HUMANKIND STILL ‘CONFRONTS SELF-EXTINCTION ARISING FROM MASSIVE, COMPETITIVE BUILD-UP OF MOST DESTRUCTIVE WEAPONS EVER PRODUCED’, FIRST COMMITTEE TOLD

6 October 2008
GA/DIS/3361

HUMANKIND STILL ‘CONFRONTS SELF-EXTINCTION ARISING FROM MASSIVE, COMPETITIVE BUILD-UP OF MOST DESTRUCTIVE WEAPONS EVER PRODUCED’, FIRST COMMITTEE TOLD

6 October 2008
General Assembly
GA/DIS/3361
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-third General Assembly

First Committee

2nd Meeting (AM)


HUMANKIND STILL ‘CONFRONTS SELF-EXTINCTION ARISING FROM MASSIVE, COMPETITIVE


BUILD-UP OF MOST DESTRUCTIve WEAPONS EVER PRODUCED’, FIRST COMMITTEE TOLD


High Representative Says Ballooning Military Spending, Arms Transfers Loom

Large, Barometers in United Nations Disarmament Machinery Indicate Stormy Weather


The security concerns raised 30 years ago by the General Assembly when it met in special session to consider disarmament were still in play today, namely, that mankind was still “confronted with an unprecedented threat of self-extinction arising from the massive and competitive accumulation of the most destructive weapons ever produced”, the High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, Sergio Duarte, warned the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) today.


The gravest challenges, then as now, came from weapons of mass destruction, especially nuclear weapons, he told the Committee upon the opening of its general debate.  Tens of thousands of such weapons remained, with no operational plans for disarmament, and the number of States with nuclear weapons had grown.  Concerns persisted over nuclear activities in Iran and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.  Then there was the risk of nuclear terrorism.


Ballooning military spending and a massive build-up of the most destructive weapons ever produced were among the leading factors tarnishing the security landscape, he said.  Additionally, the small arms problem could not be ignored.  It required more than a narrow arms control solution, since it related to a wide range of issues, including trade, health, development, human rights, drugs and terrorism.  Greater attention was also needed to address the problems arising from surplus stockpiles of conventional ammunition and to avert the tragic side effects of unconstrained ammunitions flows.


The First Committee played a vital role in the growth and maintenance of multilateral norms in disarmament, offering a kind of barometer of the global political climate, he said, warning, however, that other barometers in the United Nations disarmament machinery were clearly indicating stormy weather.  The United Nations Disarmament Commission had concluded its three-year cycle without consensus on the issues on its agenda, and the Conference on Disarmament had again been unable to commence substantive work.


Also worried that “massive amounts” of money were being dedicated to the development and production of weapons while vital life needs remained inadequate, Committee Chairman Marco Antonio Suazo of Honduras noted that 1.5 billion people lived on less than $1.25 a day, yet military expenditures continued to grow worldwide.  How could it be said that the world was disarming, with the existence of more than 26,000 nuclear weapons?  Nevertheless, he was convinced that the international community could move ahead to disarm, and he stressed the need to do so, suggesting a profound and substantive treatment of the issues.


Multilateral action on the issues was the only sustainable solution, said Indonesia’s representative on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement of countries, urging all States to fulfil their obligations in relation to arms control and disarmament, and to prevent the proliferation of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction.  The Movement was deeply concerned over the lack of progress by nuclear-weapon States to implement their unequivocal undertaking in accordance with the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT).  Underscoring the Movement’s principled position concerning the non-use, or threat of use, of force against the territorial integrity of any State, he said the complete elimination of nuclear weapons was the only absolute guarantee against their use or threat of use.  The Movement, thus, remained deeply concerned at the strategic defence doctrine of nuclear-weapon States.  At the same time, it reaffirmed the need to respect the inalienable right of developing countries to nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, without discrimination.


Speaking on behalf of the European Union, France’s representative said that international security continued to be compromised and threatened by the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery.  The Unionattached particular importance to the need to enhance the detection of treaty violations as a means to reinforce compliance.  It supported strengthening the Security Council’s role to take appropriate action in the event of non-compliance, and emphasized the unique role of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in monitoring States’ fulfilment of their nuclear non-proliferation undertakings.  Serious proliferation challenges had emerged in recent years -- in particular, he referenced the “Iranian nuclear programme”, the announcement by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea of plans to restart its reactor at Yongbyon, and allegations concerning an undeclared nuclear reactor in Syria – which, he said, the international community must confront with conviction.


China’s speaker asserted that the world was indeed in a state of great transformation, with the international security situation undergoing profound and complicated changes.  Global security as a whole, however, was stable, although in some hot-spot areas there were still turbulent and destabilizing factors, which had a bearing on the trends of international and regional situations.  There was a genuine need –- as new developments showed –- for the international community to review and reflect on the international security concept under the new security environment.  Although most States expressed their readiness to promote the international arms control and disarmament process, consensus remained elusive on ways and means to achieve it.


Statements in the general debate were also made by the representatives of Mexico (on behalf of the Rio Group), Nigeria (on behalf of the African Group), South Africa (on behalf of the New Agenda Coalition -- Brazil, Egypt, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, South Africa and Sweden), Brazil, Mexico (in his national capacity), Colombia, Jamaica, Australia and Bangladesh.


The representative of Syria spoke in exercise of the right of reply.


The Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 7 October, to continue its general debate.


Background


The First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) met this morning to begin its general debate on all disarmament and international security agenda items before the General Assembly.  Discussion focused on several reports of the Secretary-General:


The annual report of the Conference on Disarmament (document A/63/27) provides an accounting of the three sessions held in 2008 in Geneva, from 23 January to 28 March, 12 May to 27 June and 28 July to 12 September.  In their speeches the many dignitaries recognized the Conference’s importance as the sole multilateral disarmament negotiating forum, which addresses a wide range of issues in the area of disarmament and international security.  They expressed concern about the “stalemate” in the Conference, but also welcomed the concerted efforts by the six past Presidents and expressed their support for further efforts by the Conference to reach consensus on starting multilateral negotiations.


The Conference adopted the following agenda for its 2008 session:  cessation of the nuclear arms race and nuclear disarmament; prevention of nuclear war, including all related matters; prevention of an outer space arms race; effective international arrangements to assure non-nuclear-weapon States against the use, or threat of use, of nuclear weapons; new types of weapons of mass destruction and new systems of such weapons; radiological weapons; comprehensive programme of disarmament; transparency in armaments; and consideration and adoption of reports.


Conference President Samir Labidi ( Tunisia) reported on 5 February, however, that the Conference had not been able to reach consensus, either on the establishment of a subsidiary body or on a proposal for a programme of work, and that efforts must be continued to bridge the differences and find a way to foster consensus on the commencement of substantive work.  The Presidents of the Conference –- which also included Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States and Venezuela -- appointed coordinators for each of the agenda items, “without prejudice to any future decisions of the Conference on its programme of work”.  The Conference decided that the dates for its 2009 session would be:  19 January to 27 March, 18 May to 3 July and 3 August to 18 September.


