Time for General Discussion on Arms Trade Treaty Is Over, First Committee Hears, Seeking in One of Five Drafts to Prevent Diversion of Weapons to Illicit Market

21 October 2009
GA/DIS/3396

Time for General Discussion on Arms Trade Treaty Is Over, First Committee Hears, Seeking in One of Five Drafts to Prevent Diversion of Weapons to Illicit Market

21 October 2009
General Assembly
GA/DIS/3396
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-fourth General Assembly

First Committee

16th Meeting (AM)

Time for General Discussion on Arms Trade Treaty Is Over, First Committee Hears,

Seeking in One of Five Drafts to Prevent Diversion of Weapons to Illicit Market

Small Arms, Light Weapons Unleash Armed Conflicts; Failure to Include

Them in UN Register of Conventional Arms ‘Missed Opportunity’, Committee Told

It was the widespread view of the United Nations community that the time for general discussion on an arms trade treaty was over and the international community must move forward and consider the practical details of such a treaty, the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) was told this morning, in connection with the introduction of a draft resolution on the treaty.

Four other draft resolutions were tabled this morning, on: transparency in armaments (document A/C.1/64/L.50); national legislation on transfer of arms, military equipment and dual-use goods and technology (document A/C./64/L.26); developments in the field of information and telecommunications in the context of international security (document A/C.1/64/L.39); and the role of science and technology in the context of international security and disarmament (document A/C.1/64/L.21).  The Committee concluded its thematic debates and introduction of draft resolutions on conventional weapons and on other disarmament measures and international security, and began one on other disarmament measures.

Introducing the draft text on the arms trade treaty, the representative of the United Kingdom said that it reflected the prevailing view that the international community should set out a clear framework, giving direction and purpose to the treaty’s overall goal.  The co-authors were united in seeking a strong treaty that addressed the abuses of human rights and humanitarian law that could result from lack of effective regulation of the international arms trade.  The treaty was not a mechanism for establishing embargoes, but was about taking responsible and informed decisions on a case-by-case basis through national‑control mechanisms.  It would ensure that everyone followed the same procedures, while retaining national decisions over individual exports.  The co‑authors had resisted efforts to pre-negotiate the treaty, while preserving all positions.

Welcoming an arms trade treaty as a globally-binding instrument to regulate the import, export and transfer of conventional arms, the representative of the United Republic of Tanzania said that the time between now and the diplomatic conference planned for 2012 on that treaty should be used to ensure that the text addressed the diverse concerns of future States parties regarding the production, supply, transfer, acquisition and storage by the end users.  It was imperative that the treaty be inspired by international human rights and humanitarian law, and that it took into account local and regional dimensions.

Whether or not legitimately acquired, conventional weapons were responsible for the present instability in most countries world over and especially in Africa, he said.  They contributed to illegitimate and unconstitutional changes of Governments, and were a source of untold pain and suffering to innocent civilians and a major threat to national, regional and international stability and sustainable development.  Coupled with unregulated circulation and irresponsible deployment, those weapons were responsible for the most heinous crimes against humanity and war crimes, he stressed.

The representative of the Netherlands, introducing the draft resolution on national legislation on transfer of arms, military equipment and dual-use goods and technology, said text would invite Member States to enact or improve national legislation, regulations and procedures over transfer of those items.  It would also encourage States to provide to the United Nations Secretary-General, on a voluntary basis, information on their national legislation, regulations and procedures. 

The draft resolution on transparency in armaments emphasizes that openness in military matters, and particularly transparency in arms transfers, contributed to confidence and security-building among Governments, the representative of the Netherlands said as he introduced that draft text on behalf of the more than 85 co-sponsors.  The United Nations had established the Register of Conventional Arms in 1991, through which Member States could provide data annually on their arms imports and exports.  The present draft reflected recommendations of the 2009 Governmental Expert Group on that Register.

Throughout the morning, attention had been drawn to the fact that the first two Governmental Expert Groups had concluded that the Register’s existing categories sufficed, but that the Group in 2000 had found that the Register did not address security concerns of States facing threats stemming from the illicit proliferation of small arms and light weapons, rather than the accumulations of weapons found in the Register’s categories.  Moreover, a series of regional and subregional workshops, held between 2001 and 2005, had confirmed that participation in the Register was linked to relevance, as many States were unwilling or unable to report to a Register that was not relevant to their security concerns.

