United Nations Disarmament Chief Calls for Consensus in Disarmament Commission to Rid World of Nuclear Weapons, Exploiting Fresh Spirit of Multilateralism

29 March 2010
DC/3215

United Nations Disarmament Chief Calls for Consensus in Disarmament Commission to Rid World of Nuclear Weapons, Exploiting Fresh Spirit of Multilateralism

29 March 2010
General Assembly
DC/3215
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Disarmament Commission

2010 Substantive Session

303rd & 304th Meetings (AM & PM)

United Nations Disarmament Chief Calls for Consensus in Disarmament Commission

to Rid World of Nuclear Weapons, Exploiting Fresh Spirit of Multilateralism

Regional Groups Seek Security Guarantees against Nuclear Weapons Use;

United States Says President Committed to Concrete Nuclear Disarmament Steps

Pointing to the “fresh and affirmative spirit of multilateralism” emerging in discussions on global disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation, Sergio Duarte, High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, called on the Disarmament Commission this morning as it opened its 2010 substantive session to reach consensus on creating a nuclear-weapon-free world, a new Disarmament Decade and practical confidence-building measures in the field of conventional arms.

Discussion of those three issues -– which were on the session’s agenda for the second of a typical three-year cycle of deliberations -- had been thwarted in the past largely due to mistrust and a lack of confidence that such goals would be met with concrete action, he said.  But outside the United Nations, the situation was improving and there was growing recognition of the need to strengthen the rule of law in many disarmament areas -– from negotiating treaties to reducing and eventually eliminating nuclear weapons, to bringing the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) into force, and to developing legal restraints on conventional arms exports.  The United Nations, he said, must build on that trend.   

Twenty years after the end of the cold war, it was incomprehensible that the material risks of nuclear weapons were still so high, asserted Commission Chairman, Jean-Francis Regis Zinsou (Benin), urging members to deliberate frankly and honestly during the current session to reach consensus on key issues and to capitalize on new opportunities during the Review Conference on the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) in May and the fourth biennial meeting in June to review the Programme of Action on small arms and light weapons.  That would help improve the international climate and bring military spending under control.  Fruitful discussions on non-proliferation, development cooperation and the peaceful use of nuclear energy were also vital, he said.

Indonesia’s representative, speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, said he regretted the back-pedalling in the past year on the global nuclear disarmament agenda.  Despite a few forward-looking statements by some nuclear-weapon States, words had yet to be turned into deeds.  “It is high time that the vision of a world without nuclear weapons, which the NAM has long articulated and has been in the forefront of, is realized fully and completely,” he said.

He appealed to all States to step up global negotiations, in line with the consensus of the final document of the General Assembly’s first special session on disarmament, aimed at full disarmament and strict, effective international controls to enforce it.  He also called for an international conference to reach agreement on a phased programme to fully eliminate nuclear weapons within a specified timeline, and to prohibit their development, production, acquisition, testing, stockpiling, transfer, use or threat of use.  The best way to prevent terrorists from acquiring weapons of mass destruction was to eradicate them.  Meantime, a multilaterally-negotiated and legally-binding instrument to protect non-nuclear-weapon States from the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons was essential, as was universal adherence to the CTBT.

Echoing those concerns, Nigeria’s representative, speaking on behalf of the African Group, implored nuclear-weapon States to fully implement their NPT obligations, stop developing new types of nuclear weapons and grant, unconditionally, negative security assurance to non-nuclear-weapon States within a legally-binding framework.  He lauded the entry into force of some regional nuclear weapon-free-zone treaties, including the African Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty (Pelindaba Treaty), and called upon nuclear-weapon States, and other States that had not done so, to ratify the treaty’s protocols without delay.  

Africa, which had the lion’s share of victims of the illegal small arms and light weapons trade, would constructively engage in preparations for the 2012 arms trade treaty conference, he said.  That treaty should have a clear ban on transfers of those weapons by non-State actorsFurthermore, the draft declaration to mark 2010 the Fourth Disarmament Decade should include negotiations on a treaty banning production of fissile material for nuclear weapons and explosive devices; promote cooperation and capacity-building to help Member States contribute to those objectives; as well as stress the importance of disarmament’s relationship to development and the need for military spending not to divert the world’s human and economic resources away from the latter.  

The United States’ representative said her Government was prepared to participate constructively in forming a draft declaration on that decade, and she urged others to take a similar approach to reach consensus on important issues.  The Commission’s session could help set the stage for fruitful, productive meetings, particularly for a successful NPT Review Conference in May.  Furthermore, the session was taking place at a key juncture in the history of arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation.  United States President Barack Obama was committed to take concrete steps towards a nuclear-weapon-free world.  With the Russian Federation, it had just concluded a historic agreement to reduce its nuclear arsenals to the lowest level in decades, and they were working towards a new treaty to reduce their deployed strategic warheads and delivery vehicles.

Lauding those steps, China’s speaker urged those two large nuclear weapons-holding nations to continue to take the lead in making drastic and substantive reductions in those arms in “a verifiable and irreversible manner”.  He said all States should work together on key issues, including fulfilling obligations contained in the NPT’s article VI, as well as state publicly they would not seek permanent possession of nuclear weapons.  Negotiations on a fissile material cut-off treaty should begin swiftly in the Conference on Disarmament.  Moreover, the international community should develop a viable long-term plan of phased actions, including creating a convention on the full prohibition of nuclear weapons.

