Disarmament Remains ‘Burning Problem of Our Time’, But Today’s World Capable of Solving Problem, Disarmament Chief Tells First Committee as Debate Opens

5 October 2009
GA/DIS/3384

Disarmament Remains ‘Burning Problem of Our Time’, But Today’s World Capable of Solving Problem, Disarmament Chief Tells First Committee as Debate Opens

5 October 2009
General Assembly
GA/DIS/3384
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-fourth General Assembly

First Committee

2nd Meeting (AM)

Disarmament Remains ‘Burning Problem of Our Time’, But Today’s World Capable

of Solving Problem, Disarmament Chief Tells First Committee as Debate Opens

‘Let Us Get On with Fulfilling Charter’s Goal of Saving Succeeding Generations

From Scourge of War; Together, Let Us Resume This Great Journey,’ Committee Urged

With some 23,000 nuclear weapons reportedly still in existence, thousands of missiles and bombers to deliver them, weapons of mass destruction treaties short of universal membership and a large and growing agenda for conventional arms control, it was very difficult to dispute that achievement of the disarmament goals remained “the burning problem of our time”, Sergio Duarte, the High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, told the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) today at the start of its general debate.

Addressing the Committee during its first substantive meeting of the General Assembly’s sixty-fourth session, Mr. Duarte recalled that, in 1959, the Soviet Government had identified the disarmament as the “burning question of our time”, saying it was the duty of all States and the United Nations to urgently seek a new way of solving it.

The world today was capable of solving that problem, said Mr. Duarte, and the Security Council’s action in convening a summit to address disarmament could well be a turning point in the history of the United Nations in that field –- a new era highlighting the indispensable role of the United Nations in advancing multilateral cooperation in disarmament.

“Let us get on with the work of fulfilling the Charter’s great goal of saving succeeding generations from the scourge of war, by reducing and eliminating the means to wage such wars,” he said.  “Together, let us resume this great journey today.”  This year had so far been one of the most remarkable in the area of disarmament and the Committee’s session provided a forum to reflect on past achievements and future challenges.

He cited, among other gains, the Secretary-General’s launch of a five-point nuclear disarmament proposal; the entry into force of treaties establishing nuclear-weapon-free zones in Central Asia and Africa; the decision by Russian Federation President Dmitry Medvedev and United States President Barack Obama to pursue further reductions in their strategic offensive arms; and the agreement in the Conference on Disarmament, after a 12-year stalemate, on a programme of work.

Adding to the list of positive development was the representative of Brazil, on behalf of the New Agenda Coalition (Egypt, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, Sweden, South Africa and Brazil), who noted that the new nuclear-weapon-free zones in Africa and Central Asia had brought the number of countries now covered by those zones to 116.  With renewed global attention to the goal of achieving a nuclear-weapon-free world, leadership by key players boosted the crucial momentum.  However, the onus rested on “all of us” to seize the current opportunities.

Heartened also by the breakthrough in the decade-long deadlock in the Conference, he warned, however, that that positive momentum should not be allowed to fade. Echoing the call by the Security Council in resolution 1887 (2009) for a positive outcome of the 2010 Review Conference of the Treaty on Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), the Coalition understood that review to be a critical juncture for that Treaty.  It was meanwhile concerned at what it perceived as a lack of progress made to implement the 13 practical steps towards nuclear disarmament, agreed by the States parties at the 2000 NPT Review Conference.

Speaking for the Non-Aligned Movement, Indonesia’s representative said that the total elimination of nuclear weapons was the only absolute guarantee against the use of those weapons. Pending the total elimination of those weapons, efforts for the conclusion of a universal, unconditional and legally binding instrument on security assurances to non-nuclear weapon States should be pursued as a matter of priority.  He also restated the Movement’s call for an international conference to identify ways and means of eliminating nuclear dangers, at the earliest possible date, with the objective of arriving at an agreement on a phased programme for the complete elimination of nuclear weapons within a specified framework of time.

Welcoming the renewed momentum, Sweden’s representative, speaking on behalf of the European Union, highlighted the non-proliferation, disarmament and arms control trifecta as vital aspects of collective security.  He, however, stressed the need for general disarmament saying that the world continued to face many proliferation challenges.  At today’s crucial juncture, a combined effort by the international community was necessary to strengthen disarmament, arms control and non-proliferation.  Among the greatest threats to common security was the risk that weapons of mass destruction might fall into the hands of non-State actors, and the Union was determined to strengthen the international non-proliferation regime and to ensure full compliance with all of its obligations.

Hopefully, the current more forward-looking mood would lead to tangible results, said Switzerland’s representative.  However, “great” challenges remained, and while words and good intentions were needed to create a positive atmosphere, they alone would not enhance the disarmament agenda.  Real action was needed.  Nuclear-weapon States must comply with their obligations, the 2010 NPT Review Conference must live up to expectations and the next session of the Conference on Disarmament should build on 2009 developments.  In addition, the entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty must progress and quantitative cuts in nuclear arsenals must be accompanied by developments of a qualitative nature.

Committee Chairman Jose Luis Cancela of Uruguay said that he recognized the significant differences that persisted on the various subjects, but pledged to seek a middle ground.  Following many years of a standstill, the impression was that things were beginning to move in the disarmament and non-proliferation realm, whose developments still challenged all.  However, the Committee should not fail to seize the opportunity they presented and do all that it could to ensure consensus, in order to move towards a better world that was safe for everybody.

Statements in the general debate were also made by the representatives of Myanmar (on behalf of Association of South-East Asian Nations), Nigeria (on behalf of the African Group), Mexico, Venezuela, Kazakhstan and Peru.

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

The Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 6 October, to continue its general debate.

