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New Zealand statement to UN on disarmament

Clive Pearson
NZ Ambassador for Disarmament

New Zealand statement to the United Nations General Assembly
New York

Mr Chairman,

Let me convey my congratulations on your assuming the Chair of this important Committee. You have the full support of New Zealand in the pursuit of what we hope will be a productive session.

Mr Chairman, the appalling atrocities in this city and in this country only a few weeks ago, have been roundly condemned. The New Zealand Prime Minister, the Right Honourable Helen Clark, described them as a “a war against civilisation”. Terrorism in any shape or form, will never succeed. We condemn it unequivocally. New Zealand is resolved to work with others in preventing such unspeakable acts and to punish those who are responsible.

Mr Chairman, in a world which increasingly faces unpredictable and asymmetric threats to international security - whether terrorism, computer hacking or germ warfare - multilateral machinery to confront them is more vital than ever. And, it makes the work of this Committee even more relevant.

New Zealand has consistently sought to push the disarmament, arms control and non-proliferation agenda forward. We remain determined in this endeavour. But, as we review progress this year, we find ourselves once again with too little to be optimistic about. The inventory of unfinished business in many areas, remains far too large.

We have to address this credibility gap if our multilateral structures are to remain relevant in delivering security benefits. No disarmament instrument is yet universal. There is under performance in compliance and implementation. And, once more this year, the successes we have secured are offset by some significant set backs.

- the entry into force of the CTBT is not in sight;
- the negotiations to conclude a compliance Protocol on biological weapons were inconclusive;
- we are no further ahead in negotiating a ban on fissile production;
- the Conference on Disarmament has again failed to deal with nuclear disarmament;
- the Chemical Weapons Convention is not universal in all regions; and,
- the START process seems to have come to a halt;

Mr Chairman, the security landscape is changing before our eyes. Unilateral tendances are evident. New strategic bargains are being canvassed. There are calls for a new security framework. A shake up of institutionalised disarmament diplomacy may be occurring. There may be a risk of power politics pushing others to the margins. And, that could prompt exactly the wrong response. Those of us who are determined to advance the multilateral agenda find our objectives constantly frustrated.

We have no difficulty in addressing changing realities : on the contrary New Zealand welcomes the move away from a cold-war mindset. But, in the push for change, we must not endanger the gains we have made so far. And, we must ensure that what we have got is in working order. Change and consolidation need not be mutually exclusive options.

Mr Chairman, New Zealand regrets that the negotiations to develop a compliance mechanism for the Biological Weapons Convention, failed this year to agree on a draft Protocol. Evidence of non-compliance with the Convention’s prohibitions in the past, or difficulties with the parameters of the subject, should not lead ipso facto to the conclusion that a compliance Protocol is of limited value. We should instead focus our attention clearly on the real need: effective compliance machinery that will make it harder for proliferators to cheat, or terrorists to go undetected and unchecked.

Unilateral and plurilateral measures to deal with these types of threats, such as biodefence programmes, are essential and consistent with the implementation of the Convention. But, the biowarfare threat also requires broad collective responses from all who subscribe to the norm. It is important that we demonstrate leadership to strengthen the Convention’s prohibitions.

Squabbling fruitlessly over the past at the next Review Conference of the BWC in November will not take us forward. It should be the time for fresh thinking “outside the box” to address non-compliance concerns in an effective manner. New Zealand continues to believe that measures to strengthen the Convention are possible. And, we consider the Ad Hoc Group’s mandate remains valid as a basis for doing this.

Mr Chairman, we had another conspicuous failure this year in the Conference on Disarmament. It seems to have lost its way and its purpose. The Conference has not adapted to today’s world. As well as perpetuating the rigidities of another time, the group structures that operate within it enable some to take cover from accountability.

The Conference’s mandate as the sole forum for negotiations on disarmament has been challenged. Its claim to be multilateral is fundamentally flawed. The assumption that only a limited number of countries is capable of determining global negotiating priorities and outcomes is a nonsense. The CD should be open to all countries who are seeking to engage in disarmament and non-proliferation.

We cannot realistically hold the institution itself as being responsible for its failure, however. Accountability rests with its member governments. And, political realities outside the Conference determine what it can substantively achieve, of course. Yet, it is regrettable that its prolonged failure to engage does not seem to cause any real concern in some capitals.

The negotiating options before the CD have become inter-linked, whether we like it or not. Assertions of symmetry in its Programme of Work have served to cement the deadlock. A new approach to its Programme of Work, that does not seek to be so prescriptive in the mandates, should be tested. The priority should be to establish the subsidiary bodies, but to leave it to them to determine what they will address and the modalities of their mandates, whether it be through deliberations or negotiations. There are no risks in this option since the Conference is already so scrupulous in the exercise of consensus.

Mr Chairman, we were pleased that the UN Conference to tackle illicit trade in small arms and light weapons was successful earlier this year. The Programme of Action is no modest achievement. Unfortunately, there was no agreement to include measures dealing with some aspects of the legal trade of these ubiquitous killers where they impinge on illicit transfers. Prohibiting or restricting supply to non-state actors was also excluded. But, it was an important outcome, nevertheless. Perhaps most important, it has delivered a framework within which the international community can orient itself, and work toward its non-proliferation goals - from the global level right down to the local.

We must be careful that this process does not become an end in itself, however. Closer partnership between governments and civil society would be a useful corrective to process-driven tendencies. And, it would keep us focused on the task at hand. Reducing the appalling body-count inflicted on civilians by military-style weapons must remain uppermost.

