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Hobbs: The Push For Peace

12 November 2004 Speech Notes

Hon Marion Hobbs 'The Push For Peace'

Inaugural Armistice Day symposium

Auckland War Memorial Museum, 10.15am, 12 November 2004

New Zealand's Disarmament Priorities

I am honoured to be giving the keynote address at this inaugural Armistice Day Symposium. The title of the Symposium - "the push for peace" - is I think particularly suitable. It makes it very clear just how much effort is involved in trying to attain our goal of peace.

My particular part of the push for peace takes place in the international arena, in my capacity as Minister for Disarmament and Arms Control.

To my knowledge New Zealand is currently the only country with a Minister for Disarmament. This fact is a cause for both considerable pride, and considerable frustration. It says a lot about both New Zealand's international policy priorities, and about the difficulties we face in achieving them.

New Zealand's goal remains as it has always been: the complete, verifiable, and irreversible elimination of weapons of mass destruction.

Weapons of Mass Destruction

The phrase "Weapons of Mass Destruction", and the acronym "WMD" have become almost common usage over the last couple of years. For a while we were hearing them in every news bulletin.

But we need to examine the term more closely. There are nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons of mass destruction. All three have quite different international treaties applying to them, and different verification and compliance regimes. Except in a general conceptual way (as in, "we want to eliminate weapons of mass destruction"), it is not particularly useful to group the three together.

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Nuclear weapons

The elimination of nuclear weapons has long been, and will continue to be, a prime focus of New Zealand's disarmament policy. More than a decade after the end of the Cold War, thousands of these weapons remain on hair-trigger alert and constitute a clear risk to world security.

The 1970 Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) remains the cornerstone of the nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation regime. [It is far from perfect - all multilateral agreements are necessarily compromises.]

Under the NPT, five states were recognised as possessing nuclear weapons at that time (the five Security Council permanent members, the US, UK, France, China, and Russia). The "grand bargain" of the NPT was that those five states (the nuclear weapons states) would work towards elimination of their nuclear arsenals, while other treaty members (the non-nuclear weapons states) agreed not to seek nuclear weapons, in return for guaranteed access to the benefits of peaceful nuclear technology.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) was given the job of verifying that NPT member states were meeting their commitments, and that nuclear material was not being diverted to weapons programmes. In disarmament jargon, the IAEA is the NPT's "verification mechanism". New Zealand has just finished a two-year term on the IAEA's Board of Governors.

The imperfections in NPT:

1. The path to disarmament was not made verifiable and neither was a timetable stipulated; and

2. Some states - most notably India, Pakistan, and Israel - did not sign on to the NPT. This meant that they were not constrained by it when they subsequently developed their own nuclear weapons.

3. And there is no agreed mechanism to sanction a nation that signs against nuclear weapons but does develop them / or a nation that develops new nuclear weapons.

The NPT system is clearly not perfect, but we should not forget that the Treaty was negotiated at a time, in the 1960s, when there were predictions that more than 20 countries would have nuclear weapons by the end of the century. That has not happened. Only eight states - the original five plus India, Pakistan and Israel outside the NPT - are known to have nuclear weapons. And the current fear in this world of heightened tensions and increasing technological ability is that the number of states with WMD might grow again. Some 10 countries can and do enrich uranium.

But no nuclear weapons have been used for almost sixty years. That is a result of the horror caused by the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. We must never forget that horror. This is what drives us in our efforts to remove nuclear weapons from the world.

So what is New Zealand actually doing now towards that goal?

In 1998 we joined other countries that are working vigorously toward a "new agenda for nuclear disarmament" to form the "New Agenda Coalition" of New Zealand, Sweden, Brazil, Egypt, Ireland, Mexico, and South Africa. The New Agenda group works within the multilateral disarmament framework to take joint action to keep nuclear disarmament at the forefront of international attention.

The nuclear disarmament provision of the Treaty is Article 6. Listen carefully. "Each of the Parties to the Treaty undertakes to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control."

That's it. That's the basis we have to fall back on in persuading the nuclear weapons states to eliminate their weapons. The intent is clear, but there is no timetable.

No state wants to give up its nuclear weapons. That is why we have to keep pushing. Most of our work is not dramatic. It takes place behind the scenes, as we push incrementally in committees, speeches, conferences, resolutions, to make it clear that the majority of the world wants nuclear disarmament and will not be diverted from that objective. You would think that we would be pushing at an open door. Regrettably, that is not the case. Despite all the risks, countries that possess nuclear weapons, most of which also have huge and sophisticated conventional arsenals, remain loathe to part with them.

