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Hobbs: Network for Nuclear Disarmament

8 December 2004

Speech Notes

Hon Marian Hobbs: Address to Parliamentary Network for Nuclear Disarmament - "New Agenda Coalition Proposals For Disarmament And Non-Proliferation" 9.40am December 8 2004

Thank you very much for inviting me to address you on New Agenda proposals for disarmament and non-proliferation.

I am pleased to share our NZ Government thinking with you, because I know just how effective parliamentarians can be in pushing for progress towards a more peaceful world.

I was delighted by the success of the New Agenda resolution at the First Committee this year.

I was grateful for the support of Senator Doug Roche, Chair of the Middle Powers Initiative. I know that there was active networking that took place at the First Committee in New York in October, including at the Inter-Parliamentary Union conference. And I am most appreciative of the work of the Parliamentary Network for Nuclear Disarmament, which established a chain of momentum within key domestic parliaments. Your active lobbying made a real difference in increasing support for the nuclear disarmament message including through the New Agenda resolution.

I would also like to acknowledge the particular contribution made by the tireless Parliamentary Network for Nuclear Disarmament Global Coordinator, New Zealander, Alyn Ware.
The New Agenda To go back to the beginning, the New Agenda, of which New Zealand is one of seven members, was born in 1998 out of a concern about the lack of progress in implementing nuclear disarmament commitments and the implications of India’s and Pakistan’s nuclear tests.

The group sought to inject new thinking and a new momentum into multilateral consideration on nuclear disarmament. This we achieved with good success.

In those days, when we argued that with the end of the Cold War, the requirement for nuclear weapons had passed, the nuclear weapon states were on the back foot. They had to justify keeping their nuclear arsenals.

That was the situation during the last Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference in 2000, when the New Agenda played a brokering role between the non-aligned movement and the nuclear weapon states, securing consensus agreement on 13 practical steps to nuclear disarmament.

Those 13 steps included an ”unequivocal undertaking” by the nuclear weapon states to accomplish the total elimination of their nuclear arsenals, in accordance with their agreed commitments under Article VI of the NPT. (But no timeline?)

However, in pursuing nuclear disarmament objectives at the 2005 NPT Review Conference, we need to recognise that the ground for debate shifted after the terrorist attacks on the United States on 11 September 2001.

The ground for debate has shifted after 11 Sept. The irony is that the nation with the biggest arsenal was attacked successfully. But it was not attacked by another state. We have entered a different era.

But the fact that the USA was attacked has heightened anxiety about who has WMD. A strong campaign has begun to prevent other states gaining nuclear weapons. And not only states – but terrorists/non-state actors. And the emphasis has shifted from disarmament to non-proliferation. The 13 steps so carefully negotiated in 2000 are in danger of being ignored.

The lead up to the United Nations General Assembly Against that background, the New Agenda agreed it was particularly important to be able to generate and demonstrate strong support for nuclear disarmament.

Just before this year’s United Nations General Assembly, the Foreign Ministers of the seven New Agenda countries wrote a joint “op-ed” piece on nuclear disarmament, published in the International Herald Tribune, which called for a re-focus on nuclear disarmament objectives.

International Atomic Energy Agency Director General ElBaradei commented in a subsequent speech: “Striving for nuclear disarmament is not an idealistic march towards an unachievable Utopia. Just last month, seven prominent policy makers, the foreign ministers of Brazil, Egypt, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, South Africa and Sweden spoke out jointly, saying ‘today, we are more convinced than ever that nuclear disarmament is imperative for international peace and security.’ They added, ‘Nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament are two sides of the same coin, and both must be energetically pursued.’ I could not agree more. It is this type of leadership that is urgently needed.”

As you know, the New Agenda runs resolutions on nuclear disarmament at the UN General Assembly, and this year was no exception. The resolutions have always passed with a large majority, with widespread support from non-aligned members, but most NATO members (except Canada) have abstained.

In particular, the New Agenda considered it critical to uphold and safeguard the NPT as a whole, and to push for implementation of undertakings already given – including the 13 steps. The resolution speaks of accelerating those commitments – in order to underpin confidence in the NPT regime. The focus is on those steps that the New Agenda identified as achievable over a shorter timeframe than overarching objectives, such as the total elimination of nuclear arsenals. This year the resolution focuses on: The bringing of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty into force. 33 of the required 44 countries with advanced nuclear technology have now ratified the Treaty. This year New Zealand (along with Australia and Mexico) introduced a strengthened text, and requested the UN Secretary General to prepare a report on where universalisation efforts might be most fruitfully directed.