The report of the Disarmament Commission for 2008 (document A/63/42) held its organizational session from 7 to 24 April, during which time seven plenary meetings were held.  At an organizational meeting on 18 March, the Commission approved its programme of work and took note of its provisional agenda, which included the following two items:  recommendations for achieving the objective of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation of nuclear weapons; and practical confidence building measures in the field of conventional weapons.  Working group I, tasked with evolving recommendations for achieving the objective of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, presented a revised working paper which the group’s Chairman said could serve as a basis for further discussion to reach consensus.  Similarly, Working group II considered the latest version of its Chairman’s conference room paper entitled, “Practical confidence-building measures in the field of conventional weapons”, but was unable to reach consensus on it.


Addressing the Commission on its opening day, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, stressing that multilateral cooperation remained absolutely indispensable in pursuing disarmament and non-proliferation, had said it was not a defeat to move forward on those issues where progress was possible and pursue other goals tomorrow.  There was really no responsible alternative; partial victories were still victories, small steps forward were still steps forward.


The report on the work of Secretary-General’s Advisory Board on Disarmament Matters (document A/63/279) noted that the Board held its forty-ninth and fiftieth sessions, respectively, in New York from 20 to 22 February and in Geneva from 9 to 11 July.  In a meeting with the Secretary-General on 20 February, the Board exchanged views on issues related to multilateral disarmament and non-proliferation.  During its sessions, the Board discussed three topics and made recommendations on:  issues of energy security and the environment in the field of disarmament and non-proliferation; the “Hoover Plan” for nuclear disarmament:  multilateralism and the United Nations dimension; and emerging weapons technologies, including outer space aspects.


The background for the agenda item on energy security and the environment was recognition that the continuously rising global demand for energy, and the ensuing competition for energy resources, had a significant impact on international peace and security.  The question of nuclear energy dominated those discussions.  Many members agreed that the simultaneity of proliferation and energy concerns had created both political and economic obligations to address questions pertaining to the peaceful use of nuclear energy in a more concrete and urgent manner.  The Board suggested that the Secretary-General encourage a broader dialogue on the peaceful use of nuclear energy, including the various proposals for the establishment of national and multilateral nuclear fuel supply arrangements under a multilateral framework.


The Board explored the implications of the Hoover Plan, or the “Nuclear Security Project” -- a private proposal launched in 2007 by former high-ranking United States officials -- relative to multilateral efforts towards nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation.  While acknowledging the diverse opinions about the Plan, many members underlined its significance, especially in terms of its timing and the momentum it had created before the United States presidential election.  The Board recommended that the Secretary-General should continue to strengthen his personal role in generating political will in the field of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation.  It also recommended that the Secretary-General should seize the momentum created by the Nuclear Security Project and encourage wider discussions regarding the objectives of the Plan, with the United Nations possibly acting as a multilateral forum for such discussions.


Discussions begun in 2007 on emerging weapons technologies, including outer space aspects, continued.  To meet the new risks and challenges from new weapons technologies, the need to elaborate and promote adequate international norms and rules, perhaps in the form of a code of conduct, was mentioned.  Views were expressed that although those technologies should neither be prohibited nor restricted, there still could be a need to focus on the offensive capabilities of such emerging technologies in a legally binding context.


Given the highly complex and technical nature of the issue, many members emphasized the need for broader involvement of governmental, academic, scientific and industrial communities in discussing the possible implications of such technologies for international peace and security.


The Board recommended that the Secretary-General should continue raising awareness of the risks and threats related to emerging weapons technologies, and initiate a dialogue between Governments and the scientific community on emerging technologies with military applications.  He could consider the creation of a high-level panel, including eminent scientists, on the issue -- including its outer space aspects -- and the possible implications for international peace and security.


In the report on reducing nuclear danger, “Follow-up to the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice on the Legality of the Threat or Use of Nuclear Weapons” and Nuclear disarmament (document A/63/135), the Secretary-General presents his findings pursuant to the requests contained in General Assembly resolutions 62/32, 62/39 and 62/42.  He notes, among other things, that some nuclear-weapon States have announced reductions in the number of nuclear weapons in their stockpiles, and that other unilateral declarations by some nuclear-weapon States include efforts to accelerate the dismantlement of nuclear warheads, the closing of nuclear test sites, reductions in their reliance on deployed weapons and the number of their delivery systems.


Among other gains, an agreement was reached between the United States and the Russian Federation to develop a legally binding arrangement as a follow-up to the Treaty on the Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms (START I).


However, the Secretary-General notes that many concerns and challenges still remain.  Reductions in the number of nuclear weapons are declaratory, fall short of expectations for deeper cuts and have not been internationally verified, among other things.  He also notes that while the total number of nuclear weapons has fallen significantly from the heights of the cold war, reportedly, 26,000 nuclear weapons still remain in stockpiles.  Concerns also remain over nuclear doctrines, particularly the reaffirmation by some nuclear-weapon States of the vital role of a nuclear deterrent in their security policies, and about extending the life of, and modernizing, existing warheads and weapon systems.  Also, the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) has yet to enter into force.


Following up the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice, replies were received from Canada, Cuba, Japan and Qatar in time for the report.


The Committee had two documents before it on the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT).  The first (document A/63/124) is a report on the efforts of States that have ratified the Treaty towards its universalization, and possibilities for providing assistance on ratification procedures to States that so request it.  The second falls under the agenda item on cooperation between the United Nations and the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) (document A/63/156).  It is a note of the Secretary-General transmitting the report of the Executive Secretary of the Preparatory Commission covering 2007.


In the Secretary-General’s report on measures to prevent terrorists from acquiring weapons of mass destruction (document A/63/153), he provides an update on implementation of General Assembly resolution 62/33, which urges Member States to take, and strengthen, national measures to prevent terrorists from acquiring mass destruction weapons, their means of delivery, and materials and technologies related to their manufacture.  The report contains replies received as of 15 July from Cambodia, Canada, China, Cuba, Norway, Panama, Poland, Qatar, Slovakia and Ukraine.  On measures taken by international organizations on the linkage between the fight against terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, replies were received from:  the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA); International Civil Aviation Organization; International Maritime Organization; United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime; International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology; International Criminal Police Organization; League of Arab States; North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO); Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW); Organization of American States (OAS) and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).


