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IN THIS ISSUE

In major speech, Secretary-General outlines five-point nuclear disarmament plan
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At Harvard Secretary-General calls for action to secure common goods, including disarmament and non-proliferation
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Secretary-General calls for further ratifications of CTBT
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First Committee concludes 63rd session
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UNODA outlines ‘Biological Incident Database’ at First Committee side event
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First Committee side events advance the disarmament agenda
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Seminar to promote the universality of the Inhumane Weapons Convention
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Peru destroys approximately 100 tonnes of firearms
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Launch of new UN Disarmament website

In major speech, Secretary-General outlines five-point nuclear disarmament plan

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
UN Photo/Paulo Filguereiras

EastWest Institute

Addressing the EastWest Institute in a major disarmament speech entitled "The United Nations and security in a nuclear-weapon-free world" the Secretary-General put forward a five-point plan to reinvigorate the international push towards nuclear disarmament.

The meeting was held at UN headquarters on Friday 24 October as one of the side events of the UN General Assembly’s First Committee, which deals with Disarmament and International Security.

Specifically the Secretary-General urged all Parties to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), particularly the nuclear-weapon States, to fulfil their obligations under the Treaty with respect to negotiations on nuclear disarmament. As a second point, he said that the Security Council’s five permanent members should start discussions on the nuclear disarmament process and take other steps such as assuring non-nuclear-weapon States against the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons.

His third point calls for greater expansion of the rule of law, for example by bringing into force a number of measures such as the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) and nuclear-weapon-free zones.

He also called for greater accountability and transparency in what the nuclear powers are doing towards nuclear disarmament. Those same States could also expand the amount of information they publish about the size of their arsenals and stocks of fissile material. The lack of an authoritative estimate on the total number of nuclear weapons testified to the need for greater transparency.

Lastly, the Secretary-General called for complementary measures, such as eliminating other types of weapons of mass destruction and measures to ban missiles and space weapons as well as for measures in the conventional weapons area and against WMD terrorism.

Other participants at the opening session included Mohamed ElBaradei, the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Henry Kissinger, former US Secretary of State and Sergey Kislyak, Ambassador of the Russian Federation to the United States.

In addition to the plenary meeting, six “breakout” groups later addressed specific nuclear disarmament-related challenges in greater detail.

The meeting was co-sponsored by the British American Security Information Council (BASIC), the James Martin Center for Non-Proliferation Studies at Monterey, the Global Security Institute and the NGO Committee on Disarmament, Peace and Security. [Top>>]

BASIC CNS GSI NGOCDPS

See also: SG's speech | EastWest event page
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At Harvard Secretary-General calls for action to secure common goods, including disarmament and non-proliferation

JFK School of Government

Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

On 21 October, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in a speech entitled “Securing the Common Good in a Time of Global Crises” spoke of the need for the international community to address five challenging issues; the global financial crisis, climate change, global health issues, terrorism and disarmament. Speaking to an audience at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, the Secretary-General stressed that these challenges endanger all countries and cannot be resolved without action by all.

On the issues of disarmament and non-proliferation, he raised the question as to why, despite a widespread abhorrence of nuclear weapons, disarmament remained only a “noble goal”. He hailed the concept of general and complete disarmament for having recognized that the ability to achieve a world free of weapons of mass destruction would require both the elimination of such weapons and additional changes in the way that States produce, develop, transfer and use conventional weapons. He commented, however, that while the United Nations promoted key treaties, like the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), after nine years the CTBT was still not in force. The Secretary-General went on to cite problems with both the Chemical and Biological Weapons Conventions which had not been adopted universally, and declared the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to be facing a crisis of confidence. Furthermore, the Secretary-General pointed out that some key treaties were yet to be negotiated and that new efforts were needed to create additional nuclear-weapon-free zones, especially in the Middle East, and to bring existing zones fully into force.

