International Community Wise to ‘Take Step Back, Seriously Question Approach as Mindless Arms Race Flourishes Unencumbered’, First Committee Hears
International Community Wise to ‘Take Step Back, Seriously Question Approach as Mindless Arms Race Flourishes Unencumbered’, First Committee Hears
|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-sixth General Assembly
8th Meeting (PM)
International Community Wise to ‘Take Step Back, Seriously Question Approach
as Mindless Arms Race Flourishes Unencumbered’, First Committee Hears
Liberia Saw True Meaning of Mayhem from Illicit Arms Transfers, with War
As Result; Palestine’s Observer Urges Focus on White Phosphorous, Flechette Missiles
A paradigm shift in the international conversation on peace and development was needed to respond to the emerging global challenges of the twenty-first century, Bangladesh’s representative told the Disarmament Committee, suggesting that it might be wise to “take a step back and seriously question our approach, while we allow the mindless arms race around us to flourish unencumbered”.
“We can ill afford to continue spending our economic, financial and intellectual resources for building stockpiles of armaments when our people go hungry, remain uneducated, cannot afford essential services and are vulnerable to diseases, climate change and natural disasters,” the delegate from Bangladesh told the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security).
“This inherent paradox in our global discourse on peace and development must be resolved to address the inequities and disparities so prevalent in our world,” he said, endorsing a call for moving towards “global zero”, via a phased, verified elimination of all nuclear weapons worldwide.
Weapons of mass destruction must be totally eliminated, he urged, but sight must not be lost of the perennial threats posed by the proliferation of conventional weapons, including small arms and light weapons. “The effects of this scourge, measured in terms of lives destroyed, are practically equivalent to those of weapons of mass destruction,” he said.
While recent years had borne fruit in the consolidation and advancement of instruments regulating conventional weapons, including the entry into force last year of the Convention on Cluster Munitions and discussions on an arms trade treaty, he urged greater progress. For one thing, the 2012 Review Conference on the United Nations Programme of Action on small arms and light weapons would be an opportunity to adapt the instrument to new challenges.
Liberia, as a nation that had witnessed the true meaning of mayhem as a result of the illicit transfer of small arms and light weapons, considered those so-called “small arms” to be the very weapons of mass destruction, its delegate said. Liberia “spoke” as a nation that had known real but unnecessary war.
“This is what happens when the world fails to contain the illicit arms sale, including those of small arms and light weapons, which continues to destroy thousands of human lives,” he said. The only way to curtail the spread of those menacing weapons was through collective efforts, with multilateralism being the sine qua non for achieving most goals in the disarmament process, and the United Nations being the appropriate forum to address all issues of disarmament and arms control. A robust arms trade treaty would be a big step ahead, he said, adding that it was time to halt the unwarranted suffering and the destabilizing effects of the illicit arms transfer on socio-economic well-being and stability.
Attention was drawn throughout debate this afternoon to the resources spent on arms instead of people. The whole world, and in particular the African continent, was a victim to the illegal trade in small arms and light weapons, which was causing suffering among women, the elderly and children, especially child soldiers, said Burkina Faso’s delegate, underlining the value of national and regional mechanisms.
She said her country participated actively in the efforts of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to eliminate the illegal trafficking in small arms and munitions in the region, and her Government had high hopes for the multilateral negotiations in 2012 for an arms trade treaty. She also encouraged the Security Council to consider giving sustained attention to the issue.
The Permanent Observer of Palestine urged an international focus on addressing the indiscriminate effects of certain conventional weapons, especially when used illegally against civilians, like cluster munitions, anti-personnel landmines, flechette missiles, dense inert metal explosive munitions, and ammunition containing depleted uranium. He urged consideration of the illegal use of weapons that are not proscribed as illegal under international law, such as white phosphorous.
The representatives of Canada, Singapore, Togo, Iraq, Chile, Montenegro, Oman, Syria, Portugal and Serbia also delivered statements.
Exercising their right of reply were the representatives of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and Iran.
The Committee will meet again at 3 p.m., 11 October, to continue its general debate.
The First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) met this afternoon to continue its general debate for the session, on all disarmament and international security agenda items before it. (For background on the Committee’s session and a summary of reports before it, see Press Release GA/DIS/3429.)
ELISSA GOLBERG, Ambassador of Canada to the Conference on Disarmament, said the international community remained unable to start disarmament negotiations in the Conference on Disarmament. Furthermore, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, a major proliferator of nuclear arms, serving as president over of the Conference on Disarmament, struck a further blow to that body’s credibility. Procedural tactics and abuse of the consensus rule in the Conference had prolonged the already long-standing impasse and left some to wonder whether the Conference would be constructive again.
