Words are easy. Don’t just ask the world to vote for New Zealand to get on the UN Security Council because “Our foreign policy has been tested by significant confrontations with some major powers, when we have proved our independence and resilience".

Show the world what we mean.  Show we deserve a position of global leadership.

We need to push strongly for the United Nations to stand up to Russia’s violation of international law and the sovereignty of Ukraine.

Ukraine is nascent democracy. New Zealand is a small one. There is only one side we can be on in a confrontation between a big bully and a small country struggling to make itself free.

If we want to be on the UN Security Council, we need to show why it matters to have us there.

We are losing our UN campaign. One reason is that it has been hard for us to show what a difference it makes to have New Zealand there.

If we take a leadership position, as a fearless advocate for the rule of law and for the right of small nations to enjoy global support, then we will show that we deserve to be on the Security Council.

New Zealand has a well-resourced office in New York dedicated to winning us a place on the Security Council. That resource should now be focused on lobbying for a tough, pro-democracy position on Ukraine. Demonstrate our moral courage.

It's true that we will risk offending someone but that's the point of making a difference. There is no need for a small country on the Security Council whose only concern is to avoid giving offence. 

New Zealanders like to think we 'punch above our weight' internationally. Now's the time to throw a punch. 

I've worked at international institutions and it's fair to say most global diplomats would be sceptical of the claim that we carry more than our share of influence.  But they would agree we can be a reliable and respected defender of international law. And in a contest for the Security Council, they will be judging the value of that perspective.

New Zealand was last on the Security Council in 1994. During the first month of the Rwandan genocide New Zealand’s  representative and president of the Council, Colin Keating, relentlessly sought the intervention of the international community. We lost, but we were on the right side of history. 

In  2010 Mr Keating, on behalf of New Zealand, accepted an award from the government of Rwanda:

“You lent your voice to other lone and courageous voices that were indignant about the deafening silence of the then Permanent Representative of Rwanda to the United Nations,” said President Kagame.

Today, Rwanda is supporting our bid to get back on the Council.

Of Ukraine, foreign minister Murray McCully has said, "The sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine must be respected and maintained. The UN Security Council is the appropriate body to take the lead and we expect the Council to live up to its responsibilities."

This is true, but too little to have an impact.

Compare his words to John Key’s at the General Assembly a year ago when the PM said, "The UN has too often failed to provide solutions to the problems the world expects it to resolve.”

He was referring to Syria and to the veto by Russia and China, which stopped  the international community from taking action. Up to 100,000 people have been killed in Syria since then.

If New Zealand wants to win our bid for membership of the Security Council we need to demonstrate our independence, and our readiness to unite respecters of international law against bullies - not just despite being a small country, but because we are one.

This is the reason for our campaign, the principled reason for having us there: To be dependable advocates for the rule of law, and for emerging  democracies threatened by larger interests.

If the government really believes what the Prime Minister said a year ago, then he needs to act on his statement at the General Assembly:

“Sometimes, you have to speak up and shine a light on what is going on ‑ or not going on ‑ even when that may be inconvenient to others.”



Comments (16)

by Matthew Percival on March 03, 2014
Matthew Percival

Josie, can you expand a bit more about what exactly you think New Zealand should say/do in this situation.

You state that NZ should throw a punch but don't elaborate as to what exactly that punch would consist of.

by william blake on March 03, 2014
william blake

I think we need to stand up for human rights at home first. Ethics in this country have been outsourced.

by Nick Gibbs on March 03, 2014
Nick Gibbs

In Nov 2012 John Key refused todiscuss Human Rights in Cambodia with their leader on a stae visit. After all apart from Australia no other Western power was interested in the issue.

But subsequent to the Russian invasion of Crimea, and the POTUS declaring there would be real consequences, Key announces that a free trade deal is off for the time being and Tim Gosser is being called home (lol,  I bet the Russians didn't see that coming). Its small beer and of no concern to Putin, but it shows that when the orchestra of the international community plays NZ is keen to blow its piccolo as loud as anyone else. But only when that orchestra plays.

by Alex Coleman on March 03, 2014
Alex Coleman

I too would like to know what exactly you think we ought to do. 

by Josie Pagani on March 03, 2014
Josie Pagani

Here's what we could do right now; in New York there is large office and considerable resources set up to run a campaign to get us on the Security Council. 

Re-focus that resource now towards getting people around the table, drafting tough resolutions to take to the Security Council, and if diplomatic options fail we should take the lead on calling for international peace keepers to stop further violence.

We should be reminding people that when we were last on the Security Council in 1994 as its  president, we took the lead and called for action to stop the genocide in Rwanda. 'You didn't listen to us then. Don't make the same mistake now.' 

by Kyle Matthews on March 04, 2014
Kyle Matthews

This feels terribly like Ukraine being used as a stepping stone to get us onto the security council.

by Alex Coleman on March 04, 2014
Alex Coleman

Re-focus that resource now towards getting people around the table, drafting tough resolutions to take to the Security Council, and if diplomatic options fail we should take the lead on calling for international peace keepers to stop further violence.


Russia has a veto on the SC, so does China.

http://t.co/GlZgVGD3Ku for China's current thoughts on this.

Where would these 'peacekeepers' hail from, and under what authority would they be deployed absent a SC resolution?


by Josie Pagani on March 04, 2014
Josie Pagani

On the veto Alex: John Key gave a strong speech about a year ago where he stood up in front on the UN General Assembly and said 'NZ never did, and does not today, support the veto option'. He reminded other countries that New Zealand had voted against a veto option in 1945 when the UN was set up.  

That was brave and it showed NZ has moral authority and is prepared to stand up to the big countries on points of principle. He should show that kind of clarity now. Here's what John Key said in September 2013:
"By any objective assessment, this organisation has not been equipped with the structures and rules it needs to operate as it should.