Also during the meeting, the Commission took note of the session’s provisional agenda, which had been adopted at its 15 March organizational session, and of its provisional programme of work.  The Commission Chair said the election of Vice Chairs from the Group of Latin American and Caribbean States would take place at a later stage. 

Also speaking today were the representatives of Spain (on behalf of the European Union), Chile (on behalf of the Rio Group), Brazil, Algeria, Cuba, Pakistan, Russian Federation, Australia, Philippines, Kenya and United Republic of Tanzania.

The Commission will reconvene at 10 a.m. tomorrow, 30 March, to continue its general debate.

Opening Statements

SERGIO DUARTE, High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, said the Commission was commencing its work in quite a different environment from the past year.  A “fresh and affirmative spirit of multilateralism” had been rekindled in disarmament and non-proliferation deliberations.  Nuclear disarmament had been less and less relegated to the vague status of an “ultimate goal”. 

He said there was a new recognition throughout the world of the need to strengthen the rule of law in many disarmament areas, including ongoing efforts to negotiate new treaties concerning the reduction and eventual elimination of nuclear weapons, to bring the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) into force, to commence negotiations on a fissile material cut-off treaty, as well as efforts to develop legal restraints on conventional arms exports while exploring the potential negotiation of new legal instruments in such areas as space weapons.  Treaties establishing nuclear-weapon-free zones in Central Asia and Africa had also entered into force.

The three issues on the agenda -- nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, a new Disarmament Decade, and practical confidence-building measures in the field of conventional arms -- were not before the Commission because they were easy, but because they were both difficult and important, he said.  It had now been 11 years since the Commission had been able to reach a consensus on key substantive issues.  In the past, the greatest obstacles to progress had been a pervasive climate of mistrust, mutual suspicion and lack of confidence that the stated goals were being reflected in concrete actions.  Yet as developments outside the United Nations had helped to improve the climate, so too had the time come for the United Nations to make its own new contributions to that encouraging trend.

JEAN-FRANCIS REGIS ZINSOU ( Benin), Chairman of the Disarmament Commission, said the Commission would contribute invaluably to the cause of peace and international security and that there should be a frank, constructive dialogue between Member States in that regard.  He lauded positive developments and new perspectives in pursuing disarmament, including on the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and small arms and light weapons.  He also commended the imminent signing of an accord between the Russian Federation and United States to reduce the nuclear weapons stockpiles.  Finalization of that agreement would be a significant step in full disarmament.  He expressed the importance of discussions concerning non-proliferation, development cooperation and the peaceful use of nuclear energy.  Twenty years after the end of the cold war, it was incomprehensible that the material risks of nuclear weapons were still so high.

He hoped that Member States would make the most of new opportunities during international meetings this year, among them the Review Conference on the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) and the fourth biennial meeting to review the Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eliminate the Illicit Trade of Small Arms and Light Weapons.  Progress made at those meetings would have a positive impact on improving the international climate and it would contribute to bringing military expenditures under control.  The international community was facing serious development difficulties and challenges, owing to climate change, which required the mobilization of enormous resources to ward off manmade dangers.  The current level of military spending was problematic.

The least that could be expected from the Commission’s current session was deliberations in an atmosphere of honesty and understanding, in order that consensus was reached on the agenda items before it, he said, urging States to make the most of the agenda.  He noted last year’s efforts to create optimal conditions to positively conclude the triennial work cycle under way.

General Debate

JUAN ANTONIO YÁÑEZ-BARNUEVO (Spain), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said that reinforcing the non-proliferation regime should be a key priority for all States to prevent the proliferation and delivery of weapons of mass destruction, which was potentially the greatest threat to collective security.  All States must take concerted, resolute action to ensure strict compliance with their non-proliferation obligations and respond quickly and effectively to non-compliance.  In light of the current challenges in international security, particularly the risk of proliferation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and Iran, the NPT was more important than ever.

He said that the proliferation risks presented by Iran, in particular, were of grave concern.  He regretted that Iran had not provided the necessary cooperation to permit the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to confirm that all of its nuclear material and facilities were for peaceful purposes.  That was in defiance of Iran’s NPT obligations, the Safeguard Agreement and relevant Council resolutions.  He was committed to seeking a comprehensive, long-term solution to the Iranian nuclear issue through dialogue and negotiations.  Iran’s persistent failure to meet its international obligations required a clear response and appropriate measures.  The European Union sought a substantive, balanced outcome of the NPT Review Conference in May that would strengthen the international nuclear non-proliferation regime and enhance global safety.  The Union had tabled forward-looking proposal on all three pillars of the NPT to be part of an action plan adopted by the Review Conference. 

He stressed the importance of creating an effectively-verifiable Middle East zone free of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction and universal conclusion of the Comprehensive Safeguard Agreements and Additional Protocols, which formed today’s verification standard.  Pending the entry into force of the CTBT, he urged all States to abide by a moratorium on nuclear testing.  He supported responsible development of peaceful uses of nuclear energy, as well as the development of multilateral approaches to the nuclear fuel cycle and ongoing initiatives in that regard.  The European Union would actively contribute to next month’s Nuclear Security Summit in Washington, D.C.   He strongly supported the concept of an international arms trade treaty and the convening in 2012 of a United Nations conference on that issue.  He was also firmly committed to 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).  Concluding a complementary agreement to that treaty would significantly help address the humanitarian impact of cluster munitions.

