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Goff Speech to the United Nations General Assembly

Hon Phil Goff
Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade
Speech Notes

Embargoed until 6am, September 27

UNGA 58: Speech to the general debate
Delivered to the United Nations General Assembly
New York
At approximately 4pm, Friday, September 26 (local time)

This General Assembly meets under the shadow of the tragedy in which United Nations staff were killed and injured last month in Baghdad.

New Zealand condemns such brutal and calculated acts of terror. This atrocity was directed at an organisation and those who were in Iraq to improve the conditions of its people and to assist the restoration of Iraqi sovereignty.

We mourn the loss of all those who perished. In particular I pay tribute to Sergio Vieira de Mello, who worked so effectively in the world’s trouble spots, including Timor Leste.

This is not the first occasion on which employees of the international community have been targeted, although it is the worst. History suggests it will not be the last.

To do their work effectively, international employees must interact with local communities, not operate from behind barbed wire and concrete barriers. Most are unarmed civilians.

Member States of the United Nations must do more to protect those whom we employ to work on our behalf.

Nine years ago, New Zealand was at the forefront in creating the Convention for the Protection of United Nations and Associated Personnel. It opened for signature in 1995. Regrettably, only a third of the membership has since become party to it. We urge all countries now to do so.

New Zealand believes the Convention should be widened to cover all situations where United Nations and other associated personnel are engaged in peacekeeping, humanitarian, and other assistance-related activities.
Mr President, over the last year we have witnessed ongoing terrorist attacks including in Casablanca, Riyadh and Jakarta, as well as Baghdad.

Next month is the first anniversary of the terrorist attack in Bali, in which more than 200 people lost their lives. And this city itself was victim of the 9/11 attacks that cost 3000 lives. International terrorism remains a primary threat to the safety and well being of people across the world.

If we are to defeat terrorism, regional cooperation is imperative. In the Asia Pacific region a concerted response to terrorism is now at the centre of the Asian Regional Forum agenda, and becoming increasingly important in APEC.

The Pacific Islands Forum is responding collectively to security challenges including terrorism, trans-national crimes, and challenges to national integrity and independence.

We need international collaboration on intelligence, military, social and economic measures.

New Zealand is aware that while we focus on the symptoms of terrorism, the international community must work together to tackle the conditions that foster it. We welcome the Norwegian initiative to strengthen our analysis of the causes of terrorism.

There are no ends that can justify the means that international terrorists employ, and the death and maiming of vulnerable and innocent people.

New Zealand has since 1972 supported the development of an effective international regime to outlaw terrorism. I hope that the General Assembly will be able to move forward on this issue and conclude the comprehensive and nuclear terrorism conventions.

In combating terrorism, however, we should avoid undermining the very values we are seeking to uphold. The fight against terrorism should not become an excuse to justify actions that do not conform to international standards of humanity.
South Pacific
Mr President, New Zealand is now Chair of the Pacific Islands Forum, which it hosted last month.

Leaders strongly endorsed the Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands – a concrete example of the region working together to assist one of its members restore security, stability and progress to its people.

New Zealand joined with other members of the Pacific Islands Forum in responding to the request from the Solomon Islands Government for police and military assistance to end the actions of armed criminals responsible for the deterioration in the social and economic conditions in the Solomon Islands. A police-led operation has been working successfully to restore the rule of law and economic stability.

The Regional Assistance Mission has gone exceptionally well to date and has received strong support from the people of the Solomon Islands. It is a Pacific solution to a Pacific problem.

Cooperation and commitments by Pacific states to respond to regional security needs, under the umbrella of the Pacific Islands Forum, is a model that other regions could adopt.

The statements of support from the Secretary-General and the Security Council for this regional action, taken in accordance with the United Nations Charter, are welcome and we would urge the United Nations to assist where it can the process of rebuilding the social structure and economy of that country.

New Zealand is working to enhance and complement existing security capabilities within the Pacific region. We are engaged in a number of activities including establishing border security systems and drafting model legislation to address terrorism and trans-national organised crime.

In failed or weak states, governments often lack the capacity or will to exercise territorial control. This can create a power vacuum for terrorist organisations and criminals to exploit to maintain safe havens, training facilities, and bases for launching terrorist operations.


