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Mainland Report - Vol. 6


Mainland Report - Vol. 6

By Marc Alexander MP

Welcome to another edition of The Mainland Report. My apologies for its lateness but due to my travel to the Inter-Parliamentary Union conference in Chile, it was a simple case of not enough hours in the day.

I am happy to report that the Conference was successful in achieving what it set out to accomplish, and it has been a remarkable personal experience as well.

Santiago has many elements to it. There are Spanish flavours as you might expect, but also strong hints of Paris as well. They have many beautiful buildings to boast about such as the Presidents Palace (where we were graciously invited for a reception); a magnificent architectural splendour under-utilised as a humble post-office; and a historic burial mound and church at the top of a peak in the heart of the city with what looks like an elongated castle wrapped around it. The markets are numerous, the best being Las Dominicos where gifted artisans maintain their traditional and modern skills.

Santiago has five million friendly inhabitants and all the infrastructure you could want in a city of such size. Great wine is available at nearby vineyards, and Santiago has some of the most flavoursome fruit I have ever eaten, including a delicious cactus. This is certainly a place I will have fond memories of, and I intend to return in a less official capacity. To all my new found Chilean friends, Gracias!

Me, You and the IPU; what does it all mean?

The 108th Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU Conference) in Santiago Chile, has just ended with much of the open debate centering on the events in Iraq. While the U.S. was not represented directly, its interests were advanced through the participation of Britain, Australia and other member nations of that oxymoron 'coalition of the willing'. Needless to say, the overwhelming sentiment favoured those parliamentarians who considered the military action as to be outside the rule of international conduct and law, as represented by the United Nations.

That this should be the case is not surprising since the primary function of the IPU is to foster widespread representation through the deepening of democratic ideals. Over a hundred and thirty nations were represented, most of whom like the African and Middle Eastern countries, were openly suspicious of U.S. objectives. The rule of law implied in the democratic process runs counter to any unilateral action. So, what ideas were put forward by the IPU?

Most significantly, Parliaments are seen as the agent of scrutiny of governments. While most governments are run by an executive it is within the Parliament that the political forces of the country are represented. Elections may change the character of government but Parliament, by it´s very nature, remains 'everyones' political home. The IPU is a forum where parliamentarians from all over the world, across the ideological landscape, can meet and discuss issues of mutual importance.

The principal responsibility of parliamentarians is to represent their people, scrutinise government and advance issues of national accountability, yet increasingly the decisions undertaken to affect the globalised economy lie outside national bodies.

Events such as the September 11 attacks, Bali and the fight against terrorism raise legitimate questions about what can be accomplished at the national level. While the entrenchment of various rights has been signed off at various levels of diplomacy, people fear that there is less certainty as they perceive a loss of control over their destiny. Major decisions that affect their lives are increasingly outside the scope of individual parliaments.

The IPU increasingly addresses such concerns in concert with the United Nations and other international organisations. United Nations Secretary-General, Kofi Annan stated in the Quarterly Review of the IPU, May 2002, No.6: "Parliamentarians are well placed to advance this entire agenda.for example by committing funds, promoting investment, opening markets, removing unfair subsidies, and putting in place the policies and incentives that will encourage actions that are truly sustainable - economically, socially and environmentally."

As a result, the IPU now enjoys observer status at the United Nations and is currently seeking to engage with organisations such as the World Bank and World Trade Organisations.

The Santiago conference has carried the tradition forward with resolutions on the role of women in democracies, human rights issues and the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Overshadowing these accomplishments was the changing daily situation in Iraq which met with strong condemnation of the war and the complementary need for U.N. involvement in the resulting humanitarian crisis there.

What we said at the IPU Conference.

The New Zealand delegation was led by Janet Mackey (Labour) supported by Marc Alexander (United Future), Brian Connell (National) and Ipi Cross (Parliamentary Secretary).

General debate 1st speaker: Janet Mackey

Mr/Madam President, Parliamentary Colleagues Can I start by congratulating you on your election as President of the IPU, and thank the Chilean Senate and indeed the Chilean people for their hospitality.

It is a pleasure to join with our neighbours and hosts, Chile, in welcoming all delegates to the Pacific. From my home on the East Coast of New Zealand I look out across the Pacific to Chile. Unlike many people in the world today we in the Pacific look out on to peaceful waters. As a nation New Zealand practises its support for the commitment to the pursuit of world peace, the resolution of conflict by dialogue, the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons and the application of export controls to materials and dual use goods that could be used in a nuclear weapons programme.

New Zealand is a founding member of the New Agenda Coalition (NAC), a group formed in 1998 to pursue more active progress towards nuclear disarmament. The NAC comprises New Zealand, Brazil, Egypt, Ireland, Mexico, South Africa, and Sweden.

