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Disarmament Minister's spch to NZIIA and UN Assn

Hon. Marion Hobbs
2 October 2003 Speech Notes

Auckland Branch Of The New Zealand Institute Of International Affairs
And The United Nations Association Of New Zealand, Auckland University, Thursday 2 October 2003



Let me begin with a quotation that captures the current context for our disarmament and arms control policies:

“I believe that weapons that kill large numbers of human beings indiscriminately have no moral or legal justification, regardless of who is holding them. The world will best be able to keep such weapons out of the hands of terrorists only when they and their special weapons materials are in the hands of no one.”
That was said by the former UN Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs, Jayantha Dhanapala, last year to a Monterey Institute workshop.

The Government’s overriding priority remains the elimination of all weapons of mass destruction. Our focus is on nuclear weapons in particular, as these represent the greatest threat in terms of inflicting death and destruction. But we are also committed to enforcing the international bans on chemical and biological weapons. And we contribute actively to work to ban or control conventional weapons, including anti-personnel landmines, explosive remnants of war and small arms and light weapons.

These goals are pursued within a global security environment that has become increasingly complex and uncertain. New threats – including international terrorism - have exposed shortcomings in the disarmament and arms control architecture inherited from the Cold War.

India, Israel, Pakistan, North Korea, Iran, the possible development of new types of tactical nuclear weapons – each of these, in its own way, represents a challenge to the existing international treaties and norms.

Against this backdrop we have seen the international debate progressively shifting to non-proliferation and counter-terrorism, at the expense of disarmament.

In the new environment New Zealand needs to consider carefully where we target our efforts and the way we work with others to pursue our objectives.

In this address I propose to look at both the challenges and our priorities and hopes for the future.

The Government’s guiding principle is that the international community continues to need a multilateral framework to deal with today’s security challenges. Our effort must go into trying to adapt and strengthen the structures we have and to build further on them.

I welcome this opportunity to talk to a group which is strongly interested in international affairs and shares this commitment to finding solutions through multilateral cooperation.

The Existing Treaty System
A few comments on the main disarmament and arms control treaties of importance to New Zealand:

· the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which entered into force in 1970, constrains the spread of nuclear weapons beyond the five states that had then tested them in exchange for a disarmament pledge. The NPT is the cornerstone of the international disarmament and non-proliferation regime. India, Israel and Pakistan are not members. North Korea has announced its withdrawal. Verification is undertaken through the safeguards activities of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
· the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), adopted in 1996, following an end to testing by the Nuclear Weapons States, prohibits all nuclear explosions. The Treaty has not yet entered into force. It has not been ratified by the United States, China or Israel, and has not been signed by India, Pakistan or North Korea among others. The Provisional Technical Secretariat in Vienna operates an International Monitoring System that includes several New Zealand stations.
· the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), which entered into force in 1997, and the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC), which entered into force in 1972, ban these entire classes of weapons. There are several notable non-signatories to the CWC including in the Middle East and North Korea.
· the Ottawa Mine Ban Convention, which entered into force in 1999, bans the use and retention of anti-personnel landmines. Non-signatories include China, Russia and the US. Small Arms issues are being addressed through the United Nations Programme of Action to which all UN members subscribe, and through the UN Transnational Organised Crime Convention.
· the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW), which entered into force in 1980, regulates the use of weapons considered to pose an excessive humanitarian risk. Negotiations are currently under way on a treaty addition covering the use and clearance of bombs that have the potential to become explosive remnants of war (ERW), including cluster bombs. Approaches to reduce the dangers to civilians posed by anti-vehicle mines are also being studied.
· the Export Control Regimes – the Wassenaar Arrangement covering conventional arms and dual-use goods; the Nuclear Suppliers Group; the Australia Group controlling exports of chemicals and biological agents and dual-use equipment; and the Missile Technology Control Regime controlling the transfer of missile systems and related goods/technology. New Zealand is a member of all four multilateral regimes which are likeminded groups rather than treaties.

The Current Security Environment
In the highly unsettled security environment post 9/11 there is an even greater need for an effective disarmament and non-proliferation system. But there is no consensus about how to get there.

