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Goff Statement To UN General Assembly

Hon Phil Goff
Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade
Speech Notes

13 November 2001 (delivered 3:30pm Monday 12 November 2001 New York time)

Mr President,

We meet in New York at this General Assembly under the shadow of the terrorist attacks on this city just two months ago.

We mourn the lives of nearly 5,000 people from 79 countries who, having done nothing to deserve that fate, died in the attack.

The scale, premeditation, coordination and indifference to the mass murder which characterise this attack represents a new age of terrorism.

It is a terrorism which appears to set no limit to its consequences.

Those responsible for it foreshadow a willingness to use biological, chemical and nuclear weapons of mass destruction.

The potentially catastrophic effects if they are able to carry out that threat demand an urgent and comprehensive response to pre-empt such an attack.

We cannot allow the rule of terror to replace the rule of law. We cannot tolerate the damage that terrorism has already done to the global economy. We cannot allow terror to threaten basic human rights to life and property.

New Zealand welcomes the lead by the United Nations in coordinating an effective and enduring response to terrorism.

Resolution 1373, passed unanimously by the Security Council, sets out a blueprint for action which every Member State has an obligation to implement.

Its emphasis is on measures to close off financial support and the provision of refuge for terrorist groups in every country of the world.

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International cooperation in imposing these measures and bringing terrorists to justice will, longer term, lie at the heart of the campaign to defeat terrorism.

Removing the immediate threat posed by terrorists such as Al Qaida and those who harbour them will require more than just resolutions.

Time and again over the past three years the Security Council has called on the Taliban to prevent the use by the terrorists of Afghanistan to launch strikes against other countries.

Those resolutions and the sanctions which accompanied them have been ignored by the Taliban.

Where groups operate beyond the rule of law and countries put themselves outside international codes of behaviour, the use of force becomes a necessary option.

However, multilateral action and cooperation on a wider front is necessary if we are to be successful in removing the threat of terrorism on an ongoing and lasting basis.

It demands comprehensive action to minimise the threat that chemical, biological or nuclear weapons could fall into the hands of extremist groups.

No state should develop, test and hold weapons of this nature.

Such weapons are a threat to humanity. Their use by states would destroy and harm innocent human beings as certainly as the actions of the terrorist group which attacked New York.

Nations yet to sign and ratify the UN Conventions on Chemical and Biological Weapons and treaties to ban mines and inhumane weapons must do so. Nations must equally commit themselves to the elimination of nuclear weapons, the early entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, and an immediate start to negotiations on a fissile material cut-off treaty.

The attack of September 11 should also encourage all nations to ratify the Rome Statute to bring into effect the International Criminal Court as a forum for pursuing action against those responsible for crimes against humanity.

Suppression of terrorism must also involve action to deal with its causes.

States must consider whether suppression of dissident or minority groups rather than allowing legitimate channels to voice dissent leaves resort to force as the only option.

September 11 should encourage all countries and organisations, but most particularly those directly involved, to renew their efforts to find a just and peaceful solution to the Middle East crisis.

To achieve a peaceful solution between Palestinians and Israelis requires good will and flexibility on both sides.

There can be no double standards in how the principles of human rights, freedom and social and economic opportunity are applied to all peoples.

Mr President,

One consequence of the campaign against terrorism has been to bring the world’s attention to the situation in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan reminds us that where a vacuum is created by the absence of legitimate government and the rule of law, it will be filled by extremist elements, criminal groups dealing in drug trafficking and terrorist organisations, all of which can operate with impunity.

The international community has too long been indifferent to the situation in Afghanistan and to the longstanding refugee crisis which has resulted from 22 years of war, from famine and from Taliban oppression.

Pakistan and Iran have carried a burden of 3.6 million refugees, while much of the world showed concern only when a handful of those refugees sought in desperation to enter other countries illegally.

Too little concern has been shown internationally to the 300,000 Afghan children who died annually from preventable causes. One in three children in refugee camps die before they reach the age of five.

The groups now protesting against military intervention were silent while this human catastrophe has unfolded over the last few years.

