|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-fifth General Assembly
12th & 13th Meetings (AM & PM)
‘High Priests of Disarmament Content with Status Quo,’ First Committee Told,
as Debate Intensifies Over Geneva-based Conference on Disarmament Gridlock
Pakistan Says ‘Contrived’ Urgency to Jumpstart Conference ‘Eerily Absent’
In Nuclear Disarmament; United States Says Stalemate ‘Sticks Out Like Sore Thumb’
Asserting that the “high priests of disarmament are quite content with the status quo”, Pakistan’s representative told the First Committee that “the deafening silence surrounding the real priorities is pierced by a cacophony about the imaginary malaise of the Conference on Disarmament”.
Even the panacea of a fissile material treaty, said the representative, had been “packaged with clever caveats” that would protect the interests of the major producers of that material, who, after amassing unknown stockpiles, were now making a virtue out of the necessity by declaring moratoriums. In the case of South Asia, a lack of even-handedness in nuclear commerce had created a “strategic conundrum” for Pakistan. In its present form, a discriminatory fissile material cut-off treaty would “permanently freeze a strategic handicap for Pakistan”.
As a brand new draft resolution was tabled today, by Austria’s delegation, expressing grave concern about the current status of the disarmament machinery, to a favourable response during the Committee’s thematic debate, Pakistan’s delegate described it all as a “contrived” sense of urgency, “eerily absent” when it came to the less than satisfactory state of affairs in the Disarmament Commission or in response to strong calls in General Assembly resolutions or emerging from various summits of the Non-Aligned Movement calling for nuclear disarmament.
Some among those who wanted to be the “proverbial knights in shining armour for the Conference on Disarmament” alleged that Pakistan was holding up consensus on the fissile treaty, he said. “This, quite simply, is not true.” Pakistan was in favour of ensuring that the Conference remained true to its real calling, namely, to negotiate nuclear disarmament. He supported the Conference’s rules of procedure, especially the consensus rule, and was ready to enter into substantive negotiations on nuclear disarmament, legally binding security assurances and the prevention of an outer space arms race. Those who were leading the campaign for a discriminatory fissile material cut-off treaty wanted it to be “a custom-made instrument that disregards the issue of existing stocks”.
The United States representative said the continuing stalemate at the Conference “sticks out as a sore thumb”. It was unwarranted for any country to abuse the consensus principle. An eventual negotiation of a fissile material cut-off treaty would have to discuss State interests in national security. Once treaty negotiations began, ideally in the Conference, those interests would be taken into account. Negotiations on such a treaty would take many years, and it was best to get started on discussion right now. If the Conference could not overcome the stalemate, then the Governments wishing to tackle the issues and to pursue negotiations on a fissile material cut-off treaty must consider other options for doing so, she said.
Norway’s representative, similarly frustrated by the impasse, said if there was no progress in the Conference by next year, it would be time to “switch off the life support”. He deemed it unacceptable that the consensus principle was applied in a manner that allowed countries to single-handedly bring the work to a standstill, in turn leading to the marginalization and irrelevance the Conference was facing. The practice of first seeking consensus within regional groups, set up along the lines of the cold war, contributed to maintaining the status quo and to ensuring that any outcome would be a least common denominator. The frustration over the multilateral disarmament machinery ran deep, he warned.
Switzerland supported steps aimed at re-interpreting how the consensus rule was applied to procedural matters, that country’s representative said. He was keen to test other avenues to achieve a breakthrough on the work programme, for instance, one that would depart from the current practice and significantly reduce the level of detail. The Conference should also consider expanding its membership and better including the relevant expertise of civil society.
Likewise, the representative of Germany expressed grave doubts about the wisdom of using the consensus rule in the Conference to block purely procedural decisions, like the adoption of work programmes. If that kind of behaviour was to become the norm in the conduct of international relations, the international community would soon face total gridlock, he warned. Germany was convinced that the vast majority of Conference member States was ready to work along the lines of the work programme adopted in May 2009.
While India shared the widespread disappointment over the inability of the Conference on Disarmament to start negotiations now, it did not believe that the impasse stemmed from the disarmament machinery or its procedure, its representative said. Since the Conference’s decisions impacted Member States’ national security, it was logical that the body remained a Member-State-driven forum and that it conduct its work and adopt decisions by consensus.
Similarly, the representative of South Africa, while acknowledging the imperfections and the need for reform of the multilateral disarmament machinery, said that his country did not believe that revision of the Conference’s rules of procedure, including the consensus rule, was really needed. What was necessary was a critical reflection on the approach that had been taken towards the conduct of negotiations
Earlier, Jean-Marie Fabien Nkou, President of the Conference on Disarmament, was optimistic that despite the significant differences of views among Member States, those could be bridged. He felt there was greater convergence than divergence of views on the most fundamental questions. Member States agreed that multilateralism was the core principle in negotiations in the area of disarmament and non-proliferation. They concurred that the momentum in disarmament was generated by the goal of achieving a world free of nuclear weapons, and the political will to advance the disarmament agenda had been strengthened in recent years. They also believed that promotion of disarmament could help address other crucial challenges, including poverty reduction and climate change.
Also today, the Committee heard the introduction of a draft resolution, by the representative of Benin, on the Disarmament Commission, which would have the Assembly recommend that the Commission continue the consideration, at its substantive session in 2011, of recommendations for achieving the objective of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation of nuclear weapons; elements of a draft declaration of the 2010s as the fourth disarmament decade; and practical confidence-building measures in the field of convention weapons.
In the thematic discussion on conventional weapons, speakers stressed the importance of the effective implementation of the United Nations Programme of Action to prevent and combat and eliminate the illicit traffic in small arms and light weapons in all its aspects. Several speakers offered up some “indispensable” steps to foster application of the Programme, including adoption of a legally binding instrument on identification and tracing and on illicit brokering, as well as the establishment of efficient verification systems for end-user certificates. The Programme’s non-binding nature, it was stressed, should not represent an obstacle to its effective implementation. Many delegations looked forward, in 2012, to the planned conference on an arms trade treaty, expressing the hope that the preparatory meetings in 2011 would promote an increasing convergence of views, reflecting the interest of all States.
Also taking part in a panel discussion on the disarmament machinery were Jean-Francis Regis Zinsou, Chairman of the Disarmament Commission, and Theresa Hitchens, Director of the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research.
Additional speakers in the debate on the disarmament machinery were the representatives of Belgium (on behalf of the European Union), Brazil (on behalf of the Southern Common Market), Venezuela, Cuba, Philippines, Egypt, Netherlands, Italy, Liechtenstein, Thailand, Canada, Republic of Korea, New Zealand, Iran, United Kingdom, Australia, Slovenia and Ecuador.
The Chairperson of the Fourth Biennial Meeting of States to consider the implementation of the Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects, Pablo Macedo,
introduced the thematic debate on conventional weapons.
Speaking in that thematic debate were the representatives of Brazil (on behalf of MERCOSUR), Belgium (on behalf of the European Union), Cuba, Algeria, France, Japan, South Africa, Mozambique, Republic of Congo, Australia, Philippines, Kenya, Norway, Zambia, Finland, El Salvador, Botswana, Panama and the Republic of Korea.
The Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 19 October, to continue its thematic debate on conventional weapons and to hear the introduction of related draft resolutions and decisions.
The First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) met today to begin its thematic debate on the United Nations disarmament machinery and to hear the introduction of related draft resolutions and decisions.
ANATOLE FABIEN MARIE NKOU, President of the Conference on Disarmament, said that during the high-level-meeting convened in September by the Secretary-General on revitalizing the Conference, Member States had addressed the broader architecture of the disarmament machinery. That meeting had given greater clarity on the views of Member States, but had also articulated their differences on the disarmament machinery.
Those differences, he continued, were in the perceptions of the causes of the stalemate in the disarmament machinery. Many Member States had stressed the need to reform the Conference on Disarmament, while others had attributed the stalemate to a lack of political will to resolve the differences. There had also been opposing views on the Conference’s working methods. Some States questioned the rules of procedure, in particular, the consensus rule, arguing against using that rule to veto the start of negotiations. Others believed, however, that the rules had served the Conference well in the past and should be maintained, saying that the problem had to do with politics outside the Conference.
There also persisted a difference of views on the substantive work of the Conference, he went on. A majority of the Conference members supported an immediate commencement of negotiations on a treaty banning fissile material for nuclear weapons and other explosive devices. A minority categorically opposed such negotiations. Many States had expressed support for negotiations on nuclear disarmament, prevention of an arms race in outer space and negative assurances. There was no consensus on agreement on how to deal with the current stalemate in multilateral disarmament negotiations.
Many States supported the convening of a fourth special session of the General Assembly devoted to disarmament to revitalize the work of the Conference on Disarmament and take forward multilateral disarmament negotiations, he said. But there again, not everyone supported the holding of a special session. Some States proposed setting a deadline for the Conference to start substantive work or resorting to alternative arrangements outside the Conference, particularly for the fissile material cut-off treaty negotiations. However, other States opposed such innovative steps, saying those would undermine the existing disarmament machinery. Regrettably, different views had emerged even on how to follow-up on the high-level meeting.
