Veto Power: A barrier to global peace and justice

Shahood Asif, Lecturer, Jamia Ahmadiyya International Ghana
Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

The phrase of 19th-century renowned English historian Lord Acton (1834-1902) has become immortal in the history of nations. In a letter to a friend, Bishop Mandell Creighton, Lord Acton writes:

“Power tends to corrupt; Absolute power corrupts absolutely” (Acton, Lord, “Letter to Bishop Mandell Creighton, April 5, 1887” In Historical Essays and Studies, edited by John Neville Figgis and Reginald Vere Laurence, London: Macmillan, 1907)

Power always inclines towards excess and oppression. Absolute power leads to complete destruction. God Almighty has established an exemplary balance and justice in this vast universe. Each and every particle, including all creatures, is very well balanced with such beauty that mankind is struck with profound amazement and reverence. One cannot help but exclaim:

 فتبارك‭ ‬الله‭ ‬احسن‭ ‬الخالقين

“So blessed be Allah, the Best of creators.” (Surah al-Mu’minun, Ch.23: V.15)

Through this balance, God has taught us that the beauty, progress and survival of creatures depend on cooperation based on balance, justice, and fairness among them. If this balance is well maintained, the principles of justice and mutual coexistence will be preserved.

This divine scheme of Allah’s wisdom continues to unfold in the creation and evolution of nations as well. Diverse nations with various colours, races, and linguistic backgrounds will only progress and achieve prosperity if they maintain a balance of power among themselves, considering the principles of justice and mutual coexistence. If one party intoxicated with excess power becomes a bully, the result will be nothing but destruction and devastation.

Historical shortcomings of international bodies

The failed experiment of the League of Nations, after World War I, also did not allow humanity to establish true justice and the principle of mutual coexistence. Although the United Nations, established after World War II, has made remarkable achievements in various fields such as education, health, and human rights, the absolute veto power given to five powerful countries in the Security Council has created an insurmountable obstacle in the path of true justice. 

The result has been nothing but injustice, oppression and abolition of human rights, and this will continue to be the case in the future. The history of the United Nations shows that the veto has always been used to protect the interests of powerful aggressor countries and to shield individuals responsible for human rights violations from accountability.

A veto is a legal power to unilaterally block any action. Typically, a president or king uses a veto to prevent a bill from becoming law. Some countries’ constitutions include veto powers. In some cases, the veto power can be overridden by a majority vote. However, this is not the case in the United Nations. Article 27(3) of the UN Charter gives the five permanent members of the Security Council (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) the power to veto any resolution, regardless of its consequences. These world powers have used their veto power without hesitation to protect their national, political, and regional interests and to prioritise their foreign policy. As a result, there is a long list of severe human rights violations that shame human civilisation. According to the Security Council’s working report, the veto power has been used 293 times as of March 2024. (“UN Security Council Working Methods”,

Veto power: A barrier to justice

The United States, the sole global power after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, has used its veto power 85 times as of the date of writing. The United States has used its veto power most frequently (42 times) in favour of Israel, against resolutions criticising Israel’s military aggression, rejecting cease-fire appeals during wars, illegal settlements, and human rights violations, as well as against Palestine’s full membership in UNO. The United States first used its veto power in 1972 to block a resolution calling for a ceasefire in the Israel-Arab war. Since 2002, the United States has vetoed almost all resolutions and actions against Israel. In the past seven months alone, more than 34,000 people, including children and women, have been killed in Israel’s attacks on Gaza. The United States has numerous examples of using its veto power to protect its interests, including blocking resolutions against its interventions in the Caribbean Island Grenada, protecting its interests in the Vietnam War during the 70s and 80s, in South Africa, Namibia, and others.

In the beginning, Russia or the former Soviet Union used its veto power extensively in the United Nations to block the membership of pro-Western countries. After the Soviet Union invaded Hungary in 1956, the Soviet Union vetoed a resolution against itself, preventing the UN from taking action to stop the bloodshed. In the 1980s, Russia also used its veto power to support its intervention in Afghanistan. In the 2010s, Russia used its veto power multiple times to protect its ally, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad during the Syrian Civil War. Russia also vetoed a resolution against its annexation of Crimea in 2014. Since it invaded Ukraine in 2022, Russia has continued to veto all ceasefire resolutions.