With its partners in the NAC, New Zealand has worked hard in recent years to promote the negotiations in good faith relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race and to nuclear disarmament in context of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and the United Nations.

New Zealand continues to emphasize the importance of universalisation of the NPT, calling on India, Israel and Pakistan to join the Treaty. New Zealand welcomed Cuba's cessation to the NPT in 2002 as a positive step towards the goal of universalization.

We remain very concerned at the Democratic People's Republic of Korea's current stance against the NPT, and has urged the Democratic People's Republic of Korea to cease efforts to withdraw from the Treaty.

We are an active and fully compliant member of the Chemical Weapons Convention. New Zealand supports on-going reform in export control regimes to take account of the changing international security environment.

New Zealand supports the non-proliferation goals set out in the Japanese resolution on the Importance of the Non-proliferation of Nuclear and other weapons of Mass Destruction and of Missiles. However, it would also be useful to address disarmament obligations within the text.

New Zealand is committed to maintaining the momentum for disarmament work, as well as non-proliferation, through work with the New Agenda, and within the context of the core disarmament treaties and export regime membership.

New Zealand is a small nation of four million people. We do not enjoy the economies of scale enjoyed by bigger countries' costs of pharmaceuticals and technologies place serious strain on our health system. Yet we know that our people are fortunate in their access to fundamental services like health and education.

In the same breath as we talk about the relative poverty of some of our people we talk about the increasing problem of juvenile obesity.

We may be a small nation but we have shown that we hold strong opinions on issues of importance to us all.

New Zealand is firmly committed to the Kyoto Protocol. As a country that relies very much on what we grow we understand the impact global warming will have on our economy, and on the wellbeing of many of our neighbouring Pacific Island nations.

We will do our best to reduce methane emissions, we hope other nations will show equal commitment to the resolution of this problem.

Domestically we have I believe, set an example for other countries in confronting the issue of indigenous rights. We are fortunate that our founding document the Treaty of Waitangi has established a framework of partnership between the Maori people of New Zealand, the original inhabitants of Aotearoa, and those of us who came later.

Ensuring that our education and health systems accommodate the needs of all New Zealanders, Maori and Pakeha, is a priority for my Government and economic development of Maori as important as ensuring that land wrongfully taken from them is returned. In our short history New Zealand soldiers have fought on foreign soil for the principles we believe in.

It has been our decision this time in the case of Iraq, that our support is for due process and the rule of international law. The United Nations was established in an effort to contain acts of aggression and war. We cannot say we support the UN but ignore their authority when it suits us.

Our role in this conflict will be focussed on the humanitarian aid for those innocent who inevitably suffer as a result of war.

General Debate 2nd Speaker: Marc Alexander

Chairperson, Parliamentary Colleagues,

May I firstly thank the organisers for the work they have put in to the conference so far, and also endorse the words of the Leader of the New Zealand Delegation by paying tribute to the people of Chile for their kindness, generosity, and hospitality extended to us since our arrival in Santiago last week.

The Human Development Report 2002 was on 'Deepening Democracy in a Fragmented World', and the IPU has made substantive contributions.

But while each nation struggles in its own way to broaden good governance, widening the democratic process, and recognizing the legitimacy of those who are still denied their political involvement - the world remains, sadly, more fragmented than ever, under the dark clouds of war.

The simple liberating ideal of democracy implies that all voices are listened to and heard. But the tanks and troops in Iraq, are not there because the voices of the world have been heard but rather, in spite them. International democracy has quite simply been dealt a severe blow.

I have two key questions. The first is who in their "right mind" wants war? And then ask yourself the corollary - Why is there one?

The 'Coalition of the willing' I believe, must be questioned. It should, I suggest, be called the 'Coalition of the not willing': * Not willing to listen to world opinion * Not willing to allow weapons inspections to fulfil their promises * Not willing to work within the legal framework provided by the United Nations, and * Not willing to give multilateralism a chance for success.

How can we have economic democracy while at the same time denying the legitimate rights of democratic economies?

New Zealand has long stood for a strong democracy backed up by the rule of law. As all nations do, we live by a code . a legal system, within which civil society is possible. Those who snub and flout the rules of civil society are brought to account.

The United Nations is that legal framework under which the community of nations may flourish. What can we make then, of a minority of nations conducting unilateral international relations? How did we enter a time when there is such a fundamental contradiction and an ethical Gordian knot, with having a nation first arming another, and then (outside the mandate of the UN) to enforce a disarmament that is then paid for by the blood of the innocent?