Background

The First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) met this morning to begin its general debate, scheduled through 12 October, 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 is not yet issued.

[The Conference on Disarmament is the sole multilateral disarmament negotiating forum.  It met three times this year and adopted the following agenda for its 2009 session:  [cessation of the nuclear arms race and nuclear disarmament; prevention of nuclear war, including all related matters; prevention of an arms race in outer space; 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; consideration and adoption of reports.]

The report of the Disarmament Commission for 2009 (document A/64/42) recalls the resolution on the Commission from the General Assembly’s sixty-third session (document 63/83), which, among other things, reaffirms the Commission’s mandate as the specialized, deliberative body within the United Nations multilateral disarmament machinery that allows for in-depth deliberations on specific disarmament issues, leading to the submission of concrete recommendations on those issues.  The report also recalls that at a brief organizations session for 2009, held on 15 January, the Commission considered questions related to its organization of work and substantive agenda items for its 2009 session (the first of a usual three-year cycle of work). 

On 15 April, the deliberative body adopted its provisional agenda, by which it decided to consider:  recommendations for achieving the objective of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation (Working group I); elements of a draft declaration of the 2010s as the fourth disarmament decade (Working group II); practical confidence-building measures in the field of conventional weapons -– which would be taken up upon the conclusion of the elements of a draft declaration on the 2010s as the fourth disarmament decade, preferably by 2010 and in any case no later than 2011.  The Commission met at United Nations Headquarters from 13 April to 1 May, during which it held 12 plenary meetings and four informal meetings.  Both working groups I and II adopted their reports by consensus. 

(For a summary of the concluding meeting, as well as the Chairman’s closing statement, please see Press Release DC/3172 of 1 May.)

The Secretary-General’s report on the Work of the Advisory Board on Disarmament Matters (document A/64/286) states that the Board held its fifty-first and fifty-second sessions, respectively, in New York from 18 to 20 February 2009 and in Geneva from 1 to 3 July 2009.  As part of the improvements made in its method of work since 2008, the Board focused its deliberations during both sessions on: cyberwarfare and its impact on international security; and ways to strengthen the field of verification, including the role of the United Nations.   At its February session, the Board agreed to consider an additional substantive agenda item titled “Conceptual issues leading up to the 2010 NPT (Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons) Review Conference”, in view of ongoing developments in the field of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation prior to the Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons to be held in May 2010.

To address cyberwarfare and its impact on international security, the Board recommended that the Secretary-General raise the awareness of Governments and the general public of the emerging risks and threats related to cyberwarfare, whenever possible.  It also recommended that, with regard to strengthening the field of verification, including the role of the United Nations, that the Secretary-General encourage Member States to provide feedback on all studies that have been done in the field of verification for “lessons learned” purposes and for a better understanding that a “one-size-fits-all” approach in the verification field could be counterproductive.  The Board also felt that, although the United Nations has primary responsibility in international peace and security issues, it could consider a role for regional organizations in verification.

In order to address conceptual issues leading to the 2010 Review Conference, the Board recommended that the Secretary-General continue to provide strong support for the positive political momentum in the field of bilateral and multilateral nuclear disarmament and non‑proliferation through effective diplomatic channels, as well as through public statements.  It also proposed that the Secretary-General encourage States to sign the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) additional protocols and to implement as many confidence-building measures as possible.  In addition, the Board expressed support for the Secretary-General’s five-point plan to revitalize nuclear disarmament efforts and suggested that he consider advancing an updated version of his proposals in view of new developments since October 2008.

Also according to the report, the Board adopted the 2009 programme and budget of the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research, and approved, for submission to the General Assembly, the report of the Director of the Institute on its activities from August 2008 to July 2009, as well as the proposed programme of work and budget for 2009 and 2010.  (The Advisory Board serves as the Board of Trustees for the Institute.)  The Board also recommended granting a continuing subvention for UNIDIR from the United Nations regular budget for the biennium 2010-2011.

In his 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: Nuclear disarmament (document A/64/139), the Secretary-General  presents his findings pursuant to  resolutions 63/46, 63/47 and 63/49.  He notes that cautious optimism has gradually emerged during the last 12 months that progress in multilateral nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation could be achieved.  A “new momentum” for nuclear disarmament has been spurred on by numerous new global initiatives of Governments and civil society alike.  Some nuclear-weapon States have proposed their own plans on how to move forward towards a world free of nuclear weapons.  The United States and the Russian Federation have both stated their commitment to the achievement of a world free of nuclear weapons, in accordance with their disarmament obligations under the NPT.  They have decided to begin bilateral intergovernmental negotiations to work out a new, comprehensive, legally binding agreement on reducing and limiting strategic offensive arms to replace the START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty), which expires in December.

The report finds that tangible progress has also been made in several areas, including: the entry into force on 21 March of the Treaty on a Central Asia Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone, the first to be established entirely in the northern hemisphere, bordered by two nuclear-weapon States and where nuclear weapons previously existed; and progress on the African Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone (Pelindaba Treaty).  However, progress on the creation of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East remains difficult to discern.

Agreement by the Conference on Disarmament on 29 May 2009 on a substantive programme of work for the 2009 session, after more than a decade of stagnation and deadlock, was a welcome sign that the multilateral disarmament climate was beginning to improve, the report further states.  The work programme will allow the Conference to establish a working group to negotiate a treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.

