By this time next year we will know if New Zealand's decade-long campaign to secure a seat on the United Nations (UN) Security Council has been successful. In October 2014 the member states of the UN General Assembly will cast their vote in a secret ballot, choosing whether New Zealand, Turkey or Spain will win one of two non-permanent seats allocated to the Western European and Others electoral group.
At stake is a two-year term on the UN Security Council from January 2015 to December 2016 - and a seat at the table that is charged with maintaining international peace and security.
When New Zealand last served on the Security Council in 1993-94 it was a defining moment for our country - and for the UN. New Zealand held the presidency of the Security Council during the Rwandan genocide in April 1994 and New Zealand Permanent Representative Colin Keating vigorously argued for a UN peacekeeping force with a robust mandate to protect civilians.
New Zealand's stance was not shared by the majority of member states and consequently the slaughter of 800,000 Rwandans went unchallenged. The memory of this last turn at the top table is heavily influencing our government's reformist agenda in its current bid.
In September Prime Minister John Key told the UN General Assembly that, if New Zealand wins a seat, it will use the opportunity to press for reform of the Security Council by limiting the power of permanent members to veto action against potential genocide or war crimes. Reflecting on the situation in Syria, he said: "These are situations where a veto is sometimes potentially used at the huge human cost of those involved and we think that's wrong."
In his speech the Prime Minister pitched New Zealand as a credible and positive voice for the interests of the wider organisation, a clear reference to the less powerful member states, many of whom comprise relatively powerful voting blocs that New Zealand is courting furiously.
So what are our chances of winning the seat? Pundits are cautiously optimistic but acknowledge that competition is tough and New Zealand's recent history on the Security Council clearly demonstrates that a principled and independent stance is not always a winning formula in the face of competing political interests.
The Prime Minister has likened the campaign to "diplomatic speed-dating" and acknowledged that New Zealand is more reliant on merit than money. Both Turkey and Spain are courting voters with offers of aid and Turkey is also emphasising its geopolitical relevance as critical to resolving the Syrian crisis and wider Middle Eastern tensions.
However, former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave our bid tacit endorsement with a slightly ambiguous statement at a press conference, saying she "admired" New Zealand's campaign for the seat, and Pacific Island leaders unanimously gave their support at the recent Pacific Islands Forum.
But the secrecy of the ballot means that publicly-given support is no guarantee. Regional voting blocs, particularly our closest Pacific neighbours, will be asking what New Zealand will bring to the table on their behalf if successful.
The key regional issues during the term New Zealand is seeking are likely to be climate change, potential independence referendums in Bougainville and New Caledonia, the restoration of relations with Fiji, and New Zealand may also find itself spearheading discussions on human rights abuses in the Indonesian province of West Papua. After all, we cannot call for the protection of civilians on the road to Damascus if we ignore those in need of protection in our neighbourhood.
A win in New York next year is an opportunity for New Zealand to champion the principled and independent foreign policy making of our past and to reinforce our reputation as a small power punching above its weight on the international stage. New Zealand may be one of the smaller Troop Contributing Countries, but our contribution will ultimately be at the policy reform level.
To succeed New Zealand must show it can contribute in innovative ways towards international peace and security, while carving out a niche that is distinct from our larger and more powerful partners, namely the US and China. We must ensure that we are still perceived as a credible and legitimate voice for the under-represented and less powerful.
Dr Anna Powles is a senior lecturer in security studies at Massey University's Centre for Defence and Security Studies.