Informal Meeting of the General Assembly to mark the Observance of the International Day against Nuclear Tests: Towards Zero: Resolving the Contradictions

Ministry Statements & Speeches:

Thank you very much Dina and thank you to all the panellists for your very thoughtful and thought-provoking contributions. New Zealand is very pleased to take part in today’s fifth International Day Against Nuclear Testing.

We pay tribute to Kazakhstan and my friend Ambassador Kairat Abdrakhmanov and also to Karipbek Kuyukov for your presence today. I really think you brought home to us, in a way the pictures never will, the realities we are all dealing with.

When we look back on the 70 years since the dawn of the nuclear age, it is important to remember that, at its inception, the splitting of the atom seemed to herald an age of great promise. Our ability to unleash the power of the atom seemed to presage the opportunity for a step change in human development.

Sadly, that has not proved to be the case. Even the peaceful uses of nuclear energy have been a mixed blessing at best – as events at Fukushima, at Chernobyl and at Three Mile Island have demonstrated. Meanwhile, our world is still struggling to deal with the consequences of over-reliance on fossil fuels.

On the military side, the picture is much darker. Others have already told us, reminded us, of the 200+ tests conducted between 1961 and 1984 – as nuclear arsenals grew to the point where they ceased to serve any rational military purpose. Meanwhile, the environments in which tests were conducted were severely compromised, with grave consequences for their inhabitants.

My friend Makurita Baaro has reminded us of the reality of the Pacific where some of the most vulnerable small communities in the world had their security compromised in the development of weapons for a northern hemisphere deterrent.

These horrible realities were pivotal in convincing the people of the Pacific that nuclear weapons have no place in our future.

They were a major part of New Zealand’s efforts and others in the Pacific to push for a comprehensive test ban and also to push for the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty in 1985, and in New Zealand’s decision to pass our own New Zealand Nuclear Free Zone and Disarmament Act - legislation which has come to occupy a special position in our national and international identity.

New Zealand and everyone else in this room was deeply pleased when the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty was finally adopted after many years of resolutions passed in the First Committee of the United Nations. It seemed to us that we were making progress towards one of the greatest, most important disarmament goals we had established through the period of the 1970s, 80s and 90s. We remain deeply frustrated therefore that the Convention has not come into force.

We recognise and acknowledge those nuclear weapon states – declared and undeclared - who have refrained from testing since the Treaty’s adoption. But as the DPRK’s tests have shown voluntary moratoria are no substitute for a legally-binding treaty.

Meanwhile, a few months ago we saw another failure in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty review conference process.

It is a sad reflection on our times that that failure barely scratched the public consciousness. Meanwhile, the deadlock on the conference of disarmament has become so enduring that it no longer any warrants any comment by the international media.

Yet, as Dr. Ira Helfand has reminded us the realities of nuclear weapons and their use are hugely important.

We must not be complacent and must continue to press for a legally binding end to nuclear testing and we must press for further progress towards nuclear disarmament.

And in this respect Rose I would gently disagree with you. There are deep contradictions in having a nuclear arsenal for one security that compromises the security of others and that is the contradiction which we must continue to work on.


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