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Minister's Address To UNESCO



Thank you for the opportunity to address this gathering to launch the information kit on the international year of the Culture of Peace, and also to present the first Peacemakers Award to Dr Andrew Ladley for his selfless work in East Timor.

I’d first like to thank the UNESCO National Commission for the effort they have invested in promoting the International Year for the Culture of Peace in New Zealand. I hope that the International Year will lead to debate and awareness about peace issues, not only at the level of international conflict, but at all levels of our society. The information kit, launched today, will provide a useful resource for those planning activities for the Year.

Unlike my grandfather and father's generation, I am part of a generation fortunate not to have been involved in a world war. The absence of a global conflict together with the end of the Cold War a decade ago, however, has lulled some people into a feeling that peace is a fait accompli. The facts speak differently.

While we may not have experienced a world war since 1945 millions of people have died in conflicts around the globe. The UN estimates five and a half million people died in the 1990s alone. These deaths occurred mostly in civil wars that have pitted one ethnic, religious or tribal group against another.

Dirty, ugly and brutal, these wars are extraordinarily persistent. Of the 27 major conflicts in the world today, all but two are civil conflicts. Their most disturbing aspect is that the vast majority of casualties – the UN estimates around 90% – have been civilian, mostly women and children. Increasingly these vulnerable groups within society bear the brunt of war - women, children, the disabled and dispossessed, ethnic and religious minorities.

Civil wars are not easy to resolve by the wider international community. As we have witnessed in Kosovo, Somalia, Rwanda or closer to home, East Timor and Bougainville, they are complex and the process of outside intervention to intervene to restore peace is fraught with difficulties. The United Nations remains the key forum for such decisions about civil conflict.

For its part, New Zealand has long supported the United Nations in its efforts to make peace and will continue to do so. We have played a significant part in UN peacekeeping operations, not just in East Timor and Bougainville, but in countries as diverse as Sierra Leone, Bosnia, and in the Middle East. At present we have 907 Defence Force personnel deployed in thirteen separate peace support and mine action missions around the world. We are proud that the UN Secretary General Kofi Annan described New Zealand as an active and exemplary member state when he was here just two weeks ago.

Our Defence Force peacekeepers are highly regarded by the UN, and other militaries who appreciate their professionalism and dedication to the job. Their most outstanding attribute – which I have witnessed at close hand - is their ability to work with other nationalities and develop rapport with the people they are helping. Enhancing the effectiveness and the safety of our soldiers in these difficult and testing situations will be the most important priority when we review our defence priorities.

There is much more we can do in this area of civil conflict. One important area where New Zealand can contribute is to promote the control the spread of small arms. The proliferation of light weapons represents one of the most pressing problems in the world today. Such weapons are easy to obtain on the open international market.

Their availability has increased from a trickle to a flood in recent years. This type of weaponry has been responsible for 90% of deaths since World War II. The legal small arms trade is estimated to be $3 billion but there is another estimated $3 billion sales that occur illegally.

Limiting the flow of arms will not eliminate the tensions that cause people to go to war. But it may stop people reaching for weapons to solve disputes. And it will certainly slow these conflicts spiralling into a worse cycle of killing where revenge replaces other factors and becomes the motivation for continuing a conflict.

The weight of the international community is only now being brought to bear on this issue, and this year we have begun a United Nations process towards a conference on the illicit trade in small arms to be held in 2001. In our own region New Zealand has joined the resolutions of the Honiara Initiative, calling for a common approach to weapons control. A new agreement to limit the manufacture and distribution of weapons is urgently needed. It is an area in which New Zealand as a small developed non-arms producing nation with a history of peacemaking can add real value.

Despite the replacement of global conflicts with a plague of smaller wars, we cannot be complacent about the proliferation of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction.

International mechanisms for limiting and reducing these weapons remain crucially important. During his recent visit Kofi Annan thanked New Zealand for our leadership on these issues and noted our role in the establishment of the world’s first nuclear-free zone in the South Pacific.

Over the last three years the nuclear disarmament process has faltered. Tens of thousands of nuclear weapons remain in the arsenals of the five recognised nuclear weapon States. Regrettably, other countries aspire to nuclear status too. India and Pakistan have joined the ranks of the nuclear armed states. The tension between the two and – at times open conflict – makes this a particular concern.

The comprehensive test ban treaty, limiting the testing of nuclear weapons, has yet to be signed by all parties and the US Senate recently declined to ratify it. In Russia the Duma has not yet ratified the the Start II Treaty. The US proposed missile defence programme may increase the arms imbalance and set off a new round of the arms race.

To push disarmament in the field of nuclear weapons New Zealand has joined South Africa, Brazil, Sweden, Mexico, Ireland, and Egypt to set out a path forward. The "New Agenda", as it is called, aims to inject fresh momentum and thinking into the nuclear disarmament process. It also intends to encourage nuclear weapons states to pursue their disarmament obligations with more determination.

This government is committed to taking a lead in many fields to pursue peace. But a Culture of Peace is more than disarmament or peacekeeping. It is about states working together to build the conditions where can peace can flourish.

Which brings me to East Timor, and the work of Dr Andrew Ladley. As most of you will know, Andrew is Senior Lecturer in Law at VUW and currently on three years leave of absence whilst working as Chief of Staff and coalition manager in the Deputy Prime Minister’s office.

In addition to his academic interests in international, constitutional and human rights law, he has worked for UN Missions in Cambodia and East Timor, for the Commonwealth in South Africa and The Gambia, and for Amnesty International in Bosnia and other countries.

In East Timor, while Legal Adviser to UNAMET (the UN body that was responsible for overseeing the overseeing the election) in the period leading up to the ballot, Andrew played a key role in finalising the legal arrangements for the ballot and also prepared legal opinions on the various legal challenges brought by pro-integration groups against UNAMET’s role there.

As the campaign of violence took hold when the ballot result was announced and there was a real danger that local UNAMET employees would be slaughtered by the militias, Andrew and other expatriate UN workers refused leave Dili. He and his colleagues put their own lives at risk to protect the lives of others. I pay tribute to the courage and calm he showed at this time.

One of the last to leave Dili, he was one of the first to return. He became Legal Adviser to the Acting UN Administrator in East Timor and, as such, a trusted contact of Xanana Gusmao: he had the honour of being the person who physically accompanied Gusmao back to East Timor at the time of his historic homecoming. He has worked with Interfet and Untaet.

Andrew’s urge to be useful constantly took him beyond the call of duty and made him a person others turned to, repeatedly, for advice and help. Invariably he responded to those calls and never took no for an answer. Andrew not only served the purposes of peace and nation-building in East Timor, but became a special envoy for New Zealand and a very practical adviser on how, in those early days of the emergency, we could best help the East Timorese.

As with the NZDF, one could not have asked for a more positive profile and reputation for NZ in East Timor than the one that Andrew won for us.

For that we recognise his courage and determination and award him the peacemakers award.

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