In closing, the Secretary-General stated “America's great educator, Horace Mann, summoned humankind to ‘be ashamed to die until you have won some victory for humanity.’ Achieving disarmament is one such goal. ... Let us ensure we are equal to the task.” [Top>>]

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Secretary-General calls for further ratifications of Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
UN Photo/Evan Schneider
Michael Douglas, Messenger for Peace
UN Photo/Evan Schneider

Former U.S. Defence Secretary William Perry
Photo courtesy of CTBTO

The United Nations Secretary-General addressed a meeting on 24 September 2008, at U.N. headquarters in New York, to promote the early entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), which would ban all nuclear weapons testing. This was the fourth ministerial meeting held in support of the Treaty.

The event was attended by Foreign Ministers of around 40 countries and featured a special presentation by former United States Defense Secretary William Perry and Academy Award-winning actor and UN Messenger of Peace Michael Douglas. Tibor Tóth, the Executive Secretary of the Preparatory Commission of the CTBT Organization also addressed the meeting. The attendees called on the nine countries that have yet to ratify for the CTBT to enter into force to do so without delay. These countries are: China, Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), Egypt, India, Indonesia, Iran, Israel, Pakistan and the United States.

In his remarks, the Secretary-General said that the Treaty “would outlaw all nuclear tests and move us towards the larger goals of ridding the world of nuclear weapons and preventing their proliferation”. He added that he rejects the “pessimistic view” that the stalemate in the areas of disarmament and non-proliferation precluded the CTBT from becoming a reality. Achieving disarmament under effective international control depends on the state of global security, “but we cannot wait for the perfect security environment to come along,” he said. “Rather, I believe that the process of moving forward in disarmament, non-proliferation and against the uses of weapons of mass destruction by terrorists will itself contribute to international peace and security.”

The Joint Statement adopted by the Ministers was later endorsed by more than 80 Ministers.

“We call upon all States that have not yet done so to sign and ratify the Treaty without delay, in particular those whose ratification is needed for it entry into force”

extract from 2008 CTBT Joint Ministerial Statement [Top>>]

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First Committee concludes 63rd session

Flags at the United Nations Headquarters, NY
UN Photo/Joao Araujo Pinto

The United Nations General Assembly First Committee, which deals with disarmament and international security, held its annual four-week session in New York from 6 to 31 October 2008, sending 58 draft texts to the General Assembly for consideration. In a statement to the Committee delivered on 6 October, the UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs noted that tens of thousands of nuclear weapons remained in existence, and called for operational plans for disarmament, the entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) and the negotiation of a fissile material treaty. With regard to conventional weapons, he stressed the compelling need for progress in international initiatives to regulate the arms trade, improve transparency in arms transfers and curb the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons.

During the thematic debate, the Committee heard briefings from the High Representative for Disarmament Affairs and from a number of representatives of international intergovernmental organizations in the disarmament field (including the Executive Secretary of the CTBTO-Preparatory Commission, the Director General of the Organisation for the prohibition of Chemical Weapons and the Representative of the Director General of the IAEA to the UN) and from chairpersons of groups and other officials dealing with issues as diverse as missiles, the feasibility of an arms trade treaty, ammunition stockpiles, biological weapons, small arms and cluster munitions.

The Committee also continued its practice begun three years ago of devoting time during the thematic debate to hearing the views of civil society; this year on the issues of nuclear weapons, outer space, illicit small arms and cluster munitions. For the first time the Committee was addressed by a Hibakusha (survivor of the atomic bomb) who reminded States of the unspeakable suffering caused by the nuclear bomb and appealed for nuclear disarmament.

Among the highlights of this year’s session was a new resolution noting that the Convention on Cluster Munitions agreed in Dublin in May of this year would be open for signature at Oslo on 3 December. The resolution requests the Secretary-General to render the necessary assistance and to provide such services as may be necessary to fulfil the tasks entrusted to him by the convention. The Secretary-General has agreed to serve as the depositary of the Convention. The resolution was adopted without a vote.