Despite significant differences among Member States, he said he was optimistic that the differences could be bridged and that the deadlock could be overcome and that multilateral disarmament could be revitalized. There was greater convergence than divergence of views on the most fundamental questions of multilateral disarmament and the Conference on Disarmament. Member states agreed that multilateralism was the core principle in disarmament and non-proliferation negotiations. They also agreed that current momentum in disarmament was generated by the goal of achieving a world free of nuclear weapons and the political will to advance the disarmament agenda, which had been strengthened in recent years. They also believed that promotion of disarmament could help address other crucial challenges, including poverty reduction and the fight against climate change.
In order to break the deadlock in the Conference on Disarmament, he said that Member States should take collective action next year and consider the suggestion by the United Nations Secretary-General to adopt the 2009 programme of work, or any similar proposal, for the 2011 session. They should also seriously consider the suggestions by the Secretary-General of the Conference to apply the rules of procedure more flexibly, particularly on procedural issues, or to start negotiations in plenary meetings without formally adopting a programme of work.
JEAN-FRANCIS RÉGIS ZINSOU( Benin), 2010 Chairman of the Disarmament Commission, said the Commission was first a body of the Security Council when it was founded in 1952 and had since become a body of the General Assembly. The Commission had adopted by consensus 15 texts, recommendations and guidelines on the items on its agenda. As part of its revitalization, the Commission, in 1998, had adopted a resolution that would, among other things, establish that two issues would be discussed over a two-year period and another issue over the course of a three-year cycle.
He said that presently on its agenda, the first issue was on nuclear disarmament, the second was a project to declare the 2010s as the fourth disarmament decade and the third was confidence-building measures regarding conventional arms. The 2010 session had gone well, creating the necessary conditions for future progress on nuclear weapons and confidence-building measures on conventional weapons.
The new United States Administration had lent a positive momentum, he said. The Commission formed a collective vision, however not all delegations shared the current enthusiasm. Negotiations, thus, had taken place amid a sombre tone, resulting in texts full of obstructive amendments. He urged all delegations to show reconciliation and flexibility to find, within the Commission, a formula for a consensus.
The incapacity to conclude its work successfully in recent decades had been the result of two stumbling blocks: the decision-making approach and the calendar of sessions within the disarmament timetable. Regarding decision-making, certain delegations used and abused the consensus element. It was important that the Commission be governed by rules of procedure.
In terms of the other roadblock, the timing of the Commission’s session in the context of the disarmament timetable, he noted that the Commission currently met at the opening on that calendar and, thus, could not affect the work of other bodies. Often, delegates were urged not “to go too far” ahead of other concurrent meetings, for instance, the 2010 Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) Review Conference. There were many delegations who had confided concerns about facing difficult pressures in their work on the Commission. However, the Commission should involve and engage all Member States, and meetings should take place in July instead of April.
Still, those above-mentioned stumbling blocks were not reasons to give up, he said. Those shortcomings did not mean the Commission was a useless body. Rather, it was a vital body in the disarmament machinery, which should be better used than it was at present. The next session should aim to complete the cycle on a positive note. The issues blocking progress must be addressed.
THERESA HITCHENS, Director of the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR), said that the high-level meeting on the Conference on Disarmament had brought the disarmament machinery into the limelight. Whether or not the stagnation in the disarmament machinery was viewed as a matter of universal concern, that issue was now receiving attention. UNIDIR followed the work of the Conference very closely. One action that had been suggested at the high-level meeting had been for the United Nations Secretary-General’s Advisory Board on Disarmament Matters to follow the issues raised there. UNIDIR stood ready to assist the Advisory Board in that assignment.
She said that fixing the system of the disarmament machinery had been a feature of past presentations by UNIDIR, which had tabled suggestions on the Conference’s working methods in a working paper. In addition, several UNIDIR blogs had raised debate on a number of topical aspects of the Conference’s rules of procedure. In the past year, UNIDIR had continued to produce publications on disarmament issues. Its recent publications had traced the history of the negotiation of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT). The conclusion of that Treaty in 1996 was especially pertinent as it was the last successful outcome from the Conference on Disarmament.
Interdisciplinary disarmament work of UNIDIR was underpinned by humanitarian concerns, she noted. Four volumes of work had been produced on that subject, and that ground-breaking work was being increasingly referred to by both academic institutions and Member States. The argument was that avoiding the horrendous consequences of the use of nuclear weapons was, at heart, a humanitarian action. The work came from the approach that humanitarian goals should prevail over national interests.
She added that the activities of UNIDIR ranged from organization of seminars to publishing the Disarmament Forum, one of the few such bilingual publications. The most recent edition of that publication focused on the emerging issue of maritime security. UNIDIR served as a safe space for the conduct of disarmament discussions and for addressing elemental issues facing both the Conference on Disarmament and the wider international community. It could also serve as a platform when other parts of the disarmament machinery were stagnated. None of its activities was supported by United Nations regular budget, but were entirely funded through Member States voluntary contributions. She hoped that a way could be found to overcome that problem, in order to secure UNIDIR’s independence.
JEAN LINT ( Belgium), speaking on behalf the European Union, said a multilateral approach was the best way to ensure international peace and security. The disarmament machinery must be mutually reinforcing and the disarmament and non-proliferation architecture should be strengthened. Owing to its universal nature, the First Committee was a most important forum for the discussion of disarmament and non-proliferation issues. The Union called on all delegations to ensure that the Committee addressed current themes; it must be a forum for candid debate to confront solutions to present challenges.
He said the European Union stressed the importance of the Conference on Disarmament as a unique forum at the disposal of the international community. It welcomed the adoption in 2009 of a programme of work, but regretted that it had not been implemented. The recent high-level meeting to revitalize that body was also welcome. The Conference should have a chance to resume its work. That body’s membership should be expanded, and an informal working group of observers should be created. He regretted that it had been impossible to move ahead in the deliberations in 2010. The identification of a list of subjects and the adoption of more expeditious working methods would allow it to be effective. The existing disarmament architecture had created significant obligations in the field. Good faith and full respect of the commitment by States was essential, he said.
LUIZ FILIPE DE MACEDO SOARES (Brazil), speaking on behalf of the Common Market of the South (MERCOSUR), said the progress achieved until now was undeniable, with the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Useof Chemical Weapons and on their Destruction (Chemical Weapons Convention) and the CTBT standing as important milestones in international law. Current difficulties did not stem from the existing multilateral mechanisms, which could always be improved, but from the lack of the necessary political will of States, especially nuclear-weapon States, to move forward in substantive agreements in the disarmament field.
He said that the recent high-level meeting to revitalize the Conference on Disarmament had held the expectation that the Conference would resume negotiations with a renewed spirit to address the subjects of a fissile material cut-off treaty, nuclear disarmament, prevention of an outer space arms race and security assurances for non-nuclear-weapon States against the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons.
As the Disarmament Commission concluded its triennial cycle, initiated in 2009, MERCOSUR expected that body to accomplish its role. In 2011, the Commission would face the challenge of presenting recommendations for achieving the objective of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, the elements of a draft declaration for the 2010s as the fourth disarmament decade and practical confidence-building measures in the conventional weapons field. MERCOSUR expected the third and last session in 2011 to demonstrate a spirit of commitment and understanding and to present concrete results.
JESÚS TORO MONTILLA ( Venezuela) said that the priorities agreed upon at the first special session of the General Assembly on disarmament remained fully current. His country was fully committed to the goal of the Conference on Disarmament for the achievement of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation. Unlike the beginning of the last session of the First Committee, current deliberations in the Committee were taking place against a back-drop of new events, and although much remained to be done in order for the Conference on Disarmament to be able to discharge its mandate, Venezuela hoped that it would be able to break the current deadlock and once again tackle the substantive issues on its agenda.
He said his country supported the negotiation of a treaty that would ban the production of fissile materials for nuclear weapons, as well as a treaty on outer space, and negative assurances for non-nuclear-weapon States. It was essential to maintain the Conference on Disarmament’s mandate as the sole multilateral forum for disarmament negotiations. At the high-level meeting in September, Member States had expressed different views on how to overcome the deadlock. The statement by the non-aligned movement of country had been quite topical and had sent a clear message as to how to tackle that matter. Venezuela also supported the many regional and subregional initiatives aimed at achieving disarmament and non-proliferation. In that regard, it endorsed the activities of the Regional Centre for Peace, Disarmament and Development in Latin America and the Caribbean, headquartered in Lima, Peru. It also supported the draft resolution being put forward by Peru on the Centre.
YADIRA LEDESMA ( Cuba) said that her country attached importance to making concrete progress in the area of disarmament and arms control. It recognized the role of the Conference on Disarmament, and it was regrettable that that body continued to be unable to move forward with its substantive work. Now, more than ever, it was the responsibility of all to preserve that body based on respect for its rules of procedure so that it could adopt a programme of work that took into account the real priorities of Member States. There was the need to build consensus in context of the Conference, which must begin work, as soon as possible, towards the elimination of nuclear weapons within a defined time frame.
