Opening Remarks to the Public Advisory Committee for Disarmament and Arms Control (PACDAC) Parliamentary Symposium

  • Rt Hon Winston Peters
Deputy Prime Minister Disarmament and Arms Control Foreign Affairs

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Honourable Ministers, Members of Parliament, members of the diplomatic corps, distinguished guests and official delegates, ladies and gentlemen – Welcome to you all.

We are also privileged to have with us here today Ms Izumi Nakamitsu, the United Nations High Representative for Disarmament Affairs to New Zealand, and the United Nations Secretary-General’s foremost adviser on disarmament.  Ms Nakamitsu has travelled from New York to share her insights and speak with us on these important issues.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. And with the 2020 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference next month in New York, this Symposium offers an important opportunity to reflect on the state of nuclear disarmament around the globe.  

We are pleased to host this event here in New Zealand’s Parliament – the very place where we adopted ground-breaking legislation to create a nuclear-free New Zealand, over 30 years ago.   

Although the adoption of this legislation settled the nuclear issue for New Zealand - it is very far from being fixed for the world.  Nuclear disarmament remains a pressing item on the UN’s agenda and continues to be described as the UN membership’s oldest – as well as its highest - security priority. 

For most members of the international community, the effort to reach a nuclear weapon-free world has long been channelled through the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. This year we celebrate the NPT’s fiftieth anniversary. 

New Zealand has a vision of a world free of nuclear weapons.  We will continue to advocate for this vision in New York at the Treaty’s Review Conference in April alongside our key partners and members of the New Agenda Coalition.   

This vision informs our participation in initiatives aimed at breaking the current deadlock on nuclear disarmament, including New Zealand’s recent participation at the Ministerial meeting of the “Stepping Stones” initiative in Berlin.

But despite these efforts, the global threat of use continues to increase.

States possessing nuclear weapons have withdrawn from arms control agreements, are modernising their arsenals, and developing new capabilities. 

The hopes for a world where nuclear weapon testing is prohibited by international law has not borne fruit: New Zealand and all our Pacific colleagues have fought hard for the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty.  It is almost 25 years since the last recorded nuclear test in our region took place at Mururoa. But despite the deplorable environmental and health consequences of testing in our region the possibility of the Test Ban Treaty entering into force remains very remote. We – in the Pacific – are too well aware of the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons. 

However there have, however, been some positive developments worth mentioning. Two years ago we saw the adoption of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.  This represents one of the few concrete steps taken in recent years towards the disarmament obligation in the NPT. We are seriously pleased that it is well on the way to entry into force.   

Also on the positive side of the ledger are the UN’s renewed efforts to spur momentum on disarmament, which Secretary-General Guterres describes as “disarmament to save humanity”,  New Zealand remains a strong supporter of the Secretary General’s Agenda for Disarmament, and this Government will continue to support its work towarding reducing nuclear risk.

New Zealand’s primary focus continues to be calling for a reduction in the operational launch readiness of nuclear weapons – a move away from so-called ‘hair-trigger status’.  We advocate for this via our membership of the ‘De-Alerting Group’, a grouping that we currently chair.

As the Secretary General’s chief official responsible for the Agenda for Disarmament, we look forward to hearing Ms Nakamitsu’s assessment of how it has fared in the two years’ since its promulgation, what the prospects are for the NPT Review Conference in New York next month, and how we can begin to move forward on a path towards the total elimination of nuclear weapons.

Let us now welcome Ms Nakamitsu, the UN’s High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, to the podium.