That situation, recalled the United States’ representative, had propelled the 2003 and 2006 Governmental Expert Groups to make substantive changes to the Register, among them, adding man-portable air defence systems (MANPADS) and lowering the artillery threshold from 100 mm to 75 mm, and opening the door to voluntary reporting of small arms and light weapons transfers.  The Group’s 2009 report did not reflect either the broad discussions covered during its three sessions, or the closeness of agreement to add an eighth category for small arms and light weapons.  Unfortunately, a single expert chose to block a proposal that would have ended nine years of discussion and six years of detailed proposals to add that category, which had been a surprise and a significant disappointment. 

“This was a significant missed opportunity to improve the effectiveness of the United Nations Register,” which undermined the traditional governmental expert group effort to promote the tool’s universality, he said. 

Submitting the report on the continuing operation of the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms and its further development was the Chairperson of the Group of Governmental Experts Roberto García Moritan of Argentina.  He noted that the Group had held three sessions in 2009 to evaluate, among other things, shortfalls and to identify ways forward to better utilize and improve the significance of the Register, which was the only global transparency instrument on conventional arms transfers and had great international relevance. 

The Group, he said, had also considered several significant proposals aimed at expanding the existing categories of conventional arms and the introduction of new categories, representing both a new class of equipment just beginning to be used in combat operations, as well as a category for small arms and light weapons.  However, the Group had been unable to reach consensus on either of those proposals, owing in part to the more restricted time available for discussions.  The Group’s final session had focused mainly on a compromise proposal to add a new small arms and light weapons category, which could not be endorsed by all experts. 

Regrettably, he said, without the opportunity for another session, the Group recommended that the United Nations Secretary-General should seek Member States’ views on the introduction of small arms and light weapons as a new Register category.  Bearing in mind that the illicit trafficking of those arms and their excessive accumulation constituted a serious security concern for many States, he was confident that, with more time, the Expert Group would have agreed on the inclusion of that important new category.

Also contributing to the thematic debate on conventional weapons was Burkina Faso’s delegate, who stressed that West Africa was particularly vulnerable to small arms and light weapons because of the porous borders.  While weapons of mass destruction were at the height of international concern, small arms and light weapons also constituted a major threat.  Those weapons caused a large number of deaths and were an essential factor in unleashing and sustaining armed conflict in many regions.  They also undermined social and economic development in many States and, in the fragile context in post-conflict situations, were one of the main obstacles to peace-building strategies and demobilization of ex combatants.

Statements in the thematic debate on conventional weapons were also made by the representatives of Ethiopia, Austria, Nigeria (on behalf of the African Group), and Morocco.

The representatives of the United Nations Coordination Action on Small Arms (UN CASA) and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) also participated in that debate.

The representative of Syria made a statement in exercise of the right of reply during the thematic debate on conventional weapons.

Statements in the thematic debate on other disarmament measures and international security were also made by the representatives of Japan, Uruguay (on behalf of Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR)), Cuba, Peru, Russian Federation and India.

The Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 22 October, to continue its thematic debate on regional disarmament and security.

Background

The First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) met this morning to continue its thematic discussion on conventional weapons and to hear the introduction of related draft resolutions.

The Committee was also scheduled to take up its thematic discussion and introduction of related draft resolutions on other disarmament measures and international security, which would be introduced by Roberto García, Chairperson of the Group of Governmental Experts on the continuing operation of the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms and its further development.  A panel discussion was expected on regional disarmament and security, led by Chief of the Regional Disarmament Branch, and Directors of the three United Nations Regional Centres for Peace and Disarmament. 

Statements

BERYIHUN DEGU ( Ethiopia) said that the illicit circulation of small arms and light weapons was causing irreversible damage to humanity, particularly in the Great Lakes Region and the Horn of Africa.  The arms hampered peace, stability and security, impeded development, obstructed relief programmes, fostered a culture of violence and, above all, aggravated human-rights violations.  Sub-Saharan Africa had suffered more than any other region of the world.

He said that African States were harnessing efforts to combat problems related to small arms and light weapons and to implement the Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects.  Among those efforts were the Bamako Declaration on a common position on the illicit proliferation, circulation and trafficking of small arms and light weapons, and the Nairobi Declaration on the problem of proliferation of illicit small arms and light weapons in the Great Lakes Region and the Horn of Africa.  Ethiopia’s Government, for its part, had established a national-policing plan at the federal and regional levels to work closely to strengthen border controls and to stop the illicit import and transfer of firearms.  Collaborating with communities, another project worked to identify small arms. 