The war with Iraq has brought weapons of mass destruction (WMD) issues to the fore, but the outcome has been anti-war rather than anti-WMD. In fact anti-WMD was used to justify war – which takes the heat out of disarmament and, in some ways, discredits disarmament.

There remains relatively little public pressure on governments to do more on disarmament.

I continue to be struck by the lack of popular concern about WMD issues, particularly among young people – those for whom the threat of nuclear war may not seem as real as it once did.

I believe we need more not less debate because today’s security environment is so uncertain.

What we have instead is a readiness by some states to see the adverse security environment as a reason for resisting disarmament or abandonment of WMD.

The challenges come from states which choose to remain outside the international treaties or to turn their backs on them; from states within which are not keeping the commitments they have entered into; and from non-state actors or terrorists.

Increased security concerns, stagnation of multilateral disarmament efforts and perceived failure on the part of the Nuclear Weapons States to lead by example may be causing some countries to hedge their bets about developing their own WMD.

How the international community responds to North Korea will send important signals.

Some states may also regard India and Pakistan as having “got away with it”. Certainly these countries seem to have emerged largely unscathed from their initial isolation.

Israel’s possession of WMD is a source as well as a symptom of regional instability.

In all cases we urge adherence to the NPT as non-nuclear weapons states and acceptance of comprehensive IAEA safeguards.

The treatment of Iran in the IAEA will be monitored closely by others who see themselves as threatened in some way by current tensions, whether regional or global. Only on sunny days can I see a win-win from the Iranian situation.

We are concerned not only about horizontal proliferation - the spread or potential spread of WMD to new players – but about vertical proliferation – the acquisition of new nuclear weapons capabilities by the five existing Nuclear Weapons States.

If the United States, for example, takes steps to refine its own nuclear weapons further, or to improve its testing capabilities, I believe that will further undermine the non-proliferation norm.

In summary:

· The changed international security environment has increased the need for more concerted disarmament efforts at the same time as making them harder to achieve.
· We are seeing a progressive weakening of the non-proliferation norm – both horizontal and, potentially, vertical - which must be reversed.
· We must find a way to prevent the proliferation of WMD (primarily nuclear weapons) to both states and non-state actors.
· And we must continue to work for the total elimination of nuclear weapons which is our only guarantee against their future use.

Current Structures

The two main multilateral bodies for comprehensive debate of disarmament issues are the Conference on Disarmament (CD) in Geneva, and the First Committee of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.
Both have their problems.
The Conference on Disarmament, established in 1961 and enlarged six times since, is the only multilateral organisation charged with negotiating new disarmament treaties. New Zealand has been a member since 1996.
Unfortunately the CD has been unable to agree on a programme of work or actively engage in new negotiations since 1997. The current stalemate essentially reflects the divergent interests of the Nuclear Weapons States.
We believe that the CD needs to be revitalised and we are working actively with others in Geneva to try to help stimulate this.
The General Assembly First Committee covers international security and disarmament issues. This year’s session starts next week and runs until 7 November.
Unfortunately the Cold War legacy endures in the Committee’s proceedings which are inclined to be ritualistic and repetitious, rather than interactive and focused.

We would like to see the role of the First Committee redefined so that it can address the current international security challenges, promote concerted action and update the multilateral disarmament machinery.
In his speech to the General Assembly last week the UN Secretary-General, Mr Kofi Annan, announced the establishment of a panel of eminent personalities to examine the current challenges to peace and security and the contribution that collective action can make in addressing them, and to recommend ways of strengthening the United Nations through reforms of its institutions and processes.
New Zealand is ready to explore such ideas that led to comprehensive multilateral engagement on all WMD issues, including the threat of transfer to terrorists, rather than the current stagnated and silo-based approach.

