‘STALLED’ DISARMAMENT AGENDA, SMALL ARMS TRADE, ANTI-PERSONNEL MINES AMONG ISSUES ADDRESSED, AS FIRST COMMITTEE DEBATE CONTINUES

12 October 2001
GA/DIS/3203

‘STALLED’ DISARMAMENT AGENDA, SMALL ARMS TRADE, ANTI-PERSONNEL MINES AMONG ISSUES ADDRESSED, AS FIRST COMMITTEE DEBATE CONTINUES

12/10/2001
Press ReleaseGA/DIS/3203

Fifty-sixth General Assembly

First Committee

8th Meeting (AM)

‘STALLED’ DISARMAMENT AGENDA, SMALL ARMS TRADE, ANTI-PERSONNEL MINES

AMONG ISSUES ADDRESSED, AS FIRST COMMITTEE DEBATE CONTINUES

The stalled multilateral disarmament agenda was the disturbing framework within which everyone must seek to advance an already tenuous international peace and security, the representative of Jamaica urged this morning as the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) continued its general debate. 

Speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), the Jamaican representative said that the void created by the absence of a strong multilateral disarmament and non-proliferation regime was filled with suspicion and distrust, offering little comfort to small States.  For those vulnerable nations exposed to the illicit small arms trade, the Conference on the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects had been a vital undertaking and an acknowledgement by the international community of the urgent need to address the problem.

Conventional weapons had become even more sophisticated and, hence, more lethal, and owing to the aggressive marketing efforts of the arms vendors of the mostly industrialized countries, those arms were now in the arsenals of impoverished countries, the representative of Malaysia said.  States must fulfil the obligations undertaken at the small arms Conference to ultimately eradicate the illicit small arms trade.  Following the destruction of nearly 95,000 anti-personnel landmines, Malaysia had become the first mine-free country in Asia and remained committed to attaining a truly universal ban of those weapons.

The Angolan representative underscored the close and complex link between terrorism, organized crime, drug trafficking, and the illegal exploitation of natural resources and illegal trafficking and easy availability of small arms and light weapons.  Despite United Nations' efforts, those weapons -- more directly affecting everyday lives than weapons of mass destruction -- had continued to land in the hands of terrorist groups, rebels and other unlawful elements.

Indeed, the small arms scourge knew no borders and each year threatened the lives of millions, the representative of Nicaragua asserted.  He hailed the action plan of the small arms Conference, but also urged progress with regard to the sale and control of those arms to non-State entities.  During Nicaragua's civil war, more than 135,000 anti-personnel mines had been sown.  Now, owing to the demining work being undertaken there, some 50 percent had been destroyed.

Committee Chairman, Andre Erdos (Hungary) announced the award of the 100th Nobel Peace Prize to Secretary-General Kofi Annan and the United Nations.  He, along with several speakers in today's debate, offered congratulations on that

well deserved distinction, which they said was a recognition of the Organization's current activities and future relevance in the world. 

Statements were also made by the representatives of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Madagascar, Sri Lanka and Bulgaria.

The Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. Monday, 15 October, to continue its general debate.

Background

The First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) met this morning to continue its general debate on a wide range of disarmament and arms limitation measures.  Questions of global stability and strategic security will also be examined in the context of the recent terrorist attack on the United States. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Committee Chairman, ANDRE ERDOS (Hungary) opened this morning's meeting by announcing that the 100th Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to both the Secretary-General and the United Nations.  He offered his congratulations on that well deserved distinction, which was a recognition of the United Nations' activities and future relevance in the world.

Statements

PATRICIA DURRANT (Jamaica), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), congratulated the Secretary-General and the men and women of the Organization who, in all parts of the world, had served the cause of peace.  The events of 11 September had left all shaken and more aware than ever of the world's vulnerability and the fragility of international security, as well as the need for collective action.  The possibility of the use of weapons of mass destruction reaching the hands of unprincipled sponsors of international terrorism dare not be contemplated.  In the wake of those tragic events and of the award to the Organization, the work of the Committee should be imbued with renewed urgency.

