Few observers would take issue with New Zealand’s latest criticisms of the international community’s failure to stem Syria’s civil conflict. Chairing a special meeting of the Security Council in New York, John Key has just been laying into that august assembly:
‘After more than five years of violence, Syria has become a byword for failure. Failure of the parties and their supporters to put peace, and the lives of innocent people ahead of self-interest and zero-sum politics. Failure to respond to the crisis early to prevent this tragedy. And a collective political failure, including by this Council, to do what must be done to end the conflict.’
This argument should come as no surprise. In the first instance, the Council’s membership has hardly been united in an urgent determination to quell the humanitarian suffering in Syria or to help resolve the conflict that is causing it. Secondly, Mr Key’s words are reminiscent of one of the arguments that New Zealand used in its quest to get onto the Council in the first place. Speaking at the UN in September 2014, Foreign Minister McCully argued that:
'In Syria and Iraq we see the truly frightening consequences when leadership, both internally and in the Security Council, has failed.'
From Wellington’s view, not much has changed in the lasy two years, a period that has coincided with New Zealand’s membership. It has been there, of course, with the limited time frame and limited leverage that all temporary members have to work with. And it is fair to say that Wellington attributes much of the blame to the permanent five whose veto power Mr McCully referred to last year as ‘the single largest cause of the UN Security Council being rendered impotent in the face of too many serious international conflicts’.