There have been increasing calls by UN member states and civil society for voluntary restraint on the use of the veto by the Permanent Members of the Security Council, known as the "P5," in mass atrocity situations.
The government of France, alongside the 22-member Accountability, Coherence and Transparency (ACT) group at the UN, has been at the forefront in pushing this initiative. In his address at the general debate of the 68th Session of the UN General Assembly in 2013, the President of France, H.E. Mr. François Hollande, called upon the P5 to "collectively renounce their veto powers" in mass atrocity situations. France's Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development, H.E. Laurent Fabius, echoed this call in an article in the New York Times, "A Call for Self-Restraint at the UN," which proposed a "code of conduct" whereby the P5 would voluntarily restrain from using their veto in a mass atrocity situation.
The Global Centre has participated in a number of high-level events and engaged in sustained advocacy on this issue. The Global Centre has urged that in keeping with the Responsibility to Protect, it is incumbent upon the P5 not to veto a draft Security Council resolution aimed at halting the perpetration of mass atrocity crimes.
September 2014 Ministerial Side-Event on regulating the veto in the event of mass atrocities.
On 25 September 2014 the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development of France, H.E. Mr. Laurent Fabius, and the Mexican Secretary of Foreign Affairs, H.E. Mr. José Antonio Meade Kuribreña, co-convened a Ministerial-level side event on the margins of the Opening Session of the UN General Assembly, entitled "Regulating the veto in the event of mass atrocities."
The event aimed to help inform the member states and civil society of the progress of the French initiative on the veto and to seek their observations and opinions. In addition to the two co-conveners the panelists included the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, H.E. Mr. Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, and the Executive Director of the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect, Dr. Simon Adams. Dr. Adams delivered a joint civil society statement on behalf of the Global Centre, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, International Federation for Human Rights and the World Federalist Movement.
During the meeting 32 member states delivered statements, including remarks from one President (Switzerland) and twenty-three Foreign Ministers (Algeria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Botswana, Bulgaria, Central African Republic, Chile, Cote d'Ivoire, Croatia, Czech Republic, Egypt, Finland, France, Guatemala, Indonesia, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway and Senegal). Four additional member states delivered statements at the ministerial-level (Belgium, Saudi Arabia, Spain and the United States) while two Permanent Representatives (Germany and United Kingdom) and two Deputy Permanent Representatives (China and Russia) also spoke. All five permanent members of the Security Council made interventions. Over 100 member states reportedly attended the meeting.
For Social Media coverage of the event see the following Storify link: Ministerial Side-Event on regulating the veto in the event of mass atrocities
The unabridged statement delivered by Dr. Simon Adams is available here
The Abuse of the Veto in relation to Syria's civil war
Since the start of the Syrian conflict in March 2011, over 190,000 people have been killed. A Human Rights Council-mandated Commission of Inquiry has found that government forces and some armed opposition groups have committed war crimes and crimes against humanity. Despite this, the veto has been used four times by Russia and China, preventing action that could have helped stemmed the violence and hold perpetrators accountable.
Between October 2011 and July 2012 the Security Council voted on three resolutions aimed at holding the government responsible for mass atrocity crimes; all three were vetoed by Russia and China. The Council passed its first resolution regarding Syria on 27 September 2013, more than two years after the start of the conflict, regarding the destruction of chemical weapons. Since then it has passed two more resolutions demanding increased humanitarian access. However, on 22 May Russia and China vetoed another resolution that would have referred the situation to the ICC.
The Global Centre and other civil society organizations have actively advocated for the P5 to restrain from using the veto with regards to the situation in Syria.