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Report of the international forum

Parliamentarians, Nuclear Non-Proliferation and

Nuclear Weapon Free Zones


New Zealand Parliament


Wednesday, 8 December 2004


On Wednesday 8 December 2004, sixty parliamentarians from 29 countries met with disarmament experts, diplomats and academics in the New Zealand parliament to discuss parliamentary actions to reduce current nuclear dangers, support the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty leading up to its review in 2005, and to promote the establishment of a Southern Hemisphere and Adjacent Areas Nuclear Weapon Free Zone.


Kerry Prendergast, Mayor of Wellington and a member of Mayors for Peace , opened the conference by noting that the risks from nuclear weapons affected every citizen in the world. For that reason, mayors around the world, representing the citizens living in their cities, had a responsibility to act to prevent nuclear proliferation and achieve disarmament. She outlined the Mayors for Peace call for negotiations on a nuclear weapons treaty leading to the abolition of all nuclear weapons by 2020, and she encouraged parliamentarians from around the world to urge their mayors to join the Mayors for Peace campaign.


New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark reminded participants of the devastation from any use of nuclear weapons, including their testing, as evidenced by the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the numerous nuclear tests in the Pacific. The PM introduced the concept of the Southern Hemisphere and Adjacent Areas Nuclear Weapon Free Zone , highlighting the existing regional NWFZs and looking towards "a time when all the nuclear weapon free zones in the Southern Hemisphere will have entered into force, providing a continuous zone free from nuclear weapons which extends over the southern half of the globe."   Ms Clark welcomed the Blix Commission on Weapons of Mass Destruction and announced that New Zealand would "fund a seminar or study in an area that the Commission identifies as directly relevant to its work on disarmament issues, such as verification." Ms Clark reminded participants of "the essential bargain that the NPT represents: that the five nuclear weapons states would work towards elimination of their nuclear arsenals, while other treaty members (the non-nuclear weapons states) agreed not to seek nuclear weapons" and urged parliamentarians to be more active in helping governments to implement their disarmament obligations. She spoke about the nuclear abolition initiatives undertaken domestically and internationally by New Zealand including legislation prohibiting nuclear weapons, actions to implement UN Security Council Resolution 1540 and the work of the New Agenda Coalition.


Senator Abacca Anjain-Maddison (Marshall Islands) described the devastating health and environmental effects of nuclear weapons testing in the Marshall Islands, including increased rates of cancer, birth deformities, still births and other effects from the radiation.   The most horrific was the incidence of 'jelly fish babies', babies born that looked like jellyfish with transparent skin and no bones. Senator Anjain-Maddison's home island of Rongelap was evacuated in 1985 with the help of the Greenpeace ship Rainbow Warrior because the high levels of radiation still remaining from the Bravo test in 1954 were continuing to cause health problems. Senator Anjain-Maddison spoke of plans to open a nuclear-test-memorial museum in the Marshall Islands in 2005 to coincide with the 2oth anniversary of the Rongelap relocation and the subsequent terrorist bombing of the Rainbow Warrior in New Zealand by French government agents. She stated that the only way to avoid the horror created by the use of nuclear weapons in peace or wartime was to eliminate them entirely.



New Zealand Minister of Disarmament Marian Hobbs spoke about the disarmament agenda being promoted by the countries comprising the New Agenda Coalition – Brazil, Egypt, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, South Africa and Sweden. She reaffirmed the NAC conviction that "Nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament are two sides of the same coin, and both must be energetically pursued." She noted that the attempts by NAC to promote nuclear disarmament achieved success at the 2000 NPT Review Conference, " securing consensus agreement on 13 practical steps to nuclear disarmament " and "an unequivocal undertaking by the nuclear weapon states to accomplish the total elimination of their nuclear arsenals." However, "the emphasis has shifted from disarmament to non-proliferation. The 13 steps so carefully negotiated in 2000 are in danger of being ignored."   Thus, the support from NATO States for the resolution introduced by NAC to the United Nations General Assembly was very important to pave the way for success at the 2005 NPT Review. The Minister thanked PNND and parliamentarians from the NATO States for encouraging NATO governments to support the NAC initiatives.


US Congressman Dennis Kucinich , by video conference, argued that the nuclear arms race – which has continued long after the end of the Cold War – is the result not of political necessity but from a lack of spiritual values in the leadership of nuclear weapon States. He warned that US nuclear policy and practice. He warned that the current administration was planning to build new nuclear weapons, strengthen a first strike doctrine, possibly resume nuclear testing and develop weapons in space. However, parliamentarians can have influence as evidenced by the recent actions of the US Congress to bar funding for new nuclear weapons – 'bunker busters' and mini-nukes. In addition, parliamentarians helped NATO governments to support the New Agenda Coalition resolution at the United Nations General Assembly in November. Kucinich thus urged parliamentarians not to abandon their idealism, but to expand their engagement and activities for peace and nuclear disarmament. Some parliamentary initiatives could lead to early success. Others, like his proposal for a US Department of Peace, might take a bit longer to come into fruition.


