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PM Address: Network for Nuclear Disarmament Forum

Rt Hon Helen Clark Prime Minister

Address at Parliamentary Network for Nuclear Disarmament Forum

Banquet Hall Beehive

9.00 am

Wednesday 8 December 2004

Thank you for the invitation to give the opening address at this forum: Parliamentarians, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and Nuclear Weapon Free Zones.

Parliamentarians worldwide have made a huge contribution to the cause of nuclear disarmament - and I especially commend the role played over the years by Parliamentarians for Global Action and now by the Parliamentary Network for Nuclear Disarmament.

Your work helps build support and momentum within governments for nuclear disarmament initiatives, such as the Nuclear Weapon Free Southern Hemisphere Initiative and the work of the New Agenda grouping of nations.

I also welcome you to New Zealand, a country that has long taken an active approach to disarmament issues.

New Zealand’s goal is to see the complete, verifiable, and irreversible elimination of weapons of mass destruction. This is a deeply held, long term, and consistent foreign policy priority.

I am told that New Zealand is the only country in the world with a Minister for Disarmament and Arms Control, Marian Hobbs, who will address you later this morning.

In conventional security terms, New Zealand is favoured by its geography, situated in the South Pacific, surrounded by a large ocean and friendly neighbours, and remote from the world’s major conflicts. Our region does have its tensions, but it is fair to say that the proliferation of small arms in parts of the Pacific would raise more concerns locally than nuclear proliferation.

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But a remote location would not insulate a nation from the effects of nuclear war. Indeed, had nuclear war ever broken out between the major powers, our way of life too would have been altered forever. That was a powerful motivation for our small country to add its voice to the call for the elimination of nuclear weapons.

New Zealand’s nuclear disarmament commitment

New Zealand’s advocacy for nuclear disarmament dates back many years.

During the height of the Cold War, in 1958, Prime Minister, Rt Hon Walter Nash, in his statement to the United Nations in New York, called for the negotiation of a multilateral treaty to ban nuclear testing. In 1959, New Zealand stood apart from its ANZUS partners to support UN resolutions calling for a treaty banning nuclear tests. New Zealand was among the first signatories of the Partial Nuclear Test Ban Treaty concluded in 1963.

Our stance on nuclear disarmament became synonymous with New Zealand’s forging of an independent foreign policy. A new direction developed, placing issues like disarmament, human rights, and engagement in peace-keeping at the forefront of foreign policy, rather than as an afterthought. New Zealanders overall have taken pride in seeing their country’s foreign policy express their values and our country’s pride in its independence of mind.

The key part nuclear disarmament plays in New Zealand’s foreign policy is consistent with our wider commitment to multilateral diplomacy, from our early involvement in the establishment of the United Nations, to our continuing support for a rules-based international order.

New Zealand is also part of the Asia-Pacific; the region which has experienced the only use of nuclear weapons in war, 59 years ago in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and which has been a nuclear weapons test zone for major powers. At the United Nations in 1963, the New Zealand representative Alistair McIntosh spoke eloquently on behalf of the region as “we who have seen the awesome glow in the sky”, expressing once again the region’s intense opposition to nuclear tests.

In 2001, I visited Hiroshima in Japan for the first time. After laying a wreath in the peace park, I visited the museum. Like everyone interested in nuclear issues I knew a great deal about what had transpired in Hiroshima in 1945. But that could not prevent the shock I felt from seeing the exhibits – the charred bicycle of a child, the fragments of a sandal found by a mother, and those terrible photos. As I left, I wrote in the visitors' book, "this must never happen again".

During the 1960s, New Zealand civil society’s concern about the nuclear testing in the Pacific became more evident. By the 1970s New Zealand was moved to speak out strongly against nuclear testing in the Pacific. A Royal New Zealand Navy vessel was sent to the vicinity of the test zone in French Polynesia in 1973, and again in 1995 when testing resumed after a lull of some years.

In 1973 New Zealand also took a case to the International Court of Justice to seek an end to atmospheric nuclear testing, building international pressure against France’s testing programmes in the Pacific. France stopped its atmospheric testing programme in 1974, and brought its underground test programme to an end in 1995.

New Zealand also strongly supported the United Nations General Assembly request to the International Court of Justice in 1994 for an advisory opinion on the legality of nuclear weapons.

We welcomed the historic ruling by the Court in 1996 that the threat or use of nuclear weapons was generally illegal, and that there exists an obligation “to pursue in good faith, and to bring to a conclusion, negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament in all its aspects under strict and effective international control”.

In 1987 New Zealand had passed legislation declaring the country to be nuclear free. We did so because of our belief in the immorality of nuclear weapons, and because we know that nuclear war would be a catastrophe for our planet. The Nuclear Free Zone, Disarmament, and Arms Control Act bans the entry of all nuclear weapons and nuclear powered vessels. It has enjoyed a consistently high level of public support since it was first introduced.

That Act of Parliament also implemented in New Zealand the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone, or Treaty of Rarotonga.

The Treaty of Rarotonga creates a nuclear free zone covering New Zealand, Australia, and the Pacific Island countries south of the equator. It entered into force in 1986, and has been ratified by all of the original Treaty States, demonstrating the strength of support for the eradication of nuclear weapons in our region.

The widespread support for the Rarotonga Treaty demonstrates how countries can further the nuclear disarmament cause within regions.

The question facing this forum is broad: How can regions work collectively to strengthen the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and display even more widespread solidarity for the eradication of nuclear weapons?

Nuclear Weapon Free Southern Hemisphere

The Nuclear Weapon Free Southern Hemisphere initiative is one possibility for progress.