Yet there has been deep resistance to efforts to make things better.  That needs to change.

We now seem to have a practice whereby the Permanent Members can not only block Council actions through the veto.

They also appear to have privileged access to information and can stop the Council from meeting if it does not suit their collective purposes.

Such behaviours damage the reputation and credibility of the wider Organisation and must be challenged."

by Josie Pagani on March 04, 2014
Josie Pagani

Kyle: If NZ thinks it should be on the Security Council because 'its our turn' then we don't deserve to win. But if our pitch is 'we will make a difference because of our values and our fierce commitment to defend the rule of law', then we deserve to be a leadership role. I'm challenging our team in New York to take a principled position and earn the right to be there.


by Alex Coleman on March 04, 2014
Alex Coleman

Yes yes. But there is in fact, a veto. Calling for peacekkeepers etc now, over the top of a Russian/Chinese veto would not be a neutral act, as I'm sure you realise.

I guess what I'm asking is whether or not you are talking about doing something for Ukraine or trying to kick off some UN reform.

Seems to be the latter, and saying we should use the current events in  Ukraine as an example of why it's needed?



by Tim Watkin on March 04, 2014
Tim Watkin

Isn't it fair to say that suspending trade talks with Russia was a strong statement? I heard Kerry this morning saying the US had lots of options including cutting off trade talks - which suggests we've gone further than them thus far.

I'm curious too about what else we could do. Yes, draft a resolution in NY. Do we recall any embassy staff or make protests over there? Ship the Russian amabassador here home? I imagine that one you keep up your sleeve...

by Josie Pagani on March 05, 2014
Josie Pagani

Tim I think you're right. Suspending trade talks has been a tough move and Key deserves credit for that. Except then he said NZ would go ahead with the paralympics, so kind of took the sting out of a muscular gesture. Because we are running a Security Council campaign, and have a big resource sitting in New York right now, it seems a no-brainer to me that we could use our people there to help bring others together, negotiate, come up with actions and resolutions others could agree on. And Alex, I don't see that as cynical at all. It's about earning our right to be on the Security Council by being morally tough and making a difference to people's lives - now. Rather than saying - 'Its out turn'. Key's call to get rid of the veto option so the UN doesn't have its hands tied behind its back all the time is a long term mission you're right,  but something that will mean in the next crisis we make a difference in the world.

by Mike Osborne on March 05, 2014
Mike Osborne

The representatives of the 120+ countries who remained may have formed a view of NZ's "independence" when our delegation joined the Ahmedinejad walkout.

by stuart munro on March 05, 2014
stuart munro

There's a lot we could do, but there are also a lot of questions to answer.

In terms of punitive actions against Russia, the expulsion of Russian slave-ship fishing operations would make a good start. Our immigration and MAF compliance cost savings alone would be substantial.

There is the matter of the $5bn - it makes a difference whether this was conventional FDI or as Russia alleges, covert funds directed to subvert their influence in the Ukraine. Judging by the difficulty in obtaining details of this spending it may be, like the NSA takeover of our GCSB, an impropriety.

Ultimately this matter will need troops on the ground, trying hard to suppress or contain fighting. If we coordinate with the legitimate Ukraine government we might provide a kernel around which an international force  can form. Risky, but I worked with a lot of soviet bloc folk over the years. The ones from the Ukraine were worth defending.

by Peggy Klimenko on March 05, 2014
Peggy Klimenko

@ Josie Pagani: "..if diplomatic options fail we should take the lead on calling for international peace keepers to stop further violence. "

I'm puzzled about this assertion. Are you aware of what's going on there? Aside from a bit of shooting in the air in the last few hours, the Russians have taken control of Crimea without any violence at all. And with the enthusiastic support of the majority of the population, moreover.

The violence shown on TV has been part of the protests in Kiev, not in Crimea; there have been no Russian soldiers in Kiev, nor are any of them there at present - at least not last we looked (in the last few minutes).

And the violence in Independence Square was initiated and overwhelmingly perpetrated by ultra-nationalist and neo-nazi extremists, who have unfortunately come out of the woodwork. It was they who fired first at the police; at that stage, the police didn't even have live ammunition ,and weren't authorised to return fire. That didn't come until the next day.

Even more regrettably, members of these extremist groups make up the bulk of the militias which have been designated by the interim government as de facto police, following the disestablishment of the riot police squad.You can find on Youtube footage showing this, as part of a BBC Newsnight programme.

Members of these groups have also managed to get a number of ministries in the interim government. These people are violent thugs, and you wouldn't want them as neighbours. They don't give a good goddamn about democracy; they're out of the bottle now, they're armed and they control the streets. Any government will find it difficult or impossible to neutralise them, especially given the nature of the ministries they control.

So, where did you think that peacekeepers should be deployed? Crimea? No point. Kiev? Good luck with that.

The situation in the Ukraine is complex, as is the background to what's happening there. Western countries should refrain from comment, because it appears that they don't have a grasp on the basic facts. A fortiori, the West - especially the US - should refrain from any intervention; their interference has caused quite enough damage already.

"Ukraine is nascent democracy." The Ukraine has been a democracy since independence in 1991. Its democracy may not look quite like ours, but it is - or was, before the coup that toppled Yanukovich - a democracy nonetheless. Calling it "nascent" is inaccurate and patronising.

by Peggy Klimenko on March 06, 2014
Peggy Klimenko

With regard to the much-publicised footage of "police snipers" killing protesters, I post the following link. Its authenticity has been confirmed; it is believed that members of the Ukrainian security service uploaded it to the internet. In this household at the time, we were sceptical about the narrative the English-speaking media was running; it was entirely inconsistent with police behaviour up to that point. It seems that our suspicions were well-founded. I recommend it.




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