The international community must retain an ongoing commitment to Afghanistan, where President Karzai’s government continues to face significant challenges. Improving security outside Kabul will be a crucial element in bringing political stability to Afghanistan.

It is in the interests of us all to assist in the restoration of Afghanistan – not only for the well being of the Afghani people, but also so that terrorists cannot operate freely within its borders.

Earlier this week, New Zealand assumed leadership of the Provincial Reconstruction Team at Bamian. I am pleased that we could demonstrate support for the Afghanistan Transitional Government in this way.

Weapons of Mass Destruction

Mr President, the shared nightmare of all states is that weapons of mass destruction, or the materials from which they can be constructed, will find their way into the terrorist arsenal. The possibility of nuclear weapons in the hands of terrorists is a worst-case scenario with horrific implications. We must do everything we can to prevent this from happening.

The possible acquisition of nuclear weapons by a terrorist group increases as the numbers and types of these weapons, and the states that possess them, continue to expand.

For these and other reasons, the elimination of such weapons is vital. New Zealand calls on all countries to commit and adhere to multilateral disarmament and arms control treaties.

North Korea’s proclaimed nuclear weapons programme is a major concern. We urge North Korea to resume its cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency and its commitment to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). The current multilateral dialogue process is a positive way forward. We commend China for facilitating this.

Iran too must heed the strong message of the international community and take the urgent steps required to restore confidence that its nuclear intentions are peaceful.

The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty is equally about nuclear disarmament. The commitment given by the nuclear weapons states to give up their nuclear weapons, reaffirmed unequivocally at the NPT Review Conference in 2000, must be honoured.

The nuclear powers have a particular responsibility in this respect. They must lead by example against proliferation. Meaningful steps toward permanent disarmament would add to their moral authority in demanding that others must not develop nuclear weapons capacity.


Mr President, the invasion of Iraq had a profound impact on this organisation. We regret that differences of view could not be resolved in the Security Council.

The reconstruction of Iraq, the restoration of its sovereignty, and the rebuilding of political and social structures to guarantee the Iraqi people a better life are now the critical issues.

The passage of UNSC Resolutions 1483 and 1500 recognises the vital role of the UN and the need for the international community to be fully engaged in these reconstruction efforts. While responsibility for security must inevitably rest with coalition forces, multilateralism offers the best prospect and the greatest legitimacy for assisting the transition back to Iraqi self-rule.

New Zealand has announced substantial contributions to reconstruction and humanitarian relief work.

These include the deployment of an NZDF light engineer group to work on humanitarian and reconstruction tasks alongside a UK engineer regiment in southern Iraq. We have helped with de-mining operations and have made contributions through UN agencies, the ICRC and NGOs.
UN Reform
New Zealand continues to view the UN as the best hope we have to collectively pursue the principles enshrined in the Charter. The United Nation’s strength is that it brings all countries of the world together on an equal footing to address common problems.

Millions of people around the world have had their lives improved by the actions of the United Nations. East Timor is but one recent example of its effectiveness where it was supported by a common will to act.

At the same time, we all recognise the need to reform this organisation.

The Secretary-General, in opening this session, called on us to consider whether the rules and instruments of this multilateral institution continue to serve us well.

We have been discussing the reform of the Security Council for more than a decade now. It is time to make an institution designed in an earlier age for a smaller number of nations more representative and responsive to the 191 current members of the UN.

We welcome the establishment of a panel to address key issues fundamental to its future role. Member nations will need to put aside self-interest and differences to reach agreement on the panel’s findings and to translate these into action.

Concluding remarks

Fifty-eight years ago the United Nations was created in the aftermath of the death and devastation that had resulted from two world wars.

The vision of its founders was an organisation that would establish rules to govern international behaviour and procedures to enforce them through collective action.

The United Nations was bestowed with a unique legitimacy and a unique authority to resolve conflict. Whatever its shortcomings, it remains an indispensable organisation.

The challenge before us is to create the structures and provide the political will to enable it to deliver the peaceful, just and prosperous world that is the hope and expectation of humanity.

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