Note: Full coverage of today’s meeting of the First Committee will be available after the meeting’s conclusion.
The First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) met to begin its thematic discussion on conventional weapons and hear a briefing by the President of the fifth Review Conference of the High Contracting Parties to 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. For background information, see Press Release GA/DIS/3571 of 2 October.
FARUKH AMIL (Pakistan) delivered a statement on behalf of Tehmina Janjua, President of the fifth Review Conference of the High Contracting Parties to 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. Noting that Ms. Janjua, Foreign Secretary of Pakistan, had been the first woman and representative of the Non‑Aligned Movement to act as President of the Conference, he provided a summary of the latest gathering, held in December 2016. The Review Conference had provided an opportunity to consider the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons’ operation and identified new areas that required attention.
However, issues with the instrument remained, he said. With armed conflicts and rapid technological developments, the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons needed to remain at the forefront of action. Praising the work of the Review Conference, which had achieved a robust outcome document that would help the Convention keep pace with new developments, he noted the valuable participation and engagement of non‑governmental organizations (NGOs) and civil society.
Overall, the Review Conference had set up building blocks for the consideration of key issues, including lethal autonomous weapons. Stand‑alone items at the 2017 Meeting of the High Contracting Parties would include science and technology‑related developments, mines and Protocol III, which covered incendiary weapons. Informal consultations would also be held to consider the use of conventional weapons in civilian areas. The success of the Convention was a good sign; its strength lay in its ability to balance humanitarian concerns with the security imperatives of States.
Calling on all States to meet their financial obligations to the convening of further conferences, he drew attention to the issue of universalization of the Convention. Since the fourth Review Conference, more States had joined, increasing to 123 at end of 2016, from 114 at end of 2011. Calling on States that had not yet acceded to it to do so, he added that Pakistan would be tabling a draft resolution on the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons.
DANNY RAHDIANSYAH (Indonesia), speaking on behalf of the Non‑Aligned Movement, affirmed the sovereign right of States to acquire, manufacture, export, import and retain conventional arms and relevant parts, components and ammunition for their self‑defence and security needs. Concerned about unilateral coercive measures in that area, he emphasized that no undue restriction should be placed on the transfer of such arms and relevant parts, components and ammunition. He also called on major producing States to ensure that the supply of small arms and light weapons was limited only to Governments or entities duly authorized by them.
Recognizing the adverse humanitarian impact caused by the use of cluster munitions, he called for financial, technical and humanitarian assistance toward unexploded ordnance clearing operations and the rehabilitation of victims. He deplored the use of anti‑personnel mines in conflict situations aimed at maiming, killing and terrorizing innocent civilians. In that regard, he reiterated the Movement’s commitment to the full implementation of the Cartagena Action Plan 2010‑2014, aimed at ending the suffering caused by anti‑personnel mines. Meanwhile, explosive remnants of the Second World War continued to cause human and material damage and obstruct development plans in some Non‑Aligned Movement member States, he said, calling on nations responsible for laying those mines to cooperate with affected countries.
Turning to lethal autonomous weapons, he highlighted the ethical, legal, moral and technical questions that should be thoroughly examined in the context of their conformity to international humanitarian and human rights law. Addressing the significant imbalance in the production, possession and trade in conventional weapons between the industrialized countries and Non‑Aligned Movement member States, he called for significant reductions to enhance global peace and security.
PETRA PAASILINNA (Finland), speaking on behalf of the Nordic countries, said armed violence killed half a million people every year. A valid and effective strategy to cope with the illicit weapons flow could be found in the Arms Trade Treaty and the Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects. Such disarmament efforts should be placed in the context of wider goals, such as conflict prevention and the Sustainable Development Goals set out in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The linkages between disarmament, development and gender perspectives were clear, and the need for equal participation of men and women in disarmament analysis, negotiations and decision‑making processes would increase the legitimacy, quality and effectiveness of all disarmament initiatives. Improving the gender aspect was not “soft” policy, but rather a smart one, she said.
