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The UN And Its Relevance To NZ - Phil Goff

Hon Phil Goff
Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade
Speech Notes

25 OCTOBER 2000

Kate Smith, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen.

It is my pleasure to welcome you here today to celebrate the 55th Anniversary of the coming into force of the United Nations Charter and the achievements of the United Nations.

All of us today are proud of the role played by New Zealand's then Prime Minister Peter Fraser in San Francisco in 1945, who helped to frame the United Nations Charter.

World War II had just ended and twice within a generation, the world had been subject to the mass destruction and slaughter of war between nations.

New Zealand had suffered heavy casualties in both wars. It was determined to see the creation of an effective international organisation that could replace the law of the jungle with the rule of law in governing relations between countries.

As a small nation, we in particular appreciated the need for a new order based on collective action, a commitment to humanitarian ideals and a rules-based system.

Now, 55 years on, I believe that the values and principles that gave birth to the United Nations are as relevant today as they were then.

A few weeks ago at the UN General Assembly Kofi Annan called upon member states to harness the symbolic power of the millennium to meet the urgent needs of people in every part of the world.

New Zealand shares his determination that member states should recommit themselves to the core principles of peaceful settlement of disputes, equality of nations, the upholding of fundamental human rights and freedoms and the pursuit of social and economic progress for all of the people of the world.

New Zealand has shown by its actions its commitment to the principles through its current involvement in East Timor.

In August last year, it participated in the holding of the ballot in East Timor under UNAMET. I was proud of the contribution that New Zealanders made on that occasion, which I personally observed.

In October we committed one of our largest ever peacekeeping contingents and retain a significant presence there which will probably continue beyond next year's election of East Timor's first government under independence.

The work of our peacekeepers without doubt helped prevent a recurrence of genocide in that country, though it has come at the cost of the lives of three New Zealand soldiers.

I had the pleasure today of meeting again with the United Nations Special Representative to East Timor, Sergio de Mello.

We discussed progress in the reconstruction of East Timor, the challenge of building from nothing a new nation able to sustain itself and govern effectively, and the continuing threat posed by armed militia entering East Timor from the West.

New Zealand can be rightly proud of the contribution of its soldiers and personnel in East Timor and in 12 other countries where it is actively involved in peacekeeping.

East Timor has been a success story for the United Nations. In other areas, however, such as Rwanda and Bosnia, the international community can be less than satisfied with efforts to protect innocent people from slaughter.

Changes need to be made in managing peacekeeping operations, as the recent Brahimi report has pointed out. This includes the need to provide strong mandates and adequate resourcing.

Changes are needed in the United Nations itself to maximise its effectiveness. These include a system by which all member states pay their assessed contributions on time, in full and without conditions.

It includes the need for effective management and efficient use of resources.

It includes comprehensive reform of the Security Council to be made more representative of today's membership, more transparent and democratic and, if possible, to eliminate, or at least curtail, the veto power of permanent members.

Whatever its shortcomings, the United Nations is, however, the best hope we have to ensure that global problems are tackled with global solutions.

The elimination of nuclear weapons, efforts to end poverty, famine, illness and underdevelopment, protection of the environment, the defeat of racism, discrimination against women and exploitation of children are just some of the critical tasks that member states of the United Nations have in front of them.

These are major issues and require the combined efforts of all nations if we are to succeed in overcoming those problems and achieving a fairer, just and better world.

Can I take this opportunity to thank the United Nations Association for its ongoing efforts to promote the role of the UN and to all of you here for your support on this occasion.


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