She also stressed the importance of the Disarmament Commission, adding her hope that all Member States would show flexibility to reach agreement on the recommendations in that body during the coming cycle of deliberations. Cuba condemned the tendency towards the creation of expert groups on disarmament and non-proliferation issues, with limited participation by Member States; their establishment should be the exception rather than the rule. Instead, she advocated transparent and inclusive processes among all Member States on an equal footing. As the non-aligned movement had stated, Cuba insisted on need for a fourth special session dedicated to disarmament. It was concerned that it had not yet been held, and deemed it essential that the General Assembly establish a preparatory committee for that purpose.
In closing, she said her country believed that, despite the difficulties the Conference on Disarmament faced, those stemmed, not from the inefficacy of the body’s working methods, but from other external issues. Cuba, therefore, was optimistic about a more positive landscape that corresponded to the international community’s expectations.
CARLOS D. SORRETA ( Philippines) said the Conference on Disarmament must be expanded. The fact that there was still a divide between regular and observer membership in the Conference was symptomatic of the weakness of the Conference’s status quo. The Conference should facilitate the reopening of the expansion process to new full members, and he called on that body to appoint a special coordinator for that purpose. He also urged the Conference membership to agree to at least realize a programme of work.
Turning to the Disarmament Commission, he said that instrument remained a vital mechanism, given its universal membership and its ability to submit substantial recommendations on urgent disarmament issues to the United Nations General Assembly. He looked forward to having substantive discussions and agreements on the three agenda items for the 2011 Commission substantive session, and urged Member States to fully utilize the Commission. He also called for enhanced cooperation between the First Committee, the Conference on Disarmament and the Commission.
He encouraged an examination of the role of the Secretary-General’s Advisory Board, recommending that it have a dialogue with Member States to obtain the benefit of their thinking and expertise on disarmament. It was unfortunate that the Board had not conferred with NPT States parties in preparation for the 2010 NPT Review Conference. In addition, disarmament education and increasing support for UNIDIR was needed. Most existing programmes targeted academia and civil society, and it might be more effective to educate Government practitioners and to encourage networking and fellowship among the practitioners.
CHRISTIAN STROHAL (Austria) introduced a draft resolution on Follow-up to the High-Level Meeting held on 24 September 2010 – revitalizing the work of the Conference on Disarmament and Taking Forward Multilateral Disarmament Negotiations (document A/C.1/65/L.34). With 2010 already showing a number of positive developments, there was evidence of increased political will. “In order to take full advantage of the present conducive political climate, we must ensure that the disarmament machinery, including the Conference on Disarmament, is fit for purpose,” he said.
He said the new resolution would have the Assembly recognize that the political will to advance the disarmament agenda had strengthened in recent years and that the international political climate was conducive to the promotion of multilateral disarmament and to advancing the goal of a world without nuclear weapons.
Also by the draft, the Assembly would nevertheless express grave concern about the status of the disarmament machinery, including the lack of progress in the Conference on Disarmament for more than a decade, and stress the need for greater efforts to advance multilateral disarmament negotiations.
MAGED A. ABDELAZIZ ( Egypt) said that his country supported the proposal by the Secretary-General to add a new agenda item entitled “High-Level Meeting on Revitalization of the Conference on Disarmament and Taking Forward Multilateral Disarmament Negotiations”. It, however, did not support that such an item be used as a platform to criticize the Conference or to take disarmament negotiations out of context. Egypt valued more that effort be exerted to understand the underlying reasons why consensus had been difficult to obtain in the Conference and to address the hurdles to consensus. Such an effort would be best exerted in the Conference, itself, supported, as necessary, by the General Assembly.
He said that since the Conference was the sole international negotiating forum, he welcomed collective action by Member States to revitalize it, as long as such efforts neither targeted its rules of procedures nor its priorities. That had been Egypt’s position on the adoption of the Conference’s programme of work in 2009, as reflected in document CD/1864, and it had been its approach towards the high-level meeting in September. That position had not changed.
While he said he fully agreed that the revitalization of the Conference was an important dimension in the efforts to revitalize the disarmament machinery overall, he did not support focusing only on the Conference as a priority, as equal efforts were needed to revitalize the Disarmament Commission and further streamline the work of the First Committee. Concerning efforts to revitalize the Conference, those should be driven, not only by the desire to begin negotiations on a treaty banning fissile material for nuclear weapons, but with a view to the overall potential of that crucial body for negotiations of a legally binding instrument of security assurances to non-nuclear-weapons States and, more importantly, on a nuclear weapons convention and other identified priorities among the core issues.
PAUL VAN DER IJSSEL ( Netherlands) said that scarce financial resources were being wasted and, similarly, positive momentum might also be wasted as a result of the deadlock in the Conference. Now was the time to act to address that issue. The Netherlands commended the Secretary-General for convening the high-level meeting, which was a starting point towards ending the impasse. Follow-up was essential. The focus should be on how to restart negotiations and not on preserving institutions at all costs. His country was very proud to be among the nations submitting a draft resolution on the follow-up to the high-level meeting. It hoped the text resolution would meet its essential objective.
HILDE JANNE SKORPEN ( Norway) reaffirmed Norway’s commitment to multilateralism and non-proliferation, saying the country believed in inclusive and transparent processes. The present machinery, in which the Conference on Disarmament was proclaimed the sole multilateral negotiating body, was neither. Any credible and relevant multilateral negotiating body should be open to all countries, but only 65 countries were members of the Conference on Disarmament. Several countries had been knocking on its door for years, but it did not seem like the question of enlargement would be revisited any time soon. On transparency, the record of the Conference was also poor, and there was virtually no interaction with civil society. That might have been acceptable when the disarmament machinery was set up 38 years ago, but today, it was not. The Conference had proven utterly incapable of adapting to a new reality. All stakeholders should be included in the disarmament process, including relevant non-governmental organizations.
She said that the Conference’s working methods were also in dire need of reform. It was unacceptable that the consensus principle was applied in a manner that allowed countries to single-handedly bring the work to a standstill, in turn, leading to the marginalization and irrelevance now facing the Conference. The practice of first seeking consensus within regional groups, set up along the lines of the cold war, contributed to maintaining the status quo and to ensuring that any outcome would be a least common denominator. Some claimed that the machinery was not the problem and that the real problem was lack of political will. Judging from the statements that had been made during the current session of the First Committee, the very clear message from the NPT Review Conference in May and the Secretary-General’s high-level meeting in September, there was plenty of political will to move forward.
Continuing, she said that the frustration over the multilateral disarmament machinery ran deep. The situation was unacceptable. That was why Norway was co-sponsoring the draft resolution which called for placing the item on following up the high-level meeting on the Conference on Disarmament on the General Assembly’s agenda for its next session. If there was no progress by then, it would be time to switch off the “life support”.
GIOVANNI MANFREDI ( Italy) warmly welcomed the draft introduced by Austria’s representative (document A/C.1/65/L.34). To support the Secretary-General’s effort and to answer the request he had sent to all United Nations Member States, Italy’s delegation had circulated a working paper on the country’s views and suggestions a few days before the high-level meeting.
That the Conference on Disarmament had not “produced” in the last 14 years “bordered on the unbelievable”, he said, adding, “its work has not amounted to much more than that of a distinguished debating society”. The United Nations Secretary-General had rightly decided the roadblock in the Conference on Disarmament would no longer be tolerated. Disarmament was not long a topic of abstract discussion. The international strategic situation was vastly different from that of 1990 and international statesmen were increasingly coming to the conclusion that the future rested in a world free of nuclear weapons. Two main nuclear Powers were actively engaged in mutual arsenal reduction, and parties to the NPT, only five months ago, had agreed on an ambitious plan of action.
Amid all that dynamism, the Conference on Disarmament had remained inert, and the Secretary-General’s appeals should not go unheeded, he warned. Italy urged every country present in the First Committee to consider the reason behind the high-level meeting, and to recognize that a nuclear-weapon-free world, though obviously not achievable overnight or even in the short-term, would in the long run be the most sensible choice for national security.
STEFAN BARRIGA ( Liechtenstein) said as a small State without armed forces, the maintenance of an effective disarmament machinery was not only a matter of national security, but also an issue that had a strong and direct impact on the overall purposes of the United Nations. National security was affected by a multitude of factors, among them, the ability of the international system to make real advances in the area of disarmament. The Conference on Disarmament, therefore, should immediately start negotiations on a fissile material cut-off treaty and support the long-term goal of a nuclear weapons convention.
However, he said, the Conference’s last substantive negotiations had become a subject contemplated by historians rather than diplomats. That state of affairs put into question the Conference’s entire mandate. Sometimes it was necessary for the United Nations membership to entrust certain responsibilities to a body composed of a limited number of States, as was the case with the Conference on Disarmament. However, that created an enduring burden of justification vis-à-vis the supervising body, in this case, the General Assembly.
