Delivered by Craig J. Hawke, Permanent Representative of the New Zealand Permanent Mission to the United Nations in New York, 26 September 2019

New Zealand is a staunch and long-standing advocate for nuclear disarmament.

We can trace our commitment to this cause back beyond half a century, to a period of sustained nuclear testing in the Pacific.  This caused widespread damage to a peaceful corner of the globe and to many of its inhabitants; none of whom had any stake in the waging of a nuclear war.

These tests – as we now know – brought with them unthinkable human and environmental costs.

This terrible chapter in history united our region in its support for a nuclear weapon-free zone, and for a legally-binding end to the era of nuclear testing; an ambition that today remains unrealised.

New Zealand deeply regrets the refusal of eight states to join the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test Ban Treaty.

These decisions have undoubtedly contributed to the malaise which has spread across nuclear disarmament efforts more generally.

New Zealand is deeply troubled at the current state of multilateral efforts to advance nuclear disarmament.
Ahead of its half-centenary next year, we ought to be celebrating the achievements of the NPT, not bemoaning a lack of progress under its nuclear disarmament pillar. Accordingly, we have welcomed recent efforts to inject momentum into our discussions, to explore what dividends may be possible at next year’s NPT Review Conference.

As a disarmament community, we can point to some positive advances on nuclear disarmament in recent years. 

The Treaty on the Prohibition on Nuclear Weapons adopted in 2017, prohibited this category of weapon for the first time, significantly strengthening the norm against any use of nuclear weapons.

As a member of the Core Group of supporters, New Zealand will continue to work closely – including with our valued civil society partners – to advance the Treaty and give reality to its object and purpose.   

Reinforcing these efforts, we are fortunate that Secretary-General Guterres has so vocally supported the pursuit of concrete disarmament outcomes.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Secretary-General, and his very able team – led by High Representative Izumi Nakamitsu – for placing themselves at the vanguard of the disarmament movement.

Finally in closing, allow me to challenge those who say our disarmament commitments were made at a different time; that they must now be adjusted in light of increasingly complex political and security circumstances.

To those naysayers, I ask you to cast your eyes back to the height of the Cold War when the “Grand Bargain” at the core of the NPT was struck.

Or to the drafters of the joint statements by US President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev that “a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought”.

It would be a disservice to the authors of those important achievements to suggest they came about because they were living in ‘simpler times’. 

Such a view would seem to forestall any serious effort to improve the global security situation.  And it certainly could undermine efforts to secure the future of the NPT.

Fortunately, meetings, such as ours here today, are evidence of the opposite point of view: of the belief that we can – and must - move forward toward the elimination of nuclear weapons and improved global security for all.      

Thank you, Mr President.