She said that the current First Committee session should take up serious consideration of how the work of the Conference should be pursued. She suggested that could be done through consideration of her delegation’s draft resolution on negotiations for a fissile material cut-off treaty, which would ban production of that material for nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices. Such a treaty would be an important step towards reducing the risk of nuclear proliferation, she said, pointing to a number of recent steps, including the new Treaty on the Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms (START) and the Security Council’s resolution 1540 (2004).
Canada upheld the principles of the Proliferation Security Initiative and encouraged the broadest participation in its activities, as it was an effective tool to improve the international community’s ability to counter proliferation and an important complement to Security Council resolution 1540, she said. In addition, her country looked forward to the Seventh Review Conference of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on their Destruction (usually referred to as the Biological Weapons Convention), to be held in December, and would be discussing the matter further in the Committee’s thematic debate on other weapons of mass destruction.
Despite those laudable initiatives, she said, the world continued to face serious proliferation concerns, and Canada was deeply troubled that countries of concern continued to stand in the way of any real progress on international non-proliferation, arms control and disarmament efforts. It was imperative for the international community to be strong in response to confirmed cases of non-compliance with nuclear non-proliferation commitments.
She said that Iran’s failure to provide information on its nuclear activities with potential military dimensions and to fully cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) betrayed that country’s claims that its nuclear programme was peaceful in nature. Two Agency Directors General had reported for nearly a decade that Iran had not met its commitments to transparency and cooperation. She cited revelations of secret, undeclared enrichment sites at Ntanz and Qom, alongside the decisions of the Agency’s Board of Governors and United Nations Security Council. Canada urged Iran to end that “continuing intransigence” and take steps to ease tensions by complying fully with the Security Council and the IAEA Board of Governors.
ABDUL HANNAN ( Bangladesh) said general and complete disarmament was of utmost importance and his country had adhered to all relevant instruments, including the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) and the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT). Nuclear weapons posed the gravest threat against humanity, and pending their elimination, negative security assurances must be provided to non-nuclear-armed States. Establishing nuclear-weapon-free zones would be useful, however, setting them up was not always feasible, including in South Asia.
He said his country strongly supported negotiations on a fissile material treaty, which should take place in the Conference on Disarmament. Outer space also needed to be protected, and he urged the Conference to make progress in that area, as well. A multilateral approach to disarmament and non-proliferation should be taken, and the Conference must uphold its legitimacy and credibility by breaking out of its current stalemate. He urged the General Assembly to take necessary measures to convene a fourth special session of the General Assembly on disarmament and he appreciated the Secretary-General’s personal interest and initiatives in that regard. However, it was important to recognize the need to make the Conference more receptive to the global voices on disarmament by creating greater “space” for participation by other relevant stakeholders.
He endorsed the call for moving towards “global zero”, via a phased, verified elimination of all nuclear weapons worldwide. He called for the adoption of a balanced approach to address the three pillars of NPT — disarmament, non-proliferation and the peaceful use of nuclear energy for all. Under IAEA safeguards, peaceful use of nuclear energy could help to address key development challenges. Bangladesh had been working on civil and peaceful use of nuclear technology and was currently working towards setting up a nuclear power plant to generate 1000 megawatts of electricity in phases, with the Agency’s policy and technical support.
Bangladesh had been the first “Annex 2” South Asian nation to have joined the Test-Ban Treaty, whose entry into force was crucial for attaining the non-proliferation objectives. The scientific applications of the CTBT Organization’s verification regime had proved to be a critical resource, including in disaster prediction. For its part, Bangladesh had set up an auxiliary seismic station under the CTBT Organization’s international monitoring system. His country also remained committed to the Biological Weapons Convention regime.
Weapons of mass destruction must be totally eliminated, and the world must not lose sight of the perennial threats posed by the proliferation of conventional weapons, including small arms and light weapons, he said. Bangladesh had been following with interest the ongoing efforts to conclude an arms trade treaty. The country had acceded to most of the protocols to 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). As a State party to the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction(Mine-Ban Convention), Bangladesh called for putting an end to the inhumane and unauthorized use of anti-personnel mines. The international community must commit itself to enhancing financial and technical support for mine clearance and for the rehabilitation of victims in the affected countries.
