Senior United Nations officials have always assumed they
are spied on, and it does not affect their work, a top UN
High Representative for Disarmament Affairs Angela Kane, who
is based in New York, was in Dunedin yesterday for the last
stop of a New Zealand speaking tour.
In a speech given at the University of Otago she argued there
was a growing sense of ''taboo'' imperilling disarmament
In an interview with the Otago Daily Times, the
German-born official said revelations by whistleblower Edward
Snowden that the United States spied on UN officials was not
''We've always been spied on. I don't think this was any
revelation at all.
''I think that we know that we're being spied on . . .''
She agreed Mr Snowden brought the issue into focus, and said,
''it was always assumed on our side''.
Senior UN officials followed a transparent process, and did
not have ''secrets''.
She expressed disappointment about nuclear disarmament
progress, about which there was ''strong unhappiness''.
''On the issue of nuclear disarmament, there is nothing
The established nuclear powers were not working hard enough
on the issue, she suggested.
There was much attention paid to efforts to halt
proliferation of nuclear weapons, but not enough to disarming
established nuclear powers.
An area of real progress was the Arms Trade Treaty. Signed by
118 countries, including the United States, it would give
more transparency about the $85 billion annual arms trade.
She did not expect the US to ratify the agreement, although
she believed it would adhere to the rules anyway.
There was much misinformation about the treaty, which did not
affect internal gun control law, she said.
Another success was negotiating Syria's consent to dispose of
its chemical weapons.
She said she often saw UN Development Programme head Helen
Clark in senior meetings.
The former New Zealand prime minister was doing a ''terrific
job'' to raise the profile of her department.
In her speech at the university, Ms Kane spoke of a
perception that disarmament was ''too difficult, too
controversial, and too impractical a goal to pursue''.
There was a sense the UN's disarmament processes had become
''dysfunctional and hence should be taboo as a venue for
negotiating relevant treaties''.
There was resistance to the ''very word'' disarmament, to the
point that it was ''disappearing from official business
Scepticism about the UN's capacity to propel disarmament
extended to ''progressive groups in civil society'', and to
the UN itself.
''They view disarmament as largely a distraction, absorbed
with politics and political point-scoring, rather than with
achieving concrete results.
''I say this with great regret, because I view these groups
as our natural allies - we truly have a common cause and
should be working together.''
Ms Kane said disarmament would occur only when many different
groups with different interests worked together, and she
called for an outreach strategy to unite groups on the goal.