Global Issues – New Challenges, New Approaches

Published: Mon 14 May 2001 09:38 AM
Hon Phil Goff
Speech Notes
11 May 2001
Global Issues – New Challenges, New Approaches
The problems we confront in the 21st century have one thing in common – we can't solve them by national action or legislation. Nor can we solve them solely through traditional patterns of government relations and diplomacy. Most of all, we cannot afford to ignore them.
Take the latest report of the Inter Governmental Panel on Climate Change. It forecasts major changes to the earth’s climate system including, on a worst case scenario, increases in global surface temperatures of up to 6 degrees for the next century.
That could mean a three-quarters of a metre increase in global sea levels. For Pacific Island neighbours such as Tuvalu and Kiribati that elevates the issue of climate change to one of national survival.
Four million people were killed by small arms in the 1990s. Most of these weapons were illicitly traded through global networks.
We face trans-national crime, people smuggling, money laundering, drug trafficking and the spread of HIV-Aids. These are just some of a growing range of issues that threaten every country.
In tomorrow's world, New Zealand's stability and prosperity will depend on how the international community is able to work together to pursue those issues that transcend national boundaries.
Of course, we will always pursue our national aims. But increasingly, we have an added responsibility to look globally – not simply out of altruism – but out of hard self interest because these issues will impact on our security and prosperity.
The rapid emergence of these problems demand that we tackle them in new ways because they are beyond any one of us to resolve alone.
I would like to outline tonight some of the global challenges New Zealand faces in foreign affairs. They require of us new ways of approaching problems. First, we need to build the views of civil society more closely into government policy. And second we need to build effective multilateral agreements to address the issues that will confront us in the 21st century.
Civil Society
Traditionally, international issues have been left largely to our diplomats. That, I believe, is no longer sufficient. The old distinctions between domestic and international affairs are no longer so easy to draw. For a start, governments have lost their monopoly of international relations and there are new players to be acknowledged and drawn into the search for solutions.
Businesses are truly transnational. NGOs and community groups, linked through the internet and by an international media and network of contacts, are a formidable force – either to push for progress or to hold it back.
Non-government players with principles and ideas can and should be brought more closely into constructive partnerships with government. They have much to contribute.
The progress on the landmines campaign that led to the 1997 Convention On Anti-Personnel Mines came about from the power of NGOs pushing for their ban. The forthcoming meeting in July on the control of trafficking illicit small arms is spearheaded by NGOs in a union with some governments that a few years ago might have been unthinkable.
Of course there is a limit to how far government policies can – or should – go to satisfy interest groups. But working together not only builds a better understanding of the issues – through shared expertise – but also a respect for the limits on each in moving towards meeting common goals.
One area where we need to build a better understanding is on the issue of international trade.
The popular images of anti-globalisation protests in Seattle and elsewhere is of dark suited officials separated from loud and often violent protesters by ranks of police with their batons drawn.
The reporting of these demonstrations masks the fact that those out there lack a common agenda. Those defending the developing world overlook the fact that the farmers and producers in those places might have a better chance of escaping their grinding poverty if their goods were not blocked by trade barriers by the world's developed economies.
A recent study, for example, estimated that rich countries spend enough on subsidising their farmers to fly every cow in the West around the world first class.
That is not just a waste of money for Western taxpayers, but a huge cost to the poorest countries of the world that could produce goods more cheaply and possibly with less impact on the environment.
The global gains that could result from a fifty percent liberalisation in agriculture, for example, is estimated to be around US$53 billion a year. Nearly a third of this amount would go to the developing countries of the world.
New Zealand's dairy industry exports alone would increase by 30 percent. That is the reason we have been active campaigners in the WTO for the launch of a further round of multilateral trade negotiations.
A common rallying point amongst non-governmental groups is exclusion from the decision-making process– the impression that decisions are being made behind closed doors. It is an area that WTO members need to address.
Trade liberalisation overall has overwhelmingly positive benefits. But transition to it is disruptive and developing countries and the public in the developed world have to be more informed and involved in the process.
Society needs to be constructively engaged. That is why for example New Zealand is promoting the involvement of the trade unions as well as business interests in the APEC process.
Rules and Multilateral future
In both political and economic areas, New Zealand as a small nation has long pressed for international relationships to be governed by a system of international rules and frameworks rather than outcomes crudely depending on the size and relative strength of countries and what they can impose on others.
It makes sense, therefore, for New Zealand to be an active player in and contributor to, multilateral bodies such as the UN and WTO.
Fifty-six years ago, Peter Fraser took a leading role in helping to shape the United Nations. Today, this Government places a high priority on reforming the Organisation so it can play the central role that is needed.
The 21st century needs an effective and responsive United Nations.
Of many reforms needed, the Security Council is particularly urgent.
Following his return from San Francisco, Peter Fraser reported to Cabinet that the veto was repugnant to practically every member there except the Great Powers which made it clear they were not prepared to accept the UN Charter without the veto. In the end we abstained so as not to wreck the Charter.
The veto of course remains and has continued to be an obstacle to the UN's effectiveness. We need only look at the Council's paralysis at critical points over Kosovo and Rwanda to see its negative consequences.
There has been some progress in opening the Council’s business to States who are not Council members.
We can now expect to participate in the Council’s consideration of matters like East Timor, for example, where we are contributing troops.
New Zealand supports the elimination of the veto and the expansion of the Security Council. As currently structured it freezes in time the world as it was in 1945.
We would prefer, however, comprehensive reform to piecemeal additions to the body. Countries like Japan and continents such as Latin America and Africa merit permanent seats on the Council. We oppose, however, any expansion of veto powers and ideally would like to see the veto abolished altogether.
