Foreign Minister Murray McCully told the United Nations Security Council that its future credibility and effectiveness depended on its permanent members making progress on reform, especially on its record in preventing conflict.

"There is something wrong when we are spending over $8 billion per year on peace-keeping but virtually nothing on the responsibility to prevent situations escalating into intractable conflict," he said in New York early this morning.

Mr McCully delivered his statement during his first session on the Security Council since New Zealand's two-year term began on January 1.

He was attending a debate on the maintenance of international peace and security, an initiative by China to mark the council's 70th anniversary.

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China is among the five permanent members - others are the United States, Russia, France and Britain.

"The council is charged with responding to threats to international peace and security yet in relation to too many of those current threats, the council has dealt itself out of its proper role.

"Where it is involved, it has often been too late."

Too many of the cases on the peace-keeping agenda had become "part of a revolving list of routine items rather than serious problems that we really expect to solve," he said.

It was time to listen to the disappointments and frustrations of smaller UN members.

He cited the use of the veto or threatened use of the veto which he said was the single largest cause of the Security Council being "rendered impotent" in the face of too many serious international conflicts.

"Whether we are talking about Syria of the Middle East peace process, the veto's impact 5today far exceeds what was envisaged in the UN charter - to the huge detriment of the council's effectiveness and credibility."

He praised France for its initiative to voluntarily ditch the veto when cases of mass atrocities were before the council.

He also said the council needed to address it lack of preventive action which was partly a result of the veto.

And he said the council should recognize and address a major weakness in respect of peace-keeping.

"We cannot send peace-keepers into dangerous environments without adequate mandates and resources."

The former President of Timor L'Este, Jose Ramos Horta, would set the scene for the council to act this year.

"it is time for us to confront the root cause that have seen this council avoid the challenging task of conflict prevention simply because the politics and the diplomacy have been too difficult."