2 October 2002


Press Release

Fifty-seventh General Assembly

First Committee

4th Meeting (AM)



Speakers Say Complacency,Narrow Self-Interest Hinder Multilateral Efforts

"It appears that disarmament has gone out of fashion", the representative of Bangladesh told the First Committee (International Security and Disarmament) this morning, as it continued its general debate on a wide range of arms control and security arrangements.

There was complacency over past gains and frustration over the unwillingness of the major military Powers to move seriously towards general and complete disarmament, he said.  There was also a new sense of unease in the world:  the situation in the Middle East and the Gulf was sinking deeper into the morass of wider conflict.  Concrete steps to reverse the trend should include early operation of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), the promotion of regional disarmament arrangements, and persuasion of two Member States in South Asia to relinquish their nuclear option.

Calling the Conference on Disarmament "exclusivist, undemocratic, unreformed, expensive and ineffective", the South African representative said that narrow self-interest and a lack of political will were hindering multilateral approaches to disarmament.  South Africa, which had "stepped back from the nuclear weapon abyss", called for the early entry into force of the CTBT and adherence by India, Israel and Pakistan to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT).  She was concerned that the expert panel on missiles had been unable to agree on a single recommendation for a course of action.

Zambia's representative emphasized multilateralism as a core principle for reducing threats to international peace and security.  Efforts to combat international terrorism were only meaningful if terrorist groups were prevented from gaining access to nuclear weapons and other mass destruction arms.  Yet, those weapons still dominated the strategic consideration of important Member States in military doctrines that were incompatible with the integrity of the global non-proliferation regime to which Zambia had been committed for 35 years.

Countries of the Latin American region today stressed enforcement of legal instruments dedicated to disarmament and the non-proliferation of nuclear and other mass destruction weapons.  Costa Rica's representative noted that 98 States in the room spoke of peace, while simultaneously maintaining arms industries that depended on war.  Also disturbing was that only 22 of them had made transparent

their weapons sales and transfers.  Argentina's representative highlighted regional arrangements, which had consolidated Latin America as a zone of peace.

Statements were also made by the representatives of Mongolia, Switzerland, Kuwait, Norway and Ecuador.

The First Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. Thursday, 3 October, to continue its general debate.


The First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) met this morning to continue its general debate on a wide range of disarmament and arms control measures, as well as developments in international security. 

A number of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation agreements will be under consideration, 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 nuclear weapons, and towards that goal, to 13 specific steps. 

The United States has repudiated two of those steps –- support for the Treaty on the Limitation of Anti-Ballistic Missile Systems (ABM Treaty), which it withdrew from in June 2002, and the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), which it signed in 1996, but its Senate failed to ratify in 1999.

On 24 May, the Presidents of the United States and the Russian Federation signed the Strategic Offensive Reduction Treaty, or the Moscow Treaty, by which both sides would reduce the number of their deployed strategic nuclear warheads to 1,700-2,200 by 31 December 2012.  It is significant because it commits two former adversaries with the world's largest nuclear arsenals to reductions of deployed weapons.

The CTBT opened for signature in 1996 and awaits ratification by 13 of     44 States before it can enter into force.  Of those pending, 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). 

Concerns about the accumulation, refinement and spread, threat and use of missiles in both their regional and global dimensions will be considered through the United Nations study on missiles, prepared by a panel of governmental experts from 23 countries.  It provides an overview of the current situation in the field of missiles and describes several areas of concern, including missile capability of delivering mass destruction weapons, in particular nuclear weapons.

The role of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will also be discussed.  Among its tasks is verifying, through its inspection system, that States comply with their commitments under the NPT and other non-proliferation agreements to use nuclear material and facilities only for peaceful purposes.

The Agency's safeguards system comprises extensive technical measures for independently verifying the correctness and completeness of the declarations made by States about their nuclear material and activities.  Since 1992 -- in the aftermath of the discovery of Iraq's clandestine nuclear programme -- the Board of Governors of the Agency has adopted or endorsed measures to strengthen the safeguards system.  Under a Model Additional Protocol adopted in 1997 that includes short-notice inspector access to any place on a nuclear site, the IAEA has continued to negotiate Additional Protocols with States to strengthen that system by verifying not only declared nuclear material and activities, but also undeclared material and activities.

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).