Issam Makhoul MP (Israel) by video conference, spoke about the hypocrisy of the United States and other Western States in taking action or threatening to take action against Iraq, Iran, Syria and Libya over their suspected or fledgling nuclear weapons programs, while doing nothing to reverse Israel's much more developed nuclear program. Makhoul noted the difficulties in even raising this issue in Israel. Assassination attempts were made against Makhoul after he raised the issue in the Israeli parliament, and Mordechai Vanunu was imprisoned for 14 years, and still suffers house arrest, for documenting Israel's production of nuclear weapons. Makhoul noted that Israel is advancing its nuclear strike capacity through the purchase of nuclear capable submarines from Germany and nuclear capable missile technology from the United States, as well as through its own missile development.


Malcolm Savidge MP (UK) reflected on his experiences in the UK parliament trying to raise nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament issues in a society more interested in the lives of pop stars and royalty. " Opening a debate in the United Kingdom Parliament in January 2000, I confessed that I must be slightly 'weird.' There must be something slightly odd about me, because I seem not to be interested in the really important things in life, at least as defined by the popular mass media. I am not terribly interested in such vital matters as the private love lives of presidents and princes, pop stars and television soap stars, or in the TV reality shows which fill the front pages. What do interest me are matters that, given the number of headlines they generate, must appear to others to be trivial. To be honest, I get rather obsessed with the trivial pursuit of human survival."

Despite this low level of media interest, Savidge noted the success of his All Party Group on Non-Proliferation and Security in stimulating cross-party discussions on nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament issues. Savidge noted that " creating a group across party and other differences seemed appropriate because this issue should transcend party politics. Cross-party discussion also seemed useful if one wished to move or influence the consensus. Since, for instance, parties of the right frequently accuse parties of the left of being 'soft on defence' this can make left-wing parties wary of change. If all parties are involved in discussion, it is easier to move the consensus.



Kiyohiko Toyama MP , (Japan) reported on the activities of the Japan Section of the Parliamentary Network for Nuclear Disarmament , which includes members from all the political parties. He noted that they had been active in advocating for a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, raising the possibility of a North East Asian Nuclear Weapon Free Zone, considering issues relating to the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1540 and highlighting the "innate contradiction in Japanese current policy, namely, that Japan still relies its security on nuclear deterrence while advocating the abolition of nuclear weapons."


Toyama noted that parliamentarians do not always have sufficient power to shape government policy, but that such power can be enhanced by having an international network of parliamentarians collaborating on nuclear disarmament issues. He also called for greater participation of parliamentarians on government delegations to international disarmament meetings such as the NPT Review Conferences.


Adolfo Taylhardat MP , member of the Parliament of Latin America (PARLATINO), reinforced the norm-developing role of nuclear weapon free zones, and suggested that there could be greater collaboration between parliaments and the NWFZ authorities. He noted specifically that parliamentarians could support the Conference of States parties to the NWFZs being hosted by Mexico (see presentation of Ambassador Angelica Arce de Jeanette below), including attending the conference and following up in their own parliaments. He pledged to facilitate support from the Latin American Parliament for OPANAL and the Conference of States Parties, and called for parliamentarians globally to take further action to "help save the Non-Proliferation Treaty in 2005."


Ambassador Edmundo Vargas Carreņo , Secretary-General of OPANAL (Agency for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean), welcomed parliamentary engagement in nuclear non-proliferation issues stating that " Parliamentarians in a globalized world have an ever-increasing influence on the decisions of their governments," whether they be in parliamentary systems or presidential systems " because in today's world, foreign policy is by necessity State policy."


Ambassador Vargas described the differing types of nuclear weapon free zones and the common provisions of the regional zones. He noted that regional NWFZs include responsibilities of both non-nuclear States within the region and of the nuclear weapon States, including the obligation not to threaten or use nuclear weapons against States within the zones. Ambassador Vargas highlighted the value of "ties and cooperation between the NWFZs" which would "offer a unique opportunity to play a role on the grand stage of world disarmament with increased negotiating power."


He reported on planning for the conference of States Parties to the NWFZs to be held in Mexico in April 2005, and on plans for a declaration to be adopted at the conference calling for nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament steps leading to the total elimination and prohibition of nuclear weapons.


