United Nations Security Council 1946-20121

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Vetoed Draft Resolutions in the United Nations Security Council 1946-20121

This paper records draft resolutions vetoed in the Security Council between 1946 and 2012. It is preceded by a short account of the way the veto has been used by the Council’s five Permanent Members: China, France, Russia (the Soviet Union until 1991), the United Kingdom and the United States.

Author Multilateral Research Group, Research Analysts

Directorate Multilateral Policy Directorate

Date 17 April 2016

Vetoed Draft Resolutions in the United Nations Security Council 1946–2012





The Veto and its Use


The Table of Vetoes (Information on Construction)


The Table of Vetoes



Figure 1: Total number of vetoes per Permanent Member 1946-2012


Figure 2: Permanent Members’ Veto Use 1946-2012


Vetoed Draft Resolutions in the United Nations Security Council 1946–2012


  1. This paper records draft resolutions vetoed in the Security Council between 1946 and August 2012.

  1. It is preceded by a short account of the way the veto has been used during this period by the five Permanent Members of the Security Council: China, France, the Russian Federation (the Soviet Union until December 1991), the United Kingdom and the United States.

The Veto and Its Use

  1. Any of the five Permanent Members can prevent a draft resolution being adopted in the Security Council, except when the resolution is restricted to procedural matters, by casting a negative vote. For the purpose of this paper, every public negative vote of a Permanent Member on a substantive issue is counted as a veto if a sufficient number of Security Council members have voted for the resolution (there had to be 7 positive votes out of 11 until 1965 and 9 out of 15 from 1966 onwards), including those parts of draft resolutions and on amendments. Negative votes cast by Permanent Members do not count as vetoes if the resolution does not attract the required number of positive votes. The only exceptions are those cast against parts of draft resolutions which are subsequently vetoed as a whole.

  1. The number of vetoed resolutions does not coincide with the total number of vetoes cast as more than one member can veto the same resolution. Some vetoes were not related directly to the text of the draft resolution but were used to decide whether an issue was procedural or not. This is sometimes called the "double veto". Vetoes made during closed sessions of the Security Council and dealing with the Secretary General’s election have not been put in the list as details of these are usually not made public. In his memoirs, Trygve Lie states that the Soviet Union used the veto in October 1950 against his reappointment and against the appointment of Lester Pearson in March 1953. Vetoes were also cast in both December 1961 and December 1981 before, respectively, U Thant and Perez de Cuellar became UN Secretary General. The United States also cast a veto in November 1996 against the appointment of Boutros Boutros-Ghali for a second term as Secretary General, which they themselves publicised.

  1. The current (end of August 2012) veto totals are as follows:

Russia (Soviet Union) 123

United States 83

United Kingdom 30

France 18

China 10
Vetoes 1 - 77 (1946-1955)

  1. Western predominance in the first decade of the Security Council is illustrated by the fact that the Soviet Union vetoed 75 of the 77 draft resolutions vetoed 1946-1955. There were two exceptions. France cast a veto with the Soviet Union on the Spanish question (4–1946) and alone on the conflict between the Netherlands and Indonesia (19–1947). China (then represented by Taiwan) vetoed the admission of Mongolia in 1955.

  1. Many vetoes (43 by the Soviet Union and 1 by Taiwan) were used to block recommendations for the admission of a new member state. The Soviet vetoes represented both Soviet opposition to Western candidates, and Western opposition to Soviet candidates, since many of the vetoes can be regarded as reprisals after Eastern European countries had failed to secure the necessary majorities. One example is veto 23. The Soviet Union vetoed the application of Finland, whose candidacy they had at first supported, because Western countries discriminated between Finland and Hungary, Bulgaria and Romania.

  1. Other Soviet vetoes were made on issues such as the question of the Franco regime in Spain (1946), frontier incidents in Northern Greece (1946-47), Czechoslovak independence from the Soviet Union and Berlin (1948), the question of reporting on conventional armaments and the conflict between Indonesia and the Netherlands (1949), Korea (1950, 1952), Palestine, Thailand and Guatemala (1954).

