The Security Council veto and Syria: responding to mass atrocities through the “Uniting for Peace” resolution

Graham Melling, Anne Dennett

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The Syrian conflict has brought into sharp focus the exercise of the veto by some permanent members of the Security Council, highlighting significant shortcomings in the Council’s ability to respond effectively to grave humanitarian situations, particularly those involving mass atrocity crimes. It has also raised issues of legitimacy and credibility in Security Council decision-making, yet a growing clamour within the General Assembly for veto reform has, to date, not resulted in tangible change. The purpose of this article is to examine how the Security Council can improve the effectiveness of its response to humanitarian concerns but still maintain its position at the centre of the response to threats to international peace and security. We explore whether the Uniting for Peace Resolution can provide a constitutional response to negating the exigencies of the veto and enhance legitimacy in Security Council decision-making whilst keeping the Security Council at the centre of the solution. As a practical remedy to unblocking the Security Council in limited circumstances, we advocate an approach which maintains the constitutional balance of power under the United Nations Charter by placing the Security Council, as the body tasked with primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security, at the centre of the operation of the Uniting for Peace Resolution by determining when its use is appropriate and what measures will be adopted as a consequence. We propose the use of independent monitoring and verification bodies to carry out fact-finding and objective evaluation to strengthen the legitimacy of Uniting for Peace.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)285-307
Number of pages22
JournalIndian Journal of International Law
Issue number3-4
Early online date1 Dec 2017
Publication statusPublished - 23 May 2018
Externally publishedYes


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