New Zealand has just been voted on to the United Nations Security Council, topping both Spain and Turkey on the first ballot. A second ballot will decide who of the other two also get a seat for 2015 and 2016.
The Government, particularly through Foreign Minister Murray McCully have worked hard to secure this seat but have been helped by Labour’s David Shearer.
Having Helen Clark in the number 3 position at the UN (head of United Nations Development) will have continued to help, it was Clark who initiated the campaign for the seat ten years ago.
New Zealand and the other successful country will represent ‘Western European and others’. Angola, Malaysia and Venezuela stand uncontested for the seats in their regional groups.
There are 15 seats on the council, five held by the permanent members China, France, Russia, the UK and the US, plus 10 non-permanent members serving two-year terms.
Topping the ballot is an indication of the degree of respect given New Zealand internationally. New Zealand was last represented on the Security Council by Colin Keating in 1993/94. Last year Keating gave a speech supporting and explaining this bid:
The UN Security Council: What is in it for New Zealand?
by Colin Keating
Presentation to the United Nations Association of NZ 2013 National Conference, Wellington | 18 May 2013
As everyone in this audience is aware, New Zealand is a candidate for election to the UN Security Council. If elected, New Zealand will serve a two-year term as one of ten elected members of the council, and will also sit with the five Permanent Members of the Council, China, France, Russia, the UK and the USA.
The election will be held in October 2014. So it is just 17 months away. It is a closely fought contest. There are two vacant seats and three candidates, New Zealand, Spain and Turkey.
New Zealand is not a stranger to contested elections for the Security Council. New Zealand last served on the Council in 1993/94 – exactly twenty years ago. To win that seat New Zealand had to defeat Sweden. So we know what it takes to win against larger and richer countries.
Part of our appeal is that New Zealand is not greedy in seeking election too often. In this regard, when campaigning, we don’t need to rub in the fact that our competitors seek election much more often that we do. This is watched closely by the 109 small states that are members of the UN and who are our natural constituency. They know very well that Spain was last on the Council only 8 years ago – and Turkey only two years ago.
I believe that New Zealand is very well placed to win. We already have very strong support in all regions. And the New Zealand story resonates very well everywhere. But there is no denying the fact that this will be a very hard election. We are up against two significant competitors.
The Government has made it clear that New Zealand is not going to try, as some countries do, to buy votes. For New Zealand that would be silly. Once you start down that track small countries can easily be outbid.
Nor will New Zealand shift its policies or values to attract votes. Again, to do that would be silly. One of the things about New Zealand that really appeals around the world is its consistency and its honest, constructive and balanced positions. Tilting our positions to curry favour with this or that demandeur would actually undermine our strong value proposition.
It also needs to be acknowledged that this election campaign has to be managed in a very tight fiscal context. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade is funding the campaign from within its existing budget. This of course requires some very careful reprioritisation of expenditure. The Ministry has had to limit some of its other activities accordingly. Again this is not a new experience. The last Security Council campaign in 1991/92 was similarly fought under very tight budget constraints. And the refocusing of effort that occurred at that time, in my view, actually strengthened and reenergised the Ministry in many ways.
But, given the real electoral challenge that we are facing and appreciating the time and effort that is required by Ministers Special Envoys and officials to campaign across 192 countries, I think it is very important to be able to set out exactly why this is a good idea and what is in it for New Zealand.
There will be some New Zealanders who wondering why we are doing this. Others may ask why don’t we spend the money on something at home or on promoting New Zealand business overseas. These are important questions and need to be answered.
The short answer is that the campaign is not taking money away from domestic priorities or from funding for overseas promotion. It is only using money that MFAT would have been spending anyway.
But this does not address the underlying question of why we would want this in the first place.
I want to set out for you my answer to that question. It is very much a personal opinion. It is based on my experience of the 1991/92 Security Council campaign, of my time in New York as the New Zealand Ambassador representing New Zealand on the Security Council in 1993/94 and also my recent experience in New York setting up and running for 7 years a brand new think tank called Security Council Report to monitor and make accessible to the public the work of the Security Council.
I must stress that I am not speaking for the Government – although as many of you are aware I am helping the Government with the campaign as an independent adviser and as a Special Envoy of the Prime Minister.
The first point that I want to make is that, when you are campaigning for election to the Security Council, you never need to answer the question why are you running for election when speaking to other Governments. Election to the Security Council is the most highly coveted electoral prize for countries around the world. Almost all Governments would like to get it and they understand completely why it makes sense to go for it. Often they have slightly different reasons, but the bottom line is that everyone understands intuitively why it is a priority.
So what are the drivers for New Zealand? Why would New Zealanders be interested in this?
I believe, and this is based on a lot of years of hearing from New Zealanders on foreign policy issues, that there are probably three quite distinct reasons, which may make sense to three different groups of New Zealanders.
