Most multilateral activity is rule-governed. Norms also develop that create expectations of appropriate international conduct. New Zealand has contributed to this process, using UN functions and channels to help de-legitimise nuclear weapons, ban landmines and cluster munitions, and put into treaty form the rights of the disabled.
Exclusive economic zone
As a maritime state with the fourth-largest exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the world (some 3.6 million square kilometres), New Zealand has supported multilateral cooperation to further ocean governance. To effectively promote sustainable development of marine resources, a regime of rules, norms and institutions evolved under the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). Multilateral cooperation was required to preserve the marine environment, suppress piracy, legitimise a territorial sea delimitation of 12 nautical miles (meaning this area is legally part of New Zealand), and recognise the right of coastal states to establish an EEZ stretching 200 nautical miles from their baselines of the territorial sea.
New Zealand had much to gain from a settled EEZ regime. In 2008 the United Nations confirmed New Zealand's right to exploit minerals and petroleum in a further 1.7 million kilometres of seabed on its continental shelf.
The 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development and its so-called ‘Agenda 21’ indicative principles encouraged New Zealand to institute legislative changes in forestry, biodiversity, fisheries, hazardous substances and ozone-layer protection. Professional diplomatic capacities were fully tested by the multilateral politics that complicated implementation of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which limited human-generated atmospheric emissions and was ratified by New Zealand in 2002.
International Criminal Court
In 2000 the New Zealand Parliament passed the International Crimes and International Criminal Court Act criminalising genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes as defined in the 1998 Rome Statute establishing the International Criminal Court. These offences can be heard in New Zealand courts regardless of where they have been committed.
International Court of Justice and Law Commission
The International Court of Justice was set up in 1945 as part of the United Nations. Alone among Western countries, New Zealand supported a 1994 General Assembly resolution endorsing reference to the International Court of Justice for an advisory opinion on the legality of the use of nuclear weapons.
New Zealanders have served with distinction on the International Law Commission and the International Court of Justice.