For the past 14 years, the Conference had not met that burden of justification, he said, adding that while he applauded the major disarmament successes of recent years, including the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction (Mine-Ban Convention) and the Convention on Cluster Munitions, those had been negotiated outside the United Nations and its single multilateral disarmament negotiation forum.
Debating the future of the Conference on Disarmament should take place in the General Assembly, he said. Liechtenstein had contributed to the high-level meeting to revitalize the Conference and he saw that meeting as the first step of a process leading to the Conference’s reform. He was ready to have a substantive discussion on that topic at the First Committee’s current session.
LESLIE GUMBI (South Africa) said that his country remained fully committed to the total elimination of nuclear weapons based on its conviction that nuclear disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation were inextricably linked and that urgent, transparent, irreversible and verifiable measures on both fronts were required. While it was satisfied with the progress that had already been achieved in strengthening measures aimed at preventing further proliferation of nuclear weapons, the country was deeply concerned about the continuing lack of progress on nuclear disarmament, particularly in the context of the mandate of the Conference on Disarmament. The past achievements of the Conference spoke for themselves. Core disarmament instruments had been negotiated in that forum and no one could claim that the structure of the Conference did not allow negotiations to take place. Neither could it be argued that something was wrong with the secretarial of financial support for the Conference’s work, nor could the case be made that its agenda did not allow negotiations to take place.
He said that what was clear was that the Conference could no longer continue with business as usual. His country had consistently argued that the collective concerns of the international community required sustainable collective solutions that took into account, not only the individual security needs of those that continued to hold the power in an unequal international system, but shared security interests. While acknowledging the imperfections and the need for reform of the multilateral disarmament machinery, South Africa remained fully committed to its strengthening. The country did not believe that the revision of the Conference’s rules of procedure, including the consensus rule, was really needed. What was necessary was a critical reflection on the approach that had been taken towards the conduct of negotiations.
HELLMUT HOFFMANN ( Germany) welcomed the decision of the General Assembly to include an item on the high-level meeting on its agenda, as that would allow the Committee to hold a focused debate on the issues that had been at the heart of that meeting. A new momentum had emerged in the field of disarmament and arms control, and after a lost decade, the international community should now unite in making the present decade one of disarmament; it should make every effort to move towards a world free of nuclear weapons. The international community had already committed itself to that goal in many instruments and documents for well over half a century.
He noted that, for nearly 15 years, the Conference on Disarmament had been unable to do what it had been tasked to do, namely, to negotiate new instruments in the field of disarmament and non-proliferation. The time had been ripe for that untenable situation to become the subject of a high-level meeting in the margins of the General Assembly. Germany had grave doubts about the wisdom of using the consensus rule in the Conference to block purely procedural decisions, like the adoption of work programmes. If that kind of behaviour was to become the norm in the conduct of international relations, the international community would soon face total gridlock. Germany was convinced that the vast majority of Conference-member States were ready to work along the lines of the programme of work adopted in May 2009, and it hoped that that could actually be done in the coming year.
Acutely aware of the ever growing frustration among countries about the persistent situation in the Conference, he said it should surprise no one when the need to consider other options was talked about, not only informally, but also formally, more and more often. If things did not move forward in the Conference soon, it would be necessary to take a broader look at what could be done to advance the issue of disarmament, arms control and non-proliferation.
JÜRG LAUBER ( Switzerland) said much of what is called “the disarmament machinery” had been developed during the cold war era and was tailored to the requirements of that time. “Times have changed,” he said. National security and strategic balance must and would remain important concerns, but the world had come to appreciate that ever-increasing military budgets, illicit and uncontrolled arms trafficking and armed violence severely undermined peace and security, human rights and human security, protection of the environment and economic and social development. Today’s disarmament machinery must be able to respond to the new realities.
He said that the existing disarmament arrangement had not delivered results for years, and instead, had contributed to preserving the status quo. That applied particularly to nuclear weapons. Obtaining tangible results and realizing shared goals required functional and effective tools. During the high-level meeting to revitalize the Conference on Disarmament, States had acknowledged the current system’s shortcomings and the need for change. In line with the related draft resolution (document A/C.1/65/L.34), he strongly suggested a thorough and inclusive exchange of views on today’s challenges to the disarmament machinery and how to adapt it accordingly. That debate should integrate the views of all actors, including civil society and independent experts. The result of that debate should provide a set of options on how to take forward multilateral disarmament and non-proliferation and enable the world to take concrete action by this time next year.
The Conference on Disarmament should further reflect on its working methods, he continued. A lack of political will on all sides appeared to be at the crux of the matter. On a pragmatic level, Switzerland supported steps aimed at re-interpreting how the consensus rule was applied to procedural matters. He was keen to test other avenues to achieve a breakthrough on the programme of work, for instance, one that would depart from the current practice and significantly reduce the level of detail. The Conference should also consider expanding membership and better including the relevant expertise of civil society.
The Disarmament Commission’s goal was to strengthen or create norms by submitting concrete recommendations to the General Assembly, as those submitted in the past proved the Commission’s added value. The Commission could also stimulate discussion and seek new approaches, particularly in a reform process. The First Committee could also benefit from revitalization. That work now included the convening of long debates and the processing of dozens of resolutions that reappeared yearly, as well as the chasing of co-sponsors to get their signatures, and after receiving instructions, voting, sitting back and considering the work as done until next year. Instead, the Committee’s work should become more focused and more dynamic.
RAZA BASHIR TARAR ( Pakistan) said the state of play of the United Nations disarmament machinery was receiving considerable attention, but for the wrong reasons. By virtue of repeating the hypothesis, through clear semantics, media hype and bureaucratic activism that the Conference on Disarmament was “dysfunctional”, the international community was being led to believe that the Conference could only justify its existence by working according to a certain agenda, which consisted in negotiating a fissile material treaty, the centrepiece of the disarmament agenda. “But the high priests of disarmament are quite content with the status quo,” he said. “The United Nations General Assembly resolutions calling for nuclear disarmament and strong calls emerging from various summits of the 118-member Non-Aligned Movement had been disregarded, if not with contempt, then certainly with benign neglect,” he added.
“The deafening silence surrounding the real priorities is pierced by a cacophony about the imaginary malaise of the Conference on Disarmament,” he said. Even the panacea of a fissile material treaty had been “packaged with clever caveats” that would protect the interested of the major producers of this material, which, after amassing unknown stockpiles, were now making a virtue out of necessity by declaring moratoriums. In the case of South Asia, a lack of even-handedness in nuclear commerce had created a “strategic conundrum” for Pakistan. In its present form, a discriminatory fissile material cut-off treaty would “permanently freeze a strategic handicap for Pakistan”.
Some among those who wanted to be the “proverbial knights in shining armour for the Conference on Disarmament” alleged that Pakistan was holding up consensus on the fissile treaty, thereby flouting international will, he said. “This, quite simply, is not true,” he said, noting that Pakistan was in favour of ensuring that the Conference remained true to its real calling, namely, to negotiate nuclear disarmament. He supported the Conference’s rules of procedure, especially the consensus rule, and was ready to enter into substantive negotiations on nuclear disarmament, legally binding security assurances and the prevention of an outer space arms race. Those who were leading the campaign for a discriminatory fissile material cut-off treaty wanted it to be “a custom-made instrument that disregards the issue of existing stocks”.
The contrived sense of urgency regarding the Conference, he said, was “eerily absent” when it came to the less-than-satisfactory state of affairs in the Disarmament Commission. Concerning strengthening the United Nations disarmament machinery, there was a need for a more comprehensive, equitable and substantive approach aimed at building a renewed international consensus to take forward the international agenda on disarmament and non-proliferation. Member countries of the Non-Aligned Movement would be presenting a draft resolution on convening a fourth special session devoted to disarmament, as only such a conference could provide a universal and inclusive arrangement to ensure substantive progress in disarmament and non-proliferation on an equitable basis.
Rather than try to unravel the United Nations disarmament machinery, those mechanisms should be buttressed by providing more human and financial resources, he said. With all its imperfections, the disarmament machinery offered the best available universal structure for reviving the international consensus. “When it comes to the United Nations disarmament machinery, the solution lies in political will,” he said.
He said Pakistan would be re-tabling five draft resolutions: regional disarmament (document A/C.1/65/L.4); conclusion of effective international arrangements to assure non-nuclear-weapon States against the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons (document A/C.1/65/L.5); conventional arms control at regional and subregional levels (document A/C.1/65/L.6); confidence-building measures in the regional and subregional context (document A/C.1/65/L.7); and the report of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). He would make a more detailed introduction of the drafts at a later date.
