Speakers in the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) called for more robust efforts to revive stalled disarmament processes, with some discussing whether the General Assembly should launch negotiations that would lead to a worldwide nuclear-weapon ban.
During the second day of the Committee’s general debate, delegates weighed the pros and cons of a recommendation from the Open-ended Working Group on taking forward multilateral disarmament negotiations for the Assembly to convene a conference in 2017 to negotiate a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons. Many non-nuclear-weapon States said such a conference would loosen the disarmament machinery from its current frozen state.
South Africa’s representative said the resistance by nuclear-weapon States to fulfil disarmament obligations and commitments had caused serious divisions among countries and created a credibility crisis in the disarmament and non-proliferation regime. Convening a conference in 2017 to commence negotiations was a practical interim step to fill the gap in the international legal architecture on nuclear weapons.
Many speakers, including the representative of Indonesia, agreed. The negotiation process would not undermine the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons regime, but rather strengthen it, she said, noting how slow progress towards nuclear disarmament had underpinned Indonesia’s support for the Open-ended Working Group’s recommendation.
Other non-nuclear-weapon States echoed that perspective. Her counterpart from Ecuador also supported a start to negotiations, saying that a legally binding instrument might not make nuclear weapons disappear, but it would lay a legal foundation for disarmament.
The representative of the Russian Federation, the only nuclear-weapon State to take the floor today, said such a ban would inevitably have a negative impact on the Non-Proliferation Treaty and break an established pace of multilateral work on disarmament. He rejected as propaganda claims that disarmament was proceeding too slowly, noting how ongoing efforts by the Russian Federation and the United States had reversed the cold war arms race. He also asserted that nuclear weapons held by the five nuclear-weapons States were legitimate under the Non-Proliferation Treaty.
In a similar vein, Australia’s delegate said that pursuing a separate treaty to prohibit nuclear weapons without the participation of nuclear-weapon States could risk undermining the security afforded by the Non-Proliferation Treaty. It would neither convince a State like the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to give up its nuclear weapons programme nor help prevent nuclear materials from falling into the hands of terrorists.
Several delegations put a spotlight on the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons. Costa Rica’s representative said irresponsible transfers needed to stop immediately, urging States parties that exported and imported conventional weapons to abide by restrictions and appealing to the Security Council’s permanent members to fulfil their obligations. Noting that December would mark the second anniversary of the entry into force of the Arms Trade Treaty, he said it was time to move to more substantive discussions, including on transfers. The Treaty’s objective was to save lives, but in several parts of the world, that was not the case.
Also speaking today were representatives of Finland, Ghana, Libya, Egypt, United Republic of Tanzania, Spain, Austria, Peru, Poland, Philippines, Germany, Thailand, Argentina and Sweden.
The First Committee will meet again at 10 a.m., 5 October, to continue its work.
The First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) met this morning to continue its general debate on all agenda items before it. For background, see Press Release GA/DIS/3545 of 3 October.
CORY BERNARDI (Australia) said First Committee members were meeting to make a practical difference to regional and global security. If the international community realized that, it must recommit itself to the “painstaking and unavoidable” work of nuclear disarmament and confidence-building measures. Pursuing a separate treaty to illegalize nuclear weapons without the participation of nuclear-weapon States could risk undermining the security afforded by the Non-Proliferation Treaty. A treaty banning nuclear weapons would neither convince a State like the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to give up its nuclear weapons programme nor help prevent nuclear materials from falling into the hands of terrorists, he said. Australia called on nuclear-weapon States and other Annex 2 States who had not yet ratified the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty to do so. Australia was also encouraging all States to accede to the Arms Trade Treaty. With regards to the situation in Syria and Iraq, he called on the international community to intensify its efforts to eliminate chemical weapon stockpiles, prevent the use of such weapons and demonstrate its resolve to hold perpetrators accountable.