The NPT has a major Review Conference every five years, to consider how to strengthen and advance the Treaty. At the 2000 Review Conference, the New Agenda Coalition played a considerable role in getting agreement to "13 practical steps toward nuclear disarmament", including "an unequivocal undertaking by the nuclear weapon states to accomplish the total elimination of their nuclear arsenals". This "unequivocal undertaking" is vitally important, and we will be seeking to build on it at the next Review Conference which is to be held in 2005.

The New Agenda runs resolutions on nuclear disarmament at the UN General Assembly. The resolutions have always passed with a large majority, but most NATO members (except Canada) have abstained. This year we have been very encouraged that the New Agenda resolution on nuclear disarmament has been supported by key NATO states such as Germany, Belgium, Norway, and Turkey, as well as by Japan, Korea, and Canada. We must hope that this support will translate into increased pressure on the nuclear weapon states to phase out their nuclear arsenals.

Just before this year's United Nations General Assembly, the Foreign Ministers of the seven New Agenda countries wrote a joint "op-ed" piece on nuclear disarmament, published in the International Herald Tribune. International Atomic Energy Agency Director General ElBaradei commented in a subsequent speech: "Striving for nuclear disarmament is not an idealistic march towards an unachievable Utopia. Just last month, seven prominent policy makers, the foreign ministers of Brazil, Egypt, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, South Africa and Sweden spoke out jointly, saying "today, we are more convinced than ever that nuclear disarmament is imperative for international peace and security.' They added, "Nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament are two sides of the same coin, and both must be energetically pursued.' I could not agree more. It is this type of leadership that is urgently needed."

New Zealand will continue to work with the other members of the New Agenda Coalition to keep nuclear disarmament at the forefront of the nuclear weapons debate.

I would like to pick up the New Agenda comment highlighted by Director General ElBaradei, that "nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament are two sides of the same coin, and both must be energetically pursued."

New Zealand has been concerned that nuclear disarmament is being ignored in the rush to prevent proliferation. In this current security environment we will need to work especially hard to ensure that the need for action toward nuclear disarmament is not overlooked.

However, we should also keep in mind that actions to prevent proliferation - both vertical and horizontal - are in New Zealand's interests. We do not want existing nuclear weapons states to develop new types of weapons. Nor do we want to see more states acquiring nuclear weapons. New Zealand is therefore participating actively in both existing systems and new initiatives to prevent proliferation. I will come back to this later.

Chemical weapons

Chemical weapons are governed by a totally different regime. The Chemical Weapons Convention, negotiated in the 1990s, outlaws chemical weapons completely for all states party to the treaty. The Convention sets deadlines for the complete destruction of existing chemical weapons stocks - most should be destroyed by 2012.

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), located in The Hague, is the "verification mechanism" for the Chemical Weapons Convention. Inspectors from the OPCW verify the destruction of existing chemical weapons, and also carry out short-notice randomly chosen inspections of facilities in states party to the Treaty to make sure its obligations are being complied with.

So what is New Zealand doing about chemical weapons?

We are playing our part in the treaty verification system. While New Zealand has never possessed or produced chemical weapons we do have facilities that use chemicals controlled by the treaty. So several New Zealand facilities have been inspected at short notice by the OPCW under these random verification provisions since the inception of the Treaty - and all have passed with flying colours. No surprise there.

In May we began our first two-year term on the OPCW's Executive Council, the governing body. Among the issues in which we will take a particularly close interest are the provisions for verification and inspection - we want to ensure these are as strong and effective as possible.

Biological Weapons

The 1975 Biological Weapons Convention prohibits biological and toxin weapons directed against animals and plants, as well as humans. Like the Chemical Weapons Convention, it bans an entire class of weapons for all states party to the Treaty.

However the Biological Weapons Convention has no verification mechanism. There is no way of checking whether states are keeping to their commitments not to develop biological weapons under the treaty. Negotiations on a verification mechanism fell apart in 2002, after some seven years of intensive work, to the great dismay of a majority of states.

Think about what would be required to verify fully that a state was not developing or stockpiling biological weapons. Biological weapons do not require a nuclear reactor, or a major chemical plant - they may need only a standard laboratory, an expert scientist, and a refrigerator. They are small and portable. To be sure that nothing was being hidden, international inspectors would need to be able, almost literally, to knock on any laboratory door and walk in. Their powers of inspection would need to be very intrusive.

New Zealand, and most other states, would have agreed to these intrusive powers for the sake of verification certainty. However, ultimately US and others' fears of losing commercial secrets carried the day, and negotiations collapsed. There seems almost no hope of reviving discussions on a legally binding verification mechanism for biological weapons in the near future.