The report on the issue of missiles in all its aspects (document A/63/176) discusses the background and present situation, and identifies key aspects that should be taken into account in order to comprehensively address the issue.  These include, among others, the global and regional security backdrop, which provides the motivation, or lack thereof, for missile development, testing, production, acquisition, transfer, possession, deployment and use; the circumstances of transfer to, and use of, certain types of missiles and missile technology by State or non-State actors; issues of disarmament, arms control and non-proliferation; the interrelationship between doctrines, strategies and missile-related behaviour; the relative salience of ballistic and cruise missiles, as well as of missiles used as delivery vehicles for weapons of mass destruction or conventional arms; missile defence; and the increased contribution of space-based capabilities to a wide range of human endeavours.


A report on effects of the use of armaments and ammunitions containing depleted uranium (document A/63/170) attaches the views of Member States and relevant international organizations.  Replies were received by Andorra, Argentina, Austria, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Canada, Cuba, Finland, Germany, Japan, Mali, Netherlands, Qatar, Serbia and Spain.  IAEA and the World Health Organization (WHO) also replied.


WHO notes that, for the general population, neither civilian nor military use of depleted uranium is likely to produce radiation doses significantly above normal background levels.  While to date there is no consistent evidence of adverse effects of the use of armaments and ammunitions containing depleted uranium on vital human body organs, after military conflicts, levels of depleted uranium concentration in soil and air might be detected in affected areas even after a few years.  The area contaminated with armour, tanks, shrapnel, and so forth, should be monitored.  Particular emphasis should be placed on the protection of children, and risk communication campaigns may be needed in affected areas.


IAEA says its test results generally indicate that depleted uranium residues dispersed in the environment do not pose a radiological hazard to the population of the affected regions.  Complete depleted uranium ammunition or fragments can still be found at some locations where depleted uranium weapons were used during past wars.  Prolonged skin contact with these depleted uranium residues is the only possible exposure pathway that could result in exposures of radiological significance.  As long as access to the areas where these fragments exist remains restricted, the likelihood that members of the public could come into contact with these residues is low.  Responding together with WHO and United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to the request of Member States to assess the post-conflict radiological risk to the public and the environment from the contamination of territories with depleted uranium residues, IAEA generally concludes that the post-conflict radiological risk is not significant and can be controlled with simple countermeasures conducted by national authorities.


The Secretary-General’s report on problems arising from the accumulation of conventional ammunition stockpiles in surplus (document A/63/182) transmits the report of the group of governmental experts established, pursuant to General Assembly resolution 61/72, to consider further steps to enhance cooperation with regard to the issue of conventional ammunition stockpiles in surplus.  In so doing, the Secretary-General says that poorly managed conventional ammunition stockpiles threaten public safety and pose a risk to the security of States –- of growing concern to the international community because of the cross-border consequences of poorly managed stockpiles.  The most salient risk is that of explosive events in ammunition storage areas.  The present report analyzes the various aspects of the problems arising from the accumulation of such surplus, and correctly places them in the broader context of stockpile management.


The Group observes that inadequately located and poorly managed ammunition stockpiles pose an “excessive risk” because they can become unstable and threaten public safety with explosions or contamination.  Moreover, unsecured and poorly managed stockpiles of ammunition may be easily diverted to illicit use, which can increase fatalities arising from various forms of armed violence.  In presenting a comprehensive view of problems arising from the accumulation of conventional ammunition stockpiles in surplus, the report notes that cooperation with regard to effective stockpile management needs to endorse a “whole life management” approach, ranging from categorization and accounting systems, which are essential for ensuring safe handling and storage and for identifying surplus, to physical security systems, and surveillance and testing procedures to assess the stability and reliability of ammunition.


The report contains a set of conclusions and recommendations that emphasize the need for greater international cooperation and assistance in order to address the problem of the accumulation of conventional ammunition stockpiles in surplus.  The Group recommends, inter alia, the education and training of national stockpile management staff, the development of a set of technical guidelines in order to assist States in improving their national stockpile management capacities, and the improvement of knowledge resource management on ammunition technical issues within the United Nations system to ensure that States have ready access to appropriate technical expertise and guidance for the safe and secure storage of ammunition and the disposal of surplus stockpiles.


Also before the Committee will be reports on:  verification in all its aspects, including the role of the United Nations (document A/63/114); transparency and confidence building measures in outer space activities (document A/63/136 and Add. 1); transparency in armaments (document A/63/120); establishment of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East (document A/63/115 Part I); Risk of Nuclear Proliferation in the Middle East (document A/63/115 Part II); Mongolia’s international security and nuclear-weapon-free status (document A/63/122), and identical letters dated 30 April from Mongolia to the Presidents of the General Assembly and Security Council on that item (documents A/63/73-S/2008/297); observance of environmental norms in the drafting and implementation of agreements on disarmament and arms control (document A/63/116); Conventional arms control at the regional and subregional levels (document A/63/117 and Add.1); developments in the field of information and telecommunications in the context of international security (document A/63/139); objective information on military matters, including transparency of military expenditures (document A/63/97); and United Nations Register of Conventional Arms (document A/63/120).


The Committee will also consider reports on:  cooperation between the United Nations and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (document A/63/155); promotion of multilateralism in the area of disarmament and non-proliferation (document A/63/126); consolidation of peace through practical disarmament measures; assistance to States for curbing illicit traffic in small arms and light weapons and collecting them; the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons (document A/63/261); strengthening of security and cooperation in the Mediterranean region (document A/63/138); confidence-building measures in the regional and subregional context (document A/63/171 and Add.1); the relationship between disarmament and development (document A/63/134); United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (document A/63/177); United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Africa (document A/63/163); United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Asia and the Pacific (document A/63/178); United Nations Regional Centre for Peace, Disarmament and Development in Latin America and the Caribbean (document A/63/157); regional confidence-building measures:  United Nations Standing Advisory Committee on Security Questions in Central Africa (document A/63/164); disarmament and non-proliferation education; and United Nations disarmament fellowship, training and advisory services programme (document A/63/129).


Also before the Committee is a note by the Secretary-General on measures to uphold the authority of the 1925 Geneva Protocol (document A/63/91).


Under the agenda item on maintenance of international security –- good-neighbourliness, stability and development in South-Eastern Europe, is a letter dated 19 February from the Russian Federation to the Secretary-General concerning the consequences of the self-proclamation of independence by the territory of Kosovo (Serbia) adopted on 18 February (document A/63/62-S/2008/123).


Related to the Committee’s work, and before its delegations -- although not listed as a disarmament item in the agenda, is a report of the Secretary-General on implementation of General Assembly resolution 61/257 on strengthening the capacity of the Organization to advance the disarmament agenda (document A/63/125).  According to the report, the financial stability and sustainability of the Office, which currently relies significantly on extra budgetary funds particularly with regard to the activities of its three regional centres, remains a core challenge.  Additional resources would help the Office in delivering its mandate.  The Office’s establishment and the appointment of the High Representative was a vital step in the Secretary-General’s effort to revitalize the disarmament agenda and to meet the increasingly heavy and complex responsibilities assigned to the Organization in the area of disarmament and non-proliferation, both regarding weapons of mass destruction and conventional arms.


