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PM Speech: Pacific Roundtable on Counter-Terrorism

Rt Hon Helen Clark- Prime Minister

Opening Address to Pacific Roundtable on Counter-Terrorism

Intercontinental Hotel, Wellington, 5.30 pm Monday 10 May 2004


I want to welcome all participants in the Roundtable to Wellington today. Many of you have come significant distances to this southern corner of the Pacific region to discuss a global problem: the response of the international community to the threat of terrorism, and how best we, in the Pacific, can frame a regional response to the challenges involved.

It has been very clear at the United Nations that terrorism is recognised by the international community as a critical issue, not only globally, but regionally as well. This is because terrorism has made its presence felt in each of the regional groups recognised at the UN. It is not just a West European or a North American problem. Latin America, the Middle East, Africa, Asia, and Eastern Europe have also experienced terrorism and the devastating impact of violence directed at innocent civilians. I cannot put it better than UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan who said earlier this year, “We face a grave and growing threat from international terrorism. Terrorism is a global scourge with global effects”.

The particular focus of this Roundtable is an appropriate response for the Pacific. I thank Pacific Islands Forum governments for making senior officials available for this meeting.

The meeting has been designed as a working session. We want all participants to be able to exchange ideas freely on how we can make our region more secure from terrorism.

Forum leaders in 2002, in the “Nasonini Declaration on Regional Security”, recognised the heightened threat to global and regional security posed by international terrorism. It was well understood that our region would not be able to stand aside from global efforts to deter terrorism. Forum leaders committed to “immediate and sustained regional action” including:

implementation of United Nations Conventions, Security Council Resolutions, and Financial Action Task Force recommendations; and

law enforcement co-operation backed by a strong common legislative base.

The pace of action at the global level has been very rapid. That has led to some important recent developments in international law with implications for us all.

For example, both the International Maritime Organisation and the International Civil Aviation Organisation have adopted significant new security measures. The Financial Action Task Force has extended its requirements as well. And at the national level, in various jurisdictions, we are seeing new approaches such as the United States Customs Container Security Initiative.

The Security Council has also been very active. In January this year, in Resolution 1526, it updated the rules which apply to all countries and which impose financial sanctions on terrorist organisations and strengthened reporting requirements on member nations.

In March this year, the Security Council adopted Resolution 1535, to strengthen its Counter Terrorism Committee. It appointed an Executive Director and established a professional staff unit. This will enhance the Committee’s ability to monitor compliance with Security Council requirements, and improve oversight of both the implementation of anti-terrorism treaties and the adequacy of countries’ reporting to the Counter-Terrorism Committee.

Then in April, the Security Council adopted Resolution 1540 aimed at preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery to non-state actors. This Resolution obliges all countries to implement appropriate export and trans-shipment controls, and to report within six months to a new Security Council Committee on the measures they have taken or intend to take.

Even regions far better resourced than our own are finding it difficult to keep up with the rapid pace of international action to strengthen international legal, political, and law enforcement measures to combat international terrorism.

So it is no surprise that our region is confronted with a very real challenge. The purpose of this Roundtable is to examine the full range of international measures against terrorism and try to arrive at a framework to help us respond.

The traditional image of the South Pacific has long been one of a tropical paradise: beautiful islands, peaceful people, and a benign environment.

But as experience has shown in Kenya and Tanzania, where hundreds of locals were killed in terrorist attacks on U.S. embassies, remoteness, peacefulness, and even neutrality or non-alignment do not guarantee security from terrorists.

Neither Kenya nor Tanzania were the targets of those attacks. It was the ability of terrorists to execute attacks in those countries which meant they were selected as targets.

The 2002 bombings in Bali showed all too graphically that it is not only foreign embassies which are targeted. Tourists and the resorts they frequent can also be targets. It was also a resort hotel which was attacked at Malindi, in Kenya, and a passenger aircraft which was targeted there with surface-to-air missiles.

The problem to be confronted in our region is not so much that terrorists will seek to attack the citizens or institutions of Pacific countries. It is rather that the Pacific might present a tempting target, either for an attack like the one in Bali, or as a base from which terrorist cells might undertake the planning and groundwork for an attack somewhere else.

Terrorism also poses an indirect threat to the countries of the region. Virtually every Pacific Island country is heavily dependent on tourism. South Pacific Tourism Organisation figures tell us that in 2003 over one million visitors landed in Forum Island countries. Tourism depends on air services and cruise ships. If international airlines were unable to land at Pacific entry points because ICAO security requirements were not met, and if for parallel reasons Pacific airlines were prevented from landing in Australia, New Zealand, Guam or Hawaii, the impact on the Pacific’s tourism sector would be devastating.

If, in addition, cruise ships stopped calling at Pacific ports, for example Port Vila or Rarotonga, then the tourism market would rapidly dry up.

To put the picture in a broader perspective, exports from Forum countries have to be carried by air or by sea. If cargo capacity disappears because foreign ships and aircraft are unwilling to berth or land, or if delivery becomes unreliable, the economic impact on growers and traders and on countries of the region would be very damaging.

This scenario is not imaginary. International law has moved so rapidly that new IMO and ICAO security procedures are already in place. The IMO International Ship and Port Security Code, the ISPS, becomes effective on 1 July this year. The latest ICAO measure to increase security of baggage will come into force on 1 January 2006.

