Looking back at the year of 2017 is a rather gloomy enterprise for those who disapprove of illegitimate vetoes. A large number of resolutions, touching upon various pressing issues have been stopped in the UN Security Council on grounds which are not legitimate. This in a time when the world stands before large challenges which only can be dealt with through cooperation and dialogue. However, 2017 was also the first year under which a ‘legitimate veto’ was cast. In total, six vetoes have been cast, five of which have been ‘illegitimate’ and one which is, as mentioned, coded as ‘legitimate.’
2017 has been a year filled with illegitimate vetoes. These vetoes – all of which have regarded Syria – have blocked all potential cooperation in order to solve the Syrian crisis. Some of the blocked resolutions have been aimed to prevent the use of chemical weapons in Syria, thus decrease the suffering of the Syrian population.
The Syrian Civil War is entering its seventh year in 2018, and still there is no resolution in sight. Alliances between the domestic, regional and international actors grow increasingly complex and already an estimated 250,000 Syrians have been killed. The main issue discussed in the Security Council has been the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons against civilians. Resolutions have been presented by the Western powers – the US, the UK and France – which are to curtail Assad’s financial assets and punish this violation of humanitarian law. Other resolutions have aimed to continue with the investigations in Syria of further alleged use of chemical weapons. The UN’s watchdog for these issues, OPCW (Organization for Prohibition of Chemical Weapons) has presented a number of reports to the Security Council, suggesting the Assad has used chemical weapons during 2017. All action has been prevented by the Russian Federation and the People’s Republic of China. They have casted their vetoes a number of times since the beginning of 2017. The lack of action from the UNSC caused a further escalation during the summer, when the US launched a missile strike in response to an attack from the regime with chemical weapons. The use of veto for the purpose of national interests has blocked attempts to cooperate in order to find a peaceful solution, and thus the Syrian Civil War seems far from resolution.
2017 also saw the first veto which is coded according to our definition as ‘legitimate.’ It was cast by the United States as a response to a resolution put forward by Egypt. The resolution aimed to curtail the American embassy’s diplomatic status, following the Trump Administration’s decision to move the American embassy in Israel to Jerusalem from Tel-Aviv. The argument was made that this threatened American sovereignty. Since a country has the right to decide where to put its embassy, this argument was well-founded, and conflicted with American sovereignty. Thus, for the first time, the result was a legitimate veto.
Despite the fact that we could see the first legitimate veto since this campaign started, 2017 still has been a tragic year. Primarily for the Syrian people. It is time for the influential countries to take responsibility for the dysfunctional Security Council.