UN Security Council Open Debate: Non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Preventing catastrophe: A global agenda for stopping the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction by non-State actors

Ministry Statements & Speeches:

  • Peace, Rights and Security
Statement as delivered by Hon. Murray McCully, Minister of Foreign Affairs of New Zealand, 15 December 2016

Mr President, Foreign Minister Dastis, Mr Deputy Secretary-General, Ministers, Excellencies.

We start by congratulating Spain for its leadership of the 1540 Committee and our common effort to ensure that the non-proliferation regime the Committee oversees is able to respond to today’s challenges.

My country has a long and proud record of activism in relation to the threat and risks of nuclear weapons. We have long understood what it would mean for the world, even in our remote part of the Pacific, if the doctrine of mutually assured destruction is carried to its illogical conclusion.

We have seen the effects – security, health, environmental and social - of the testing of nuclear weapons in the South Pacific.  We knew that those threats and risks would multiply if the numbers of parties possessing nuclear weapons were to grow.

Put simply, our safety and security, and the safety and security of most UN members, depend on the effectiveness of international efforts to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction. 

These are the reasons why New Zealand was and remains a staunch supporter of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, even as we lament the failure of Nuclear Weapons States to live up to their commitments to pursue negotiations on nuclear disarmament. 

They are also the reasons why New Zealand is a strong supporter of the 1540 regime which seeks to address the risks of terrorists and other Non-State Actors acquiring nuclear weapons, chemical weapons and other weapons of mass destruction.

And they are the reasons why we have supported the efforts led by Spain to upgrade and expand the 1540 regime to make it more efficient and responsive to today’s realities.

We are disappointed that some Council members, some Permanent Members, have limited the full realisation of what had been proposed.

Today, the materials, expertise and technology relating to weapons of mass destruction are more accessible than ever before.

The Internet readily provides to anyone information previously held in closed scientific and military communities.

3-D printers mean that specialised equipment can be developed anywhere, and store or online bought drones can provide the means of delivery for a WMD attack.

Terrorist organisations such as ISIL have acquired the materials and know-how to manufacture chemical weapons and have used them in combat. This was one of the very threats that the 1540 regime was set up to prevent.

We need to consider how we can curb such developments while also being ready to deal with new proliferation risks as they emerge – as they surely will. This requires both early action and sustained commitment over the long term.

One of the frustrations we have encountered during our time on the Council – and one we met again in negotiations on today’s resolution – is the extraordinary aversion of some Council members to ideas that would seem like simple common sense in any other context.

We, as a Council, are worried about the risk of weapons of mass destruction falling into the hands of terrorists or would be terrorists. 

We know that one of those risks arises where a state may not have the systems or the capabilities to deal with the threat and would benefit from more active cooperation. 

Yet, we were unable to endorse in the resolution the simple proposition that this Council might take the initiative to offer such cooperation through the 1540 Committee. 

I understand the objection is that such an offer might be construed an inconsistent with State sovereignty or an unwarranted intrusion into the internal affairs of the state concerned.

That is very frustrating. If the Council continues to constrain itself with such overly sensitive notions of sovereignty and non-interference, it risks becoming increasingly ineffective and irrelevant.

Such an attitude is seriously at odds with the many strong calls, including by the Secretary-General elect, for a much greater emphasis on prevention.

An issue of particular importance to New Zealand in today’s resolution is the acknowledgement that a risk-based approach is appropriate when considering the implementation of the 1540 regime.

Our Pacific region is nuclear free and strongly committed to preventing the spread of these weapons.  But the Small Island Developing States of the region do not produce or export sensitive materials so the proliferation risk in their cases is low.

Pacific SIDS countries also have small administrations with limited capacity to enact and implement complex 1540 legislative requirements, which are often not directly relevant to them.

We recognise that mandatory Council resolutions must apply to all Member States and that, in the case of the 1540 regime, our non-proliferation efforts are only as good as the weakest link in the chain.

But it is neither sensible nor realistic to impose the same administrative and reporting burdens on a country like Tuvalu or Nauru –countries with populations of 10,000 people, with no shared borders or proliferation-sensitive industries – as we do on much larger countries such as France or the UK, Ukraine or Egypt, or even Uruguay or New Zealand.

We are pleased today’s resolution urges the Committee to prioritise efforts towards specific risks and towards countries and regions that are the most vulnerable to proliferation.

New Zealand restates its commitment to global disarmament and non-proliferation efforts and our support for the 1540 regime. 

We have been active in helping our Pacific Island partners understand and implement their obligations. We have been a strong advocate of working through regional bodies such as the Pacific Islands Forum and we stand ready to continue to play our part over the long-term.

In conclusion, Mr President, we commend Spain for today’s debate and its work to make the Council’s non-proliferation regime more effective.


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