He added that a national committee was also being set up, along with a national focal point for the effective implementation of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction (Mine-Ban Convention).

There was concern that fertile ground had been created in Somalia for the proliferation of small arms and light weapons, without scrutiny from the international community, he said.  The deplorable situation in the region had enabled terrorist groups and some irresponsible States to profit from human misery.  Ethiopia urged the international community to take appropriate measures to restore the long-sought peace and stability in Somalia before it was too late.

CHRISTIAN STROHAL ( Austria) noted that small arms and light weapons had rightly and sadly been termed the “real weapons of mass destruction”, as they continued to kill hundreds of thousands of people each year.  The Programme of Action remained the cornerstone of international efforts in that regard and demonstrated a real step forward to combat the illicit trade.  Austria supported the Programme’s implementation, with a particular focus on Africa, and he emphasized that those efforts needed the international community’s full attention.

In terms of security, he said that instability, human-rights violations and lost-development opportunities were only some of the negative consequences of the illegal arms trade.  A strong, robust arms trade treaty should be negotiated. 

“Current discussions on procedural questions distract us from the main goal –- a strong treaty -– and should therefore be postponed until the International Conference on the ATT (arms trade treaty) itself or its last preparatory committee meeting,” he said.

The subject of anti-personnel mines had been a priority for Austria, he added.  The action plan to be discussed at the coming Second Review Conference should assist States in implementing their commitments to bring the goal of a mine-free world to fruition.  Assistance to victims of landmines or cluster munitions was another priority, and Austria was strengthening efforts in that area.  An important future task would be the overall coordination of victim‑assistance activities to avoid duplication and to use resources in the most rational and effective manner.  He hoped the Convention on Cluster Munitions would receive the required 30 ratifications before year’s end, to enable that important instrument to enter into force.

LAWRENCE OLUFEMI OBISAKIN ( Nigeria), speaking on behalf of the African Group, emphasized the need to regulate the illicit arms trade, stressing the need for international action.  Exporters and importers should take the responsibility of becoming involved.  A legally-binding instrument should address the scourge of the illicit trade of conventional arms.  An arms trade treaty should be fundamentally anchored on the principles of the United Nations Charter and should be used as an efficient tool to combat the illicit trade of conventional weapons.  International assistance in supporting and promoting capacity-building should also be encouraged. 

He said that the framework of the Third Biennial Meeting of States on national and regional implementation of the Programme of Action should be pursued with vigour, with a special focus on developing countries’ needs.  He also reiterated the Group’s appeal for the training of personnel and modernization of existing institutions for training experts, capable of preventing the pernicious effects of anti-personnel mines and explosive remnants of war.  Africa fully supported all multilateral and bilateral technical efforts aimed at alleviating the suffering of the victims.

NOEL KAGANDA (United Republic of Tanzania) said that conventional weapons, whether legitimately acquired or otherwise, were responsible for the present instability in most countries, world over and especially in Africa.  They were contributory factors in illegitimate and unconstitutional changes of Governments, a source of untold pain and suffering to innocent civilians and a major threat to national, regional and international stability and sustainable development.  Coupled with unregulated circulation and irresponsible deployment, those weapons were also responsible for the most heinous crimes against humanity and war crimes. 

While affirming States’ rights to self-defence, he strongly denounced the illicit trade and proliferation of small arms and light weapons and called on all delegates to draw lessons from previous meetings on the Programme of Action to ensure a fruitful and meaningful outcome of the coming Biennial Meeting of States.  Welcoming a globally-binding instrument to regulate the import, export and transfer of conventional arms, he hoped that the time between now and the diplomatic conference to adopt an arms trade treaty, planned for 2012, would be used to ensure that the text addressed the diverse concerns of future States parties regarding the production, supply, transfer, acquisition and storage by the end users.  It was imperative that the treaty was inspired by international human rights and humanitarian law, and took into account local and regional dimensions.

He wondered if the disheartening rise of military expenditures was a result of regional and global insecurity, or simply a “vicious spiral or an arms race”.  That was not a rational way forward, and it did not make sense to continue on such a course when millions of people were trapped in poverty, millions of children were dying of hunger and curable diseases, and commitments made to assist those in the bottom billion were not met.  He called for a review of those priorities.

