11/10/2001
Press Release
GA/DIS/3202



Fifty-sixth General Assembly

First Committee

7th Meeting (PM)


MASS DESTRUCTION WEAPONS POSE GREATEST THREAT, YET DISARMAMENT PLEDGES


LARGELY UNMET, SAYS NIGERIA IN FIRST COMMITTEE’S GENERAL DEBATE


Small Arms Proliferation, Anti-Personnel Mines,

Nuclear-Weapon-Free Middle East Among Other Issues Addressed


In the broad spectrum of the challenges faced by humanity -- such as global epidemics, regional conflicts and poverty -- weapons of mass destruction posed the greatest threat to human survival, yet pledges made in the field of disarmament and security had remained largely unmet, the representative of Nigeria said this afternoon.


Addressing the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) as it continued its general debate, he underscored Nigeria's commitment to the ban on nuclear testing and the importance of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) towards a nuclear-weapon-free world.  He heralded the global conference on small arms in July as an acknowledgement of the devastating impact of those weapons on the well-being of many developing countries.  For that reason, he urged a ban on their sale and transfer to non-State actors.


Echoing concern over the failure of the small arms conference to deal effectively with such basic issues as the sale of those arms to groups not recognized by States, the representative of Burkina Faso warned that, despite national measures, the spread of small arms and light weapons had been increasing in Africa.  The control of anti-personnel landmines was also a critical issue. Besides claiming victims, those weapons had curbed agricultural development and many other social and economic activities in many developing countries.


The representative of the United Republic of Tanzania, also stressing the urgent need to ban the supply of small arms to non-State actors, said his country shared the world's concern about their proliferation.  At the same time, he was gratified that global efforts had led to the clearing of a considerable amount of land of anti-personnel landmines, and that the casualty rates in many of the most affected States had declined.  Victim assistance had also improved.


Emphasizing international appeals to control weapons of mass destruction and prevent their spread, the representative of Qatar warned that States were still modernizing their military arsenals and creating even more deadly weapons.  The arms race was continuing and the best way to prevent it was to settle political


conflicts and convince the parties to avoid the worst possible scenario.  In the case of the Middle East -- which could explode at any moment -- he urged the creation of a nuclear-weapon-free zone.


Preventing the spread of nuclear weapons aimed at their total elimination was not a task for the nuclear-weapon-States, alone, the Australian representative told the Committee.  It was equally important for non-nuclear-weapon States -- as well as States outside the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) -- to contribute to a climate conducive to nuclear arms reductions by reinforcing the non-proliferation regime.  That was even more pressing given that future terrorist atrocities could one day involve weapons of mass destruction.


Statements were also made by the representatives of Kazakhstan, Singapore, Cambodia and Paraguay.


The Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. Friday, 12 October, to continue its general debate.


Background


The First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) met this afternoon to continue its general debate on a wide range of disarmament and arms limitation measures.


One focus of this afternoon's debate will likely be consolidating the gains made following the consensus adoption of an action programme at the first-ever global Conference on the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects, held in New York from 9 to 20 July.  The outcome document includes guidelines for practical action at all levels to prevent, combat and eradicate the illicit trade.


Discussions will continue on the subject of landmines, in the context of the two instruments to ban or limit their use:  Protocol II of 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 (Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons), a partial ban negotiated in the Conference on Disarmament; and the 1999 Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-personnel Mines and on Their Destruction (Ottawa Convention), a total ban, agreed to in Oslo as part of the so-called "Ottawa process".


Also expected to dominate the debate are nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation agreements, among them the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT).  At the 2000 Review Conference, the nuclear-weapon States agreed to an "unequivocal undertaking" to accomplish the total elimination of their nuclear arsenals. 


The delayed entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) will also be examined.  The Treaty -- which outlaws all nuclear tests in all environments -– has still not received the number of ratifications it needs to enter into force.  Thus, the Secretary-General is expected to convene a second Conference to facilitate its entry into force in November.


Under an unusual provision, the Treaty requires ratification by 44 States listed in an Annex.  Of the 13 pending ratifications critical to its success, two are nuclear-weapon States -– China and the United States.  The others are Algeria, Colombia, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Iran, Israel, Pakistan, and Viet Nam.  (The Democratic People's Republic of Korea, India and Pakistan still have not signed the Treaty).


Also in the context of nuclear disarmament, the Committee has before it a report of a group of States that call themselves the New Agenda Coalition.  The coalition is a group of seven countries –- Brazil, Egypt, Ireland, Mexico, Sweden, New Zealand and South Africa –- which introduced a resolution, at the fifty-third General Assembly session, aimed at a nuclear-weapon-free world.