Statements


MARCO ANTONIO SUAZO ( Honduras), Committee Chairman, thanked the members of the Committee for their support.  He assured them that he would direct all his energy to ensure a successful conclusion to the activities of the Committee.  The world continued to face problems in the areas of disarmament and development.  Massive amounts of money were being dedicated to the development and production of weapons, while things that were vital for human life remained inadequate.  While 1.5 billion people lived on less than $1.25 a day, military expenditures were still growing throughout the world.


He asked whether or not the world was disarming when more than 26,000 nuclear weapons still existed.  He was convinced that it could move ahead to disarm, stressing the need to do so, underpinned by a profound and substantive treatment of the issues.  While he knew that the issues being discussed in the First Committee were among the most difficult and complex in the United Nations, members should lean towards flexibility in addressing them.


SERGIO DUARTE, High Representative, Office for Disarmament Affairs, noting that this year was the thirtieth anniversary of the first special session of the General Assembly devoted to disarmament (SSOD-I), which had defined the mandate of the First Committee, said its declaration had raised many of the security concerns still in play today, including that mankind was still “confronted with an unprecedented threat of self-extinction arising from the massive and competitive accumulation of the most destructive weapons ever produced”.  The gravest challenges, then as now, came from weapons of mass destruction, especially nuclear weapons.  Tens of thousands of such weapons remained, with no operational plans for disarmament, and the number of States with nuclear weapons had grown.  Concerns persisted over nuclear activities in Iran and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.  Then there was the risk of nuclear terrorism.


Yet there were still some grounds for “cautious optimism”, he said.  Citing reports on nuclear test site closings, on maintaining a moratorium on testing and on declarations of deployed nuclear weapons as evidence of positive steps, he cautioned however, that more was needed to move forward, including slicing deep cuts off arsenals, implementing operational plans for disarmament and the entry into force of CTBT.  He also pointed to the Chemical and Biological Weapons Conventions as they approached universality, and highlighted the success of some Governments in bolstering efforts to keep weapons of mass destruction out of the hands of non-State actors or additional States.  He also commended the group of governmental experts for adopting a report on missiles, which he hoped would lead to further steps towards developing multilateral legal norms in that area.


Just as the world community must pursue nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament together, it was also vital to address both mass destruction weapons and conventional arms issues in building the architecture of international peace and security for the future.  The point was not to make one form of control a precondition for the other, but rather, to pursue both.  Conventional weapons had taken a heavy human toll everywhere, he said, noting that concerns about the devastating consequences had inspired international initiatives to focus on stemming the problem by, for example, regulating trade in those weapons, outlawing certain types and curbing their illicit trade.  Last summer’s Biennial Meeting of States on small arms had produced substantive outcomes, but the small arms problem remained part of the larger problem of armed violence.


He said the small arms problem thus required more than a narrow arms control solution, since it related to a wide range of issues including trade, health, development, human rights, drugs, and terrorism issues.  Greater attention was also needed to address problems arising from surplus stockpiles of conventional ammunition, and to averting the tragic side effects of unconstrained ammunitions flows.  Those problems should be subjected to improved stockpile management, a topic upon which this year’s expert group had made solid recommendations.  International attention on the sinister effects of cluster ammunition on civilian populations had prompted a gathering of more than 100 countries to sign in Oslo in December the landmark Convention on Cluster Munitions.


Still, ballooning military spending and increased arms transfers loomed large, and the United Nations could do much to tackle those challenges, specifically through the Register of Conventional Arms and the Standardized Instrument for Reporting Military Expenditures.  The First Committee played a vital role in the growth and maintenance of multilateral norms in disarmament, offering a kind of barometer of the global political climate.  Other barometers in the United Nations disarmament machinery were clearly indicating stormy weather.  The United Nations Disarmament Commission had concluded its three-year cycle without consensus on the issues on its agenda.  The Conference on Disarmament had again been unable to commence substantive work, despite an unprecedented high level of participation by Member States and a unified effort by its six presidents.  Although most of the work in disarmament was in the pursuit of multilateral goals, the main responsibility rested with individual States to adopt policies and laws geared towards achieving those aims.


He concluded by noting that the Office for Disarmament Affairs’ newest edition of the Disarmament Yearbook was available to all delegates and a new website would be launched shortly.  He wished delegates a productive session.


LUIS ALFONSO De ALVA (Mexico), speaking on behalf of the Rio Group, said the Group had been concerned that the disarmament machinery has made only small progress in some areas and remained stagnant in others, in recent years.  He reaffirmed the Group’s commitment to disarmament and non-proliferation.  Noting that Latin America and the Caribbean had been the first densely populated nuclear-weapon-free zone, he renewed the Group’s commitment to support the establishment and extension of nuclear-weapon-free zones in other parts of the world, and called for the complete elimination of all nuclear weapons and of all military nuclear programmes.


He noted the Group’s commitment to NPT and the progress in the preparation for the Treaty’s next review conference in 2010.  All States should accede immediately to NPT as non-nuclear-weapon States.  He called for the conclusion, at the earliest date, of a universal, unconditional and legally-binding instrument on negative security assurances for non-nuclear-weapons States.  He commended the work of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, adding that there was a need for broader international support for the Agency’s safeguards in line with the spirit of NPT.  He supported the speedy entry into force of CTBT and welcomed Colombia’s ratification of the Treaty.  The total elimination of the chemical and biological weapons should also be a disarmament priority, and, thus, the universalization of the Chemical and Biological Weapons Conventions was of the utmost importance.


Concerned about the signs of an arms race in outer space, he stressed the need for the Conference of Disarmament to start its substantive work on that item.  The illicit trafficking of small arms and light weapons was another grave problem that required special international attention.  The Group attached particular importance to the 2001 Programme of Action, a central tool of a global character and a point of reference to determine measures to prevent, combat and eliminate the illegal small arms and light weapons trade.  He underlined the importance of implementing the recommendations of the third Biennial Meeting of States, and expressed the Group’s willingness to keep working towards the adoption of joint mechanisms, which could contribute to a coordinated effort to staunch the illicit arms trade.  The problems related to anti-personnel mines also continued to demand a lot of international attention from the international community, and he hoped that the success of de-mining efforts in recent years could be repeated in years to come.


MARTY M. NATALEGAWA (Indonesia), speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement of countries, said that the deteriorating situation in the field of disarmament and international security was unfortunate, and he encouraged all parties to work harder to resolve the current impasse.  Multilateral action on those issues was the only sustainable solution, and all States must fulfil their obligations in relation to arms control and disarmament, and to prevent the proliferation of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction, as that was essential to strengthening international peace and security.  In particular, the movement was deeply concerned over the lack of progress by nuclear-weapon States to implement their unequivocal undertaking in accordance with NPT, and as reaffirmed through the decisions and resolution adopted by the 1995 Review and Extension Conference.  “It is our continued determination to promote multilateralism as the core principle of all our efforts and negotiations in these areas.”  He also underscored the movement’s principled position concerning the non-use, or threat of use, of force against the territorial integrity of any State.