Early entry into force of the Convention on Cluster Munitions would address the humanitarian consequences of cluster bombs and contribute to global peace and security.  He also supported the Mine-Ban Convention.  Multilateralism and international cooperation and assistance were pivotal in the disarmament process.  He called for continued cooperation and assistance to regional and subregional endeavours, especially in the Great Lakes Region and the Horn of Africa, in addressing the illicit trade in and circulation of small arms and light weapons.

SIHAM MOURABIT ( Morocco) said that her country was particularly concerned about the problem of proliferation of small arms and light weapons, particularly in Africa.  The international community must pay particular attention to Africa, where, despite its economic potential, development remained blocked.  To help address that problem, 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, especially as it related to firearms, should be universalized.  Morocco had been among the first countries to subscribe to the treaty and two of its protocols.  It believed that it was of vital importance since it was based on the principle of protecting civilians from excessive suffering.  As part of its commitment to it, Morocco had organized a seminar in Rabat in 2008, with the aim of universalizing the treaty and its protocols in the Middle East. 

She said that the international review of the Action Programme to combat small arms and light weapons proliferation and trafficking had shown the fragility of that regime.  Those weapons compromised the security and stability of States.  That legal arsenal should be complemented by international instruments that were global and binding.  Such instruments would not have the desired effect, however, unless producing and exporting countries assumed their responsibilities by adjusting their national legislation and by undertaking their international obligations.  There was also the need for a solider international legislative framework, which allowed for the marking and tracing of small arms and light weapons.  The international regime governing small arms and light weapons needed to grow and encompass illegal brokering.

For its part, Morocco contributed to limiting the disastrous effects wrought by those weapons, she went on.  The country regularly submitted its national reports under the Programme of Action.  The country was also following the efforts to develop an arms trade treaty.  It saw the process to reach common understanding on its parameters as an important step towards the objective of regulating small and light weapons.   Morocco insisted that such a treaty should not, in any way, affect the sovereign right of States to procure weapons for national security, but it should apply to illegal trafficking.

JOHN DUNCAN ( United Kingdom) introduced a draft resolution on the arms trade treaty (document A/64/C.1/L.38), co-authored with Argentina, Australia, Costa Rica, Finland, Kenya, and Japan.  He said that the co-authors had been encouraged over the past three years by the way that the vast majority of the world community had rallied to the cause of those who believed that action must be taken to ensure more effective regulation of international arms trade.  They also recognized the spirit of positive and constructive engagement by many others who had doubts and concerns about whether such a treaty was the best way forward and how it would work in practice.  They welcomed the new United States’ engagement and support for the treaty, which had been highlighted by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in a statement on 15 October and in that country’s statement to the First Committee earlier this week.

He said that the draft resolution before the Committee reflected a widespread view of the United Nations community that the time for general discussion was over.  The international community must consider the practical details of an arms trade treaty and set out a clear framework, giving direction and purpose to the overall goal.  The co-authors of the draft resolution were united in seeking a strong treaty that addressed the abuses of human rights and humanitarian law that could be the result of the lack of effective regulation in international arms trade.  The wider damage caused to sustainable development and the collective effort to maintain international security and stability were well understood.  The treaty was not a mechanism for establishing embargoes.  It was about taking responsible and informed decisions on a case-by-case basis through national-control mechanisms.  It would ensure that everyone followed the same procedures, retaining national decisions over individual exports.

The co-authors resisted efforts to pre-negotiate the treaty via its mandate.  The current draft resolution preserved everyone’s position.

ANTOINE SOMDAH ( Burkina Faso) said that maintaining and building international security had always been a major priority of the international community.  While weapons of mass destruction were at the height of international concern, small arms and light weapons were also a major threat.  Those weapons caused massive deaths and unleashed or sustained armed conflict in many regions.  They also undermined social and economic development in many States and, in the fragile context in post-conflict situations, were one of the main obstacles to peacebuilding strategies and the demobilization of former combatants.  West Africa was particularly vulnerable to those weapons because of its porous borders. 

He said that Burkina Faso, as part of its effort to address the challenge of small arms and light weapons, had established a high authority for arms importation and use.  It had also established a national commission to fight light weapons’ proliferation.  As part of the mission of two agencies, a process of enumeration of the weapons in the country had been initiated, including in barracks, to get a picture of the arms situation.  It had also initiated end user certificates to ensure transparency in arms transfers.  Public-awareness campaigns were ongoing about the dangers of arms proliferation.

