'We nailed it': NZ wins UN Security Council seat
Foreign Minister Murray McCully is vowing to follow through on New Zealand's bid to reform the Security Council after winning a seat on the United Nations' most powerful body.
After six years living and breathing New Zealand's UN council bid, traversing hundreds of thousands of kilometres in search of votes, and overseeing an army of diplomats engaged in the campaign, McCully's response on winning the vote today was huge relief.
"We nailed it," McCully said from New York.
In the vote at the UN's New York headquarters this morning (NZ time), New Zealand picked up 145 votes, claiming one of the "Western Europe" and "Other nations" seats ahead of Turkey and Spain in the first round of voting.
New Zealand won overwhelming backing after campaigning as a voice for smaller countries and being sharply critical of UN paralysis in the face of crises such as Iraq.
McCully has already confirmed talks with Malaysia's foreign minister about the two countries working together to bring about changes to the council.
"We've been critical of the way in which the Security Council has operated and we know we have to be seen to be working hard to improve that,' McCully said.
"Some new countries have been elected with us to the council today.
"One of those is Malaysia, and with the issues going on in Iraq and Syria, obviously the close relationship we have with a Muslim country in our own region is going to be the platform for some joint work on the council."
Securing a seat on the council has been New Zealand's "number one" foreign policy priority since National came into office six years ago and picked up the bid from the outgoing Labour Government.
McCully and New Zealand's Ambassador to the UN, Jim McLay, were at the General Assembly for the vote along with the team of diplomats who have been working on the bid.
When the vote was read out it was more emphatic than any of them had dared hope.
New Zealand picked up votes from blocks where it was not expected to be strong, including the Caribbean and Africa. It also had strong backing from Asia.
McCully acknowleged the work of New Zealand's diplomats, and special envoys including former prime minister Jim Bolger and former foreign minister Don McKinnon.
"There have been a lot of compliments around here over the last couple of days around the campaign," he said.
"Also there's been a sense that we've gone and done the hard yards around the world attending the regional meetings and built strong relationships."
The vote was "a wonderful expression of confidence in our country by the members of the UN and its something we're going to have to live up to when we move on to the council on January 1," McCully said.
McLay will sit on the council but there will be occasions when McCully will take the seat and Prime Minister John Key is also expected to sit on the council at ceremonial events, including possibly next year's General Assembly.
New Zealand will hold the seat for two years, starting on January 1, 2015. The last time New Zealand sat on the council was 1993-94.
Key said the seat was a victory for small states.
"We have worked very hard on the bid for close to a decade because we believe that New Zealand can make a positive difference to world affairs and provide a unique and independent voice at the world's top table," he said.
"It has been more than 20 years since New Zealand was last on the Council and we are ready to contribute again."
'THE HARD PART BEGINS NOW'
Former diplomat Terence O'Brien, who led New Zealand to a seat on the Security Council in 1993, said winning the seat was a good advertisement for New Zealand and its abilities.
"But having said that, the hard part begins now," he said.
"New Zealand's going on to the council at a very sensitive time."
That would be only one factor which would make New Zealand's campaign for reform - particularly around the use of the veto among permanent members - difficult.
"Let's be realistic about this: many many countries have gone on to the Security Council before - and outside the Security Council also - have dedicated themselves to reforming the use of the veto, with very little success," he said.
BY THE NUMBERS
Millions: of dollars spent on the bid, although the Government has refused to release exact figures.
145: Votes for New Zealand to take a seat on the council.
120: Months of campaigning since it was announced in October, 2004 that New Zealand would contest the seat.
60: The number of diplomats, at least, who were flown to New Zealand to gain their support for the bid.
20: Years since New Zealand last held a seat on the council.
WHAT IS THE SECURITY COUNCIL?
The United Nations Security Council has primary responsibility maintaining international peace and security. It is charged with diffusing international tensions, preventing conflicts between countries, and taking steps to end wars.
It is the only UN body with real power - when the 15 members of the Security Council agree on a course of action, a Security Council resolution is binding upon other member states.
WHAT ARE THE PRIORITIES FOR NEW ZEALAND?
* World affairs: Containing the "madness" of Islamic State militants, preventing a repeat of what has occurred in Gaza this year, and finding a lasting solution to tensions in the Ukraine are among New Zealand's priorities.
* Veto reform: The power to veto a resolution proposed by another member was initially given to each of the five permanent council members so the UN could not take direct action against any of its principal founding members. Although the veto has been exercised less frequently since the end of the Cold War, it is often used for the national interests of one of the permanent members or their allies. New Zealand has promised to advocate for restraint of the veto power.
* Intermediate seats: Countries such as Brazil, India and Japan have pushed for the creation of new permanent seats for countries that are leaders in their regions, but New Zealand wants intermediate seats on the council, giving larger countries a longer period to serve in the role, while leaving room for some of the smaller countries to win the existing temporary seats.
- Stuff, AP