General Assembly: UN, Peace and Security

Ministry Statements & Speeches:

  • Peace, Rights and Security
As Delivered by Hon Murray McCully, Minister of Foreign Affairs,10 May, 2016.

Mr President, Excellencies.

I thank the President of the General Assembly for convening this debate, and for challenging us to ask how well the United Nations is performing at heading off and responding to situations of conflict.   A robust international rules-based system, and a respected United Nations institution to maintain those rules, lies at the heart of New Zealand’s political, economic and security outlook.   Today I want to focus on just one or two areas in which I believe we need to take practical steps to make this organisation more effective in the area of conflict prevention.

Every year the United Nations approves a peacekeeping budget of around US$9billion.

Every year, the international community spends over $10 billion on humanitarian support for victims of conflict.

Yet it is clear that this organisation does not invest commensurate resources and energy into avoiding the development of conflict situations.   It is clear to us, as current members of the UN Security Council, that this is an area in which we should make modest but important changes.

New Zealand believes that the UN Department of Political Affairs should be more formally structured and properly resourced in the area of conflict prevention.

The current system of voluntary contributions does not adequately recognise the importance of this work.

And alongside the $9 billion budget for peacekeeping, and $10 billion for humanitarian support, it is a significant underinvestment.   That is why New Zealand supports proposals before the Fifth Committee to improve the resourcing of the Department of Political Affairs in this regard.

We also believe there is significant room for the Security Council to improve early engagement with regional organisations.   We place a high value on the capacity for regional organisations to recognise and understand situations of emerging conflict.   There is room for the Council to develop much more effective working relationships, especially with the African Union, to identify and avoid emerging conflicts.   And there is a need to develop a better culture within the Council itself and for it to be prepared to make better use of the Chapter Six tools available to it.

A recent example that illustrates this point is in relation to Burundi where we were one of the countries that supported the dispatch of a mini-mission to support the work of the African Union, the UN secretariat and regional partners.

It took six months for that visit to happen, and the scope for quiet diplomacy was seriously diminished by the time it occurred.   We need to see a greater sense of urgency and priority around this work.   The use of the Secretary-General’s good offices, and the range of tools available under Chapter Six, generally need to be engaged earlier, more often and more effectively if this organisation is to perform its original purpose.   This requires a greater political will for the Council to become engaged at an earlier time.   It requires the Council to move away from its habit of members simply reading statements of national positions and being prepared to move into genuine discussions about how to solve emerging problems.

I know that for some members the concept of early engagement raises questions of intrusion into the internal affairs of sovereign governments. This is a tension that needs careful management and constructive engagement in the Council.   At its best the Council is capable of working together to genuinely solve problems.

Sadly, too often it is mired in paralysis and failure.

Mr President, New Zealand welcomes this debate, and we urge members to use the opportunity to take some practical steps to move this organisation closer to achieving its original goals and purpose. Thank you.


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