SANNAMAARIA VANAMO (Finland) said the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons must be fully implemented and the Test-Ban Treaty must enter into force. Strongly condemning the nuclear test conducted by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea on 9 September, she urged that country to observe its obligations, abandon its nuclear programme and commit to close cooperation with the international community. Other important issues included focusing on preventive efforts to combat threats related to nuclear and radioactive material, particularly involving non-State actors, and on biosecurity. As current President of the Conference of States Parties to the Arms Trade Treaty, Finland was engaged in a joint effort to proceed to substantive work. Effective implementation, in the context of combating illegal and unregulated flow of arms to conflict areas, needed to be ensured, she said, adding that the Treaty’s Voluntary Trust Fund would be valuable in supporting national capacity-building.
JUAN CARLOS MENDOZA-GARCÍA (Costa Rica) said that since the Committee had met in 2015, disarmament efforts had seen both progress and setbacks. Noting that December would mark the second anniversary of the entry into force of the Arms Trade Treaty, he said it was time to move to more substantive discussions, including on transfers. The Treaty’s objective was to save lives, but in several parts of the world, that was not the case. Irresponsible transfers needed to stop immediately, he said, urging States parties that exported and imported conventional weapons to abide by restrictions and appealing to the Security Council’s permanent members to fulfil their obligations. With no army of its own and as a modest importer of weapons, Costa Rica was adapting the Treaty to its national situation, including the introduction of best-practice measures for private security enterprises.
MARTHA AMA AKYAA POBEE (Ghana) said the international community had yet to make significant steps towards a nuclear-weapon-free world. Further, the vision of nuclear disarmament seemed far from being realized considering the slow progress of negotiations and continued investments in upgrading existing arsenals. In that context, she called for a renewal of the international community’s commitment to the Non-Proliferation Treaty, which remained the cornerstone of the global nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament regime. She urged Member States to address the persistent challenges that had thwarted efforts to agree on an outcome document during the 2015 Review Conference.
ELMAHDI S. ELMAJERBI (Libya) said his Government respected its nuclear disarmament commitments and continued to collaborate fully with the international community in that regard. Aware of the impact of weapons of mass destruction and their devastating effects, Libya had abandoned its programme in 2003. Calling on nuclear-weapon States to eliminate their arsenals, he urged all parties to the Non-Proliferation Treaty to fulfil their commitments. He also called for a legally binding instrument to ensure the security of non-nuclear-weapon States, urging nuclear-weapon States to join negotiations. Expressing disappointment that the 2015 Review Conference had failed to reach consensus, he recalled that some countries had made attempts to hamper the outcome document over the issue of establishing a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East. Only through international cooperation could common goals be achieved, he said.
HORACIO SEVILLA BORJA (Ecuador), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, supported the General Assembly’s decision to establish a negotiating process in 2017 that would lead to a treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons. While such an instrument would not make nuclear weapons disappear, it would lay a legal foundation for disarmament. Highlighting the importance of convening the fourth special session of the General Assembly devoted to disarmament, he commended progress that had been made so far by its open-ended Working Group. Noting that 2017 marked the fiftieth anniversary of the Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean, known as the Treaty of Tlatelolco, he urged signatory States to withdraw the interpretative declarations that had been made when they had signed its Protocol. All countries should establish nuclear-weapon-free zones, which would help to achieve the goal of general and complete disarmament. The Test-Ban Treaty would enter into force when all Annex 2 States ratified it, he said, adding that resolutions by entities that had little to do with the Treaty would not suffice. Turning to other issues, he expressed concern at the use of unmanned combat aerial vehicles and lethal autonomous weapons, saying the international community needed to discuss in depth the implications of such weapons vis-à-vis international humanitarian law and must consider their prohibition.
IHAB MOUSTAFA AWAD MOUSTAFA (Egypt), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, the Arab Group, the African Group and the New Agenda Coalition, said the international community was aware of the danger of the use of nuclear deterrence. Yet, the disarmament regime was still struggling with Article VI of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, he said, recalling that during the 2015 Review Conference two nuclear-weapon States had taken unjustified measures. An unlimited extension of the Non-Proliferation Treaty did not mean nuclear-weapon States should have such arms on a permanent basis, he said, expressing concern at the modernization of arsenals and rejecting the joint statement issued in September by the five nuclear-weapon States. Turning to the Arms Trade Treaty, he said Egypt refused its politicization or any threat to existing rights, reiterating his Government’s support for the United Nations Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons.
