Jacinda Ardern declares Russia’s war on Ukraine as a ‘direct attack … on everything this community stands for’ in UN address


Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has decried Russia for its invasion of Ukraine, and pressed world leaders to take an anti-nuclear stance and for major reform of the United Nations in a key speech in New York.

Ardern, at the tail-end of a busy week, made New Zealand’s national speech two days after Russian President Vladimir Putin began calling up people to serve in his army and threatened Ukraine with nuclear action.

“The only way to guarantee our people that they will be safe from the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons, is for them not to exist,” she said to presidents and prime ministers in the room.

She again warned the institution risked becoming “irrelevant” if it was unable to act against nations who threatened peace and said the tools to act swiftly and collectively had “been severely undermined”.

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“There is perhaps no greater example of this than Russia’s invasion of Ukraine,” she said.

“It is a direct attack on the UN Charter and the international rules-based system and everything that this community should stand for.”

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern makes the national speech at the 77th United Nations general assembly.

Bridie Witton/Stuff

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern makes the national speech at the 77th United Nations general assembly.

Russia had abused its “privileged position” on the UN Security Council, stopping it from acting in the defence of international peace and security, she added.

She urged leaders to act and to question themselves, “what if it was us?”

“For the people of Ukraine who have lost loved ones, their sense of peace and security, their livelihoods – these are all just words.”

New Zealand would continue its “battle” for a global response to the use of nuclear weapons, which had a real-life impact in the Pacific.

“Our history of championing not just non-proliferation, but a prohibition on nuclear weapons is grounded in what we have witnessed, but also what we have experienced,” she said.

“It was in our region that these weapons of war were tested. Those tests have left a mark on the people, lands and waters of our home.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war on Ukraine has been under intense scrutiny at the United Nations General Assembly. (File photo)

Gavriil Grigorov/Kremlin Pool Photo

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war on Ukraine has been under intense scrutiny at the United Nations General Assembly. (File photo)

In a nod to Russia, she said it takes one country to “believe that their cause is nobler, their might stronger, their people more willing to be sacrificed” for the weapons to be abused.

“There will be those who agree but believe it is simply too hard to rid ourselves of nuclear weapons at this juncture. There is no question that nuclear disarmament is an enormous challenge.

“But if given the choice, and we are being given a choice, surely we would choose the challenge of disarmament than the consequences of a failed strategy of weapons-based deterrence.”

Her speech also touched on tackling terrorism and violent extremist content online, the need for collective action against climate change, and for better pandemic preparedness.

“We support efforts to develop a new global health legal instrument, strengthened international health regulations and a strong and empowered World Health Organisation,” she said.

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