Burkina Faso had benefited from the assistance of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), which had adopted a convention on small arms and light weapons since 2006, he added.  He appealed to the international community to intensify actions to assist and support States and subregions, as well as organizations such as ECOWAS, to stamp out the proliferation of small arms and light weapons.

PATRICK MCCARTHY, Coordinator of the United Nations Coordinating Action on Small Arms (UN CASA) Project on International Small Arms Control Standards (ISACS), said that the project that was being developed would be framed by the existing global agreements on small arms and would build upon standards, best-practice guidelines, and model regulations, which had already been elaborated at the regional and subregional levels.  Its development was primarily to enhance the United Nations ability to deliver as one on small-arms issues, whether they concerned legal, programmatic or operational aspects of the problem.

He said that internationally-accepted and validated standards on small-arms control would also have utility beyond the United Nations system by providing clear and comprehensive guidance to small-arms practitioners and policymakers, whether they worked in national governments, regional organizations, civil society or the small arms industry.  Those standards would not be legally binding or obligatory in any way.  Rather, they would provide voluntary guidance within the United Nations system and to other stakeholders and be made available for use at no cost to a wide range of relevant actors.

The United Nations Coordinating Action on Small Arms had identified individual standards modules for development, comprising legal, programmatic, operational and crosscutting issues, he said.  It had engaged leading experts as consultants to help draft first versions of those modules and had created an expert reference Group to help review and provide feedback on them.  The work that had been undertaken would not have been possible without financial support received from Australia, Canada, Ireland and Norway, but additional financial support was needed.

MATHEW GEERTSEN, Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), said that regulating trade in small arms and light weapons was firmly on the Organization’s agenda.  In 2004 and 2008, more stringent export controls had been adopted, and a best-practice guide had been developed to address transfers.  Large-scale assistance projects to manage stockpile destruction and other activities had taken place.  The OSCE also worked on implementing the United Nations Programme of Action.  It had been effective action at the regional level that paved the way for the eventual adoption of the Programme of Action.

He said that the OSCE and the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council had held an international conference in May 2008.  It had brought together many organizations dealing with arms control and was a resounding success.  That year, the OSCE initiated discussions on the effectiveness of relevant instruments on the subject, and subsequently established several proposals, which would, among other things, close loop holes regarding small arms and light weapons transfers.  The Organization was planning to hold a meeting in 2010 to assess OSCE’s progress.

Right of Reply

The representative of Syria said that Israel had tried to misinform the Committee in its statement, with a view to covering up the daily Israeli crimes and violations of international resolutions by levelling allegations against Lebanon on the illegal transfer of weapons.  It was no secret to the well-informed observer that those allegations aimed to cover up Israeli actions against Lebanon.  The continued violations by Israel flouted Security Council resolutions.  Reports held Israel responsible for dropping cluster bombs and mines in indiscriminate ways.  He also recalled that Israel still rejected handing over maps of thousands of mines planted in the Golan Heights region, which had resulted in the killing of more than 200 children, to date.  The mines laid in the 2006 aggression in Lebanon were still planted. 

He said that retired Israeli officers were working for Israeli weapons firms, and for years, Israel had depended on what it called “arms diplomacy”.  Israel had basically said to the Americans, “do not compete with us in South Africa or the Caribbean”.  The words of the Israeli delegate to this Committee did not match that country’s actions, as seen over the years.  The Israelis’ continued occupation of the Arab Territories and its continued aggression against the residents of Gaza were the highest acts of terrorism, he concluded.

Statements on other disarmament measures and international security

ROBERTO GARCÍA MORITAN, Chairperson of the Group of Governmental Experts on the continuing operation of the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms and its further development, introduced the thematic debate on other disarmament and international security by submitting the report on the continuing operation of the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms and its further development, which had been prepared by the Group of Governmental Experts, taking into account the work of the Conference on Disarmament, Member States’ views and the United Nations Secretary-General’s reports on the topic.  The Group had held three sessions in 2009 to evaluate, among other things, shortfalls and identify ways forward to better utilize and improve the significance of the Register, which was the only global transparency instrument on conventional arms transfers and had great international relevance.  Not only did all permanent Security Council members participate in it, but it also included all main weapon-selling countries, therefore containing information about almost 90 per cent of all annual transfers.