SIRIPORN CHAIMONGKOL ( Thailand ) said that efforts had been undertaken through the multilateral disarmament machinery to advance disarmament, in all its aspects, to build a safer world. For genuine progress, reinforcing and reinvigorating the United Nations disarmament machinery was essential. It would be necessary to address the effectiveness of the Conference on Disarmament, and Thailand, therefore, welcomed the convening of the high-level meeting in September, which was a good opportunity for all to collectively encourage progress on the Conference’s work.
She said her country shared the view that, in order for the Conference to be more effective, it needed to be transparent and more inclusive. That belief had led to the creation of the informal group of observer States to the Conference in March. That group was composed of States from different geographical regions, all of which were guided by common principles of both engaging in and contributing effectively to the Conference’s activities. As the group’s coordinator, Thailand had delivered a joint statement at the high-level meeting. The Conference’s membership remained at 65 Member States, smaller than one-third of the entire United Nations membership. It had been more than a decade since a review of the membership took place in 1999. The current membership was far from representative of the broad spectrum of the international community. It should therefore be expanded, and she reiterated Thailand’s call for the appointment of a special coordinator, on such an expansion, in 2011, to give fresh impetus to the proposal.
GEOFF GARTSHORE ( Canada) expressed his country’s willingness to see next year’s General Assembly examine how the work being considered by the Conference should be pursued if the Conference did not commence substantive work on its agenda, including negotiations, before the end of its 2011 session. Canada was concerned about the ongoing deadlock. Both deliberations and negotiations played a meaningful and distinct role in disarmament work at the United Nations. That complementarity had been originally recognized by the General Assembly as far back as 1978 and had resulted in the important duality between the Disarmament Commission as a deliberative body and the Conference on Disarmament as the single multilateral disarmament-negotiating body.
However, he said, the Conference on Disarmament increasingly spent its time deliberating almost exclusively on procedural issues, thus failing to fulfil its mandate as a negotiating forum. The responsibility to make that and other aspects of the machinery function effectively did not lie with only 5 countries or with 65 countries, but with the entire United Nations membership. Collectively, they should address the serious challenges posed by the fact that a small minority was blocking the Conference from doing what it was supposed to do — to negotiate.
Beyond the Conference, appropriate use should be made of the international organizations, bodies, offices and units expressly designed to support the various international agreements that formed part of the global non-proliferation, arms control and disarmament agenda, he went on. Of particular importance was the work done by IAEA, the CTBT Organization (CTBTO) and the implementation support units of the Mine-Ban Convention and theConvention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on their Destruction (Biological Weapons Convention).
KAP-SOO RIM ( Republic of Korea) said the stalemate in the Conference on Disarmament stemmed from various and complex reasons and, accordingly, the answers were not simple. The deadlock was attributable to both regional concerns and the consensus rule. To move forward, each country should demonstrate more political flexibility in terms of respecting security considerations and procedures.
He said that Conference members would be able to resolve the deadlock on the basis of existing agreements, such as the Shannon Mandate on a fissile material ban of 1995 and document CD/1864 of 2009. While it was an appropriate time to begin negotiations on a fissile material cut-off treaty, other ways should be found to discuss other major issues. The Conference should and could be revived as a key part of the robust machinery of the global disarmament and non-proliferation regime. The time was ripe to push ahead with the Conference’s work.
Mr. Zinsou introduced the draft resolution on the review of the implementation of the recommendations and decisions adopted by the General Assembly at its tenth special session: Report of the Disarmament Commission (document A/C.1/65/L.9). The text would have the Assembly, among other things, recommend that the Commission continue the consideration of the following items at its substantive session in 2011: recommendations for achieving the objective of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation of nuclear weapons; elements of a draft declaration of the 2010s as the fourth disarmament decade; and practical confidence-building measures in the field of convention weapons.
Also by the draft, the Assembly would request the Commission to meet for a period not exceeding three weeks during 2011, namely, from 4 to 22 April, and to submit a substantive report to it at its sixty-sixth session. As in the past, he hoped the draft text would be adopted by consensus.
DELL HIGGIE ( New Zealand ) said that while there had been significant norm-setting achievements in recent years with the adoption of a number of texts in the field of conventional weapons, the international community could point to little progress in humanitarian law and in the disarmament context. The current inertia, particularly in the Conference on Disarmament, was of significant concern and a disappointment to her country. Its frustration was not new. New Zealand had been part of a group of countries that had put together a proposal to advance disarmament negotiations in 2005, in response to the stalemate in the Conference. The group had deemed the deadlock unacceptable then, and it did so now. It was particularly regrettable now, against the current backdrop, of a more propitious global climate for disarmament. In those circumstances, New Zealand remained grateful for the efforts of the Secretary-General to move the disarmament agenda forward. The country was pleased to join a wide range of other countries in co-sponsoring a resolution to take forward the outcomes of the high-level meeting.
She said New Zealand hoped that by the time the First Committee met next year, progress in revitalizing the disarmament machinery would have been achieved and negotiations would be under way. That would be a development about which the international community could indeed rejoice.
TAGHI FERAMI ( Iran) said that the continuing challenge, with regard to the work of the Conference, was a source of concern. Addressing it required the genuine political will and cooperation of Member States. Iran stressed the need to strengthen multilateralism. As the country’s Foreign Minister had stated at the high-level meeting on revitalizing the Conference, the existing institutions for deliberations and negotiations were efficient and adequate if there was sufficient political will. Certain countries wanted to take advantage of those institutions for the advancement of their individual interests. The inability of the Conference to undertake substantive work was not due to the structure of its working methods, but to the unwillingness of the nuclear-weapon States and some others to deal with issues on equal footing.
He said Iran had always stressed the need to apply the rule of law rather than the rule of power. The Conference was, and should remain, the single multilateral negotiating body. Its role should be strengthened. Since its establishment was mandated by the first special session of the General Assembly devoted to disarmament, the only body that could change that mandate was the General Assembly in a fourth such session. Thus, Iran stressed the need for its convening. In dealing with the disarmament machinery, exclusive and discriminatory approaches should be avoided.
LAURA KENNEDY ( United States) said progress in the Conference on Disarmament was a common goal. The Obama Administration was not content with the “status quo”. The Conference was afflicted by an impasse over the key issues facing the world today. In 2009, the Conference had agreed on a work programme. The United States delegation remained eager to “roll up its sleeves” and get to work. Unfortunately, the will of the majority in Geneva was being frustrated by one State to move forward on a fissile material cut-off treaty. An eventual negotiation of such a treaty would have to discuss State interests in national security. Once treaty negotiations began, ideally in the Conference, those interests would be taken into account. It struck the United States as unwarranted for any country to abuse the consensus principle. Negotiations on such a treaty would take many years, and it was best to get started on discussion right now.
She said that the continuing stalemate at the Conference “sticks out as a sore thumb”. She noted the Secretary-General’s efforts and hoped a study of the broad disarmament machinery would be forthcoming. A treaty ending the production of fissile material was necessary in the Conference, but if that body could not overcome the stalemate, then the Governments wishing to tackle the issues and to pursue negotiations on a fissile material cut-off treaty must consider other options for doing so. That was not a threat; disarmament work was so vital to the international community that a stalemate must be overcome and work must begin.
HAMID ALI RAO ( India) recognized the importance of and was committed to strengthening the First Committee, which embodied faith in the benefit of collective action and of multilateral approaches in resolving global issues of peace, security and development. The Conference on Disarmament was another crucial forum. When the required political will was generated, a multilateral, verifiable and non-discriminatory treaty eliminating an entire weapons category — the Chemical Weapons Convention — had been negotiated in Geneva. While India shared the widespread disappointment over the inability of the Conference to start negotiations now, he did not believe the impasse stemmed from the disarmament machinery or its procedure. Since the Conference’s decisions impacted Member States’ national security, it was logical that the body remained a Member-State-driven forum and that it conduct its work and adopt decisions by consensus.
The Disarmament Commission had produced several important sets of guidelines and recommendations to the General Assembly, and he encouraged it to engage more seriously in its work. The United Nations Secretariat, in particular the Office for Disarmament Affairs, had an important responsibility in assisting States in upholding the role of United Nations forums, he said. That Office should be strengthened to facilitate the implementation of permanent treaty bodies under the United Nations, such as the Conventions banning chemical and biological weapons. Expertise should be strengthened in the Office’s Geneva branch on the subject of small arms and light weapons. UNIDIR also needed to be strengthened by bolstered resources. Finally, he said the Secretary-General’s Advisory Board should be made more representative so that it could reflect the broadest range of perspectives.
JOHN DUNCAN ( United Kingdom) said several speakers had talked this morning about “political will”. Words were important. It was quite clear the Conference on Disarmament did not have a monopoly on discussions. The notion of responsibility deserved attention. A few months ago, together with four other nuclear-weapon States, commitments were reaffirmed, and a 64 -point action plan was agreed. The United Kingdom remained ready to engage in the work on the Conference on Disarmament’s agenda. The United Kingdom was meeting its disarmament commitments, including, among other things, reducing its arsenals. With that in mind, the United Kingdom’s policy review would be published tomorrow by the Prime Minister, he said.
