The Prime Minister delivered New Zealand’s statement to the UN General Assembly this morning (NZ time).
After five years the process of transforming Key-thought into institutionalised respectability is nearing completion. The speech was clearly an MFAT draft – individual flair being automatically lobotomised. That is progress in one sense – the nationally-humiliating Letterman-style jokes have given way to reassuring yawns.
But the PM (and MFAT) should be commended for touching on the theme of UN reform. It is intrinsically important and reinforces – gives meaning to – New Zealand’s candidacy for that body. It picks up on New Zealand’s traditional stance for abolition or circumscription of the veto – recalling Peter Fraser’s stance of 1945 and Helen Clark’s continual embrace of it – reflecting a unifying, multi-party touch.
Yet the PM’s speech has to be marked down, containing four errors of commission and one major omission.
Errors of commission
1. A gratuitous reference to issues being handled in such an arcane way at the UN that they can be ‘quite removed’ from what they claim to be addressing; something that is a special concern for small states.
This sits awkwardly against New Zealand’s indifference to the plight of small island Pacific states which are angry at our lack of effort in greenhouse gas reductions and indifference over any plans for their relocation needs.
2. An admonitory reference to the sins of Chinese and Russian vetoes over Syria without recall of the more numerous American vetoes over Israel and NATO’s over-interpretation of Security Council resolutions on Libya.
3. An unctuous comment about a ‘strong preference for a rules-based multilateral approach’ to the UN, which sits oddly with his own statement a month ago that unilateral and unauthorised US military action in Syria may be ‘unavoidable’.
4. A disingenuous insistence that the Protocol Kyoto no longer ‘offers a path forward’ and what we need is a ‘single legal framework’ on global emissions, which ignores the fact that Kyoto-2 applies to this present critical transitional decade and the GLA applies to post-2020.
Error of omission
Probably the biggest mistake was the refusal – ‘brain fade’ – to announce that New Zealand would move purposefully and rapidly to ratify the ICC Kampala Amendment.
As I blogged yesterday, this would make aggression a leadership crime – in all the ICC states parties that ratify, including New Zealand. The NZ Parliament adopted a Notice of Motion in June urging the Government to be among the first 30 ratifying states. That was adopted unanimously, with National MPs’ support.
This was the week for New Zealand to announce that at the UN. Today was his big opportunity.
Not a word. Not a passing reference to the ICC or aggression as a crime.
Meanwhile, other states are not exactly waiting for New Zealand. The train is leaving the station in New York:
– By last week, seven countries had ratified – Liechtenstein, Samoa, Trinidad & Tobago, Luxembourg, Estonia, Botswana, Germany.
– Yesterday, Slovenia and Cyprus announced their ratification.
– Today, Andorra announced;
– Next week, Uruguay will announce.
It is expected that, by the end of next week, 12 states will have ratified or announced an intention to ratify shortly. That is almost half-way to the goal of 30 ratifying states – the first condition of making aggression a crime at The Hague.
THIS IS THE APPROPRIATE TIME FOR NEW ZEALAND TO ANNOUNCE IT WILL RATIFY IN 2013.