At the opening of the session on Monday, Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs Jayantha Dhanapala announced that the countries of the Central Asian region -- Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan  -- had just agreed on the text of a treaty to establish a nuclear-weapon-free zone in Central Asia and that the signing should take place as soon as possible.  He also announced a decision by Cuba to accede to the NPT and to ratify the Treaty of Tlatelolco.

The programme of action adopted at the first-ever global Conference on the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects, held in New York in July 2001, will also be discussed.

Landmines will be considered in the context of the two instruments to ban or limit their use:  Protocol II of the Convention on the Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons Which May Be Deemed To Be Excessively Injurious or To Have Indiscriminate Effects (Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons), a partial ban negotiated in the Conference on Disarmament; and the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-personnel Mines and on Their Destruction (Ottawa Convention), a total ban agreed to in Oslo as part of the so-called "Ottawa process", which entered into force on 1 March 1999.

(For detailed background, see Press Release GA/DIS/3222 issued

27 September.)


MWELWA C. MUSAMBACHIME (Zambia) said the horror of last September had exposed the world's common vulnerability to the new threats to international peace and security.  The Committee, therefore, was expected to promote and strengthen multilateralism as a core principle in preventing threats to international peace and security.  Multilateralism would enable the international community to create conditions of peace and security, which were important prerequisites for socio-economic development, seriously needed in most countries.  Moreover, strengthened multilateralism would enhance the role of the United Nations in global affairs.

He said that efforts to combat international terrorism would only be meaningful if terrorist groups were prevented from gaining access to nuclear weapons and other mass destruction arms.  He was concerned that nuclear weapons continued to dominate the strategic consideration of important Member States.  Any military doctrine based on nuclear weapons was incompatible with the integrity and promotion of the global non-proliferation regime to which Zambia had been committed for 35 years.  In return, Zambia expected the five nuclear-weapon States to take immediate steps to achieve the complete elimination of their nuclear arsenals.  Unfortunately, there were alarming signs of the continued development of new generations of nuclear weapons.  That phenomenon, unless urgently reversed, would undermine past gains. 

His country was also deeply concerned about the slow pace of conventional disarmament, he said.  Small arms and light weapons were the primary weapons in many conflicts.  Due to Zambia's economic decline, it had been unable to acquire new arms.  It was committed to the full implementation of the 2001 Programme of Action adopted by the United Nations Conference on small arms.  If all States, particularly the producers, honoured their obligations, the threat of those arms would be eliminated in the very near future.  On landmines, Zambia was committed to achieving a truly universal ban.

He stressed the urgent need to devote more attention to the issues of the proliferation of missiles and related technologies.  The draft international code of conduct should win the support of all countries to ensure its maximum success.  In spite of the complexity of the issue, the disarmament community should not surrender its efforts to find a solution to that issue, for the world's future lived in the collective success in that and other disarmament fields.  Success in disarmament, beyond strengthening international peace and security, would create the necessary conditions for social and economic development, enabling the world to concentrate resources and time in the fight against international terrorism, poverty, hunger and disease.

NCUMISA PAMELLA NOTUTELA (South Africa) said that narrow self-interest and a lack of political will were hindering multilateral approaches to disarmament.  For example, the Conference on Disarmament, which had been unable to even produce a programme of work, was “exclusivist, undemocratic, unreformed, expensive and ineffective.”  Certain delegations demanded respect, without recognizing the legitimate concerns of others.

She reminded delegates that South Africa was a “country that had stepped back from the nuclear weapon abyss.”  She called for the entry into force of the CTBT and reiterated his Government’s total commitment to the complete elimination of nuclear weapons.  In that regard, she congratulated Cuba for deciding to accede to the NPT, but she expressed concern that India, Israel and Pakistan had not.  She also welcomed the efforts of the Central Asian States to form a nuclear-weapon-free zone.  With respect to missiles, she expressed concern that the Panel on missiles had been unable to agree upon a single recommendation for a course of action.

Turning to the Biological Weapons Convention, she said the situation had gone from bad to worse.  In preparation for the Review Conference in 2006, she therefore proposed the following:  the rapid conclusion of the Review Conference’s work; a focus on implementation; avoiding consideration of divisive issues when it was known that agreement would not be possible; no reference to the Convention ad hoc group and its draft protocol in the final documents of the Review Conference; establishment of groups of experts to suggest methods of implementation; annual meetings of those groups, as well as annual meetings of States Parties to consider the proposals of the groups; and strengthening of the United Nations Secretariat in the area of biological weapons.

