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Goff Speech - Wgtn. UN Association on disarmament

Speech to Wellington branch of the UN Association on disarmament

Disarmament Minister Phil Goff's address to the Wellington branch of the New Zealand United Nation Association on disarmament, focusing on the Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission Report, and the UN Small Arms and Light Weapons Review Conference.

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Thank you for your invitation to address the New Zealand United Nation Association tonight on disarmament. I want tonight to focus on two main issues, the Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission Report, and the Small Arms and Light Weapons Review Conference.

Disarmament and non-proliferation have long been key elements of New Zealand's foreign policy agenda.

We have looked to the multilateral system to further our disarmament and non-proliferation agenda. We are active in the United Nations, particularly in forums such as the Conference on Disarmament and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and in other organisations such as the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organisation, the Organisation for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons and the four export control regimes.

Through a combination of complacency and lack of political will, however, the process of disarmament has stalled. The lack of outcome from last year's NPT Review Conference, the absence of any reference to disarmament in the UN High level Leaders Summit Outcome document and the ongoing deadlock in the Conference on Disarmament, the UN's disarmament negotiating body, are indications of the general malaise that currently exists in the disarmament arena. The recent Small Arms and Light Weapons Review Conference ended without agreement or progress.

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WMD Commission Report

On 1 June the Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission issued a report entitled 'Weapons of Terror - Freeing the World of Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Arms'.

The Commission, led by Dr Hans Blix, former head of UNMOVIC and the IAEA, was tasked with investigating ways of reducing dangers from weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery.

The Commission report makes recommendations across four main areas needed to progress the WMD agenda. These are: the need to agree on general principles of action; to reduce the danger of present arsenals; to prevent proliferation; and to work towards outlawing all weapons of mass destruction.

New Zealand is supportive of all efforts to achieve progress towards the eradication of all weapons of mass destruction.

We are currently undertaking detailed consideration of the report and its recommendations.

Nuclear Weapons

Half of the recommendations made in the report address issues concerning nuclear disarmament and non-proliferations. Most are consistent with New Zealand policy.

For instance, we have consistently called on all states to adhere to the principles of the NPT. We support efforts to phase out use of highly enriched uranium where possible in favour of low-enriched uranium. We would like to see negotiations begin in the Conference on Disarmament on a fissile material cut-off treaty (FMCT). We support measures to ensure that nuclear material is secure and does not end up in the hands of terrorist organisations.

Entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) remains a key goal for New Zealand and we are active in the development of the Treaty's verification regime. New Zealand is host to seven monitoring stations that form part of the Treaty's verification network and funding has been obtained in this years budget to facilitate the establishment of a fully-functional National Data Centre as part of these efforts.

In practical terms, New Zealand is already contributing to the G8 Global Partnership Elimination of Weapons-Grade Plutonium Production (EWGPP) programme, which is one of the report's recommendations. New Zealand contributions are being put towards the establishment of alternative power options in Zheleznogorsk so that the last Russian plutonium producing nuclear reactor, which provides critical heat and electricity for two closed Siberian cities, can be decommissioned.

Chemical Weapons

The Commission calls for universal compliance with and effective implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention and for the speedy destruction of chemical weapons stocks. New Zealand is contributing to these aims by encouraging and supporting Pacific Island states to accede to the Convention and meet their obligations.

We are meeting our own obligations under the Convention, including hosting 9 inspection visits from OPCW to chemical facilities in New Zealand.

We are providing financial support for the G8 Global Partnership project for the destruction of chemical weapons in Russia. We have to date contributed $1.9 million towards building a facility to destroy stockpiles of chemical weapons in Shchuch'ye in Siberia.

Biological Weapons

The report notes that the need for cooperation to ensure the threats from biological and toxin weapons are eliminated are more urgent than ever due to advances in the life sciences and biotechnology, the lack of any verification or investigative powers in the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention and poor implementation of the treaty domestically by many states.

It calls for universal compliance with, and effective implementation of, the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention, improved cooperation between industry, scientists and governments to reinforce the ban on the development and production of biological weapons and the need to be cognisant of developments in biotechnology.

These elements are consistent with existing New Zealand policy and we will be working towards these goals in the lead up to, and during the Sixth BWC Review Conference later this year (20 November - 8 December 2006).

The Role of the UN

The report notes with some regret that all three of the main components that comprise the UN's disarmament machinery, the UN Disarmament Commission, the First Committee of the UN General Assembly and the Conference on Disarmament, are "plagued to different degrees by political obstacles and blockages".

To address these problems, it makes three recommendations regarding the role of the United Nations in preventing the spread of weapons of mass destruction.

Firstly, it calls for the Conference on Disarmament to be allowed to adopt its Programme of Work by a qualified majority of two-thirds of members present.