New Zealand is therefore working with other like-minded states to put in place measures that might be helpful in the event that biological weapons were used or suspected, such as compiling a register of experts who could be called upon quickly. We will keep working on these issues, while continuing to push for negotiations to be resumed on a legally binding verification mechanism.

New issues and approaches to WMD

The world did change after the events of 11 September 2001. At least the international security environment did. Suddenly there was a new awareness by powerful nations that they were vulnerable - to conventional weapons and, even more, to WMD in the hands of non-state actors. The sense of threat was increased by the revelations about the AQ Khan network, as the extent of the "nuclear black market" became clear.

This galvanised a series of initiatives over the past two years and especially this year, designed to make it more difficult for terrorists to get their hands on WMD, or WMD-related materials:

- more stringent controls on exports of strategic goods;

- moves to encourage states to give the International Atomic Energy Agency stronger powers of inspection and verification, by acceding to the IAEA's Additional Protocol - in fact there are proposals to make this a condition for supply of nuclear materials;

- the Proliferation Security Initiative, designed to make it more difficult to transport WMD-related materials;

- the Global Threat Reduction Initiative, designed to help secure vulnerable radioactive sources, associated with ongoing work in the IAEA on security of radioactive sources;

- the G8 Global Partnership Against Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction, designed to secure existing WMD and related materials in the former Soviet Union, and destroy stockpiles of chemical weapons;

- and the most far-reaching, United Nations Security Council Resolution 1540 on non-proliferation, passed in April 2004.

All of these are essentially voluntary, except for Security Council Resolution 1540 which was passed by the UN Security Council under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter. This means that compliance with it is mandatory for all UN member states. The provisions are extraordinarily far reaching. States must put effective laws in place to control both domestic production and export of any WMD-related materials, to "prevent the proliferation of nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons and their means of delivery".

It seems a pity that the Security Council did not pass a sister resolution to 1540, declaring nuclear disarmament to be mandatory for all member states. However as the five NPT nuclear weapons states are the five Permanent Security Council members (with the veto), I suppose that is unlikely to happen in the near future.

New Zealand contributions

So what is New Zealand's attitude to this plethora of non-proliferation initiatives?

As I said earlier, non-proliferation is in New Zealand's interest. We do not want more states armed with WMD. In particular, we do not want non-state actors, groups outside the inter-national, inter-state treaty system, armed with WMD. We have, therefore:

- supported work to tighten export controls on strategic goods;

- supported the work to extend the IAEA's powers of verification - in fact, New Zealand has long held the view that all states should accede to the IAEA's Additional Protocol and that this should be a condition for supply of nuclear materials. We are delighted that others are now moving to this position.

- I would want that verification to extend to those states who assert they have begun disarmament, that they have blended down their Highly Enriched Uranium, that they have denatured their plutonium.

- Expressed support for the principles of the Proliferation Security Initiative, and taken part in some meetings;

- Supported ongoing work in the IAEA on increasing security of radioactive sources and contributed $45,000 to the IAEA's Nuclear Security Fund;

- Continued work toward bringing the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty into force;

- Contributed $1.2 million towards the destruction of chemical weapons under the G8 Global Partnership; -- in Russia - a former chemical weapons plant

- Cooperated fully with UN Security Council Resolution 1540. New Zealand has just filed its first report on implementation of 1540, on time in New York. We expect there will be more work to come on this.

While we support the work to stop WMD proliferation and increase security, New Zealand will continue to work to make sure that the spotlight is kept on nuclear disarmament issues. As the New Agenda ministerial statement said, we see nuclear non-proliferation and nuclear disarmament as two sides of the same coin. We will pursue both energetically.

One useful aspect of this changed security environment is that debate about disarmament and non-proliferation issues has been newly galvanised.

Commission on Weapons of Mass Destruction

The Swedish Government, on the initiative of the late Foreign Minister Anna Lindh, has made the significant contribution of sponsoring an independent Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission, chaired by Hans Blix, formerly head of UNMOVIC.

This Commission is considering the wider vexed questions around how to control WMD such as, what is to be done about those states like India, Pakistan, and Israel that remain outside the nuclear non-proliferation treaty system? The Commission will issue a final report in early 2006. New Zealand will contribute to the Commission's work by funding, probably, a seminar and study on verification issues.

New Zealand has consistently advocated that verification mechanisms for multilateral disarmament agreements should be the strongest possible. We are perfectly willing to accept intrusive inspections at short notice, as long as the provisions are the same for all. Only strong verification can reassure nations that their neighbours are not arming, and give them enough confidence to disarm themselves.

IAEA Expert group

Another think-tank report being awaited with great interest is that of the group of experts set up by IAEA Director General ElBaradei to talk about sensitive aspects of the nuclear fuel cycle. The NPT guarantees the right of non-nuclear weapons states to nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.

