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NZ signs treaty for protection of UN personnel

Rt Hon Winston Peters
Minister of Foreign Affairs

21 September 2006

NZ signs treaty for protection of UN field personnel

Foreign Minister Winston Peters today signed a United Nations treaty that will strengthen efforts to protect personnel working in UN field operations.

The treaty was signed in New York, where Mr Peters is attending the United Nations General Assembly.

The Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Safety of United Nations and Associated Personnel requires states to criminalise attacks against all UN personnel working in the field, and to extradite or prosecute those responsible for such attacks.

"New Zealand has been at the forefront of negotiations over the convention, which was adopted in 1994, and again in relation to the optional protocol," Mr Peters said.

"The UN General Assembly's decision to adopt the protocol last year was widely attributed to New Zealand's efforts.

"The optional protocol is an important mechanism for helping to protect UN workers in the field. The original convention was narrow in focus, and essentially applied only to peacekeeping operations, which the majority of UN field workers are not involved in.

“Attacks on UN field workers have been increasing over the years, including a disturbing trend towards the deliberate targeting of humanitarian personnel.

“New Zealand is a longstanding supporter of those who work in UN operations around the world, including many New Zealanders. Greater protection is vital to ensure UN workers can continue to carry out their very important work in as safe an environment as possible," Mr Peters said.

New Zealand currently has 14 people serving in six UN missions, although this number will increase should police in Timor-Leste come under UN control.

The Protocol will enter into force after 22 countries have ratified it. New Zealand hopes to be able to ratify the treaty in the latter half of next year.

Mr Peters today also signed New Zealand’s formal accession to the Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness, which seeks to reduce the incidence of statelessness by creating a domestic regime to confer nationality on people who would otherwise be stateless.

People become stateless for a number of reasons, including such reasons as the collapse of a state, or because of the laws of the country they live in lead to them being stripped of citizenship or denied it in the first place.

Amendments were the Citizenship Act required for New Zealand's accession to the Convention were enacted last year.

Mr Peters said New Zealand’s accession contained a permitted declaration asserted the right in certain circumstances to deprive people of citizenship if they had acted contrary to the country's interests.

ENDS

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