A Seat at the Table

The United Nations was formed under charter in 1945 and it’s Security Council took its first session a year later. The United Nations as a whole was formed in response to the inadequacies of the League of Nations and its lack of ability to secure world peace. The League of Nations was in existence between the two world wars and at its end, Irishman Sean Lester had been its Secretary General throughout most of the Second World War.

As a point of interest, Ireland declared neutrality during the Second World War and formed no coalition with Britain, America or their allies. This did not stop Ireland from being subjected to at least a few German air raids (possibly accidental – navigationally speaking) nor did it prevent Irish President Eamon DeValera signing Adolf Hitler’s book of condolences in May 1945. To be honest there was an element of protocol to his actions but it did not stop cries of dissension from across the Atlantic. Ironically Irelands WWII neutrality delayed its admittance to the UN and it was not a recognised member until 1955. Since then Ireland has served on the UN Security Council on three occasions (1962 , 1981 – 1982 , 2001 – 2002).

UN Security Council Chamber - Not exactly a table but more a long curved desk.

UN Security Council Chamber – Not exactly a table but more a long curved desk.

And this brings me to my next point and in truth shows a bit of ignorance on my part. Much like the countries I am focusing on in my Little Brother series, I never figured that New Zealand featured much in international politics or at least the affairs of the United Nations but it turns out I was mistaken. It is likely that New Zealand has more influence on the affairs of the UN than at any other time during its six decades of membership. This is down to a couple of things. Firstly, its newly elected Security Council membership. I genuinely thought this was an impressive feat and in a number of ways it is.  However New Zealand has held a seat on the council on three previous occasions ( 1954 – 1955 , 1966 , 1993 – 1994 ). The coming term (2015-2016) could prove to be more critical with a huge focus currently on the Middle East and Asia (namely Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan). In any given year there can be as many as 100 resolutions passed so perhaps there is no such thing as a quiet year in a Security Council hot-seat.

If you couple this new membership with the involvement of Helen Clark as head of UNDP (the UN number 3 apparently) and other NZ politicians linked with international affairs, namely Mike Moore as former Director-General of the World Trade Organisation and now New Zealand Ambassador to the United States and David Shearer (a former high ranking Humanitarian Aid, Reconstruction and Development official for the UN) then it can be seen that perhaps we are not the insignificant islands that our trans-Tasman cousins would have us believe. There is no doubt that the world of international civil service is not a place to get things done quickly and it’s likely that often our wants could be vetoed by the big boys but let me just say – We Done Good!

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