MICHAEL TEN-POW (Guyana), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), stated that while members of the bloc did not manufacture, export, re‑export or conduct large‑scale imports of small arms and light weapons, the impact of such weapons on the region remained a cause for concern. Thus, CARICOM remained a strong advocate for the universalization of the Arms Trade Treaty, he said, expressing pleasure over progress made since its entry into force in 2014. He noted with satisfaction that the third Conference of States Parties to that instrument had decided to establish the Working Group on Treaty Universalization as a standing body.
He continued to acknowledge the region’s ongoing partnership with the United Nations through the Regional Centre for Peace, Disarmament and Development in Latin America and the Caribbean, which had resulted in many concrete achievements. Measureable outcomes included improved security for more than 120 stockpile facilities across the region and the destruction of more than 54,000 weapons and 67 tons of ammunition. He called on States that manufactured and exported conventional arms to work with other nations to ensure adequate control systems to safeguard against the diversion of those arms from legitimate uses to illicit markets.
NAME TO COME (Egypt), speaking on behalf of the African Group and associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, said the illicit movement of conventional weapons across national borders had major security implications for the continent. The Group was committed to the full implementation of the Programme of Action on Small Arms as a vital element for long‑term security and sustainable development in Africa.
Turning to efforts aimed at concrete action on the ground, he called on developed countries to render assistance for realizing the Programme of Action on Small Arms and for eradicating the illicit trade. Further, the Arms Trade Treaty should be fully implemented by all States, he said, underlining the importance of respecting the sovereign right of States to manufacture conventional weapons for self‑defence in accordance with the United Nations Charter. Unregulated conventional arms transfers fuelled illegal weapons markets and undermined peace and security, he said, highlighting the importance of political will and transparency in addressing international disarmament and security issues.
Ms. KÖRÖMI (European Union) reiterated full support for the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti‑Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction and the implementation of the Maputo Action Plan 2014‑2019 toward achieving a world without any new victims by 2025 that was free of anti‑personnel mines. The humanitarian impact of the Mine Ban Convention had been remarkable: more than 51 million had been destroyed, 87 of 90 States had declared they no longer held stockpiles and 30 of 61 States no longer held mined areas on territory under their control. In addition, the situation for the majority of mine victims was significantly better today than two decades ago, she said, noting that the European Union, in 2016 alone, had committed more than €100 million toward mine action worldwide, providing victim assistance and education in the most heavily affected countries and regions of the world.
Meanwhile, the European Union supported the humanitarian goal of the Convention on Cluster Munitions, she said, expressing deep concerns about the reported indiscriminate use of those arms. In that regard, she called upon all actors to refrain from using those weapons and fully observe the principles of humanitarian law. She also expressed support for the universalization of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons and supported the decision of the fifth Review Conference to establish a group of governmental experts on lethal autonomous weapons. Concerned over the increasing global impact of terrorist groups using improvised explosive devices, she welcomed Security Council resolution 2370 (2017), which called for more stringent national measures to prevent terrorists from acquiring such weapons.
SABRINA DALLAFIOR MATTER (Switzerland) said the illicit trade and misuse of conventional weapons was a daily threat to peace, security and sustainable development. Finding solutions to overcome those challenges would require measures for the transfer, management and use of conventional weapons. The Arms Trade Treaty played a crucial role in establishing shared rules on the transfer of weapons and the fight against their illicit trade. Implementing the instrument must be a priority, she said, emphasizing the need to treat the question of ammunition as an issue in its own right. Inadequately managed ammunition stockpiles regularly fuelled conflicts and violence, and were the cause of accidental explosions. Switzerland was pursuing an initiative on the safe and secure management of ammunition, while continuing to support the implementation of existing standards.
NAME TO COME (Austria), urging the international community to push for the implementation of all existing instruments and put the protection of civilians at the centre, called for a “disarmament that actually saves lives”. In addition to reports of anti‑personnel mine use in Myanmar, the number of casualties stemming from the deployment of improvised explosive devices was growing. Austria, together with Afghanistan and Chile, had tabled a draft resolution on countering the threat posed by improvised explosive devices. Such devices had killed or injured more than 32,000 civilians. S/he added that scientific and technological advances should ensure that the application of new military technologies was consistent with legal, ethical and political imperatives.
