Efforts to Stem Spread of Violence, Armed Conflict Finds Diverse Allies, Boosting Chances of Achieving Disarmament Goals, Disarmament Chief Tells First Committee

13 October 2009
GA/DIS/3390

Efforts to Stem Spread of Violence, Armed Conflict Finds Diverse Allies, Boosting Chances of Achieving Disarmament Goals, Disarmament Chief Tells First Committee

13 October 2009
General Assembly
GA/DIS/3390
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-fourth General Assembly

First Committee

9th Meeting (PM)

Efforts to Stem Spread of Violence, Armed Conflict Finds Diverse Allies, Boosting

Chances of Achieving Disarmament Goals, Disarmament Chief Tells First Committee

Ban on Nuclear Weapons Tests ‘Well within Sight’, Speakers Hear; Sea Change

In International Security Environment Broke Deadlock in Conference on Disarmament

Efforts to stem the spread of violence and armed conflict had found intergovernmental allies from areas as diverse as agricultural development to global financing, greatly boosting the chances of eventually achieving disarmament goals, the United Nations High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, Sergio Duarte, told the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) today.

“I sense a new resolve among all Member States, not just to reaffirm these historic ends, but to redouble our collective efforts to achieve them,” he said, opening a panel discussion with heads of United Nations disarmament and treaty bodies.  “This is a grand, collective enterprise in which intergovernmental organizations will have their own vital roles to play,” he said.

Welcoming the surge in attention to the critical challenges of disarmament and non-proliferation, Mr. Duarte said that the diversity of organizations involved in the quest had spread more quickly than the deadliest weapons themselves and helped to move the world away from such weaponry.  That development symbolized a profound change in the way international relations were conducted. 

Interest in disarmament issues from organizations such as the World Bank and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) testified to a growing global appreciation that disarmament and non-proliferation were what the United Nations Secretary-General called “global public goods”, which benefited everyone.  Likewise, there was a growing global awareness that failure and setbacks to achieve these goals would negatively impact whole societies and economies.

Throughout 2009, asserted the Secretary-General of the Conference on Disarmament, Sergei Ordzhonikidze, “we have witnessed a sea change in the international security environment that has been increasingly conducive to advancing the disarmament agenda”.  That new global tone, along with political will, had helped to break the Conference on Disarmament’s decade-long deadlock. 

“The historic breakthrough in the Conference on Disarmament did not occur in a political vacuum,” he said, referring to the adoption this year of a programme of work.  “It came within a larger context of the increasingly positive international political climate and revitalized multilateral diplomacy.” 

He said that the most important accomplishment of the Conference, however, had been the reconfirmation of its decision to negotiate a treaty banning the production of fissile material.  For years, that treaty was seen as a logical next step to the Test-Ban Treaty.  It was considered a crucial measure in the global non-proliferation regime and as an indispensable step towards nuclear disarmament.

There were sceptics, he acknowledged.  However, Conference members had already begun to prepare for next year’s session.  He was convinced that the Conference would reach agreement and move forward in its next session.  To do that, he suggested, among other things, to maintain the Conference’s high-profile nature and to begin early consultations in 2010, as well as to forge early consensus on a programme of work.

Today, declared the Executive Secretary of the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization, Tibor Toth, the question was not “if” the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) would enter into force, but rather “when”.  Banning nuclear-weapon tests was now also a goal well within sight.  Through dedication, commitment and hard work, the point of readiness for the Treaty’s entry into force was approaching.  Leadership and high-level determined action by the international community to go the very last mile was needed, and the First Committee had a special responsibility in that regard.

He said that progress on the CTBT would indeed pave the way for progress on other measures necessary to strengthen the non-proliferation regime across the board.  Looking to the future, he said the Treaty was in fact one of the measures around which an effective international consensus could be built.

Statements in the thematic debate on nuclear weapons were made by the representatives of Sweden, Australia and Turkey.

The Committee will meet again at 3 p.m. on Wednesday, 14 October to continue its thematic debate on nuclear weapons.

Background

The First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) met this afternoon to begin its thematic debate on nuclear weapons.