This initiative envisages a time when all the nuclear weapon free zones in the Southern Hemisphere will have entered into force, providing a continuous zone free from nuclear weapons which extends over the southern half of the globe.

This goal may sound lofty, but it can be achieved, with continued momentum and support from all Southern Hemisphere states.

The Treaties of Rarotonga (for the South Pacific), Tlatelolco (for Latin America and the Caribbean), Bangkok (for South East Asia), and the Antarctic have already entered into force. The Treaty of Pelindaba for the African region has yet to enter into force. I urge all parliamentarians attending from that region to do your utmost in your home parliaments to bring the process of ratification forward.

This year at the United Nations General Assembly, New Zealand again had the pleasure of working with Brazil to promote the resolution entitled: “Nuclear-weapon-free southern hemisphere and adjacent areas”.

While it is disappointing that this resolution did not achieve consensus, it does have a very wide support base within the United Nations community. The negative votes come from those countries which are concerned that a nuclear weapon free southern hemisphere would impact on their rights to free passage on the high seas.

New Zealand has been, and remains, a strong supporter of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. We fully respect the rights that all states parties enjoy under that Convention, including the freedom of navigation on the high seas. We will continue to work with those states which have expressed reservations, in the hope that we may alleviate their concerns, and gain their support for our work in the Southern Hemisphere.

The work and progress on nuclear weapon free zones demonstrates that while some states continue to retain nuclear weapons, the majority of states remain determined to pursue a world which is free of nuclear weapons.

In this context, New Zealand welcomes Mexico’s initiative to organise a meeting on nuclear weapon free zones, scheduled to take place in 2005. We hope that this meeting will provide all participants with fresh thinking on ways to engage with those states which remain opposed to a Southern Hemisphere free of nuclear weapons.

We have also noted with interest the recommendation in the High Level Panel report on United Nations reform suggesting that peace efforts in the Middle East and South Asia could embrace nuclear disarmament talks. That could lead ideally to the establishment of nuclear weapon free zones in those regions, similar to those established for Latin America and the Caribbean, Africa, the South Pacific, and South-East Asia.

Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty

New Zealand has been active in initiatives around the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and its forthcoming review conference, we see the process around the Treaty providing excellent opportunities to promote fresh thinking on disarmament.

In March this year, we sponsored a seminar on weapons of mass destruction at the United Nations, run by the International Peace Academy.

We are looking at ways to contribute to the work of the Blix Commission on Weapons of Mass Destruction. We have made a commitment to fund a seminar or study in an area that the Commission identifies as directly relevant to its work on disarmament issues, such as verification.

We are also providing support for the work of the IAEA, both in the field of nuclear verification, and more specifically through our targeted contributions to the Nuclear Security Fund. This initiative aims to reduce the threat posed by terrorist access to nuclear materials.

We have just established a new funding programme to support New Zealand NGOs in their disarmament education work.

New Zealand works closely with its New Agenda colleagues from Brazil, Egypt, Ireland, Mexico, South Africa, and Sweden on nuclear disarmament issues.

Marian Hobbs will address you on the New Agenda proposals for disarmament and arms control. We believe that in its eight years of existence, the New Agenda has made a valuable contribution to nuclear disarmament, and we expect it to continue to play an active and constructive role at the NPT Review Conference in May 2005.

The New Agenda’s proposals have also been given impetus by the report of the High Level Panel on United Nations reform. On disarmament, it has recommended that the nuclear weapon states “must honour their commitments under Article VI of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons to move towards disarmament and be ready to take specific measures in fulfilment of those commitments”.

I am very conscious of the positive and valuable role parliamentarians have played in the increased support gained at the United Nations General Assembly this year by the New Agenda resolution: “Towards a nuclear weapons free world: accelerating the implementation of nuclear disarmament commitments”.

I urge this network of parliamentarians to keep up a high level of activity in the period leading up to the NPT Review Conference in May next year. Your support is crucial.

First and foremost, we need to keep before us the essential bargain that the NPT represents: that the five 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. We also need to see nations follow through on the commitments they made at the NPT Review Conference in 2000.

New Zealand is supportive of initiatives over the past two years to address proliferation concerns.

We are looking at ways to strengthen export controls on strategic goods.

We support work to extend the IAEA’s verification powers – 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 have expressed support for the Proliferation Security Initiative principles, and attended some meetings.

We have supported on going work in the IAEA on increasing security of radioactive sources.

We have continued work on bringing the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty into force through our core sponsorship of a resolution in the United Nations in New York, and our support of the Treaty’s Provisional Technical Secretariat in Vienna. We have completed our full complement of seven international monitoring stations in New Zealand, as part of the Treaty’s verification regime. We are also working with Pacific neighbours to establish and administer stations in Fiji, the Cook Islands and Kiribati.

We have contributed $1.2 million towards destruction of chemical weapons in the Russian Federation, under the G8 Global Partnership

And we have reported under UN Security Resolution 1540 on our implementation of this resolution.

But while we will willingly contribute to non proliferation and counter proliferation initiatives, those initiatives should be promoted alongside initiatives to secure binding commitments from those who have nuclear weapons which move us further towards the longer term goal of nuclear disarmament.


The world cannot afford to be complacent about the existence and threat of nuclear weapons. They are still with us and they are still dangerous. The fear of imminent Armageddon which frightened young people in the 1980s has passed for now. The urgency of the task seems to have been surpassed by the apparent immobility of national power politics. Yet the threat remains.

We are very aware of the need to work very hard in the lead up to and at the NPT review conference, to ensure that the central objective of disarmament remains to the fore, and is implemented.

We look forward to the continuing strong support and involvement of this network of parliamentarians in working for a nuclear free world.

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