How New Zealand Exerts Influence

Although of comparatively small stature in the international community, New Zealand has a high credibility drawing on our long history of contributions to international peace and security. We work in partnership with others to amplify our voice.
As the only current Minister for Disarmament and Arms Control in the world, I am determined to keep New Zealand at the forefront of constructive international debate.
Our highest priority action area remains playing a key role through the New Agenda Coalition. This is an influential like-minded group formed in 1998 comprising seven members from across the major groups and regions - Brazil, Egypt, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, South Africa and Sweden.
The New Agenda’s catch-cry is that the only real guarantee against the use of nuclear weapons is their complete elimination and the assurance that they will never be used or produced again. These words were reaffirmed at the New Agenda Ministerial Meeting in New York last week.
To the Nuclear Weapons States this message might seem naïve and simplistic. They choose to see us as missing the point - their point about needing to deter and prevent the horizontal proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
On the contrary we are very concerned about proliferation activities. This is not a case of either/or – either nuclear disarmament or nuclear non-proliferation. They cannot be delinked. The New Agenda argues that there can be no lasting success in non-proliferation without matching efforts in disarmament.
We want as a priority to persuade the five Nuclear Weapons States that it is consistent with their - and our - concern to prevent proliferation that they should openly and comprehensively reduce their nuclear arsenals.
The group played a decisive role at the 2000 Review Conference of the NPT by helping to achieve an “unequivocal commitment” by the Nuclear Weapons States to the total elimination of their nuclear arsenals, as well as a practical action programme, the “13 Steps on Nuclear Disarmament”.
The line we have taken, and my colleague Hon Phil Goff repeated it at the IAEA General Conference two weeks ago, is:
“...the NPT is not only about states agreeing to forego developing nuclear weapons. It is also about states which already have these weapons agreeing to give them up. It is about nuclear disarmament. The disarmament commitment given by the Nuclear Weapons States, reaffirmed unequivocally at the NPT Review Conference in 2000, must be honoured. Calls by states already in possession of nuclear weapons for other states not to develop them would carry more moral authority if they were accompanied by greater progress towards disarmament by those states which currently have such weapons.”
We must also bring home to the Nuclear Weapons States the proliferation risks arising from their possible future development of new nuclear weapons. Such a prospect would send a very worrying signal to others about the utility of such weapons, lowering the threshold for their use.
And there’s a broader message that we must get across. The horrors of WMD, and the terrifying prospect of their use by terrorists, suggest that the international community needs to pursue a comprehensive approach to outlawing them.
We know that there is no magic answer. No state, however powerful, can ensure its security by itself. Existing rules on their own have proven to be inadequate in preventing the spread of WMD. But these realities must not be an excuse for turning our backs on what we have.
The Non-Proliferation Treaty has not been an unqualified success, but the proposition that the world should have as few nuclear-weapon states as possible remains one to which the vast majority of countries in the world continue to subscribe.
We need to continue to emphasise to the Nuclear Weapons States that nuclear disarmament, in helping to protect the non-proliferation norm, is in their interests, as much as it is in ours.
These brief insights cannot hide the daunting reality of the challenges and priorities in dealing with the threats posed by nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction. Progress is slow and elusive. But the Government remains resolute in our objectives.

Where New Zealand Will be Focussing in the Year Ahead
Over recent months we have been re-assessing the international environment to ensure that New Zealand’s multilateral disarmament effort and influence continue to be targeted to best effect. Our resources are limited and we need to deploy them selectively. We have confirmed the following priorities:

- Through the New Agenda we will be seeking wider support for nuclear disarmament proposals at the UN First Committee and in the NPT Review process. The New Agenda will be proposing two resolutions at this year’s First Committee – on a comprehensive approach to nuclear disarmament, and on reductions in tactical nuclear weapons. The group will also be promoting progress on negative security assurances in preparation for the next NPT Review Conference in 2005.

- We will be using our two-year membership of the IAEA Board of Governors until September 2004 to support international efforts to strengthen nuclear safety and security. Iran will remain a key issue for the Board in the coming period. Given the advanced state of its nuclear programme, we believe that Iran has a particular responsibility to assure the international community of its peaceful intentions. It is very important that Iran takes the required steps before the Board’s next meeting on 20 November, including by implementing an Additional Safeguards Protocol with the IAEA. We are using our influence in Vienna and in Tehran to encourage this outcome.

- North Korea’s proclaimed nuclear weapons programme is a serious concern. We will continue to urge North Korea to resume its commitments to the NPT and the IAEA and will give our support to the multilateral dialogue process which is being facilitated by China.