HASAN KLEIB (Indonesia), speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, said that as concrete progress on nuclear disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation in all their aspects was necessary for strengthening international peace and security, it was regrettable that there had been a regression on the multilaterally-agreed agenda on nuclear disarmament in the past year.  Although there had been some forward-looking statements by some nuclear-weapon-States to advance their disarmament commitments, the Movement looked forward to seeing those statements transformed into concrete actions.  “It is high time that the vision of a world without nuclear weapons, which the NAM has long articulated and has been in the forefront of, is realized fully and completely”.

He said that although a lot of work would be needed at the Commission, that body could be very effective.  The Commission’s work had contributed significantly to the emergence of universally-accepted principles on disarmament, and the Movement hoped that the work would be intensified with the requisite political will by all States.  He appealed to all States to pursue and intensify multilateral negotiations, in line with the consensus of the final document of the first special session of the General Assembly devoted to disarmament, with the clear objective of accomplishing nuclear disarmament, and under strict and effective international controls.  The group reaffirmed the importance of the Conference on Disarmament as the sole multilateral negotiating body on disarmament and reiterated its call on the Conference to agree on a balanced and comprehensive programme of work by, among other things, establishing an ad hoc committee on nuclear disarmament as the highest priority.

He called for an international conference at the earliest possible date with the aim of realizing an agreement on a phased programme for the complete elimination of all nuclear weapons within a specified timeline, as well as to prohibit their development, production, acquisition, testing, stockpiling, transfer, use or threat of use of those weapons, and to provide for their destruction.  International and regional approaches, as well as confidence-building measures, were complementary and should be pursued simultaneously.  The international community’s non-proliferation efforts should be in conjunction with concrete nuclear disarmament efforts.  The most effective way of preventing terrorists from acquiring weapons of mass destruction was through the total elimination of those weapons.  Pending those weapons’ total eradication, there should be vigorous efforts towards a multilaterally-negotiated and legally binding instrument to assure the non-nuclear-weapon States against the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons.

Stressing the significance of achieving universal adherence to the CTBT, including by all nuclear-weapon States, he reiterated that if the objectives of the Treaty were to be fully realized, the continued commitment of all State signatories, especially the nuclear weapons-holder, to nuclear disarmament was essential.  As for the fourth Disarmament Decade, that should build on the goals and progress of the previous decades and leverage abilities to make progress on initiatives already begun.  The draft declaration for the Decade should reflect, not only its priority on nuclear disarmament, but also relevant issues in the field of disarmament, including the issue of small arms and light weapons.

EDUARDO GÁLVEZ (Chile), speaking on behalf of the Rio Group, reiterated his delegation’s firm position favouring nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation.  Indeed, the mere existence of those weapons, as well as the slow progress towards their total elimination, was a serious threat to humankind.  As such, while he welcomed some positive signs in the disarmament and non-proliferation process, he underscored the need for “urgent and consistent” actions towards the total elimination and prohibition of nuclear weapons.  Towards that goal, the Rio Group looked forward to the signature of the legally-binding agreement between the two major nuclear-weapon States to replace START I, which should lead to new and verifiable reductions in their respective nuclear arsenals.

He welcomed the convening of the Second Conference of States Parties and Signatories to Treaties that Establish Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zones, and Mongolia, which would consider ways to enhance consultations among those parties to promote implementation of the relevant treaties and strengthen the global nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation regime.  He also welcomed the entry into force, on 15 July 2009, of the Pelindaba Treaty as an important step forward.  The Rio Group was fully committed to the NPT’s universality, and urged all States that had not done so to adhere to that treaty as non-nuclear-weapon States.

The Rio Group also urged all NPT States parties to fully comply with their obligations, and he urged nuclear-weapon States, in particular, to fulfil their obligations under the Treaty’s article VI, especially taking practical steps towards nuclear disarmament, agreed at the 2000 NPT Review Conference.  The Group affirmed the inalienable right of all States to develop the research and production of nuclear energy for its peaceful use, without discrimination and in conformity with the NPT.  The Group also urged States to spare no effort in ensure the successful outcome of the 2010 NPT review.  He stressed the importance of taking concrete actions at that meeting towards ensuring the total elimination of nuclear weapons within a specified time frame.

He regretted that so far this year, the Conference on Disarmament had been unable to adopt a programme of work, despite the positive development that had taken place in that forum in 2009.  The Rio Group therefore called on all Conference members to support and encourage the early start of its substantive work on the core issues of the body’s agenda.  It also urged the Conference to establish an ad hoc committee on nuclear disarmament, with the aim of initiating negotiations on a phased programme for the complete elimination of nuclear weapons within a specific timeframe, including a convention on nuclear weapons. 

He also reiterated the Group’s call for negotiations to begin immediately on a universal, unconditional and legally-binding instrument on negative security assurances for non-nuclear-weapon States.  The Rio Group was also concerned by the possibility of an arms race in outer space and urged the Conference to begin negotiations on a legally-binding treaty to prevent such build-up.  It reiterated its position on a complete cessation of nuclear testing, and stressed the importance of maintaining a moratorium pending the CTBT’s entry into force.