He said that the report had produced up-to-date data and analysis on information submitted by States, including an assessment of continued and future operations and the identification of regional priorities and recent trends related to advanced technological developments in armaments and military equipment.  The Group endorsed the 2006 governmental experts’ recommendations, and made a number of its own, which included measures to assist Member States to build capacity for the submission of meaningful and relevant reports, including small arms and light weapons, by making adjustments to the standardised reporting form. 

The Group had also considered several significant proposals aimed at expanding the existing categories of conventional arms and the introduction of new categories, representing both a new class of equipment just beginning to be used in combat operations, as well as a category for small arms and light weapons.  However, the Group had been unable to reach consensus on either of those proposals, owing in part to the more restricted time available for discussions. 

The group’s final session had focused mainly on a compromise proposal to add a new small arms and light weapons category, which could not be endorsed by all experts, he noted.  Regrettably, without the opportunity for another session, the Group recommended that the United Nations Secretary-General should seek Member States’ views on the introduction of small arms and light weapons as a new Register category.  Bearing in mind that the illicit trafficking of those arms and their excessive accumulation constituted a serious security concern for many States, he was confident that, with more time, the Expert Group would have agreed on the inclusion of that important new category.

The international community faced significant challenges to peace and security caused by armed conflicts, terrorist activities and illicit arms trafficking, he said.  It was of utmost importance, therefore, to keep the Register updated, with the aim of allowing it to effectively deal with new threats and the pending dangers of the uncontrolled spread of weapons.

PAUL VAN DEN IJSSEL (Netherlands), on behalf of more than 85 co-sponsors, introduced a draft resolution on transparency in armaments (document A/C.1/64/L.50), which emphasizes that openness in military matters, and particularly transparency in arms transfers, contributed to confidence and security-building among Governments.  Against that backdrop, with resolution 46/36L (1991), the United Nations had established the Register of Conventional Arms, through which Member States could provide annually data on their arms imports and exports.  The present draft reflected the recommendations of the 2009 governmental expert group.

He also introduced a draft resolution on national legislation on transfer of arms, military equipment and dual-use goods and technology (document A/C./64/L.26).  It would have the Assembly invite Member States to enact or improve national legislation, regulations and procedures over transfer of those items.  States would also be encouraged to provide to the United Nations Secretary-General, on a voluntary basis, information on their national legislation, regulations and procedures.  The current draft was an update of the 2007 resolution on the same subject.  He hoped Member States would adopt it by consensus, as in the past.

AKIO SUDA ( Japan) said that the impetus behind the recent historic developments in disarmament and non-proliferation was not self-perpetuating and needed constant nurturing.  Education and public awareness as two-way dialogue between civil society and government were integral to promoting and propelling efforts in those fields and formed the long-term basis for any concerted international initiative. 

He said that Japan had a moral responsibility to pass on the experiences of Hiroshima and Nagasaki worldwide and to the next generation.  Every year since 1983, Japan had invited young diplomats from the United Nations Disarmament Fellowship Programme to those two cities to see the cruelty of nuclear weapons.  Political leaders and government officials should receive input from civil society, as delegations could learn a lot from the critical analysis found within the First Committee Monitor, published weekly by non-governmental organizations who listened attentively to the delegations’ statements everyday.

He said that Japan and 29 other countries delivered a joint statement on education at the 2009 Third Preparatory Committee for the 2010 Review Conference of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) and encouraged the implementation of recommendations in the United Nations Secretary-General’s 2002 report on the subject.  Education and public awareness were not as headline‑catching as nuclear-weapons reductions, but it could be a way to make various ideas more possible and strengthen the international community’s disarmament and non-proliferation efforts.

FEDERICO PERAZZA (Uruguay), speaking on behalf of the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR), said that, as noted in the United Nations Secretary-General’s report, coherent and universal participation by all Member States in the Arms Register would have an important influence on discussions aimed at promoting transparency in military expenditures, including global trade in conventional weapons and efforts to combat the illicit trade in those weapons.  The Register could minimize risks and facilitate bilateral dialogue, as well as enhance regional confidence between States.  It would also encourage the peaceful resolution of conflicts.