- We will be advancing New Zealand’s concerns, and those of our Pacific Islands Forum partners, in relation to the shipments of nuclear materials, working through the IAEA and in dialogue with the shipping states to secure improved arrangements for liability and prior notification in particular.

- Together with Brazil we will be working to pursue the next steps in promoting the Southern Hemisphere Free of Nuclear Weapons initiative, including by co-sponsoring and seeking to broaden support for a resolution at this year’s First Committee.

- I am strongly supporting the initiative taken by my Swedish colleague, the late Anna Lindh, to establish an independent international Commission to examine all WMD issues, headed by Dr Hans Blix. I hope that this will help to chart the way forward.

- We will be using New Zealand’s membership of the Executive Council of the Chemical Weapons Convention from May 2004 until May 2006 to work for a further strengthening of implementation and verification measures in that context.

- On conventional weapons, we will be seeking to revive efforts to address small arms issues in the South Pacific, further strengthen the Ottawa Landmine Ban Convention, and improve international engagement to regulate explosive remnants of war, including cluster bombs. This is one treaty that has been understood and acted upon at the level of the public – rather than the preserve of specialist NGOs and diplomats. There are lessons to be learnt here.

- We will be exploring further issues related to upgrading New Zealand’s export controls, consistent with our membership obligations in the relevant export control regimes.

We will also be:

- continuing to make bilateral representations to Nuclear Weapons States including at Ministerial level;

- seriously engaging with other countries, both our traditional likeminded and many of the Non-Aligned, including in capitals, on WMD proliferation issues. I have recently initiated dialogue with the Latin America Ambassadors in Wellington, for example, on disarmament issues and propose to extend this;

- increasing common cause informally (outside the New Agenda) with Canada, Austria, Norway, Switzerland, Japan, Chile, Argentina and others;

- aiming to get some “seeding” thinking done on WMD issues through co-sponsoring a seminar with the International Peace Academy in New York next year;

- staying in touch with expansion of the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) launched by President Bush on 31 May. The objective is to intensify cooperation to stop the proliferation of WMD and related materials to and from states and non-state actors of proliferation concern by interdicting shipments and air cargoes. We are studying the proposals; and

- following closely other WMD non-proliferation initiatives such as those being pursued by the EU.

In working to strengthen the various disarmament and arms control treaties we will continue our efforts in support of universalising them - in particular by looking at how we can assist our Pacific neighbours to increase their memberships and meet their reporting and other obligations.

Two further points before concluding.


The Government is only too aware that its partnership with interested community groups and members of the public is vital to achieving our objectives.

In particular I want to acknowledge the valuable encouragement and assistance we get from non-governmental organisations (NGOs). There are many very committed and knowledgeable people in the community who contribute to New Zealand’s high reputation and influence in this area, by networking and building support both in New Zealand and overseas. I value and respect the work of groups like your own and am always open to your advice.

The Public Advisory Committee on Disarmament and Arms Control (PACDAC), a statutory body established under the New Zealand Nuclear Free Zone, Disarmament and Arms Control Act 1987, also plays a very valuable role. Among its activities, PACDAC provides advice direct to the Government, publishes reports and makes recommendations for grants. Recent initiatives have included commissioning of disarmament educational resources for use in secondary schools, and independent research into small arms issues in South East Asia and the South Pacific.

Disarmament Education

Which brings me back to my earlier point about lack of general public interest. The need to harness education to reinforce disarmament and non-proliferation norms and institutions is, I believe, greater now than ever. Disarmament education is the responsibility of governments, international organisations and civil society and I am grateful for the contributions of groups like your own in stimulating further thinking and discussion and in keeping the message alive.

Disarmament happens at a very slow pace but some of the success stories like the Ottawa Landmine Ban Convention show that it does make the world a safer place. I and my MFAT officials in Wellington and at posts, particularly Geneva, Vienna and New York, will be continuing to work hard to ensure that New Zealand plays its part - through the United Nations system - in ridding the earth of weapons of mass destruction. Only through the total elimination of these weapons will we solve their proliferation risks once and for all.

© Scoop Media

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