Disarmament: Stalled Processes and Missed Opportunities: Phil Goff Comments on Disarmament Issues with Special Reference to the Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission Report and the Small Arms and Light Weapons Review Conference

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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 on-going deadlock in the Conference on Disarmament, the United Nations' 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.

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. Its report makes recommendations across four main areas needed to progress the weapons of mass destruction 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-proliferation. 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. 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 year's 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.

Other 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 Islands states to accede to the convention and meet their obligations. We are meeting our own obligations under the convention, including hosting nine inspection visits from OPCW to chemical facilities in New Zealand. …