The Secretary-General notes, however, that progress is still slow in some areas.  The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), for example, has not yet entered into force since it lacks the ratifications of nine States listed in its Annex 2 and required for its operation.  Also, nuclear-weapon States have continued to emphasize the importance of nuclear deterrence in their security policies.  Complete nuclear disarmament is regarded as dependent upon the fulfilment of a number of other preconditions, such as ensuring regional peace and stability, preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons to non‑State actors, making sure that all States possessing nuclear weapons, and not just the five nuclear-weapon States, disarm fully, and ensuring that the complete elimination of nuclear weapons from all arsenals is verifiable and irreversible so as to prevent a reversal of such efforts.  Moreover, on 25 May, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea conducted a second underground nuclear test, in direct violation of the terms set out in Security Council resolution 1718 (2006).

The report also contains replies received from Cuba, El Salvador, Japan, Lebanon, Lithuania, Mexico, Nicaragua and Qatar in follow-up to the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice.

The report of the Secretary-General on the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (document A/64/137) and addendum (document A/64/137/Add.1) present information provided by the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) on efforts by ratifying States towards the Treaty’s universalizationand possibilities for providing assistance on ratification procedures to States requesting it.  The report is submitted pursuant to a request in paragraph 10 of General Assembly resolution 63/87 on the Treaty.

In the report on measures to prevent terrorists from acquiring weapons of mass destruction (document A/64/140), the Secretary-General provides an update on the implementation of General Assembly resolution 63/60, which urges Member States to take and strengthen national measures to prevent terrorists from acquiring weapons of mass destruction, their means of delivery and materials, and technologies related to their manufacture.  The report contains replies received as of 2 July from Andorra, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Lebanon, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Poland, Qatar, Tajikistan, Thailand 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 (ICAO); International Maritime Organization (IMO); United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC); Preparatory Commission of the CTBTO; North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO); Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE); Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW); Organization of American States (OAS); and the Pacific Islands Forum secretariat.  An addendum (document A/64/140/Add.1) includes a reply from Cuba.

Also before the Committee are reports on:  transparency and confidence-building measures in outer space activities (document A/64/138) and an addendum (document A/64/138/Add.1); developments in the field of information and telecommunications in the context of international security (document A/64/129) and an addendum (document A/64/129/Add.1); the relationship between disarmament and development (document A/64/153); the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (document A/64/261); assistance to States for curbing the illicit traffic in small arms and light weapons and collecting them, and the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons in all its aspects (document A/64/173); the promotion of multilateralism in the area of disarmament and non-proliferation (document A/64/117) and an addendum (document A/64/117/Add.1); conventional arms control at the regional and subregional levels (document A/64/126); United Nations Register of Conventional Arms (document A/64/135) and an addendum (document A/64/135/Add.1); and the continuing operation of the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms and its further development (document A/64/296).

The Committee will also consider reports on:  the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Asia and the Pacific (document A/64/111); United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Africa (document A/64/112); United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Latin America and the Caribbean (document A/64/116); objective information on military matters (document A/64/113); confidence-building measures in the regional and subregional context and an addendum (document A/64/114 and Add.1);regional confidence-building measures:  activities of the United Nations Standing Advisory Committee on Security Questions in Central Africa (document A/64/163); the observance of environmental norms in the drafting and implementation of agreements on disarmaments and arms control (document A/64/118/Add.1); the strengthening of security and cooperation in the Mediterranean region (document A/64/119) and an addendum (document A/64/119/Add.1); the establishment of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the region of the Middle East (document A/64/124 (Part I)) and an addendum (document A/64/124 (Part I)/Add.1); and the risk of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East (A/64/124 (Part II)).

Additionally, Committee members have before them notes from the Secretary-General on the implementation of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on Their Destruction (Chemical Weapons Convention) (document A/64/156); and on the report of the Executive-Secretary of the Preparatory Commission for the CTBTO, covering the year 2008 (document A/64/155).

Under the agenda item on general and complete disarmament is a note verbale from the Permanent Mission of Bosnia and Herzegovina to the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs summarizing the outcome of the International Seminar on National Implementation of Non-proliferation Obligations that took place 22 to 23 June 2009 (document A/C.1/64/1), as well as a letter to the Secretary-General from the Permanent Representative of Namibia to the United Nations, which transmits the texts of four resolutions adopted by the 120th Assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, concluding on 10 April, in Addis Ababa (document A/64/81).  The resolutions are on, among other topics, the role of parliaments in advancing nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament and securing the entry into force of the CTBT.

Under the agenda item on security is a letter from the chargé d’affaires of Gabon to the United Nations concerning the report of the twenty-eighth ministerial meeting of the United Nations Standing Advisory Committee on Security Questions in Central Africa, held 4 to 8 May, in Libreville (document A/64/85–S/2009/288).

JOSE LUIS CANCELA ( Uruguay), First Committee Chairman, said that the present session of the Committee was taking place at a time of encouraging developments in the context of disarmament and non-proliferation.  Over the recent month, the international community noted a series of initiatives that showed the improved climate.  Those initiatives offered different approaches and solutions.  There had also been the recent Security Council summit, which, without doubt, had been a landmark event for disarmament and non-proliferation.  Progress was also being witnessed in negotiations between the nuclear Powers and in preparations for the Review Conference for the upcoming NPT.

He said that, following many years of a standstill, the impression was that things were beginning to move in the disarmament and non-proliferation realm, whose developments still challenged all.  However, the First Committee should not fail to seize the opportunity they presented and do all that it could to ensure that consensus was reached, in order to move forward towards a better world that was safe for everybody.

Noting that the Committee would adopt approximately 50 resolutions during the current session, he said he would endeavour to ensure that the session contributed to maintaining the new climate and that it served as a genuine venue for new understanding.  He would also try to increase the number of resolutions adopted by consensus.  He recognized the significant differences and opinions that persisted on the various subjects, but pledged to seek a middle ground.