TUVAKO NATHANIEL MANONGI (United Republic of Tanzania), associating himself with the African Group and Non-Aligned Movement, said progress towards collective disarmament goals had been slow and sometimes painful, but his Government had not lost confidence in the central role of the United Nations to control and eliminate nuclear arms as a way towards achieving international peace and security. Since disarmament and development were related, a portion of resources that had been deployed for military expenditure could make a significant contribution towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. He called on nuclear-weapon States to fully comply with their legal obligations towards the total elimination of such arms without further delay. However, the Non-Proliferation Treaty should not be used as a “camouflage” for placing stringent conditions on the transfer of nuclear technology to developing nations for peaceful uses. In that respect, the benefits of nuclear technology should not be for the exclusive use of the nuclear Powers alone.
JUAN IGNACIO MORRO VILLACIÁN (Spain), reaffirming his Government’s commitment to multilateralism, the United Nations and relevant disarmament and non-proliferation treaties, underscored the importance of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, calling for its universalization. He condemned recent nuclear tests by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, which were in flagrant violation of relevant Security Council resolutions. Welcoming the agreement made on Iran’s nuclear programme, he called for continued work to ensure the effective and full implementation of its provisions. While Spain firmly supported the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva, it was unfortunate that paralysis had persisted, including a lack of momentum in the negotiation of a treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices. Highlighting the importance of Security Council resolution 1540 (2004), which was a critical tool for preventing non-State actors from gaining access to nuclear weapons, he said Spain was working towards its effective implementation through the comprehensive review process.
THOMAS HAJNOCZI (Austria) said the latest testing by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in September was a stark reminder that nuclear proliferation was “happening right before our eyes”. Major strides towards disarmament by nuclear-weapon States would remove a stimulus for other States to acquire such weapons, directly benefiting the Non-Proliferation Treaty’s objectives. Scientists had concluded that the impact of a nuclear weapon explosion would be graver than had been understood in the past, a key finding of the 2014 Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons. The Conference’s Humanitarian Pledge had been welcomed in 2015 by General Assembly resolution 70/48 and would be tabled as an updated draft text during the current session. Turning to other weapons, he said Austria was paying special attention to the instruments banning anti-personnel mines and cluster munitions.
MIKHAIL ULYANOV (Russian Federation) said a result of efforts by his Government and the United States had stopped and even reversed the nuclear arms race. Real disarmament was continuing, he said, noting how the number of deployed Russian nuclear warheads had dropped between 2010 and 2015. Relevant agencies were undertaking efforts on a daily basis to achieve levels, by 5 February 2018, as defined by Treaty between the United States of America and the Russian Federation on Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms (New START Treaty). Doing so required significant expenditure amid a difficult economic climate. Statements that nuclear disarmament was being carried out too slowly or facing a crisis had nothing to do with reality, he said, adding that the Russian Federation had spent tens of billions of dollars on disarmament. Such claims were a clear example of propaganda that sought to justify increasingly unrealistic demands, including the proposal for the prohibition of nuclear weapons.
Such a ban, he said, would break an established algorithm on multilateral work on disarmament as carried out under the Non-Proliferation Treaty. Further, there would be inevitable negative consequences for the viability of that instrument. In line with the Non-Proliferation Treaty, the nuclear arms held by the five nuclear-weapon States were legitimate. A proposal to outlaw nuclear weapons through a new agreement could result in two parallel regimes. A ban on nuclear weapons might have made sense if all nuclear-weapon States were ready to participate, but the Russian Federation would definitely not join in unrealistic endeavours that contradicted previous agreements. His Government respected and understood the opinion of those in favour of banning nuclear weapons and shared the goal of a world free of such weapons. But, the question was how to embark on such a path without undermining strategic stability, damaging the system of checks and balances in international relations, threatening the integrity of the non-proliferation regime or deepening differences of opinions on such a sensitive issue. Prioritizing a ban would be an act of propaganda, he said.