The 1972 Treaty on the Limitation of Anti-Ballistic Missile Systems –- the ABM Treaty -– by which the United States and the Russian Federation agreed to limit the deployment and development of anti-ballistic missiles, will also dominate the debate.  The declared intention of the United States to build a national missile defence prompted the introduction and adoption since 1999 of a resolution calling for continued efforts to strengthen and preserve the Treaty.

In April 2000, the Russian Duma ratified the Strategic Arms Limitation and Reduction Treaty II (START II), which is the second of two treaties by which the Russian Federation and the United States agreed to significantly reduce the number of deployed strategic nuclear warheads.  Negotiation on further reductions under START III might rest on the future of the ABM Treaty.


The original treaty, START I, was signed in 1991 and called for a 30 per cent reduction in strategic weapons over seven years, with stringent verification.  In 1993, START II provided for the elimination of heavy intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and all other multiple-warhead ICBMs, as well as a two thirds reduction of the total number of strategic nuclear weapons deployed by both sides.


Multilateral agreements banning the development of other weapons of mass destruction will also be stressed, such as:  the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on Their Destruction (Biological Weapons Convention); and the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and of Their Destruction (Chemical Weapons Convention). 


The creation and consolidation of nuclear-weapon-free zones will also be considered.  Existing zones include the Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean (Treaty of Tlatelolco), the South Pacific Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty (Treaty of Rarotonga), the South-East Asia Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty (Treaty of Bangkok), and the African Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty (Treaty of Pelindaba).


(For detailed background, see Press Release GA/DIS/3197 issued 5 October). 


MADINA B. JARBUSSYNOVA (Kazakhstan), said that the First Committee was meeting at a time when the dust from the now-destroyed World Trade Centres had not even settled.  The terrible events would cast a shadow over the work of the Committee, but the problems that lay ahead should be confronted in a spirit of unity.


Despite the successful conclusion of the May 2000 NPT Review Conference, progress in that area had been limited, she continued. As a party to the NPT, Kazakhstan was firmly committed to the non-proliferation regime and called on all States to adhere to the treaty.  In order to strengthen the non-proliferation regime, the CTBT must be brought into force.  Kazakhstan had signed, and would soon ratify, that important agreement.  Examples of practical steps in the sphere of nuclear disarmament and public education included the convening of two conferences on disarmament-related issues in Asia and Kazakhstan’s ratification of the memorandum to the ABM Treaty.


She said that besides nuclear weapons, there were other weapons of mass destruction that posed equal if not greater threats to international security, he said.  Kazakhstan had ratified the Chemical Weapons Convention in 1999 and would continue to work on its process of ratification of the Biological Weapons Convention.  Her Government fully supported the humanitarian orientation of the Ottawa Convention and strictly adhered to the moratorium on transfer of anti-personnel mines.  Transparency in the field of arms control and reduction of conventional arms provided the basis for the prevention of a destabilizing arms build-up.  The United Nations Register of Conventional Arms remained the most important component of such control.

The United Nations conference on small arms did not meet full expectations of all States, but Kazakhstan would take steps to implement the programme of action adopted there, she said.  Kazakhstan favoured creation of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in Asia and would contribute to the pursuit of that goal.  He thanked the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Asia for its assistance in this effort.  Kazakhstan continued to work on the convening of a conference on interaction and confidence-building measures in Asia, which it had proposed in 1992.  In November, 16 heads of State were expected to sign the Almaty Act, which reflects major aspects of cooperation in the areas of:  combating new threats such as terrorism and weapons trafficking; application of confidence-building measures; and institutionalization of the conference.


NASSIR ABDULAZIZ AL-NASSER (Qatar) said that the shocking tragic events of 11 September would remain in the collective memory of mankind.  Those were incredible acts, inadmissible in civilization.  The whole world was aspiring to be free from armed conflicts and nuclear waste and have total control over all weapons in all forms.  He hoped the international community would make all possible effort to convince States that still possessed nuclear arsenals to join others in acceding to the relevant treaties, in particular on weapons of mass destruction.  Regrettably, some States were still building their military arsenals, and modernizing them to create even more deadly weapons.


