OPINION: UN Security Council 'bribery' just plain wrong
Thursday 26 Sep 2013 9:57 a.m.
John Key meets Columbian President Juan Manuel Santos (Photo: Tilly Blair)
John Key is 'speed-dating' world leaders like a political Lothario. It might sound cheap, but it's actually the honourable way to do things compared to the essentially sanctioned bribery for votes other countries use to get onto the Security Council.
Speed-dating is the way the sharp end of New Zealand's bid for the Security Council works.
Here's the maths: New Zealand needs 129 countries out of the 193 at the UN to vote for us. That's two-thirds of the UN.
There are two available seats and three competitors – us and the big boys Turkey and Spain. So Key is working hard.
Today, his first date with Benin fell over. In case you haven't heard of it, that's a country in West Africa with 10 million people. No need to panic though, Key still has dates today with Angola, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Lesotho and Malta.
Key doesn't have much to offer these countries when he gets face to face with them in the dating booths for 10 to 15 minutes. For instance, with Lesotho he's going to see if he can use "agricultural diplomacy" to help them with their wool industry.
Other countries go much further than this. It's basically aid for votes. They put more aid into the small countries, whether they are in Africa, Asia or the Pacific, on the promise that they give them their Security Council vote.
Stopping aid for votes will be virtually impossible because there's no real way of policing it. It is part of the UN and part of world affairs. It kind of stinks, it's just plain wrong, but like with so many things in the world it's just the way it is.
But don't go thinking New Zealand is the perfect good guy. Key admitted today we would be splashing around millions on aid, so we are obviously getting in on the sanction bribery too – a case of when in New York do as the others do.
However, he says we will be much more frugal than most other countries as we trade aid for votes.
Even Australia, which is currently on the council, did it. Conservative estimates say they spent $25 million, but Key today told us he believes they put much more into it.
It is said behind the scenes that the African countries vote for whoever the US tells them to in exchange for aid. It sounds corrupt, but it is essentially sanctioned bribery.
New Zealand's bid for the council does not work this way to the same extent as other countries. It's been a 10-year process getting to this point and started under Helen Clark. It's based on our reputation as an 'honest broker' with an independent foreign policy. Strong points are of course our anti-nuclear stance back in the 1980s and the fact that we didn't go into the Iraq war.
We haven't been on since 1993/4 when we made a stand against genocide in Rwanda and helped get the Security Council to make a resolution against it. At that point it was the US that was threatening the veto after getting a bloody nose in Rwanda.
The General Election next year means Key will not be back to do the final lobbying at next year's General Assembly when the final vote for the 2015/6 seat is held. This will be his final push for votes.
By that point it will be 20 years since we have been on the council. It is obviously a role that would give New Zealand considerable mana in the world - sitting at the top table, making the big calls on issues like Syria.
But with Turkey front and centre of dealing with issues like the millions of refugees fleeing Syria and playing a critical role in an unstable region, and Spain spending lots of money on aid, this remains a David and Goliath contest for New Zealand.