PIF Deputy Secretary General Dr Filimon Manoni to the
SOUTH PACIFIC NUCLEAR FREE ZONE TREATY
2021 CONSULTATIVE COMMITTEE MEETING
15 December 2021
10am – 1pm, Virtual
Chair, Excellencies and Senior Officials, Bula Vinaka.
• Thank you for this opportunity to provide brief remarks on behalf of the Depositary of the Treaty of Rarotonga and its Protocols, the Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum, Henry Puna, who is unable to join us today as he is currently on duty travel to New Caledonia with the Forum Observer Mission.
• In the context of today’s meeting, I would like to highlight key historical milestones in the context of the Treaty.
• Firstly, todays meeting is historically significant, I am advised, in that it is the first time that this treaty body is meeting. As the Chair has highlighted, it is timely that we convene under the framework of the Treaty 36 years after entry into force to look at how we are faring as a nuclear free zone in the global context.
• In doing so, I wish to recall the careful work and balanced approach that our predecessors undertook in framing the Treaty to render its effectiveness in practical terms.
• As expressed by its drafters, the approach to the drafting of the Treaty involved “stretching the fabric of the Treaty to its widest possible extent … In large measure, [it was] an exhaustive exploration of the outer limits of what it might be practically possible to achieve through a treaty of this nature”.
• The “diagrammatic approach” taken to the boundaries of the Zone clearly outlines a boundary line circumscribing the Forum Countries as well as large areas of high seas and abutting the existing nuclear weapon free zones in Latin America and Antarctica.
• This diagrammatic approach makes it easier to visualise our zone, clearly identifies the region to which it applies, and contributes to the development of a mosaic of global nuclear free zones.
• The Treaty of Rarotonga thus represents the fullest possible contribution, within our means, to protecting all of mankind from the dangers of nuclear war. It became one which Members would firmly commit themselves to strong obligations that could succeed both in substantially reducing the threat which the concerns embody, and contribute more generally to a safer world.
• Peaceful uses of nuclear energy have become more widespread today, and nuclear challenges are therefore multifaceted in both peaceful and non-peaceful uses. The transfer of special fissionable material for peaceful uses must be underpinned by the relevant ‘safeguards’ under Article III.I of the NPT or IAEA ‘safeguards’ regime, were appropriate.
• With the amplified urgency on climate change and the growing frequency of natural disasters across the globe, the risk of large-scale nuclear accidents has also grown.
• The accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plan in March 2011 generated a global concern and refocused global attention on the challenges of nuclear safety. The impact forcefully reminded the nuclear community of the lesson that emerged from Chernobyl that nuclear and radiological risks transcend national borders – that “an accident anywhere is an accident everywhere”.
• As we embark on closer study of our Treaty, we must also look to enhance our national capacities and expertise on nuclear issues. I note today (and I stand corrected) that notwithstanding the fact that the Pacific suffered some of the worst atrocities related to the not accidental – but deliberate detonation of nuclear weapons it appears we do not yet have our own experts in this area. I think this indeed a gap and that we should be cognitive of and collaborate on training, attachments, and scholarships for instance. It is I believe I our interest to do so.
• While a carefully crafted and balanced Treaty that has served our region well in the last 36 years, its success also reminds us of the utility of the mechanism of nuclear weapons free zones as a strategic tool to securing global peace.
• The operationalisation of the Treaty also requires that we work together with other key global efforts, in particular through the Nuclear Non-Proliferation regime and the Comprehensive-Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty. Excellencies As you will note from the Agenda item today, this meeting really is part and parcel of the work that we are undertaking in response to the Leaders Tasking of 2019 that we look at operationalizing key treaty mechanisms. Perhaps it is indeed a timely exercise.
• Excellencies and Officials, your Secretariat remains ready to provide full support to all Parties to advance the mechanisms of the Treaty to ensure its full operation, effect, and compliance.
• With those brief remarks Chair, I wish you well in your deliberations.
• I thank you.
CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY, Dec 15th, 2021.