Vetoes 78 - 106 (1956-1965)

  1. The second decade shared many of the characteristics of the first, although they were less marked. The distribution of vetoes was: Soviet Union 26, UK 3, France 2. Issues of concern to the Soviet Union included membership applications (accounting for 6 vetoes), the Suez crisis and Hungary (1956), Jammu and Kashmir (1957, 1962), US aircraft surveillance (1958, 1960), a Lebanese complaint against Syria (1958), the Congo (1960-61), Kuwait and Goa (1961), Palestine (1963-64) and regulations between Malaya and Indonesia (1964).

  1. Specific issues were beginning to emerge which were to embarrass Western Permanent Members. The UK and France both vetoed two resolutions related to Suez (1956), the first of which (79) was a draft US resolution. The third UK veto (1963) dealt with Southern Rhodesia. The foundations for Third World dominance of the General Assembly were laid during this period. The Non-Aligned Movement was set up in 1961 and the Group of 77 in 1964.

Vetoes 107 – 130 (1966-1975)

  1. The third decade was marked at the beginning of 1966 by the enlargement of the Security Council from 11 to 15, primarily because of non-aligned pressure. Vetoes were much more evenly spread among Permanent Members. This reflects the enhanced influence of Third World groupings who were putting forward their own views on a number of foreign policy issues. The distribution of vetoes was: US 12, UK 9, Soviet Union 7, China 2 (China replaced Taiwan in the China seat in 1971), France 2. Issues attracting a veto from the Soviet Union were Palestine (1966, 1972), Czechoslovakia (1968), Bangladesh (1971) and Cyprus (1974). China vetoed the admission of Bangladesh to the UN (1972) and joined the Soviet Union the same year in vetoing a resolution on the Middle East (118) which made an oblique reference to the Black September attack on Israeli athletes at Munich.

  1. Two issues of particular concern to the non-aligned were Southern Africa and Palestine. The two US vetoes (117–1972, 122–1973) on the issue of Palestine clearly illustrate the difference between the US and the two European Permanent Members. Both resolutions were non-aligned initiatives, the second of which asserted that the rights of the Palestinians must be taken into account in any settlement of the conflict. France and the United Kingdom voted for both resolutions.

  1. There was more convergence on Southern Africa. France, the UK and the US all voted against a recommendation to expel South Africa from the UN (124–1974) and to condemn South Africa’s illegal occupation of South-West Africa (125–1975). The UK vetoed six resolutions on Rhodesia 1970-1973, joined in two instances by the US (109-1970, 121-1973). The US was also alone in vetoing a resolution urging a new Treaty on the Panama Canal (120–1973), in vetoing two membership applications (Democratic Republic of Vietnam and the Republic of South Vietnam, 1975), and in vetoing a draft resolution condemning Israeli air attacks on Lebanon (130–1975).

Vetoes 131 - 171 (1976-1985)

  1. These trends were emphasised from 1976-1985 when the distribution of vetoes was: US 34, UK 11, France 9, Soviet Union 6. Once again the US was alone in vetoing 9 draft resolutions on the Palestine question (131, 133, 135, 145, 151, 153, 154, 159, 170) and three on the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982, together with one on the Israeli occupation in Southern Lebanon (156-158, 164). Of these, France voted for 9 and abstained on 4; the UK voted for 7 and abstained on 6. However, the UK, France and the US agreed to veto 8 draft resolutions on Southern Africa (136, 138, 139, 140, 146, 147, 148, 149) between 1976 and 1981. They also vetoed a resolution condemning a South African incursion into Angola (150–1981). France distanced itself from the vetoes cast by the US and the UK on Southern Africa in 1985 (169, 171) by abstaining on both.

  1. The growing emphasis on Central America at the end of this period was reflected in the US vetoes concerning US military exercises with Honduras (152–1982); its invasion of Grenada (161–1983); and the mining of Nicaraguan waters (three paragraph votes 166-168–1985). The US also vetoed with the U K a resolution on the Falklands crisis (155–1982), although this was later said to be a mistake. Their other six vetoes concerned the admission of Vietnam and Angola to the UN. The single French and UK vetoes not related to Southern Africa were on the Comoros (132–1976) and the Falklands invasion (155–1982) respectively.