Any loss of innocent life in conflict is tragic and extraordinary steps must be taken to try to avoid it. But a failure to remove the Taliban regime and a failure to assist the Afghan people to put in place a broad-based, moderate and stable government to replace it will mean the ongoing loss of hundreds of thousands of lives and the continuing suffering of the Afghan people.

Renewed efforts are needed through United Nations agencies to provide emergency relief to people within Afghanistan and in the refugee camps to avoid unnecessary loss of life through the winter and in the months to come.

The United Nations must stand ready to assist Afghanistan to rebuild itself once the conflict is over, working with as broad a coalition of Afghan groups as is possible to create a viable political, economic and social infrastructure.

Resolving the problems which have forced so many million people from their homes is fundamental to solving the growing refugee crisis. In Afghanistan and elsewhere, people flee their homelands through fear of death or persecution, or because of poverty and lack of opportunity.

In a world made smaller by advances in communication and transport, no state can ignore the plight of people in other countries or expect not to face consequences from unacceptable discrepancies in wealth, opportunity and human rights standards.

Suppression of criminal organisations responsible for people trafficking is a challenge which demands increased international cooperation. Those who profit out of people’s desperation and who, once paid are careless as to whether or not their human cargo survives must be stamped out. However, removing the causes of people fleeing from their countries remains fundamental.

Mr President,

New Zealand’s own region of the Pacific has itself not been immune from violence and instability.

In recent years, we have seen conflict in East Timor, violence between government and separatist movements within Indonesia and in Bougainville, ethnic conflict in the Solomons and a coup which overthrew a legitimate government in Fiji.

Problems remain within the region but there have been notable areas of improvement.

A peace settlement has been signed in Bougainville; Fiji has held democratic elections. Indonesia is seeking to resolve separatist conflict by offering greater autonomy. East Timor has held elections and will gain independence as the first new nation of the twentieth century in May 2002.

International cooperation and capable transitional administration by the United Nations have achieved a remarkable transformation in a poor and devastated country. I congratulate the Security Council on its endorsement of the Secretary-General’s concept for a post-independence UN presence to consolidate what has been achieved.

In acknowledging the role of United Nations personnel, I would also stress the need to ensure their proper protection in situations which are often dangerous. The murder of UN relief workers in West Timor and the failure to hold those responsible fully to account is a reminder that more must be done.

We endorse the Secretary-General’s recommendations on extending the legal protection for UN and other personnel involved in humanitarian operations.

It is timely at the General Assembly to stress the importance of the United Nations’ role.

The critical wars of the 21st Century will not be won by single nations, however powerful, or even by coalitions.

It is the UN acting collectively which will win the wars against terrorism, poverty, disease, threats to the environment and the threats posed by conflict and weapons of mass destruction. The commitments made by Heads of State and Government in the United Nations Millennium Declaration last year take on even greater relevance following the events of September 11.

But for the UN to achieve its potential, it must undergo reform.

To avoid the General Assembly and the Secretariat being overwhelmed by so many tasks that they fail to be effective in tackling any of them, we need to prioritise our agenda and to be more selective.

The Security Council needs reform. Its membership should be expanded to reflect contemporary realities, but without maintaining or extending the veto. Countries contributing to peace-keeping operations should be afforded greater involvement in the Council’s decision-making with respect to those operations. Peace-keeping operations must be sufficiently resourced.

The United Nations’ capacity for rapid reaction must be strengthened. New Zealand is ready to enter into discussions on a Memorandum of Understanding with the UN on its participation in the Standby Arrangements System.

This is consistent with New Zealand’s longstanding readiness to contribute to peacekeeping operations and its current involvement in over 12 such operations, including its commitment since 1999 of a battalion to help ensure the success of the UN operation in East Timor.

Mr President,

The United Nations was founded after the Second World War to build a world free from poverty, violence and violation of human rights.

Nations committed themselves to collective responses to problems which could not be solved by countries individually.

Countries agreed on rules of international behaviour.

No one would claim that the United Nations has an unblemished record of success.

But without it the world would be a less secure place, much less able to confront the difficulties which we face.

Let this 56th General Assembly reaffirm our commitment to work collectively to defeat terrorism, conflict, poverty and disease, and set the agenda for peace, development and respect for human rights for all.


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