The United Nations works to make the world peaceful and secure, and to promote social progress, better living standards and human rights. New Zealand is one of the founding members.

World War II highlighted a pressing need for better world cooperation. While The League of Nations was created for this purpose after World War I, it had proved ineffective. At a conference in San Francisco in October 1945, 50 nations hammered out a new charter for world relations. New Zealand played an active role in these negotiations including opposing the veto for the five permanent members (China, France, the Russian Federation, the UK and the US), advocating for collective security, and pushing for economic and social issues to be at the heart of the agenda. After fierce debate, the United Nations was born.

Flags of UN members outside the United Nations building in New York
Flags of UN members outside the United Nations building in New York

Today there are 193 members and the UN's work reaches into every corner of the globe. The UN charter allows it to take action on a wide range of issues that now extend well beyond international security to: the environment, disaster relief, disarmament, human rights, gender equality, food supply, health, refugee protection and other areas. 

After a 10 year campaign New Zealand was voted onto the UN Security Council in 2014 and will serve two years in 2015 and 2016. Our seat on the Security Council places New Zealand at the heart of international decisions on peace and security.

New Zealand’s policies

Our seat on the UN Security Council will ensure the voice and interests of small countries continue to be heard in the debate around international security.

Our win proves small countries have a role to play at the UN and we are determined to represent the perspective of small states at the Security Council. 

Prime Minister John Key 2014

We continue to oppose the veto for any members on the Security Council.  

We also believe the Security Council should place a greater emphasis on conflict prevention and resolution, as proposed in Chapter 6 of the UN Charter.  We advocate for more effort to be put into understanding and addressing the root causes of conflict.  

Read more about New Zealand on the United Nations Security Council (external link)

How we work with the UN

MFAT has a UN office in New York – the Permanent Mission to the United Nations. We also have a Permanent Mission to the United Nations in Geneva that focuses on human rights, disarmament and other UN specialised agencies (such as those that deal with health, labour, refugees and humanitarian issues) and another in Vienna that works mainly on non-proliferation of weapons and arms control.

Permanent Mission staff act as liaison between UN officials and delegates, and MFAT back home. They promote New Zealand’s position on UN issues and put forward our views in negotiations, reports and activities. The Minister of Foreign Affairs and MFAT staff attend the UN General Assembly that takes place each year from September to December.

Read more about our Permanent Mission to the UN in New York 

Our contribution to UN activities

Peacekeeping 

New Zealand has been involved in Peacekeeping operations since 1948
New Zealand has been involved in peacekeeping operations since 1948

New Zealand has contributed troops and personnel to UN peacekeeping operations since they began in 1948. We’ve been involved in more than 40 peace operations in more than 25 countries over the past 60 years, either under UN auspices or as part of coalitions. In peacekeeping duties we're known as collaborative, practical and respectful team players with a good understanding of multiculturalism and an easy rapport with local communities.

New Zealand has played a role in some of the UN's most challenging missions including those in Africa and the Middle East:

  • UN Truce Supervision Organisation (UNTSO), working on peacekeeping in the Middle East, since 1954
  • UN operations in Timor-Leste, former Yugoslavia, Somalia and Iraq
  • Rwanda, Somalia, Mozambique, Angola and Sierra Leone in the 1990s
  • UNMISS (South Sudan) since its establishment.

We have provided sustained contributions to other UN peace support operations, such as in Afghanistan (2001-2014), Bougainville (1990-2003), Korea (1950-ongoing), Solomon Islands (2003-2013) and in the Sinai Peninsula (1982-ongoing).

Read more about our peace support operations 

Helping refugees

Conflicts and natural disasters have left more than 50 million refugees and internally displaced people in the world today. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is the lead agency for protecting refugees and the internally displaced (people forced from their homes but still living in their own country). Protection involves preventing the forced return of refugees to a country where they may have a well-founded fear of persecution, as under the 1951 Refugee Convention.

New Zealand contributes to this work in a number of ways:

  • as a signatory to the 1951 Convention on the Status of Refugees we accept an annual quota of 750 refugees from UNHCR for resettlement in our country
  • we provide emergency disaster relief for countries affected by natural disasters, particularly in the Pacific
  • we support key principles of humanitarian and human rights laws which promote the rights of people affected by armed conflicts (such as the Geneva Conventions)
  • we provide $6 million in core funding to the UNHCR each year.

New Zealand is one of approximately 27 countries with a regular refugee resettlement programme. Immigration New Zealand is the lead domestic agency for the development and implementation of this programme.

Read the New Zealand Refugee Resettlement Strategy (external link)

Read about the UN 1951 Refugee Convention (external link) 

Humanitarian – removing landmines

Unexploded landmines continue to kill and injure civilians years after conflicts have ended. New Zealand is a strong supporter of de-mining programmes such as the UN Mine Action Service and has sent defence force personnel to remove mines in operations in the occupied Palestinian territories, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Iraq, Mozambique, Kosovo, Cambodia, and Laos. We also support the Mine Ban Treaty that outlaws the production and use of these devices.

Read about the Mine Ban Treaty

UN Handbook

New Zealand produces an annual UN handbook.  The handbook is released at the start of each UN General Assembly, and is designed for UN delegates from all nations, media and the public. The handbook is available as a mobile app as well as in pdf and hard copy.

Find out more and get the handbook

Sustainable Development Goals

In September 2015, United Nations Member States signed up to a universal set of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (external link) (SDGs) and 169 targets (Agenda 2030).

The SDGs establish a universal agenda for action to achieve sustainable development globally. The new Goals integrate the three dimensions of sustainable development (economic, social and environmental) and are applicable to all countries.

The Goals build on the lessons learned from the Millennium Development Goals, which focused specifically on developing countries.

Read more about New Zealand’s approach to the SDGs.

International Court of Justice

This court was set up by the UN, and acts as a world court that allows countries to challenge the legality of another country's actions.

New Zealand is one of only around 70 countries that has made a declaration accepting the ICJ's jurisdiction over all our disputes. We've taken two cases to the court (concerning nuclear testing in the South Pacific) and intervened in a third case related to whaling in Antarctica. 

Find out more about the International Court of Justice (external link)