Among the Russian Federation’s concerns, he said, were the prevention of an arms race in outer space and anti-missile defence, including systems in Romania, Poland and the Republic of Korea. He was also concerned about European security and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) policies, control of conventional weapons in Europe and his Government’s initiative to “unblock” the Conference on Disarmament. He referred delegations to his full statement, which would be posted on the Committee’s website.
JERRY MATTHEWS MATJILA (South Africa), associating himself with the African Group, the Non-Aligned Movement and the New Agenda Coalition, said the resistance by nuclear-weapon States to fulfil their disarmament obligations and commitments had caused serious divisions among countries and created a credibility crisis in the nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation regime. The Open-ended Working Group on taking forward multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations had provided an inclusive platform. But, despite concerted efforts by virtually all participants to achieve a consensus outcome, one State had decided to break agreement on the report, which had been adopted by an overwhelming majority. Its recommendation that the General Assembly convene a conference in 2017 to commence negotiations was a practical interim step to fill the gap in the international legal architecture on nuclear weapons. On small arms and light weapons, he emphasized the importance of fully implementing the entire United Nations Programme of Action, including provisions relating to international cooperation and assistance.
GUSTAVO MEZA-CUADRA (Peru), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said that the international community was extremely concerned about the illicit trade of small arms and light weapons. In that context, he expressed support for the United Nations Programme of Action and the related international tracing instrument. He called for States to work through the Programme of Action in a non-discriminatory manner and divert the spread of those weapons to the illicit market. Reaffirming Peru’s commitment to the Non-Proliferation Treaty, he underscored the importance of the instrument’s universalization and encouraged nuclear-weapon States to fulfil their obligations. At the same time, he encouraged Annex 2 States to accelerate the process of ratification. Turning to the disarmament machinery, he said reactivating the Conference on Disarmament was a priority, emphasizing that the forum should be the key negotiating entity for disarmament and international security matters. Expressing concern over the lack of consensus on a programme of work, he urged Member States to demonstrate increased political will to make progress on priority issues.
BEATA PĘKSA (Poland) said there was no short cut to build a more stable security environment, stressing the need for systematic solutions. Poland was ready to adopt additional responsibilities to complement international peace and security efforts by campaigning for a non-permanent seat in the Security Council. Regarding the Non-Proliferation Treaty, she said that the instrument remained a cornerstone of the international system for non-proliferation, disarmament and the peaceful uses of nuclear energy. Poland supported a step-by-step approach, as progress could only be achieved through inclusive dialogue and respect for legitimate security concerns. Expressing concern about the growing polarization in discussions, she said any new nuclear disarmament initiatives must respect the Non-Proliferation Treaty regime. She also expressed regret over recent nuclear tests conducted by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and the ballistic missile tests of a number of States.
INA HANINGTYAS KRISNAMURTHI (Indonesia) associated herself with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the Non-Aligned Movement. Indonesia was a co-initiator of the commemoration of the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons on 26 September, yet she regretted to note that only one third of Member States had participated in the event. Slow progress in nuclear disarmament underpinned Indonesia’s support for the Open-ended Working Group on taking forward multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations and its recommendation for the General Assembly to convene in 2017 a conference to negotiate a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons. Such negotiations were necessary and urgent. “The negotiation would not undermine the Non-Proliferation Treaty regime, but rather strengthen it,” she said, reiterating the importance of maintaining South-East Asia as a nuclear-weapon-free zone. She reiterated the importance of maintaining South-East Asia as a nuclear-weapon-free zone. In that regard, she called on all States parties to the Treaty on the South-East Asia Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone, known as the Bangkok Treaty, and nuclear-weapon States to resolve outstanding issues relevant to signing and ratifying that instrument. Underscoring the sovereign right of States to acquire, manufacture, export, import and retain conventional weapons to protect internal security and territorial integrity, she emphasized that no undue restrictions or conditions should be placed on the transfer of such arms.