He regretted that the arms race was continuing, he said.  The best way to prevent it was to settle political conflicts worldwide and convince the parties to the conflicts to settle disputes to avoid the worst possible scenario.  Those countries with the power to do so must bring their weight to bear to settle conflicts.  States must also be linked by economic and social ties; that was the road to peace and security among States.  His country was firmly dedicated to the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons and had signed the NPT, Chemical Weapons and Ottawa Conventions.  It had also supported global efforts to cope with the problem of anti-personnel landmines.  Qatar had been one of the first States to sign the Ottawa Convention.


With respect to the Middle East, he said he continued to urge the creation of a nuclear-weapon-free zone.  That hope, however, still remained "far off," since one State, Israel, was not respecting that principle and was refusing to sign the relevant treaties, in particular the NPT.  He appealed to the international community to exert pressure on Israel to place its nuclear facilities under full-scope IAEA safeguards.  The negative consequences of a nuclear explosion would endanger all States of the region.  He urged the international community to take stock of that problem and contribute to a settlement that would ensure regional stability.


ERIC CHONG (Singapore) said that he joined other delegations in condemning the attacks of 11 September and reaffirmed his support for the General Assembly and Security Council resolutions passed to combat terrorism.  The attacks showed how everyday tools and processes could be used as deadly tools of terror.  Unintended consequences also needed to be kept in mind in the field of disarmament, so that the measures put in place today did not end up undermining security in the long run.


Times had changed, but multilateral frameworks were still crucial to disarmament efforts, he continued.  The ideal of freeing the world from the scourges of war and deadly weaponry would not be soon realized.  States right to self-defence in an imperfect world could not be compromised.  Forcing a "less is best" fix onto a set of inappropriate circumstances could undermine the very security the international community sought to build.  Disarmament could not however, be conducted in a vacuum.  Disarmament efforts that did not keep in mind State’s individual circumstances and history would not work.


Should disarmament efforts then be ceased? he asked.  Certainly not, but a more thoughtful approach needed to be taken.  The international community could not be distracted on the trendy disarmament issues of the day, but must focus on the difficult yet critical issues of weapons of mass destruction, disarmament and non-proliferation.  Some processes, such as nuclear disarmament and accession to the Chemical and Biological Weapons Conventions had bedeviled negotiators for years.  But, the potential for casualties in just one weapon of mass destruction strike, especially if it came from extremists, made it imperative to persevere.


Existing approaches needed to be re-examined, he continued.  Truly enduring solutions, not quick fixes that could carry inadvertent consequences, should be sought.  The international community had been reminded that the world it lived in and the peace it sought were both extremely fragile.  That should be kept in mind when embarking on the tasks that lay ahead.


DAUDI N. MWAKAWAGO (United Republic of Tanzania) said that nuclear disarmament had remained one of the highest priorities of the international community.  Nuclear weapons, by their power of destruction, posed the gravest danger to human existence and civilization.  Regrettably, however, the outlook for nuclear disarmament in the near future remained bleak.  That was due to a number of reasons, among them the lack of commitment of the nuclear-weapon States to totally eliminate those weapons within a specified time frame.  That had been compounded by their continued reliance on the doctrine of nuclear deterrence.


He said that bilateral nuclear disarmament was at a standstill.  Although START II was fully ratified more than one year ago, no appreciable efforts were being made to initiate START III.  Meanwhile, notwithstanding the successful conclusion in 2000 of the NPT Review Conference, the future of the non-proliferation regime "hangs in the balance".  He had hoped that the Conference would motivate nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament after the nuclear Powers had undertaken unequivocally to totally eliminate those weapons.  Those commitments, however, had not been translated into action, or even a promise to act.


The United Republic of Tanzania also attached great importance to the eradication of other weapons of mass destruction, he said.  While the work of the OPCW had been commendable, it was still constrained by inadequate resources flowing from the failure of some States parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention to pay their contributions on time.  The failure of the ad hoc committee to reach a consensus on strengthening the verification protocol of the Biological Weapons Convention was regrettable, following six years of negotiations.


He said his country also shared the concern of the world community about the proliferation of, and illicit trafficking in, small arms and light weapons.  Despite the gains made at the recent global Conference, he wished to emphasize the importance and urgency of prohibiting the supply of such weapons to non-State actors.  With regard to anti-personnel landmines, it was gratifying that a considerable amount of land had been cleared of those weapons and that the casualty rates in many of the most affected States had declined.  Victim assistance had also improved.


SUN SUON (Cambodia) said that the debate on issues of disarmament and international security continued to be one of the highest priorities of the United Nations.  The goal of the total elimination of nuclear weapons had not yet been reached.  Military expenditure continued to increase, along with a sense of insecurity in the world.


