Pacific leaders back NZ's UN bid

AIMEE GULLIVER
Last updated 14:34 08/08/2014

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New Zealand's bid for a seat on the United Nations Security Council has received a boost with the endorsement of Pacific leaders.

The 45th Pacific Islands Forum in Palau last week ended with the leaders of the 14 other member states reaffirming support for New Zealand's bid for a non-permanent seat on the Security Council.

New Zealand is vying with Spain and Turkey for two seats on the council for countries in the Western Europe and Others Group for 2015-16.

Foreign Minister Murray McCully said he was delighted with how leaders at the forum dealt with their commitment to New Zealand.

"It was double-barrelled actually. They committed to support New Zealand and leaders actually reminded ministers and senior officials how important it was they carried out those sorts of instructions from the leadership," he said.

"It was a pretty firm message of support for us."

While support from Pacific leaders does not come as a surprise, it is a positive step after the Turkish Government flew the leaders of 14 Pacific states to Istanbul in June.

Co-operation in sustainable development was ostensibly the topic of discussion, but there was little doubt the Turks wanted Pacific votes in return for promises of aid.

Turkey had committed to supporting New Zealand's bid before it announced its entry into the race in April 2011.

McCully said the Security Council campaign was New Zealand's No 1 foreign policy objective this year.

"We only contest this Security Council seat once every 20 years or so, so if you burn up that relationship capital [with other countries] and don't win, you can't go running again two years later," he said.

The vote is likely to be held on October 16, and the country's general election less than a month before would not distract from the Security Council campaign, he said.

"We can't afford to say, 'Well, it's busy at home so we'll give it a miss'," McCully said

"That's cost other countries seriously in years past and we can't afford that."

If the bid was successful, bringing a strong New Zealand sense of fairness to how the council operated was a key goal, he said.

"We have a hell of a good brand. We should use that," he said.

"We have countries saying to us we should do more with our good brand, and I agree with that."

Having a seat at the table would allow New Zealand to advocate for other small countries that were often disillusioned with how the Security Council dealt with matters that affected them, he said.

"I think we could do a lot better on the big issues around the Ukraine, around Gaza, the Middle East generally," he said.

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"The Security Council is the place where you can be more of a player and have a crack at playing a more active role in world affairs."

Reforms to the Security Council to restore confidence in the organisation would be a priority, he said.

The creation of intermediate seats on the Security Council would mean larger countries that were not permanent members could have a longer period on the council, which would leave room for some of the smaller countries to win the existing temporary seats.

"That's a departure from the sort of changes that big countries like Japan and India and Brazil have been promoting," he said.

"They would argue that there should be new permanent seats created for some of the big countries that are leaders in their regions."

The five permanent members - China, France, Russia, Britain and the United States - would not agree to that, and nor would most other countries, McCully said.

"So we've been looking to advance quietly what we see as more practical reform initiatives," he said.

Restraining the exercise of the veto for the permanent members would be something New Zealand advocated for if elected to the Security Council.

The initial justification for the veto was that permanent members needed to protect their national interests, and confidence in the organisation was undermined when it was used now in matters that had nothing to do with national interests, McCully said.

All 193 member countries of the UN will vote in October, and New Zealand needs 129 votes to secure a seat.

New Zealand held a seat on the Security Council in 1954 for a two-year term, in 1965 for a one-year term and in 1993 for a two-year term.

Spain was last on the council nine years ago and Turkey three years ago.

- Stuff

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