UN Security Council: January Wrap-up Session
Statement delivered by Gerard van Bohemen, Permanent Representative of New Zealand, 29 January 2016, New York.
Thank you Ambassador Rosselli for managing our work for the past month, which has been a very busy month.
I also want to commend the new members, I was very impressed at the way all of them immediately became very active, very engaged and very efficient in our work.
It’s very good to have this wrap-up session, two sessions in fact as the Ambassador from Japan has talked about. We are having the formal session here today and there have been requests from members of the wider membership for more of these formal wrap-ups, but I’m pleased we’re also going to continue the recent tradition of the informal wrap-up in the afternoon.
Here in this chamber we tend to speak from prepared texts because we are stating the positions of our governments on the important issues of the day, but I’m not using a prepared text, other than a few scrappy notes because I want to focus on another aspect of our work here today.
I think that the Security Council does very well in stating positions nationally, but it doesn’t do so well on what I see as its core business which is problem solving. We need to spend more time talking to each other about how we solve the problems on our agenda, and less time stating our positions for the record. And that’s, I think, an issue that New Zealand will continue to promote with that perspective for the remainder of our time here on the Council.
Taking that perspective, I want to address two issues that came up on our agenda this past month. The first is the issue of Burundi and I’d like to thank France and Egypt for their very accurate reports and summations of the conversations we had in Bujumbura and also the engagement with the African Union Peace and Security Council in Ethiopia.
It was a great relief to New Zealand that we finally managed to get this trip to Burundi underway; it was something we had asked for over six months ago. It was a disappointing trip in lots of ways because we found it very difficult to engage with the government of Burundi on the issues, because as we heard from the representative of France, the perspective between the government on the one side and the opposition on the other, was so very different. It was hard to have a conversation when you have such different views of life. On the other hand, it was very important that we went there and I think that was a very important demonstration of the Council’s concern.
I was very pleased with the conversations in Addis Ababa, where I think we had a really good engagement with the African Union Peace and Security Council. We had a very frank discussion with them about the challenges we face and I came away from that meeting convinced that the only way we will make progress on this issue is if the Security Council and the African Union Peace and Security Council and the East African Community all work together on this issue. We cannot afford to be divided. So I really welcomed that engagement and I think it’s something we should be making more of.
Now the second issue I wanted to talk about today is Syria, which has dominated a lot of our time on the Council. First I want to pay tribute to Spain, our collaborator on the Syria humanitarian file and welcome Egypt in joining us now on this very difficult set of issues.
Here we had another example where the world responded when something really graphically grim was put in front of us; the starvation in Madaya. It’s a little bit like the drowned boy on the beach of Turkey. We all rushed to respond in a very dramatic way, but we should have been doing this much, much earlier. This is again a classic failure of the international community and of this Council in responding to information we knew that was there, but we hadn’t grabbed the issue, we hadn’t acted quickly enough.
I was reminded of being in this chamber 20 years ago, when we knew what was happening in Rwanda, but it was only when the cameras got to Goma and saw the refugee situation there that we actually got an international response. Again, it was months too late. We need to be much better at grabbing these issues, working with them and not just waiting for the television cameras to spur us into action.
Those are the thoughts that I just wanted to contribute today and thank you all very much for being such excellent colleagues.