She welcomed Iraq’s decision to unconditionally allow United Nations and IAEA inspectors into their country.  She added that the aspirations of Middle Eastern and South Asian countries to possess weapons of mass destruction were detrimental to their regions.  On the link between the control of small arms and sustainable development, she reiterated South Africa’s commitment to destroying surplus and confiscated small arms.  Her Government, along with Japan and Colombia, would submit a draft resolution entitled “The Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All its Aspects.”  On the issue of anti-personnel mines, she said that the Southern African Development Community (SADC) was working towards making the region mine free.

JARGALSAIKHANY ENKHSAIKHAN (Mongolia) said that, in view of the widely recognized urgency of nuclear disarmament, the lack of genuine progress defied logic.  The accumulation of "rust" in the multilateral disarmament machinery was so thick that the machinery's functioning had been inhibited.  Perhaps the machinery was overburdened by the vestiges of the cold war and required a profound overhaul.  There was no way to explain the lethargy towards the cherished goal of implementation of the "unequivocal" undertaking of the nuclear Powers to accomplish the total elimination of their nuclear arsenals.  That was especially so in light of the security challenges presented by international terrorism.  That tragedy had signaled the increasing danger of the possible possession and use by non-State actors of mass destruction weapons.

He said his country attached special importance to the reduction and destruction of destabilizing tactical nuclear weapons.  There was a pressing need to make tangible progress in nuclear disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation.  Breaking the impasse at the Conference on Disarmament and starting talks on substantive issues was vital.  Last year, his Foreign Affairs Minister proposed at the Conference that, pending negotiation of a fissile material cut-off treaty, the nuclear-weapon States should declare a moratorium on the production of weapons-grade fissile materials and disclose their stocks.  He had also urged the United Nations to establish a register for weapons-grade fissile material stocks.  The recent seizure in Turkey of enriched uranium clearly demonstrated the importance and timeliness of such action.

Mongolia had consistently supported the consolidation of existing nuclear-weapon-free zones and the creation of new ones.  He congratulated the five Central Asian States on reaching such an agreement.  In conjunction with Mongolia's nuclear-weapon-free status, that new treaty could make a significant contribution to strengthening nuclear non-proliferation and turning the entire Central Asian region, which only a decade ago had housed thousands of nuclear weapons, into a zone of peace and predictability.  That would foreclose the possibility of "nuclear great games" in the heart of Asia by States or non-State actors.  Ten years ago, his country had declared its territory a nuclear-weapon-free zone.  

He said his country had taken a number of concrete steps, both nationally and internationally, to institutionalize that status, including the adoption of legislation that legally defined the status and imposed penalties for its breach.  Participants of a meeting in 2001 between Mongolia, the five nuclear-weapon States and a representative of the Department for Disarmament Affairs had reached agreed conclusions and recommendations.  In line with those, his country had proposed to institutionalise the status by concluding a multilateral agreement, to which its two immediate neighbours -- China and the Russian Federation -- had, in principle, responded positively.

CHRISTIAN FAESSLER (Switzerland) said his country supported all multilateral efforts in arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation that were likely to have concrete and verifiable results.  Only the conclusion of legally binding multilateral agreements could guarantee security.  It was deplorable that the Conference on Disarmament had ended its fourth consecutive year without achieving consensus on a programme of work.  It must begin, without delay, negotiations on a treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons.  With respect to nuclear weapons, regrettably the disarmament objective of article VI of the NPT had remained a distant achievement and there were still vast stocks of nuclear material for military aims in national security doctrines.

He said he favoured a multilateral, universal and verifiable treaty totally banning tactical nuclear weapons.  Disarmament efforts were also of grave concern in the area of biological weapons.  The rapid scientific and technical progress in biotechnology and genetics, in both civilian and military spheres, had increased the risk of abuse for military purposes.  Concerted action by the international community, therefore, was needed.  Despite its imperfections, the Biological Weapons Convention was the most effective way to prevent the spread, development and use of those weapons.  He deeply deplored the collapse of negotiations to strengthen that Convention and urged the vigorous pursuit of further multilateral efforts.  Together with the World Health Organization (WHO), his country had launched a training programme to respond more effectively to bioterrorist attacks.