Secondly it recommends that the UN General Assembly convene a World Summit on disarmament, non-proliferation and terrorist use of weapons of mass destruction.

Thirdly it states that the UN Security Council should make greater use of its potential to reduce and eliminate threats of weapons of mass destruction.

As a strong advocate of multilateralism, New Zealand supports any efforts that would result in a more conducive environment to achieve progress on disarmament and non-proliferation issues. We are supportive of the UN Security Council taking a greater role in reducing and eliminating threats of weapons of mass destruction.

We have consistently expressed our frustration that the Conference on Disarmament has been unable to fulfil its mandate for the past decade. As the sole UN negotiating body on disarmament this has blocked progress on the broader disarmament agenda.

To address these problems, New Zealand joined other countries that undertook an initiative at last year's UN General Assembly First Committee to establish ad hoc committees to progress the work of the Conference on Disarmament. While the group did not table its draft resolution on this initiative last year, there was agreement to revisit this initiative at this year's First Committee if it was assessed that sufficient movement had not been made in CD.

Adopting a Programme of Work by a qualified two-thirds majority has its merits and could result in work getting underway in the Conference on Disarmament. However, such an initiative could also mean that key states are not engaged, and therefore not committed to the work of the Conference.

The call for a World Summit on disarmament and non-proliferation is an interesting prospect and worth further consideration. For such an event to be successful it will be important, however, that there is broad international support for the meeting. We will continue to monitor developments on this point closely.

Role of civil society

The report highlights the important role that civil society has to play in the elimination of weapons of mass destruction. The report notes that NGOs have at times "exercised a tangible influence on official decisions in the direction of eliminating WMD, while also preventing new acquisitions, technical development and additional deployments and testing".

The report recommends that states should assist NGO's to actively participate in international meetings and conferences, and to inform and campaign in the weapons of mass destruction field. It also notes that the 2002 UN Study on Disarmament and Non-Proliferation Education should be re-examined and consideration given to ways to foster and support education and an informed public debate.

New Zealand is already active in this regard. The Peace and Disarmament Education Trust (PADET) set up in 1998 to "advance education and thereby promote international peace, arms control and disarmament" makes one-off grants, and provides scholarships for postgraduate research. The Disarmament Education United National Implementation Fund (DEUNIF) is intended to implement the recommendations of the 2002 UN Study on Disarmament and Non-Proliferation Education and activities funded include ongoing core funding for NGOs that implement at least one of the recommendations in the UN study.

It has also been standard practice to include NGO representatives in official delegations to key disarmament meetings; most recently three NGOs were part of the official delegation to the Review Conference on Small Arms and Light Weapons.

The New Zealand Government has consistently supported the work of peace and disarmament NGOs in New Zealand. NGOs have an important role in raising public awareness of these key issues and their untiring work in this regard is much appreciated. We look forward to working with civil society in New Zealand to achieve greater progress towards a world free of weapons of mass destruction.

Small Arms and Light Weapons Review Conference

A major event on this year's disarmament calendar was the first Review Conference on the Programme of Action (PoA) to combat the Illicit Trade on Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW). This took place at UN Headquarters in New York from 26 June to 7 July.

The PoA was adopted by consensus at a conference on 2001. It sets out a wide range of measures at national, regional and global levels to tackle the growing problems caused by illicit firearms. It does not have the force of a legally binding treaty, but nevertheless serves as a strong political statement of the international community's recognition of the small arms problem, and its determination to do something about it.

As many as 1,000 people die every day from gunshot wounds. The toll on families, communities and indeed economies is enormous. Kofi Annan has called SALW "weapons of mass destruction in slow motion": they kill more people every year than the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki together.

The global trade in small arms is estimated to be worth about US$4 billion, of which a quarter is considered illicit or is not recorded as required by law. Even these figures are approximate, since many countries do not provide full information on their arms trade.

New Zealand went to the Conference hoping that it would agree on a strategy to move ahead on implementation of the Programme. New Zealand is a country that already broadly complies with the Programme. We have also worked to promote adherence to its neighbouring Pacific Island states.

We knew that a conference on this scale required a focused approach. We had been involved in preparatory discussions at the UN on the draft outcome document. It was a large document with several potentially difficult provisions for some states. Most states had, however, generally welcomed the draft as a good starting point.

New Zealand's priorities were first, to build support for transfer controls on SALW trade. We had already been active in support of the Transfer Control Initiative, launched by the UK. In April we had taken part in a small drafting group that met in Nairobi to develop the text of some global guidelines for transfer controls at the national level. These would link exports of SALW to certain criteria, such as the recipient country's international law record, current conflict situations, or human rights issues.

