Note: Following is a partial summary of today’s meeting of the Disarmament Commission. A complete summary of today’s Commission meeting will be available later today as Press Release DC/3694.
KEREN BEBBINGTON (United Kingdom), emphasizing that there were no shortcuts on the road to a world free of nuclear weapons, said her country did not believe that negotiations on a treaty to prohibit nuclear weapons would lead to effective progress on global nuclear disarmament. Rather, it favoured gradual multilateral disarmament, negotiated through a step-by-step approach within existing frameworks. Such an approach would build trust and confidence, providing tangible steps towards a safer and more stable world in which nuclear-armed countries would feel able to relinquish their weapons, she said.
Strongly condemning the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile tests, she urged that country to re-engage with the international community while according priority to the well-being of its own people. She went on to emphasize that her country remained absolutely committed to rigorous implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action agreed with Iran. As for the the illicit proliferation and use of conventional weapons, she said the United Kingdom accorded priority to the development and implementation of the Arms Trade Treaty, while stressing that greater transparency and confidence-building measures were needed to reduce the risks of unintended escalation of tensions, or military accidents.
TAREK MAHFOUZ (Egypt) said that on the heels of recent negotiations on a nuclear-weapon-ban treaty, the Commission’s efforts must focus on seeking a substantive outcome in order to preserve its credibility. Calling upon nuclear-weapon States and arms exporters to exert the political will needed to reach consensus, he said the starting point should be implementation of General Assembly resolution 69/58. A universal Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons would be an indispensable step towards general and comprehensive disarmament, he emphasized, noting that given the urgent need to establish a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East, the present session provided a timely opportunity to get that unfulfilled process back on track and break the current stalemate. Concerning confidence-building measures in the field of conventional weapons, he called for a number of steps, including the imposition of international inspection on overproduction and the ever-increasing stockpiles in the hands of major arms exporters.
MARTIN ERIC SIPHO NGUNDZE (South Africa) said multilateralism was the best tool for dealing with issues affecting international peace and security, and the Commission provided an inclusive platform for deliberations. Deeply concerned about the humanitarian consequences of a nuclear detonation, he said only total elimination of nuclear weapons would guarantee freedom from such a threat, describing the recent successful conference to negotiate a legally binding instrument to ban nuclear weapons as a bold and positive step. While there was significant convergence on key elements among participating States, much effort remained to finalize the work during the second session of the conference in June and July. South Africa supported a prohibition treaty, without prejudice to existing nuclear disarmament commitments, particularly those under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, he emphasized, describing the instrument as a cornerstone of ongoing efforts. Expressing hope for a fruitful conference to review that Treaty, he emphasized that it was not acceptable for States parties to treat their commitments and obligations as an à la carte menu from which they could pick and choose. As such, South Africa called upon all States parties to honour their obligations without further delay, including implementation of the 1995 resolution to establish a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East.
On conventional weapons, he said his country would play its part in efforts to ensure a world free of anti-personnel mines and cluster munitions, and called upon States in a position to do so to provide assistance to those in need. Voicing deep concern about the illicit arms trade, he pledged South Africa’s continuing advocacy of greater United Nations investment in implementation of the Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects. South Africa would also continue to call upon all Member States to sign and ratify the Arms Trade Treaty, the only legally binding instrument of its kind that promoted transparency and cooperation.
KOSUKE AMIYA (Japan) said the 17-year-long deadlock within the Commission had called its credibility into serious question, and all Member States must work together to find ways to reinvigorate it. In light of the growing rift between nuclear-weapon States and their non-nuclear-weapon counterparts, engaging with the former in disarmament deliberations — including by enhancing transparency, ensuring the early entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, starting negotiations on a fissile material cut-off treaty and developing verification measures — was imperative, he stressed. As the only country ever to have suffered atomic bombings in wartime, he emphasized, Japan supported the promotion of promoting nuclear disarmament on the basis of an understanding of the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons, as well as objective assessment of the reality of the security situation.
He went on to point out that, despite repeated calls, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea continued to conduct tests, including one that had landed within Japan’s exclusive economic zone, which had raised that threat to a new level. Condemning those actions, he urged Pyongyang to comply with Security Council resolutions and other commitments. Describing the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty as the remaining cornerstone of the international nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation regime, he emphasized the need to maintain and strengthen it. He also underlined the importance of the Programme of Action on Small Arms and Light Weapons, as well as the Register for Conventional Arms, calling upon all States to provide data and information. Noting that rapid progress in science and industrial technology posed a great challenge, he said that his country welcomed the establishment of the Group of Governmental Experts on Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems under the Convention on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons Which May Be Deemed to Be Excessively Injurious or to Have Indiscriminate Effects.
AMAËL PILVEN (France) said that a serious proliferation crisis had continued since the Commission’s last session. Non-proliferation standards had been regularly and openly violated in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and Syria, and the danger of biological weapons falling into the hands of non-State actors could not be excluded. Meanwhile, outer space posed challenges that could not be ignored. Given that overall situation, there was need to renew dialogue and to beware of polarized debates involving positions and initiatives that divided States and jeopardized established instruments, he emphasized. With the start of a new review cycle for the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, it was to be hoped that the instrument would remain the cornerstone of collective security.
