Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Point of Order: O’Connor chalks up global fishing success – now let’s see if Twyford can persuade Russia (and others) to agree to nuclear-weapon ban

While Health Minister Andrew Little was announcing the launch of a meth addiction service in the Eastern Bay of Plenty, two of his colleagues were dealing with much grander global issues – one related to the international regulation of fishing, the other dealing with efforts to ban nuclear weapons.

Trade Minister Damien O’Connor – reporting back from Europe ahead of his return home – said New Zealand’s leadership had contributed to a number of significant outcomes and progress at the Twelfth Ministerial Conference (MC12) of the World Trade Organization (WTO), which concluded in the early hours of Friday morning after a week of intense negotiations between its 164 members.

A major outcome was a new Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies

New Zealand had been at the forefront of calling for an agreement on fisheries subsidies for more than 20 years,

“…so, this is a significant milestone,” Damien O’Connor said.

“I was very proud to assist the WTO Director-General as Facilitator for the fisheries negotiation. What we agreed this week will have a meaningful impact on the sustainability of our fisheries resources and the livelihoods of the world’s fishers.”

The agreement includes important prohibitions on subsidies related to illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing; subsidies regarding over-fished stocks; and subsidies provided to fishing taking place on the unregulated high seas.

Negotiators failed to find agreement on all disciplines, but WTO Members have agreed to continue negotiations on those outstanding issues ahead of the WTO’s 13th Ministerial Conference, which is expected to be held in 2023, O’Connor said.

Describing the meeting he had attended as significant, he said it had been held at a difficult time.

“Just as the world is emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic, we face growing geo-political tensions including Russia’s unprovoked and unjustified aggression against Ukraine.

“At times like these, multilateral organisations like the WTO are more important than ever for small, globally connected countries like New Zealand.”

Tell that to the United Nations, which has been egregiously impotent during the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Russia is unnerving people far beyond Ukraine, of course, by threatening to bring its nuclear weapons into play.

It is unlikely it will be dissuaded by events in Austria, but – lest you be unaware of it – something called Nuclear Ban Week is under way in Vienna, from 18 – 23 June.

Publicity around this tells us what we know only too well:

“Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and threats to use nuclear weapons have reawakened fears of nuclear war and brought the terrible consequences of the use of nuclear weapons to the forefront of public consciousness. Decades-old assumptions about security and deterrence have been upended overnight, as Russia uses its nuclear weapons not to deter but to coerce and intimidate: to facilitate aggression and provide a cover for war crimes and violations of human rights. It is now clearer than ever that security is impossible while nuclear weapons exist, and the risks of nuclear catastrophe are growing.”

The nine nuclear-armed states collectively possess more than 12,000 nuclear weapons, many on high alert and ready to be launched within minutes.

Nuclear Ban Week has brought governments, international organizations and civil society together in Vienna from 18-23 June for a series of meetings and events aimed at having nuclear weapons banned.

Good luck with that.

On 21-23 June, governments will gather for the first Meeting of States Parties of the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), which came into legal force on 22 January 2021.

They intend to determine how to take forward the treaty’s mission, the total elimination of nuclear weapons worldwide.

As the first intergovernmental conference on nuclear weapons since the start of Ukraine crisis, the meeting will lead the international response to the increased risk of nuclear conflict and catastrophe.

Over 100 governments will be participating in this meeting, which aspires to

* Adopt a political declaration that increased risk of nuclear conflict.

* Develop procedures for providing assistance to victims of use or testing of nuclear weapons, and for environmental remediation.

* Decide on key aspects of the implementation of the TPNW, including the deadlines for destruction of nuclear weapons by nuclear-armed states joining the treaty.

* Expand and reinforce efforts to increase the membership of the treaty in face of increasing nuclear weapons threats.

A two-day forum organised by the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons is among the side shows.

The publicity for this says:

Experts from around the world have been invited to address the two-day event, from a range of academic and professional institutions. Our forum speakers are at the forefront of their fields, including renowned authors, physicists, legal experts, political scientists, sociologists and economists.

There are 109 speakers, Point of Order understands.

One of them is NZ’s Disarmament and Arms Control Minister, Phil Twyford.

His speech notes say:

“I am honoured to be the only politician on this civil society platform today. Perhaps it’s appropriate. New Zealand is about the size of a mid-sized NGO. But we have credentials. We banned the bomb back in 1987 passing a law that made the country nuclear-free, propelled by national outrage at the testing of nuclear weapons in the Pacific.”

Twyford said the occasion of the first Meeting of States Parties of the nuclear ban treaty was “a moment to celebrate.”

“They said it couldn’t be done. They said we were being emotional. Naïve. Unrealistic. They said we’d make the nuclear weapon states angry and less inclined to disarm.

“But we did it – an extraordinary coalition of campaigners and diplomats created this beautiful thing called the Treaty on the Prohibition of nuclear weapons. Give yourselves a hand.

“The Nuclear Weapon States and their allies say a ban treaty without the countries whose nuclear weapons the treaty bans won’t achieve anything. Notwithstanding the obvious circularity of their logic – no, you cannot join our treaty unless you get rid of your nuclear weapons – there is a clear and compelling pathway to abolition.”

The TPNW came into force in January 2021, he noted.

It now has 89 parties and signatories.

“Imagine, say, 150 parties.

“Imagine, and it’s not hard, the growing stigmatisation of nuclear weapons, with pension funds deserting the nuclear arms manufacturers.

“It is not a big step to imagine the increasing isolation of the nuclear weapons states and their allies on this issue.”

Yes – but does Russia’s Vladimir Putin lose much sleep while he frets about his international ostracisation and isolation?

Point of Order is a blog focused on politics and the economy run by veteran newspaper reporters Bob Edlin and Ian Templeton

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