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NZ, France & Intl. Security: The Pacific Dimension

Foreign Minister Hon Phil Goff

Speech to the French Institute of International Relations, Paris, on 16 September

Thank you for the invitation to be with you this evening. I would like to focus my comments on New Zealand's perspective on international security and in particular on security issues in the Pacific.

New Zealand and France have similar views and work closely together in these areas. We value greatly the cooperative relationship we have with France in the Pacific.

As one of the earliest colonial powers to take an interest in the region, including in New Zealand where it established a small settlement, France has maintained its interest in and commitment to the Pacific.

We value the role France plays in contributing to the stability and the development of the Pacific region, and in encouraging the European Union to strengthen its engagement.

New Zealand and France have a longstanding friendship and share values in democratic governance and human rights. We have not, however, always seen eye to eye. We disagreed sharply on the issue of nuclear testing in the Pacific and over the Rainbow Warrior incident.

These issues are now history. Today we work as partners on Pacific issues such as security, development assistance, disaster relief, fisheries management and surveillance, and environmental issues.

We look forward to even greater cooperation with both New Caledonia and French Polynesia, now observer countries at the Pacific Islands Forum. France is an active and engaged dialogue partner with the Forum.

New Zealand is one of the most remote countries in the world and one of the most distant from France. Beyond New Zealand lies Antarctica, and our nearest neighbour, New Caledonia, lies some 2000 kilometres away.

Distance and vast oceans have historically protected New Zealand. The logistics of an attack on New Zealand have made that prospect most unlikely, other than from Japanese imperial aggression during the Second World War. We have also been protected by distance from other threats such as to biosecurity and from trans-national crime.

Modern transport and globalisation have, however, reduced both obstacles to closer relations with the world, and protection against potential threats from imported animal and human diseases, drugs and people smuggling and terrorist attacks.

Notwithstanding its remoteness, New Zealand has never been complacent about issues of international security or isolationist in its thinking or policies. We were participants in the most serious conflicts of the twentieth century.

In the First World War, as a small country with just over a million people, New Zealand mobilised more than half of its male population. Sixty per cent of those were killed or wounded on the battlefields of France, Belgium, Turkey and the Middle East, one of the highest per capita casualty rates of any country.

Twenty-five years later, thousands more young New Zealanders died in air battles over Europe, in North Africa, Greece, Italy and the Pacific. The struggles we shared with France in the fight against aggression and fascism have created a lasting bond between the peoples of both our countries.

In 1945 our experience in the two world wars also created a strong commitment by New Zealand to the newly formed United Nations. It seemed to us that dialogue and multilateralism were essential to avoid future conflict and to tackle wider threats to world stability and security.

New Zealand has been an active contributor to the UN and to other security and peacekeeping operations. We have been involved in the Middle East, contributing to UNTSO for 50 years and the Multilateral Force and Observers in the Sinai since 1982.

We participated in peacekeeping in the Balkans and maintain defence force personnel in Bosnia and Kosovo. We contributed a battalion to East Timor for three years and retain a presence there.

In Operation Enduring Freedom, we have provided naval vessels and air force support to the Gulf region, combat forces in Afghanistan, over 100 defence force personnel in a Provincial Reconstruction Team in Bamyan, and assist with the ISAF and training the Afghan National Army.

In the Pacific we have had peacekeepers in Bougainville and the Solomon Islands.

In Iraq we were not members of the coalition of the willing, for what we believed were, and have since proven to be, sound reasons. We have, however, provided 61 defence force engineers under UN Security Council Resolution 1483 to do reconstruction and humanitarian work. They will leave this month after completing their one-year deployment.

Today, both globally and regionally, we share with others in the international community concern about the threat posed by a new generation of terrorist action. New Zealand has not been a primary target for terrorism but New Zealanders have been casualties along with others in the terrorist attacks on New York and in Bali.

As demonstrated most recently in Beslan, there appears to be no limit to the inhumanity of terrorism. The worst scenario would be if terrorists were to acquire weapons of mass destruction. We cannot rule out the potential for this to happen.

Can I also express our solidarity with France in respect of the two French journalists and their Syrian driver currently being held hostage by terrorists in Iraq. We stand beside you in hoping for their safe return.

New Zealand is committed to working with others to suppress terrorist networks by implementing UN resolutions and conventions, assisting others to do so, intelligence sharing and military contributions.

We believe, however, that the battle against terrorism will not be won unless we also tackle the causes that feed it. That includes the need to find a just settlement to the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. The failure to resolve this issue, more than any other, contributes to the terrorists' ability to recruit and gain funding and public sympathy in Islamic communities for their actions.

International terrorism is an issue in the wider Asia-Pacific region, with Al Qaeda links to the Abu Sayef Group in the Philippines and Jemaah Islamiah in Indonesia. In the Pacific, the threat is lessened by the fact that people in the region are predominantly Christian in their religious adherence. This makes it difficult to establish the sort of radical and extremist networks that have supported terrorism in some Islamic communities.