He said it had been surprising to hear during the debate today that the responsibility for the Conference on Disarmament remained with the NPT nuclear-weapon States parties. Over the past four years, collective approaches among many States had become apparent. A coalition of NPT States parties and several non-States parties had engaged in efforts towards disarmament. After four years, it should be clear to those inside and outside the Conference that the responsibility for inactivity lay elsewhere.
PAUL WILSON ( Australia) said he was dismayed by the continuing lack of progress in the Conference on Disarmament. The recent high-level meeting had examined the Conference’s failings over the past 15 years and how to take forward negotiations. Australia had co-sponsored and strongly supported the draft text presented this morning, he added.
BOŠTJAN JERMAN ( Slovenia) stated that the disarmament machinery was in a “state of crisis” and that it was “high time” to move on with the substantive follow-up and implementation of the outcome of the high-level meeting in September. One of the central elements of the new process should be the modernization of the Conference on Disarmament, which faced two problems: it did not reflect post-cold war reality; and it had not worked in a decade and a half.
He said it would be most helpful to revise the rules of procedure of the Conference to make it more flexible, efficient and open to all members of the United Nations. The proposal to appoint a coordinator in January 2011 on enlarging the Conference’s membership would be “a welcome step in the right direction” and an element for a follow-up resolution. This year, delegations of observer States to the Conference, including Slovenia, had organized themselves into an informal group and had delivered various statements, including one on the high-level meeting. He further noted that the Conference presidencies, known as the “CD P-6”, had attended the observer group’s meetings. Although Slovenia was grateful to the group for their work and assistance, the Conference 2010 annual report contained only a short reference to the letter sent by the group to the Conference president. In that regard, he sincerely hoped that future Conference reports would be more accurate and better reflect the activities of the observer group. He said the Disarmament Commission should follow the modernization of the Conference in Geneva, adding his full support to the work of the Office for Disarmament Affairs.
JOSÉ EDUARDO PROAÑO ( Ecuador) said the Conference on Disarmament was the sole forum for multilateral negotiations on disarmament and should reform its work. It was timely to convene a fourth special session on disarmament, a process run by the States themselves that would review procedures that were under way. He reiterated the call from the non-aligned movement.
Introducing the thematic debate on conventional weapons, PABLO MACEDO, Chairperson of the Fourth Biennial Meeting of States to consider the implementation of the Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects, said the last meeting had made headway in addressing the issue. States had sent a clear signal on their stance on the illicit weapons trade. In a separate segment of the meeting, a document had been adopted to take actions a step further to mark and trace weapons.
He stressed the urgent need to prevent the illicit trade on sea and land borders, as the impact affected socio-economic development. Governments had the responsibility to address that. Given the transnational aspects of the illicit trade, the Biennial Meeting had identified the “porousness” of borders, which aggravated the problem, not to mention encouraged organized crime groups. The meeting had recommended comprehensive border control strategies. States had also been encouraged to designate a focal point for information exchange, and he urged delegations to swiftly make the appropriate designations. States had pointed out that assistance was needed, including technical assistance. Cooperation encompassed all forms of activities, including exchanges of information.
Among the other issues addressed at that meeting had been the follow-up mechanism for implementation of the Programme of Action, including the submission every two years of States’ progress. As an innovative element, States had been encouraged to establish a voluntary fund to facilitate their participation in future meetings. Other key issues had also been considered, including responsible civil possession of arms and the culture of peace. It was now up to the major players to honour their commitments and work hard to implement the Action Programme. He appealed to all to rise to the challenge and respond to the legitimate call from civilians who bore the brunt of small arms and light weapons to ensure that the Programme of Action was fully implemented.
Mr. DE MACEDO SOARES (Brazil), speaking again on behalf of MERCOSUR, said that the implementation of the United Nations Programme of Action on small arms and light weapons was a matter of priority to MERCOSUR and associated States, for which it advocated some indispensable steps to foster its application. Those included the adoption of a legally biding instrument on the identification and tracing and on illicit brokering, as well as the establishment of efficient verification systems for end-user certificates. Also crucial was the establishment of an international framework for authentication, reconciliation and standardization, as well as the strengthening of international cooperation and assistance and of national capacity-building, as cross-cutting independent issues.
He said that MERCOSUR members understood that by referring to illicit traffic in small arms and light weapons in all its aspects, the Programme of Action necessarily also covered ammunition and explosives. The effective application of the programme required a comprehensive approach. Its non-binding nature should not represent an obstacle to its effective implementation. However, the core of its role required its strict and continuous follow-up by the international community.
MERCOSUR and associated States highlighted the need to face the problems related to non-regulated trade in conventional weapons and its deviation to illicit market, he went on. Considering that goal, the members had been actively participating in the preparatory process of the 2012 conference on the arms trade treaty. The first preparatory committee meeting in July had allowed for an open and inclusive discussion on the different expectations and objectives on that issue. The coming meetings in 2011 should promote an increasing convergence of views, reflecting the interests of all States. As a final result, the 2012 conference should lead, on the basis of consensus, to the conclusion of a legally binding instrument, negotiated on a non-discriminatory, transparent and multilateral basis, establishing common international rules for arms trade.
JEAN LINT (Belgium), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said that each year, small arms and light weapons and their ammunition caused the death of or injured hundreds of thousands of people, including women and children. Their illicit trade and excessive accumulation adversely affected regional and international security and stability, fuelled conflicts and armed violence and threatened the lives of individuals. The European Union remained committed to working with all Member States in addressing those challenges within the framework of the 2001 Programme of Action. It continued to consider that international instrument to be the main multilateral framework to respond to the challenges posed by the illicit trade and excessive accumulation of small arms and light weapons.
He said that the European Union was strongly convinced that focusing efforts to address only the illicit trade of small arms was not enough. It was by regulating the legal trade in conventional weapons that the international community could more successfully address the challenges posed by unregulated trade in conventional arms and their diversion to the illicit market. It was on the basis of that conviction that the Union firmly supported the negotiation of an arms trade treaty, a legally binding international instrument establishing the highest common international standards for the import, export and transfer of conventional weapons. Such a treaty should be as universal as possible and, thus, have a real impact on the conventional arms trade.
A strong robust arms trade treaty would prevent conventional weapons from being used to threaten security, destabilize regions and States, violate international human rights law or international humanitarian law, undermine economic and social development, and exacerbate conflict, he said. An arms trade treaty should also prevent diversion of conventional weapons to the illicit market. To that effect, the scope of the treaty, in terms of types of arms and activities covered, should be as wide as possible. The treaty should require States parties to assess applications for arms trade against the highest possible standards and parameters, including respect for human rights and international humanitarian law, and a thorough analysis of the risk of diversion to unintended users. The treaty should include transparency, monitoring and assistance provisions.
Ms. LEDESMA ( Cuba) said prevention and eradication of illicit small arms and light weapons should be dealt with at the root level. States had a right to meet their national defence needs; however, more efficient measures were required to stem the illicit trade in those weapons, which had grave humanitarian and social effects. Cuba had complied with its commitments under the Programme of Action and it supported a follow-up mechanism to fully implement the instrument. Information and assistance would help States make progress in that regard.
Turning to an arms trade treaty, she said that discussions should take place within the United Nations system in a balanced, non-discriminatory manner, and the views of all States should be taken into account. Cuba fully shared the concerns associated with the use of landmines. Her country had been subjected to a policy of aggression for five decades by the military super-Power. In keeping within its right to self-defence, Cuba had not signed the Mine-Ban Treaty. Her country would continue to support the Convention of Certain Conventional Weapons, and she exhorted all States to provide resources for demining operations.
DJAMEL MOKTEFI ( Algeria) said the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons continued to threaten peace throughout Africa. Adopting related legislation, Algeria had strengthened its efforts to stop criminal and terrorist activities. Regional and subregional cooperation were essential for effective border control, and Algeria had worked with countries of the Sahel to make it possible for these countries to develop capacities in that area. Developed nations and concerned organizations should provide the necessary resources to continue working on addressing the issues. Algeria’s efforts included the establishment in Algiers of the African Union Centre for the Study and Research of Terrorism and the convening of a workshop in March.
He said that the arms marking and tracing instrument needed more support, including cooperation and exchanges of information among countries dealing with illegal arms trading. Algeria was committed to a legally binding arms trade treaty, in the belief that it would contribute to strengthening international peace and security, as well as controlling arms transfers. Respecting the principles enshrined in international law was part of drafting a treaty, which required the participation of all stakeholders.
ERIC DANON ( France) said that in the area of conventional weapons, three important negotiations had reached a successful conclusion over the last 15 years: the protocol to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons on explosive remnants of war; the Mine-Ban Convention; and the Cluster Munitions Convention.
Those instruments demonstrated the positive influence of mobilizing the civil society. France hailed the entry into force of the Cluster Munitions Convention and was eager to begin working on its effective implementation.