Another resolution concerned efforts at the UN to establish an arms trade treaty. The First Committee adopted the resolution by a vote of 145 in favour, 2 against (United States and Zimbabwe), with 18 Member States abstaining. It would establish an open-ended working group of the General Assembly to meet for up to six one-week sessions starting in 2009 to further consider those elements in the report of the Group of Governmental Experts (A/63/334) where consensus could be developed for inclusion in an eventual legally binding treaty on the import, export and transfer of conventional arms. The Group of Governmental Experts met in 2008 concluding, inter alia, that further consideration of the issues involved in a possible treaty was required on “a step-by-step basis, in an open and transparent manner”. An initial report from the open-ended working group is expected to be prepared for the General Assembly for consideration at its sixty-fourth session in 2009.

A one day organizational session will be held in New York on 27 February 2009 and two substantive sessions of the open-ended working group will take place in New York from 2 to 6 March and from 13 to 17 July. [Top>>]

See also: First Committee website | HR’s Speech

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UNODA outlines ‘Biological Incident Database’ at First Committee side event

Biochemist

On 23 October 2008, the NGO Committee on Disarmament, Peace and Security in cooperation with UNODA organized a panel to present the “Development of a Biological Incident Database” as a side event of the First Committee.

UNODA’s Biological Incident Database was developed in the context of the United Nation’s Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy. Examples were given of different types of biological incidents which could be triggered by natural, accidental and deliberate causes. Data on such incidents would be stored in the database. Aspects essential to the development of the database such as data security, access, scope, timeliness, national points of contact and methods of reporting were presented.

The goal of the database is to collect information directly provided by Member States that could help States to build capacity through lessons learned and the analysis of data on incidents. It will be implemented as a secure web-based system to report biological incidents. The experts explained the value added of the emerging database as compared to a similar but different database contemplated by INTERPOL, which would deal with bio-crimes.

As outlined in the report of the Secretary-General (A/62/898) on the implementation of the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, a pilot system for test data entry is already available for use by interested Member States. Next steps in the database’s development would be the expansion of the network of contact points, more test data entry by Member States, the implementation of improvements and changes and the development of data retrieval and exploitation tools. [Top>>]

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First Committee side events advance the disarmament agenda

Atomic Bombing

Poster from the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb project

Mayor Akiba of Hiroshima

Mayor Akiba of Hiroshima opening the exhibit

This year’s session of the First Committee, dealing with disarmament and international security, attracted an unusually large number of side events organized separately and jointly by Permanent Missions to the UN, NGO’s, think-tanks, the UN Institute for Disarmament Research and UNODA.

Side events were as varied as a workshop on depleted uranium, meetings to discuss the path to abolishing nuclear weapons, discussions on outer space security, promoting transparency in arms transfers through the UN Register of Conventional Arms, cluster munitions and small arms. Also included was the major gathering organized by the EastWest Institute mentioned above.

Video of Sauro Scarpelli, Control Arms Campaigner, introducing the photo exhibit

Two exhibits were featured in the corridors of the UN building. One, organized by Mayors for Peace, featured a series of photographs in poster format of the Hiroshima-Nagasaki Atomic Bomb project that conveyed the realities of the atomic bombings and the present status of nuclear weapons issues. The exhibit has traveled widely, aiming to focus international sentiment towards the abolition of nuclear weapons. It was opened by Mayor Tadatoshi Akiba of Hiroshima, several survivors of the atomic bombings, known as Hibakusha, and Mr. Sergio Duarte the UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs.