He said there was a need for a paradigm shift in international dialogue on peace and development to respond to the emerging global challenges of the twenty-first century. “We can ill afford to continue spending our economic, financial and intellectual resources for building stockpiles of armaments when our people go hungry, remain uneducated, cannot afford essential services and are vulnerable to diseases, climate change and natural disasters,” he said. “This inherent paradox in our global discourse on peace and development must be resolved to address the inequities and disparities so prevalent in our world. It would, perhaps, help to take a step back and seriously question our approach, while we allow the mindless arms race around us to flourish unencumbered,” he concluded.
LEONARD LIN ( Singapore) said that ways must be found to kick-start movement on certain key issues, and it was disheartening that the Conference on Disarmament remained in a deadlock. That had ominous implications for the strengthening of international security, as the Conference was the single multilateral disarmament negotiating forum that brought together all the key players in the field and was best-placed, therefore, to comprehensively address global disarmament issues. Political will had to be mustered, and collective action must be taken to resolve the currently impasse, to allow progress on all issues before it, namely a nuclear weapons convention, nuclear security assurances, the prevention of an arms race in outer space, and a fissile material cut-off treaty. There should also be a pragmatic approach to make step-by-step advancements where possible, rather than holding any one issue hostage to another.
He said that, while it was the right of all countries under Article IV of NPT to develop nuclear power to meet energy needs, it was imperative that they reassure the international community that their intentions were not directed at weapons development. The Fukushima accident had highlighted the urgent need to address nuclear safety issues. IAEA should drive the process to strengthen nuclear safety, and Singapore welcomed the Agency’s action plan in that regard, adopted at its General Conference last month. In support of IAEA’s efforts, his country would host an Asia-Europe meeting on nuclear safety in 2012 to address regional cooperation on emergency preparedness and response capabilities.
Nuclear-weapon-free zones were a pragmatic and concrete step towards enhancing confidence and attaining the ultimate goal of complete nuclear disarmament, he said, voicing Singapore’s strong support for their development. His country had been encouraged by the renewed consultations on the Southeast Asia Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone between the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the nuclear-weapon States. The consultations reflected the commitment of both sides to work constructively towards the early accession of the nuclear Powers to join the Treaty’s protocol. Singapore also supported the establishment of such zones where they did not yet exist, especially in the Middle East. In that context, the country welcomed the forthcoming IAEA Forum on Experience of Possible Relevance to the Creation of a Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone in the Middle East, to be held at the Agency Headquarters in Vienna from 21 to 22 November.
KOKOU NAYO M’BEOU (Togo), associating his statement with those made on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement and the African Group, said that of the 50 resolution adopted here last year calling on Member States to take steps to ensure lasting peace and security, only a very small number had been implemented. Indeed, there were “question marks” about a real willingness to make disarmament a real concern. Togo and many other Governments had highlighted the effect of weapons on national and international peace and security, and on disarmament and on the well-being of peoples. He did not wish to “ring alarm bells”, but to call for further actions to eliminate weapons and arms trafficking.
He said that the best gift to offer to the community of nations would be the ratification of the relevant treaties. The Conference on Disarmament should resume work as soon as possible, and that work should also include a fissile material ban. States should go beyond “lip service” and ratify internationally binding instruments. Nuclear accidents around the world were another. The Secretary-General’s high-level meeting in September had helped States to face their responsibilities in that regard.
Pointing to what he described as the relationship between disarmament and development, he said the world would be safer if even a tiny percentage of money for weapons was redistributed to development, to climate change mitigation, to ending hunger and to bringing greater domestic peace and freedom. Togo used most of its resources domestically for social programs. The elimination of the use of illegal small arms and light weapons was a priority for his country, whose programmes, in that regard, were funded by both the Government and international partners, and had achieved tangible results on the ground. The United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Africa, based in Lome, had helped with outreach and seminars related to arms legislation, arms trafficking and stockpiles, as well as an arms trade treaty, he noted.
HAMID AL-BAYATI ( Iraq) said his country firmly believed in the importance of international peace and security and had committed to treaties and conventions, as well as arrangements related to disarmament, arms control and non-proliferation. To move forward, the deadlock in the Conference on Disarmament must be overcome, for which Member States’ flexibility was crucial. The time had come for a fissile material ban, which also addressed the issue of stored fissile materials.
He said that establishing nuclear-weapon-free zones improved the security of the countries concerned and put the world closer to the ultimate goal of achieving international peace and security. Creating such a zone in the Middle East was a central and essential international issue. The Middle East was not free from nuclear weapons because of Israeli military nuclear capabilities. All of the nuclear sites of countries in the region were under IAEA monitoring, except Israel. Not implementing the NPT Middle East resolution would result in a situation of instability and tension in the region, and add to the challenge of achieving universality of the NPT system and undermine its credibility.
