Could a Code of Conduct Work? The Prospects of the French Proposal Limiting the Veto on the United Nations Security Council

During the opening session of the Sixty-Eighth United Nations General Assembly in 2013, President François Hollande of France proposed that the permanent members of the Security Council should agree to “renounce their veto powers” in situations of mass atrocities. Two years later, President Hollande went one step further and officially committed France to this voluntary “code of conduct.” Proposals to reform the Security Council veto have existed ever since the United Nations began in 1945, but could this code of conduct work? And, if so, how? This paper assesses the “French Proposal” and its prospects for success. It does so by examining the legal framework surrounding the veto power and why previous attempts to reform the veto have failed. It then considers how the French Proposal might be different, highlighting more recent changes that have occurred in the wider political context. Finally, the paper considers how the proposal might work in practice and, more importantly, which aspects need to be further defined.