You cannot offer the gift of liberty . You cannot push the case for democracy . You cannot advance human rights by denying the right to be human. You cannot raise the aspiration of civil society by lowering the innocent into their graves. You can never liberate a person or a people by killing them! There is now a call, and it´s a tempting one, to push aside considerations of the Iraqi war - now that it is here - and think only of 'What after?'

But, we don't . we cannot . cast aside the premise of war just because it is difficult to think about. How is it that the nations who are visiting the trillion dollar destruction upon Iraq, dismissive of the UN, now invites the UN to play - and pay, its part in the reconstruction?

Why are the nations now being asked to pick up the pieces - at their expense, of a war they never agreed to? The casualties in Iraq are its people - subjected to embargo, a regime which is in every sense a denial of civil society, and now, a war ..

This war has, in one foul swoop, given smaller nations a real reason to develop weapons of mass destruction because they will rightly fear that their safety will not be respected by the legal framework of the United Nations.

But of course we cannot turn our backs on the people of Iraq - to do so would be to turn our backs on justice. The community of nations, I believe, must now act to embrace the needs of the Iraqi people. We must ensure Iraq's independence, the freedom to decide for themselves their own destiny, their right to choose their own path . as we would wish for ourselves . an equality amongst all nations.

We must be there for them so that they can rise up and be welcomed again as a valued friend in the family of all nations. Second Committee (Parliament's role in strengthening democratic institutions and human development in a fragmented world): Marc Alexander

Chairperson, Parliamentary Colleagues

While we debate the affront to human rights from the barrel of a soldier's gun in Iraq, we have throughout the community of nations a war also from within our own borders, which saps the spirit of people, through the brutal denial of human rights, via the twin evils of rising violent crime and a denial of the freedom of expression! These are human rights abuses!

Those who are victims of crime, and those trapped by the fear of crime are denied a fundamental human right. Similarly, those to whom freedom of - expression is denied, are equally deprived of a fundamental human right.

I am happy to say that respect for human rights are priorities for New Zealand as evidenced by the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990, Human Rights Act 1993 and the Human Rights Amendment Act 2001. To that list we can now proudly add the Victims Rights Act 2002 which recognizes not just a shopping list of simple entitlements, but addresses the fundamental values we place on the long neglected rights of those who have been offended against - and I acknowledge the contributions of our Minister of Justice, the Honourable Phil Goff.

But in advancement of human rights in all its legal expressions we must be mindful of avoiding fuzzy ideological sentiment which is often at the expense of the common sense entitlements of others; the upholding of rights may unwittingly undermine the very concept we are trying to uphold, for example, when the rights we give to offenders and criminals override those of the victims. Most victims' rights issues are national but some are not confined by borders.

Crimes such as the drug trade, the trafficking of people and trans-national crime, they are human rights issues also. So are issues of child labour, the denial of women's participation economically and politically, and whether we like it or not, some customs and aspects of cultures do not sit comfortably with the freedoms demanded by universal human rights. Ethnic, religious and nationalist conflicts are evidence of that.

Universal declarations of democracy, corresponding to international human rights are supported by New Zealand, but they must be more than glib statements trotted out by politicians. They must be given true force, and translate into deliverable freedoms to truly liberate the human spirit.

Human rights must transcend tokenism because when given full flight, they can be the vehicle through which issues such as the freedom of expression and freedom from victimisation may be mitigated. The best defence is most often pro-active.

New Zealand therefore supports the two resolutions proposed by Australia and Senegal. Freedom of expression and freedom from crime is not only a human rights issue but one of giving voice to the democratic ideal.

Australia's resolution makes specific mention to the Universal Declaration on Democracy, adopted by the IPU in 1997, and the commitment made by representatives of the people of the world at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in 2002.

The operative paragraph in the Senegal draft resolution calls on States to ratify the international human rights instruments. Paragraph 6 advocates the adoption of exemplary sanctions against any violations of democratic rights. Sanctions applied by New Zealand have in most cases followed binding rules by the United Nations Security Council. New Zealand has on occasion applied bilateral sanctions as well.

I raise the issue of crime as a violation of human rights because civil society cannot flourish in a climate of victimhood - safety and security are the foundation of any society. Civilization cannot advance without it. I consider the freedom of expression to be a human right. Its denial is a denial of humanity itself. Democracy is a marketplace of political ideas - and its heart must be unbounded and free - but to safeguard it, we also need to be physically safe.

Human development demands it.an open economy supports it.but it is democracy which ensures it.

End of speech

**Stop Press**

The 2003 United Future NZ National Conference will be held in Christchurch on Saturday 1 November. A local organising committee has been appointed. Plan to be there!

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