He noted the entry into force of the 2002 Moscow Treaty between the Russian Federation and the United States, but stressed that reductions in the deployments and operational status of nuclear weapons could not substitute for irreversible cuts in those weapons and in their total elimination.  He called on the United States and the Russian Federation to apply the principles of transparency, irreversibility and verifiability to further reduce their nuclear arsenals under that Treaty.  Complete elimination of nuclear weapons was the only absolute guarantee against their use or threat of use.  The movement thus remained deeply concerned at the strategic defence doctrine of nuclear-weapon States.  At the same time, it reaffirmed the need to respect the inalienable right of developing countries to engage in research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, without discrimination.  The negative implications of the development and deployment of anti-ballistic missile defence systems and the threat of weaponization in outer space were worrying.  The establishment of nuclear-weapon-free-zones and status were positive developments, and he reiterated the movement’s support for such a zone in the Middle East.


Regrettably, the Disarmament Commission had been unable to reach agreement on recommendations on its two agenda items at the conclusion of its three-year cycle of substantive sessions, owing to a lack of political will and the inflexibility of certain nuclear-weapon States.  He called on Member States to work towards achieving an agreement in 2009.  Large nuclear weapon stocks still existed and some nuclear-weapon-States were keen to develop even more sophisticated, and greater arsenals of, weapons.  In that regard, he stressed the significance of achieving universal adherence to the test-ban Treaty.  He further called for an effective and verifiable Biological Weapons Convention.  The outcome of the second review of the Chemical Weapons Convention had been commendable.


He expressed the movement’s ongoing concern about the explosive remnants of the Second World War, particularly landmines, which continued to be a problem in its countries.  It also recognized the adverse effects of cluster munitions, and raised further concerns over the illicit transfer, manufacture and circulation of small arms and light weapons.  In that context, the movement reiterated the importance of implementing the 2001 small arms Programme of Action.  It called on Member States to support successful negotiations in the First Committee.


LAWRENCE OLUFEMI OBISAKIN ( Nigeria), on behalf of the African Group, supported the earlier statement of the Non-Aligned Movement and reiterated a commitment to the principle of promoting international peace and security.  “Nuclear weapons pose the greatest threat to mankind and its civilization,” he said, strongly urging the international community to commit to the commencement of multilateral negotiations for a nuclear weapons convention aimed at the total elimination of those weapons.  He called upon nuclear-weapon States to commit to stopping the improvement, development, production and stockpiling of nuclear warheads and their delivery systems.  Pending the total elimination of nuclear weapons, a legally-binding international instrument should be established under which nuclear-weapon States undertake not to use or threaten to use those weapons against non-nuclear weapon States.


He said the African Group said the first special session of the General Assembly devoted to disarmament made landmark decisions to achieve disarmament, but the non-implementation of that session’s final document had underscored the need to give real meaning to the disarmament process.  In that vein, he reiterated the Group’s long-standing support of the total elimination of all nuclear testing and stressed the significance of universal adherence to the test-ban Treaty.  Multilateral arms control and disarmament agreements must ensure full compliance and the existing disarmament agreements must be strengthened.


The Group reaffirmed its strong belief in strengthening the existing disarmament machinery as a means of advancing nuclear disarmament, and he thus called on the Conference on Disarmament to agree on a work programme as soon as possible.  Citing a lack of substantive progress in the previous cycle of the United Nations Disarmament Commission, he called upon Member States to show flexibility and political will to create an atmosphere conducive to consensus in forthcoming negotiations.  He reiterated his support for the concept of internationally-recognized nuclear-weapon-free zones and appealed to stakeholders to ratify the African Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty, also known as the Treaty of Pelindaba.  Member States should prevent the dumping of radioactive waste on their territories as a means of enhancing the protection of all States.


Turning to the Group’s concern at the illicit transfer, manufacture and circulation of small arms and light weapons, he said that the framework for the Third Biennial Meeting of States should be pursued with vigour.  At the same time, he highlighted developing countries’ needs for technical and financial empowerment to adequately address the menace of small arms and light weapons.  He also underscored the inalienable rights of developing countries to engage in the research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.  In conclusion, he commended the renewed impetus given to the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Africa, and noted that the Centre needed continued United Nations support.  He appealed to all delegations to demonstrate flexibility and political good will during the Committee’s negotiations.


ERIC DANON (France), on behalf of the European Union, said international security continued to be compromised and threatened by the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery, and by the risk of non-State actors accessing those weapons.  The Union was committed to maintaining, implementing and strengthening disarmament and non-proliferation treaties and agreements, and stressed that progress and new treaties were needed, including a treaty banning the production of fissile materials for nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.  In line with the non-proliferation strategy, the Unionwas also committed to use instruments and policies at its disposal to prevent, deter, halt and possibly eliminate proliferation programmes, and pursued actions against proliferation.


He said the Unionattached particular importance to the need to enhance the detection of violations as a means to reinforce compliance.  It supported strengthening the Security Council’s role to take appropriate action in the event of non-compliance, and emphasized the essential and unique role of IAEA in monitoring States’ fulfilment of their nuclear non-proliferation undertakings.  All Member States that had not yet done so should sign and bring into force their IAEA safeguard agreements and additional protocols.  The NPT was an irreplaceable framework for maintaining and strengthening international peace, security and stability, and remained the cornerstone of the global nuclear non-proliferation regime and an essential foundation for the pursuit of nuclear disarmament.  With the current global security challenges, the Treaty was more important than ever, and all remaining countries should join it as non-nuclear-Weapon States.


Serious proliferation challenges had emerged in recent years, which the international community must confront with conviction, he stressed.  By adopting resolution 1835 (2008) on the Iranian nuclear programme, the Security Council had sent a firm message to Iran expressing the international community’s determination.  He deplored Iran’s “persistent failure” to comply with the requirements of the Council and IAEA Board of Governors by refusing to suspend enrichment and, among other things, refusing to grant IAEA access and cooperation.  He urged Iran to comply with the demands of both the Council and the Agency.  The European Union favoured a negotiated solution to the Iranian nuclear dossier and reaffirmed its commitment to a dual approach, calling on Iran to open the way to negotiations.  He reiterated support for the proposals put to Iran in June 2006 by the Secretary-General and High Representative of the European Union and further developed in a revised offer delivered to Iran on 14 June.