China has used its veto power 16 times so far, to protect its political and regional interests at all costs. Despite severe human rights violations by the military in Myanmar (Burma), China has vetoed all resolutions to hold the Myanmar military accountable and provide humanitarian aid. 

The United Kingdom has also used its veto power 32 times to protect its interests. In 1956 during a dispute over the Suez Canal, when Israel attacked Egypt, the UK and France vetoed a resolution stopping the invasion of Egypt. Similarly, in 1989, the UK and France vetoed a resolution condemning the US invasion of Panama. During the colonial period, France and the UK ruled over a large part of the world. Both used their veto power to protect their interests in these countries. South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, and Zambia were under British rule for a long time. The UK used its veto power to maintain its interests in these countries. From 1963 to 1973, the UK repeatedly vetoed resolutions supporting the independence of Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), protecting white minority interests ruling over the country. France also used its veto power to protect its colonial interests. In 1976, France used its veto power to maintain its control over the island of Mayotte when Comoros gained independence. Although France and the UK have not used their veto power since 1989, but political and economic predilection of Europe is still towards the United States. US veto is often considered sufficient to block any resolution. The tacit support of the UK and France is usually implied.

Global powers have used their veto power to undermine each other and support their allied countries. For example, in 1971, the Soviet Union vetoed ceasefire resolution three times during the Pakistan-India war. Similarly, during the Vietnam War, both the Soviet Union and the United States vetoed resolutions against their respective opponents. In 2014, Russia vetoed a resolution to impose sanctions on its ally, Syria, for human rights violations. In 2015, Russia also vetoed a resolution that declared the 1995 massacre of Muslims in Srebrenica as genocide. Civil war has been continuing in Yemen since 2014. A resolution condemning human rights abuses in 2018 was vetoed by Russia so as not to hurt its allied groups.

In order to deal with threats and challenges to world peace in 2005, a group of countries (S5) demanded that the permanent members of the UN Security Council, refrain from using their veto power in cases of war crimes, genocide, and large-scale human rights violations. Again in 2013, some countries’ representatives urged global powers to voluntarily refrain from using their veto power in such cases and to develop a joint action plan. By January 2020, 120 countries, including two veto power countries, (the UK and France) had announced their support for this initiative.

For a comprehensive list of vetoed United Nations Security Council resolutions, complete with links to primary UN sources for verification, please refer to the Wikipedia entry titled “List of vetoed United Nations Security Council resolutions”,

Teachings of Islam

The Holy Quran has clearly guided us on how to resolve conflicts and disputes between nations, stating that justice and peace are the two fundamental pillars on which a peaceful society is built. If one party refuses to make peace, we should not support the oppressor but rather stand collectively against the oppressors until they agree on reconciliation. Allah says in the Holy Quran: 

وَإِن‭ ‬طَائِفَتَانِ‭ ‬مِنَ‭ ‬الْمُؤْمِنِينَ‭ ‬اقْتَتَلُوا‭ ‬فَأَصْلِحُوا‭ ‬بَيْنَهُمَا‭ ‬فَإِن‭ ‬بَغَتْ‭ ‬إِحْدَاهُمَا‭ ‬عَلَى‭ ‬الْأُخْرَى‭ ‬فَقَاتِلُوا‭ ‬الَّتِي‭ ‬تَبْغِي‭ ‬حَتَّى‭ ‬تَفِيءَ‭ ‬إِلَى‭ ‬أَمْرِ‭ ‬اللَّهِ‭ ‬فَإِن‭ ‬فَاءتْ‭ ‬فَأَصْلِحُوا‭ ‬بَيْنَهُمَا‭ ‬بِالْعَدْلِ‭ ‬وَأَقْسِطُوا‭ ‬إِنَّ‭ ‬اللَّهَ‭ ‬يُحِبُّ‭ ‬الْمُقْسِطِينَ۔إِنَّمَا‭ ‬الْمُؤْمِنُونَ‭ ‬إِخْوَةٌ‭ ‬فَأَصْلِحُوا‭ ‬بَيْنَ‭ ‬أَخَوَيْكُمْ‭ ‬وَاتَّقُوا‭ ‬اللَّهَ‭ ‬لَعَلَّكُمْ‭ ‬تُرْحَمُونَ‭ ‬

“And if two parties of believers fight against each other, make peace between them; then if [after] that one of them transgresses against the other, fight the party that transgresses until it returns to the command of Allah. Then if it returns, make peace between them with equity, and act justly. Verily, Allah loves the just.

