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UN Security Council Code of Conduct

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 failure of the UN Security Council (UNSC) to protect civilians from mass atrocity crimes – genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity – has severely impaired its credibility in the eyes of the wider UN membership and the public.

Since October 2011 the veto has been exercised eight times by two of the UNSC's permanent members – Russia (eight) and China – (six plus one abstention); on resolutions meant to address crimes against humanity and war crimes committed against the Syrian people. The Syrian conflict is now in its seventh year and has consumed over 460,000 lives. Those vetoes undermined the legitimacy of the UNSC, shielded perpetrators from accountability and cost lives.

Over the past few years there has been growing momentum around calls for the UNSC to voluntarily refrain from using veto in atrocity situations. Over 117 governments - in addition to two UN observer missions - have supported calls for veto restraint or a code of conduct. The Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect has been working closely with civil society organizations and member states in issuing joint calls for restraint.

Since 2005 the UN Secretary-General, Deputy-Secretary-General, High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Special Advisers for Genocide Prevention and the Responsibility to Protect have all called for voluntary restraint of the veto in mass atrocity situations.

Two initiatives have been developed as a response to the irresponsible use of the veto in mass atrocity situations: the France/Mexico initiative on veto restraint and the ACT Code of Conduct.



France/Mexico Initiative

Veto restraint in atrocity situations was first suggested by French Foreign Minister, Hubert Védrine in 2001, later announced again by President François Hollande in his address to the UN General Assembly in 2013, and further articulated in more detail by French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius in an op-ed in the New York Times on 4 October 2013.

In September 2014 and September 2015, on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, two Ministerial Meetings were subsequently organized by the Foreign Ministers of France and Mexico to discuss the veto issue. In preparation of the Ministerial Meeting in 2015, France launched a 'Political Declaration on suspension of veto powers in cases of mass atrocity,' open to all member States to support. The Political Declaration is focused only on the five permanent members of the UNSC and calls for voluntary restraint of use of veto in cases of mass atrocity.

Watch the 2014 Ministerial Meeting below:


On 30 September 2015 the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development of France, H.E. Mr. Laurent Fabius, and the Secretary of Foreign Affairs of Mexico, H.E. Ms. Claudia Ruiz Massieu, co-convened a Ministerial-level side event on the margins of the opening of the 70th Session of the UN General Assembly, entitled "Regulating the veto in the face of mass atrocities." The event aimed to help inform member States and civil society of the progress of the France/Mexico joint initiative on the veto and to seek their observations, opinions and support.

In addition to the two co-conveners, the panelists included H.E. Mr. Sidiki Kaba, Minister of Justice of Senegal and President of the General Assembly of States Parties to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, and Dr. Kenneth Roth, Executive Director of Human Rights Watch. Dr. Roth spoke on behalf of a coalition of NGOs working to advance the restraint of the veto in situations of mass atrocities, including Human Rights Watch, the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect, Amnesty International, the International Federation for Human Rights and the World Federalist Movement. A joint statement released by these five organizations was also circulated during the meeting. After opening of the meeting by the panelists, a total of 10 member States delivered statements (Czech Republic, France, Guatemala, Indonesia, Liechtenstein, Mexico, The Netherlands, Senegal, Spain, Tunisia).

Watch the 2015 side event below:


As of 17 March 2017, the Political Declaration is supported by 93 member States.

ACT Code of Conduct


In 2013 the Accountability, Coherence and Transparency (ACT) Group was launched, expanding upon the world of the failed "Small Five (S5) initiative", which aimed to improve the transparency of the UNSC, suggesting that States should explain why the veto has been employed in each situation.

Subsequently, the now 25-member ACT group of States proposed a 'Code of Conduct regarding Security Council action against genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes' in July 2015. The Code of Conduct calls upon all members of the UNSC – elected and permanent – to not vote against any credible draft resolution intended to prevent or halt mass atrocities.

On 1 October 2015, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Liechtenstein, H.E. Ms. Aurelia Frick, convened a Ministerial-level side event on the margins of the opening of the 70th Session of the UN General Assembly, entitled "Code of Conduct regarding Security Council Action against Genocide, Crimes against Humanity or War Crimes." The event aimed to help inform the member States and civil society of the progress of the ACT Group's initiative and to seek their observations, opinions and support.

In addition to H.E. Ms. Aurelia Frick, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Liechtenstein, panelists included H.E. Mr. Carlos Raúl Morales, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Guatemala, H.E. Mr. Murray McCully, Minister of Foreign Affairs of New Zealand, and Dr. Kenneth Roth, Executive Director of Human Rights Watch. A total of 25 member States and 2 civil society organizations delivered statements at the event.

Dr. Simon Adams, Executive Director of the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect, made a statement at the event.

Code of Conduct Event 2015

Watch the 2015 side event below:


On 23 October 2015, an event where the Code of Conduct was officially launched was organized by the Foreign Minister Liechtenstein, H.E. Ms. Aurelia Frick, in the Trusteeship Council Chamber of the United Nations Headquarters.

The event was moderated by H.E. Mr. Christian Wenaweser, Permanent Representative of Liechtenstein, and the panel included H.E. Ms. Aurelia Frick, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Liechtenstein, H.E. Mr. Mogens Lykketoft, President of the General Assembly, H.E. Mr. Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, High Commissioner for Human Rights and Mr. Salil Shetty, Secretary-General of Amnesty International.

In advance of the official launch of the ACT Code of Conduct, H.E. Mr. Christian Wenaweser, Permanent Representative of Liechtenstein, and Dr. Simon Adams organized a press conference at the United Nations. Watch the press conference below:


After the Code of Conduct was officially launched, 14 member States made statements expressing their support for the Code of Conduct (Australia, Austria, Costa Rica, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Norway, Panama, Poland, Sweden, United Kingdom).

Dr. Simon Adams, Executive Director of the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect, made a statement at the event.

Introductory remarks by Mogens Lykketoft (President of the General Assembly):


Full Code of Conduct launch:


On 22 September 2016 the Permanent Missions of Liechtenstein and Mexico, in association with the Global Center for the Responsibility to Protect, convened a Ministerial-level side event during UNGA high-level week on "Preventing and ending atrocity crimes: a key challenge for the UN Security Council". The meeting explored the progress made and remaining implementation challenges of both the Code of Conduct and French/Mexican proposal. The high-level panel included H.E. Mr. Manuel A. González Sanz, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Costa Rica, H.E. Dr. Aurelia Frick, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Liechtenstein, H.E. Ms. Claudia Ruiz Massieu, Secretary of Foreign Affairs of Mexico, H.E. Mr. Martti Ahtisaari, Nobel Peace Laureate and member of The Elders, as well as Dr. Kenneth Roth, Executive Director of Human Rights Watch.

Watch the 2016 side event below:


As of 17 March 2017, the Code of Conduct is signed by 110 member states and 2 observers.