An inspiring opportunity: Swiss diplomat Flavio Milan describes his experience while embedded in New Zealand's UN Security Council team for two years.

Author:Milan, Flavio

Switzerland's approach to international affairs has much in common with New Zealand's. Both countries share values and principles and strongly support the United Nations. But unlike New Zealand, a founding member, Switzerland is a relatively recent member of the world body, only joining in 2002. Aspiring to a term on the Security Council in future and keen to gain experience in council affairs, it was pleased to be able take part in an unusual arrangement agreed by the two countries' foreign ministers. This involved embedding a Swiss diplomat in the MFAT team supporting New Zealand's effort on the council.

Switzerland and New Zealand share a common set of values and principles on the international stage. As global trading nations and beneficiaries of international peace and security, both our countries are committed to a fair, rules-based international system. Both also recognise the key role the United Nations plays in support of this.

Against this backdrop, some years ago New Zealand Foreign Minister Murray McCully and his Swiss counterpart Didier Burkhalter discussed options to further enhance our co-operation on UN matters. At the time, New Zealand's campaign for a seat on the fifteen-member UN Security Council was in full swing. Switzerland had also recently declared it was running for a seat a few years further down the track.

One concrete outcome of these discussions was the idea of a temporary deployment (or 'secondment') of a Swiss diplomat to the UN Security Council task force within New Zealand's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Plans for the secondment were further discussed during Federal Councillor Burkhalter's visit to New Zealand in October 2013, the first-ever official visit by a Swiss foreign minister to these shores, and quickly finalised once New Zealand was successfully elected to the Security Council in October 2014.

In international politics and diplomacy, vying for a term on the world's top body in charge of maintaining international peace and security is no small feat by any standard. Both campaigning to get elected and servicing the two-year term as a member require careful, long-term planning. Security Council elections are often contested, and candidate countries need to secure the support of two-thirds of the 193 member states of the United Nations. While since the United Nations' founding in 1945 five seats are permanendy reserved for the victors of the Second World War (China, France, Russia, the United...

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