Foreign Minister Murray McCully delivered this speech in the UN Security Council Open Debate on the Maintenance of International Peace and Security:
Thank you Mr President.
New Zealand congratulates China for this initiative.
We agree that the 70th Anniversary is the right time for the Council to undertake a measure of serious self-examination, and to assess where we are performing well, and where we are not.
We agree that the Council needs to do much better.
That is clearly the view of UN Members.
With others around this table, New Zealand has just experienced the invigorating process of seeking support from Members to win election to the Council.
We have not been left in doubt as to the desire of member states to see the Council lift its game.
The Council is charged with responding to threats to international peace and security.
Yet in relation to too many of those current threats, the Council has dealt itself out of its proper role.
Where it is involved, it has often been too late.
The Council has a completely inadequate focus on conflict prevention, and a huge focus on peacekeeping.
Peacekeepers are hampered and sometimes endangered by poor mandates and inadequate resourcing.
Too many of the cases on the peacekeeping agenda have become part of a revolving list of routine items rather than serious problems that we really expect to solve.
These challenges to the Council’s ability to live up to its mandate in relation to international peace and security are longstanding and complex – some would say intractable.
But we believe it is within the Council’s reach to make real progress.
As we move towards the 70th Anniversary of the establishment of the Council, we should listen to the UN membership, including the smaller members who are often not heard.
We should hear their disappointment and their frustration.
We should resolve to use this Anniversary Year of the Council to take action.
We believe there are three simple areas in which the Council could take action this year.
My first point is that the use of the veto or the threat of the veto is the single largest cause of the UN Security Council being rendered impotent in the face of too many serious international conflicts.
Whether we are talking about Syria or the Middle-East Peace Process, the veto’s impact today far exceeds what which was envisaged in the UN Charter – to the huge detriment of the Council‘s effectiveness and credibility.
We congratulate France on its initiative on the voluntary retirement of the veto in cases of mass atrocities.
We urge the Permanent Members to use this Anniversary Year to find a way to make progress.
While it is difficult, the future credibility of this organisation depends on it.
My second and related point: the Council’s lack of preventive action under Chapter 6, which is again partly the result of the pervasive impact of the veto.
Conflict is costly in human lives, in reconstruction costs, and in lost opportunities for development.
There is something wrong when we are spending over $8 billion per year on peacekeeping but virtually nothing on the responsibility to prevent situations escalating into intractable conflict.
My third point is that we must recognise and address a major weakness in respect of peacekeeping.
We cannot send peacekeepers into dangerous environments without adequate mandates and resources.
The review of peace operations being led by former President Ramos Horta will set scene for the Council to address that issue this year.
Mr President, the 15 of us at this table can do more.
We can solve these issues.
We must solve them.
The perception of a “failure to act” impacts negatively on the reputations of both the Council and the UN itself.
It is time for us to confront the root causes that have seen this Council avoid the challenging task of conflict prevention simply because the politics and the diplomacy have been too difficult.
New Zealand is ready to work with fellow Council Members to make real progress in addressing these issues.
Only then will we the Council have earned the right to celebrate the 70th Anniversary of this body being conferred the primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security.
This is a frank and reasoned assessment on the Security Council’s shortcomings and gives three very simple solutions: addressing the problem of the veto; much more preventative work and adequate mandate and resources for peacekeepers.