The effect of these measures will be felt in all countries, not only on those which are members of ICAO or IMO, but also on their trading and tourism partners. There is still a little time before they come into force, but not much. July, when the IMO measures come into force, is fewer than two months away.

So to a large extent the die is cast. The new security measures have been designed and must be implemented. They make no distinction between countries large and small, or developed or developing. We all have to meet the new benchmarks, or pay the cost. The consequences of not implementing them could be very serious. So too could be the consequences of not implementing the various United Nations Conventions, Security Council Resolutions, and Financial Action Task Force rules.

To address these issues we must, first of all, recognise the reality in the outside world. Then we must use this Roundtable to generate ideas about Pacific responses, both collectively at a regional level and individually for each country, to the challenge of ensuring compliance.

Effective responses will require:

political will and bureaucratic commitment,

parliamentary time in each country’s legislature,

giving higher priority to law enforcement and border security,

provision for purchase and maintenance of the necessary technology,

training, and

strengthening co-operative frameworks within the region.

The Pacific Island Forum Secretariat can play an important role in helping to develop plans, programmes, and processes for co-operation. It has certainly done well in the past. We look to it to do even more in the future as it takes up the challenge of the Auckland Declaration in which Forum leaders identified security as one of four principal priorities for the Forum and its Secretariat.

The Commonwealth Secretariat has also been a very valuable partner in this area and will, we hope, continue to be of assistance to the region in the future.

Other regional and international organisations, such as the UN Counter-Terrorism Committee, are also able to assist with technical assistance programmes and capability building.

Individual countries within the Pacific are also working to strengthen regional security. Last year my own government set up a Pacific Security Fund which helps provide advice, training and technical assistance to Pacific Islands countries. In its first year, the fund has supported projects in aviation security, port and shipping security, customs processes, immigration, counter-terrorism, and legislative drafting.

The Fund is working well, and tonight I would like to announce that it will receive ongoing government funding of $3 million per year to continue and extend its programmes.

New Zealand and Australia are not alone in extending co-operation to help smaller economies with the resource burden of compliance. Traditional regional partners such as the European Union, France, Japan, and the United States are also prepared to do so. They already have well developed partnership and assistance programmes with South Pacific countries. They have a particular interest in the outcomes of the Roundtable because they want terrorism to be confronted globally and with vigour in each region.

Donors can provide technical assistance. But donors cannot deliver the local determination and commitment necessary for effective responses. Donors cannot ensure the enactment of the Nasonini model legislation. Donors cannot reprioritise resources from within budgets for local law enforcement and border security.

Additional assistance from donors may well be possible, and it may increase local capacity to implement the new requirements. But it won’t be anything like a total solution. Inevitably achieving compliance with the new international counter-terrorism requirements will impact on other priorities. But there would be greater costs from not doing so, particularly to the important tourism sector as I have outlined.

In New Zealand in recent years we have passed four substantial new Acts specifically dealing with terrorism issues. We have amended at least four other pieces of legislation in order to update the legal framework in New Zealand to enable us to meet international standards.

We have also significantly increased expenditure on intelligence and border control. We have done this because of the importance we place on compliance with international requirements and because we wish to make our country as secure as possible from terrorism.

Failure by any nation to ratify the twelve UN anti-terrorism Conventions and to meet Security Council requirements would come at a cost. Every country which wants to avoid the risk of serious disruption to trade and tourism will have to face the issue of compliance. The alternative is to risk serious and sustained economic damage.

I now want to turn to another very important aspect of this problem. New Zealand attaches great real importance to ensuring that new legal frameworks to address the threat of terrorism are consistent with human rights standards. We aim in our legislation to strike the right balance between maximising individual freedom and maintaining a secure environment.

This is not a simple issue. Legal and administrative approaches to counter terrorism can all too easily cross the line from being a tough but acceptable response to becoming something which undermines basic freedoms.

If the measures which have to be put in place by all of us in the region are to enjoy long term support among our populations, they must be seen to meet these other equally important international standards.

Finally I want to say a few words, which I hope will be helpful to the Roundtable, about the very difficult problem of responses to particular threats or suspected threats which might emerge in the future. This is not directly on the agenda for the Roundtable but it lies behind all of your discussions.

We all hope that our region’s compliance with its international obligations will constitute an effective deterrent to terrorism. But we cannot be complacent. However good our legislation, however good our deterrence, an incident can still occur. That is why we in New Zealand have regular training exercises to prepare our police, defence force, and other security officials for such an eventuality.

It may therefore be worth bearing in mind the practical issues which arise in responding to a terrorism emergency. To do so requires levels of co-operation and trust, and a speed of decision-making, even greater than the ones we have developed to deal with natural disasters. The communications channels and protocols the region needs will be important elements of future discussion.

In conclusion, let me re-emphasise that this Roundtable is about working to avoid the worst case happening. It is about ensuring that we all have in place the legal frameworks, technology, law enforcement systems, co-operation, and training which can act as a genuine deterrent. It is also about ensuring that flows of trade, tourism, and finance within the region are not disrupted by failure to conform to international requirements.

This is a challenge for all members of the Pacific Islands Forum, as it is for all nations. We are all in this together. And the signs are that the pace of international law-making in this area will not slow down.

This Roundtable is an opportunity to achieve real progress on meeting these challenges. As the current Forum Chair, New Zealand is proud to be hosting this meeting. I wish all participants well for the discussions.

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