United Nations General Assembly: High Level Plenary Meeting to Commemorate and Promote the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons

Ministry Statements & Speeches:

Statement delivered by Director - United Nations, Human Rights and Commonwealth Division, Ms. Angela Hassan-Sharp

Mr. President,

In 1945, nuclear weapons were used in armed conflict for the first and only time. 355,000 people were killed in Hiroshima and Nagasaki by two nuclear bombs.

The scale of destruction and trauma inflicted on the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was unspeakable - leaving those communities with the burden of intergenerational devastation and harm.

Our own region – the Pacific – still bears the scars of decades of nuclear testing. The tests dislocated communities and forced people from their lands and traditional ways, causing immense and inter-generational harm to human health and the environment.

Indeed, it was this terrible chapter in history that united our region in its support for a nuclear weapon-free zone, and why Aotearoa New Zealand has advocated so strongly for a world free of nuclear weapons ever since.

And yet, despite all our progress - we now seem as far as ever from a world without nuclear weapons.

If anything, we are in real danger of moving backwards.

Today, we are witnessing the modernisation of nuclear arsenals, alongside the development of new types of nuclear weapons and signs of a renewed arms race – a far cry from what is enshrined under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Meanwhile, experts tell us the risk of nuclear weapon use has increased dramatically. So, too, has the dangerous rhetoric and exercises threatening such use.

For all the progress that we as an international community have made – our ambitions for a world free of nuclear weapons are still to be realised.

New Zealand was deeply disappointed by Russia’s decision to block a consensus outcome at the 10th Review Conference of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. This failure was unacceptable, coming at the very time that cooperation on nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation was most needed.

Progress on disarmament cannot be deferred any longer, whatever other challenges we are facing nationally, regionally or as an international community.

There are concrete actions that can be taken.

New Zealand remains a steadfast supporter of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test Ban Treaty. The Treaty’s adoption in 1996 was a clear statement of our shared determination to end nuclear testing – and as the threat posed by nuclear weapons continues to rise, we urge those still outside the treaty to sign and ratify it. We welcome those six states including Tuvalu and Timor-Leste that ratified the Treaty last week.

New Zealand’s strong support for nuclear disarmament is also reflected in our support for the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which entered into force in 2021. The Treaty has an important role to play in strengthening international humanitarian law and the global norm against nuclear weapons. We welcome the new seven states that have joined the Teaty and we urge all countries to join.

The credibility of the nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation regime remains at a critical juncture. There can and must be a different trajectory.

But in order to course correct, we need urgent leadership and renewed commitment from all states. New Zealand remains steadfast in its commitment to achieving this.

Thank you.


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