She said it was time that the rallying words of the sixth NPT Review Conference be transformed into demonstrable action.  She still anticipated the entry into force of the CTBT, but expressed disappointment at the failure of the Conference on Disarmament to begin negotiating a fissile material cut-off treaty.  The stalled multilateral disarmament agenda presented a disturbing framework within which everyone must seek to advance an already tenuous international peace and security.  That the void created by the absence of a strong multilateral disarmament and non-proliferation regime was inevitably filled with suspicion and distrust offered little comfort, particularly to small States such as hers.  Also worrying had been the failure to conclude a verification protocol to the Biological Weapons Convention.

CARICOM recognized the important contribution of nuclear-weapon-free States toward strengthening the international nuclear non-proliferation regime, and in promoting regional security and stability, she said.  Their success could be found in their establishment on the basis of agreements freely reached among the States of the region concerned.  CARICOM had remained committed to the regime established by the Treaty of Tlatelolco and encouraged the development of mechanisms aimed at promoting cooperation among zones, with a view to ultimately strengthening the international non-proliferation regime.

She noted that the global small arms Conference in July was a very welcome demonstration of the international community's acknowledgement of the need to urgently address the proliferation and illegal use of those weapons.  For small, vulnerable States such as hers, exposed to that illicit trade, often linked to drug trafficking and other forms of organized crime, that was a vital undertaking.  The increasing threat to the security and stability of societies and the challenge to their economic and social development were too serious to ignore.  She looked forward to the early implementation of measures at all levels, as articulated in the action programme.

That Conference had represented a first, important step in the long journey toward the achievement of truly effective control of that illicit trade, but that objective would not be attained until measures were implemented to regulate the legal trade in small arms and light weapons, including the improved monitoring of firearms dealers and secondary markets, the application of more rigorous standards for arms brokers, and strict import and export authorization regimes.  Within that framework, the United Nations Secretariat had a central coordinating role to play.  There was still a lack of data on the small arms phenomenon, and the database of the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research should be widened.

JOSÉ PAULINO CUNHA DA SILVA (Angola) said that terrorists were the common enemies of all societies and did not come from any particular religion, culture or nationality.  Over the last few decades, Angola had witnessed thousands of people killed in the almost daily terrorist attacks of the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA), led by Jonas Savimbi.  The fight against that scourge must be in a global form and without any type of discrimination.  He appealed to all States to comply strictly with the sanctions imposed on UNITA and cooperate with the monitoring mechanism on sanctions against UNITA, as in the scope of the measures to eliminate international terrorism.

He was fully aware, he continued, of the close and complex link between terrorism, organized crime, drug trafficking, the illegal exploitation of natural resources and the illegal trafficking and easy availability of small arms and light weapons.  Despite the efforts of the United Nations, small arms and light weapons had continued to land in the hands of terrorist groups, rebels and other unlawful elements.  As a security problem, small arms and light weapons had a far more direct impact on the everyday lives of people and caused more deaths, injury and economic loss than weapons of mass destruction.  The international community needed to strengthen cooperation at the bilateral, regional and international levels and fully implement the programme agreed upon at the United Nations Conference on small arms.

Angola was a State party to the Ottawa Convention and strongly committed to its effective implementation, he said.  It had a national programme against landmines, which aimed to create an environment in which people could live and work safely, meeting the concerns and priorities of the victims.  In many areas already identified as mine areas, it had placed warning signs, but the UNITA rebels had been removing them, thus killing more people, mostly women and children, in the same brutal fashion as any act of terrorism.  There was a need for coordinated actions by the international community to achieve the complete elimination of anti-personnel landmines.

Angola, as a developing country, was firmly committed to the non-proliferation regime, as well as the CTBT, which would contribute vitally to nuclear disarmament.  His country supported the results of the 2000 NPT Review Conference, which provided the international community with a clear vision of steps to be taken in the near future.  Angola also recognized the importance of the early entry into force and full implementation of START II and the completion of START III, as well as the preserving and strengthening of the 1972 ABM Treaty.  The prohibition of fissile materials for weapons purposes was also vital.  The Conference on Disarmament should begin deliberating on the problem as soon as possible, and establish subsidiary bodies to focus on that issue.