On practical confidence-building measures in the field of conventional arms, he said his region had taken significant steps, thereby contributing to strengthening international peace and security.  The measures were intended to promote understanding, transparency and cooperation among all States.  The objective to extend them was to strengthen the relevant information exchanges in that area.  He welcomed the regional meeting on the implementation of the Programme of Action for Latin American and Caribbean States and the Regional Workshop on Transparency in Conventional Arms, which had taken place earlier this month.

LAWRENCE OLUFEMI OBISAKIN (Nigeria), speaking on behalf of the African Group, said all nuclear-weapon States should implement in good faith all their obligations and commitments under the NPT, desist from developing new types of nuclear weapons and grant unconditionally negative security assurance to non-nuclear-weapon States within a legally-binding framework.  An early entry into force of the CTBT would be a concrete and meaningful step in the realization of nuclear disarmament.  Saluting the entry into force of some regional nuclear weapon-free-zone treaties, including the African Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty (Pelindaba Treaty), he called upon the nuclear-weapon States, and other States that had not done so, to ratify the treaty’s protocols without delay.   The Group supported the establishment of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East.

Noting the initial process towards an arms trade treaty, scheduled for July, he said that Africa, having one of the highest number of victims of the illegal small arms and light weapons trade, would constructively engage in the preparatory work for the 2012 arms trade treaty conference.  The treaty should constitute an efficient tool to prevent, combat and eradicate the illicit trade in conventional weapons, including small arms and light weapons, and contain a clear ban on transfers by non-State actors. 

He said the draft declaration of the Fourth Disarmament Decade should include, among other things:  commencing negotiations on a treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons and other explosive devices; promoting the CTBT’s entry into force; promoting cooperation, assistance and capacity building to Member States and regions and subregions, in order to contribute to those objectives; and recognition of the significant role played by civil society, the academic community and non-governmental organizations in raising awareness of and providing impetus for progress in the fields of disarmament and non-proliferation.  The declaration should also stress the importance of the symbiotic relationship between disarmament and development and of striving to ensure the least diversion of the world’s human and economic resources for armaments, towards achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.

KANG YONG ( China) said that while the interdependence between countries in the security field had deepened and exchanges and cooperation had strengthened, the international community was facing more security challenges than ever before. Indeed, conflicts and tensions in hotspots kept emerging; terrorism was rampant; and much remained to be done in the area of multilateral arms control and non-proliferation.  China believed that to press ahead with the multilateral arms control and non-proliferation process, the international community should embrace a new security concept based on mutual trust, mutual benefit, and equality and coordination.

He said that the new concept should also be based on full respect of and accommodation for the security concerns of all countries; adherence to multilateralism and consolidating of the collective security system, with the United Nations at its core; and on attaining the goal of collective security through mutually-beneficial means.  Prohibiting the spread of nuclear weapons and completely destroying those in existence was the common interest of all peace-loving countries worldwide.  At present, the international community had a good opportunity to press ahead with the nuclear disarmament process.

As such, he said that all nations should work together in a number of key areas, including fulfilling, in good faith, the obligations contained in article VI of the NPT, and state publicly they would not seek permanent possession of nuclear weapons.  “At the same time, global strategic balance and stability should be maintained,” he said, stressing that countries with the largest nuclear arsenals – the United States and the Russian Federation -– should take the lead in making drastic and substantive reductions in those arms, in “a verifiable and irreversible manner”.  In that regard, he welcomed the recent conclusion of negotiations between them on a new bilateral agreement to reduce strategic arms. 

To practically reduce nuclear threats, nuclear-weapon States should reduce the role of those weapons in their national security and abandon policies of nuclear deterrence on the first use of nuclear weapons.  All nuclear-weapon States should undertake clearly and unconditionally not to use or threaten to use those weapons against non-nuclear-weapon States or in nuclear-weapon-free zones.  They should conclude a legally-binding international instrument towards that goal, and, in the meantime, they should negotiate and conclude a treaty on “no-first-use” against each other.  The CTBT should be brought into force at the earliest date, and negotiations on a fissile material cut-off treaty should begin as soon as possible within the Conference on Disarmament.  The international community should develop, at an appropriate time, a viable long-term plan of phased actions, including elaboration of a convention on the complete prohibition of nuclear weapons.

Stressing that non-proliferation and nuclear disarmament were mutually reinforcing, he urged the international community to channel its efforts towards, among other things, fostering a peaceful and stable environment with security for all, respect for all security interests, and enhanced mutual trust.  Such efforts would remove the root causes to keep or acquire nuclear arms.  He called for stepped up efforts to resolve contentious non-proliferation issues through dialogue and negotiations, especially as sanctions and pressure hardly offered fundamental solutions.

“The impartiality and non-discrimination of international efforts in nuclear non-proliferation should be ensured, and a balance between non-proliferation and the peaceful use of energy should be respected and ensured, and the practice of double standards should be firmly abandoned,” he said.  Calling for consolidation and enhancement of the global nuclear non-proliferation legal system, the strengthening of IAEA’s safeguards capability, and improved security of nuclear facilities, he also noted that all parties should seize the opportunity provided by the upcoming NPT Review Conference to advance nuclear non-proliferation, nuclear disarmament and peaceful uses of nuclear energy.