He said the Union also supported the six-party talks “process” with respect to the situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and was concerned by the country’s recent announcement that it was restarting its reactor at Yongbyon.  He called on that country to comply fully with Security Council resolutions 1695 (2006) and 1718 (2006), as well as with its obligations under NPT.  The Union had noted with concern IAEA Director General’s 25 April statement about allegations concerning an undeclared nuclear reactor in Syria.  It welcomed the IAEA decision to carry out investigations into that, and called on Syria to cooperate fully with the Agency.


Among its other concerns, the Union stressed the importance of putting the test-ban Treaty into force as soon as possible, urging Member States who have not yet done so to ratify that treaty, he said.  The Conference on Disarmament, as the single multilateral forum available to the international community, must secure the adoption of a programme of work.  Regarding space activities through a security lens, the prevention of an arms race in outer space was a prerequisite for peaceful exploration and cooperation.  In that light, 27 European Union members were drafting a code of conduct for space activities.  Concerning missiles, the Union considered the Hague Code of Conduct to be the best existing tool to deal with the issue.  It would submit a related resolution for examination by the Committee, which should examine ways of reinforcing the campaign against missile proliferation.  In that context, he noted with interest the proposal presented by France’s President, Nicolas Sarkozy, in March that negotiations were opened on a treaty prohibiting short- and medium-range surface-to-surface missiles.  Also welcome had been the development of new innovative international tools against proliferation, such as the Proliferation Security Initiative.


Nevertheless, he said, threats abounded.  Among other things was the persistent risk that terrorist organizations could acquire biological and chemical weapons, and he emphasized the importance of cooperation within the framework of the United Nations to confront that challenge.  Voicing concern about cluster munitions’ humanitarian impact, he said strong commitments were necessary to produce concrete results, lending his support to the ambitious convention adopted in Dublin and set to be signed in Oslo in December.  He also reaffirmed the Union’s commitment to ban anti-personnel mines and its support for the implementation of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction.  In the view of new threats to security, the disarmament machinery had an increasingly important role to play.


DUMISANI SHADRACK KUMALO ( South Africa), speaking on behalf of the New Agenda Coalition ( Brazil, Egypt, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, South Africa and Sweden) said that the only absolute guarantee against the use of nuclear weapons was the complete elimination and assurance that they would never be produced again.  The continued possession of those weapons, or the retention of the nuclear weapons option by some States, created the danger that they could be used or fall into the hands of non-State actors.  The situation did not enhance international peace and security.  He highlighted the importance of NPT adding that while there were challenges in effecting its full implementation, the overwhelming majority of State parties remained committed to fulfilling their Treaty obligations.


He said the New Agenda Coalition’s First Committee resolution this year would continue to emphasize the central role of the Treaty and its universality in achieving nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation.  It would also recall the need to strengthen the Treaty’s review process, the principles and objectives for nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament and the indefinite extension of the Treaty, as well as the resolution on the Middle East adopted at the 1995 Review and Extension Conference and the final document of the 2000 Review Conference.  In light of the approaching 2010 Review Conference, the Coalition would urge States parties to intensify their constructive engagement in the preparations in 2009.


The coalition acknowledged efforts to achieve the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula in a peaceful manner, and urged the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to rescind its announced withdrawal from NPT and to verifiably terminate its nuclear weapons programme, he said.  The group urged India, Israel and Pakistan to accede to the Treaty as non-nuclear-weapons States promptly, and without conditions.  It welcomed the unequivocal undertaking by the nuclear-weapon States at the 2000 review to accomplish the total elimination of their nuclear arsenals, as it believed that in order to make further progress towards achieving a nuclear-weapon-free world, those States needed to accelerate the implementation of their nuclear disarmament commitments.


Also essential, he said, was the need to diminish the role of nuclear weapons in national security policies.  Transparency and confidence-building were necessary to the disarmament process.  Genuine security could not be achieved by the non-nuclear-weapon States abandoning the nuclear weapons options alone.  What was required was for those States not to feel threatened by nuclear weapons.  Security assurances, therefore, should be provided in the context of an internationally legally-binding instrument.  That would fulfil an undertaking to those States that had voluntarily given up the nuclear weapons option by becoming parties to NPT.  The coalition supported the establishment of nuclear-weapon-free-zones as a step in the right direction, and called for a second nuclear-weapon-free-zone Conference as a contribution to the 2010 review of NPT.


MARIA LUIZA RIBEIRO VIOTTI (Brazil), associating herself with the statements of the Rio Group and the New Agenda Coalition, emphasized that a lack of progress on disarmament and non-proliferation over the past three years had been disappointing.  She cited a succession of setbacks as a worrisome signal of an insufficient commitment to multilateralism.  While strides had been made, including reductions in non-strategic and strategic nuclear arsenals over the past decade, and the recent “P-5 common statement” at the second preparatory committee of NPT last May, in which the nuclear-weapon States reiterated their commitments, much more remained to be done.  “So long as the States that possess nuclear weapons continue to believe that these weapons constitute a critical element of their security strategy, the goal of complete elimination of nuclear weapons will remain elusive and distant,” she said.


She said that NPT had been the bedrock of the global security regime, with its three pillars of non-proliferation, nuclear disarmament and the peaceful use of nuclear energy.  Upholding those pillars, Brazil had a solid, long-standing record in defence of disarmament and non-proliferation, and had helped to establish the first nuclear-weapon-free zone in an uninhabited region with the Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean (Treaty of Tlatelolco), now ratified by all countries in the region.  Brazil and its partners in the New Agenda Coalition considered the pursuit of disarmament to be a fundamental tool in addressing the international community’s concerns about proliferation.  The Non-Proliferation Treaty provided a framework of confidence and cooperation within which the development of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes could occur.


Work must continue to prevent weapons of mass destruction from slipping into the hands of terrorists and non-State actors, she stressed.  Accordingly, Brazil welcomed the recent adoption of the joint ministerial statement on CTBT and urged Member States who had not done so to ratify it.  Nuclear-weapon-free zones played a key role in disarmament and non-proliferation, and Brazil would be submitting a draft resolution to address that issue.  Brazil was also deeply concerned about the illicit small arms and light weapons trade.  The 2001 Action Programme had confirmed the irreplaceable role of multilateralism in addressing global challenges through globally coordinated responses.  Brazil favoured the adoption of a resolution that recognized the progress made at the Biennial Meeting of States last July and sought to build upon the positive results achieved at that gathering.


As for consultations about a possible arms trade treaty, she said her country was committed to the goal of concluding an effective, balanced, legally- binding multilateral instrument on international trade in conventional arms.  She welcomed the governmental expert group’s work in that regard, particularly its recommendation that conventional arms transfers be given further attention at the United Nations.  She reiterated Brazil’s commitment to overcoming the deadlock impairing the disarmament machinery over the last decade.  “This prolonged failure leads to mistrust and insecurity,” she said, stressing that “a healthy institutional framework that is effective in promoting meaningful negotiations must be restored”.