  1. The six Soviet vetoes during this period concerned the Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia (141 and 142–1979), the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan (143–1980), a call for sanctions against Iran because of the American hostages (144–1980), the shooting down of a South Korean civil aeroplane (160–1983), and an attempt to extend the role of the UN peacekeeping force in Lebanon (162–1984).

Vetoes 172 to 197 (1986-1995)

  1. There was little change in the pattern of vetoes cast in the late 1980s as the Cold War ended. But, the number of vetoes did decline overall during the decade. The distribution of vetoes was: US 23, UK 8, France 3 and Russia 2. Again, the US was alone in vetoing three resolutions on Nicaragua (178-9–1986 and 193–1990), seven resolutions on Israel/Palestine, four on Israel and Lebanon and one on Israeli interception of a Libyan civilian aircraft. France abstained on the three on Nicaragua; voted for all seven on Israel/Palestine and all four on Israel/Lebanon; and abstained on the Libyan aircraft interception. The UK abstained on the Nicaraguan votes and voted for all seven of the Israel/Palestine resolutions and two of the Lebanon/Israel resolutions. It abstained on the other two and on the interception of a Libyan aircraft (174). The UK and the US joined forces in vetoing five resolutions on Southern Africa (176-7, 180-1, 184). France abstained on all five. It joined with the UK and the US three times only in vetoing a draft resolution condemning the armed attack by the US of Libya (175–1986); the shooting down of a Libyan aircraft by the US (188–1989) and deploring the US’ intervention in Panama, December 1989 (192). The UK and France have not cast a veto since.

  1. The Soviet Union did not veto any resolution during the late 1980s. During this period, its attitudes to the UN changed, and cooperation between the five Permanent Members increased. Changes in the Security Council were accelerated by the response of its members, particularly the five Permanent Members, to the invasion and annexation of Kuwait by Iraq in August 1990.

  1. Following the break-up of the Soviet Union in December 1991, the Russian Federation assumed Permanent Membership of the Security Council. Permanent Member cooperation continued and no vetoes were cast between May 1990 and April 1993. Russia’s veto of May 1993 (195) interrupted this cohesion. Russia wanted to make clear its opposition to the additional UN peacekeeping expenses which would be incurred from then on if UNFICYP’s financing was regarded as an expense of the Organisation under Article 17(2). This veto came in the context of the significant increases in peacekeeping expenses which had occurred since the late 1980s. Russia subsequently vetoed a non-aligned draft resolution (196) (on which China abstained) on the strict application of certain sanctions within the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY). Russia considered this resolution tightened sanctions against the FRY at a time when its co-operation with international peace efforts meant sanctions should have been suspended. Solidarity among the Permanent Five was subsequently dented by the US veto, in May 1995, of a draft resolution (197) confirming that the expropriation by Israel of land in East Jerusalem was invalid.

Vetoes 198 - 219 (1996-2012)

  1. The number of vetoes continued to decline 1996-2012. During this period, in which neither the UK nor France vetoed a resolution, the distribution of vetoes was: US 13, China 7 and Russia 7.

  1. The overwhelming majority of US vetoes continued to relate to Israel/Palestine. In 1997, the US vetoed two resolutions on the Israel/Palestine question (199, 200). The first, voted for by all other members of the Security Council, confirmed that all measures taken by Israel purporting to alter the status of Jerusalem were invalid and called on Israel, the occupying power, to abide scrupulously by the 1949 Geneva Convention. The second demanded Israel cease construction of a settlement in East Jerusalem as well as other Israeli settlement activities in the occupied territories. The US vetoed two further resolutions on the situation in the Middle East in 2001 (202, 203), one in 2002 (205), two in 2003 (206, 207), two in 2004 (208, 210) two in 2006 (211, 212) and one in 2011 (216). Before 2011, the US asserted in each case that the proposed resolution was unbalanced in its criticism of Israel, that it failed to include a robust condemnation of terrorism and/or that it would not further the goals of peace and security in the region. In 2011, however, the US emphasised that it rejected the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlement activity. It defended its veto by saying that peace could only be achieved through the resumption of direct negotiations and that the proposed resolution could encourage the parties to stay out of negotiations and rely on the Security Council to resolve any impasse. The US was the sole Permanent Member to veto these resolutions although in most cases at least one other SC member abstained.