He said that the expert group, which had examined the Register, had reached conclusions during the 2006 session and had made a series of concrete recommendations, he stated.  Those included the need to adopt practical measures to assist States in developing their capacities by presenting relevant significant information, particularly with regard to light weapons, using a standardized format.  Members of MERCOSUR looked to the United Nations Secretary-General to undertake consultations to gather the opinions of Member States on those recommendations.

The MERCOSUR members considered transparency in military matters an essential element for creating a climate of confidence among States.  That would contribute to alleviating international tensions and preventing conflicts.

ADELINA ALLEN ( Cuba) said that agreements reached in the multilateral ambit were the only way to safeguard international peace and security.  The objective of disarmament, arms control and non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction could not be attained through unilateral measures or agreements negotiated outside the multilateral framework.  It could also not be reached through the use of or threat of use of force. The stalemate of the past years at the multilateral disarmament forums had only highlighted the need for such multilateralism. Fortunately, the international community was beginning to see some progress.

She said that addressing the issue of military expenditures was of utmost importance.  That issue was among the most pressing facing humanity, particularly given the impact of the current global crises.  While economies, in particular of developing countries, were “bleeding”, military expenditures had continued to increase over the years.  At the same time, budgets were being cut for social programmes worldwide.  Cuba, therefore, reiterated its proposal for the creation of a United Nations-administered fund to which at least half of the current military expenditure should be allocated to be used to address social concerns.

Cuba underscored the relevance of the observance of environmental norms in the implementation of disarmament measures, she said.  The country had vast experience in that field, allowing it to respect environmental norms.  The existence of weapons of mass destruction and their continued honing was one of the most serious threats to international peace and security and to maintaining environmental balance.  She noted that the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on their Destruction (Chemical Weapons Convention) remained the only international agreement that included the verifiable destruction of the weapons, and also covered the equipment for producing them.

ALEXIS AQUINO ALBENGRIN ( Peru) said that the reality on ground was that global military expenditures were increasing and that that trend was expected to continue.  It had been estimated that only a small percentage of the current global military expenditure would effectively address development needs and assist the goal of attaining the Millennium Development Goals.  The international community must invest more in saving lives and not on weapons.  Eradicating poverty and meeting the other development challenges could be achieved if the resources devoted to military expenditure were diverted to those areas.  To reduce spending on armaments, Member States should provide information on their weapons imports and exports, as well as on their weapons stockpiles.

He said that Peru also believed that it was necessary to move ahead with the regulation of the arms trade through an arms trade treaty.  Such a treaty should be based on multilateral negotiations.  The country also stressed the importance of confidence building measures, saying that those could contribute to the establishment of multilateral, regional and bilateral friendships.  It urged States to participate, transparently, in disarmament negotiations.

VICTOR VASILIEV ( Russian Federation) said that given the rapid and universal introduction of advanced information and communications technology, that new virtual space was not safe.  That created a completely new situation in the area of challenges and threats in the sphere of information security.  A hostile application of information and communications technology did not use weapons in the traditional sense, but the consequences could be comparable to use of the so‑called “classical” weapons or even weapons of mass destruction.  There was indeed a “triad” of threats coming from criminals, terrorists, and States seeking to use information and communications technology for hostile political, military, economic and other purposes.

In 1998, he recalled, the Russian Federation had initiated the issue on assuring information security, and in 2005, General Assembly resolution 60/45 had tasked a United Nations Governmental Expert Group with a mandate to continue researching existing and potential threats and possible joint efforts to address them.

Today, the Russian Federation, together with a group of co-sponsors, was introducing the draft resolution on Developments in the field of information and telecommunications in the context of international security (document A/C.1/64/L.39), he said.  The only substantial difference from the previous year’s resolution was a new operative paragraph on holding an organizational meeting of the Governmental Expert Group in November 2009 and three meetings in 2010, in accordance with the time schedule agreed upon with the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs.  He hoped the Committee members would support the draft and join as co-authors.

WILLIAM MALZAHN ( United States) said his country had been a strong supporter of the Register of Conventional Arms and the transparency in armaments initiative since the General Assembly resolution 46/36L (1991) had established a multi-step process to operationalize a voluntary register.  A resounding success, the Register had more than 170 States participating at least once, 142 States participating three or more times, 101 participating at least seven times and 50 participating every year, with annual numbers ranging from 90 to 126 States. 

