Remarks by the Rt. Hon. Kim Campbell, P.C.
3 October 2002
United Nations, New York
Under-Secretary-General, Madam Moderator, Distinguished Panelists,
I am honoured to have been invited to say a couple of words to you this afternoon at the opening of this extremely important seminar. The good thing about being an honoured guest and not a speaker is that you know my remarks will be brief.
I had the great pleasure this morning to chair a strategy consultation from the Middle Powers Initiative on the subject of priorities for preserving the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in a new strategic context. It was an extremely fruitful and interesting discussion and the report on it will be distributed to all the delegations here in the United Nations.
I wanted just to mention a couple of points that came up during this discussion. First of all, as you will be addressing this afternoon, September 11, 2001 presented us with a challenge of finding a new paradigm in which to examine the issues of disarmament and security. It is not a new paradigm in the sense that it just began on September 11. The need to rethink our views on security and on disarmament certainly began at the end of the Cold War. What 9/11 did was create the catalyst, because we often go along in our lives accepting the status quo, not really acknowledging how things have changed until in fact some event occurs that really stimulates our awareness of how things are different. Clearly, we are all struggling to find how to define, how to understand this new context in which the old issues are being dealt with.
One of the points made in our discussion this morning was how many of our institutions and frameworks for dealing with these issues are in some ways out of date, even the way we organize ourselves in the United Nations in terms of how we define countries and coalitions of countries, how their legacies are legacies of the Cold War. This is going to be a challenge for us to try and find the most constructive and effective way to bring together the political will and the talent of individuals around the world to solve these issues.
A point that was made by some of our discussants this morning was that although we think of nuclear weapons as being the "luxury" of very rich, highly developed countries, or countries who at least have resources that they can devote to what is considered very expensive weaponry, because of the changes in technology, we are now looking at the possibility that nuclear weapons could come to be seen as the "weapons of the poor". I think that was an insight that is a very provocative one and one that we need to think about a little bit more.
We need to think about the growth in the United States, a country that some panelists referred to as a "hyperpower", not just a superpower, the growth of what was described as a radical unilateralism, and the contrast between that and the need that was expressed by the Governor General of Canada to recognize the reality of the other. We must not drive countries to create or acquire nuclear weapons in order to have their otherness respected. It would be a great irony if having nuclear weapons somehow gave you a seat at the table, gave you sort of an importance internationally rather than having refused to acquire nuclear weapons. What we are seeing in many of the poorer countries in the world is that "nukes" are the status symbol and if that translates into a kind of an international cachet, it would be difficult to resist that dynamic. We have to think seriously about our policies and what they mean in terms of creating that kind of incentive.
It was also pointed out that one of the things we need to do is to distinguish between nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction, not that other weapons of mass destruction are not terrible and frightening and present an enormous danger, but because it sometimes means that we forget why nuclear weapons are so bad, that we have come to talk about nuclear weapons almost casually, forgetting that they are many, many, many orders of magnitude more destructive than other weapons of mass destruction.
One of our participants commented that when he had referred to the possession of nuclear weapons as a disgrace in an international meeting, that he had had his ears boxed, that he has been criticized, and yet when you stop and think about it, nuclear weapons are in many ways unique, even within the category of weapons of mass destruction. It has been so long since the first tiny, tiny, tiny atomic weapons were used at the end of World War II that we forget how enormous is the destructive capacity of today's nuclear weapons which are many, many, many times more powerful and more destructive than the bombs which fell on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. That I think is an essential part of any strategy for disarmament: to remind ourselves and to not shy away from that terrible reality.
It is also important for us to redress the failure that I see around me, the failure to remember how our international legal architecture came to take place. This is another phenomenon of our modern world that people often speak about casually, or speak about as if it were an incumbrance, out-of-date, and something we could easily replace with something different. This is in fact the place, this very institution, where so much of that international legal architecture has been painstakingly created over years of tedious meetings. It required the destruction of World War II to create the kind of political will necessary for countries to overcome all of the [attractions and appeals] of their own sovereignty in order to create that architecture.
What I fear is that people will forget how difficult it was to create the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648. It took the Thirty Years War and the death and destruction of that terrible time of European history to create the political will for countries to come together in what is seen as the foundation of the modern international system.
And so one of the things I think you will bear very much in mind is how to adjust to the changes, how to understand the context, not that it was created by September 11, 2001, but that perhaps was put into stark relief by the events of September 11, 2001. September 11, 2001 made it impossible for us to continue to be in denial about certain kinds of things that were happening in the world. We need to understand this, and we need to understand what is new, but we also have to value what is old. We also have to value those kinds of instruments that are in fact the foundation for the previsibility, for the assurance and the possibility of countries and citizens in society to plan with some certainty, and it is not an architecture, it is not an institutional structure that is easily created if it is destroyed.
In my own political experience - I served in the Canadian Government in the justice portfolio and in the defence portfolio as well as being Prime Minister - I had the opportunity to understand just how essential the rule of law is to securing all of the other policy goals that a civilized society has. So I thank you for inviting me to be present today. It is an opportunity for me to have one of the best seats in the house to hear what I know is going to be an outstanding set of presentations. I want to say to you how much I regard your commitment to doing that often tedious long-term work, but which, at the end of the day, is the only way to guarantee the security and peacefulness and the future of the people of the world. Thank you so much for having me here.