The existence of wars and the unconventional threat represented by the horrendous attacks of 11 September highlighted concerns about new and grave threats to international peace and security, he continued.  He looked forward to the upcoming negotiations of the major powers on national missile defence systems and hoped that would diminish their differences.  Cambodia hoped the recent progress at the NPT would be translated into universal steps ensuring disarmament and the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons.  All States that had not yet done so should sign the CTBT as a matter of priority.  The stalemate in the Conference on Disarmament impeded negotiations on the treaty banning the production of fissile materials and should, therefore, be resolved.


Cambodia recognized the damages caused by the proliferation of small arms, he said. Lack of a binding framework to prevent the illicit trade of small arms and light weapons was of great concern.  The programme of action adopted at July’s United Nations small arms conference did not meet all expectations, but it did represent a first step and provided practical guidelines for action by the international community.  Having suffered greatly from the use of anti-personnel mines, Cambodia attached great importance to the Ottawa Convention.  Landmines continued to threaten many countries and undermined development efforts.  Continued assistance and financial support were needed to tackle those problems.


Cambodia remained committed to developing confidence-building measures among the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) to promote peace, he continued.  Cambodia had just joined the United Nations Register on Conventional Arms and had convened a conference on confidence-building measures in the field of conventional weapons transfers.  His Government also supported the creation of nuclear-weapon-free zones.  States had a moral and legal obligation to take steps leading to total nuclear disarmament.  Cambodia remained committed to the elimination of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction and faithfully joined the international community’s efforts aimed at ensuring peace and security.  


MICHEL KAFANDO (Burkina Faso) said that the end of the cold war had prompted the belief that an ultimate settlement to issues of disarmament would be reached.  That had not been the case.  Indeed, far from shrinking, nuclear weapon possession had dangerously expanded.  There was now an imperative need to reach a just solution.  But, general and complete disarmament could only succeed in a calm international climate and one that took into account commitments made in existing global agreements. 


He said that the spread of small arms and light weapons, despite national measures, had been on the rise, in particular in Africa, and had threatened the stability of States.  Regrettably, the United Nations conference on the illicit small arms trade had run up against such basic problems as the sale of arms to groups not recognized by States.  The control of anti-personnel landmines was also a critical issue.  In many developing countries, mines were curbing agricultural development and many other social and economic activities.


Returning to the issue of nuclear weapons, he said that the present state of affairs was frightening.  The hopes raised by the ABM Treaty had become illusory, given the stated will of certain States parties to renounce it.  The START process had become bogged down, the CTBT's operation had been delayed and no more progress had been made with respect to pledges made at the last NPT Review Conference. Also, the Conference on Disarmament had failed to make progress for several years, including on the adoption of an agenda for the start of its work.  On the whole, "the situation was most somber". 


To cope with that negative trend, the United Nations Regional Centres for Peace and Disarmament, in particular in Togo, should be strengthened he said.  That Centre was responsible for the West African region.  While their usefulness was absolutely relevant, their proper functioning had depended on receipt of proper funding.  Measures had already been taken in Burkina Faso to harmonize national legislation with the relevant treaties.  As a member of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), Burkina Faso fully supported the appeal to convene a fourth special session of the General Assembly devoted to disarmament.


JOHN DAUTH (Australia) said that the terrible acts of 11 September should serve as a catalyst for a renewed commitment to strengthen existing multilateral mechanisms and devising effective ways to address new security challenges.  The terrorist acts against the United States had provoked speculation about the possible use of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons by a terrorist group.  It could no longer be assumed that those groups were not prepared to use such weapons.  The threat posed by nuclear weapons was not new, but there was much work ahead in preventing their spread and working towards their elimination.


He said that that task was not one for the nuclear-weapon States alone.  It was equally important that non-nuclear-weapon States -- and for that matter, States outside the NPT -- contributed to a climate conducive to nuclear arms reductions by reinforcing the non-proliferation regime.  That was even more important, given that the kind of terrorist atrocities recently witnessed could one day involve weapons of mass destruction.  The CTBT was another key element of the nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation framework, and it was disappointing that it had not yet entered into force.  Negotiations on a fissile material cut-off treaty were one of the most urgent disarmament and non-proliferation steps to be taken.


Also, universal implementation of the IAEA's strengthened safeguards system was another key non-proliferation priority, he said.  Australia also remained strongly committed to the global bans on chemical and biological weapons.  The practical and normative value of the Chemical Weapons Convention and the OPCW was clear.  The moral and political force of the Convention would be enhanced by its full implementation and universalization.  Failure to strengthen the Biological Weapons Convention was disappointing.  The draft protocol on verification would have provided security benefits for all, and now it was vital that momentum towards that goal be renewed.