Members would first consider follow-up of resolutions and decisions adopted at its past session and have an exchange with the United Nations High Representative for Disarmament Affairs and other high-level arms control and disarmament officials.  A panel discussion would follow with the High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, the Secretary-General of the Conference on Disarmament, and the Secretary of the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO).  Time permitting, the Committee would begin its thematic debate segment. 

Panel Discussion

SERGIO DUARTE, United Nations High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, said the diversity of the organizations involved in disarmament and non-proliferation had spread more quickly than the deadliest weapons themselves and had undoubtedly contributed to the progress made in moving the world away from such weaponry.  That development symbolized a profound change in the way international relations were conducted and, more specifically, in the growth of a widespread global recognition of how progress in disarmament and non-proliferation served to benefit other global goals well outside the traditional realm of international peace and security.

Organizations such as the World Bank, the World Customs Organization, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) were just a few that were involved in some type of activity related to the control or elimination of certain types of armaments or armed violence associated with those weapons.  That interest testified to a growing global appreciation that disarmament and non-proliferation were what the Secretary-General called “global public goods”, which offered benefits to everyone.  Similarly, there was growing awareness that setbacks and failures to achieve those goals would have negative impacts throughout whole societies and economies.

The Office for Disarmament Affairs, working with several intergovernmental organizations, had sought to promote the elimination of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction, while working on ways to prevent their proliferation or acquisition by terrorists.  Efforts included the Office’s support to the Conference on Disarmament, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the Preparatory Commission for CTBTO.  He anticipated the day the words “preparatory commission” could be dropped from the name of the latter organization.  The Office was also involved in organizing workshops to promote the implementation of Security Council resolution 1540 (2004), and was an active participant in the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force.

He said that cooperation with intergovernmental organizations was not limited to weapons of mass destruction.  The Office for Disarmament Affairs worked with local, subregional, and regional organizations on a daily basis to stymie the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons and to curb armed violence.  That included two regional meetings on small arms, which had produced substantive documents contributing to the follow-up process to the Biennial Meeting of States on 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.

Positive trends, such as the burgeoning interest of civil society and national government leadership, had significantly improved the prospects for the eventual success in achieving disarmament and non-proliferation goals.  That progress also helped to advance other important goals, including the reduction of armed violence and the prevention of catastrophic acts of terror.

Despite claims that a “lack of political will” was ultimately responsible for the lack of greater success in achieving disarmament goals, as the world continued the process of organizational growth and cooperation, as the ties between those organizations strengthened over time, as the public became increasingly aware of the positive contributions and indispensability of those organizations, it followed that additional institutional resources would become available to the organizations so they could better fulfil their mandates. 

Unfortunately, various limitations, including budgetary, the availability of specialized personnel and political issues, hindered the ability to accomplish all of the mandates.  Specific offices had to compete for funds.  Capacity-building among intergovernmental organizations involved more than just money and personnel.  It needed cooperation, coordination and integration of efforts.  The Secretary-General recognized that and had agreed to participate in a joint meeting with the heads of those organizations.

The major handicap for the Office for Disarmament Affairs was the gap between rising expectations and the steady or declining state of available resources, he said.  Still, the office continued efforts and hoped to expand cooperation with other organizations, to explore joint programming and promote exchanges of information.

“I sense a new resolve among all Member States, not just to reaffirm these historic ends, but to redouble our collective efforts to achieve them,” he said.  “This is a grand, collective enterprise in which intergovernmental organizations will have their own vital roles to play.”

SERGEI ORDZHONIKIDZE, Secretary-General of the Conference on Disarmament, said that the end of the decade-long stalemate was a great success this year.  The adoption of the programme of work had been welcomed widely as a truly historical breakthrough.  The Conference had decided to start with the negotiations on the treaty to ban fissile materials, the prevention of weapons in outer space, security assurances and other issues.  Unfortunately, no agreement could be reached on the timetable and other procedural matters, which had prevented the Conference from beginning substantive work.