SERGIO DUARTE, High Representative, United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs, noted that 2009 was the fiftieth anniversary of General Assembly resolution 1378, which calls for general and complete disarmament under effective international control as the “ultimate objective” of the United Nations.  This year was so far one of the most remarkable in the area of disarmament, and it was not over yet.  The Committee’s current session provided a forum to reflect on past achievements and future challenges.  Since last year’s session, developments included the Secretary-General launch of a five-point nuclear disarmament proposal, the entry into force of treaties establishing regional nuclear-weapon-free zones in Central Asia and Africa, and the announcement by Russian Federation President Dmitry  Medvedev and United States President Barack Obama of their decision to pursue further reductions in their strategic offensive arms.

Further developments included the strong condemnation by the Security Council of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s nuclear test in May.  The same month, the Conference on Disarmament finally broke its long stalemate and adopted a programme of work for 2009.  Other highlights had included a successful conference in Mexico City of non-governmental organizations to address disarmament issues.  The Security Council’s first summit addressing nuclear disarmament and a simultaneous conference on the implementation of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty were other bright markers on the positive horizon of disarmament issues.  The Security Council’s open meeting on resolution 1540 (2004), new civil society initiatives and ongoing diplomatic efforts dealing with Security Council resolutions over nuclear activities in Iran were among other current developments.

The field of disarmament, however, had a mixed record of genuine progress and some significant setbacks, he said.  Much has been achieved since the general and complete disarmament appeared on the United Nations agenda -- while multilateral treaties outlawed biological and chemical weapons, five nuclear-weapon-free zones existed and growing cooperation flourished -- much needed to be done to build on the work of governmental experts and General Assembly resolutions.  Additional efforts were needed to improve transparency in armaments and to support greater use of the Standardized Instrument for Reporting Military Expenditures. 

He noted that a disturbing trend existed in the area of ballooning military spending, with the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) reporting a $1.4 trillion military expenditures last year, a 4 per cent increase since 1999.  SIPRI also found that global arms production had risen to $347 billion last year with a similar trend in international transfers of major conventional arms.  The Security Council had turned its attention last November on the implications of those rising expenditures on arms, bringing into sharp focus the goal of Article 26 of the United Nations Charter to maintain international peace and security.  There was growing global recognition that military expenditures must shrink and that international arms trade needed stricter regulation, according to agreed norms.

In 1959, he recalled, the Soviet Government stated that it was the duty of all States and the United Nations to urgently seek a new way of solving the problem of disarmament, calling it the “burning question of our time”.  With some 23,000 nuclear weapons reportedly still in existence today, thousands of missiles and bombers to deliver them, weapons of mass destruction treaties that still fell short of universal membership, and a large and growing agenda for conventional arms control, it was very difficult to dispute that the problem of achieving the disarmament goals today remained “the burning problem of our time”.

But the world was capable of solving that problem, he said. The Security Council’s action in convening a summit to address disarmament issues could well represent a turning point in the history of the United Nations in that field –- a new era highlighting the indispensable role of the United Nations in advancing multilateral cooperation in disarmament.  “Let us get on with the work of fulfilling the Charter’s great goal of saving succeeding generations from the scourge of war, by reducing and eliminating the means to wage such wars,” he said.  “Together, let us resume this great journey today.”

MAGNUS HELLGREN (Sweden), speaking on behalf of the European Union, welcomed the renewed momentum in global arms control and disarmament, and highlighted the non-proliferation, disarmament and arms control trifecta as vital aspects of collective security.  However, he stressed the need for general disarmament.  The world continued to face many proliferation challenges.  At today’s crucial juncture, a combined effort by the international community was necessary to strengthen disarmament, arms control and non-proliferation.

He expressed the Union’s commitment to strengthen the multilateral system. International organizations, regimes and treaties should be at the heart of the world’s efforts.  The Security Council’s crucial role should be strengthened, and the First Committee’s work was of the utmost importance.  The  Union welcomed both resolution 1887 (2009), adopted by the Security Council last month, and the 2009 agreement by the Conference on Disarmament on a programme of work, following a 12-year stalemate.  However, the Union regretted that the Conference had not begun its important work; it expected a fruitful session in 2010.

The Union was concerned by threats of weapons of mass destruction, he said. The risk that those weapons might fall into the hands of non-State actors was among the greatest threats to common security.  The Union was determined to strengthen the international non-proliferation regime and to ensure full compliance with all of its obligations.  The ability to detect violations should be bolstered.  The NPT was “a unique and irreplaceable framework” for maintaining and strengthening international peace, security and stability, and in light of current international security challenges, the treaty was more important than ever.

He said that the Union had continued to work towards a successful outcome of the 2010 NPT Review Conference, but it was concerned about current challenges.  He strongly condemned the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s nuclear test and called on States to implement Security Council resolution 1874 (2009).  He was also concerned about Iran’s continued failure to meet international obligations, and urged that country to give diplomacy a chance to succeed, stressing the importance of full compliance with Security Council resolutions.

At the same time, new opportunities were welcome, including the commitment by Presidents Medvedev and Obama to negotiate a follow-up agreement to START.  The CTBT was also of crucial importance, and recent progress in the build-up of its verification regime gave new impetus to efforts to achieve its entry into force.  Clear priority must be given to the negotiation in the Conference on Disarmament of a fissile material cut-off treaty as a means to strengthen nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation.  The Conference’s agreement on a 2009 programme of work “provided a further ray of hope”, he said.

With a growing number of States interested in the development of civil nuclear programmes, the Union was committed to ensuring the responsible development of peaceful uses of nuclear energy, he said.  It stressed the key role of the IAEA in that regard.  He applauded the United States’ commitment to work towards securing all vulnerable fissile material and its intention to host a global summit on nuclear security next year.  Outer space security had also become a priority for the European Union, which had proposed to the international community a draft code of conduct for outer space activities.  The Union also supported the Hague Code of Conduct and Missile Technology Control Regime.

The Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on their Destruction (Biological Weapons Convention) was the cornerstone of international efforts to prevent those agents from being developed and used.  The Chemical Weapons Convention also had an essential role to play.  The Union also supported the work of the 1540 Committee in staunching the illicit spread of mass destruction weapons, in fulfillment of its renewed mandate, and it was strongly committed to improving international and regional responses to the unregulated transfers of conventional weapons.  It also supported the concept of an international arms trade treaty, for which negotiations should commence immediately.  He expected a successful review conference on the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction (Ottawa Convention or Mine-Ban Convention) and remained firmly committed to preserving and developing the Convention on 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).

The Convention on Cluster Munitions was an important step in responding to related humanitarian problems, he said, adding that the adoption of a meaningful protocol to that Convention, involving all major military Powers, would be an important further contribution.  The Union also supported the United Nations Programme of Action on small arms and light weapons.

MARTY NATALEGAWA (Indonesia), speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, reaffirmed  his organization’s principled position on disarmament and stressed that efforts aimed at non-proliferation should be in parallel to simultaneous efforts aimed at disarmament.  There was the need for all States to fulfil their respective obligations and undertakings in relation to arms control and disarmament, and to prevent the proliferation in all aspects of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction.  The ultimate objective in the disarmament process was general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.  Progress in nuclear disarmament and nuclear non‑proliferation in all its aspects was essential to strengthening international peace and security.  All States should pursue and intensify multilateral negotiations, as agreed by consensus in the final document of the first special session of the General Assembly devoted to disarmament, to achieve nuclear disarmament under effective international control and to strengthen the international disarmament, arms control and non-proliferation regimes.

He said that the Movement reiterated that the total elimination of nuclear weapons was the only absolute guarantee against the use of those weapons.  In that regard, pending the total elimination of those weapons, efforts for the conclusion of a universal, unconditional and legally binding instrument on security assurances to non-nuclear weapon States should be pursued as a matter of priority.  He also restated the Movement’s call for an international conference to identify ways and means of eliminating nuclear dangers, at the earliest possible date, with the objective of arriving at an agreement on a phased programme for the complete elimination of nuclear weapons within a specified framework of time.

Reaffirming the need to respect the inalienable right to engage in research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, without discrimination, he noted with concern that undue restrictions on exports to developing countries of materials, equipment and technology for peaceful purposes persisted.  It was the responsibility of the developed countries to support the legitimate requirements of developing countries for nuclear energy.  The Movement was fully confident in the impartiality and professionalism of the IAEA, in accordance with its Statute.  It strongly rejected attempts by any States to politicize the Agency’s work, including its technical cooperation programme, in violation of the Statute.

He expressed the Non-Aligned Movement’s deep concern about the illicit transfer, manufacture and circulation of small arms and light weapons and their excessive accumulation and uncontrolled spread in many regions of the world.  The prevention of the illicit trade in those weapons was imperative for creating security conditions conducive to development.  In that regard, the Non-Aligned Movement underscored the role of the implementation of the Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in all its Aspects, which it considered to be the main framework for addressing the issue of the illicit small arms and light weapons trade.  All States should develop initiatives and mobilize the resources and required expertise needed to strengthen the action plan’s full implementation.

U WUNNA MAUNG LWIN (Myanmar), speaking on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), said that nuclear disarmament remained the highest priority on ASEAN’s disarmament agenda.  At the forty-second ASEAN foreign ministers meeting in Phuket, Thailand, in May, the ministers recognized the encouraging developments on nuclear disarmament in various forums, and, in particular, the preliminary bilateral agreement between the United States and the Russian Federation to reduce their nuclear arsenals.  They also recalled the commitment of China to its position not to be the first to use nuclear weapons.  At the multilateral level, it hoped that all participating countries in the Conference on Disarmament would resume negotiations on nuclear disarmament, as called for in article VI of the NPT.

He said that ASEAN considered the balanced implementation of the NPT as a key to achieving the objectives of that Treaty.  The meeting of the Preparatory Committee in May had failed to produce agreed recommendations for the 2010 NPT Review Conference.  However, the parties had had the opportunity to air legitimate concerns and honest caution.  If the integrity of the NPT was to be preserved and its effectiveness enhanced, practical measures addressing the concerns and cautions needed to be developed.  States parties had agreed to one such measure at the 2000 Review Conference, namely, the 13 practical steps for the systematic and progressive efforts to achieve nuclear disarmament.  ASEAN member States once again highlighted the need for the full and effective implementation of those steps and urged all Member States to take advantage of the prevailing conducive atmosphere and to double efforts on initiatives in line with those steps.

All parties concerned should demonstrate political will and exercise maximum flexibility prior to the 2010 NPT Review Conference, in order to produce concrete and practical steps to accelerate efforts on nuclear disarmament and non‑proliferation and the peaceful use of nuclear energy, he continued.  In that regard, States parties should work closely with the president-elect of the Review Conference.  ASEAN was also encouraged by the increasing number of States adhering to the CTBT, which 181 countries had signed and 150 of those had ratified.  The earliest entry into force of that Treaty was necessary if it was to constitute an effective nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation measure.  All States, particularly those whose ratification was needed for its entry into force, should sign and ratify it.  The ASEAN held the view that the development of all nuclear weapons must stop and, therefore, it sought universal adherence to the CTBT, first and foremost, by all nuclear-weapon States.  That would make an excellent first step towards a world of zero nuclear weapons.