Guarantees of non-use of nuclear weapons by nuclear-weapon States would contribute positively to preventing the spread of those weapons, he said. Those guarantees could constitute an alternative to full and complete disarmament of nuclear weapons, as required under Article VI of NPT. The Conference on Disarmament should address that issue by establishing a subcommittee with a negotiating mandate in charge of drafting such a legal instrument.
The Government of Iraq had taken several steps aimed at restoring the regional and international role enjoyed by the country before 1991, he said. Those steps had resulted in, among other things, the removal of all restrictions imposed on Iraq in the disarmament field. In May, an IAEA inspections team had visited Iraq as part of the country’s efforts to implement its obligations in accordance with the Agency’s Additional Protocol, which it had signed in 2008. Iraq had also accelerated preparations to destroy the decommissioned Al Muthana storage facilities, and discussions continued with countries interested in assisting it in finding a safe way to deposit the content of those facilities. In April, an inspection visit from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons was a success. Iraq had also chaired, for the first time, a substantive session of the Disarmament Commission in April in New York. Above all, the National Unity Government had adopted an open policy towards the international community in implementing its national obligation to prohibit the production and development of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons and their delivery methods.
REMONGAR DENNIS ( Liberia) said multilateralism was a sine qua non for achieving most of the goals of disarmament, and the United Nations was the appropriate forum to address the issues. While nuclear disarmament remained the highest priority of all disarmament goals, including all the related issues of non-proliferation in all aspects, the ultimate aim of the disarmament process was general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control. NPT was an important cornerstone for disarmament process, and Liberia encouraged all States to adhere to it, including calls for establishing nuclear-weapon-free zones worldwide. He called on all States that had not yet ratified the African Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty (Pelindaba Treaty) to do so, including the nuclear-armed States.
He said that Liberia, as a country that had witnessed the true meaning of mayhem as a result of the illicit transfer of small arms and light weapons, considered those so-called “small arms” as our very weapons of mass destruction. Countries of the West African subregion were cooperating in the framework of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to address the proliferation of small arms and light weapons. Liberia had grappled with some of those challenges, but spoke as a nation that had known real but unnecessary war. That was what happened when the world failed to contain the illicit arms sale, including those of small arms and light weapons, which continued to destroy thousands of human lives.
He said his country remained undaunted and vigilant about illegal transhipment of small arms and light weapons in our region, and believed that the only way to curtail that was to strengthen collective efforts to tackle the menace. He commended New Zealand for the pivotal role it played to address the key elements of the Programme of Action through a robust exercise during the meeting of Government experts in May. Liberia was also committed to actively supporting Nigeria as the chair-designate of the 2012 Review Conference, believing that next year held enormous promise for the Action Programme.
In support of the ongoing negotiations on an arms trade treaty, he expressed his country’s commitment to the process of elaborating an arms trade treaty in its entirety, having critically assessed its benefits. It was time to halt the unwarranted suffering and the destabilizing effects of the illicit transfer of arms on the socio-economic well-being and stability of all regions, he concluded.
OCTAVIO ERRÁZURIZ ( Chile) said that, despite positive disarmament initiatives, his country was concerned about the current deadlock in discussions, modest progress on other areas and the implementation of the 2010 NPT Review Conference action plan. Even though the new START Treaty was aimed at reducing nuclear arsenals, only a minute fraction of the arsenal that remained after cuts would be enough to destroy mankind in a short space of time. He urged the United States and Russian Federation to implement the Treaty speedily and to continue with their reductions. In addition, he urged the “P5” (Security Council permanent five) nuclear-weapon States to continue the dialogue initiated in Paris in July, with a view to achieving greater transparency, fostering mutual confidence and displaying sustained leadership in that endeavour.
He said that, despite unilateral, bilateral and regional efforts towards the goal of disarmament, multilateral negotiations were paralysed. “Progress required political will on the part of States and functional mechanisms to implement it,” and he called the situation in the Conference on Disarmament “untenable”. The goal was not to replace the Conference, but an indefinite status quo would make it increasingly difficult to question the legitimacy of the search for alternative options to guarantee that the disarmament machinery was operational and functional. He appealed for renewed efforts to achieve consensus, echoing similar calls from the 2010 NPT Review Conference and other high-level gatherings.