Still, he said, the situation today could be characterized as a historic moment.  “The historic breakthrough in the Conference on Disarmament did not occur in a political vacuum,” he said.  “It came within a larger context of the increasingly positive international political climate and revitalized multilateral diplomacy.  Throughout this year, we have witnessed a sea change in the international security environment that has been increasingly conducive to advancing the disarmament agenda.”

The most important accomplishment of the Conference had been the reconfirmation of its decision to negotiate a treaty banning the production of fissile materials, he said.  For years, that treaty was seen as a logical next step to the Test-Ban Treaty.  It was considered a crucial measure in the global non-proliferation regime and as an indispensable step towards nuclear disarmament.

He said that the programme of work that had been adopted had been a culmination of progress over the last four years.  Even though the Conference had not moved forward for more than a decade, thematic debates on the same topics discussed in the First Committee had taken place.  And over the years, the Conference had actually paved the way for real negotiations on its agenda.  The Conference had not able to proceed this year to an implementation level, however, which was unfortunate.  But sometimes, that happened.  Positive developments were balanced with some less positive ones.

There were sceptics, he continued.  However, Conference on Disarmament members had already begun to prepare for next year’s session.  After difficult negotiations, the Conference had submitted a report to the General Assembly and there was a strong desire to carry forward the current momentum into 2010.  He was convinced that the Conference would reach agreement and move forward in its next session.  To do that, he suggested, among other things, to maintain the Conference’s high-profile nature and to begin early consultations in 2010, as well as to forge early consensus on a programme of work.

The 2009 session had been a marked improvement, he said.  The adoption of “CD/184” had been a great achievement.  There were signs of another breakthrough.  The Conference on Disarmament had entered a new phase.  There should be no return to the impasse of the last decade, and he would do all he could to help members to achieve that goal.

TIBOR TOTH, Executive Secretary of the Preparatory Commission of the CTBTO, said that the Commission had been particularly gratified with the results of the sixth conference to promote the entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT).  That conference, held simultaneously with the Security Council summit, had been attended by more than 110 countries, with 40 represented at the ministerial level.  It had been an unequivocal expression of the international community’s continued faith in the Treaty.  In a strongly worded final document, adopted by consensus, holdout States were called upon to sign and ratify the CTBT for it to enter into force.

Today, he declared, the question was not “if”, but rather “when” the Treaty would enter into force.  For that, three things were needed:  leadership, leadership and more leadership.  High-level determined action by the international community to go the very last mile was needed, and the First Committee had a special responsibility in that regard.

The Commission had come within sight of the fulfilment of its mandate, he said.  Through dedication, commitment and hard work, the point of readiness for the Treaty’s entry into force was approaching.  The Commission had built up a $1 billion verification system.  Almost 80 per cent of the International Monitoring System’s global monitoring stations were already sending operational-standard data to the headquarters in Vienna.  The volume of data transmitted from the stations to the data centre in Vienna had tripled during the last five years.  A new global communications infrastructure for that data had been installed, and important advances had been made in processing methods and software in all the verification technologies.  The system had been tested by the two test explosions by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, in 2006 and 2009.  Those tests were deplorable, but they had proved the system’s reliability.  The system had also gained the trust and approval of the scientific community, in the context of a 500-scientist strong Scientific Studies Project.

The Commission saw the investment as a platform for scientific knowledge and capacity-building in Member States, continued Mr. Toth.  Member States from developing countries were the prime potential beneficiaries of that investment.  The unique verification system, which was being shaped, offered a host of opportunities for applications of scientific research and everyday life.  Whether in the area of early Tsunami warning, aviation safety, climate change, or marine life research, the monitoring technologies had an obvious advantage.

Since its establishment, the Commission had trained 1,700 technicians and professionals from 147 Member States, he said.  Lately, it had been working with donors and international development funds to ensure the necessary funding.  It was currently in the second phase of implementation of a pilot project to finance the participation of technical experts from developing countries in official technical meetings of the Commission for a whole year.  Progress on the CTBT would pave the way for progress on other measures necessary to strengthen the non-proliferation regime across the board.  The Treaty was one of the measures around which an effective international consensus could be built in advance of 2010.