WANG QUN ( China) said the world was in a great transformation, and the international security situation was undergoing profound and complicated changes.  The global security on the whole, however, was stable, although in some hot-spot areas there were still turbulent and destabilizing factors, which had a bearing on the trends of international and regional situations.  There was a genuine need –- as new developments showed –- for the international community to review and reflect on the international security concept under the new security environment.  Although most States expressed their readiness to promote the international arms control and disarmament process, consensus remained elusive on ways and means to achieve it.  To realize peace and development, the international community should, among other things, promote quality and democracy in international politics, alongside mutual trust and cooperation in security.


He said that in order to forge a global consensus on international security and reinvigorate the arms control and a disarmament process, China believed that efforts should be made to promote common security for all countries, to maintain global strategic stability, to further push the nuclear disarmament process and to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in national security.  Efforts should also be channelled towards resolving disputes over weapons of mass destruction through dialogue and negotiation, to adhere to multilateralism, to safeguard and strengthen the existing international arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation regime and to reinvigorate traditional arms control and disarmament bodies.


China had been “the participant and the constructor in the international regime, a vindicator and promoter of the international arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation process,” he said, adding that it had never evaded its due responsibilities and obligations in international security and multilateral arms control progress, and had made its own contribution to it for years.  As a nuclear-weapon State, China had stood for complete prohibition and the thorough destruction of nuclear weapons, and was the only one of five such States that had committed no-first-use of nuclear weapons and non-use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear states or nuclear-weapon-free zones.  It also attached great importance to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) as the cornerstone of the nuclear non-proliferation regime.


Firmly opposed to any proliferation activities, China had established an export control system for nuclear, biological, chemical, missiles and other sensitive items and technologies, he said.  It was also firmly against the weaponization of, and arms race in, outer space.  In February, China and the Russian Federation had jointly submitted a draft of the related treaty.  China attached great importance to military transparency and mutual trust in the field of security, and it continued to report its military expenditures to the United Nations.  China was dedicated to the denuclearization of the Korea peninsula and was committed to promoting new progress and to maintain peace, security and stability in the peninsula and Northeast Asia.  He reiterated China’s stand for a peaceful resolution of the Iranian nuclear issue through diplomatic and political means at this critical junction and emphasized that all parties involved should exercise more patience, step up diplomatic efforts and continue the dialogue and negotiation so as to seek a comprehensive, long-term and appropriate solution.


LUIS ALFONSO DE ALVA (Mexico), speaking in his national capacity, said Member States were facing important challenges of disarmament and international security, with the challenges mounting yearly.  His delegation was not quite sure that the right steps were being taken to address them.  In recent months, new tensions had emerged on the global scene, and Mexico had been watching with concern “a language that seems to be coming back to the scheme where deterrence based on military power prevails over the political and diplomatic channels for conflict resolution”.  Everyone should show willingness to fulfil all their obligations on disarmament, non-proliferation and arms control.


He called for the universal ratification of NPT and urged that consultations for a sixth protocol within the framework of the Convention on Cluster Munitions ensure that the high standards achieved within the framework of the Oslo Convention were maintained.  Concerning the illicit small arms and light weapons trade, the report of the third Biennial Meeting of States, while not ambitious, was a starting point from which to move forward on the issue.  Mexico would promote a legally-binding instrument on arms trade and was participating in the group of governmental experts tasked with reviewing the feasibility, scope and parameters of an eventual treaty.


CLAUDIA BLUM DE BARBERI ( Colombia) said that the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons was a serious problem, and advancing the establishment of effective controls should be a top priority of the international community.  Colombia attached great importance to the 2001 Action Programme; work on that issue at the multilateral level should continue with broad participation of States.  She committed to work with the international community to implement the recommendations adopted last July at the Third Biennial Meeting of States.  Combating drug trafficking, terrorism and transnational organized crime would be effective only if accompanied by actions to eliminate the illegal small arms and light weapons trade.


She said her delegation, along with that of Japan and South Africa, had co-authored a draft resolution on small arms and light weapons, for which they sought universal support.  She commended Japan for its efforts to present a solid and comprehensive text that reflected the need to strengthen the Action Programme.  More flexibility among the group of governmental experts, established for the purpose of considering a legally-binding instrument to regulate the arms trade and control the diversion of them into illicit traffic, would have allowed for a more ambitious result.  As a country that had been the victim of that deadly arms traffic, Colombia had been developing a significant institutional and technical capacity for control.  As a result, it had become one of the most advanced countries in marking and tracing weapons and ammunition, export control and tracking, and it offered to share its experience as part of its contribution to a process which it hoped would culminate in the adoption of an arms trade treaty.


Colombia was also committed to CTBT, and called on all “Annex 2” States, whose ratification was required for the Treaty’s entry into force, to do so without delay.  On other matters, he hoped that the resolution on the relationship between disarmament and development, and the theme contained within, would receive the support it deserved.  He also hoped for the start of negotiations, on a priority basis, in the Conference on Disarmament on a treaty banning fissile material for nuclear weapons.


RAYMOND WOLFE ( Jamaica) supported the statements made by Indonesia on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement and the delegation of Mexico on behalf of the Rio Group.  Multilateral solutions must be at the centre of efforts to tackle political instability and proliferation of weapons which threatened regional and international peace and security.  That instability was often fuelled by extremism and intolerance, which were neither limited in scope nor confined to national borders.  Progress made on the disarmament and non-proliferation agenda was essential to lessening the threat of nuclear catastrophe and the proliferation of those weapons.  Central to achieving that objective was a balanced consideration of all threats to international peace and security, while ensuring that actions taken did not contravene the United Nations Charter.


He said his country supported the right of all States to the peaceful use of nuclear energy, as stipulated in article IV of NPT, but noted that there was a corresponding responsibility to commit to the IAEA system of verification, monitoring and safeguards.  He urged States with nuclear programmes to commit to full transparency.  States’ parties to the NPT should ensure the success of the Treaty’s next review in 2010.


Deeply concerned about recent events on the Korean peninsula, he said those threatened to undermine the gains made in the last four years, as well as the integrity of NPT.  Players in the six-party talks must reopen the channels for discussion and work towards a long-term solution, and allay the fears of the international community.  Total elimination of nuclear weapons was the only guarantee that those weapons would never be the source of unspeakable death and wanton destruction.  Nuclear-weapon-free-zones were decisive in promulgating the objective of nuclear disarmament and served as a confidence-building measure to develop trust and reduce tension.


He welcomed agreement on the Convention on Cluster Munitions, but worried at the overall state of the disarmament machinery.  In that connection, he called for constructive, consensus-building dialogue to create a platform to advance the work of the Disarmament Commission into the next cycle.  He also stressed the need for decisive action to curb the illicit small arms and light weapons trade.  The easy access to illegal weapons and ammunition and its connection to the narcotics trade placed a tremendous burden on Jamaica’s Government.  The successful outcome of the third Biennial Meeting of States to consider the 2001 Action Programme had been welcome.  Jamaica also favoured an arms trade treaty to impose strict controls on the trade in small arms and light weapons.  It supported the work of the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Latin America and the Caribbean, particularly in the area of the illicit small arms trade.