There is a call to the nuclear weapon states to take further steps to reduce their non-strategic nuclear arsenals. – verification.

There is also a direct call to nuclear weapon states not to develop new types of nuclear weapons.

The resolution calls for negotiations to start in the Conference on Disarmament on a verifiable Fissile Material Cut off Treaty. We know that the United States has difficulties with verification provisions for fissile material, but we believe that this difference of view should not prevent the negotiation from getting underway. The outcome should not be prejudged.

The resolution also calls for the placement of fissile material under international verification, as agreed by the nuclear weapon states in 2000. The IAEA stands ready to facilitate this but so far there has been little progress by the nuclear weapon states.

The establishment of an appropriate subsidiary body on nuclear disarmament at the Conference on Disarmament is a priority. The Conference on Disarmament is the only multilateral negotiating body on disarmament and as such is the appropriate body to be addressing nuclear disarmament. Finally, the New Agenda resolution emphasises the principles of irreversibility, transparency and developing further verification capabilities. We see these confidence building measures as crucial to all non-proliferation and disarmament measures. Every country must be judged equally under effective verification provisions. --- applies both ways

A note on verification – if possible proliferation must be verified to stop the move from energy to weapons-grade uranium for example – then so should the downblending as claimed by the US as part of their disarmament.

So to summarise, the New Agenda opted for a short, focussed resolution, clear and to the point, and which largely relied on consensus language, much from the 2000 NPT Review Conference.

I was very pleased that this resolution attracted the broad support we had hoped for.

Eight NATO members supported the resolution this year. Other moderate countries also expressed support. NAM support remained solid. In the First Committee, overall support was up by 14 votes to 135, with one less negative note and a decrease in abstentions from 25 to 13.

Our work does not stop here. But it does give us a solid platform from which to move forward.

The lead up to the NPT Review Conference We must work to translate this increased support into increased pressure on the nuclear weapon states to phase out their nuclear arsenals. Active lobbying by parliamentarians within domestic legislatures in all regions of the world is a vital link in this process.

The New Agenda will work collectively in the lead-up to the NPT Review Conference to ensure that the need for nuclear disarmament is at the head of the agenda.

We are also taking initiatives of our own. In March this year, New Zealand hosted a seminar on Weapons of Mass Destruction at the United Nations with the International Peace Academy in New York.

At that conference I described weapons of mass destruction as weapons created out of a wish for security, but which, in fact, pose the greatest threat in history to human security.

We are working with the Swedish Commission examining new ways of addressing the questions around WMD. That commission will report early next year. We all need to work together to see that momentum on nuclear disarmament is sustained and amplified. I look forward to hearing any ideas you have on how you may be able to mobilise support. What can we show has been done by next May? --- progress on Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty? --- more of the 13 steps under way --- work on the institutional strength of the NPT --- protection of materials (stockpiled or for nuclear energy) getting into wrong hands.

Do we confine ourselves to incremental improvements? Or do we focus on complete, verifiable and irreversible disarmament?

As I have said before, the New Agenda’s focus on nuclear disarmament will probably continue to provoke accusations that we are ignoring the threat of WMD falling into the hands of terrorists.

We are not blind to the horrendous possibilities of such a situation. However, we also realise that nuclear weapons, by their very nature, are not useful in deterring terrorists.

Indeed, the very existence of nuclear weapons poses a potential security threat. Even nuclear-powered ships are not welcome in commercial ports for that reason.

Non-proliferation initiatives must work in tandem with effective disarmament measures, as part of a mutually reinforcing process.

Proliferation of nuclear weapons will only cease when the weapons themselves cease to exist.

As we head to the NPT review conference, we are facing challenges to the Treaty itself and to the multilateral framework that underpins the nuclear disarmament.

We face people accusing us again of hopeless idealism. I argue that that idealism provides the only hope we have – for a world without threat.

The work of individual and organizations, such as the Parliamentary Network for Nuclear Disarmament and Parliamentarians for Global Action, are key to keeping nuclear disarmament issues alive among civil society and before legislatures and governments, and building support for a future without nuclear arms.

Renewed effort is required. Young people need to be re-engaged.

I look forward to our continuing to work together in the lead-up to the NPT Review Conference and beyond.

And I look forward to a future where peace and security are not held hostage by the threat of a nuclear catastrophe.

We all want a world free of weapons of mass destruction, a world free of weapons whose danger lasts well after the conflict.


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