Recognizing that nuclear-weapon-free zones contributed to global and local peace and security, he urged all parties involved to fulfil commitments made at the 2010 NPT Review Conference to advance that process on such a zone in the Middle East. Nuclear disarmament should be approached by working simultaneously on reducing weapons until their total elimination; the rapid elimination of non-strategic nuclear weapons; reducing the role of those weapons in national security strategies; and the application of the principles of irreversibility, verifiability and transparency. The entry into force of CTBT was vital, and last month’s meeting on the Treaty made clear the international community’s concern. He urged all States that had not signed and ratified the instrument to do so. He also urged universal accession by all States to the Conventions on Biological and Chemical Weapons.
He noted that the last few years had been fruitful for the consolidation and advancement of instruments regulating the area of conventional weapons, including the entry into force last year of the Convention on Cluster Munitions. That instrument represented a qualitative step forward in the area of international humanitarian law and an instance in which the international community and civil society were working together. He reaffirmed the importance of the Mine-Ban Convention, highlighting the need to totally eliminate those weapons.
Noting progress towards an arms trade treaty, he urged progress in the field of small arms and light weapons. “The effects of this scourge, measured in terms of lives destroyed, are practically equivalent to those of weapons of mass destruction,” he said. He supported the United Nations Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects, and hoped the 2012 Review Conference would provide an opportunity to improve the instrument and adapt it to new challenges.
MILORAD ŠĆEPANOVIĆ ( Montenegro) welcomed all agreements of nuclear Powers on mutual reduction in their nuclear capacities and, in general, supported global nuclear non-proliferation efforts essential for creating a safer world for existing and future generations. He, thus, objected to the further expansion of the number of countries that possessed nuclear weapons. Montenegro also welcomed progress made so far in the arms trade treaty negotiations aimed at establishing common international standards for the transfer of conventional arms. It was also committed to effective implementation and further strengthening of the Programme of Action.
He reaffirmed his country’s desire for the universalization and full implementation of the Chemical and Biological Weapons Conventions, Mine-Ban Convention, Convention on Cluster Munitions and Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons. Each of those mechanisms had an essential role to play in preventing the risks associated with the use of weapons in their respective domains. The upcoming Review Conference on the Biological Weapons Convention would be a valuable opportunity for States parties to further strengthen the proper application and effective implementation of that instrument, in light of current global challenges. Montenegro also supported swift entry into force of CTBT and its universalization. Civil benefits of CTBT verification system, including of the International Monitoring System, demonstrated during the Fukushima accident, were of utmost help and should be further explored.
Montenegro supported efforts aimed at getting the Conference on Disarmament back on track, he said, hoping that practical steps would be taken to bridge the differences so that that body could soon adopt a programme of work and begin negotiations on a fissile material cut-off treaty and other important instruments.
NAJEEM AL-ABRI (Oman), expressing his full support for the statement delivered by the representative of Indonesia on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, said that he hoped the successes reached at the May 2010 NPT Review Conference would be translated into “practical reality”. Oman further looked forward to the 2012 conference, he said, which could reach an agreement to declare the Middle East region as a zone free of nuclear weapons and weapons of mass destruction, while taking into account the legitimate rights of States to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. In that context, he called on Israel to respond to the international appeal to accede to NPT and to allow IAEA to inspect and report on all of its nuclear facilities.
Regarding the Iranian nuclear file, Oman encouraged all the parties to recognize the necessity to continue negotiations and dialogue while preserving Iran’s right to benefit from nuclear technology for peaceful purposes, and to dispel the fears of the international community. Returning to the 2010 Review Conference — which he called an “expression of the political will of the international community to move forward on nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation” — he added that tangible progress was needed in the implementation of the three basic pillars of the Treaty.
Oman welcomed the IAEA’s call to convene a special forum with the objective of establishing a region free of nuclear weapons in the Middle East, which would hopefully be held on 21-22 November 2011. Noting that a high-level Conference on Nuclear Safety and Security had been convened by the Secretary-General on 22 September on the sidelines of the General Assembly’s general debate, he expressed his support for that conference’s findings and its focus on improving nuclear safety standards, disaster response time and transparency. Oman also confirmed its full commitment to the 2001 United Nations Programme of Action on the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons, he said.
BASHAR JA’AFARI ( Syria) said the frightening quantities of nuclear weapons were a constant source of concern. The question that confronted all was: was it not high time, after more than 40 years since the NPT’s conclusion, for nuclear-weapons States to rid the world of nuclear weapons and follow the Treaty’s requirements? Last year, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) had adopted a policy predicated on nuclear weapons. That engendered a danger of those weapons being used around the world, sending a very significant message. There should be no pretext for double standards.
