From the outside, the Security Council looks like a shed out the back of the United Nations.
presumably has spectacular views of the East River but the windows are
permanently covered in heavy drapes and a big mural by artist Per Krohg.
It is a pleasant environment with simple, clean and calming Scandinavian influences that please the western soul.
Norway refurbished the chamber in 2013.
Krohg reportedly once said the essence of the mural was “to give an impression of light, security and joy”.
chamber was anything but yesterday. No light for the families and
friends of those on flight MH17 shot out of the sky. No security for the
12 million Syrians who have been displaced from their homes.
closest thing to joy would have been the thrill for Foreign Minister
Murray McCully to be chairing the council through two big items on the
agenda – the latest report on what’s left of Syria, and MH17, though a
thrill very much kept under check.
They do things oddly at the Security Council. They vote first then have the debate.
It’s a system that doesn’t allow a member to be persuaded by argument but that is probably the point.
Capitals do not want their diplomats deviating from voting orders.
main item was a proposal to set up a tribunal to prosecute those who
killed 298 people when they shot down MH17 over Ukraine – suspected of
being Russian-backed rebels.
Like the content of the debate, its
chairing by McCully was pre-scripted. “The 7498th meeting of the
Security Council is called to order …
“Those in favour of the draft resolution contained in document E/2015/2562 please raise their hand. Those against. Abstentions?”
voted in favour, including New Zealand, three abstained, China,
Venezuela and Angola, and Russia opposed it. “The draft resolution has
not been adopted owing to the negative vote of a permanent member of the
“I give the floor to the Representative of the Russian Federation [Vitaly Churkin] …”
scripted, the statements read by ministers or ambassadors were
chilling. The United States’ Samantha Power took up much of her speech
detailing the lives of the victims, as did Australian Foreign Minister
Churkin said it was not the right time, the
investigations should be finished first, a lot of politics were at play,
Russia’s offer of metallurgical help to identify the missile had been
rejected, and when one of Russia’s passenger planes was shot down in
2001, it had not been an issue for the Security Council.
ironic two vetoes have been exercised by Russia during this month of New
Zealand’s presidency, but it is no reflection on New Zealand.
has opposed vetoes from the outset and McCully strongly criticised them
yesterday. He was also hopeful something would happen – even that the
same proposal could be put again in future.
The 15 countries
sitting at the table have the power to change the world. But “light,
security and joy” will have to wait for another day.