Monday, August 06, 2012

Time for a Nuclear Weapons Convention

Today is Hiroshima Day, on which we remember the US's destruction of the Japanese city of Hiroshima in the world's first atomic attack. The bombing was an atrocity and a crime against humanity. So its particularly appropriate that today the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee is recommending [PDF] that the New Zealand government actively support moves for a Nuclear weapons convention outlawing the development, production, testing, stockpiling, use, or threat of use of nuclear weapons.

The recommendation is the result of a petition of Edwina Hughes of Peace Movement Aotearoa, calling on the government to take a leadership role in fast-track negotiations, as it had done on cluster bombs. This would build on our long history of opposing nuclear weapons and supporting disarmament generally.

Unsurprisingly, MFAT - which has generally opposed all that good work out of a desire to toady to the USA - opposed this petition. Having listened to their evidence, the Committee disagreed:

On balance we believe that the time is right for the New Zealand Government to support a nuclear weapons convention. We see New Zealand’s geopolitical role as one of pushing the boundaries towards peaceful resolutions. It has been traditionally ahead of the pack in matters of disarmament, and this is a good opportunity to take an active role regarding the abolition of nuclear weapons, as it did regarding cluster munitions. New Zealand has had a significant impact in this area and we look for this to continue.

While New Zealand is involved with the New Agenda group, their talks are at an impasse. This presents an opportunity to align ourselves with like-minded countries such as Costa Rica and Malaysia. While the ministry says our energies are best spent on measures to achieve small practical steps, we believe a more forthright and proactive approach to the issue is appropriate. The President of the United States recently provided momentum by articulating a vision of a world without nuclear weapons, and we believe now is an opportune time to push for all countries to abandon such weapons.

While we acknowledge the difficulty, complexity, and cost of negotiating a convention, we believe New Zealand should move beyond a position of general support to the forefront of negotiations towards a nuclear weapons convention.

This is good to see. Change doesn't happen by no-one speaking out. Someone has to stand up and argue for it. And on this issue, we should be that person. Its part of who we are as a country. The question now is whether the government will listen.