There are other reforms we also support. The regional groups need to be reconfigured. We should be in a group with our neighbours in the Pacific rather than the European Union. The work of the UN secretariat and agencies often criticised for their overly bureaucratic tendencies, should refocus to promote a results-based culture that rewards outcomes and achievement.
Secretary General, Kofi Annan has encouraged a new spirit of openness within the UN. The report on UN failings in Srebenicia and in Rwanda are two bold examples. They preceded the publication of the Brahimi Report a refreshingly forthright review of UN peacekeeping.
Above all, it called for clear, credible and achievable mandates before UN troops are sent into conflict zones and the strengthening of the UN's capacities in the UN Secretariat.
That is in all our interests, but means extra resources. New Zealand supports the Brahimi conclusions and actively pushed for increased financial support.
In nuclear disarmament New Zealand has focussed its work through the New Agenda, a small group of progressive countries that has developed real impetus for disarmament on the global stage.
Supporting the New Agenda's goals is the Middle Powers Initiative, an international grouping of NGOs, other groups and prominent individuals. These same groups have for many years kept governments attentive to the threat of nuclear weapons.
New Zealand played a critical role in negotiations on the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference last May. The NPT agreements remain an important step towards a future where nuclear weapons are eliminated. The nuclear weapon states unequivocally accepted a commitment to do this at the conference.
This objective, however, is jeopardised by the proposed development of missile defence. In proposing to develop such as a defence, the US rationale that they want to protect their citizens against missile attack from rogue states is understandable enough.
Leaving aside the question of technical feasibility, such a defence is not ultimately a protection against a terrorist group with nuclear capability because missiles are not the only method of delivery of such a weapon.
Security against nuclear attack ultimately depends on the elimination of nuclear weapons and multilateral pressure on states seeking to acquire nuclear capability.
Proceeding with missile defence risks undermining the current network of nuclear arms control and disarmament treaties.
China, for example, has warned of a new arms race if missile defence goes ahead to compensate for the reduction in its deterrent capability that would be brought about by a defensive shield.
Russian Foreign Minister, Igor Ivanov told me a fortnight ago that Russia saw missile defence as the US trying to gain a technological advantage. If the ABM Treaty was revoked it jeopardised the whole of the nuclear disarmament process, he said.
Notwithstanding the threat of ultimate destruction that the nuclear weapons pose, it is small arms which has killed the most people in the past decade.
The legal firearms trade is currently worth about US$ 5 billion per annum. At least the same amount is estimated to be flowing through illegal arms dealing.
The threat posed by illegal trading and availability of small arms is obvious in the Pacific.
To help combat this threat of weapons, the Pacific region must develop a common approach to weapons control by improving inter-action between regional police, customs and justice officials, and the adoption of national legislation to ensure government holdings remain secure.
New Zealand is also working alongside Pacific countries to reflect their needs in the UN Small Arms Conference in July. At the same time, we have combined with countries like South Africa and Norway to push for a progressive approach to small arms management on an international level.
Climate Change
In the area of climate change New Zealand signed the Framework Convention on Climate Change at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992 after 12 long years of negotiation. Today, 180 countries, including the United States, have ratified it.
The Kyoto Protocol, finally agreed in 1997, requires developed countries to make legally binding commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
New Zealand is a relatively small producer of CO2 emissions, accounting for only 0.2% of all developed countries emissions. This compares with the United States at 25% of the total, Russia at 17% and Australia at 2.1%.
We nevertheless share the responsibility to act with others to reduce emissions and their negative effect on the environment.
President Bush's announcement that the US was withdrawing from the Kyoto Protocol coincided with my recent visit Washington and I used the opportunity to voice our concerns to the new US administration about the effect this would have in delaying an effective response to global warming.
While the Kyoto Protocol may not be perfect it is the best basis we have at present for progress on climate change.
Resolving the problems of climate change requires the involvement of the US.
One answer for reversing the effects of climate change, for example, lies with new technologies and renewable energy sources. The US can provide leadership in this area.
New Zealand is working with the EU to encourage flexibility from its side, and through its own 'Umbrella Group' membership to try to get the process back on track.
Human rights
Last but not least among the multilateral issues, is human rights. Influential NGOs such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Global Witness together with the electronic media's ability to immediately and graphically show the results of human rights abuses, have transformed public awareness of human rights issues.
Promoting human rights and acting against abuse is important to upholding our values and to our longer term security.
The question is not whether but rather how we should promote these rights. Ultimately the yardstick is what best yields practical results.
As one voice, New Zealand’s ability to influence countries to respect universal human rights is less compelling. But working with others who share our values can make a difference. That is why much of what we do is by working within multilateral frameworks such as the United Nations Commission for Human Rights.
Prime Minister Peter Fraser, in May 1945 at the San Francisco conference that established the United Nations was looking to the future and the failure of the League of Nations noted:
"It is my deep fear that if this fleeting moment is not captured the world will again elapse into a period of disillusionment, despair and doom. This must not happen”.
Fraser, the leader of a small country, made a major contribution towards building the UN.
The post-war multilateral organisations, UN, the World Bank and IMF, the WTO and ILO have not been perfect but they have made a positive difference to the world in which we live.
Fifty-six years on from Frazer's comment we face a world confronting new problems and changing at an extraordinary pace.
We need to ensure those organisations can adapt and be relevant to tackle the challenges before us.
Within New Zealand we should mobilise all our talent and resources – NGOs business, academic, media and government – to respond to the problems in the areas I have touched on tonight.
We need to carry the broad support of the people of New Zealand and we need to build links and work with other like-minded countries to meet the challenges that are before us.

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