However, if a country develops, for peaceful purposes, a full nuclear fuel cycle including enrichment and reprocessing, then it potentially has access to weapons-grade uranium and plutonium for use in nuclear weapons.

How can others be guaranteed that the nuclear programme is for peaceful purposes?

This is essentially the dilemma the international community is facing with Iran's nuclear programme at present. Should enrichment and reprocessing facilities be placed under multilateral control? How would this square with the NPT guarantees? The expert group's report is due in March 2005.

Conference on Disarmament

In February 2005, New Zealand will take over the Presidency of the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva, for a month. The Conference on Disarmament is meant to be the United Nations' main negotiating body on disarmament. It was the forum for negotiations on the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (yet to come into force) and the Chemical Weapons Convention. For the last eight years, however, its work has been shamefully blocked by a vehement disagreement about what to focus its negotiations on.

Recently, though, there have been some hopeful signs of a thaw. It may soon be possible to at least begin discussions about the scope of a treaty for nations to cease production of fissile material - material that can be used to make nuclear weapons. Such a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty would be a major advance for our collective security. We will certainly do all in our power to push for negotiations to begin.

Conventional Weapons

If it's hard to get multilateral agreement on controlling weapons of mass destruction possessed by only a few countries, it's almost impossible to get agreement on controlling conventional weapons, possessed by almost all.

But hard as it is, it's being done, and New Zealand is taking an active role.

One area in which most governments can agree that some action is necessary is controlling illicit trade in small arms and light weapons. This is the focus of the UN Firearms Protocol, and the UN Programme of Action on Small Arms. Negotiations are currently underway towards an agreement on marking and tracing small arms so that weapons' movement across borders can be more easily tracked.

Another area where governments have been able to agree on action is where weapons or their remnants create particularly bad humanitarian problems for civilian populations returning to their homes after a conflict.

For instance, anti-personnel landmines. The majority of UN member states have now signed on to the Ottawa Convention, which bans anti-personnel mines. The first five-yearly Review Conference of the Ottawa Convention will be held in Nairobi at the end of this month. As you would expect, New Zealanders - both the government and the New Zealand Campaign Against Landmines - are active in this Convention. New Zealand is currently an office-holder and will be a co-Chair next year. We will continue to push for all states to become members of the Convention.

Work on the mines issue continues: negotiations are underway at present in Geneva on "Mines Other Than Anti-Personnel Mines". While there is at present no question of gaining agreement to ban these anti-vehicle mines, useful work is being done on how it might be possible to ensure that these AVMs cannot be set off by a person walking across them, perhaps by reducing the sensitivity of fuses. Discussions are also covering issues like whether it might be possible to specify mines that self-deactivate after a certain time, or specify that minefields must be marked, mapped and recorded in detail.

Work concluded just last year in Geneva (under the happily-named "Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons") on a Protocol on Explosive Remnants of War. Among other things this Protocol provides that countries which have used explosives in a conflict should, afterward, provide details of what was used and where, in order to help with disposal. This straightforward provision, which New Zealand pushed hard to have included, may in the end have major humanitarian effects. Just how effective it is will depend largely on how many countries ratify the Protocol. This will be the next thing we will need to push for.

This painstaking, determined, dogged work continuing in committee rooms in Geneva may well save many lives. New Zealand will continue to take an active, persuasive and above all principled role.


I hope that I have been able to give you a sense of how the New Zealand Government is "pushing for peace" in multilateral disarmament forums, and some of the issues that are out there. I am very aware that our work is just one aspect of what needs to be done if we are to achieve true peace.

At a celebration with Sonja Davies two nights ago, Helen Clark noted that without the leadership, the community education, the films and speeches and debates of the peacemakers in New Zealand - we politicians would not have a mandate.

I would here like to pay tribute to those non-government organisations and people who are working without pay, year in and year out, to keep disarmament issues to the forefront, to educate people - especially young people - about them, and to maintain pressures on foreign governments to keep up disarmament momentum. I am pleased that the government has now been able to provide additional funding of $150,000 per year to assist this work. Keep pushing: in a multilateral system in which New Zealand has but one voice, your contribution is essential for eventual success.

I will conclude by quoting a recent speech by IAEA Director General ElBaradei. "Insecurity breeds proliferation. It is instructive that nearly all nuclear proliferation concerns arise in regions of longstanding tension. In other words, nuclear proliferation is a symptom, and the patient cannot ultimately be cured as long as we leave unaddressed the underlying causes of insecurity and instability - such as regional rivalries, the chronic lack of good governance, the divide between rich and poor, and cultural schisms based on ethnic, racial or religious differences."


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