Audrey Young is the New Zealand Herald’s political editor.

Audrey Young: Key does good job as chair of UN Security Council

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John Key addresses the general assembly. Photo / AP
John Key addresses the general assembly. Photo / AP

As John Key discovered today, you get a lot of kudos for chairing the Security Council, considering you ostensibly don't do very much.

Almost all of the other 14 countries taking part congratulated New Zealand on holding the special debate on Syria and/or referred to something in Key's opening statement, which he read out.

During the two-hour meeting, all Key had to do was to formally introduce each speaker and formally thank each speaker after his or her speech, "I thank His/Her Excellency; and call on His/Her Excellency" and bang a gavel a couple of times.

It wasn't like a cabinet meeting in which he could be expected to express an opinion on various ideas put forward.

As is so often the case in international forums, many contributions are simply people reading out written statements that have been nuanced by officials to within an inch of meaninglessness.

Some were today but for many it was a chance to vent.

Speaking to New Zealand reporters after the Security Council, Key resisted the temptation to say which speaker impressed him the most.

There was an array of foreign ministers to choose from: Boris Johnson, the new British Foreign Secretary, was making his debut at the Security Council.

He spoke with candour and colour about what was expected of the "grown-ups" on the Security Council and of the blistering horror of what the chlorine gas weapons have done to civilians in Syria.

The Venezuelan Foreign Minister, Delcy Rodriguez, railed passionately against the United States, not by name but said people were sick of other countries trying to run the world.

The Malaysian representative spoke emotionally of the heartbreak at the images from Syria including the one of the little boy sitting alone and dusty in the back of an ambulance.

Russia's Sergey Lavrov spoke without apparent emotion in a speech that Key later described as "technical".

Key didn't need to say which speech had made the biggest impression on him because that was obvious: US Secretary of State John Kerry gave a stunning speech. He can be the most boring politician on earth. Today he was the most electric.

Key thanked him for his contribution and moved on to the next speaker.

Key did a perfectly fine job of chairing the council. He made the job look effortless, as he often does.

But a lot of heavy lifting by others had paved the way for the meeting.

Sitting behind him under the great and weird tapestry of the Security Council's wall were team New Zealand: Foreign Minister Murray McCully; New Zealand's ambassador to the UN, Gerard van Bohemen; the chief executive of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Brook Barrington; and Key's seconded Foreign Affairs official, Taha Macpherson.

They had decided the subject of the meeting weeks ago, and planned and managed the event and dampened expectations of anything coming from it.

Given the subject matter - the greatest human catastrophe since World War II according to Kerry - it was hardly appropriate to celebrate.

But it was a job well done by New Zealand.

- NZ Herald

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Audrey Young is the New Zealand Herald’s political editor.

Audrey Young is the New Zealand Herald’s political editor, a job she has held since 2003. She is responsible for the Herald’s Press Gallery team. She first joined the New Zealand Herald in 1988 as a sub-editor after the closure of its tabloid rival, the Auckland Sun. She switched to reporting in 1991 as social welfare and housing reporter. She joined the Herald’s Press Gallery office in 1994. She has previously worked as a journalism tutor at Manukau Technical Institute, as member of the Newspapers in Education unit at Wellington Newspapers and as a teacher in Wellington. She was a union nominee on the Press Council for six years.

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