What Is Veto Power?
The United Nations Security Council was established to create a legal entity to help monitor and control the members of the United Nations, promoting global harmony and social wellbeing. Within the United Nations Security Council, a handful of countries possess veto power. These countries can control whether a vote passes or fails within the United Nations. For the United Nations to pass new legislation, all five members with veto power must cast an affirmative vote. Therefore, if one country votes against the proposed bill, they effectively can cancel the vote or veto the resolution.
It is possible for members with veto power to also abstain from a vote. By abstaining from a vote, they have the ability to vote against the resolution, officially vetoing it effectively. The veto power was first established because of a hostile majority within the United Nations Security Council. Without the five countries being able to veto legislation proposed by the council, the UN was set up to fail.
What Countries Have Veto Power?
Currently, there are five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council that have permanent seats in the United Nations. These five nations also have veto power effectively because their affirmative vote is required to pass a resolution. Of course, it is also possible to abstain from a vote, effectively casting a negative vote without formally vetoing the motion. The five countries with veto power within the United Nations include China, Russia, France, The United Kingdom, and the United States. These countries have the ability to veto a "substantive" resolution.
When Has a Veto Been Used?
The use of the veto power within the United Nations has shifted and changed throughout the history of the UN. Between 1946 and 1969, most motions and proposed legislation were issued by the United States. This country cast no vetoes during this time because it won every vote simply because it was initiating the new motions within the council. As a result, the Soviet Union was responsible for 93% of all veto votes throughout this period to block Western influence throughout the United Nations. Only France and the United Kingdom occasionally used a veto during this period, and the Republic of China only used its veto power once.
Changes in veto usage shifted after the 1960s, with the US utilizing 56% of the veto votes. Between 1970 and 1991, the Soviet Union and China used the fewest number of vetoes, showing a shift in the balance of Western powers. Between 1990 and 1993, there was the fewest number of vetoes and, therefore, the largest number of resolutions to pass. In total, Russia has used its power to veto a resolution 120 times, the US has used the power 82 times, the UK has vetoed a resolution 29 times, France has vetoed a bot 16 times, and China has vetoed a vote 17 times, with most occurring in the past ten years.