Thematic Discussion

MAGNUS HELLGREN ( Sweden), speaking on behalf of the European Union, expressed the Union’s commitment to strengthen the nuclear non-proliferation regime.  The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) remained the cornerstone of the global non-proliferation regime, the essential foundation for the pursuit of nuclear disarmament, in accordance with its article VI, and an important element in the development of peaceful uses of nuclear energy.  The Union would continue to promote all the of the Treaty’s objectives.  It reiterated its call on all States not yet party to the NPT to join as non-nuclear weapon States.

He said that the European Union had presented a set of forward-looking proposals on all three pillars of the NPT to be part of an action plan adopted by the 2010 Review Conference.  In the area of non-proliferation, it had made several proposals, including:  resolute action in response to proliferation crises, in particular in Iran and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea; determination of the consequences of a State party’s non-compliance with NPT non-proliferation obligations, in particular with its safeguards agreement; as well as the universalization and strengthening of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards system, in particular through the adoption and implementation by States of comprehensive safeguards, together with the Additional Protocol, which constituted the current verification standard.

Continuing, he said that the Union had also proposed:  improvements in nuclear security and physical protection of nuclear materials; strengthening of export controls; cooperation to develop multilateral schemes as viable and credible alternatives to the development of exclusively national enrichment and processing capabilities, without prejudice to the rights, in accordance with article IV of the NPT; adoption of national criminal sanctions against acts of proliferation, including proliferation financing; and development of proliferation resistant and safeguards-friendly technologies.

The Union strongly condemned the test of a nuclear device carried out by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea on 25 May, as well as its launch of a long-range missile in April.  Those were clear breaches of Security Council resolutions 1695 (2006) and 1718 (2006).  Those actions undermined the stability of the Korean peninsula and threatened international peace and security.  The Union strongly urged that country to return to compliance with the NPT and IAEA safeguards obligations, as well as not to pursue any proliferation-sensitive exports.

He said that Iran, like any other NPT State party, had the inalienable right to develop and use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, but the international community had to be sure that it complied with its obligations under the NPT and its safeguards agreement.  Iran’s clandestine nuclear activities -- including the construction of a covert uranium enrichment facility in Qom, the composition of its nuclear programme, in particular the pursuit of enrichment activities in defiance of Security Council resolutions, and its refusal to effectively  cooperate with the IAEA in all respects -- had cast serous doubt on the exclusively peaceful nature of its nuclear programme.  Iran had the responsibility to restore international confidence in that regard.

The Union attached the greatest importance to the earliest entry into force of the CTBT and the completion of its verification regime, he said.  The Test-Ban Treaty was crucial to disarmament and non-proliferation.  The Union saluted the new momentum towards further ratifications created by the announcement by United States President Barack Obama that his Administration would immediately and aggressively pursue United States’ ratification of that Treaty.  The Union would spare no effort in promoting the instrument’s early ratification by the few remaining “annex II” States.

CAROLINE MILLAR ( Australia) said that her country looked to countries possessing nuclear weapons to exercise leadership.   Australia was greatly encouraged by the bold restatement of a commitment to a world without nuclear weapons by United States President Obama in his 5 April speech in Prague.  Support for that goal by the United States and the Russian Federation -– holders of some 95 per cent of the world’s nuclear weapons –- had helped to generate greater momentum towards nuclear disarmament than at any other time since the burst of international activity in the 1990s following the end of the cold war.

She said that as positive as the recent steps were, Australia sought deeper, faster and more transparent and irreversible reductions in nuclear arsenals by the nuclear-weapon States, in accordance with their obligations under NPT article VI.  Australia looked to States possessing nuclear weapons, both within and outside the NPT to reduce the numbers of those weapons, to reassess and limit the role of nuclear weapons in their security policies and to further reduce the operational status of their nuclear weapons in ways that promoted global security and stability.  But, the burden of responsibility for nuclear disarmament was not the nuclear-weapon States’ alone. 

