New Zealand celebrates the 30th anniversary of its historic nuclear free legislation this month with a series of events around the country.
At the same time, the United Nations resumes negotiations amongst non-nuclear nations in New York on a nuclear ban treaty which they are expected to adopt by July 7. And the UN is preparing for a UN High Level Conference on Nuclear Disarmament in 2018 which aims to engage the nuclear armed States in measures for the global prohibition of nuclear weapons.
“New Zealand has led the way, but now wants the rest of the world to follow” says Hon Phil Goff, former Minister for Foreign Affairs and currently the Mayor of Auckland, speaking at a 30th anniversary commemoration organised by the NZ Peace Foundation.
Mayor Goff, who also serves as Co-President of the international group Parliamentarians for Nuclear Nonproliferation and Disarmament, unveiled a peace plaque beside a Pohutukawa tree at the commemoration event, in honour of Nuclear-Free New Zealand and those who work for peace.
Mr Goff joined hundreds of others to form a human peace sign in the same spot of a similar human peace sign over 30 years ago – an action that was done then to protest the nuclear weapons coming into New Zealand on warships under the military alliance with the US and Australia.
“Aotearoa New Zealand – this plucky little nation stood up for the highest principles of peace. It said ‘no’ to nuclear weapons – and was the first advanced country to do so and inspired many across the world. It is a huge global milestone that needs to be celebrated” said Christopher Le Breton, Peace Foundation General Manager.
The New Zealand government is one of the leaders of the UN negotiations, and a number of civil society representatives from New Zealand will also participate in the negotiations.
‘New Zealand has followed up its legislation by taking leadership in global nuclear disarmament initiatives, such as cases against nuclear weapons in the International Court of Justice, and now these nuclear weapons prohibition negotiations,’ says Dr Kate Dewes, head of the New Zealand civil society delegation to the ban treaty negotiations. ‘And the government has also taken further leadership at home by supporting peace and disarmament education projects, and by divesting public funds from corporations involved in the manufacture of nuclear weapons.’
‘The New Zealand Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Act of 1987 provides an exemplary model of the prohibition measures which all States Parties to the nuclear ban treaty could implement,’ says Alyn Ware, NZ Peace Foundation International Representative who is also in New York for the negotiations. ‘It not only prohibits the manufacture, possession, transit or control over any nuclear weapons in New Zealand. It also prohibits anyone from assisting others in such activities in the country. And it establishes a public body to advise the government on implementation of the act, and to advance peace and disarmament education.’
Mr Ware will be organizing a side-event during the negotiations which highlights the New Zealand Act – as well as nuclear prohibition measures adopted by Austria, Mongolia and the Philippines – as examples of what States Parties to the nuclear weapons prohibition treaty can do once they have adopted the treaty. Dr Dewes, who has served on the UN Secretary-General’s Advisory Board on Disarmament Matters, will be one of the expert speakers at the event.