by Jessica Kroenert
5 October 2015
On 30 September 2015, the permanent missions of France and Mexico hosted a high-level ministerial meeting on their proposal for restraint of the veto powers of the five permanent members (P5) of the UN Security Council in cases of mass atrocities. Foreign Minister of France, Laurent Fabius, opened the meeting with the announcement that 70 member states had signed the statement, with more expected to follow in the coming days. Mr. Fabius insisted that the veto is not a privilege, but a responsibility, and added that France also supports the Accountability, Coherence, and Transparency (ACT) group's proposed Security Council Code of Conduct.
Next to speak was co-host Claudia Ruiz Massieu, Secretary of Foreign Affairs of Mexico, who recalled Mexico's original hesitation towards the veto power during the establishment of the UN. Ms. Massieu emphasized the importance of striking a balance between the legitimacy and efficacy of the Security Council moving forward. She also commended France, as a P5 member state, for pushing this initiative forward.
A coalition of NGOs (Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, The Global Center for the Responsibility to Protect, the International Federation for Human Rights, and the World Federalist Movement), represented at the meeting by Human Rights Watch director Kenneth Roth, also presented their joint statement entitled "The Responsibility of the UN Security Council in Mass Atrocity Situations." Mr. Roth insisted that defending allies who commit mass atrocities is not an acceptable use of the veto.
Other speakers included Sidiki Kaba, President of the Assembly of States Parties to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, who observed that inaction on the part of the Security Council often leads to impunity, and Aurelia Frick, the Foreign Minister of Liechtenstein, who welcomed the French-Mexican proposal on behalf of the ACT group, noting that this initiative is mutually reinforcing with the ACT proposed Code of Conduct. Notably, Indonesia stated that they see this initiative as an important step on the path to abolishing the veto, and the Netherlands assured that they would make this initiative part of their campaign if elected to the Security Council, even expanding it to include instances of the use of chemical weapons. Other states who expressed support of this initiative during the meeting included Spain, Tunisia, Guatemala, and the Czech Republic.