Foreign Minister Murray McCully heads off to the UN Security Council today with a new New Zealand initiative.

Mr McCully says New Zealand is making a voluntary contribution to the UN to allow UN officials to try and prevent conflicts from breaking out.

Currently the UN spent about $8 billion a year on peace keeping operations and another $6.5 billion on humanitarian assistance but virtually nothing on conflict prevention he said.

And when it did the UN Under Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Jeffrey Feltman, “basically takes the begging bowl around looking for contributions from member countries.”

New Zealand had spent half a million dollars already this year on Mr Feltman’s work.

“We’ve been in active dialogue with him for some time now,” said Mr McCully.

“And we’re encouraging him to try and regularise the procedures.

“We’re willing to fund any initial work in this space.”

Mr McCully said the UN had teams of people they can bring into countries but one of the areas they hadn’t focussed on was being able to bring former political leaders into situations and New Zealand had encouraged them to think about doing more of that.

“It’s a very very small part of what the UN does and it’s voluntarily funded.”

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In a thoughtful speech to his party’s Northern Regional conference, Mr McCully said he had first come to this conference in the 1970s.

Then New Zealand was an appendage of the United Kingdom and Europe, he said.

Much had changed since and we were now a part of the Asia Pacific region.

But he devoted much of his speech to New Zealand’s role at the UN —including re-iterating his support for Helen Clark to become UN Secretary General.

Mr McCully said New Zealand’s support for the UN was founded on the belief that if the world just allowed the “big guys” to win then the small guys like New Zealand, by definition, would always lose.

Though he did say that delegates might find it ironic, that having spent 30 years of his life trying to persuade New Zealanders not to vote for her, he was now promoting her candidacy.

“As a small nation good multilateral institutions are fundamentally important to us and when a New Zealander is suitably qualified to play a leadership role it’s absolutely important that we campaign on their behalf,” he said.

“Where our national interest is clearly at stake, New Zealanders expect to leave our politics behind; something that Andrew Little clearly forgot when he turned his back on decades of bipartisanship on trade policy to take cheap shots at the TPP.”