However, the characteristics of the Pacific do make it vulnerable to organised crime, violence by local militia groups, and potentially vulnerable to terrorist groups exploiting the region as a weak link in the security chain.

The small size of most states in the region results in capacity problems in meeting international standards for air and shipping security, and for implementing Security Council resolutions and UN conventions against terrorism and organised crime.

Limited state resources and endemic corruption make some states vulnerable to exploitation by groups seeking to launder money or carry out criminal activities.

Fragile economies, overpopulation, poverty and youth unemployment create an environment of alienation that invites violence and extremism. Poor policing, justice and corrections systems allow violence and crime to flourish.

The proliferation of small arms and outbreaks of violence arising out of land and ethnic disputes aggravate the prospects for armed conflict in the region. In the Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea, and Fiji we have seen the breakdown of the rule of law, ethnic and regional conflict and coups against elected governments.

Lack of financial resources has encouraged countries like Nauru and Tonga to sell passports, and others like Niue and the Cook Islands to engage with dubious international companies making them vulnerable to exploitation by money launderers and organised crime.

A separate but no less serious threat to security, aggravated by inadequate governance and resources, is the risk to health from both contagious and non-contagious diseases.

Change in diet from traditional to modern, processed foods has resulted in some of the highest levels of diabetes anywhere in the world, with a dramatic effect on life expectancy in countries like Nauru.

The emergence and spread of HIV/Aids in the Pacific, if unchecked, could lead to disaster comparable to that which has befallen Africa. Parts of the Pacific may be at the point of development now that Africa was in the early 1990s. High HIV rates are already evident in countries like Papua New Guinea, which in 2003 had an official and probably underestimated rate of 130 cases per 100,000 people compared with New Zealand's 23 cases.

Cultural and religious barriers to preventative action, and a slowness by governments to provide leadership against the spread of the disease, heightens the risk of generalised epidemics.

A further challenge to the security of the Pacific is environmental. Of pressing concern to small Pacific states are the threat of global warming and the rise in ocean levels. Countries such as Tuvalu, Kiribati and the Marshall Islands are coral atolls. The highest point above sea level is normally no more than 1.5 metres.

Unless we can reverse global warming by implementing the Kyoto Protocol and other mechanisms, people in these islands are at risk. As the President of the Marshall Islands has commented, they may become the world's first environmental refugees.

Other environmental threats include unsustainable logging and fishing, which put the economic future of countries at risk, and waste disposal.

The picture these problems paint of the Pacific appears bleak. It is at odds with the image outsiders often have of tropical beauty, rich culture and the peacefulness that the word "Pacific" implies.

It is not inevitable that a negative future is the fate of the Pacific. However, an understanding of these problems is important if countries inside and outside the region are to work together to overcome them.

Within the region, efforts are being made to address security challenges collectively. The Pacific Islands Forum draws together the 16 countries of the region in Micronesia, Melanesia, Polynesia, Australia and New Zealand. Through the 1990s it supported the development of networks to ensure cooperation between law enforcement and defence personnel.

Following the coup in Fiji in 2000, foreign ministers and then leaders met together to reconcile the contradiction between the traditional Pacific way of non-involvement in the internal affairs of other countries and the need collectively to confront crises in the region.

The result was the Biketawa Declaration in 2000. This recognised the need for the region to act together in time of crisis or when members requested assistance. It pointed to action needing to be taken on the basis of all members of the Forum being part of the Pacific extended family. It set out procedures to be followed when this occurred.

Last year, the crisis in the Solomon Islands provided the opportunity for the first time to apply these principles in practice. The Solomon Islands had suffered from a period of ethnic tension and cleansing and a breakdown in law and order. Armed militias, motivated as much by criminal intention as by ethnic considerations, undermined the rule of law.

The economy and social services were collapsing. The elected government was powerless to respond. At the request of the Solomon Islands government, and with agreement of every member of the Forum, an Australian and New Zealand led Regional Assistance Mission was sent into the country.

It was a police-led operation backed by the presence of defence force personnel including from Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Tonga and Samoa. The Mission has been successful in completely restoring law and order without a shot being fired.

More than 3000 weapons have been collected and destroyed; 1000 arrests made, and corrupt individuals removed from the police and the political hierarchy.

Stability, a big increase in development assistance, and in-line personnel to strengthen administration has seen the economic position improved and social services restored.

An agreed and regionally supported direct intervention has been successful in achieving for the people of the Solomon Islands what the previous indirect efforts had failed to accomplish.

However, it is premature to declare final success. Major reforms in the Solomons are needed and it remains to be seen whether a culture of endemic corruption can change in the short term. It is critical that changes made by the Regional Assistance Mission are sustainable after the Mission comes to an end.

Can I take this opportunity to thank France for taking a lead in 2003 to help get the UN Security Council's endorsement for the Mission.

On the question of regional security, Forum leaders agreed in Fiji in 2002 to a set of commitments in what was termed the Nasonini Declaration. Leaders agreed to implement international anti-terrorism measures, including UN Security Council Resolution 1373 and the Financial Action Task Force's Special Recommendations on Terrorist Financing.