LOURDES ORTIZ YPARRAGUIRRE (Philippines), aligning herself with ASEAN, said her Government stood resolute in preserving a region free from nuclear weapons and from all other weapons of mass destruction. In that regard, it would forge ahead with talks with the nuclear-weapon States to resolve all outstanding issues relating to their signing and ratifying the protocol to the Treaty of Bangkok. More broadly, she noted that the work of the Committee was a critical element of the inclusive growth captured in the Sustainable Development Goals. Those goals, she said, would only be achieved if we redirected much needed resources from manufacturing deadly weapons to efforts that would ensure each person’s dignity. More importantly, the Goals would only become a reality in a world that was safe from the threat of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction that could wipe away the very existence of the human race.
SUSANNE BAUMANN (Germany) said achieving a safer world with fewer nuclear weapons was a priority for her Government, one that should take a step-by-step approach permitting a reduction in such weapons. The agreement on Iran’s nuclear programme was a “rare success of diplomacy” in an extremely volatile region. Condemning the growing risk the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea posed to the international community, she strongly urged the country to refrain from conducting such provocative actions. That threat only demonstrated the need to further strengthen the current Non-Proliferation Treaty, she said, urging Member States to push harder for progress. Touching upon the issue of chemical weapons in Syria, she said Germany welcomed the first report of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons-United Nations Joint Investigative Mechanism and looked forward to another detailed report later in October, noting that the inconsistencies in Syria’s declaration of their programme must be clarified. Emphasizing the tremendous human suffering caused by small arms and light weapons, she said Germany attached great importance to a joint initiative with the African Union, a region heavily impacted by those arms.
CHULAMANEE CHARTSUWAN (Thailand), aligning herself with ASEAN, said global security was constantly being challenged by emerging threats from the proliferation of illicit weapons and advancements in the development of weapons and their delivery systems. States must bolster collective efforts and explore new ways to sustain joint endeavours on disarmament and non-proliferation. For its part, Thailand had recently passed the 2016 Nuclear Energy for Peace Act and had actively participated in several initiatives and summits. Welcoming international efforts to enhance transparency in the transfer of conventional arms, she said Thailand was working on the ratification of the Arms Trade Treaty and had recently hosted a regional workshop on its implementation. Among other things, she was hopeful that the First Committee would act upon the recommendations of the 2016 Open-ended Working Group on taking forward multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations supporting a United Nations
conference to be convened in 2017 to negotiate a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons.
MARTÍN GARCIA MORITÁN (Argentina) reiterated deep concern that, 16 years into the twenty-first century, weapons of mass destruction remained an existential threat to all mankind, with international efforts failing to produce the expected results. In 2016 alone, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had carried out two nuclear tests and chemical weapons had been used during the Syrian conflict. There was also an ever-increasing risk of the potential use of biological weapons by non-State actors. Argentina was following with interest the comprehensive review of Security Council resolution 1540 (2004), which would lay the foundation for united efforts to prevent non-State actors from obtaining weapons of mass destruction, delivery systems and related technology. Underscoring the threat to sustainable development posed by the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons, he suggested the exploration of possible synergies between existing instruments.
EVA WALDER (Sweden) said the possession and deployment of nuclear weapons could never be the basis for a sustainable security for mankind. The catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of such weapons were well documented and irrefutable. Drawing attention to current developments, she expressed deep concern over recent testing by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and the Conference on Disarmament’s failure to agree on a work programme. Having supported all processes that could make a difference, Sweden was planning to introduce a draft text on risk reduction. The Non-Proliferation Treaty was the most important legal framework in the nuclear field and the only guarantee that those weapons would never be used again was their total elimination. She welcomed the outcome of the second Conference of States Parties to the Arms Trade Treaty as it had strengthened efforts in the fight against irresponsible, unregulated and illicit arms trade. Describing the United Nations Programme of Action as the most important guide for addressing that problem, she said such weapons continued to destabilize societies and hinder peace and development.