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Ministry Statements and Speeches 2011

Security Council reform

Statement by Jim McLay New Zealand Ambassador and Permanent Representative , 9 November 2011

It has been over two years since New Zealand last spoke in any UN forum on Security Council reform. Two years in which we and many others have watched those with a major hand in this debate develop their proposals, and their counter-proposals. Two years in which we and many others have watched the major players try, and fail, to promote their ideal version of reform. Two years in which, unfortunately, there has been very little progress. Two years in which, to be frank, there has been very little negotiation – indeed, with participants so constrained by their instructions it appeared that, in effect, some had no mandate to negotiate at all.

Our silence has been quite deliberate. It has been two years in which my government has reflected on the fundamental questions.

As we witnessed with Libya earlier this year, the Council is an extraordinarily powerful instrument for maintaining international peace and security. But, as New Zealand pointed out in its statement in September’s General Debate, with extraordinary power comes extraordinary responsibility; responsibility that must be exercised with regard for the views of all countries, large and small.

Yes, a reformed Council must include a longer-term role for major powers like India and Japan and, indeed, others who, for different reasons, didn't merit consideration in San Francisco in 1945. But just as it must recognise the legitimate aspirations of larger and emerging powers, a reformed Council must also better serve small states. After all, most UN members are not major or emerging powers; they are small states.

It is crucial to the UN’s universality and to its legitimacy that small states also have the opportunity to contribute at the Council table. There are real risks, Mr President, if we can’t achieve genuine Security Council reform. Emerging powers will be denied a role consistent with their global significance. Small states will continue to be squeezed out of positions of responsibility. And this United Nations will suffer as a result.

In short, Mr President, we’ve reached the hardly startling conclusion that it’s in the interests of everyone – large and small, developed and developing – that our Security Council be more representative. It must, therefore, be reformed. 

Mr President, these reflections are, as I suggest, neither novel, nor surprising. Like the debate we’re having today, and the inter-governmental negotiations that, in a few weeks, will come yet again, they’re unlikely to change the world. But they do provide us with a foundation from which to assess where this debate is going and to clarify what, in New Zealand’s view, needs to happen if that debate is to move forward.  

As we all know, despite assertions of progress and movement, and despite the genuine and intensive efforts of those involved, particularly the work of the Chair of the Inter-Governmental Negotiations, the debate on Security Council reform has stagnated. Initiatives to promote expansion in the permanent category have not resulted in change, nor have ideas about possibly expanding only the non-permanent category. As such, New Zealand joins the growing number of countries that think a compromise is needed; that neither the G4 nor the UfC models for reform are necessarily the right ones and certainly might not be achievable; and that painful concessions must be made if we don’t want to find ourselves repeating the same conversations in another two years, and two years after that, and two years after that. And we believe that the basis for that compromise is to be found in the “intermediate model”, in which a new category of longer-term seats would be created, probably complemented by expansion of the non-permanent membership.

We acknowledge that the details of that intermediate model need to be developed. We deliberately keep our description of it general, because we come here today to express our willingness to work with others in its development and, at this stage, don't wish to compromise that by espousing detail that might not be achievable.

For New Zealand’s part, our approach will be based on principles that we believe must underlie any reform of the Council. Election to the Council should be earned, based on performance, not on any presumed sense of entitlement, and Council members must be accountable to the wider Assembly for their decisions. Above all, Mr President, in working with others in that task, we will have genuine authority to negotiate (subject only to final instructions from our capital); and we hope that others will be likewise empowered. Rather than sitting on the sidelines, New Zealand wishes now to be actively involved in the Security Council reform debate.

So we look forward to hearing the views of others on the intermediate model; and, most of all, Mr President, we hope we won't have to wait another two years for this issue to progress.


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Page last updated: Wednesday, 09 January 2013 14:49 NZDT