He said that the proliferation of ballistic missiles and other delivery systems was a particular danger.  Thus, he welcomed multilateral efforts to create an international code of conduct against their spread.  He also attached the greatest importance to the full and complete implementation of existing agreements, as well as their effective verification.  He favoured an immediate and unconditional resumption of inspections by the United Nations and the IAEA in Iraq and the restoration of full cooperation by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea with the IAEA.  During the last couple of weeks, he had heard declarations by both Governments expressing their readiness to fulfil their respective obligations.  He was convinced that the resumption of on-site inspections would facilitate peaceful solutions to the current crisis and reduce political tensions. 

LUIS ENRIQUE CAPPAGLI (Argentina) said that the universalization of legal instruments dedicated to disarmament and non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction should be the goal of this century’s first decade.  He offered examples of regional cooperation in disarmament -- such as the Tlatelolco Treaty and the Brazilian-Argentinean Agency on Accountability and Control of Nuclear Materials -- in order to demonstrate the consolidation of Latin America as a zone of non-proliferation and peace.  He was pleased with Cuba’s accession to the NPT.

He regretted that after six years of negotiations, the ad hoc committee of the Biological Weapons Convention had not reached a consensus.  He insisted that there was a need for a legally binding regime for all countries and called for innovative ways to strengthen the Convention's verification regime.  With respect to chemical weapons, he was pleased that an Argentine diplomat had assumed the leadership of the technical secretariat of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

With respect to missiles, he supported the international code of conduct against the proliferation of ballistic missiles and said that Argentina would assume the presidency of that regime from 2003 to 2004.  He also mentioned that the Group of States of the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR), Bolivia and Chile had put in place an agreement to combat the illicit traffic of small arms.  Before concluding, he voiced his support for the Ottawa Convention.

SHAMSHER MOBIN CHOWDHURY, Foreign Secretary of (Bangladesh), said the world had witnessed the emergence of a new sense of unease.  The situation in the Middle East and the Gulf was sinking deeper into the morass of wider conflicts.  The threat of new war in the Gulf appeared to be looming larger by the day, despite many efforts to avert it.  Peace and security in Afghanistan was elusive, and reconstruction and rehabilitation were yet to gain momentum.  Tension between the nuclear-capable neighbours in South Asia, festering conflicts in parts of Africa, the hot spots in Eastern Europe and the slow progress of peace building in the former Yugoslavia were all causes for concern.  International security was also under constant threat owing to the widening gap between the countries of the North and South.

"It appears that disarmament has gone out of fashion”, he said.  There was a complacency over past achievements, as well as frustration with the major military Powers, who were not willing or ready to move seriously towards general and complete disarmament.  The signing of the Moscow Treaty was perhaps the single most important positive event in disarmament this year, but very few believed that the Treaty would successfully counteract the damage stemming from the demise of the ABM Treaty.  The new Treaty could prove more useful if the concepts of transparency, verifiability and irreversibility were built into it with greater clarity.  Overall, disarmament had taken a back seat, so much so that the Disarmament Commission could not even hold its regular annual session.

He called on all Member States to seriously consider the growing negative trends in disarmament and to coordinate efforts to bring renewed vitality to its pursuit.  Concrete steps should include:  revitalizing the Conference on Disarmament; ensuring regular meetings of the Disarmament Commission; implementing the 13 steps towards nuclear disarmament agreed upon at the 2000 NPT Conference; ensuring the early operation of the CTBT; emphasizing monitoring and verification regimes; ensuring irreversibility of all disarmament measures; promoting regional disarmament arrangements; emphasizing the early achievement of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East; renewing efforts to persuade the two Member States in South Asia to relinquish the nuclear option and join the NPT as non-nuclear-weapon States; and reversing  the trend of increased military expenditures.

MESAID AL-KULAIB (Kuwait) said that terrorism cut across all religions and borders.  Sympathizing with the victims of the 9/11 attacks, he said that Kuwait also knew what it was like to be a victim of terrorism.

He could not imagine any justification for nuclear-weapon States to hold on to their weapons.  The citizens of the world, after all, wanted to live in peace.  He welcomed the Moscow Treaty and applauded Cuba’s decision to accede to the NPT.  He called on Israel, the only country in the Middle East with nuclear weapons and the only one that had not acceded to the NPT, to accede to that Treaty and to respect the IAEA safeguards regulations.  He maintained that Israel’s role in the Middle East was problematic.  He also reiterated his support for a nondiscriminatory treaty to regulate fissile material.