He said that the Register, by reporting on both imports and exports, had captured the vast majority of the international conventional arms trade in its seven categories, and the first two governmental expert groups had concluded that the Register’s existing categories sufficed.  However, the 2000 such Group had found that the Register did not address security concerns of States facing threats stemming from the illicit proliferation of small arms and light weapons, rather than the accumulations of weapons found in the Register’s categories.  A series of regional and subregional workshops held between 2001 and 2005 had confirmed that participation in the Register was linked to relevance, as many States were unwilling or unable to report to a Register that was not relevant to their security concerns.

That situation had propelled the 2003 and 2006 governmental expert groups to make substantive changes to the Register, among them, adding man-portable air defence systems (MANPADS) and lowering the artillery threshold from 100 mm to 75 mm, and opening the door to voluntary reporting of small arms and light weapons transfers.  The group’s 2009 report did not reflect either the broad discussions covered during its three sessions, or the closeness of agreement to add an eighth category for small arms and light weapons.  Unfortunately, a single expert chose to block a proposal that would have ended nine years of discussion and six years of detailed proposals to add that category, which had been a surprise and a significant disappointment.  “This was a significant missed opportunity to improve the effectiveness of the United Nations Register,” which undermined the traditional governmental expert group effort to promote the tool’s universality.

He said he hoped that States would excuse that failure and participate in the Register.  To set the stage for the work of the 2012 Expert Group on the subject, the 2009 Group had agreed on a recommendation to the Secretary-General to seek Member States’ views on the question of whether the failure of the Register to include small arms and light weapons directly affected some national decisions not to participate in the Register.  He urged all members to provide their views on the subject, and expected that the 2012 Group would use that as a starting point for resuming the discussion on the matter, which had broken off this year.

Alexander Liebowitz (United States) said that his country was committed to the goals of the NPT, and President Barack Obama had pledged to, among other things, negotiate and put into effect verifiable bilateral and multilateral arms control agreements to vastly reduce the level of nuclear armaments, stop fissile material production for nuclear weapons, and establish a global ban on nuclear explosions by aggressively pursuing the United States ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT).  In addition, President Obama had called on all States to comply with their obligations and to hold other States accountable for their actions.

The importance of effective verification, in building confidence and enhancing transparency, to achieving a world without nuclear weapons could not be overstated, he said.  All States must strive to establish robust and effective verification measures in bilateral and multilateral arms control, non-proliferation and disarmament agreements, and must continue to work to improve national and collection capabilities, to assist other States and to insist upon the full implementation of tools and measures found in existing agreements.

For its part, the United States was working closely with Russian colleagues to incorporate effective verification measures into the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), he said.  The United States was also working with and assisting others to meet their relevant arms control, non-proliferation and disarmament commitments.  The implementation of agreed verification measures alone was insufficient, however, to facilitate the achievement of a world without nuclear or other weapons of mass destruction.  President Obama’s call for consequences when any nation broke the rules was a call previously endorsed by the Security Council, the General Assembly and the First Committee.  Most recently, the Council demanded that parties comply fully with their obligations under relevant resolutions and find early negotiated solutions to non-compliance. 

Continuing, he said that General Assembly resolutions A/RES/60/55 (2005) and A/RES/63/59 (2008) also called upon Member States to hold those not in compliance accountable, and to take action, consistent with the United Nations Charter, to prevent serious damage to international security and stability arising from non-compliance.  Holding States accountable for violations strengthened confidence in the integrity of the agreements violated and in the prospects for progress towards a safe, secure world free of nuclear or other weapons of mass destruction.  Failure to hold States accountable undercut that integrity and enabled continued and broadened non-compliance, which could increase threats to regional and global stability.  “If States genuinely seek -– as our delegation believes that most do –- the peace and security of a world free of nuclear weapons, then, as President Obama stated in Prague, ‘rules must be binding.  Violations must be punished. Words must mean something.  The world must stand together to prevent the spread of these weapons’.”

HAMID ALI RAO ( India) said the international community should closely follow scientific developments, with a view to safety and security.  The international transfer of technology that would cover military elements should to be regulated and export controls should be strengthened, with a view to avoid hampering the development of technologies among States parties to relevant agreements.  There was also a need for dialogue and cooperation to find a viable approach to forge new paths.  With that in view, he tabled a draft resolution on the role of science and technology in the context of international security and disarmament (document A/C.1/64/L.21), which he hoped the Committee would adopt by consensus.

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