These three groups, in very general terms, might be called:
- The peace and justice community
- The business community
- The security community
There is of course quite a lot of overlap in practice between these three groups, and all the more so when global crises may affect all three.
Let us start with the peace and justice community. There is a strong sense amongst many New Zealanders, often based in the Churches, the NGO groups, the academic world and the Unions that, as a country blessed with resources and being a safe distance from conflict situations, we have a moral and political obligation to show leadership in helping resolve conflicts and promoting peace and justice.
For this community being a member of the Security Council offers a unique opportunity for New Zealand. The Security Council is the only global institution with real power. Many media commentators focus on its coercive powers, its ability to sanction countries and individuals, its power to bring the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court to bear on individuals, its role as the only legitimate source of authority for intervention or even the use of force.
To my mind an even greater power of the Council is its capacity, in practice, to take decisions that result in the collective appropriation of money so that all 193 members share in the cost of peace operations. This is a hugely important tool in bringing resources to the field to help bring peace and justice.
There are currently 13 peacekeeping missions and 34 special political missions being overseen by the Security Council. The budget for these missions is almost US$8 billion. How these operations are working and how well they are delivering for affected populations are things that the Churches, the NGOs and the advocacy groups follow very closely. In New York, the delegations of civil society lobbying the Security Council are probably better informed and better resourced than many of the elected Security Council members.
The value of being on the Security Council and having a capacity to make a difference in conflict situations is therefore well understood by most in the peace and justice community. And the good experience from NZs term on the Council in 1993/94 gives encouragement that NZ can make a difference.
Turning to the business community, it is important to understand that for a country like New Zealand the competitive edge for our exporters is absolutely critical to our economy, to jobs and ultimately the quality of our society. But for small or new exporters making deals in foreign markets is very difficult. You need networks you need access to decision makers. You need national visibility and – when things go wrong – as they often do – you need political access with real impact.
One thing is clear from our term on the Council in 1993/94 – when you are on the Security Council – especially if you are taking a high profile role – you do get visibility in all of the major markets around the world. You are seen sitting at the top table. The influence that that carries can be very significant when exporters need help. When you want to raise something bilaterally you get taken much more seriously. You get unparalleled political access. And even more importantly we found in the 1990s that if you are effective on the Council and pull real weight, the benefits are not limited to the two-year term. They can continue for a decade or more.
This lifting of the NZ profile, this enhanced visibility and the access opportunities that go with it can be leveraged very effectively to assist wider NZ interests. And this can only be of assistance to the business community.
Next I would like to talk about the benefits of a Security Council term for the security community. In doing so I not only include the NZDF and the families of our military personnel and our veterans, but also in a wider sense all New Zealanders.
We are all affected when risks are taken and NZ forces are deployed into combat situations overseas. Losses, when they occur, are felt by everybody. The evidence of this is clear from the huge support around the country in recent years for ANZAC Day events including by young people. And the same is true for New Zealanders overseas, who flock to ANZAC Day events in large numbers.
If you visit the Army Museum in Waiouru, you will see the compelling displays and the graphic reminders that across the whole history of our country every 20 years or so, on average, young New Zealanders have been sent into situations of combat or armed violence.
Another thing you will learn at the Army Museum is the determination to learn from the experiences in the First World War, and some also in the Second World War, where New Zealand suffered unreasonable casualties because of bad command decisions by commanders from other countries.
Recently, although the numbers of New Zealand personnel deployed overseas have been lower than in the past, the frequency has been much higher. Think of where we have been since the end of the Cold War – Somalia, Angola, Mozambique, Bosnia, Bougainville, Timor, the Solomons and Afghanistan – to name just the most prominent.
In the light of this trend, the security community, all of us, have a very strong interest in maximising the New Zealand voice at decision-making tables. This means not only in the Security Council, where very important decisions are sometimes taken, but also in terms of influence and leverage by other decision makers whose decisions may be the difference between life and death for our military personnel.
A strong and effective New Zealand term on the Security Council every now and then gives us the credibility, the mana and the political access to be taken seriously on these matters. And our military personnel and their families and the New Zealand public at large have every reason to expect the Government and our diplomats will seize such an important opportunity as a term on the Security Council to reinforce that sort of credibility, mana and access.
And finally, although our geography means that we live in about as safe a part of the world as you could imagine, it is clear that in the 21st century security is threatened increasingly by unconventional risks, be they terrorism, narcotics and people smugglers cyber attacks and criminal networks. And, for our pacific island neighbours, the unconventional security risk presented by climate change is becoming increasingly real. All these issues can only be addressed by multilateral collective responses and they are already on the agenda of the Security Council.
I believe that in a country like New Zealand there is a real convergence of interest between the peace and justice community, the business community and the security community, and that it makes real sense for all of them to be strongly behind our determined race to win a seat on the Security Council.