Shame in the Security Council.

Author:Mohamed, Saira
Position::II. Efforts to Shame Within the Security Council C. Transparency and Accountability in Security Council Reform 2. Indicative Voting through Conclusion, with footnotes, p. 1222-1254
  1. Indicative Voting

    Following the push for greater opening of Security Council meetings to outsiders, a next focus of reform was on increasing the transparency of the decisionmaking process--and especially of the permanent members' decision to exercise a veto---during those meetings. The strongest push for reform of the veto from within the United Nations came in 2004, with the Report of the Secretary-General's High-Level Panel on Threats, Challenges, and Change. (151) The High-Level Panel, convened to address how the United Nations should confront "the world's new and evolving security threats," focused special attention on the Security Council's failures in the face of genocide and other mass atrocities. (152) The Report took the position that permanent members should not be free to use the veto painlessly, as the veto demands responsibility. It emphasized that "[i]n exchange" for the right of veto, the permanent members "were expected to use their power for the common good" (153) and "to shoulder an extra burden in promoting global security." (154)

    Having established this foundational understanding of the moral dimensions of veto use, the Report proposed "a system of 'indicative voting,'" through which Security Council members could demand a public explanation of all member states' positions on a proposed resolution prior to a vote. (155) The panel recommended the system as a method to "increase the accountability of the veto function" by exposing vetoing members to criticism, which, ultimately, would limit resort to the veto. (156) As Yehuda Blum describes, the indicative voting system was intended to "shame" the permanent member on the verge of vetoing a resolution. (157) This proposal has been echoed by states suggesting a requirement that any permanent member exercising a veto must explain its reason for doing so at the time of the vote. (158) Nonetheless, while non-permanent Security Council members and observers continue to push for indicative voting, the proposal has yet to make any progress.

  2. Security Council Reform and the Facilitation of Shaming

    These two proposals exemplify a reliance on shaming tools to influence the behavior of permanent members. In opening meetings to greater scrutiny, reform advocates seek to establish the conditions that may enable shaming--exposure of abuses considered to be a departure from shared moral standards for the purpose of changing that behavior. Indicative voting, meanwhile, seeks to enable other parties to criticize an anticipated veto before it is issued. Instead of being framed explicitly as proposals to enhance the capacity of actors to shame permanent members, however, they are justified as being rooted in "transparency" and "accountability," (159) concepts that have been prevalent in recent discussions of Security Council reform. (160) Transparency, of course, describes the goal of greater exposure of decisionmaking processes, and more openness to outsiders. The meaning of accountability, however, is more complex, and indicates an insistence that voting decisions of permanent members are matters of responsibility and not of mere interest.

    Definitions of accountability vary, but most "emphasize both information and sanctions." (161) That is, accountability consists of both a "duty to give account for one's actions to some other person or body" (162) and a possibility of being held to account for those actions, (163) In discussions of veto reform, it is assumed that transparency--opening meetings and requiring permanent members to explain their votes in advance--will lead to accountability, but how this process takes place is left unsaid. To the extent that accountability signifies a duty to give account, transparency efforts such as more open meetings and required explanations of vote surely impose such a requirement. But proponents of greater transparency in the Security Council are not so limited in their vision of accountability. Beyond a mere reporting function, they see in these reforms a possibility of Security Council permanent members being held to account for their choice to exercise the veto.

    In this regard, veto reform advocates envision some transformative potential in enhancing transparency in the Council. Opening up the Security Council would do more than simply provide information about the members' decisionmaking processes. (164) It could lead permanent members to change their positions because of threats of censure or criticism. (165) The German delegate to the General Assembly provided a concise explanation of this view: To allow a permanent member to veto without explanation "makes it easier for States to veto a draft resolution unilaterally for national rather than international interests." (166) Requiring an explanation, in contrast, "would make it more difficult to [veto] and thus bring about substantial progress towards using the right of veto more responsibly." (167) That is, if a state has to explain itself when it casts a veto, the potential for censure in that public process might sufficiently concern that state so as to deter it from ultimately casting the negative vote. Alternatively, the prospect of censure might convince the state to abandon plans to veto even before the indicative round of voting. (168) Advocates of greater transparency in Security Council proceedings thus imagine that enabling other acts to highlight or expose the moral failings of a state choosing to exercise its veto will lead to greater reluctance to use the veto and, ultimately, less use of the veto.

    1. Responsibility and Criticism in Humanitarian Intervention

      Shaming also forms the basis for one component of the "responsibility to protect" principle, a set of expectations meant to guide decisionmaking about when states and, especially, the Security Council, should respond to humanitarian crises. The notion of a responsibility to protect was developed by the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (ICISS), an independent body formed in response to the challenges--and failures--of the Security Council's responses to atrocities in Kosovo, Rwanda, Bosnia, and Somalia. (169) Aiming to shift the terms of the debate from questioning a "right to intervene" to asserting a "responsibility to protect," (170) the doctrine stands for the proposition that states have a responsibility to protect their own populations, and that if they fail that responsibility, the international community, through the Security Council, has a duty to step in to discharge the responsibility to protect. (171) In addition to setting out this dual responsibility, the ICISS sought to establish the conditions under which the Security Council should act to prevent or stop a humanitarian crisis. This framework, mirroring the requirements of just war theory, (172) would require just cause for intervention and a proper intention by the intervenor; military intervention could be pursued only as a last resort; proportional means should be employed to secure the military objective; there must be a reasonable prospect of success; and the intervention should be undertaken with proper authority--namely, authorization by the Security Council. (173) The Commission sketched these guidelines in vague terms: The Council should intervene in the event of "large scale" loss of life, for example, but this criterion remained undefined. (174) The Council should use military force only if there are "reasonable prospects" of success, (175) but what constitutes success, and how to forecast those chances, was left to the states to debate. (176)

      The guidelines proposed by the Commission are not legally binding (though some hope that they could crystallize into a rule of customary international law), (177) but instead are meant to influence permanent members even absent formal rules governing intervention. While the drafters of The Responsibility to Protect hoped that states would internalize these norms of intervention, they also anticipated a reliance on shaming: criticism by influential actors could identify Security Council members as deviating from a shared standard of conduct, leading states to change their approach to intervention in response to or out of fear of criticism. (178) Supporters of this "prescriptive" component of the responsibility to protect intend the criteria to provide a useful standard by which outsiders or states within the Council can judge decisions to authorize or veto intervention and decisively condemn any states that are not adhering to the guidelines. (179) Arguing in the General Assembly that the responsibility to protect would compel states to support intervention, Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin described the doctrine as "an international guarantor of political accountability." (180)

    2. The Unique Nature of Shame in the Security Council

      Efforts to convince permanent members to support intervention in situations of mass atrocity have relied extensively on an expectation, or a hope, that governments can be persuaded to act by the force of international and domestic condemnation. (181) At their core, these efforts in the Security Council represent typical examples of shaming--methods of exposing or calling attention to practices that warrant moral condemnation in an effort to end those practices. Shaming is distinct in the context of humanitarian intervention, however, because of the existence of another even more blameworthy perpetrator. When the Council fails to act in Syria or Darfur or Kosovo, it may well be viewed as abdicating a responsibility and thereby exposing permanent members' deviation from the expectations of a community; but such sins are exceeded, or at least paralleled, by those of the genocidaires, the conflict entrepreneurs, the direct perpetrators. (182) Accordingly, even as the deployment of shaming strategies in the context of humanitarian intervention might seem obvious or inevitable in light of the prevalence of this approach in human rights enforcement,...

To continue reading