ROBERT HILL (Australia) said that the international community’s fundamental challenge was a deeply worrying lack of progress on nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament, a point made when his country’s Prime Minister proposed last June to establish an international commission on nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament, which had already garnered support from Japan’s Foreign Minister and other eminent individuals worldwide.  With fewer than two years before the next NPT Review Conference, the commission would aim to change the formulaic and unproductive nature of much of the current nuclear debate between nuclear-weapon States and non-nuclear-weapon States, developed and developing country NPT parties, and NPT parties and non-parties.  Indeed, it would help to shape a global consensus on related issues.


He said that progress had indeed been made on conventional disarmament.  Particularly notable had been the Oslo process on cluster munitions, in which Australia had played a strong role.  This year had seen global action on small arms and light weapons alongside a reinvigorated commitment to the 2001 Action Programme.  Nevertheless, further progress was needed.  An arms trade treaty was essential to arrest irresponsible and illicit transfers.  A legally-binding multilateral treaty would bring much needed transparency and accountability to the destabilizing accumulation of arms.  He welcomed the consensus report of the group of governmental experts on the issue.  Australia also remained committed to the goal of a comprehensive solution to the global landmines problem.  Efforts made since the Mine Ban Convention entered into force in 1999 had already led to the destruction of 40 million mines and the reduction in the number of victims.


Committed to preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, Australia was encouraged by the bipartisan and realistic case for nuclear disarmament set out by the United States’ statesmen Henry Kissinger, Sam Nunn, William Perry and George Schultz, he said.  The international community rightly looked to the nuclear-weapon States to take the lead through lasting reduction of their nuclear arsenals.  He welcomed the significant steps taken by some, but continued to look to States, both within and outside NPT, that possessed nuclear weapons to continue efforts towards the elimination of their nuclear arsenals, and to do so transparently.  He encouraged nuclear-weapon States to reduce further the operational status of their weapons in ways that promoted global security and stability.


He voiced concern about pressure to the nuclear non-proliferation regime by the actions of a few States.  Australia remained concerned about the nuclear activities of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, which continued to pose a serious threat to regional security and global non-proliferation objectives.  He supported the six-party talks process, while urging the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to cooperate and implement agreed actions.


He highlighted Iran’s violation of four Security Council resolutions, stressing the need for that country to comply immediately with its obligations and suspend its uranium enrichment and reprocessing-related activities.  In addition, Iran must grant IAEA the access it needed to quell the international community’s doubt about the country’s peaceful intentions.  “The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and Iran cases are critical challenges to the non-proliferation regime,” he said, adding that their actions “undermined international confidence, security and stability that is fundamental, not only to preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons, but also to ensuring further progress on nuclear disarmament”.  Nuclear-weapon-free zones had an important role in preventing proliferation and as a vehicle for nuclear-weapon States to provide binding negative security assurances to non-nuclear weapon States.


ISMAT JAHAN ( Bangladesh), associating herself with the statement made by Indonesia on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, said that the continued existence of weapons of mass destruction constituted the greatest threat to humanity.  Given the necessary political will, disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation were achievable.  NPT remained the most important and widely accepted instrument for non-proliferation, and its universalization was essential to making the world a safer place.  Hopefully, the preparations for the 2010 NPT review would produce the expected outcomes.  The guarantees of article IV of NPT to develop, research, produce and use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes should apply without discrimination.


She reaffirmed the importance of multilateralism in disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation negotiations, stressing the need to overcome the long impasse in the Conference on Disarmament.  The test-ban Treaty had also shown little development in the last few years, and she urged the nine remaining Annex 2 States to ratify it.  Disarmament was a cornerstone of Bangladesh’s foreign policy, and it was bound by its Constitution to general and complete disarmament.  It also supported the development of the CTBT international monitoring and verification regime.  It was similarly committed to not pursue production, procurement or use of chemical and biological weapons.


Bangladesh deplored the use of anti-personnel mines and had destroyed all its stockpiles of landmines in fulfilment of its obligations under the Mine Ban Treaty.  It called on all States that had not done so to become party to that instrument.  Her country also remained fully committed to eliminating the illicit small arms and light weapons trade, fulfilling its obligations under the 2001 Action Programme.  It also believed that a fissile material cut-off treaty was ripe for negotiation.  Bangladesh supported regional approaches to nuclear disarmament, to which confidence-building through the establishment of nuclear-weapon-free zones could contribute significantly.  The nuclearization of South Asia was of particular concern to Bangladesh, and it urged India and Pakistan to relinquish their nuclear option and join NPT regime.  Israel should do the same in the Middle East.  Bilateral agreements on civilian use of nuclear energy should not hinder regional disarmament.  She called for universal adherence to IAEA comprehensive safeguards agreements and additional protocols.


She said her country was also concerned about the continued development and deployment of anti-ballistic missile defence systems and the pursuit of advanced military technologies in outer space.  She reiterated Bangladesh’s call for the resumption of work on the prevention of arms races in outer space within the Conference on Disarmament.  Trade in small arms should be brought under an agreed international framework.  That would ensure a responsible transfer of conventional weapons.  Global military expenditures had exceeded $1.3 trillion in 2007, a 6 per cent “real term” increase over 2006 and a 45 per cent increase since 1998.  All countries, particularly the military Powers, should divert some of those resources to poverty alleviation in developing countries towards achievement of the Millennium Development Goals by 2015.


Right of Reply


BASHAR JA’AFARI (Syria), speaking in right of reply to the statement made by the representative of France on behalf of the European Union, said that the speaker’s concern had referred to a statement of the Director General of IAEA, dated 25 April and that, since that date, Syria had complied with IAEA requests and enabled inspectors to visit the site and surrounding areas.  It was important to note that when Syria was a member of the Security Council at the end of 2003, it had voted in favour of a resolution regarding weapons in the Middle East, but the resolution was opposed by a major Power in the Council.  The speaker’s comments today showed “a certain seriousness lacking in the European Union concerning policies of nuclear non-proliferation” in the Middle East that disregarded completely the Israeli nuclear activities.


He wished to remind the representative that France was historically more responsible than other States for the Israeli nuclear dossier because France had supplied Israel with materials in the 1950s at a time when nuclear weapons were in the hands of a small number of countries.  Israel had 200 warheads and eight nuclear reactors on an area of 20,000 kilometres, not much larger than Manhattan.  Israel had not acceded to NPT and had perpetually rejected placing its nuclear activities under IAEA control.  An IAEA visit this year had shown that Syria did not possess weapons of mass destruction.


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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.