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Phil Goff UN General Assembly Statement

Hon Phil Goff
Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade
Speech Notes



[4AM Saturday 16 September NZ time]


First, Mr President, may I begin by joining with others who have congratulated you on your election. May I also assure you of the New Zealand delegation’s full cooperation as you carry out your important duties.

I would also like to welcome the admission of our neighbour and friend Tuvalu into the United Nations last week. The admission of four new Member States from the Pacific in the space of a year contributes to the truly universal character of this Organisation.

Mr President, this general debate takes place at the start of a new century and a new millennium.

Secretary-General Kofi Annan has called upon the Member States of the United Nations to harness the symbolic power of the millennium to meet the real and urgent needs of people in every part of the world.

This is an appropriate time to recommit ourselves to the beliefs, the values and the principles which led to the birth of this Organisation 55 years ago.

Like many other members of this Organisation, New Zealand is a small country which tries to take a principled and independent view of the world. In 1945 in San Francisco we played an active part through the Labour Prime Minister of the day, Peter Fraser, in framing the Charter in which Heads of State and Government reaffirmed their faith here last week.

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We have always viewed the maintenance of international peace and security, and the practical task of peacekeeping, as key roles of the United Nations. We are currently making our largest ever contribution to a UN peacekeeping operation in East Timor. This commitment underlines our full support for the central role of the United Nations in building a stable, democratic and economically viable East Timor in partnership with its people. So do the non-military personnel and development assistance we have provided to help the East Timorese create essential services.

Just over a year ago, Mr President, the East Timorese people voted overwhelmingly for an independent future. We recall the horrors which followed as pro-integration militias laid waste the territory, slaughtered innocent people and forced thousands of East Timorese into West Timor.

Relative calm and stability has been restored in most of East Timor - and we remember here today the sacrifices made by peacekeepers from Australia, Bangladesh, Nepal and my own country who in recent months laid down their lives to help achieve this. But the militias continue to hold sway in the border areas among the refugees in West Timor. Unless brought under control, these militias will destabilise both West and East Timor.

The murder last week of three UN humanitarian workers in Atambua in West Timor repelled us all. New Zealand was able to respond quickly, along with Australia, to the United Nations’ call for help in evacuating their colleagues and NGO personnel from Atambua. We committed helicopters with security and medical elements from our forces serving on the border with UNTAET. This airborne evacuation, which had the cooperation of Indonesian forces, was successful. But the pain and outrage we feel at the murder of the three UN humanitarian personnel remains undiminished.

Mr President, the Security Council in its resolution 1319 (2000) has insisted that the Government of Indonesia disarm and disband the militia immediately, ensure safety and security in the refugee camps and for humanitarian workers, and prevent cross-border incursions into East Timor. It also calls for those who carried out attacks on international personnel to be brought to justice. These are binding obligations. The world awaits action to implement them without further delay.

Besides East Timor New Zealand is at present contributing to twelve other peacekeeping operations including in Kosovo, on the borders of Syria, Israel and Lebanon, in the Prevlaka Peninsula and in Sierra Leone. New Zealand personnel also serve with the Peace Monitoring Group in Bougainville, the MFO in Sinai and with SFOR in Bosnia. Being conscious of the many challenges faced by the United Nations in meeting its peacekeeping responsibilities we greatly welcome the Brahimi report. We trust that the report’s important recommendations will receive serious and expeditious consideration during this Millennium Assembly session, with a view to their early implementation.

As the Brahimi report points out, weak mandates and poor resourcing underlie most of those operations which do not succeed in their objectives. We are concerned too at the tendency to rely overly on “coalitions of the willing” to carry out operations that should be undertaken by the UN. The failure of some Member States to pay their assessed contributions on time, in full and without conditions imposes an impossible burden on the Organisation and troop contributors. We agree that the scale of assessment for peacekeeping needs revision to make it more equitable and transparent. Any revision must be established in accordance with the long-standing principle of apportioning expenses according to Member States’ capacity to pay.

Mr President, Heads of State and Government agreed at the Millennium Summit to intensify their efforts to achieve a comprehensive reform of the Security Council in all its aspects. The past seven years of debate on this matter have shown just how difficult an issue it is, especially in regard to how the Council might be enlarged. There is no agreement on this aspect at this time. And yet, Mr President, I am sure that most Member States would agree that the Council must be made more representative of today’s membership as well as more transparent in its working methods and more democratic in its decision-making. If there is to be progress towards an overall package deal on reform then compromises will have to be made.

At the heart of any reform in New Zealand’s view must be the curtailment of the veto, if it indeed cannot be eliminated. We have argued this case since 1945 and we believe it is even more relevant today. A device which fifty years ago might have had the utility of preventing the Permanent Members from using the Organisation to make war on one another has in recent times served to frustrate the will of the wider Membership. I believe there is very broad agreement in the General Assembly on the need to deal with the veto urgently so that the Security Council can be more effective in carrying out its important responsibilities.