  1. The only US veto during this period which did not relate to Israel/Palestine was a June 2002 veto to extend the mandate of UN and multinational peacekeeping missions in Bosnia (204). The US cited the absence of a clause guaranteeing immunity from prosecution before the International Criminal Court for US personnel serving under UN auspices.

  1. China demonstrated its concern over the campaign by Taiwan to be recognised as an independent state by vetoing a resolution (198) in January 1997 authorising military observers to help monitor the Guatemalan peace agreements. The Chinese took exception to the fact that Guatemala had allowed Taiwan to take part in the signing of the peace agreement. Likewise, China vetoed a further resolution (201) in February 1999 in relation to the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), which had recognised Taiwan. The resolution would have extended the mandate of the UN’s mission in FYROM, UNPREDEP. China argued that UNPREDEP had successfully achieved its mission and that there was no need for its continued existence.

  1. Russia’s first veto in the period came with its rejection in 2004 of a draft resolution on the situation in Cyprus (209). The resolution would have approved the mandate of a new UN operation in Cyprus and introduced an arms embargo. Russia argued that the Security Council should not adopt a resolution before the results of Cyprus’ 2004 referendum were known.

  1. In 2007, both China and Russia vetoed a draft resolution tabled by the US and UK on the situation in Burma (213). The resolution would have expressed support for the Secretary-General’s good offices mission; and called on Burma’s government to cease military attacks against civilians and begin a political dialogue leading to democratic transition. In vetoing the draft resolution, China cited its support for ASEAN’s leading role. Both China and Russia argued that the Burma issue was mainly the internal affair of a sovereign state, which did not constitute a threat to international or regional peace and security.

  1. This position was echoed in China’s and Russia’s vetoes in July 2008 of a draft resolution which would have imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe. Russia described the resolution as an effort by the Council to act beyond its Charter powers; Zimbabwe was not a threat to international peace and security and the resolution would have been an illegitimate interference in the affairs of a sovereign state. Both China and Russia cited African Union opposition to sanctions. China also stated that Zimbabwe did not represent a threat to regional security.

  1. In 2009 Russia vetoed a resolution to extend the mandate of the 16 year United Nations Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG). The resolution (215) would have extended the mandate of the mission by 2 weeks. The Russian representative argued that the mandate of the mission had been based on old realities not the existing situation and had in effect expired with the Georgian aggression in South Ossetia in August 2008. The most recent Secretary-General’s report had stated that the ceasefire in the region had been eroded and the local population were in a precarious situation. The veto ended the 16 year old mission.

  1. The conflict in Syria prompted the vetoing by Russia and China of three draft resolutions in ten months. The first veto was cast in October 2011. The Russian Federation argued that their rival draft resolution was more suited to an outcome based on dialogue and said that “The situation in Syria cannot be considered in the Council separately from the Libyan experience”, criticising how NATO had interpreted resolutions in that situation. The Chinese argued that the draft resolution focussed excessively on exerting pressure, rather than facilitating the easing of the situation. Both opposed the proposed sanctions.

  1. Russia and China vetoed a further two resolutions on Syria during 2012. In February, Russia justified their veto by arguing that the draft sent a biased signal to Syrian authorities by focussing too much criticism on the Syrian State. Russia had proposed amendments that called for an end to attacks on State institutions and neighbourhoods. Both China and Russia had proposed more support for the work of the League of Arab States and China also held that “pressuring the Syrian Government for a prejudged result of the dialogue or to impose any solution will not help resolve the Syrian issue.”

  1. In July, the most recent attempt to pass a resolution on Syria was defeated (Pakistan and South Africa abstained). Russia defended its veto by explaining its concerns that the draft resolution would open the way for sanctions and military intervention. China again criticised the draft for being unbalanced in putting pressure on one party (the Syrian government) and repeated its respect for Syria’s sovereignty and called for a political solution. China also said that the draft undermined and disrupted the mediation undertaken by the Joint Special Envoy, Kofi Annan.

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