Nuclear Disarmament Speech , Nagasaki

I feel privileged to be able to represent the foreign delegates at this opening ceremony.

For a start, I’d like to thank our host, the Mayor of Nagasaki, other hibakusha here today, and the organizers, for the opportunity to be part of this 2nd Nagasaki Global Citizen’s Assembly. The citizens of Nagasaki, who bore witness to the horrors of nuclear war, have inspired us with the leadership they have taken in the global anti-nuclear movement.

As anti-nuclear campaigners, we are living in a time of uncertainty.

In one respect, the international climate is not favourable. The nuclear weapons states have not taken serious steps to implement their pledge, at the Non-Proliferation Treaty Review conference in 2000, to “bring to a conclusion negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament in all its aspects under strict and effective international control.”

The pre-eminent superpower, the United States, is actually strengthening its capacity to fight a nuclear war. It is proceeding with its National Missile Defence system, it has repudiated the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, it is developing new and smaller tactical nuclear weapons, sometimes called bunker-busters, its new nuclear strategy authorises nuclear strikes even against non-nuclear nations, and its war against Iraq demonstrated the US policy to pre-emptively attack countries it claims have weapons of mass destruction program.

However, we should not be too negative. Each action breeds a reaction. The Bush administration’s military strategy is under challenge like never before. In the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq we saw the development of the largest, most active peace movement the world has ever seen. Millions of people, in virtually all countries, protested against that war.

Part of the concern of those people had was the danger posed by nuclear weapons, in the then impending conflict with Iraq, or in the broader, so-called “war on terror” that the United States government is engaged in.

I think, when speaking about US government policies, we must always recognise the strength of the US peace movement, in all its diversity, which is represented here in this conference too.

The strength of the global peace movement lies in the linkage between peace campaigners within the nuclear states, and peace campaigners in other nations.

We can be confident that we will succeed in ridding the world of nuclear weapons, because today, more than ever, the people of the world are with us.

We can have pride in what we have achieved so far, which we are continuing to build on. We have the Non-Proliferation Treaty and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, even though not all countries are fully part of them.

We have an impressive array of Nuclear Weapon Free Zones, in South East Asia, Africa, Latin America, Antarctica, and of course the South Pacific. New Zealanders are proud of the role we played in establishing the South Pacific Zone.

There are two ways we can move forward with Nuclear Weapon Free Zones.

One is to link up and extend the existing zones into a Nuclear Weapon Free Zone of the Southern Hemisphere and Adjacent Areas, a proposal being supported by the New Zealand section of the Parliamentary Network for Nuclear Disarmament. The United Nations General Assembly has adopted, with near unanimity, a resolution introduced by Brazil and New Zealand to consolidate such a zone. There are moves to hold an inter-governmental conference of States parties to these zones in order to strengthen the zones and send a strong message to the Nuclear Weapon States to respect the desire of countries and peoples to live free of the threat of nuclear weapons. New Zealand MPs are suggesting that New Zealand host a preparatory meeting to support this initiative and perhaps Japan could also. A nuclear-free Southern Hemisphere is something dear to my heart, because in the early 1960s my mother, Elsie Locke, was a main organiser of a New Zealand petition for such a zone, which gained 80,000 signatures.

The second challenge is to establish new Nuclear Weapon Free Zones. I am pleased to hear that Japan has hosted discussions on a Central Asian Zone. And there are proposals, at various stages of discussion, for Nuclear Weapon Free Zones in the Middle East, South Asia, North East Asia and Central Europe. And of course, we welcome the initiatives of any nation to establish their own zone, as Mongolia, New Zealand, Austria, the Philippines, Vanuatu, Belau and the Solomons already have. All such moves restrain nuclear proliferation, restrict the ability of the nuclear powers to deploy their nuclear weapons and create a better climate for nuclear disarmament.

Legal challenges have also been very useful in restraining the nuclear states and promoting nuclear disarmament. The Shimoda Case in Tokyo determined that the bombing of Hiroshima was illegal and thus has been instrumental in affirming a norm of illegality regarding the use of nuclear weapons. The Greenock decision in Scotland, which acquitted anti-nuclear activists who had entered and damaged a Trident nuclear submarine base, was important in affirming that current deterrence policies of the nuclear weapons states are illegal. New Zealand’s proceedings against the French government over its Pacific nuclear tests in 1975 and 1995 helped achieve an end to such testing and the achievement of a Comprehensive Test Ban treaty.

However, the most important proceedings initiated from New Zealand were those of small group of peace activists and a former judge in Christchurch — to get the International Court of Justice to give an advisory opinion on the legal status of nuclear weapons, which it did in 1996, declaring that the use and threat of use of nuclear weapons is generally illegal and that there is an obligation to negotiate for complete nuclear disarmament. In particular, I would like to take this opportunity to commend Mr Iccho Itoh, the Mayor of Nagasaki, for his most compelling testimony to the Court which helped achieve this historic decision.

We are now trying to build on that huge achievement. Every year since 1996 the United Nations General Assembly has adopted resolutions calling on the nuclear weapon states to implement the World Court decision through good faith negotiations and the early conclusion of a nuclear weapons convention.

Such a convention, or treaty, would create a non-discriminatory regime for the prohibition and complete elimination of nuclear weapons. It would address the security concerns of all States and would include robust mechanisms for verification and compliance. It deserves universal support.

Until a nuclear weapons convention is negotiated, we will continue to push the nuclear weapons states to take initial steps towards nuclear disarmament through the Non-Proliferation Treaty review process

It’s hypocritical for an existing nuclear state, such as the United States, to claim a right to possess nuclear weapons, but to threaten to attack a potential nuclear state, such as Iran, while ignoring Israel’s significant nuclear arsenal. Threats of unilateral action against such states are usually counter-productive. By contrast, patient, multilateral negotiations with potential nuclear states do produce results. For example, European states and the International Atomic Energy Agencies have recently engaged Iran, with heartening results.

Military threats against North Korea in response to its nuclear programme are likewise counter-productive. Negotiations which address North Korea’s security concerns will be much more successful.

Progress in nuclear disarmament will occur much faster if people become more educated about the issue. The United Nations has recently completed a two-year UN Study on Disarmament and Non-Proliferation Education. Among the government experts working on this Study were Dr Kate Dewes from the Disarmament and Security Centre in New Zealand, who is here with us today, and Mr Yukiya Amano, Director-General for Arms Control in Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. I encourage implementation of the Study’s excellent recommendations.

One initiative by the New Zealand government in response to the Study has been to send a brochure to every school in the country including ideas for peace and disarmament education and how peace education can fit into the school curriculum. The brochure was developed for the Ministry of Education by a non-governmental organization — the Peace Foundation- just one example of positive collaboration between government and NGOs.

In every country we have some successes like this to celebrate, but there is still much for our global movement to do. Together with the other international delegates I would like to express my confidence that this conference will help chart a way forward to a world without nuclear weapons.


Opening Session of Nagasaki Global Citizens Assembly, Nagasaki, Japan