HASMY AGAM (Malaysia) said he associated himself with the earlier statement made on behalf of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN).  In the nuclear disarmament area, progress, if any, had been negligible.  Progress towards greater disarmament efforts, instead, had been setback, with the number of nuclear-weapon States growing, a weakening of existing treaties, and a virtually complete standstill in related bilateral and multilateral negotiations.  The challenge facing the world community towards the realization of a nuclear-weapon-free world, therefore, remained formidable and required a total and unqualified commitment.  Nuclear disarmament should not be put on the "back burner", but must remain a high priority on the global agenda.

He said that the mindless and horrific terrorist attacks on the United States were a shocking a cruel wake-up call to the world community about the danger of international terrorism.  Those events had been a reminder of the fragility of international peace and security and the need for the global community to "close ranks" in its common effort to ensure that peace and security prevailed in the new millennium.  For one thing, States parties to the NPT and CTBT must address the issue of the universality of those treaties in a more serious manner.  Also, the special coordinators of the Conference on Disarmament must make every effort to "break" the impasse and make every effort to attain the objectives.

Theatre missile defence and national missile defence had become two of the most keenly debated issues on the world security agenda, he went on.  Missile defences would pose significant problems for future progress in arms control -- especially deep nuclear reductions.  The security costs of deployment would far outweigh the security benefits, since deployment of such a system would have a highly destabilizing effect on international security and would most likely lead to a new arms race.  Rather, he called for a strengthening of the existing ABM Treaty, while seriously addressing the threat of global missile proliferation.  Strengthening the biological and chemical weapon Conventions was another priority.

Thanks to the aggressive marketing efforts of the arms vendors of the mostly industrialized countries, sophisticated and, hence, more lethal arms were now in the arsenals of impoverished countries, he said.  The small arms Conference had marked a significant first step towards ultimately eradicating the illicit small arms trade.  States must fulfil their respective obligations under the action programme.  At the same time, the proliferation of those arms must be viewed from a holistic perspective of arms control and disarmament, post-conflict peace building, conflict prevention and socio-economic development.  In conflict situations, the problem should be viewed comprehensively in the framework of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of ex-combatants. 

Malaysia had become the first mine-free country in Asia, he announced.  It had completed its stockpile destruction of anti-personnel landmines and, therefore, fulfilled its obligations under article 4 of the Ottawa Convention.  Malaysia remained committed to the attainment of a truly universal ban on anti-personnel landmines.  The destruction of nearly 95,000 mines had begun in mid-January at three different locations in the country.  His country was firm in its conviction that the humanitarian suffering caused by those weapons far outweighed their military utility.  It remained his hope and expectation that there would be a stronger political push for universal acceptance of the treaty. 

BASILE IKOUBE (Democratic Republic of the Congo) said that the criminal acts of 11 September had shed light on the urgent need to hasten progress in disarmament and security.  Perception of the global threat had been altered; the security concept flowing from that should chart a new course.  The prevailing tensions following the resurgence of the terrorist risk had lent a special poignancy to the Committee's debate.  The time seemed right to increase a collective awareness, in order to speed up significant progress in the areas under discussion, namely peace and security, and general and complete disarmament.  Global and coherent strategies were needed and the ways and means of the United Nations in preventing conflict should be strengthened.

He said that today's award of the Nobel Peace Prize was a welcome tribute, which could not go unnoticed among Member States.  That should encourage special emphasis on evolving a well-defined strategy to maintain and consolidate peace.  With respect to disarmament, the commitments made in the Millennium Declaration should be fulfilled.  A climate of trust between nations must be created in order to avoid recourse to the nuclear arms race.  Similarly, unilateral measures that

could weaken and undermine the existing balance in the area of nuclear defence should also be avoided.  Meanwhile, the Conference on Disarmament should firmly take up the issues before it, in order to reach legally binding and irrevocable agreements.

With respect to the small arms Conference, States should apply the principles of the recommendations, he urged.  Reaching consensus on the outstanding issues through a rapid resumption of talks would be an extremely significant initiative.  In light of the domestic situation in the Congo and the African subregion -- a lengthy period of civil war, loss of human life and huge material destruction -- national work should be geared towards consolidation of peace, both inside and outside the country.  His Government was pursuing a broad project for disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of former combatants.  In that context, more than 20,000 ex-militia had been demobilized and thousands of firearms gathered and destroyed.