Another exhibit “The World is Watching” was organized by Control Arms which is a campaign run jointly by Amnesty International, International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA) and Oxfam International. Featuring a pair of giant eyeglasses, the exhibit highlighted the dangers of the spread of illicit small arms and supported efforts at the UN towards the elaboration of an international, legally-binding arms trade treaty. [Top>>]

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Seminar to promote the universality of the Inhumane Weapons Convention

Regional seminar at Almaty

On 24 and 25 September 2008, the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA) organized a regional seminar on ‘Promoting the Universality of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) and its annexed Protocols in Central Asia’ in Almaty, Kazakhstan. The 1980 Convention, also known as the Inhumane Weapons Convention, bans or restricts the use of specific types of weapons that are either considered to cause unnecessary or unjustifiable suffering to combatants or to affect civilians indiscriminately.

The seven participating States met to discuss ways and means to assist countries in the region with the ratification and implementation of the Convention. While the Russian Federation and Tajikistan already feature among the States Parties to the Convention, the other countries participating in the seminar — Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan — have either not signed or ratified the Convention. Experts from the International Committee of the Red Cross, the UN Institute for Disarmament Research and representatives of the European Union (EU) were present.

The seminar focused on the countries’ statuses of ratification and addressed political and practical difficulties in the ratification and implementation processes. In the course of the seminar, host state Kazakhstan announced the start of its ratification process of the CCW. It was joined by Afghanistan, whose representatives informed the seminar that, having signed the CCW in 1981, the ratification process would now be resumed despite the multiple challenges being faced by the country.

The seminar constituted the fourth of six regional and subregional seminars coordinated by UNODA in partnership with the EU. Two further seminars, planned for the Middle East and for South and South-East Asia and the Pacific, are to be held in November and December 2008, in Rabat and Kathmandu respectively. [Top>>]

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Peru destroys approximately 100 tonnes of firearms

ammunition

InspectionsSigning of Act

The Government of Peru has undertaken the fourth round of destruction of 48 tonnes of firearms in an extensive process that culminated with the elimination of 42,536 weapons and more than 10 tonnes of weapon parts and accessories. The most recent destruction event, carried out on 31 October 2008, included firearms from a lot belonging to the Peruvian National Police. The destruction initiative follows the implementation of various international firearms instruments, including the Inter-American Firearms Convention (CIFTA), Andean Decision 552, the 2001 UN Programme of Action on small arms, and the UN Firearms Protocol. It represents the first time the Government has destroyed decommissioned weapons belonging to its own law enforcement forces.

The destruction process counted on technical support provided by the United Nations through its Regional Centre for Peace, Disarmament and Development in Latin America and the Caribbean and the Organization of American States (OAS). It included the selection, identification, registration and preparation of weapons to be destroyed under monitoring with the participation of both the UN/OAS team and representatives from the Peruvian Firearms Commission.

The destruction took place at the Metalurgica Peruana smelter located in Lima, where the firearms were transformed into iron spheres to be used in manufacturing mining equipment in the country. Metalurgica Peruana has innovative environmental protection devices to filter the smoke that emanates from the melting of the iron and the wooden material burned in the firearms, removing particulates from the smoke before it is released into the environment. [Top>>]

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Launch of new UN Disarmament website

UNODA website

The UN Office for Disarmament Affairs announced the launch of its newly revamped and improved website. The new website, produced with help from the UN’s Department of Public Information, allows users to quickly navigate from the front page directly to specific disarmament issues in the areas of Weapons of Mass Destruction, Conventional Arms, Regional Disarmament and the Regional Disarmament Centres. The website has handy resources and research tools that include:

  • Status and Texts of Treaties
  • General Assembly Resolutions and Decisions
  • A large Disarmament Documents Library
  • UNODA Publications, such as the flagship Disarmament Yearbook
  • Disarmament Education

The website provides easy access to specialized sites such as: the Geneva-based disarmament activities, including the Conference on Disarmament; the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty; Small Arms and the newly launched Programme of Action Implementation Support System (a one-stop shop for those dealing with small arms issues).

An updated disarmament calendar of events and meetings and the latest disarmament press releases feature prominently on the front page. [Top>>]

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