A world without nuclear weapons required an equally strong commitment by non-nuclear-weapon States not to acquire nuclear weapons and to accept stringent international safeguards on their civil nuclear facilities, she said.  The vast majority of the world’s nations, including Australia, had made such commitments and honoured them scrupulously because they judged it in their national security interest to do so.  The actions of a few States, however, were undermining the global consensus to contain the spread of nuclear weapons.  The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s nuclear tests, most recently in May, were strikingly at odds with the renewed momentum on nuclear disarmament.   Iran’s refusal to abide by binding Security Council resolutions and its failure to cooperate fully with the IAEA were also deeply troubling.

She urged all States to take effective measures to ensure the safety and security of nuclear materials.  The possibility of nuclear materials getting into the hands of terrorists remained of deep concern.   Australia warmly welcomed President Obama’s planned nuclear security summit in 2010.  Her country called on all States to implement fully Security Council resolution 1540 (2004).

She announced that the International Commission on Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament, established by Australia and Japan, aimed to produce a comprehensive, practical and action-oriented report in 2010.  That report was expected to contain recommendations on disarmament, non-proliferation, peaceful uses of nuclear energy and the links among them.  The commission had met across regions with nuclear- and non-nuclear-weapon States, with developed and developing countries, with NPT parties and non-parties.  Its inclusive approach and extensive reach had helped to generate valuable new thinking which, it hoped, would help shape global thinking and build consensus, both in the NPT Review Conference context and beyond.

MUSTAFA YURDAKUL ( Turkey) said that his country recognized that full and universal implementation of the NPT offered a unique contribution to international peace and security.  The country remained fully committed to the implementation of the Treaty with its three mutually-reinforcing pillars, namely non-proliferation, peaceful uses of nuclear energy and complete disarmament, including nuclear disarmament.  It had been advocating a balanced treatment of those pillars and was pleased to observe that that approach had gained increased support over the years.  However, there was still a need to further bolster the integrity and credibility of the NPT regime through universal recognition of the importance of the equal treatment of those three dimensions.

He underlined the essential and unique role of the IAEA in verifying States’ nuclear non-proliferation commitments and in ensuring development of peaceful uses of nuclear energy by those countries aspiring to develop their capacities in that field.  Turkey was dedicated to full compliance with the IAEA Comprehensive Safeguards and Additional Protocols, and it called on all NPT States parties, which had not done so, to ratify and implement those instruments without delay.

Among the three NPT pillars, nuclear disarmament required an incremental, but sustained, approach, he said.  The unequivocal undertaking by all nuclear- weapon States to accomplish the elimination of their nuclear arsenals was one of the Treaty’s greatest achievements.  That responsibility should now be upheld and operationalized, building on article VI of the Treaty and the 13 practical steps for nuclear disarmament, agreed in 2000.  Recalling the principles of irreversibility, verifiability and transparency, he said that irreversible progress in nuclear disarmament would also reinforce the other two pillars of the NPT.  In particular, nuclear non-proliferation should go hand-in-hand with nuclear disarmament.  Nuclear non-proliferation was essential for achieving the goal of a world free of nuclear weapons.  With that understanding, Turkey called for the early entry into force of the CTBT and initiation of negotiations on a fissile material cut-off treaty, within the context of the Conference on Disarmament.

Turkey was convinced that nuclear weapons or any other weapons of mass destruction could not provide additional security for any country in this era, he said.  On the contrary, the possession of and the pursuit of those weapons undermined regional security and stability.  Turkey attached great significance to and endorsed all meaningful steps for the establishment of effectively verifiable zones free of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery, particularly in the Middle East.  Legally binding security assurances provided by the five nuclear-weapon States to non-nuclear-weapon States would strengthen the nuclear non-proliferation regime. 

He added that denuclearization of the Korean peninsula was a regional and global priority.  As current Chair of the “DPRK” Security Council Sanctions Committee, his delegation attached utmost importance to full implementation of Security Council resolutions 1718 (2006) and 1874 (2009).  Turkey hoped that conditions could be created for that country’s return to the NPT at the earliest possible date as a non-nuclear-weapon State and for the resumption by the IAEA of comprehensive safeguards.  Turkey was committed to a negotiated solution and recognized the importance of encouraging the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to return to the six-party talks, which was the best vehicle for a concrete and irreversible progress towards lasting peace, security and stability in the region. 

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