The United Nations
When the close of the Second World War brought the formation of the United Nations Organisation, New Zealand played an enthusiastic and modestly influential part in the process. The Prime Minister, Peter Fraser, was prominent among the small-power leaders at the San Francisco Conference of 1945 which deliberated upon the draft charter drawn up earlier by the great powers at Dumbarton Oaks. Fraser's thought on international affairs was dominated by an idealism which did not preclude calculation – world peace and New Zealand's security were complementary goals. Nor did the shrewd realism of a practical politician desert him; he recognised the ultimate decisiveness of the Great Powers' objectives.
Thus, at San Francisco New Zealand endeavoured to remove the veto from the provisions setting up the Security Council, but soon realised that the veto was the necessary price of “great power” participation. In the formative stages New Zealand's opposition to the veto arose from her desire to enhance the role of the small powers; subsequently opposition to the veto continued, but upon a different basis – from hostility to the use made by the Russians of this power. Again, New Zealand agreed with the widespread demand of the small powers which went some distance towards converting the General Assembly from an essentially advisory body into an assembly of nations capable of making decisions. Subsequently again, the General Assembly has expanded its functions at the expense of the Security Council; but this development, in its turn, owes hardly anything to the small-power idealism of 1945, and almost everything to a desire to circumvent the Russian veto in the Security Council.
Fraser's concern for social welfare, especially for that of dependent territories, was also evident at San Francisco, and he had considerable influence upon provisions setting up the Trusteeship Council. Subsequently, New Zealand, by transforming her League mandate over Western Samoa into a United Nations Trusteeship and by bringing that territory to independence in 1961, was able to illustrate the consistency with which she held the ideals advanced in 1945.
Since 1945 New Zealand's participation in the United Nations has been conscientious rather than spectacular. She has played a full part in special agencies, notably UNESCO; has once provided a President of the General Assembly in the person of Sir Leslie Munro; and once has held a non-permanent post on the Security Council. Though her vote has never been automatically cast for any particular bloc, nevertheless her judgment has been tempered by her international friendships. Though her statesmen have often lamented the exclusion of the Peking Government from the United Nations, her vote has never been cast in favour of Peking's admission. Though she has consistently deplored racial segregation, she did not formally, while South Africa was a member of the Commonwealth, join the Afro-Asian nations in their condemnation of South African racial policy. Here, and elsewhere, her attitude has been conservative and unfavourable to any attempt to use the United Nations for intervention in the domestic affairs of any member nation.
While New Zealand maintains a structure of defensive alliances, nevertheless she relies considerably upon the United Nations for the preservation of world peace. New Zealand troops served under the United Nations flag in Korea and were offered (though not accepted) for the police operations in Suez and the Congo. Such actions are a far cry from the permanent international force championed by Fraser on his return from San Francisco, and from the collective security championed earlier in the League, but they illustrate a readiness to act within an international framework.
by William Hosking Oliver, M.A.(N.Z.), D.PHIL.(OXON.), Professor of History, Massey University of Manawatu.
- New Zealand's External Relations, Larkin, T. C. (ed.) (1962)
- New Zealand and the Statute of Westminster, Beaglehole, J. C. (ed.) (1944)
- The New Zealand People at War, Political and External Affairs, Wood, F. L. W. (1958)
- This New Zealand, Wood, F. L. W. (1958).