Also threatening security, he said, was the spread of technology associated with the delivery of weapons of mass destruction.  The proliferation of missiles, in particular long-range missiles capable of delivering weapons of mass destruction, was inherently destabilizing for regional and global security.  He strongly supported the adoption by the international community of an international code of conduct against ballistic missile proliferation and was pleased to have been associated with the development of an augmented draft code at the recent missile technology control regime meeting in Ottawa.  He urged all States to subscribe to it, as an important signal of the world community's commitment to ballistic missile non-proliferation. 


ELADIO LOIZAGA (Paraguay) said that he fully endorsed the statement made by the representative of Chile, on behalf of the Rio Group.  The events of

11 September had demonstrated that the struggle against terrorism should be one of the United Nations’ highest priorities.  All States must unite against terrorism in order to eradicate it.


Efforts to control the proliferation of conventional arms must be redoubled, he said.  The possibility of terrorists using weapons of mass destruction -- like nuclear, chemical or biological weapons -- was unthinkable.  For that reason, the creation of a legal regime to control the proliferation of chemical and biological weapons was of great urgency.  Likewise, there was a pressing need to buttress the international legal regime regulating the proliferation of all weapons of mass destruction.  The importance of the CTBT, which Paraguay had already ratified, could not be overstated, and all States who had not yet done so should become parties to it.


Regionally, Paraguay was always an active party to all efforts to ensure peace and security and was, therefore, a member of the Treaty of Tlatelolco, the first treaty creating a nuclear-weapon-free zone.  Also, the Ottawa Convention should achieve universality as soon as possible.  The illicit trafficking of small arms and light weapons was a great worry of his Government, he continued.  In that respect, a draft bill against the spread of firearms had been presented in Paraguay’s National Congress.  Paraguay was not a producer of arms and had gradually reduced its imports of firearm, to zero.  Paraguay remained dedicated to totally eliminating all that posed threats to social and economic development and the right of people to live in peace.


ENNY E. ONOBU (Nigeria) said that given the callousness of that heinous crime of 11 September and the continuing menace of terrorism, it was now particularly urgent to strive for the elimination of weapons of mass destruction.  The events of the past few weeks had clearly underscored the grave danger humanity faced if terrorists were to gain access to nuclear, chemical or biological weapons.  In the broad spectrum of the challenges faced by humanity -- such as global epidemics, regional conflicts, and poverty -- weapons of mass destruction posed the greatest threat to human survival.  Unfortunately, today's disarmament and security challenges had not diminished, as commitments in the field had remained largely unmet.


He said that some progress had been recorded through bilateral agreements on reducing some of the nuclear arsenals.  The unilateral declaration by the United States and the Russian Federation in 1991 should be consolidated in a legally binding international instrument.  His country noted with concern the growing controversy surrounding the development and deployment of anti-ballistic missile defence systems.  He reaffirmed his recognition of the importance of the 1972 ABM Treaty to the promotion and maintenance of international security, as well as the

basis for future reductions in offensive strategic weapons, and he appealed to all States to refrain from taking measures that could trigger a new arms race.


Nigeria remained committed to the comprehensive ban on all nuclear testing, he said.  The CTBT was one of the pragmatic and concrete measures that could help attain a nuclear-weapon-free world.  The existence of the African nuclear-weapon-free zone not only reflected the resolve of the States of the region to achieve the goal of regional peace, but also their legitimate access to peaceful uses of nuclear energy.  States that had not yet ratified the Pelindaba Treaty should do so.  He hoped efforts to establish a similar zone in Central Asia would soon materialize.  He also drew attention to the inherent dangers posed by the trans-boundary movement and dumping of radioactive and toxic wastes, about which the African Group would table a draft resolution.


He said the small arms Conference could not have come at a more opportune time, as small-arms-induced conflicts had brought devastation to his region.  The Conference was an acknowledgement of the often devastating impact of those weapons on the well-being of many developing countries.  It was also an affirmation of the world's desire to deal with the problem of the growing illicit arms trade.  The outcome document had underscored the need to deal with the dangers posed by those arms at all levels.  At the same time, he remained convinced of the need to prohibit the sale and transfer of small arms and light weapons to so-called non-State actors.  That practice further escalated the instability of many developing countries and should be dealt with by the international community on an urgent basis. 


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