Recording History: One Tweet at a Time – Tweets from the UN Security Council / Nicola Garvey

Nicola Garvey / Spokesperson for New Zealand’s Permanent Mission to the UN

When New Zealand served on the UN Security Council in 1993-94, our Permanent Mission in New York had just one mobile phone.  So, in preparing for our 2015-16 term, there was nothing in our Foreign Ministry’s archive about digital diplomacy.

When we started tweeting in 2013, during our campaign for the Security Council, there was only one other New Zealand diplomatic mission using Twitter.

However, Twitter quickly became a tool which allowed New Zealand to demonstrate its commitment to representing all states, improving the Council’s working methods and bringing transparency to the UN’s most powerful and often secretive body.

Being a member of the Security Council gives you a front row seat on history.  For New Zealand, it happens only about once every 20 years.  We wanted to share this special experience and bring our followers into the Security Council.  And we wanted to leave a digital footprint of New Zealand’s time on the Council, a record that might be useful for the next campaign.

When New Zealand assumed the Presidency of the Security Council in July 2015, we hosted a Twitter Chat with Permanent Representative Gerard van Bohemen (@GvBohemenNZ) giving our followers a chance to ask questions about the Council’s agenda using #NZprez.  While Twitter chats were standard practice among the tweeting diplomats in New York, this was unchartered territory for the Ministry and a change in mindset was required to summarise nuanced diplomatic points in 140 characters or fewer.  Taking into account the 16-hour time difference between most of our followers, 25 percent in the United States and 15 percent in New Zealand – we had to find a time that suited both audiences. During the one hour chat, we took questions on a range of topics relevant to our one month Presidency of the Security Council, from Syria and Climate Change to even our Twitter chat Kiwi mascot.

The chat established the #NZprez hashtag and made clear that Twitter would be a key channel for information sharing during our month.

One of the most significant moments during the month was when the P5+1 (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States) reached a deal with Iran to ensure its nuclear programme would remain peaceful.  After years of negotiations, this was a big diplomatic breakthrough and there was intense interest from diplomats and the media.  We used Twitter to announce that the Security Council, under New Zealand’s presidency, would endorse what had become known as the #IranDeal.

A few days later, we recorded that historic moment, giving our Twitter followers the view from the Security Council floor as all 15 Ambassadors raised their hands voting in favour of Resolution 2231. Later that month, US Secretary of State John Kerry thanked us in a tweet.

New Zealand’s priority issue for the month was a debate open to all UN members on the Peace and Security Challenges Facing Small Island Developing States (SIDS). We shared the concept note and promoted the debate on Twitter. We tweeted the live video link so followers could watch the meeting and quoted from the briefers. This was the first time the Security Council had heard about issues specific to SIDS and some of the States participating had never spoken in the Council before. After the open debate, we prepared a summary non-paper and shared it online:

Tweeting about the debate was a way for New Zealand to show that we had lived up to our campaign promises and brought the concerns of SIDS to the Security Council’s attention.

When New Zealand and four other elected Security Council members drafted a resolution on Healthcare in Armed Conflict we partnered with Médecins Sans Frontières and the International Committee of the Red Cross to use their hashtag #NotATarget.  Joining an existing campaign gave the text that was adopted, Resolution 2286, a much greater prominence to the issue of attacks on hospitals and healthcare workers.

With just days left of New Zealand’s term – the Security Council adopted an important resolution on Israeli settlements, aimed at preserving the two-State solution in the Middle East.  It was the first time in almost eight years that the Council had passed a resolution on the Israel-Palestine conflict.  After the vote the chamber broke into rare applause.  We tweeted a video of the vote and applause – giving everyone outside the Security Council a feel for what it was like to be there.  That video became our most retweeted – shared more than 1,900 times.

At the end of New Zealand’s term on the Security Council, we created a Twitter moment showing some of the highlights of the two years.

And we received many messages of congratulations from other Missions in New York via Twitter.

We’ve now archived all the tweets sent from @NZUN during New Zealand’s Security Council campaign and 2015-16 term. The 4,700 tweets will be kept in the records of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and serve as a reminder of this remarkable period in New Zealand diplomacy.




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