Joint Nordic Statement Deliverd at the Intergovernmental Negotiations (ING)
Statement delivered by H.E. Martin Bille Hermann, Permanent Representative of Denmark
I have the honour to speak on behalf of the Nordic countries, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden and my own country, Denmark.
Please allow me to extend our sincere gratitude to Ambassador Alexander Marschik of Austria for taking on the important role as Co-Chair. We also thank Ambassador Tareq Albanai of Kuwait and Ambassador Michal Mlynar for getting us off to a good start in the first set of meetings last month.
We wish to thank the Co-Chairs for their letter of 2 February 2023, which sets out the calendar for the remaining meetings on the five clusters of the IGN process. And we welcome the Co-Chairs’ initiative to formulate specific “areas of particular focus” to help guide our conversation and allow for deeper exploration to clarify further the positions of Member States and Groups of States on some of the central questions under each cluster.
We further welcome the commitment of the Co-Chairs – as conveyed in the last IGN meeting on 26-27 January – to convene so-called “un-formal conversations” in order to allow delegations to think more freely and communicate more frankly with each other about ideas, proposals and concerns related to Security Council reform.
The Nordic countries seek a more representative, transparent and accountable Security Council. One which is better equipped to address global challenges, while also better reflecting global realities and the desires, needs and concerns of people all over the world.
The impact of the veto on the effectiveness of the Council is the first area of focus outlined by the Co-Chairs for this meeting. In terms of the use of the veto, we must carefully consider the possible negative impacts of the veto power on the work and functioning of the current and a future enlarged Security Council, and of the United Nations as a whole. The use of the veto should come with transparency and accountability, in line with how it was intended, when it was originally introduced at the founding of the United Nations.
As co-sponsors of the veto initiative, adopted by the General Assembly in April last year, the Nordic countries believe that further reforms are urgently needed to ensure that a veto is always used in the spirit of the Charter and not to paralyze Council action on critical matters of international peace of security. The urgency of the current situation should be used to move the discussion on veto reforms forward.
In terms of the second area of focus, he Nordics are strongly in favour initiatives to limit to the use of the veto, including through voluntary restraint and by enhancing accountability vis-à-vis the General Assembly. The Nordics have therefore supported the ACT Code of Conduct and the Political Declaration on Suspension of Veto Powers in Cases of Mass Atrocity launched by France and Mexico. We once again urge remaining Member States, who haven’t already done so, to join these two important initiatives.
Here, the Permanent five members of the Council can of course also set an important and meaningful example by leading the way. But so far, only two of the five permanent members have supported the Code of Conduct, while only one has signed on to the French-Mexican veto initiative. Most recently, the GA veto initiative managed to garner the support of a majority of the P5. It is important that we build on this momentum here in the General Assembly.
In addition to these existing initiatives to limit the use of the veto, we believe that we must expand the scope of our deliberations to also explore possible restrictions to the very scope of the veto itself. We would therefore like to encourage all delegations to share their views on additional relevant reforms to also limit the scope of the veto. In this regard, Member States have presented various proposals to date. These include suggestions (1) to waive the veto power in all proceedings arising under Chapter VI – or even stricter to limit it to decisions taken under Chapter VII; (2) to restrict the scope of the veto power to only prevent the Council from adopting a resolution if it were cast by two or more permanent members simultaneously; or a third variant, whereby (3) the GA has the possibility to overrule the use of the veto by a two-thirds majority.
There are possibly other meaningful ideas circulating, which have not yet been fully considered by Member States in the IGN process, and we encourage all delegations to share their views on additional options for relevant reforms to further limit the scope as well as the use of the veto.
On the third area of focus, which is the principles for voting by a party to a dispute, we note that the UN Charter in its Article 27(3) includes a provision for restricting the use and scope of the veto. The key tenet of this provision is that a State should not be allowed to be party, judge and jury at the same time. According to the interpretation provided by the International Court of Justice in 1971, “for the application of Article 27(3), the prior determination by the Council that a dispute existed and that certain members of the Council were involved as parties to such a dispute was required”.
The reality is that obligatory abstentions under Article 27(3) have been successfully invoked in only a limited number of early instances in the Council’s history, and in these cases on a voluntary basis by the abstaining Council members. It has been invoked by permanent and non-permanent members alike as the basis for their decision to either cast an abstaining vote or not participate in the vote altogether. It will be important to consider how to further bolster the practice associated with Article 27(3), since a veto cast by the aggressor in a given conflict undermines the purpose of the Council and is a violation of the very foundation of the Charter of the United Nations. Regarding the fourth area of focus, the extension of the veto to new members in case of enlargement, we welcome more in-depth discussions of this going forward. The Nordics stand committed to ensuring that reform contributes to a more representative but also a more effective Council. On the one hand, we recognize that new permanent members of a reformed Council would understandably demand the same powers as the sitting permanent members. On the other hand, the Nordics remain committed to ensuring a transparent, accountable and effective Council. Introducing more members with veto powers could potentially jeopardize these priorities. These are dilemmas and difficult trade-offs that we as diplomats are tasked with.
In closing, let me reiterate that the Nordic Countries lend our full support to the Co-Chairs. We welcome today’s opportunity for delegations to engage in a dedicated discussion on the question of the veto. In the face of the ongoing violation of the Charter by a permanent member of the Council, our conversation could not be more timely. And our resolve could not be more urgently needed. Rarely before have regular people across the world taken as much interest in the language, intent and application of the UN Charter. To illustrate this, the veto has now become an actual hashtag.
We stand ready to contribute to a constructive and interactive dialogue. We further take note of the concrete proposals presented in today’s meeting as well as in last month’s meetings, which gives us all something concrete to consider, while hopefully challenging us to further explore where there could be potential for convergences.