“Surely [all] believers are brothers. So make peace between brothers, and fear Allah that mercy may be shown to you.” (Surah al-Hujurat, Ch.49: V. 10-11)

Similarly, Allah commands us to establish justice between people and nations, saying:

وَإِذَا‭ ‬حَكَمْتُم‭ ‬بَيْنَ‭ ‬النَّاسِ‭ ‬أَن‭ ‬تَحْكُمُواْ‭ ‬بِالْعَدْلِ‭ ‬

“When you judge between men, you judge with justice.” (Surah an-Nisa, Ch.5: V.59)

The veto power has been a controversial issue since its inception. The authority to veto has been a major obstacle in the path of international justice and accountability, allowing powerful nations to prioritise their interests over human rights and human lives. To create a more just and equal world, it is essential to abolish the veto power so that all countries have equal rights and we can collectively build a better world.

A path towards equitable global peace

To save the world from destruction, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, Khalifaul Masih Vaa has been drawing attention to this issue for a long time. In his address to the British Parliament in 2008, he said:

“In order to maintain peace, it has been explained at the outset that the foremost requirement is justice. And, despite abiding by the principle of justice, if efforts to make peace are unsuccessful, then unite and fight collectively against the party that has transgressed and continue until such a time that the transgressing party is ready to make peace. Once the transgressing party is ready to make peace, the requirement of justice is: do not seek revenge, do not impose restrictions or embargoes. By all means, keep an eye on the transgressor but at the same time try and improve his situation. In order to end the unrest prevalent in some countries of the world today—and unfortunately, some Muslim countries are prominent amongst them—it should be analysed in particular by those nations that have the power to veto, to determine whether or not justice has been properly dispensed?” (World Crisis and the Pathway to Peace, 2016, pp. 17-18) 

Recently, while addressing the 18th Peace Symposium of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in the UK on 9 March 2024, Hazrat Amirul Momineenaa said:

“The stark reality is that even those institutions founded with the primary objective of maintaining the peace and security of the world are becoming increasingly irrelevant.”

Speaking about the United Nations, he said:

“For example, the UN has become a weak and almost powerless body where a few dominant nations yield all the power and easily override the views of the majority.”

Huzooraa said that “instead of deciding each issue based on its facts and merits, nations have formed alliances and vote according to their self-interest.”

“Ultimately, critical decisions are made by a few privileged nations, in whose hands rests the veto power. Instead of faithfully serving the cause of peace and justice, they wield their veto like a trump card, whenever their narrow interests are threatened.” This is done regardless of whether their decisions cause scores of innocent people to be negatively affected.

“Let it be clear, therefore, that where a Veto power exists, the scales of justice can never be balanced.”

Further, Huzooraa said:

“However, it will prove impossible for true peace to emerge so long as nations, either directly or through their powerful allies, can utilise a veto power.”

Huzooraa said that “the fate of the United Nations seems set to mirror that of its failed predecessor, the League of Nations,” and if the system of international law, weak as it may be, completely collapses, the resulting anarchy and destruction is beyond our comprehension.

Some people may have been conditioned to think that the Israel and Palestine conflict is a religious war, but it is a geopolitical and territorial conflict. As for the war in Ukraine, it is very evidently a geo-political war being fought for territorial reasons.

“I firmly believe that there is only one way to end these wars, by ensuring that justice prevails and that whatever settlements are made are based on equity as opposed to what better serves the interests of external powers. Otherwise, there is no benefit to the UN or international laws and the only rule that shall hold weight will be the one that declares might is right.” (Perils of veto power on global peace: Hazrat Khalifatul Masih V delivers keynote address at UK Peace Symposium 2024,

No posts to display