He said his country would participate in the resumption of negotiations on the sixth protocol to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons. He reaffirmed his country’s unwavering position that those negotiations conclude successfully and that the future protocol be legally binding, with a strong humanitarian component. He was hopeful that the meeting of High Contracting Parties in November would bolster the pursuit of negotiations based on new advances and be decisive when it came to discussion with certain key players.
He said his country hoped that increased efforts would be devoted to small arms and light weapons. Its illegal traffic and excessive accumulation affected international security and stability and fuelled armed violence, significantly hindering development in many countries. At France’s behest, the issue of small arms and light weapons was now systematically included on the agenda of the European Union. His country remained mobilized to improve the small arms Programme of Action. It deplored the fact that the effort of experts had not led to the adoption of small arms and light weapons as a category in the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms.
The resolution adopted last year to launch negotiation of an arms trade treaty, however, had borne fruit, he said. The first preparatory committee meeting had produced two important results — the first being that fewer countries were now disputing the treaty’s relevance. Last year’s change in position by several key actors had played a role in that change. The second result had been the emergence of the treaty’s architecture, which should make it possible to charge traffickers and their accomplices. The convention should include an important section on cooperation. It should also cover highly diverse aspects of the problem overall, while promoting international humanitarian law and social rights.
AKIO SUDA ( Japan) said that the growing momentum in nuclear disarmament made problems surrounding conventional weapons no less significant. Japan had been tackling the issues surrounding conventional weapons in a comprehensive manner. He hoped more and more countries would join the Convention on Cluster Munitions and take concrete action on the humanitarian problems associated with those weapons. It was the responsibility of parties to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons to conclude ongoing negotiations with political will. Japan was also determined to steadily put into practice commitments contained in the Mine-Ban Convention action plan and declaration and called on all other States parties to do the same, and on all countries not party to that Convention to accede to it forthwith.
Turning to small arms and light weapons, he said those arms claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands of people each year, and the United Nations should continue to address the issue. He noted the convening of the Fourth Biennial Meeting of States, and said that, next year, a comprehensive review of the decade since adoption of the United Nations Programme of Action should provide input for the 2012 review.
Japan, together with Colombia and South Africa, had once again submitted a draft resolution on small arms and light weapons, renewing determination to stem the illicit trade in those weapons. It put forth a road map for the follow-up of the Programme of Action. He called on every Member State to extend support to the draft text. An arms trade treaty could enhance responsible transfers of conventional weapons, and thus prevent their diversion to illicit markets. It was vital that productive discussions continued among Member States and that, at the 2012 United Nations conference, a treaty would be produced that set strong, high-level, common international standards. For its part, Japan had a unique, strict policy, in principle, of prohibiting the export of any arms.
ROB WENSLEY (South Africa) said that his country continued to attach great importance to the implementation of the United Nations Programme of Action. In that connection, it welcomed the successful conclusion of the Fourth Biennial Meeting of States, which had taken place in New York in June. The Chair’s summary provided action-oriented measures in support of the full implementation of the programme. Those included the establishment, where appropriate, of subregional or regional mechanisms, with a view to preventing, combating and eradicating the illicit trade. Those mechanisms included transborder customs cooperation and networks for information sharing among law enforcement, border and customs control agencies, and international cooperation. It was now incumbent upon the States to implement the measures in their respective national capacities.
He said that Colombia, Japan and South Africa would again this year submit an omnibus resolution to address the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons. That resolution would provide an update on the implementation of the Programme of Action, especially the outcome of the Fourth Biennial Meeting of States, and would provide an operational framework for future implementation of the Programme. With its non-controversial nature, South Africa hoped that it would be adopted by consensus.
South Africa attached great importance to the implementation of the Mine-Ban Convention, he said. In that regard, it had welcomed the successful hosting of the Second Review Conference in Cartagena, Colombia, last year, as well as the adoption of the action plan that committed States parties to implementation of the Convention’s provisions on victim assistance, mine clearance, stockpile destruction and cooperation and assistance.
He said that while South Africa welcomed the progress that had been made to date, it was clear that much more needed to be done to achieve the goal of a world free of anti-personnel mines. Many mine victims still did not have access to medical care, education, physical rehabilitation, social services, vocational training and subsequent employment. South Africa was also concerned that a number of States parties could not meet their clearance deadlines and, consequently, had requested extensions. The slow pace of clearance hindered reconstruction and development efforts in communities that desperately needed it for agriculture and other important uses. Early planning, and implementation and allocation of adequate resources, would go a long way to addressing those problems.
DANIEL ANTÓNIO (Mozambique) said despite progress in the area of illicit trade of small arms and light weapons, the Secretary-General’s report on the assistance to States to curb that trafficking highlighted the existence of current illegal trafficking to States under embargoes. Practical disarmament measures should be taken at all levels, and he supported the adoption of joint mechanisms to contribute to peace and security, particularly to the protection of civilians. The Programme of Action was the most important instrument through which to address those issues. He also supported the United Nations Coordinating Action on Small Arms Mechanism (CASA).
He said Mozambique had established a partnership with the United Nations on weapons risk mitigation and mainstreaming mine action, small arms and light weapons control. His country also continued to strengthen national law, regulations and administrative procedures to exercise control over small arms and light weapons in the areas of production, export, import, transit and retransfer. Mozambique also remained actively involved in border management and took part in all cross-border operations and training conducted by the Southern African Regional Police Cooperation Organisation (SARPCCO), aimed at preventing, combating and eradicating the illicit small arms trafficking. That partnership had been extended to other countries worldwide facing the same challenges.
Among the regional common goals, he said, was the development of an integrated and electronic firearms registration. Current registration was kept in paper files, limiting access and analysis of information and constraining the ability to contribute to the international tracing cooperation with law enforcement. His Government had also made great demining efforts.
JACQUES OBINDZA, Director of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of the Congo, said the proliferation and excessive use of small arms and light weapons threatened international peace, stability and security. Statistics showed that in 2008, 870 million arms had been in circulation worldwide causing an average number of 740,000 deaths. The United Nations was addressing that issue, particularly in Africa. The Programme of Action implementation and other instruments had a vision of eradicating the illicit trade in those weapons.
He said that an international tracing instrument and the Biennial Meeting of States all contributed to that goal, but more should be done. The Meeting of States culminated in needed efforts, including cooperation and coordination on border control. The Congo had pledged to work towards that vision, on international, regional and national levels. He welcomed the adoption of a convention on small arms and light weapons and their ammunition.
Some Central Africa countries were facing conflicts that threatened stability, while others were working hard towards economic recovery, however, the illicit arms trafficking jeopardized reconstruction efforts, he said. His country had, among other things, signed a tripartite accord with the Democratic People’s Republic of the Congo and Angola that organized regular border patrols. The electronic marking machine being used in his country had greatly contributed to control over small arms. Government programmes had also gathered and destroyed more than 300,000 rounds of ammunition and explosives and 8,000 firearms.
PAUL WILSON ( Australia) welcomed the entry into force of the Convention on Cluster Munitions, which was a significant humanitarian achievement. The Convention’s provision on victim assistance now set the standard for other conventional arms control regimes. It would help ensure a better life for cluster munitions survivors and their affected families and communities. The Convention’s clearance and assistance provisions would help communities free their lands of contamination and the debilitating effects of those weapons. The First Meeting of States Parties, to be held in Lao People’s Democratic Republic next month, would lay the foundation for implementing the Convention. While Australia and many others were prepared to accept the prohibitions of the Convention, some major producers and users seemed likely to remain outside its framework. Australia also supported the efforts of all States parties in negotiating what could become Protocol VI to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons to achieve meaningful prohibitions on the use of cluster munitions.
He said his country was also a leading contributor to mine action around the world. The Government had committed to provide $A 100 million to mine action, in the next four years. The goal of its mine action strategy to reduce the threat and socio-economic impact of landmines, cluster munitions and other explosive remnants of war was to deliver improved quality of life for victims, reduce the number of deaths and injuries, and enhance the capacity of countries to manage their mine-action programmes. Australia had provided substantial resources to clearance projects. It was also significantly involved in providing risk education and reduction projects and survivor assistance in developing countries. In the past year, it had supported projects in Afghanistan, Burundi, Cambodia, Iraq, Jordan, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Lebanon, the Occupied Palestinian Territory, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Uganda and Viet Nam.
LIBRAN N. CABACTULAN ( Philippines) said that implementing the Programme of Action was the best way to solve the problems caused by the illicit trade of small arms and light weapons. He called upon producer States to strictly apply the legal restrictions that prevented the illicit trade in those weapons and to supply only responsible Governments and their authorized entities. Military arms transfers should be monitored carefully. It was imperative that States abided by arms embargoes established by the United Nations to prevent the transfer of arms to non-State armed groups. He encouraged States to utilize the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms as a means of monitoring arms transfers between States.
He said his country was undertaking measures to prevent exports of small arms and light weapons that violated sanctions issued by the United Nations. There was a need for greater cooperation between States in the areas of, among others, information exchanges and sharing of best practices. The Philippines also supported the Convention on Cluster Munitions and the Mine-Ban Convention.