He expressed the Association’s strong belief that contributing significantly to strengthening global nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation were the nuclear-weapon-free zones created by the Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean (Treaty of Tlatelolco); South Pacific Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty (Treaty of Rarotonga); South-East Asia Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty (Bangkok Treaty); Pelindaba Treaty; and Central Asian Nuclear Weapon Free Zone Treaty (Semipalatinsk Treaty); as well as Mongolia’s nuclear-weapon-free status.  ASEAN encouraged nuclear-weapon States to redouble their efforts for the early accession to the Protocol to the Bangkok Treaty.

LAWRENCE OLUFEMI OBISAKIN (Nigeria), speaking on behalf of the African Group and associating it with the position of the Non-Aligned Movement, supported the achievement of general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.  Multilateralism and solutions derived from those efforts would expedite the achievement of those goals.

He said that nuclear weapons represented “the greatest threat to humanity on Earth today”, and the international community should thrust multilateral negotiations, without delay, into the early conclusion of a convention prohibiting the development, production, testing, deployment, stockpiling, transfer, threat of use or use of nuclear weapons and on their total elimination.  He called on nuclear-weapon States to commit themselves to stopping the qualitative improvement, development, production and stockpiling of warheads and their delivery systems, stressing the importance of ensuring that any nuclear disarmament process be irreversible, transparent and verifiable, in order for it to be meaningful and effective.  A fourth special session of the General Assembly devoted to disarmament would give real meaning to that process.

On a brighter note, the African Group applauded resolution 1540 (2004), and encouraged all nuclear-weapon States to sign and ratify the CTBT.  He emphasized the importance of strengthening existing disarmament agreements and the disarmament machinery as a means of advancing the disarmament process.  He welcomed the Conference on Disarmament’s agreement on a work programme for 2009.  However, he lamented the lack of substantive progress in the previous cycle of the United Nations Disarmament Commission and called upon Member States to show flexibility to create a favourable atmosphere in the coming cycle.

The African Group formally announced the 15 July entry into force of the African Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty, an important achievement towards strengthening regional and international security, he said, calling on all States to take appropriate measures to prevent the dumping of nuclear, chemical and radioactive waste that would infringe on the sovereignty of States.  He also called for the implementation of IAEA 1990 Code of Practice on the International Transboundary Movement of Radioactive Waste.

Other concerns remained, among them, the illicit transfer, manufacture and circulation of small arms and light weapons, he said, urging vigorous implementation of the programme of action on small arms and light weapons.  In closing, he said that nuclear energy for peaceful use was an inalienable right.  He emphasized the need for continued support for the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Africa.

LUIZ FILIPE DE MACEDO SOARES (Brazil), on behalf of the New Agenda Coalition (Egypt, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, Sweden, South Africa and Brazil), said that the NPT was an essential cornerstone in the global security framework.  Without its universalization and full implementation, the international community could not attain the complete elimination of nuclear weapons or have the assurance that those weapons would never be produced again. 

He said that nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation were “intrinsically linked and mutually reinforcing processes”, requiring continuous and irreversible progress.  As long as a number of States deemed that the possession of nuclear weapons was essential for their security, others could aspire to acquire them, and the risk would remain that those weapons fall into the hands of non-State actors.  The Coalition did not accept any justification for the acquisition or indefinite possession of nuclear weapons, or the notion that nuclear weapons contributed to international peace and security.  He urged the international community to strengthen efforts to achieve universal adherence to the NPT.  He also called upon India, Israel and Pakistan to accede to the Treaty as non-nuclear-weapon States and to place their facilities under comprehensive IAEA safeguards.  He also urged the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to rescind its announced withdrawal from that Treaty, to re-establish cooperation with the IAEA and to rejoin the six-party talks, with a view of achieving the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.

The NPT would reach a critical juncture at the 2010 Review Conference, and he echoed the call by the Security Council in its resolution 1887 (2009) that States parties expend every effort to achieve a positive outcome, he urged.  The Review Conference would be a timely occasion to call for the full implementation of commitments at previous reviews and to assess challenges facing the Treaty.  However, the Coalition was concerned at the lack of sufficient progress made to implement the 13 practical steps towards nuclear disarmament, agreed at the 2000 NPT Review Conference.

He said that the renewed interest in nuclear disarmament expressed at last month’s Security Council summit underlined the urgent need for concrete, transparent, verifiable and irreversible steps to realize the goal of a nuclear-weapon-free world.  The Conference on Disarmament’s important developments, breaking more than a decade-long deadlock, had created a positive momentum that should not be allowed to fade.  He called on all Conference members to seize the opportunity and seek an early start of substantive work in 2010.  The Coalition expected that the working groups established by the Conference in 2009 on the core agenda issues would initiate substantive discussions and that negotiations would start on a verifiable treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices, taking into consideration both nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament objectives.

The positive prospects for further key ratifications of the CTBT had been greatly enhanced by the United States’ commitment to pursue the Treaty’s ratification, he noted.  The Coalition welcomed new ratifications and reaffirmed it opposition to nuclear-weapons tests.  It was concerned, however, about the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s announced nuclear test in May 2009.  Meanwhile, the progress made between the Russian Federation and the United States towards a successor to START had encouraged the Coalition that both sides would sign a new agreement before year’s end.  He also welcomed the efforts by some nuclear-weapon States to encourage greater transparency.  New nuclear-weapon-free zones in Africa and Central Asia had brought to 116 the number of countries now covered by those zones.  The Coalition hoped even more countries would follow that path.  Enhanced cooperation and consultation mechanisms among existing nuclear-weapon-free zones could contribute significantly to advancing the international disarmament agenda.  With renewed global attention to the goal of achieving a nuclear-weapon-free world, leadership by key players boosted the crucial momentum.  However, the onus rested on “all of us” to seize the current opportunities.