He said that China had always backed the complete prohibition of and thorough elimination of nuclear weapons.  It had always faithfully abided by its commitments that the country would never be the first to use those weapons at any time or under any circumstances, nor would it threaten to use them against nuclear-weapon-free States or nuclear-weapon-free zones.  In fact, China was the only nuclear-weapon-State that had undertaken such a commitment, and it had never participated in any nuclear arms race or deployed those arms on foreign soil.  He called for peaceful resolution of the Korean peninsula issue and the Iranian nuclear issue through dialogue and negotiations, and pledged his Government’s readiness to work with those to countries towards that goal.

Promotion of international arms control and non-proliferation would benefit greatly from declaring 2010 the Fourth Disarmament Decade.  He urged parties negotiating the relevant elements of a draft declaration to intensify their efforts to reach an agreement at an early date. The declaration for the Decade should be in line with the purposes and principles of the Charter and the guiding principles set out in the outcome of the first special session of the General Assembly devoted to disarmament.  The declaration should specify the main tasks and priorities of the international arms control and non-proliferation process for the next decade, and its content should be universally supported by all parties.

MARIA LUIZA RIBEIRO VIOTTI (Brazil) said that as the Commission was in the middle of the three-year cycle of work, one of its working groups would debate nuclear disarmament under the high expectations which were based on renewed momentum and promising statements by authorities of the nuclear-weapon States.  “Speeches, nonetheless, have to be translated into concrete actions,” she said, continuing:  “Until now, 40 years after the entry into force of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, the nuclear-weapon States have not been able to comply with their side of the bargain.”  Their military doctrines retained the right to use nuclear weapons, even against non-nuclear-weapon States.

She said that during the course of the year, many opportunities would arise for the nuclear-weapon States to demonstrate that they were serious about their commitments.  The signing of the new agreement to replace the START I (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) would be an important step. A successful outcome of the 2010 NPT Review Conference would signal to the international community that the States parties, in particular the nuclear-weapon States, were committed to a world free of nuclear weapons.  Encouraged by the possibility of the CTBT’s entry into force, she said another indispensable step in the direction of nuclear disarmament would be the negotiation in the Conference on Disarmament of a verifiable treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons and other explosive devices.  The Commission should support such measures by striving to find language that could be accepted by the largest possible majority.

The working group on “elements of a Declaration of the 2010s as the Fourth Disarmament Decade” should not only take stock of Member States’ commitments from previous decades, but also consider future challenges, she said.  The declaration should include the total elimination of nuclear weapons as a clear and unconditional goal and should address relevant issues in the field of conventional weapons, such as the arms trade treaty and the United Nations Programme of Action.  The Commission should consider the issue of practical confidence-building measures, highlighting that such measures aimed to alter inaccurate perceptions and to avoid misunderstandings about military actions and policies that might otherwise lead to conflict.  The measures could even encourage initiatives to identify shared security interests in a manner conducive to a better appreciation of the importance of effective disarmament.

MOURAD BENMEHIDI (Algeria) said the current session, in mid-cycle, was of particular importance, and as such, it must send a positive message before the NPT Review Conference.  As for working group I on nuclear disarmament, he reiterated the importance of adopting the necessary recommendations at the end of the cycle via a transparent, inclusive approach.  The principle of the NPT was the complete elimination of nuclear weapons.  Effective cooperation of all States, in particular the nuclear-weapon States, was important for achieving that objective, including the 13 practical measures adopted in 2000.  Disarmament measures should be based on transparency, verifiability and irreversibility. 

While welcoming the recent agreement between the Russian Federation and the United States on strategic nuclear arms reduction, he said that only a balanced approach ensuring effective implementation of the three pillars of the NPT would enable that instrument to be promoted and strengthened.  In order to achieve the total elimination of nuclear weapons, the political will of Member States, in particular nuclear-weapon States, was indispensable.  The adoption of intermediate measures would help build the confidence necessary to achieving that ultimate goal.  Entry into force of the CTBT and the conclusion of a treaty to ban fissile materials were also priorities. 

He said the conclusion of a legally-binding instrument of security guarantees by nuclear-weapon States to non-nuclear-weapon States was of the highest priority.  Establishment of a nuclear-weapons-free zone in the Middle East before the NPT Review conference would help to achieve peace and security in that troubled region.  A draft declaration for the Fourth Disarmament Decade should include, among other things the reaffirmation of:  the need to achieve complete elimination of weapons of mass destruction; the central role of the United Nations as the main multilateral framework for addressing disarmament issues; and the negative consequences of an arms race, such as the squandering of resources that could be used for development.  It should reflect the principles of transparency, verifiability and irreversibility, which should characterize nuclear disarmament measures, and it should underline the importance of adopting universally-agreed norms in the field of conventional weapons.  The declaration should also reiterate the need to combat the illicit small arms and light weapons trade.

YVETTE WONG ( United States) said the meeting was taking place at a key juncture in the history of arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation.  The United States and the Russian Federation had just concluded a historic agreement to reduce their nuclear arsenals to the lowest level in decades.  Soon, the Nuclear Security Summit would meet in the Washington and the Eighth Review Conference of the NPT Treaty would meet in New York.  The Commission’s session could help set the stage for fruitful, productive meetings, particularly for a successful NPT Review Conference.  The United States was prepared to participate constructively in forming a draft declaration on a Fourth Disarmament Decade.  The draft text issued by Johann Paschalis of South Africa, Chair of working group II, was a good one, to which, with some small amendments, the United States could rapidly agree.  She urged others to take a similarly constructive approach to gain consensus approval and enable the Commission to move on to its agenda item related to conventional weapons confidence-building measures. 