Concerning an arms trade treaty, he said it was time to formulate an instrument that would, among other things, reaffirm the existing responsibilities of Member States in that regard and crystallize the development of a mechanism for consistent, transparent, lawful and effective application of the arms trade. Such a treaty should also contain explicit measures for effective monitoring and enforcement and should include mechanisms for increasing transparency and accountability in global arms transfers.
UKUR YATTANI ( Kenya) said the Biennial Meeting of States had highlighted the need for international cooperation to effectively address the problem of illicit arms. In order to make progress on the Programme of Action’s implementation, enhanced cooperation and coordination between neighbouring States and between subregions were needed. Activities undertaken at a subregional level, for example, by the Regional Centre on Small Arms in the Great Lakes region, the Horn of Africa and bordering States in implementing the Action Programme were a solid basis for the crucial link between subregions and international commitments. To strengthen that linkage, it was important to align national action plans with international efforts to combat the illicit trade.
He said his country had undertaken various initiatives at national, subregional, region and international levels, including the development of a legal and policy framework on small arms and light weapons and the establishment of modalities to address both demand and supply of those weapons through, among other things, livelihood programmes. He was pleased to see tangible progress towards the conclusion of an arms trade treaty, and he looked forward to the next round of negotiations in February. He applauded work on the Mine-Ban Treaty and the Convention on Cluster Munitions.
Recognizing the nexus between armed violence and development, he lamented that in the Horn of Africa armed conflicts had undermined Government efforts to provide basic social services and contributed to a vicious cycle of conflicts and underdevelopment. Kenya had been among the first signatories to the Geneva Declaration on Armed Violence and Development and continued to participate in the core group in Geneva. He urged all delegations to “go the extra mile” in seeking to find common ground in a bid to ensure a better, safer world.
TERJE HAUGE (Norway), noting that the Convention on Cluster Munitions had been signed by 108 States and ratified by 42, said its rapid entry into force, this year, was proof of the value attached to it by the signatory States and an indication of the need for speedy implementation. The Convention was not only a categorical ban of a weapon, but a comprehensive agreement with strong obligations in the field of clearance, stockpile destruction and victim assistance. The instrument was also establishing itself as a new international norm.
He said that the experience of the Mine-Ban Convention and other instruments had shown how a legally binding instrument could become an international norm that went beyond the membership of the Convention. In the case of the Mine-Ban Convention, that was demonstrated by the broad support for the annual resolution on the treaty’s implementation. Norway urged all States to support that important resolution, which this year would be tabled by his country, Switzerland and Albania. Increasing international support for these two conventions — the ban on landmines and cluster munitions — reflected the need to protect civilians and their communities. It was important that negotiations on a cluster munitions protocol to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons did not result in a lowering of the international norms that were emerging from the Convention on Cluster Munitions, he stressed.
Norway, with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), had organized a conference earlier this year on armed violence, resulting in 62 States endorsing the Oslo commitments on armed violence, he said. An arms trade treaty should have as its goal, among others, the reduction and prevention of violations of international human rights and humanitarian law through the use of conventional arms, and address victims of armed violence. Finally, the use of depleted uranium in ammunition and armour required further research in light of the worrying signs for health and environmental implications. Norway did not use depleted uranium and encouraged others to show similar restraint.
ENCYLA SINJELA ( Zambia) noted that her country had cleared almost all areas of landmines and that it was in full compliance with article 5 of the Mine-Ban Treaty. In spite of that achievement, nine areas along the borders of Angola and the Democratic Republic of the Congo were still contaminated with other explosive remnants of war. In that regard, Zambia had developed a risk education handbook for teachers and learners, and plans were under way to translate it into local languages. Under article 4 of the Convention on Cluster Munitions, the nation was required to clear all areas contaminated by cluster munitions under its jurisdiction or control by 1 August 2020. In compliance with that provision, her country had already embarked on the clearing process.
She expressed concern at the upswing in trade of illicit small arms and light weapons, stating that it was undermining good governance and democratization efforts, as well as diverting much needed resources to sustaining organized crime, terrorism and drug trafficking, among others, instead of towards the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals. In order to address that challenge, she called on Member States to submit relevant reports on small arms and light weapons to the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms. However, she noted that universal participation in the Register would remain elusive in the absence of a legally binding arms trade treaty, and she strongly supported efforts in that regard.
JARMO VIINANEN ( Finland) said an arms trade treaty would provide an international regulatory framework on the conventional arms trade and help to prevent arms’ conversion to the illicit market. The current lack thereof continued to cause instability, fuel conflict, undermine human rights and hamper sustainable development. Recent developments had proven timely the decision by last year’s General Assembly to convene a conference on the treaty in 2012. The two remaining preparatory meetings must be used to maximum effect, with a negotiation process requiring a high level of preparation and a sustained constructive dialogue in various forms leading up to the Conference. A generally agreeable outcome was eventually possible, whereby the need was satisfied for an ambitious international instrument regulating the global arms trade and addressing the interests and concerns of all countries.
He said Finland supported the United Nations Programme of Action and welcomed the outcome document of the Fourth Biennial Meeting of States. The Programme was not legally binding, and its conscientious implementation was essential for its success. Mine clearance and the disposal of explosive remnants of war remained topical global challenges. Finland supported humanitarian mine action that reduced post-conflict threats. His country would also join the Mine-Ban Convention in 2012 and destroy its landmine stockpiles by the end of 2016.
CLAUDIA MARÍA VALENZUELA ( El Salvador) said the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons was a terribly important issue, given those weapons’ use in crime and armed conflict. The Small Arms Survey showed that of the 875 million firearms worldwide, a large percentage had been illegally obtained. In Latin America and the Caribbean, and in Africa and Asia alike, those weapons and related crimes were enormous challenges.
She said that international cooperation and assistance were needed to bolster efforts to address those challenges. Her country would continue to support all steps to combat the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons. An arms trade treaty should include small arms and light weapons and reflect the wish of most countries to control the arms trade. She hoped that the consensus “ploy” would not hamper adoption of a legally binding instrument. The trend to use consensus as a strategy to stop the advance of some negotiation processes went against the multilateralism that many aspired to achieve.
CHARLES T. NTWAAGAE ( Botswana) said his nation was committed to the full implementation of the Programme of Action and of measures mandated by regional and international legal instruments. In that regard, it would be useful to consider how limited resources from various donors could be effectively utilized to attain concrete results. One such way would be to emphasize regional approaches. It was important for States in different regions to harmonize efforts addressing critical issues, such as border control, stockpile management, marking, tracing, information sharing and the development of legislation.
He said his country supported measures to enhance international assistance and cooperation, in particular, facilitation of technology transfer and assistance for the implementation of regional agreements. The nation also supported the development of follow-up mechanisms to ensure effective coordination and instil a greater sense of urgency about the issue. In that regard, Botswana fully endorsed the Programme of Action Implementation Support System (PoA-ISS) and was co-sponsoring the draft resolution entitled “Consolidation of peace through practical disarmament measures”. Further to its support of the Implementation Support System initiative, it favoured meetings whereby potential donors could meet directly with potential beneficiaries. Noting his nation’s request for assistance for the Computerization of the Central Arms Registry of Botswana, he stressed that support for that project would be highly appreciated.
HERNÁN TEJEIRA ( Panama) said the document adopted by consensus by the Fourth Biennial Meeting of States would bolster the implementation of the Programme of Action. Panama had set up a ministry of security, aimed at, among other things, determining threats. Since January, authorities had seized from organized crime and drug trafficking more than 29 metric tons of drugs, including cocaine, heroin and marijuana. The national assembly now had before it a bill limiting possession of firearms and munitions. A national register for firearms and munitions was another project. A national assistance programme had developed a project to remove from circulation weapons in the hands of individuals. It had been successfully carried out, with the gathering of more than 400 firearms, 50,000 rounds of ammunition and anti-aircraft weapons.
He said Panama supported a legally binding instrument that would control the arms trade, and put an end to the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons. Those weapons should be included in an arms trade treaty. He applauded the entry into force of the Convention on Cluster Munitions.
JOOIL LEE ( Republic of Korea) said his country had been a State party to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons since 2001 and had acceded to the fifth protocol on explosive remnants of war in 2008. The Republic of Korea had also spent $7.1 million on mine clearance and victim assistance projects. The group of Governmental experts on cluster munitions under the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons framework had held formal rounds with the goal of producing tangible solutions to humanitarian concerns arising from the use of those weapons. He looked toward to a meaningful decision on humanitarian concerns and military considerations during the upcoming meeting of High Contracting Parties to that instrument next month.
Turning to an arms trade treaty, he said that such an instrument should be delivered with the maximum participation of Member countries. Some of the largest arms exporting countries had expressed dissenting views, but, without their participation, an arms trade treaty would be “critically deficient”. Success rested on a robust global consensus that included those countries.
* *** *For information media • not an official record