I would not want to suggest that there has been no progress at all on Council reform. There have in fact been some major steps forward in opening up the Council’s meetings and briefings to participation by non-members. We are grateful for that. I would also like to reaffirm New Zealand’s strong support for the Open-ended Working Group on Security Council reform whose deliberations have contributed to this progress. In our view the Working Group continues to be the appropriate forum in which to pursue efforts aimed at reforming the Council because it is essential for the health of the Organisation that any reform package enjoy the widest support and buy-in. Council reform is too important a matter for back-room deals.

Mr President, the Millennium Declaration contains some important guidance on human rights, democracy and good governance. For example all countries are enjoined to strengthen their capacity to implement the principles and practices of democracy and respect for human rights, including minority rights. This could not be more timely for my own region, the South Pacific, where over the past year we have seen the collapse of democracy and governance in some countries in the face of disputes over land and economic disparities and as a result of ethnic tensions.

There are no easy solutions to some of the problems the region faces but one thing is clear. And that is the answer to these problems is not to adopt political systems that discriminate against particular ethnic groups as some in Fiji have sought to do. To do so simply breeds a deeper sense of frustration and exclusion which is a recipe for further instability. Small states, especially small developing countries like our neighbours in the Pacific, face particular challenges from globalisation. They are uniquely vulnerable to external impacts. We need to find fresh and more effective means to development.

It is essential to help countries build for themselves inclusive and democratic forms of government that in turn take account of cultural values. Underpinning this must be robust and accountable institutions, respect for the rule of law, independence of the judiciary, an effective press, strong civil society and above all greater public education to foster a more widespread understanding of democratic values and processes.

Mr President, the Millennium Summit provided Heads of State and Government the opportunity to take action on a range of treaties which are fundamental to the development of international human rights law and international humanitarian law. My Prime Minister took action in respect of six and I record here in particular New Zealand’s ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, and signature of the two Optional Protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The practices of child prostitution, child pornography and the appalling exploitation of children to fight wars are a disgrace and a crime against humanity which must be expunged. We encourage others also to sign and ratify these agreements. I should also add we greatly welcome the recent decision by ECOSOC to establish a Permanent Forum for Indigenous Peoples.

At the Millennium Summit world leaders agreed to strive for the elimination of weapons of mass destruction, particularly nuclear weapons. The outcome of the Non Proliferation Treaty Review Conference in May, where the five nuclear weapons states gave an unequivocal political undertaking “to accomplish the total elimination of their nuclear arsenals”, demonstrates a new determination to achieve a world free of nuclear weapons. This is a matter of real urgency. We must promote the implementation of the new commitments. New Zealand with its New Agenda partners will table a draft resolution during this General Assembly session.

New Zealand will also in partnership with Brazil promote a Southern Hemisphere free of nuclear weapons. In addition we will along with Australia, Mexico and Japan urge all countries yet to do so to sign and ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. We will also support further preparations for the United Nations Conference to address the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons in all its aspects, and join calls for adherence to the Ottawa Convention on Anti-Personnel landmines.

New Zealand urges caution regarding decisions on missile developments that could impact negatively on nuclear disarmament, lead to a new nuclear arms race, or be inconsistent with the commitment to the total elimination of nuclear weapons.

This is no time for complacency. The UN’s disarmament and arms control machinery must engage again in negotiations and other work on the new programme of action agreed at the NPT Conference.

Mr President, leaders also declared their resolve to “minimise the adverse effects of UN economic sanctions on innocent populations”. Sanctions are an important tool at the Security Council’s disposal to encourage compliance with its resolutions, but they must be appropriately targeted for maximum effect. They should not impose blanket measures which harm innocent populations and even strengthen the grip of despotic regimes. We support efforts within the Organisation to develop proposals for smarter, more effective sanctions which apply pressure where it we will have maximum impact.

The Millennium Declaration also speaks of the need to protect our common environment. My Prime Minister announced during the Summit our intention to become party to the Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change by mid-2002. I also wish to recall a particular achievement over the past year in the holding of the inaugural session of the Open-ended Informal Consultative Process on Oceans and the Law of the Sea. This is a significant step forward in providing an appropriate forum for discussion of cross-cutting oceans issues. The success of this process should be judged by the extent to which there is an enhanced global understanding of oceans issues and an increased willingness to cooperate and coordinate cross-sectorally to address them.

Finally, Mr President, the Millennium Declaration sets some key goals for development and poverty eradication and urges meeting the special needs of Africa. This year New Zealand was able to increase its core funding of UNDP by more than a third and UNICEF by almost a half. We believe the UN has a key role to play in the coordination of ODA delivery. The preparations for the Financing for Development event are an excellent demonstration of leadership by the Organisation and a significant step forward in furthering cooperation with the Bretton Woods institutions. The crushing and seemingly never-ending debt burden, especially on the countries of Africa, must be urgently reduced. We must also address more effectively the scourge of HIV/AIDS.

Mr President, leaders at last week’s Summit provided this Millennium Assembly with a clear direction and a strong mandate.

Our countries have delegated us the responsibility to realise that vision of a better world, and we must ensure through our efforts and determination that we do not fail them.

Thank you.

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