He expressed disappointment that the Conference on Disarmament had failed to agree on its agenda, that the NPT had not achieved universality and that the CTBT had not come into force.  Military expenditures continued to rise throughout the world, and people were growing pessimistic about their futures.  Those were causes for great concern, he said.

BRUNO STAGNO (Costa Rica) said that his country had been the first to comply with United Nations resolution 41 (I), approved by the General Assembly in     1946 and entitled “General Arms Reduction.”  As early as 1949, Costa Rica had abolished its armed forces and given social development priority as an inherent component of security.  Coming from a country with such a history in the area of disarmament, he was disappointed by the meager advances in international disarmament.

Terrorists, the common enemy, were taking advantage of the lack of progress in disarmament, he said.  Additionally, he found it ironic that 98 States represented in the room spoke of peace, while simultaneously maintaining arms industries that depended on war for their very existence.  It was also disturbing that only 22 of those 98 States made their weapons sales and transfers transparent.  He maintained that the Conference on Disarmament was not doing enough to alleviate those problems.

He condemned the possession, development and use of nuclear weapons and stressed the need to strengthen the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).  He also expressed concern over the lack of progress on the Biological Weapons Convention.  Given the high numbers of civilian deaths and child soldiers in conflicts throughout the world, he was saddened that of 138 countries providing information to the 2001 Human Rights Report, 51 devoted more resources to their militaries than to addressing educational and medical issues.  He supported the Ottawa Convention and the international ethical code for the transfer of arms, an instrument that would prohibit the transfer of military materials and personnel and eliminate financial and logistical support to States whose military or police forces engaged in human rights violations.

LEIF A. ULLAND (Norway) asked members whether they were still dealing with multilateral non-proliferation and disarmament in a "business as usual" manner.  He referred specifically to the lack of progress in such important areas as a fissile material cut-off treaty, universalization of existing treaties, such as the NPT and CTBT, and compliance measures for the Biological Weapons Convention.  He called upon all members of the United Nations family to renew and fulfil their individual and collective commitments.  He welcomed the signing of the Moscow Treaty, but stressed the need for verifiable and irreversible reductions in strategic nuclear warheads.

He said that self-imposed moratoriums on nuclear testing were useful pending the entry into force of the CTBT, but those could not replace the legally binding commitments represented by the signing and ratification of that Treaty.  Verification was at its core, and the full and speedy implementation of that system would boost confidence and build security.  The entire field ofweapons-usable fissile material should be dealt with comprehensively.  Irreversible disposition would ensure that excess stockpiles of fissile material

remained outside the "military nuclear cycle".  Monitoring by the IAEA was critical in that regard.

Proliferation of ballistic missile systems capable of delivering weapons of mass destruction must be curbed, as that was an important part of the common effort to combat terrorism by State and non-State actors, he said.  A broad political, economic and diplomatic strategy was needed.  Work on an international code of conduct against the spread of ballistic missiles was a first step and a basis for strengthening global efforts.  Similarly, intensifying efforts to deal with small arms –- called “slow motion weapons of mass destruction” by the Secretary-General -- must focus on implementation of the Action Programme at all levels.  Norway's emphasis was on:  tracing and brokering; stockpile management and destruction of surpluses; disarmament and development; disarmament, demobilization and reintegration; and on assisting affected States.

FERNANDO YÉPEZ LASSO (Ecuador) said that social justice, respect for human rights and more employment opportunities in the developing world would contribute to true international security, stability and democracy.  Unfortunately, the current international situation was characterized by confrontation and uncertainty.  In the Middle East, he said it was problematic that the only Middle Eastern State with nuclear capabilities had not acceded to the NPT.  He also criticized the Conference on Disarmament’s failure to produce a programme of work.

Voicing his support for multilateral disarmament agreements, he said that Ecuador had acceded to the Treaty of Tlatelolco and had ratified the CTBT.  He also called for the strengthening of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons as an independent, multilateral forum.  He recognized the link between disarmament and social development and lent full support to the Ottawa Convention.  He also expressed satisfaction at regional confidence and security-building measures in the Americas.

He said that since signing a peace treaty with Peru, his Government’s defence expenditures had decreased significantly.  Nevertheless, Ecuador would continue to provide information for the United Nations Registry of Conventional Arms.  He concluded by expressing satisfaction with regional cooperation initiatives, such as the declaration of Latin America as a zone of peace.

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For information media. Not an official record.