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Commentary

New Zealand should be in UN Security Council

/ 12:20 AM September 06, 2014

Besides the country of my birth where so many of my loved ones are buried in our long fight for freedom, without a doubt New Zealand is up there among my top 10 choices to visit and live in.

Covering an area of 268,000 square kilometers, with 4.5 million wonderful people, and an average wage of around US$46,000, New Zealand is affluent by any standard, prosperous and egalitarian, unpretentious, proudly independent.

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Pakeha (New Zealanders of European descent) make up 70 percent of the population. About 13 percent are Maori and Pacific Islanders, Asians are 7 percent, people of mixed race are 8 percent. There is no dominant religion: Almost 20 percent profess no particular faith; Anglicans make up 15 percent;

Roman Catholics 12 percent; Presbyterians 11 percent; and other assorted protestant variations.

Literacy is 100 percent, life expectancy is over 80 years of age. Just one major worry: New Zealanders seem to have given up on sex, as population growth rate is a dismal 0.9 percent.

Unlike other European settler countries that almost completely obliterated indigenous identity, culture and languages, New Zealand is exemplary in its efforts to reconcile with the original inhabitants of the islands, the Maori people. Maori is an official language, together with English and New Zealand Sign Language.

Maori, a fiercely proud people, fought off the marauding Europeans who landed in those far lands. But in 1840 Maori leaders and representatives of the British Crown signed the Treaty of Waitangi, and thus began the formation of New Zealand.

New Zealand’s natural beauty is simply breathtaking; and unlike Australia, home to every ugly, poisonous animal on Earth, it is free from all these creatures—no scorpions or cobras.

Being at the edge of the world was in fact an advantage during the Cold War era: It is so far that even the then “expansionist” Soviet Union never considered it to be a valuable asset to be invaded. Distance and isolation always protected it from superpower predators.

Like Australians who died on behalf of the British Empire by the tens of thousands in absurd wars in Asia and Africa, New Zealanders, too, were sacrificial lambs of the British Crown and imperial United States in their foreign wars, from Asia to Africa and Turkey.

While enjoying close ties to the United States and Europe, New Zealanders have shown on occasion to be proudly independent. It was in the early 1980s that the postcard islands stood up to the giant United States, refusing US Navy port calls over Washington’s refusal to confirm or deny if the ships were carrying nuclear weapons. In response, America cut New Zealand out of its security agreement, Anzus. New Zealanders also stood up against French nuclear testing in the Pacific Islands. The price they paid for this was the bombing of the Rainbow Warrior ship by French agents in the Auckland harbor. New Zealand remains nuclear-free to this day.

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In October, New Zealand, Spain and Turkey will contest two vacant seats in the United Nations Security Council. Two seats, three contenders.

My country, Timor-Leste, is actively supporting New Zealand for one of the two seats.

About the size of Norway and equally proudly independent in world affairs, New Zealand is one of those few countries that has no dispute with anyone anywhere. It was never invaded, and never invaded anyone.

Modest and discreet, it doesn’t boast about its generous aid contributions—“nearly half a billion dollars in total” to the region and the rest of the world. Though small, it has made enormous contributions to development, peace and security in our region, in particular in Solomon Islands, Bougainville and Timor-Leste. Both defense force personnel and police were involved in the UN operations in Timor-Leste, and helped contribute toward the stabilization of my country throughout the difficult post-independence period.

New Zealand has also deployed peacekeepers far from its shores, including in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Kosovo, the Sinai, and the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea. New Zealand did not send troops to Iraq as that mission did not have UN backing.

It is also heavily involved in disaster response, especially in the Pacific Islands and in Southeast Asia, areas particularly vulnerable to cyclones, earthquakes and volcanos.

Why am I so passionately advocating for New Zealand to take a seat in the UN Security Council?

I have been a human rights activist, independence advocate, diplomat, foreign minister, prime minister, and president, spanning 40 years now. And it has been 40 years of observing, learning and exercising national governing powers as well as practicing international diplomacy, being a beneficiary of the UN, a victim of the world’s indifference but also grateful in the end when indifference changed to care.

The UN Security Council, which I know only too well, having lived with it and aged with it from the age of 25 when I first addressed this world body in December 1975, is far too important, the only one with real teeth, to be an exclusive club of the powerful.

In these incredibly challenging times in the Middle East, parts of Africa and Asia, the world needs small and independent countries with New Zealand’s record to be sitting in the UN Security Council. And it is important for other small UN member-states to see New Zealand win and know that the UN Security Council is accessible for them, too.

While a truly global power like the United States is indeed an indispensable country, and while major regional powers like China, Russia, Japan, Indonesia, France, Britain, Germany, Brazil, Nigeria, South Africa, etc. are equally indispensable, the world needs small countries with decades of active engagement with the world to facilitate dialogue, mediate, and bring parties in wars to the negotiating table.

New Zealand is one such country. I am absolutely confident that it would make a profound impact, calming tempers, infusing serenity, proposing workable compromises and sustainable agreements.

Timor-Leste will vote for New Zealand, and I hope all other proud UN member-states will do likewise.

Jose Ramos-Horta, a former president of Timor-Leste, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1996. He was United Nations undersecretary general and chief mediator in Guinea-Bissau in 2013-2014. He was universally praised for his successful mediation role in that West African country.

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TAGS: Jose Ramos-Horta, New Zealand, Timor Leste, UN Security Council
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