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Government Global Voices

Choosing the Next UN Leader Should Not Be Left to Three People

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. Image: Minister-president Rutte/Flickr

This article was originally published by openDemocracy on 11 November, 2014.

Climate change, Ebola, IS, Ukraine … The world is not short of crises which cry out for a collective response. That is why, for 69 years, we have had the United Nations. People still expect it to provide that response, yet they are often disappointed.

Blame falls on the secretary-general (SG)—often unfairly, since he is really only the top civil servant. Political decisions are taken by the member states, in the General Assembly or the Security Council.

Still, among those decisions, choosing the right SG is one of the most important. He leads more than 40,000 staff, and oversees the work of 30 UN funds, programmes and agencies, dealing with a wide range of global issues.

The UN Charter allows him to alert the Security Council to “any matter which in his opinion may threaten the maintenance of international peace and security”. Behind the scenes, his “good offices” can be crucial in preventing or resolving conflict.

In recent decades he has played an important public role, reminding the world of the UN’s basic principles, suggesting ways to apply them to new problems and mobilising world public opinion to confront major challenges. He’s the nearest thing we have to a world leader.

Categories
International Relations Arctic

Designing an Effective European Arctic Strategy

Photo: flickr/NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

The promise of new shipping routes and access to natural resources continues to attract external players to the Arctic. While states such as Singapore have successfully acquired permanent observer status in the Arctic Council (AC), the European Union (EU) has historically been far less successful in contributing to or securing a voice in Arctic governance. This problem is eroding away, however. All Brussels has to do is play to its strengths and continue focusing on ‘small target’ goals that can be achieved through existing political structures.

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International Relations

Why Australia Wants the UK to Stay in the EU

Parliament House Canberra
Parliament House in Canberra, Australia. Photo: JJ Harrison/Wikimedia Commons.

When the United Kingdom (UK) sought to join the European Economic Community (EEC) in the early 1970s, it stirred a backlash in Australia.  Because its prime exporters enjoyed easy access to the large British market, many feared a possible collapse would occur in bilateral trade.  Today, the debate over whether the UK should remain in the EU attracts few headlines in Australia. It is not a replay of the previous EEC debate. Nevertheless, a British “no” vote in the 2017 referendum could yet again have negative consequences for the economic relationship between the two countries.  This time, however, Australia wants the UK to stay in the grand ‘European Project’ rather than to stay out.

Much has clearly changed since the 1970s. Back then, Western Europe’s Common Customs Tariff and Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) represented substantial trade barriers for Australia’s major exporters. When the UK finally did join the EEC, Canberra not only lost its preferential access to an alternative export market, it also deepened its rift with Brussels. In the years that followed, Australia-EU relations therefore continued to suffer from ongoing trade disputes, several of which ended in international legal proceedings.

Categories
International Relations Foreign policy

New Zealand as a US Partner in the Pacific?

The Obamas and the Keys
President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama pose for a photo during a reception at the Metropolitan Museum in New York with John Key, and his wife, Mrs. Bronagh Key. Photo: Lawrence Jackson/Wikimedia Commons

The once frosty relationship between the United States and New Zealand is warming rapidly. In its ‘pivot’ to the Asia-Pacific, Washington has rediscovered New Zealand as a potential strategic partner. An ever-closer relationship would boost US influence in the South Pacific and may help draw it further into regional governance and trade. However, Wellington’s other regional interests are likely to limit the amount of strategic cooperation that it is willing to pursue.

Then and Now

The Australian, New Zealand, United States Treaty (ANZUS) underpinned the post-war strategic relationship between the US and New Zealand. However, from the mid-1980s this relationship turned sour after New Zealand barred a US ship from visiting on grounds that it did not comply with the country’s nuclear-free arrangements. The ensuing diplomatic furor led to the US suspending its ANZUS obligations to New Zealand, restricting intelligence sharing and placing a ban on its navy from visiting American ports.