She lauded the planned in-depth review of the Commission’s agenda item on “recommendations for achieving the objective of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation of nuclear weapons”.  In that regard, the most useful thing the Commission could do was to realistically consider the measures necessary to achieve nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, the obstacles and how to overcome them.  It would be good if the discussion enabled delegates to agree on a paper reflecting their views, but the United States would also be satisfied with a thorough review of the issues involved that avoided the usual reiteration of standard positions. 

United States President Barack Obama was committed to take concrete steps towards a nuclear-weapon-free world, she said.  In that regard, conclusion of a new START treaty was significant and it would result in meaningful arms reductions for the United States and the Russian Federation in deployed strategic warheads and their delivery vehicles.  Once the treaty was signed, the Obama Administration would work with the United States Senate to ratify it and put it into force.  To address the possibility of terrorists acquiring nuclear weapons, the United States would seek support from others at the Nuclear Security Summit next month to implement President Obama’s proposal for a new international effort to secure all nuclear materials worldwide.  President Obama was committed to working with the United States Senate to secure its advice, consent and ratification of the CTBT.  

RODOLFO BENITEZ VERSON ( Cuba) said despite the deep global economic crisis, military spending continued to increase rapidly to a record $1.46 trillion.  One country was responsible for almost half of all military spending worldwide.  While the number of people suffering from hunger had reached an unprecedented 1.02 billion, or one-sixth of the world’s population, arms production had increased many times more.  While tens of millions of people died in silence as victims of poverty and preventable and curable disease, modern wars of conquest continued, resulting in millions of civilian deaths that were referred to as collateral damage.  While billions of dollars were invested to modernize nuclear arms, little had been achieved in meeting the development objectives.  It was already clear that more than 100 countries would not be able to meet the Millennium Development Goals because of a lack of adequate financial resources.  It was time to leave rhetoric aside and instead fulfil forgotten promises.

He reiterated Cuba’s proposal to devote at least half of current military spending to socio-economic development, through a United Nations-managed fund.  For too many years, the Commission had not been reaching concrete goals.  There were positive signals in disarmament control, but they were insufficient.  A new era based on true multilateralism, however, could begin.  It was very important to examine recommendations to achieve nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation.  Despite the end of the cold war, there were still 23,300 nuclear weapons around the world, with some ready to deploy immediately.  Nuclear disarmament should be the highest priority.  Nuclear-weapon States were legally obligated to enter into and conclude negotiations for full nuclear disarmament under an effective global verification system.   He categorically rejected selective application of the NPT.  The upcoming NPT Review Conference must adopt an action plan to guarantee full elimination and prohibition of nuclear weapons no later than 2025.  He was confident that the Commission would recommend to the General Assembly this year a declaration making 2010 the fourth disarmament decade.

ABDULLAH HUSSAIN HAROON ( Pakistan) said that while the Disarmament Commission was the sole multilateral deliberative body on the matter within the United Nations system, it nevertheless received criticism.  While all institutions created by humankind had room for improvement, the perceived deficiency with the Commission was attributable more to the lack of political will than to the disarmament machinery itself.  Only by genuine respect for the principle of “equal security for all” could there be meaningful progress in disarmament and non-proliferation.  Deliberations and negotiations within the Commission could not proceed “if we try to bury, obfuscate or sidestep genuine security concerns to push through a mirage of disarmament and non-proliferation related progress”.

Indeed, he said it was crucial to remember that threat perceptions and security concerns were not figments of a State’s imagination.  They were deeply rooted in historical legacy and geopolitical factors.  “What may be of academic interest to one player may be an existential question to another,” he said, stressing that the international community would do well to understand the compulsions that drove a country’s strategic outlook.  Pakistan, for instance, had a defensive military posture; it had no great power ambition, but at the same time, “our historical experience has taught us the value of credible deterrence, albeit, the bare minimum”.

He cautioned delegations to guard against the tendency to castigate the United Nations disarmament machinery and clamour for alternative forums outside the world body’s purview.  While some might complain that United Nations deliberations in the areas of disarmament and non-proliferation did not subscribe to certain world views or that they “fall under the guillotine of redundancy”, the United Nations and its subsidiary bodies, no mater how imperfect, made up a truly global entity. T hat was why consensus decisions forged with patience and a spirit of genuine compromise under the United Nations aegis enjoyed timeless legitimacy, such as the outcome of the General Assembly’s first special session devoted to disarmament.  “Decisions taken outside the United Nations cannot be raised to the same level with the loudest protestations of nobility of objectives,” he declared.

He reiterated Pakistan’s long-held view that the international community needed to revive the spirit of consensus that had prevailed at the special session, adding that Pakistan sought the convening of a special international conference that would tackle “all the issues on the table” in the disarmament debate, with the aim of reviving the global consensus on the important issue. Such a consensus would only be valuable if, among other things, it established a clear road map for disarmament by nuclear-weapon States; ended discriminatory treatment of non-proliferation issues; made the NPT’s relationship with non-Treaty nuclear-weapon States concordant with reality; halted vertical proliferation; tackled all aspects of the missile debate; and outlawed the militarization of outer space.

