From Rarotonga to Pelindaba: Pacific joins 25th anniversary of African Nuclear Weapon Free Zone Treaty

PACIFIC ISLANDS FORUM SECRETARIAT
COMMEMORATION OF THE 25th ANNIVERSARY OF THE OPENING FOR SIGNATURE OF THE AFRICAN NUCLEAR WEAPON FREE ZONE TREATY
12 April 2021
FORMAL STATEMENT BY
THE RIGHT HONOURABLE KAUSEA NATANO
PRIME MINISTER OF TUVALU AND
CHAIR OF THE PACIFIC ISLANDS FORUM

Honourable Leaders of the States Parties to the African Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone Treaty, Excellencies and High-Level Representatives of International and Regional agencies and partners, Ladies and Gentlemen:

Talofa and warm greetings from the Blue Pacific Continent. On behalf of the States Parties to the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty (Treaty of Rarotonga), I thank the African Commission on Nuclear Energy (AFCONE) for the invitation to present a statement to support this important occasion.

The Pacific is very honoured to join you all in commemorating the 25th Anniversary of the Opening for Signature of the African Nuclear Weapons Free Zone Treaty (Treaty of Pelindaba). Congratulations to all States Parties to the Treaty of Pelindaba, our dear friends and family across the African Continent.

Today, I would like to briefly highlight recent Pacific experience in advancing efforts and opportunities towards our common goal of non-proliferation and elimination of nuclear weapons.

This year marks the 50th Anniversary of the Pacific Islands Forum, and as our region reflects on its journey, one of our greatest achievements is the enactment of our Nuclear Free Zone; a product of great Pacific Vision and Leadership, and an endowment for many Pacific generations.

Just four months ago, on 15 December 2020, the States Parties to the Treaty of Rarotonga held its first ever States Parties Meeting, in response to a tasking by Pacific Islands Forum Leaders in 2019 to operationalise the Treaty.

The event commemorated 35 years since our Treaty’s adoption and 34 years since its entry into force. It also marked 24 years since the permanent cessation of nuclear testing in the Blue Pacific Continent; ending a dark period in our history where a number of our nations were subjected to both atmospheric and underground testing for five decades, in particular in the Republic of the Marshall Islands, French Polynesia, and Kiribati.

Pacific States reflected on our Treaty’s achievements, highlighting the success of our Zone in promoting international peace and stability. We also renewed our commitment to the
Treaty of Rarotonga through our Blue Pacific Identity, and called for actions to further advance the objectives and implementation of our Treaty.

A unique feature of the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone is its large ocean space, and its land territory, which are of significant maritime and geostrategic influence.

As stewards of the largest ocean space teeming with resources that are now under increasing pressure, our Leaders’ commitment to a healthy and resilient Pacific Ocean, free of any contamination, remains a priority. This will ensure that the bounty and beauty of our ocean space, our land territory, and the airspace above them, shall remain the heritage of our peoples and our descendants in perpetuity to be enjoyed by all in peace.

The significance of today’s event is compounded by the global COVID-19 pandemic, which serves as a stark reminder of the very personal nature of global catastrophic risk, and the consequences of failing to anticipate, plan for, and prevent catastrophic events on a global scale.

Unfortunately, the threat of nuclear proliferation remains a reality today, and the consequences to our environment, health, and wellbeing are long-lasting. Nuclear legacy issues therefore remain an important item of discussion at Pacific Islands Forum Leaders’ Meetings, and inter-zonal cooperation is more critical than ever.

As you reflect today on this important milestone for the Treaty of Pelindaba, we share with you our own recent reflections on the unequivocal value of Nuclear Free Zones. They continue to serve and inspire our regions, our peoples, and our prospects. And are a powerful testament to what we can achieve through collective action, through regionalism and multilateralism, under the framework of international law, and in conforming to the rules-based international order to which we all subscribe.

To this end, we note the ongoing work on the Review Conference of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in 2021, and we look forward to continued collaboration with all Nuclear Free Zones on this important Conference.

In conclusion, I thank the AFCONE for the active engagement to advance our inter-zonal cooperation, and once again offer warm Pacific congratulations for this important milestone for Africa and for the world.

I thank you.–ENDS

Check against delivery, April 12, 2021

 

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