Mr Chairman, the Ottawa Mine Ban Convention stands out as a uniquely successful humanitarian and disarmament endeavour so far. The process began with more than its fair share of doubters and detractors. But, central to its success has been an organic sense of common purpose around which most operational and organisational questions revolve, and are resolved, with a minimum of fuss, by multilateral standards. A tangible sense of purpose has been forged between north and south, developing and developed, between Governments and NGOs. It has become a true coalition of the willing.

This is not to say it lacks significant problems to overcome to be effective over the long term in achieving a mine-free world. At least fifty countries have not yet joined the Mine Ban Convention. The Treaty still has to test its procedures for fact finding and clarification in cases of possible non-compliance. And, it will need to remain resolute in addressing longer term issues of victim assistance and the reintegration into society of mine victims. The “can-do” dynamic among the Convention’s partners, however, is a pertinent reminder to the international community and to pessimists everywhere that leadership in disarmament can be a potent and positive force. And, it is also a reminder of the power of collective will.

Mr Chairman, the first year of this century has continue to witness appalling violations of the laws of war. Many of these have been inflicted in internal conflicts, often by non-state actors, rather than in conventional state-to-state conflict. The Review Conference of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) in Geneva this December will be the opportunity to tackle this. Before it are proposals to expand the scope of the treaty and its protocols to internal conflicts. New Zealand is strongly behind them.

The international community must also address the problem of explosive remnants of war. They kill or maim many thousands of people each year. There is scope here for tightening up the restrictions on the use of certain weapons, especially cluster sub-munitions. We need to ensure that they are stringently consistent with the principles of the 1949 Geneva Convention Protocol on protection of civilians as well as the CCW itself. And, attention needs to be focused on realistic methods of exchange of technical information, warnings to civilians and post-conflict clearance activities on a broad range of unexploded munitions.

Industry-driven improvements to munition or fusing design, while attractive, will never be enough. Our strong preference is for a legally-binding instrument on explosive remnants of war, if necessary after an expert process to explore appropriate modalities. And, we would want this to be ready for signature before the next CCW Review Conference in 2006. Time is of the essence here.

Mr Chairman, it has been a challenging year for the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. Financial and housekeeping problems have, unfortunately, diverted attention from implementation. Despite this, implementation is, on the whole, proceeding well with the treaty’s highly professional inspectorate. Verification activities are continuing as best they can under the circumstances. The deadly legacy of chemical facilities needs to dismantled and destroyed as soon as possible to enhance international confidence in the global ban.

As we confront new asymmetrical global threats, Mr Chairman, the work of the IAEA becomes even more pivotal to underpinning and enhancing international security. The Agency’s safeguards are an indispensable component of the nuclear non-proliferation regime, and its verification role can only become more central to our efforts to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons. The safe keeping of radioactive materials, especially with the potential to be used for nuclear weapons, has never been more important. The possible impact of terrorism on the security of nuclear material is too shocking to contemplate. The work of the IAEA has thus never been of greater importance, and New Zealand’s support for it is unwavering.

Mr Chairman, last year we had a sense of optimism about the prospects for forward momentum on nuclear disarmament. The new undertakings agreed at the 2000 NPT Review Conference provide the contemporary blueprint for action in a way that ensures international security. Of singular significance was the unequivocal undertaking to achieve the total elimination of nuclear weapons. Last year, our Heads of Government, in endorsing that outcome, were resolved to keep all options open on eliminating weapons of mass destruction.

A year later, it is difficult to identify progress with the implementation of these agreed undertakings on nuclear disarmament. Implementation will take time. New Zealand is realistic about that. We welcome the indications of further cuts that have been given by the United States and the Russian Federation. But, when we look for evidence of a wider determination to move forward, it is difficult to find.

The test, as we approach the NPT review cycle next year, will be in delivery and accountability. Moving to the total elimination of nuclear weapons must become operative policy. Presumptions that these weapons can be retained indefinitely are not sustainable. Nor are they compatible with the unequivocal undertaking to achieve total elimination. New Zealand and its New Agenda partners are determined to ensure that the NPT undertakings are taken forward. Our Foreign Ministers made this clear earlier this week.

A crucial step along the way is the CTBT. A conference to promote the entry into force of the CTBT, is to be held ....... It is a Conference we wish had not been necessary. We have all invested so much effort over the years in this Treaty. It is deeply disappointing that it has not entered into force five years after it was opened for signature.

The CTBT will contribute to international peace and security in unmistakable ways. By creating an international norm prohibiting all nuclear test explosions in all environments, the Treaty will make a significant contribution towards the prevention of the proliferation of nuclear weapons and provide impetus to the process of the total elimination of these weapons of mass destruction. Mr Chairman, ratifying the CTBT is one critically important step that all states could take to underline their commitment to promoting our common security.

Mr Chairman, interpretations of strategic stability have come into even sharper focus. Those suggesting that Tuesday 11 September was the day the world changed, are correct. At a time when threats to our security are becoming asymmetrical, disarmament and non-proliferation are more not less relevant. And, action against non-State entities must be strengthened in States-based frameworks.

Our multilateral machinery has to be in full working order if we are going to deal successfully with these uncertainties. And, we must not loose sight of our real objective : to deliver on disarmament. Recent events have demonstrated that international security is a collective concern and a collective responsibility. Collective engagement remains absolutely fundamental.

The proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems impacts on all of us ultimately. And, we all have a stake in international security. In determining strategic stability, we must be careful not to misappropriate it to conceal procrastination on disarmament and non-proliferation. Implementation of the agreed NPT “steps” on nuclear disarmament should be a major determinant in achieving international security. We believe it is essential at this time to exercise great caution in decisions that could impact negatively on disarmament and non-proliferation endeavours.

Change must go hand in hand with consolidation, Mr Chairman.


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