CLAUDE HELLER ( Mexico) said that the existence of nuclear weapons was a threat to humanity, and the international community could not ignore the need to put an end to that threat.  The path of nuclear weapons did not lead to security. Dialogue on global security should return to its rightful place.  A window of opportunity was now open for the Committee, owing to various encouraging signs in the realm of disarmament and non-proliferation.  The Conference on Disarmament had finally adopted a work programme and the United States and Russian Federation leaders had agreed to restart negotiations to replace START.  In addition, United States President Obama had spoken of the need to attain a world free of nuclear weapons.   Mexico hoped that that situation would promote nuclear non-proliferation.

He acknowledged the progress at the Conference on Disarmament last year, but called for it to go beyond what it did in 2009 by getting into its substantive work in 2010, including commencing talks on a ban on fissile materials.  Committee members should do their part to show political will in that regard.  Mexico also welcomed the recent Security Council summit and its adoption of resolution 1887 (2009).  That resolution recognized the need to work towards a world without nuclear weapons.  It called upon all NPT States parties to meet their obligations and commitments.  The remaining task was the entry into force of the CTBT.

In that connection, he welcomed Mr. Obama’s announcement that his Administration would move towards United States’ ratification of the Test-Ban Treaty.  Mexico hoped that that would bring about the Treaty’s ratification by other crucial States and lead to its early entry into force.  He called on the States that were yet to ratify to do so without delay.

Turning to the recent nuclear test conducted by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, he said that Mexico condemned that action and considered the test reprehensible.  It called on that country to return to the six-party talks.  It also hoped that NPT States parties would work together so that 2010 Review Conference would be a success and would strengthen the disarmament and non‑proliferation regime.  In that regard, it was imperative that nuclear-weapon States strengthen efforts aimed at attaining nuclear disarmament.

Mexico urged Iran to cooperate effectively and without delay with IAEA and to take measures to address all outstanding matters with regard to its nuclear programme, in a transparent manner, he continued.  It should comply with the legal regime established by the NPT and should immediately suspend all enrichment activities.  That would be an important confidence-building measure and in line with Security Council resolutions.  He called on all Middle East States to facilitate the swift implementation of IAEA safeguards.  That should be a prelude to the establishment of a nuclear-weapon-free zone there.

Concerning the Convention on Cluster Munitions, he said that Mexico believed that that the treaty’s negotiation and adoption was important. The country had already signed the Convention, and it called on more States to do so to enable its entry into force.  Mexico maintained that transfers and irresponsible trade in conventional weapons only strengthened instability.  Concrete steps were needed to establish a mechanism to address that issue.  In closing, he called on all parties to seize the window of opportunity that had been opened and to ensure that it resulted in concrete action towards disarmament and non-proliferation.

JORGE VALERO BRICENO ( Venezuela) said that his country remained committed to a fast track to ridding the world of weapons of mass destruction.  Venezuela believed that international efforts in the area of general and complete disarmament had to be undertaken simultaneously, with the objective of non-proliferation of a horizontal and vertical nature.  Disarmament and non-proliferation would not advance until the nuclear Powers adopted concrete actions and met their commitments.  After the extension of the NPT, there had been hope that the States parties would work hand in hand to attain non-proliferation and disarmament.  Unfortunately, that objective had been frustrated, owing to a lack of political will on the part of the nuclear-weapon States.

He said that the international community should welcome the progress at the Conference on Disarmament, after the 12-year paralysis.  Negotiations between the two primary nuclear Powers were positive, as they worked towards reducing their arsenals.  Venezuela hoped that principles such as transparency and irreversibility would apply in their actions.  However, those were not the only necessities in the disarmament agenda.

The recent Security Council meeting had been another significant event, he said.  It generated a resolution, which underlined a series of principles aimed at promoting disarmament and non-proliferation.  Venezuela, however, rejected any initiative that sought to ignore or de-legitimize disarmament and non-proliferation agreements negotiated in multilateral forums.  The country was concerned that the right of all States in drafting the Council resolution had not been honoured.  That text, because of its importance, should have been considered inclusively by all States.  As for the priorities universally agreed in the final document of the General Assembly’s first special session on disarmament, those were still in force, against ongoing and even accelerating proliferation.

He said that the latent threat of nuclear weapons use against non-possessor States remained.  Nuclear-weapon-free zones agreements were one way of addressing that threat.   Venezuela reaffirmed its support for the Tlatelolco, Rarotonga and Semipalatinsk Treaties and for Mongolia’s nuclear-weapon-free status.  It also welcomed the entry into force of the Pelindaba Treaty.  The proposal for the establishment of a nuclear-weapon-free zone as quickly as possible in the Middle East would be in step with Security Council and General Assembly resolutions.  It was essential that Israel, the only country in that region that had not acceded to the NPT and had not stated its intention to do so, forego nuclear weapons and accede to the Treaty.  It should also place its facilities under full-scope IAEA safeguards.   Venezuela objected to positions that undermined the equality of States.  It also believed in the inalienable right of States, particularly developing countries, to develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.

Turning to outer space matters, he said his country remained concerned about the deployment of weapons in outer space, as that could lead to an arms race in space.  The international regime currently in place with regard to the peaceful nature of the use of outer space should guide research there.  Space activities should only be for the benefit of humanity. 

Venezuela reaffirmed its support for the programme of action on small arms and light weapons, he said.  That programme was a political instrument “of the first order” to combat that illegal activity.  The international community should strive to conclude a legally binding instrument on marking and tracing of those weapons.   Venezuela also highly valued actions to combat illicit brokering operations. 

