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NZ pushing for greater disarmament progress

Hon Phil Goff
Minister of Disarmament and Arms Control

13 May 2006

NZ pushing for greater disarmament progress

Address to National Consultative Committee on Disarmament Convention Conference

Saturday, 13 May 2006

Can I thank Sir Paul Reeves for his welcome and opening comments, and also extend a warm welcome to delegates, particularly those from overseas who have travelled a long distance to be with us.

I extend a special welcome to Mayor Tadatoshi Akiba of Hiroshima and President of Mayors for Peace. Hiroshima and Nagasaki continue for all of us to be symbols of determination to prevent from ever happing again the massive destruction, loss of life and human suffering from the use of nuclear weapons.

To Ambassador Sergio Duarte, former Ambassador at large of Brazil for Disarmament and Non Proliferation, again our warm welcome for being here to share with us your extensive knowledge and experience. Brazil and New Zealand have long co-operated together in pursuit of disarmament as fellow members of the New Agenda Coalition.

To all members of the National Consultative Committee thank you for your efforts and ongoing commitment to the cause of peace and disarmament.

More than 60 years after Hiroshima and Nagasaki, complacency about the ongoing threat to human survival from weapons of mass destruction is perhaps our greatest enemy.

Einstein’s warning to us that “splitting the atom has changed everything except the way we think, and hence we drift towards unparalleled catastrophe” is as relevant today than when he voiced this concern.

Robert McNamara, former Secretary of Defence and architect of the US nuclear deterrence policy, believes that it is only by luck that the world has avoided a nuclear war.

How can we be complacent when more countries have access to nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction or are seeking such access?

It is a concern that President Putin this week stated “it is premature to speak of the end of the arms race. Moreover, it is going faster today. It is rising to a new technological level”. Russia’s spending, he stated, would increase on both conventional forces and the “nuclear triad” of land, sea and air based strategic weapons.

In addition to states, we have the new threat of international terrorist groups who have proclaimed their ambition to secure access to weapons of mass destruction.

We can hardly be satisfied with the lack of progress that has marked efforts to achieve disarmament and non proliferation over the last few years.

Some 27,000 nuclear weapons still exist, many on high alert status, long after the end of the cold war. There is talk of “refurbishment” of nuclear arsenals.

The UN Conference on Disarmament has been deadlocked for a decade by the abuse of the consensus rule. This has blocked any negotiation – or even substantive discussion – of vital issues on nuclear disarmament, the fissile material cut off treaty, and the prevention of an arms race in outer space.

Last year produced no result from the Nuclear Non Proliferation Review Conference. Nor were the issues progressed at the United Nations High Level Summit last year.

Pakistan, India and Israel remain outside the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty, North Korea claims achievement of nuclear weapons while Iran denies it has that ambition but has so lacked transparency in its uranium enrichment efforts that the world suspects it has the ambition to develop nuclear weapons.

Progress under the Biological Weapons Convention is limited by a lack of verification protocol.

Slow progress only is being made under the Convention on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons.

The picture to this extent is pretty bleak yet there have been areas of success and areas where we can point to movement in the right direction.

The Chemical Weapons Convention stands out as the only legally binding agreement that outlaws an entire class of weapons, sets deadlines for destruction of existing stockpiles and has verification disciplines that apply equally to all.

We are, as part of the G8 Global Partnership, making a useful contribution to the destruction of stockpiled Russian chemical weapons and to shutting down the last Russian plutonium producer’s nuclear reactor.

We are taking part in practical exercises and discussions under the Proliferation Security Initiative arrived at preventing the transfer of WMD related material.

At the UNGA First Committee last year, we joined with others to propose subcommittees be set up outside the Conference on Disarmament, and not subject to consensus, to discuss blocked topics. We will continue these efforts.

We have increased and will continue to increase support for the New Agenda Coalition’s nuclear disarmament resolution, winning support for example from 14 NATO states. We will continue to promote resolutions on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and on a Southern Hemisphere free of Nuclear Weapons.

The conventional arms field offers prospects for some tangible progress. We are supporting new initiatives in controlling the trade in small arms and light weapons.

The first review conference on the UN Programme of Action adopted in 2001 will provide a forum for efforts to strengthen its effectiveness. In particular we will want to promote implementation of the Plan of Action in the Pacific.

We have supported an Arms Trade Treaty as a means of increasing controls on conventional weapons, preventing arms sales to countries where there is conflict or human rights issues.

We will continue to work for the development of legally binding standards in the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons focussed on banning particularly inhuman conventional weapons and on mitigating the effects of conflict on civilian populations. We continue to actively support the Ottawa Convention banning the use of anti-personnel landmines.

Within New Zealand, export controls and a proactive approach on WMD knowledge requisition will be upgraded.

Finally, Government will continue to work co-operatively with NGOs. I thank all of you here once again for your continued commitment and dedication to creating a world free of weapons of mass destruction, and one in which people can live in peace and strive for a better life.

I wish you well for your two days of discussions and your future work of raising awareness and providing the impetus for governments to make progress towards disarmament and non-proliferation.


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