NAME TO COME (Italy) expressed regret that due to financial issues, no formal meeting could be held on the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons. Noting with concern the indiscriminate humanitarian and socioeconomic impacts of anti‑personnel mines, s/he added that Parliament had recently approved a new law prohibiting all Italian financial institutions from investing in and providing any form of support to Italian or foreign companies involved in the production, use, sale, import, export, stockpiling or transport of anti‑personnel mines as well as cluster munitions and explosive munitions.
NAME TO COME (Australia) highlighted the detrimental effect of illicit arms trade in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. While States currently outside the Arms Trade Treaty may not realize the benefits of joining, Australia would launch a compendium to address awareness‑raising issues that would promote the instrument’s broader benefits. Australia was committed to mine action, having donated AUS$5 million in 2017 for demining activities across the globe. But, significant challenges remained in clearance, stockpile destruction and countering the effects of improvised explosive devices. To that end, Australia hoped Member States would support the related draft resolution, also co‑sponsored by Afghanistan and France. Underlining the importance of the Mine Ban Convention, Cluster Munitions Convention and the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, he urged all States parties to sustain the momentum of those treaties.
Mr. TAKAMIZAWA (Japan) welcomed the successful outcome of the third Conference of States Parties to the Arms Trade Treaty and the establishment of working groups on implementation. Less than half of United Nations Member States had joined the Arms Trade Treaty, with the number of States parties in the Asia‑Pacific region remaining low. Highlighting the importance of mine action programmes, he said Japan had donated $710 million for programmes in 51 countries and regions since 1998. Turning to lethal autonomous weapons, he welcomed the Group of Governmental Experts on the issue and called on Member States to intensify discussions in order to achieve progress. Turning to the Group of Governmental Experts to Review the Operation and Further Development of the United Nations Report on Military Expenditures, he said the reporting mechanism was conducive to building trust and confidence and called on Member States that had not yet done so to utilize the tool. He then expressed regret that Geneva‑based disarmament instruments had faced a troublesome financial situation, which put at risk the functioning and future implementation of the conventions. In that vein, he called upon all States that had not yet paid their contributions to do so in a timely manner.
SANDEEP KUMAR BAYYAPU (India), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, said his country had ratified all five protocols annexed to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons. He welcomed the outcome of its fifth Review Conference, which had included a decision to establish the Group of Governmental Experts on lethal autonomous weapons systems. Supporting the approach on anti‑personnel mines enshrined in the instrument, which addressed the legitimate defence requirements of States with long borders, India had stopped producing non‑detectable mines, observed a moratorium on their transfer and had contributed to international demining and rehabilitation efforts. On the Arms Trade Treaty, India continued to review the instrument from defence, security and foreign policy perspectives. While India had raised concerns — including shortcomings in terms of stemming the flow of arms to terrorists and non‑State armed groups — during negotiations, he said his country subscribed fully to the instrument’s objectives.
ALICE GUITTON (France) said conventional weapons were a major threat to security worldwide, creating more victims than any other weapon. The proliferation of small arms and light weapons fuelled conflicts, terrorism and organized crime. To address those and other concerns, she called for an inclusive, transparent and robust process to achieve results in the combat of their illicit spread. The international community must also mobilize to cope with the devastating threat of the improvised explosive devices. The Arms Trade Treaty should prevent the illicit weapons trade and efforts should be made towards its universalization.
Mr. CARRILLO GOMEZ (Paraguay) said combating the illicit trade in conventional weapons required a coherent and holistic approach by the international community. He called for the production of a common regulatory framework on conventional weapons which should be universal. Implementing the Arms Trade Treaty was a useful tool for preventing conflict, violence and violations of international law and human rights. Likewise, the implementation of the Programme of Action on Small Arms should also include explosive munitions. In addition, women must be included in disarmament tracking and tracing initiatives. For its part, Paraguay had destroyed stockpiles and enforced arms control policies that, along with similar legislation in neighbouring countries, had contributed to reducing the illicit flows.