Secondly we sought to build support for the concept of an Arms Trade Treaty. This is a more ambitious goal than the TCI because it involves a legally binding treaty and would cover all conventional weapons, not just small arms and light weapons. Again, an important goal would be to prevent weapons going to states that should not possess them. The UK, which has the lead role on an ATT, had acknowledged that the RevCon would not be the venue for any final decision on the initiative.

Thirdly we set out to ensure that the outcome took account of small arms concerns in the Pacific. New Zealand together with Australia has worked on a number of initiatives to support the implementation of the PoA in the Pacific. Research shows that gun-related problems in the region stem mainly from "leakage" of weapons from licit sources (rather than from illicit trade across borders), so we have assisted with weapons destruction, armoury security, training in firearms safety etc. The Forum Regional Security Committee, meeting a week before the RevCon, endorsed a set of recommendations to the New York meeting, which reflected the particular priorities of the region.

The meeting was not well organised. The general debate that should have lasted 2 days took 6. There was no provision for separate drafting committees to get on with work on the outcome document while that went on. When negotiations finally got under way, major difference that had been signalled earlier became more entrenched.

At the end of the 2-week conference, including some protracted negotiating sessions that lasted up to 18 hours, many paragraphs in the draft document remained in dispute. When time ran out as UN interpreters downed tools on the evening of Friday 7 July, the formal outcome was a 2-line report informing the General Assembly that the Conference was unable to reach agreement on an outcome document.

This was a bad outcome. The Review Conference was the first opportunity to take stock of what has been achieved since the international community committed itself in 2001 to take action on the growing problems caused globally by small arms and light weapons falling into the wrong hands. Governments and many non-governmental organisations had expected to see that momentum strengthened by this meeting.

No single issue caused the failure. Various countries had various intractable objections to text in the draft document.

India, Pakistan, Iran, Egypt, Venezuela and Cuba rejected references to the need for global guidelines on transfer controls.

Barbados and other Caribbeans would not have any reference to the impact of SALW on development.

Iran and the US opposed language on weapons supply to non-state actors.

The US refused to agree to any new UN meetings on the PoA, including another Review Conference in 2012.

Other disputed topics were international controls on civilian possession; controls on ammunition, strengthening of end-user certificates, and controls on illegal weapons manufacture.

There were some positives.
Nobody tried to undermine the provisions of the PoA as it stands and there was solid re-commitment to it.

The conference did serve to bring SALW issues back to the attention of the international community. 192 states were represented.

A growing majority of states - at least 115 - spoke out in support of work on global transfer controls. By the end of the Conference the UK had actually succeeded in negotiating a consensus text on that specific issue. Other differences prevented its adoption, but it could provide the foundation for future progress.

Over 40 states also supported the concept of an ATT.

Several Pacific states addressed the meeting and presented a collective statement of the issues of particular concern to the region.

Where to now? Further UN action on SALW will be possible at the UN General Assembly First Committee, where New Zealand usually cosponsors a Japanese resolution. An important issue needing GA approval is follow-up to the Review Conference.

A new Group of Governmental Experts on brokering is due to start work at the UN in November.

At openended working group has been proposed by Canada at the Review Conference, funded by voluntary contributions led by it and Switzerland. If approved by the GA, this is likely to meet next May and would pick up the discussion on transfer controls specifically.

The Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) is a separate and broader issue. The UK still plans to try for a First Committee resolution this year, providing for the establishment of a Governmental Group of Experts to work on a mandate for drafting an ATT. NZ has clearly registered its interest in an ATT and we will be continuing to promote support for it.

The Review Conference: the Small Arms Conference was a missed opportunity. It might have achieved more had it been better organised; and at the time free of other distractions like DPRK missile testing and the deteriorating situation in the Middle East.

But the PoA remains unchallenged and New Zealand will continue to work for progress in the key areas where we believe it could be strengthened to deliver a more effective regime for the control of illicit SALW trade.

SAWL is an area where collective action offers real prospect of reducing suffering/hardship/wastage. New Zealand remains committed to implementing the PoA as it stands, as well as to the Transfer Control Initiative and the related Arms Trade Treaty.

We also continue to see promise in regional cooperation on the PoA. Dangerous security situations within our own region such as Timor Leste, Solomon Islands and Bougainville could have been much more tragic but for the progress achieved in removing and destroying firearms from their communities.

I would like to finish by again recognising the major part that civil society has played in mobilising the UN to action on the small arms issue. This reflects the anguish that results from the illicit and uncontrolled use of these weapons. The New Zealand delegation to the Review Conference was strengthened by the participation of 3 different NGO representatives. The Government looks forward to continuing this kind of cooperation. We thank UNANZ for the valuable role you play in keeping the positive achievements of the United Nations before us.


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