Addressing UN Assembly, Prime Minister of New Zealand stresses urgency of Security Council reform

21 September 2016

Pointing out that the that the crisis in Syria has shown the shortcomings of the work of the United Nations Security Council where in it has not been able to provide a unified response, the Prime Minister of New Zealand highlighted the urgency of reforms at the organization’s primary body responsible for maintenance of international peace and security.

In his address to the 71st annual debate of the UN General Assembly, Prime Minister John Key impressed on the world leaders that “it is our collective responsibility, as Member States [of the UN], to front up with the political commitment necessary to make the UN the body that we want it to be.”

Referring to his country’s role in the UN Security Council, he added: “New Zealand is working for a Security Council that shows more leadership on the toughest political issues; that works harder to get the incentives right to broker solutions; and that is better at responding to political crises before they spiral out of control.”

Mr. Key, however, also expressed that it is deeply troubling to see the Council fail to live up to its responsibilities on Syria.

“Here, the Council has fallen short,” he said, adding: “Internal politics within the Council and the sheer complexity of the Syria crisis have obstructed a unified Council response.”

Informing the General Assembly that New Zealand, as the current President of the Security Council, will convene a leaders-level meeting tomorrow on the situation in the crisis-struck country, he expressed hope that it will provide an opportunity for Council leaders to take stock of developments, examine the fundamental issues at the heart of the conflict, and discuss how a sustainable political solution can be reached.

Speaking particularly on the use of veto in the Council, Prime Minister Key said: “No matter how hard we work to find compromises, time and time again we come up against the veto.”

“The use of the veto; the threat of the veto. The exploitation of the veto is well beyond what the founders of the United Nations envisaged,” he stressed, stating that now is the time to move forward on Security Council reform.

Turning to other parts of the UN system, Mr. Key noted that significant steps on development, climate, financing, and humanitarian and disaster risk reduction are of particular significance to small island developing States.

Underlining that sustainable economic development, a key driver of global growth, prosperity and stability, requires a fair, rules-based trading system, more open trade and the removal of trade barriers, the Prime Minister called on the World Trade Organization (WTO) “to do more to set global trade rules.”

“We need it to find common ground that overcomes vested national interests, and agree to new international trade commitments that benefit all countries,” he said, adding that protectionism will adversely impact the international community’s ability to deliver on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Turning to the selection of a new UN Secretary-General, Prime Minister Key said that next the UN chief must have the courage, experience and skills necessary to lead the organization and to keep it relevant and responsive.

“We think it's time for a Secretary-General like Helen Clark,” he said, noting that Ms Clark, the current Administrator of the UN Development Programme (UNDP), rallies people together to find the common ground, even when the issues are difficult and the differences vast.

In conclusion, the Prime Minister of New Zealand said that he is proud of the contribution his country is making to the Security Council but noted that he is “keenly aware of the Council's limitations.”

Underscoring that it is the General Assembly that now needs to act to make the UN stronger and more relevant to the world, he said: “New Zealand is committed to the principles and values of the UN.”


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