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Goff statement to UN General Assembly

Hon Phil Goff
Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade
Media Statement

15 September 2002

Goff statement to UN General Assembly

Mr President

The opening of the 57th session of the General Assembly came just one day after the anniversary of the terrorist attack of September 11 2001 which shocked this city and the international community.

The premeditated and callous mass murder of 3000 people from 79 different countries was a sharp warning to us of the ongoing threats to the peace and stability in our world.

It was to protect humanity against such threats that the nations of the world came together in 1945 to establish this organization in the belief that collective action was necessary to guarantee global peace.

Today in the second year of the new millennium the need to act multilaterally is greater than ever before.

Terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, environmental degradation, people smuggling, drug-trafficking, diseases such as HIV/Aids and the unsustainable depletion of our natural resources, are all global problems which require a collective response.

We can be proud that a year ago the response by the United Nations to a new and unprecedented level of terrorism was immediate, united and effective.

The primary victims of the attack, the United States, sought and secured international cooperation which achieved the incapacitation of the Al Qaeda terrorist organisation and the removal of the Taliban regime which hosted it.

It was a model for international unity of purpose and multilateral action.

It was a lesson which should not be forgotten as this organisation tackles other problems confronting humanity.

Mr President

New Zealand has worked wholeheartedly under the mandate provided by the United Nations to defeat terrorism.

We have introduced legislation to deny terrorist organisations funding and resources in line with Resolution 1373.

We have sought to assist our neighbours in the Pacific to do the same.

We have committed peacekeeping personnel to the ISAF and combat forces under Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.

But we are also aware that actions to suppress terrorism must be accompanied by measures to tackle the causes of terrorism.

Injustice, lack of opportunity, hopelessness, desperation and the failure of legitimate channels to redress grievances, all give rise to resort to terrorist actions.

The failure to resolve differences between Israeli and Palestinian people in the Middle East continues to be a catalyst for recruitment into terrorism.

The Secretary-General in opening this session spelled out the basis for resolving the dispute.

He referred to land for peace, an end to terror and to occupation, to two states - Israel and Palestine - with secure and recognized borders.

Both peoples are destined to live side by side. Both will benefit from an end to violence and a negotiated settlement.

But agreement requires good faith from each side and a determined effort by the international community. We fully endorse the Secretary-General’s renewed call for an international peace conference. Progress on this issue is now more vital than ever.

Mr President

The situation in Iraq is also a threat to world peace but we must look for solutions which resolve and do not exacerbate that threat.

No nation can be exempt from the requirement to comply with the resolutions passed by this organisation. That is necessary if the rule of law is to apply internationally.

No nation can be allowed to commit aggression or to use weapons of mass destruction against its own people.

The requirement to comply with UN resolutions is not the instruction of one country to Iraq – it is the collective instruction which should have the unanimous endorsement of all member countries.

Iraq’s non-compliance with Security Council resolutions is a challenge to the entire United Nations membership. The UN must meet this challenge. How this situation is resolved matters to us all, not least the countries of the region itself.

Those who can exercise influence over Iraq should do so to avoid the need for resort to other actions.

The response chosen by the Security Council must, however, take into account the need not to impose further costs on ordinary Iraqi people innocent of any wrong doing. The response should not involve actions which undermine rather than strengthen the war against terrorism.

Mr President

The United Nations has shown that collective action can save lives and help rebuild nations.

As we welcome the world’s newest nation, East Timor, into the United Nations, we should celebrate the success of the UN’s peacekeeping mission and transitional administration in that country.

I congratulate Sergio de Mello, the Secretary-General’s former special representative, for his role and also those countries who contributed so much to giving hope and opportunity to the people of that small country.

New Zealand has had a battalion of peacekeepers deployed in East Timor since September 1999, and has peacekeepers also serving in 12 other countries.

We are proud that they have performed their role with professionalism and with respect for the people in the countries in which they operate.

Notwithstanding the small size of our population, New Zealand currently is the 22nd largest contributor to UN peacekeeping personnel.

Mr President

The promotion of human rights is another area where multilateral action by the international community is essential.

In the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the United Nations has set out universal standards for the observance of human rights.

There is no justification for any country to deviate from those human rights standards.

It is a mark of shame that member states of this organisation continue to breach basic human rights and a disgrace that other countries too often act as apologists for the offending regimes.

An important landmark in the last year Mr President has been the entry into force of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.

As the culmination of longstanding efforts by NGO’s, Governments and the international community as a whole, it offers the prospect of bringing justice to the victims of the most horrific crimes known to humankind, and bringing their perpetrators to justice. It will serve as a deterrent where none has existed before.

We have listened carefully to those who argue that the Court is not necessary and that it unduly jeopardizes their peacekeepers, but we cannot agree. The status quo - relying on domestic jurisdiction alone – has failed humankind throughout history and has borne witness to appalling crimes. The new regime has carefully built in safeguards to protect the innocent.

We were dismayed Sir by the actions of the Security Council in July. At that time we challenged both the legitimacy and the substance of the Council’s action. We do not believe that it was consistent with the Rome Statute and that the Council is able to arrogate to itself the power to change treaty relationships.

Mr President

A further issue on which greater progress must be made is that of disarmament.

The fact that humanity survived the nightmare of potential nuclear destruction during the Cold War cannot be allowed to make us complacent about on-going threats from weapons of mass destruction.

We welcome the Treaty of Moscow and agreement by Russia and the United States to cut the number of strategic nuclear weapons each country deploys. These reductions however are not a substitute for irreversible cuts in, and the total elimination of, these weapons.

In some respects even greater danger is posed by short-range tactical nuclear weapons. There is a real risk that these could be launched by accident or in confusion, with no time available for communication between opposing sides.

Over the last year, two significant events have made our world a more dangerous place.

The first is the emergence of international terrorist groups who have shown their willingness to use weapons of mass destruction – biological, chemical or nuclear, - should they gain access to them.

The second is the situation in South Asia where the world recently came close to direct conflict between two countries with nuclear capability.

The international community has not done enough to reduce these risks.

The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty has not been brought into effect.

Progress towards the implementation of undertakings made by the nuclear weapon states in the Non-proliferation Review Conference has stalled.

Nations have not taken sufficient steps to stop the production of fissile material and to reduce stocks.

Mr President

In this and in many other areas much more needs to be done to address growing problems which affect all of us.

The awful toll of HIV/Aids, slowness in response to global warming and the growth in people smuggling and trafficking are but three further examples.

It is essential that we renew our commitment to multilateralism as the best way to address global problems.

That requires not simply money, but most importantly political will.

It is not a case of putting global interests ahead of national interests. Global interests are national interests.

The United Nations is our most valuable international organisation but we need to do more to enhance its relevance, its value and its unique authority.

All of us are stakeholders in its success.


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