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Goff Speech To UN Association Of NZ

Hon Phil Goff
Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade
Speech Notes

23 November 2001 9:15am. Delivered to the UN Association of New Zealand, Legislative Chamber, Parliament, Wellington.

Goff Speech To UN Association Of NZ – ‘The UN And Civil Society’

Thank you for your invitation to open your conference today. We are at an important

moment in the UN’s history.

The United Nations General Assembly and Security Council that I attended last week, has rarely shown such a degree of unity and purpose as it has in the last two months as it has focussed on how to respond to the threat of terrorism.
That threat is a clear reminder of how much we need a strong and effective UN. Your conference, in examining the way civil society can strengthen the UN’s mission and purpose, is particularly timely.

The UN Charter opens with the phrase “We the Peoples of the United Nations, determined to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war’...
With these profound words, our forebears founded this institution. Secretary-General Kofi Annan restated the collective vision of his organisation 55 years later in his Millennium Report:
“Even though the UN is an organisation of states … it ultimately exists for, and must serve, the needs and hopes of people everywhere.”
But sadly for many, the post-war goal of a better society is still not a reality. Conflict, poverty, disease, discrimination and injustice still blight the lives of millions in every part of the globe.

Today the UN has an additional challenge to confront. The devastating events of September 11, and the threats by terrorists to use weapons of mass destruction, have resulted in terrorism becoming an unprecedented threat to world stability, security and prosperity.

I find it bizarre that Osama Bin Laden last week labelled Kofi Annan a ‘criminal’. What the United Nations stands for – a world governed by rules and accepted standards of international behaviour – is I suppose, precisely what the terrorist seeks to destroy.

Over the past two months the UN has embodied world unity in condemning terrorism. It has also been central to efforts to relieve the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan and to help create a new future for the people of that country.

Resolving the crisis in Afghanistan is the key challenge before the United Nations today. It lies at the heart of defeating the regime that harbours the world’s worst terrorists and the largest suppliers of opium as well as ending conditions that have created the greatest single source of the world’s refugee population.

The UN and its Special Representative for Afghanistan, Mr Brahimi, bear an enormous responsibility in this task.

The withdrawal of Taliban forces from the north and central parts of the country has increased the urgency of the international effort to assist the Afghan people to install a fully representative, multi-ethnic and accountable government that will protect and promote the interests of all of its people.

Mr Brahimi last week gave the Security Council a clear framework leading towards a new constitution and government for Afghanistan. In my meeting with him, he emphasised that the key challenge is to meet the security needs within Afghanistan while steps are taken to establish a new government.

A transitional government must be established that enjoys broad support from amongst all Afghan groups including the Pushtun that make up 40% of Afghanistan’s population.

The exact structure of post-Taliban Afghanistan will be for the Afghan people to determine. But the prospects of finding a solution in a heavily factionalised country requires the united support of the rest of the world and most importantly, Afghanistan’s neighbours, in particular Iran and Pakistan.

While we should be wary of imposing solutions in Afghanistan, to leave that country in a political vacuum without a stable political, economic and social structure invites an ongoing crisis.

A legitimate government and the rule of law in Afghanistan are pre-requisites to ending the terrorism, extremism and drug trafficking that has thrived in past years. It is, therefore, in all our interests.

There is also an urgent need to address Afghanistan’s humanitarian crisis. For too long the international community has been indifferent to the situation in Afghanistan and to the longstanding refugee crisis which has resulted from 22 years of war, and more recently from famine and Taliban oppression.
Pakistan and Iran have carried the burden of 3.6 million refugees, while much of the world showed concern only when a handful of those refugees desperately sought to enter other countries illegally.
The human toll has been appalling. 300,000 Afghan children die annually from preventable causes.
One in three children in refugee camps die before they reach the age of five.
The immediate provision of humanitarian assistance is unquestionably a priority, and the UN specialised agencies are working with NGOs to meet the needs of millions of people in the Afghan region.
The immediate benefit from the Taliban’s retreat is that the suffering of the Afghan people can be alleviated.
The safe passage of supplies to the millions who face hunger and illness is likely to be much improved. More isolated areas can now be reached by national and international relief workers, though guarantees for their security are needed.
The World Food Programme is optimistic about reaching its targets: it has despatched over 50,000 metric tonnes of food to Afghanistan since the beginning of October – sufficient for five million people for one month.
Further improvements can be expected if the borders with Uzbekistan and Tajikistan are opened, in particular the Friendship Bridge between Uzbekistan and Afghanistan.

New Zealand has contributed $1 million to the United Nations consolidated appeal and has added further funding to NGOs working in the region.

The UN’s Under-Secretary for Humanitarian Affairs Oshima welcomed New Zealand’s offer of a C130 transport plane to deliver humanitarian supplies during the coming winter in Afghanistan. Other humanitarian assistance from our armed forces personnel in engineering, medical teams and mine clearing has also been offered.