RADAFIARISOA LÉA RAHOLINIRINA (Madagascar) said that the work of the First Committee was uncertain after the terrible tragedy of 11 September in the United States.  Terrorists were ruthless in the means they used and would stop at nothing.  Madagascar supported the Secretary-General in urging States to fully implement treaties on mass destruction.  As long as nuclear weapons existed, a world free from fear would be simply a dream.

She noted the absence of tangible progress on the part of the nuclear Powers in eliminating their arsenals, which had replaced the hopes of the Disarmament Conference with concern.  Nor had work on the fissile cut-off treaty inspired optimism.  So, it was vital that progress be made on the NPT, and the CTBT should enter into force as soon as possible.  All of those challenges required that the international community renew its commitment to disarmament as a whole and redouble efforts in that long and difficult enterprise.  The creation of nuclear-weapon-free zones in Africa, Asia and the Pacific were valuable steps forward and should be encouraged.  Those zones contributed to confidence among those States and were essential to lasting peace.

The century that just ended had been marked by bloody conflict, she said, and much of that was caused by light weapons.  Despite deficiencies in its programme of action, recommendations from the Conference on small arms must be implemented as soon as possible to halt the devastating effects of those weapons.  Africa looked forward to the speedy implementation of the programme, especially in the area of technical assistance.  The continent had also known the agony of anti-personnel mines.  She also noted that there had been an increase in global military expenditures.  Lasting security did not lie in the stockpiling of weapons, but in dialogue and lasting respect between nations.  Colossal sums spent on weapons should be diverted to development.  The international community needed a fresh look at its conviction towards security.  It could take the narrow path of national self-interest or the broader path to international peace and security.

PRASAD KARIYAWASAM (Sri Lanka) said his country had experienced barbaric acts of terrorism and well understood the anguish and pain of those who had suffered from such acts of indiscriminate violence.  It stood shoulder to shoulder with the United States and the rest of the world in the attempt to eradicate the menace of terrorism.  The international community needed to work urgently together to create an international legal regime that encompassed all spheres of human activity and that would not allow anyone to perpetrate acts of terrorism against innocent civilians.  He welcomed the initiative taken by the Department of Disarmament Affairs to host a special symposium on “Terrorism and Disarmament”, which should provide new insights into the issue, especially about terrorism’s impact on disarmament.

He noted, however, that international disarmament and arms control treaty systems had been challenged in many ways, with several treaty review mechanisms becoming theatres for polemics.  The spirit and purpose of some widely adhered to treaties were being violated due to a distinct lack of commitment by some of the parties.  It was evident that the post-cold-war search by the major Powers for strategic balance or national security, with or without nuclear weapons, was not yet settled.  The most glaring victim of this trend was the Conference on Disarmament, which had reached a stalemate, largely due to the strategic and tactical postures of some of its Member States.  It was clear that an overwhelming number of members of the Conference desired, in fact were ready, to change its rules of procedure and make the Conference more productive.

This year should be a watershed in the quest for more resolute action towards the total elimination of nuclear weapons, he continued.  The world would never be safe with a regime that created permanent “haves” and “have nots” in nuclear weaponry, which was an unstable and unbalanced arrangement.  The perpetual existence of weapons of mass destruction and arrangements to manage them safely was not only untenable and contradictory, but could lead to unpredictable disastrous consequences.  In that respect, Sri Lanka supported the Secretary-General’s proposal for an international conference on eliminating nuclear dangers.

Despite progress recently achieved at the United Nations Conference on small arms, he continued, his country remained deeply concerned that the problem would remain acute unless resolute action was taken.  He welcomed the proposal made by the Rio Group of countries to hold a debate on the prohibition of the sale of small arms to non-State actors.  Even now, large numbers civilians were being killed indiscriminately by armed combatants and terrorists as a result of the use of small arms and explosives.  If the international community was unable to monitor and control the production and transfer of sophisticated explosives, any utility vehicle such as a ship or an air plane could easily be converted into a weapon of mass destruction with a sufficient amount of explosives packed into it.  Further, he deeply regretted that the initiative aimed at establishing a protocol for compliance with the Biological Weapons Convention had ended without final agreement.  More disturbing was that the Convention was likely to remain the only treaty dealing with a weapon of mass destruction with no verification mechanism.