The need to ratify and adopt legislation to implement provisions in the 12 UN Conventions against terrorism was also stressed. In the wake of 9/11 and the increasingly stringent requirements placed on air and shipping security, Pacific states also needed to put in place required security measures or risk losing trade and tourism with the United States.

All of these requirements place a heavy burden on small states with limited capacity and capability. Outside assistance was and is essential to assist in their compliance.

New Zealand, Australia and the United States have cooperated to draw up draft model legislation for the small Pacific nations to adopt. Practical help such as airport x-ray machines, and customs and immigration training, has been provided. And there has been notable progress. Almost every Pacific port covered by the International Maritime Ship and Port Security code was compliant by the IMO's deadline of 1 July this year.

Earlier this year, New Zealand hosted a Pacific roundtable on counter-terrorism. We were pleased to have participation from the French Territories in that meeting. Officials focused on pragmatic measures to counter terrorism and to designate contact points for dealing with specific issues.

A regional police-training programme to counter organised crime has been established in Fiji by the Forum. This will improve training and cooperation between police across the region. Cooperation between Fijian, Australian and New Zealand police earlier this year succeeded in busting in Suva the largest methamphetamine laboratory ever found in the southern hemisphere.

A negative consequence of globalisation is trans-national organised trafficking in drugs, people and arms. Regional cooperation in responding to it is vital. The South Pacific Chiefs of Police Conference and Oceania Customs Organisation are practical channels for cooperation, and the French Territories are active participants in both groups.

Last year New Zealand, as the Pacific Forum Chair, secured the Forum's agreement to a review of how the Forum was operating. An eminent persons group consulted widely across the Forum countries and delivered a report to Forum leaders in Auckland in April.

The recommendations of that report promoted a Pacific Plan for regional integration and closer collaboration between countries. This plan was adopted by leaders in the Auckland Declaration. Much work remains to be done in building an integrated approach to areas as diverse as transport and a regional judicial appeal system.

We are a long way from the degree of integration achieved by the European Union. But we are moving broadly in a similar direction. Greater integration with help address some of the factors I outlined earlier as contributing to instability in the region. More work however remains to be done on improving leadership skills and integrity, and tackling problems such as land tenure and ethnic conflict that underlie some of the region's difficulties.

Separate steps also have been taken to develop what is called the Pacific Area Closer Economic Relations, or "PACER". This aims to strengthen economic development within the region and to help the region integrate with and secure the benefits of globalisation. The French Territories in the Pacific, as well as American Samoa, are being invited to join this agreement. We have written to France seeking its views on how we can move forward in this area.

All of the above initiatives are constructive answers to the need to build capacity and address security challenges. Further work is being done through the Secretariat of the Pacific Community based in Noumea. This is a body with 23 members including all the independent states of the Pacific, France, the US and their territories. The SPC does important work across a range of development challenges, including fisheries, agriculture, education, health, gender and social issues.

New Zealand and France are important contributors and participants in this body, which pools regional resources and provides the technical support needed by small states.

This brings me back to the point of the importance of New Zealand-French cooperation, together with Australia and other countries with an interest in, and willingness to help, the region. The cooperation we enjoy with France is excellent.

In 1992, France, Australia and New Zealand joined in a partnership called FRANZ to promote a joint response to natural disasters in the region such as the tropical cyclones that occur every year. The organisation enables military and disaster response officials to work together in a way that has been very effective.

We have good cooperation between our defence forces and participate regularly in joint exercises. French defence forces are an important resource for the region. We are currently cooperating on maritime surveillance to ensure compliance with fisheries regulations and sustainable use of the one of the region's key resources.

Trilateral discussions in the near future will help determine how maritime surveillance can be extended through our joint efforts.

France is also helping the region to respond to other environmental challenges. Discussions will start shortly on how New Zealand can assist France's initiative for the protection and sustainable management of Pacific coral reefs.

France is one of the key contributors to development assistance in the Pacific, along with Australia, the US, Japan and New Zealand. Following the New Zealand/France Joint Ministerial Statement of November 2003, the focus of coordination with France has shifted from jointly funded individual projects to an emphasis on mutual support to regional organisations and through multi-donor frameworks developed by individual countries. The first of these initiatives involves a regional public health response to epidemics.

In conclusion, my comments have broadly, and inevitably somewhat briefly, addressed three areas.

The first was to outline aspects of New Zealand's perspective on and contribution to international security. The second was to indicate some of the wider security issues confronting the Pacific and how the region is seeking to address those issues. The third looked at the question of New Zealand-French cooperation within the region.

The message I want to leave is that within the context of international security considerations, we should not overlook the specific, complex and deep-rooted security challenges which countries in the Pacific face.

In successfully meeting those challenges, we need and appreciate France's interest in and contribution to the region. We look forward to continuing and strengthening cooperation between us in that regard.

Thank you very much for your presence here this evening.

ENDS


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