Such a road map, he said, must also earnestly address the question of conventional imbalance; strengthen the United Nations Programme of Action on small arms and light weapons; strengthen the Organization’s disarmament machinery; and tackle the issue of fissile material through a non-discriminatory, multilateral and internationally and effectively verifiable treaty banning the production of that material for nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices, taking into account asymmetries in stockpiles.

Pakistan was heartened by progress made thus far in the Commission’s current three-year cycle, he said.  The body now had a clear agenda, and deliberations appeared headed in the right direction.   Pakistan was proud of the contributions made by the Non-Aligned Movement, and remained committed to participating in the discussions in its national capacity. While Pakistan had noted the “changes in the atmospherics” around the disarmament and non-proliferation debate, it would nevertheless stress that changes in declaratory positions must be translated into concrete actions.  While Pakistan was ready to do its part, the countries with the largest conventional and unconventional capabilities should set the tone by facilitating concrete progress on all relevant issues.  “Serious engagement rather than polemics and cherry-picking is the order of the day,” he asserted.

VITALY CHURKIN (Russian Federation) said the forum was taking place after a long standstill.  There had been recent positive developments in disarmament and it was important to strengthen that trend and existing international disarmament mechanisms.  He lauded progress in reaching agreement on the agenda for the Commission’s three-year cycle, which had made it possible to discuss in detail pressing problems.  He supported the draft declaration to establish in 2010 a new disarmament decade.  His country was working to reduce its nuclear arsenals and it had fulfilled its obligations under historical agreements to reduce its strategic weapons.  He noted the recent conclusion of preparations between the Russian Federation and the United States to further reduce and limit their strategic and defensive weapons.  That agreement would be signed on 8 April in Prague.  He supported undertakings such as the Hoover Initiative, which had several elements in line with strengthening the NPT and resolving problems of global security. 

He said that full elimination of nuclear weapons could only be achieved through a comprehensive international approach that honoured the need for stability and security for all States.  Development of anti-missile shields was not the most effective way to counter those missiles, nor could it stop their proliferation.  The problem should be fixed by pooling the resources and efforts of all interested States and through political diplomacy.  Noting the international community’s high expectations to strengthen the NPT, he said the Review Conference should set concrete parameters to strengthen the international NPT regime, settle conflicts and control the increase in conventional weapons.  Also relevant was his country’s initiative to ensure that nuclear weapons did not cross State borders, in order to limit the number of regions that had them.

All nuclear-weapon States should complement the efforts of the Russian Federation and the United States in the near future, he said, calling on all States to sign and ratify the CTBT and observe a moratorium on nuclear testing in the meantime.  He supported creation of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East.  He noted the increased need for nuclear energy to meet the world’s growing energy demand, but said that the increase in nuclear energy use for peaceful purposes should not complicate the task of stopping the uncontrolled spread of nuclear materials.  Universal norms were needed to verify that nuclear materials and sensitive technology were used for peaceful purposes.

The Russian initiative to develop global nuclear infrastructure was an important proposal to guarantee the stockpile of low-enriched uranium, he said.  Regarding nuclear weapons in outer space, he said it was better not to allow them there in the first place than to later try to remove them.  The initiative in that regard sponsored by the Russian Federation and China had been received very positively.  Concerning small arms and light weapons, it was necessary to take steps to cut off production channels.  The United Nations Register of Conventional Arms remained an important instrument for transparency and for tracing the transfer of those weapons.  The Russian Federation was observing its obligations under that instrument, regularly reporting to it.

GARY QUINLAN ( Australia) said his country had a long history of activism on nuclear disarmament, non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and conventional arms control.  Australia had adopted a multidimensional approach and was an active supporter of the work under way in the United Nations and other multilateral bodies to strengthen existing regimes and bring into force the new, complementary arrangements needed to address future disarmament and proliferation challenges.  Nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament were inextricably linked.  Preventing the spread of those weapons created an environment conducive for nuclear disarmament, while progress on disarmament sent positive messages to countries that had chosen not to develop nuclear arms.

Hailing the NPT as the cornerstone of the global nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament regime, he said it was therefore crucial that the upcoming conference convened to review the status of the Treaty achieved strong outcomes that would strengthen it and reaffirm its central role -- one that had delivered global security benefits for some 37 years.  Forging agreement at the Conference on practical outcomes under each of the NPT’s three pillars would represent substantive progress towards the ultimate goal of a world free of nuclear weapons.  “It is imperative that the disappointing outcome of the 2005 Review Conference be avoided at all costs,” he said, adding that Australia wanted the 2010 review to reaffirm the commitments made at previous conferences, including the “13 practical steps”, adopted in 2000, and the Principles and Objectives for Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament, adopted in 1995.

For its part, Australia, along with Japan, had developed a package of practical disarmament measures for the Review Conference, he noted.  The jointly-produced package would include, among other things, a renewed call on nuclear-armed States to immediately begin reducing the number and strategic role of their nuclear arsenals, and work towards the ultimate goal of those weapons’ total elimination.  The two countries would also urge States to negotiate other complementary agreements and commit to further practical measures to strengthen the nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation regime.  Australia and Japan had also established the International Commission on Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament, which had recently issued its independent report containing timely recommendations to reinvigorate global disarmament and non-proliferation efforts, which could be considered by Governments in the run-up to the 2010 NPT review.