The use of force to defeat Al-Qaida and the Taliban regime that hosted it is a regrettable but necessary component of what must be done.

I understand the sincerity of many people who oppose military action. War brings in its wake death and destruction.

Yet there are clearly times when we are compelled to resort to military action to protect ourselves, to prevent appalling human rights abuses and preserve values fundamental to what we are and what we stand for.

New Zealanders overwhelmingly supported our military contribution to East Timor. We had to act to prevent what at worst would have been genocide or at the very best, on-going loss of life and human rights abuses.

The benefits to humanity have justified the sacrifices made which for New Zealand included four service personnel losing their lives.

In Afghanistan Al Qaida has operated beyond the rule of law and the reach of justice. It was undoubtedly responsible for the attack on New York that took 4,000 innocent lives. Bin Laden now threatens to use chemical, biological and nuclear weapons.

Al Qaida and the Taliban regime which hosts it cannot be defeated by UN resolutions.

For over three years, Security Council resolutions calling on the Taliban to not provide a safe haven for terrorists and the sanctions that accompanied those resolutions have been ignored.

Pleas by the international community to save the 1500 year old Buddhist statues of Bamiyan from destruction fell on deaf ears and we witnessed an appalling act of cultural vandalism.

Women made up 70% of teachers and 40% of doctors in Kabul. Throughout Afghanistan women were forbidden from working and girls were denied access to an education.

The ritual Friday executions at the soccer stadium in Kabul of people whose personal beliefs or behaviour fell outside of the intolerant strictures of fundamentalists epitomised the cruelty of the regime.

Those who continue to argue against the use of military force as a last resort fail to explain how otherwise such injustices and threats could be brought to an end.

However, the use of force is but one component of a range of measures necessary for terrorism finally to be defeated.

In the longer term closing off sources of funding of terrorist organisations and areas from which they can operate is at the very heart of the anti-terrorism strategy.

Resolution 1373 passed unanimously by the United Nations Security Council last month creates a binding obligation on member states to implement a series of measures deemed critical to the defeat of terrorist groups.

It obliges countries to criminalise activities relating to the funding of terrorist acts. It calls for measures to freeze funds and assets of those involved in terrorism. And it requires states to prohibit fund-raising on behalf of, and the provision of financial and related services to, terrorists.

By early next year, New Zealand will have passed legislation necessary to bring into force here the United Nations’ terrorism and bombing conventions.

We are amending these to enable New Zealand also to comply with the requirements placed on us by Security Council Resolution 1373 with respect to financing.

In the meantime, regulations under the United Nations Act imposing sanctions on Afghanistan passed earlier this year already allow us to freeze the assets of Al-Qaida and all Taliban-related entities.

Further regulations will be approved next week to outlaw recruitment by and participation in designated terrorist organisations.

These are important powers which should be placed in legislation rather than relying simply on regulations.

Care will be taken in the legislation to ensure that powers which enable immediate freezing of assets are used to deal with terrorist groups rather than dissident domestic organisations and international groups involved in justifiable struggles for liberation.

Despite a good deal of deliberately inaccurate speculation, safeguards in the legislation will not encompass people like Mike Smith – the person who tried to cut down the tree on One Tree Hill. Nor will legislation be applicable against people who protest against causes such as the 1981 Springbok tour.

The terrorists who are and will be listed under the legislation will clearly merit being represented. In the first instance they will include Al Qaida and Taliban entities. The legislation will also target those who seek to destroy economies such as the person in Uruguay who deliberately released foot and mouth spores from an aircraft crippling that country’s beef exports.

That is the area in which New Zealand probably has the greatest susceptibility to terrorist sabotage.

The support in today’s poll for the Government’s measures indicate that New Zealanders understand the magnitude of the threat posed and the need for a strong and effective response.

According to the NBR poll, 79% back the government having power to freeze bank accounts and assets that the Government suspects are linked to terrorism.
I would hope that this figure would rise close to 99% once people understand the safeguards which will exist to ensure that the powers are targeted only at those who constitute a genuine risk.

Over the next two days you will be discussing how civil society interacts with the UN, and how this can be further developed.
The experiences of the UN in the past 55 years demonstrate that this organisation exists to promote the rights, security and prosperity of individual people.
If the UN wishes to maintain its relevance and importance it must continue, in the words of its Secretary-General, to “put people at the centre of everything we do.”
Civil society is both the catalyst for government action on critical issues and a watchdog and conscience for governments, international organisations and the private sector.
NGOs advocate their causes free of many of the constraints of diplomacy and of national self interest.
There remains room for improvement in the UN so that the energy, ideas, integrity and resources of civil society can be better harnessed to advance its objectives.
How to achieve this objective will be the focus of your forum over the next two days.

With the quality of speakers who will lead the discussions I have no doubt that this

conference will be a stimulating occasion. I wish you well in your deliberations.


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