ANTON THALMANN (Switzerland) said he hoped the more forward-looking mood would lead to tangible results that would be reflected by an increased number of consensus resolutions in the First Committee.  Several positive developments provided an optimistic backdrop for the current session, including the joint statement earlier this year by the Russian Federation and United States on their commitment to achieve a nuclear-weapon-free world.  He also cited the improved atmosphere at the third session of the Preparatory Committee for the 2010 NPT Review Conference, the Conference on Disarmament’s adoption of a work programme for the first time in 12 years and the number of proposals and plans that were advancing the disarmament agenda.

He said that great challenges remained, however, and while words and good intentions were needed to create a positive atmosphere, they alone would not enhance the disarmament agenda.  Real action was needed.  Nuclear-weapon States must comply with their obligations, the 2010 NPT Review Conference must live up to expectations and the next session of the Conference on Disarmament should build on 2009 developments.  In addition, the entry into force of the CTBT must continue to progress and quantitative cuts in nuclear arsenals must be accompanied by developments of a qualitative nature.

Conventional weapons also deserved the Committee’s full attention, he said.  With 2009 marking the tenth anniversary of the entry into force of the Mine-Ban Convention, the treaty’s global success had become apparent by the compliance beyond the Convention with its strong norms against landmines and their effects.  Regarding the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions, he hoped that the first States parties meeting would successfully set up implementation structures.  Analysing the results of the group of governmental experts, established within the framework of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, he welcomed the positive attitude among participants, but he was not convinced that the latest text presented by the chairman was strong enough to address well-known humanitarian concerns.

He concluded by highlighting the Secretary-General’s report entitled “Promoting development through the reduction and prevention of armed violence”, and invited Member States to actively participate in the follow-up that would be given to the report in the General Assembly.

BYRGANYM AITIMOVA (Kazakhstan) applauded the advances made in the field of disarmament, which had broken the former stalemate.  That current positive momentum had been fuelled by encouraging developments, including the United States and Russian pledges to cut their nuclear arsenals, and the United States’ efforts towards ratification of the CTBT.  She welcomed the optimistic tone of events at the recent Conference to facilitate that Treaty’s entry into force, as well as the recent Security Council summit.  She urged the international community to seize that new momentum, in which the United Nations has a central role to play.

The prospect of nuclear proliferation and the threat of use of those weapons by non-State actors and terrorists was a serious concern, she said.  Kazakhstan, as a country that has experienced nuclear tests, had a moral right to call for more action in disarmament and in addressing the weapons of mass destruction threat.  First and foremost among the crucial instruments in that effort was the NPT, the cornerstone and the basis of nuclear disarmament.   Kazakhstan called on States parties to the Treaty to consolidate efforts at the 2010 Review Conference.  She recognized the IAEA’s special role and called upon all States parties to meet all of its IAEA conditions and to sign the Additional Protocol.  She also supported the United States’ initiative to convene disarmament summit next spring.

However, even more decisive actions must be taken, she said, pointing in particular to the CTBT’s early entry into force, which could motivate further positive steps in disarmament.  She urged the nine States that had not yet signed or ratified that Treaty to do so with haste.  Towards the Treaty’s successful operation, Kazakhstan had implemented a monitoring system, which had been integrated into the international monitoring system, and it had hosted on-site monitoring test exercises.  The nuclear-weapon-free zone in the region, located between the world’s largest nuclear Powers, could play a role in security.  She meanwhile welcomed the entry into force of the Pelindaba Treaty.

There was a unique window of opportunity to achieve the goal of a world free of nuclear weapons, she said.  To increase global awareness, Kazakhstan intended to propose a day devoted to such a world, which was also the goal of the First Committee’s work.  Nuclear weapons constituted a threat to everyday life, and the arms trade meanwhile stymied growth and development.  Concerning small arms and light weapons, she hoped that, based on the progress at the Third Biennial Meeting of States, the next such meeting would advance its goals.  Overall, she hoped that the current Committee session would help to generate the political will needed to advance the disarmament and international security agenda.

GONZALO GUTIÉRREZ ( Peru) said that 2009 could be considered a year when disarmament returned to the forefront of the international agenda.  That development could be attributed to the progress made in the Conference on Disarmament, the decision by the United States and Russian Federation to restart talks aimed at replacing START, the Security Council summit on disarmament and non-proliferation and the announcement by the United States that it would move towards the ratification of the CTBT.  Those were positive signs, and Peru hailed and encouraged them.

He said that that favourable momentum, however, should not lead to complacency.  The Test-Ban Treaty, 13 years after it was drafted, had still not entered into force, and nuclear tests, such as the one carried out by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in May, continued.  Peru played its role in the area of disarmament, focused on the link between nuclear weapons and issues that affected people on the ground.  His country was particularity concerned about the links between disarmament and development.  The country was in favour of promoting peace and development, and of re-channelling resources from weapons to addressing development challenges, such as jobs and hunger.

Peru was firmly committed to disarmament and international security, he said.  In that regard, it adhered to the principal international judicial instruments.  It also believed in disarmament, non-proliferation and the peaceful use of nuclear energy, in line with relevant international conventions.  Despite the known dangers, tremendous amounts of resources were still allocated to weapons.  His country was taking action to reduce military expenditures.  It would be working in a serious and professional manner in the Committee in the next month to support efforts towards that aim.

Right of Reply

The representative of Iran, speaking in exercise of the right of reply to the statement made by the representative of Sweden on behalf of the European Union, said Iran’s nuclear programme had always been for peaceful purposes.  According to the IAEA safeguards agreements, Iran had sent a letter in September 2009, well in advance of the required date.  He regretted that the European Union was silent on the nuclear weapons that existed in the Middle East.

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