He emphasized that his country’s commitment to nuclear disarmament had been seen in its words and actions, including the final dismantling of its nuclear test site and the end of its production of fissile weapons material for military purposes. France supported total nuclear disarmament, but only when the strategic context allowed it, he stressed, quoting the country’s President. That context was currently characterized by regional tensions and a proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, he noted, while underlining that France would not participate in negotiations on a treaty banning nuclear weapons. However, it did favour specific disarmament measures within the framework of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
ABDOULAYE BARRO (Senegal), associating himself with the African Group and the Non-Aligned Movement, said a collective diplomatic effort was needed to respond to security challenges, emphasizing that the pursuit of purely national interests would only lead to mistrust, defiance and confrontation. While welcoming the Arms Trade Treaty’s entry into force, he expressed concern about the trade in small arms and light weapons, as well as their transfer, manufacture, possession and circulation, particularly in Africa, calling upon countries that had not yet done so to sign the instrument. On nuclear weapons, he said the goal of universal adherence to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, complemented by the entry into force of the Comprehensive Test-Ban Treaty, should remain a high priority. Existing nuclear-weapon-free zones should be reinforced and new ones created, particularly in the Middle East, he said.
CLAUDIO GARRIDO (Chile), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), said all States, regardless of their size or power, had a shared responsibility to help consolidate an international order based on cooperation and regulated by rules. There was need for greater engagement by democratic international organizations, as well as civil society, in addressing nuclear disarmament, he said, emphasizing the importance of considering practical confidence-building measures in the field of conventional weapons.
MAURO VIEIRA (Brazil) said she regretted to note that 71 years after the General Assembly’s first resolution calling for the elimination of atomic bombs and all other weapons of mass destruction, such issues remained unresolved. Limited reductions thus far had been offset by the continuing modernization and qualitative improvement of nuclear arsenals, he said, while noting that the Conferences on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons had deepened the collective realization of the grave danger such weapons posed. Following the March conference to negotiate a legally binding treaty banning nuclear weapons, the Commission should focus its disarmament discussions on transparency, irreversibility and verification, he urged, noting that, as a signatory to the relevant conventional weapons instruments, his country supported confidence-building measures. Brazil also supported the Commission’s consideration of a third agenda item — preventing an arms race in outer space. Going forward, there was no rational justification for the Commission not to reach agreement during the present session, he emphasized, pointing out that the panel had been able to agree even during the cold war. Greater political will was needed to break the deadlock going forward.
JUAN CAMILO DÍAZ (Colombia), expressing strong support for action against anti-personnel mines, said his country had launched pilot demining projects following the November 2016 Peace Agreement between the Government of Colombia and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-People’s Army (FARC-EP). It was also taking steps to combat trafficking in illicit arms, ammunition and explosives. As for other categories of weapons, the elimination of cluster munitions was a moral obligation. Colombia was committed to efforts intended to revitalize the disarmament process and had participated in the recent conference to negotiate a legally binding treaty banning nuclear weapons, he said, emphasizing that actions to eliminate nuclear weapons must be inclusive. Colombia also supported ongoing efforts to eliminate chemical and biological weapons, he added.
JAIME HERMIDA (Nicaragua) said the Commission must succeed in sending concrete recommendations to the General Assembly. Welcoming the Assembly’s decision to convene a high-level meeting on nuclear disarmament no later than 2018, he said States must reach agreement on the full and complete elimination of all nuclear weapons, and on a comprehensive and transparent verification system. Expressing regret over the failure of the 2015 Treaty on Nuclear Non-Proliferation review conference, he said the International Court of Justice ruling that nuclear weapons violated the United Nations Charter was relevant to current discussions. As for nuclear-weapon-free zones, he described their creation as a step in the right direction, urging forward movement to establish such a zone in the Middle East. On the trafficking of conventional weapons, he said Nicaragua had adopted initiatives and laws to combat the illicit trade, and welcomed the progress made in efforts to eliminate cluster munitions and other arms. States must now demonstrate the necessary political will to overcome the current deadlock in the disarmament machinery, he emphasized.
MOHAMED ALI ALHAKIM (Iraq), associating himself with the Arab Group and the Non-Aligned Movement, expressed concern about the possibility of weapons of mass destruction ending up in the hands of terrorist groups. Emphasizing the need for concerted efforts to prevent nuclear terrorism — the biggest threat to international peace and security — he called for effective security measures to safeguard nuclear facilities and materials. Turning to the question of a nuclear-weapon-free Middle East, he said that would involve Israel ratifying the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, subjecting its nuclear facilities to International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) supervision and getting rid of its nuclear weapons. He went on to stress the inalienable right of all States parties, especially developing countries, to develop and use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, without discrimination and subject to IAEA oversight.
DELFINA JANE DRIS (Malaysia) emphasized that, entering the last phase of its triennial cycle, the Commission must exert leadership, demonstrate political will and exercise flexibility in order to achieve results and thereby retain credibility. It should build on the momentum of the recent United Nations conference to negotiate a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, she said, adding that the Treaty on Nuclear Non-Proliferation must continue to guide the vision of general and complete disarmament under international control. On conventional weapons, she stated her country’s commitment to stringent domestic controls over their trade and circulation, saying Malaysia also supported confidence-building measures at all levels, while believing more could be done to address divergent views in that regard.
DURGA PRASAD BHATTARAI (Nepal), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, emphasized the potential of confidence-building measures to create an environment conducive to complete nuclear disarmament. Women, youth, civil society, academia and the private sector had an important part to play in spreading awareness and educating the masses to urge their respective Governments to apply disarmament-related confidence-building measures. Noting his country’s hosting of the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Asia and Pacific, he said that such regional mechanisms could also play a greater role in promoting non-proliferation, disarmament and confidence-building measures. They should be strengthened, well resourced and developed as repositories of best practices in disseminating disarmament-related information, he urged.