Aotearoa New Zealand and International Organizations

Anna Hood and An Hertogen, International Law in Aotearoa New Zealand (Thomson Reuters 2021)

26 Pages Posted: 16 Mar 2022

See all articles by Natalie Jones

Natalie Jones

Centre for the Study of Existential Risk, University of Cambridge

Date Written: March 20, 2020


This chapter considers the relationship between New Zealand and international organisations. Although the United Nations (UN) and its specialised agencies are the most well-known, New Zealand is a member of dozens of other international organisations. Successive New Zealand governments have expressed a strong commitment to international organisations, particularly the UN. The reasons for New Zealand’s commitment to international organisations are not hard to find. International organisations, in a complex and changing world characterised by unequal geopolitical power structures and threats that transcend national boundaries, are necessary for maintaining a predictable, rules-based international system. As a small state with an export-dependent economy, it is said, New Zealand attaches the highest importance to such predictability. There is undeniably truth to the claim that New Zealand is strongly committed to international organisations as a means of furthering multilateralism and a rules-based international order. Notwithstanding, this chapter seeks to complicate the prevailing narrative in two ways. First, the chapter contends that the country’s commitment to multilateralism needs to be understood through the frame of its bilateral relationships, national interests and foreign policy objectives, particularly in respect of trade and security. These factors have meant that, although at times New Zealand has been an eager contributor to international organisations, at other times, the country has put its bilateral relationships and national interests ahead of multilateralism and has been reluctant to join, or engage with, international organisations. The second way that the chapter seeks to complicate New Zealand’s prevailing narrative on international organisations is by exploring the idea that New Zealand’s commitment to championing the international rule of law can be juxtaposed against the lack of attention paid to questions of international organisations’ wrongdoing, immunities, accountability, and responsibility. If New Zealand is concerned about the unilateral exercise of power by powerful states, it is submitted New Zealand should also support action to combat the unilateral exercise of authority by international organisations themselves.

Keywords: International law, international organizations, New Zealand, United Nations, League of Nations

Suggested Citation

Jones, Natalie, Aotearoa New Zealand and International Organizations (March 20, 2020). Anna Hood and An Hertogen, International Law in Aotearoa New Zealand (Thomson Reuters 2021), Available at SSRN:

Natalie Jones (Contact Author)

Centre for the Study of Existential Risk, University of Cambridge ( email )

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