30 Aug 2015

Campaigner calls on NZ to lead weapons ban

11:50 am on 30 August 2015

A disarmament campaigner wants the Government to push for a ban on nuclear weapons, explosive weapons and autonomous weapons systems - or "killer robots".

A mock killer robot during the launch of the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots in London in April 2013.

A mock killer robot during the launch of the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots in London in April 2013. Photo: AFP

Thomas Nash, who runs the British organisation Article 36, was in New Zealand last week speaking with government officials and Labour's foreign affairs spokesperson.

He said all countries should disarm, even without the co-operation of other armed states.

He told Radio New Zealand's Sunday Morning programme that this country is influential in diplomatic affairs and has a strong peacekeeping reputation.

As well as having a strong reputation as a troop contributing country to peace-keeping missions, he said New Zealand was well regarded as a leader on humanitarian affairs.

He said if the Government pushed for wider disarmament, other states would listen.

"We're really pleased that New Zealand is working closely with countries like Austria and Norway to promote work in this area. It's something that the United Nations Secretary General (Ban Ki Moon) and the Red Cross have all encouraged countries to work on."

Article 36

The not-for-profit organisation is working to prevent the unintended, unnecessary or unacceptable harm caused by certain weapons.

Its name refers to that section of the 1977 Additional Protocol I of the Geneva Conventions, which requires nations to review new weapons, means and methods of warfare.

As Coordinator of the Cluster Munition Coalition, Mr Nash led a 2004 to 2011 global campaign which culminated in the Convention on Cluster Munitions.

Last month more than 1000 high-profile artificial intelligence experts and scientists called for a ban on autonomous weapons.

They warned that an legal prohibition on lethal autonomous weapons systems is needed before technological development overtakes diplomacy.

Meanwhile, although it was big news in the 1970s and 1980s, there is little interest from the news medis and the public in the nuclear debate.

In April this year, half of the New Zealand parliament called on the world's nuclear powers to disarm.

A letter signed by the 60 MPs was delivered to diplomats from the five big nuclear powers: the United Kingdom, Russia, the United States, China and France, calling on them to begin nuclear disarmament.

The five happen to also be the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council.