H.E. Angelica Arce de Jeannet , Mexican Ambassador to New Zealand, asserted that that "disarmament must play a central role in the collective security system, within which compliance with multilaterally-negotiated obligations is the best way of preventing the development of doctrines that claim to endorse unilateral decisions and so-called actions of a preventive nature ." To assist the international disarmament process, Ambassador Arce reaffirmed Mexico's decision to host an international Conference of States Parties and Signatories to the Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaties in 2005.   Ambassador Arce noted that the key aims of the conference are "to ensure the strict observance of the legal regimes that these zones have created and to support the establishment of additional nuclear-weapon-free zones in other parts of the world."


Hon. Matt Robson MP (New Zealand), urged parliamentarians not to be deterred by powerful pro-nuclear forces from taking action to abolish nuclear weapons. He recalled the development of New Zealand's anti-nuclear policy, despite counter-pressure from New Zealand's allies, and how that policy has now been vindicated by the International Court of Justice. He noted that the planned conference of State Parties to the NWFZs, and its adoption of a declaration, would strengthen the legal and political norm against nuclear weapons and could assist in the development of nuclear weapon free zones in other regions including the Middle East. He highlighted the role that parliamentarians can play internationally by building connections between countries and breaking down the enemy image States often maintain of each other and which perpetuates conflict, militarization and insecurity.


Raphael Chegeni MP (Tanzania), Secretary General of the Great Lakes Parliamentary Forum, called on parliamentarians from African countries to urge their governments to ratify the Pelindaba Treaty (African Nuclear Weapon Free Zone Treaty). He reported that only 19 African countries have ratified and that 28 ratifications are required for the treaty to enter into force. He noted that while there are other pressing issues for African governments to deal with, ratification of the treaty would not only ensure that the African continent is freed from the threat of a nuclear catastrophe, it would also help build regional cooperative security relationships and mechanisms which would be useful for wider concerns of demilitarization, democracy and development.


Hon Nick Smith MP , Chair of PNND New Zealand, welcomed the engagement in nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation initiatives by parliamentarians from across a wide spectrum of political parties. He noted the experience of New Zealand where the nuclear weapons free policy and the Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament are supported by all political parties. Mr Smith recognized that decisions to be nuclear free might be more difficult in other regions, such as Japan which is surrounded by nuclear powers but has decided to remain nuclear weapons free. He called on parliamentarians to support specific disarmament steps including ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, establishment of the Southern Hemisphere and Adjacent Areas Nuclear Weapons Free Zone, and support for the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.


Alyn Ware , Global Coordinator, Parliamentary Network for Nuclear Disarmament highlighted ways in which parliamentarians could support the Southern Hemisphere and Adjacent Areas Nuclear Weapon Free Zone and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty including:

  • Attending the Conference of States Parties to the NWFZs in Mexico in April 2005
  • Highlighting in their parliament, the final declaration of the Conference
  • Attending the NPT Review Conference in May 2005 either as independent parliamentarians of as part of their government's delegation
  • Encouraging their government to support key disarmament and non-proliferation initiatives being proposed at the NPT Review Conference
  • Encouraging their local Mayors to join Mayors for Peace and join their delegation to the NPT Review Conference.


Mr Ware also spoke about other initiatives in which parliamentarians could support or take action including:

  • The international appeal of Nobel laureates, parliamentarians and civil society for a reduction in the readiness to use nuclear weapons
  • Adopting national disarmament and non-proliferation measures in response to UN Security Council Resolution 1540, possibly using the example of New Zealand's anti-nuclear legislation which prohibits both the possession and proliferation of nuclear weapons and which provides criminal penalties for both State and Non-State actors which engage in activities to acquire, transfer, use or threat to use nuclear weapons.
  • Exploring the political, legal and technical requirements for the complete abolition and elimination of nuclear weapons worldwide, for example through a nuclear weapons abolition treaty.


Mr Ware encouraged parliamentarians to use the Parliamentary Network for Nuclear Disarmament – through the PNND Update and website - to share information about their issues and actions with other parliamentarians and to keep informed of parliamentary actions for nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament.


The presentations were followed by informal discussion on the key issues of the NPT and Southern Hemisphere and Adjacent Areas Nuclear Weapon Free Zone, as well as other issues including the Proliferation Security Initiative, a Middle East NWFZ, national legislation on nuclear abolition, a North East Asia NWFZ, the legality of nuclear weapons transit through NWFZs and nuclear whistleblower protection.


A general feeling exhibited in most of the discussion was that the threats arising from nuclear weapons have diversified and now come from many fronts – new nuclear doctrine by the existing nuclear weapon states, proliferation to new States, greater possibilities of non-State actors acquiring nuclear weapons or radioactive materials for radiological bombs, and the development of regional conflicts which include a nuclear weapons element. Despite this, there are positive initiatives which could reduce the risks of nuclear weapons and pave the way for comprehensive nuclear disarmament, and that parliamentarians have a vital role in helping move the disarmament process forward.