MARIO H. CASTELLON DUARTE (Nicaragua) associated himself with the statement made on behalf of the Rio Group.  The terrorist attacks of 11 September forced the development and implementation of new security concepts.  Efforts must be increased to control the spread and use of weapons.  Terrorism threatened the global order and social co-existence.  At the same time, the large scale illicit trade of small arms existed in various regions, including Latin America and the Caribbean.  Those arms were the weapons of choice in internal conflicts and actions carried out by terrorists and rebel forces, with the main victims invariably being defenseless civilians.  That scourge had no geographic borders and, each year, threatened the human rights of millions.

He heralded the action plan of the small arms Conference aimed at

eradicating the illicit small arms trade.  Nevertheless, future progress must be made, especially regarding outstanding objectives, such as the control and sale of those arms to non-State entities.  Meanwhile, Conference on Disarmament members must act in good faith to eliminate the obstacles impeding its normal operation.  Nuclear weapons were a permanent danger.  The consequences of a nuclear attack would not be contained within the borders of the warring parties.  The States possessing those weapons had a grave responsibility, especially in preventing use of those weapons by terrorists.

He said that strict compliance with the NPT was vital to maintaining international peace and security and would pave the way for the elimination of nuclear arsenals.  The 1996 advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice regarding the legality of the threat or use of nuclear weapons was important, since it clearly established that States had the legal obligation to carry out nuclear disarmament negotiations, in good faith, and to conclude them as soon as possible.  He was also concerned by delay of the operation of the CTBT.  He urged those countries that had not signed or ratified it to do so as soon as possible.  Thirteen ratifications were still necessary; two of them were nuclear Powers.

He said he supported the creation of nuclear-weapon-fee zones in all geographic regions.  They were one of the most important steps achieved the international community could take to promote a safer and more stable world.  He highlighted the demining work being done in his country, especially the great progress made recently because of the promotion of a programme carried out with the support of the Organization of American States (OAS) and other friendly governments.  During the civil war, more than 135,000 mines had been sown.  Now, some 50 per cent had been destroyed.  According to the International Committee of the Red Cross, buried mines in Nicaragua caused some 50 "accidents" each year; 90 per cent of them to civilians and 65 per cent to children and adolescents.

PETKO DRAGANOV (Bulgaria) said that the 11 September attacks on the United States had demonstrated that the menace of terrorism required a vigorous response from the international community, particularly against any possible access terrorists might have to weapons of mass destruction.  Terrorism was directed against the very foundations of human civilization and it was up to the whole of humanity to defend its values.  Bulgaria was proud to be an active member of the international coalition against terrorism.

As a candidate for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and European Union membership, as well as an active Member of the United Nations, his Government had endeavoured to introduce international standard export controls on arms and dual-use goods and technologies.  The Government had decreed a list of countries and organizations to which it applied prohibitions or restrictions on the sale and supply of arms and related equipment.  The lists effectively

implemented the unified European Union list for dual-use goods and technologies, the Wassenaar Arrangement Munitions List.

The excessive and destabilizing accumulation and illicit trafficking in small arms, he continued, helped aggravate ethnic and political violence, increased human casualties and suffering, undermined post-conflict rehabilitation and fed terrorism and organized crime.  Bulgaria adhered to the efforts of the international community in preventing and combating the illicit trade in those weapons.  It was working with a number of partners in that respect, such as the United States, Canada, Great Britain, Norway, the Netherlands and others on a whole range of measures for stockpile management and the destruction of small arms and light weapons.

Eliminating the mine threat from Bulgaria had always been a high priority for his country, he said.  An important milestone in turning the region into an “anti-personnel mine-free zone” was the agreement between Bulgaria and Turkey on the non-use of those mines, and their removal from or destruction in areas adjacent to the common border.  A new step in that direction was the recent decision by the Turkish and Greek Governments to conclude a similar agreement and simultaneously adhere to the Ottawa Convention.  By the end of 2000, Bulgaria had demined all its minefields, destroyed its stockpiles of mines and became totally free of anti-personnel mines.

* *** *

For information media. Not an official record.