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Some Concerns About 'The Responsibility Not to Veto'

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Ariela Blätter and Paul D. Williams propose that the international community could more effectively end serious abuses such as genocide and crimes against humanity if the permanent five members of the UN Security Council adopted a “responsibility not to veto;” that is, an informal agreement not to use their veto power when action to respond to genocide or mass atrocities is proposed and has the support of a simple majority on the Council. While there is much to recommend the proposal, it may not in fact promote the protection of civilians as it is intended to do. The historical record shows a number of instances where inappropriate military action was counterproductive to civilian protection, and it is not clear how easy it would have been for a military intervention to help rather than harm civilians in some cases in which intervention was not forthcoming. Ultimately, the RN2V proposal would be stronger if it were part of a package of more fundamental institutional changes, including improving the UN’s ability to respond to budding crises non-violently.

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