Australia welcomed the steps taken by the nuclear-weapon States and called on them to pursue negotiations on nuclear disarmament -- bilaterally, multilaterally or both, he said, welcoming in that regard agreement between the United States and the Russian Federation on the terms of a follow-on to START.  That was a strong signal of commitment, and Australia hoped that all nuclear-weapon States would make such commitments for the irreversible and verifiable disarmament of all types of nuclear weapons.

He said that Australia considered balanced and progressive steps towards nuclear disarmament, notably a fissile material cut-off treaty and the CTBT, vital to the NPT’s continued political strength and vitality.  His delegation was deeply disappointed that the Conference on Disarmament had been unable to commence negotiations for a treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons.  A treaty that capped the production of weapons-grade fissile material at current levels was an important step towards creating an environment conducive to universal nuclear disarmament.   Australia would continue to urge all members of the Conference to adopt a working plan that prioritized immediate negotiations on such a treaty.

Australia also placed a high priority on countering the proliferation of other forms of weapons of mass destruction, he said.  Australia continued in its role as permanent Chair of the Australia Group, ensuring that that panel worked assiduously to prevent the proliferation of chemical and biological weapons, especially in light of today’s rapid technological advances.  Further, Australia was pleased to have co-authored all resolutions in the General Assembly on an arms trade treaty.  It had also been a member of the group of governmental experts on the topic.  The Australian delegation would continue to engage in substantive discussions on that matter in the coming year.  The irresponsible illicit transfer of conventional arms and their components could only be addressed through the elaboration of a binding treaty.

HILARIO G. DAVIDE, JR. (Philippines), acknowledging the favourable environment of the last few months in disarmament, said it was incumbent on all to ensure that nuclear weapons did not proliferate and were eliminated in an irreversible and verifiable manner.  The continued existence of those weapons eventually led to their proliferation.  The Philippines firm belief in the need to prevent proliferation of nuclear weapons and the urgency to eliminate them had led it to assume the presidency of the 2010 NPT Review Conference.  Progress could only be achieved, however, through the collective effort of all and through balanced movement on all three pillars of the NPT –- nuclear disarmament, nuclear non-proliferation and the peaceful use of nuclear energy.

Commending the Russian Federation and the United States for negotiating a follow-on agreement to START I, he called on all nuclear-weapon States to pursue negotiations on nuclear disarmament at the earliest possible time.  As a staunch supported of the CTBT, his country called on all States whose signatures and ratifications were necessary for that Treaty to enter into force to sign and ratify it as soon as possible.  Establishment of a universal, legally-binding instrument on negative security assurances by nuclear-weapon States to non-nuclear weapon States was important, as was establishing nuclear-weapon-free zones, such as those in Central Asia and Africa.  In that regard, he looked forward to the early establishment of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East.

Backing calls for an international conference on the elimination of nuclear weapons and a ban on their production, stockpiling, transfer, use or threat of use, he said his country supported the decision of the International Court of Justice that there existed an obligation for States to conclude negotiations on nuclear disarmament.  As for practical confidence-building measures in the field of conventional arms, he said that due to their proliferation, widespread use and mass production, those weapons had actually killed and maimed more people than nuclear devices.  Confidence-building measures could establish the climate of trust necessary to advance disarmament.

ZACHARY MUBURI MUITA ( Kenya) said nuclear weapons still represented the greatest threat to humanity.  He called for their full elimination to save mankind from their effects.  Multilateral engagement, in line with the United Nations Charter, was the most effective forum for achieving credible universal nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, thereby safeguarding and strengthening international peace and security.  He urged nuclear-weapons-holding States to exercise due diligence in implementing their obligations under the NPT and other treaties.  They also had a duty to give negative security assurances to non-nuclear-weapon States.  He encouraged the international community to continue to strive towards the early entry into force of the CTBT.  He called on Member States to show political will and cooperation to achieve global disarmament goals.

He lauded the entry into force of the Central Asian and African nuclear-weapon-free zones, and he called upon all African States that had yet to do so to urgently ratify the Treaty.  He supported creation in the Middle East of a zone free of weapons of mass destruction and he encouraged all Member States to support urgent implementation of the relevant United Nations resolution.  He strongly supported the United Nations Programme of Action on small arms and light weapons.  Kenya had consistently favoured the search for a legally-binding arms trade treaty governing arms transfers to ensure that arms from the legitimate trade did not end up on the illicit market.  As an original co-author of that draft treaty, Kenya strongly supported the convening in 2012 of a United Nations conference on the treaty and meaningful deliberations in the text’s forthcoming preparatory meeting.  

JUSTIN N. SERUHERE (United Republic of Tanzania) said that during the cold war, international relations was characterized by mutual mistrust, suspicion and hegemonic ambitions, among other vices.  Now, one must move forward together as one human race to rid the future and the planet of weapons of mass destruction, which could annihilate innocent lives and destroy national economies.  In the same vein, the menace and tragedy to innocent civilians caused by small arms and light weapons should be addressed effectively so that they could be eliminated sooner than later.

He said that all Member States were obliged to overcome the common challenges caused by poverty -- especially in developing countries -- governance and democracy deficits, disease and hardship caused by climate change, and the global financial crisis.  Elimination of nuclear and other mass destruction weapons would help nuclear-weapon and other States to save and release resources for development and growth.  He recognized the right of Member States to self-defence, as provided for in the United Nations Charter, noting that provision could be upheld without nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction.

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