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Afghan Humanitarian package - Robson Speech

Hon Matt Robson
10 November 2001 Speech notes

Humanitarian aid and development package: Afghanistan


Alliance Conference, Nga Tapuwae Centre, Auckland


Associate Minister of Foreign Affairs, Minister in charge of aid and Minister for Disarmament, Hon. Matt Robson

Members of the Alliance have expressed a variety of views on how to respond most effectively to the terrible events of September 11.

I belong to a party which believes that the lose of any innocent life, whether in the World Trade Centre of New York, the Pentagon in Washington, or the dusty fields of Afghanistan, cannot go unanswered.

For each of those deaths there must be a response.

I belong to a party which is deeply uncomfortable at the prospect of a war on the other side of the world where innocent people have been killed.

I am proud to belong to that party.

Civilians, including children are bearing much of the brunt of the fighting in Afghanistan.

It is not just the hundreds of people who have been unintentionally killed by bombs. It is also the thousands of people dying of malnutrition and disease in a wasted land.

While some of us may hold differing views on how exactly to respond to the events of September 11, there is one goal which unites us all:

To do something to address the terrible suffering of the innocent civilians of Afghanistan.

That is why I am pleased to announce here today, the government’s Humanitarian Aid and Development package.

The Alliance has worked hard in government since the fighting in Afghanistan began, to address the suffering of refuges from this conflict.

The New Zealand government sent $1 million of aid last month.

But we need to do more.

The package I am launching today pulls together some initiatives which have already been hinted at, and gives more details on where to next with these.

It also introduces some new ideas.

These are in fact a set of short term and long term steps.

Of course the most immediate concern is getting relief aid into the refugee camps, both inside and outside Afghanistan. New Zealand has offered to send:

- A C130 plane to assist in the delivery of aid.
- A medical team for refugee camps.
- Engineers to assist in refugee camps.

In recent times, New Zealand has used Defence Force elements in several places beyond the South Pacific to move displaced people and emergency supplies, under the aegis of the United Nations.

The Rwanda, Somalia, and Kuwait operations during the 1990s were all carried in terms of specific UN Security Council authorisations.

We are again offering to the United Nations to provide air transport – our legendary RNZAF Hercules aircraft, aircrew and ground staff of the sort that wrote themselves into the record books for the volume of supplies they delivered to remote parts of Rwanda.

We are offering a Defence medical team. We are offering administrative and stores personnel.

As commitments in East Timor reduce, we can offer an engineering detachment to help with shelter, water supplies or sanitation.

“To enable us to carry through on these offers:

- My colleague Phil Goff and I have agreed that he will discuss the aid package with the United Nations Commissioner for Refugees and the Office of the Commissioner for Humanitarian Affairs while in New York next week, to establish what may be needed and when.
- A fund of up to a quarter of a million dollars will be available for the government to assist the work of NGOs in New Zealand who are already fund-raising and active on the ground in Afghanistan.
- If and when New Zealand teams travel to Afghanistan to assist with humanitarian aid, either myself or Phil Goff hope to travel with them.

At all times we must bear in mind New Zealand’s modest resources. We cannot hope to compete with the aid budget of bigger countries.

But we can offer assistance which is uniquely New Zealand.

We must also make sure we stay within the parameters of our established development framework. Our new aid agency, announced in September will have a clear focus on poverty reduction and our own Pacific region.

Having said that we all know that terrorists recruit in the countries where there is greatest poverty, insecurity and conflict.

Properly directed development aid will help to create a new environment of opportunity and safety, not only in the Pacific region but in Afghanistan too.

That is why I am also announcing today that Zealand is willing to play a part in a co-ordinated international framework for Afghanistan once the fighting is over.

Millions of people have fled war torn Afghanistan. Some have flocked to Australia, and some have ended up in New Zealand.

Boat-loads of Afghan refugees floating homeless across the oceans is not the future. The future is change inside Afghanistan.

That is why New Zealand is prepared to play its part in supporting the innocent people of Afghanistan in their efforts to create a new country, once the conflict has stopped, so that the refugees have a home they can return to.

Our experience in East Timor is invaluable.

Although these are two very different countries, we now know how to help a broken country re-build itself.

New Zealand’s longer term role in Afghanistan will:

- Be part of an international effort led by the United Nations to consolidate peace.
- Offer assistance that could range from help to rebuild government institutions in Afghanistan through training programmes, to the offer of experts on the ground.
- Assist with a de-mining programme (New Zealand military engineers trained Afghan people to disarm landmines in the 1980s after the war with the Soviet Union,) if required.
- Support agriculture rehabilitation programmes, if required, to ensure adequate food security in the medium to long term, and develop cash crops that are an alternative to poppies that have been grown for the production of opium.

Other initiatives include:

- Commitment from the New Zealand government to work towards the extension the Financial Action Task Force (which works to stop avenues for money laundering). An extension would cover terrorist funding, especially in our own region of the Pacific.
- Participation in the United Nations Conference for Financing Development to be held in Mexico in March of next year. This conference will play a key role in creating the conditions for security in the world, after the conflict in Afghanistan.

ENDS

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