He said that Israel’s nuclear weapons threatened peace and security in the region. Some States with nuclear weapons justified their arsenals as being part of their security policy. The regrettable accident in Japan bore out the world’s concerns about the Dimona facility in Israel. A number of practical measures adopted by the 2010 Treaty Review Conference were no longer sufficient, noting that timebound deadlines for nuclear-weapon States had passed. As yet, no host country or facilitator had been named for a conference to discuss establishing a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East. NPT was losing credibility in the face of Israel, which had not placed its nuclear facilities under IAEA safeguards, he said.
Meanwhile, he said, the Conference on Disarmament was the only forum for considering disarmament issues, and its rules needed to be preserved. Among the Conference’s priorities was the conclusion of treaties on negative security assurances and on a fissile material ban.
JOSÉ LUIS CANCELA ( Uruguay) underscored the progress made at the 2010 NPT Review Conference, hoping the results would bring further successful subsequent reviews. Along with that positive momentum, CTBT should be entered into force as soon as possible, and negotiations should begin immediately on treaties to ban fissile material for nuclear weapons and on legally binding negative security assurances for NPT Member States. He supported the Secretary-General’s five points on disarmament and non-proliferation, and Uruguay had participated in numerous discussions on the subject. With the goal of a nuclear-weapon-free world, he hoped a decisive message would permeate negotiations after years of deadlock.
He said his country had always promoted nuclear-weapon-free zones, and he urged all States to step up efforts to fulfil the 2010 NPT Review Conference recommendation for a 2012 conference on establishing such a zone in the Middle East. The disarmament regime needed effective implementation, and his country was also a firm advocate of a legally binding arms trade treaty.
The Conference on Disarmament should be revitalized, as its untenable impasse had caused it to languish, he said. That multilateral body should also expand its membership. The issue could not persist forever; if the Conference could not break its logjam, then the General Assembly must keep with its mandate. In bilateral spheres, modest disarmament and non-proliferation steps included the recent START Treaty. That march should not be halted, but mirrored in the multilateral field. “We must go the extra mile,” he said. “We need to work with an open mind towards renewal. We cannot and are not entitled to shirk this responsibility.”
JOSÉ MORAES CABRAL ( Portugal) said that he hoped the Committee’s work would be positively influenced by recent progress seen in the fields of disarmament and non-proliferation. The impasse of the Conference on Disarmament reminded members of the need to move faster in areas, such as the fissile material cut-off treaty. Negotiations must start at once, while a moratorium on the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons by all concerned States should be immediately upheld. Noting that 12 years had passed since the last review of the Conference’s membership, he stressed that the body should become more open and inclusive and called for that body to initiate the process by appointing a Special Rapporteur to examine enlargement modalities at its next session.
The right of States to the peaceful use of nuclear energy rested on trust and confidence, he continued. In that regard, Portugal was deeply concerned by the lack of assurances from Iran on the civilian nature of its nuclear programme. It urged Iran to engage without pre-conditions with the international community in the negotiation of a solution that gave credible and internationally verifiable assurances on the peaceful purposes of its programme. Also of concern were the non-compliance by Syria with its safeguards agreement and the latest developments in the nuclear programme of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. He urged those States to cooperate with IAEA and to adhere to their international obligations.
Portugal was committed to efforts being taken to create a nuclear-weapon-free-zone in the Middle East. It welcomed new ratifications of CTBT, he said, and called on States that had not yet done so to ratify the Treaty at an early date. Noting also that the seventh Review Conference of the Convention on the Prohibition of Biological and Toxin Weapons was fast approaching, he said that the conference should tackle issues, such as the universalization of the Convention and the strengthening of provisions related to confidence-building measures. He also noted that the Convention still lacked a verification mechanism.
NADINE TRAORE, Director of International Organizations of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Cooperation of Burkina Faso, associated with the statements made on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement and the African Group, said that the whole world — and in particular the African continent — was the victim of the illegal trade in light weapons. Women, the elderly, and children — particularly as child soldiers — suffered. The enormous financial resources given to arms instead of more useful investments in populations could not be ignored. Burkina Faso looked forward to deliberations for the Review Conference on the Programme of Action on small arms and light weapons.
She said her country had participated actively in ECOWAS towards the elimination of small arms and munitions and the illegal trafficking of arms through the region. Her Government had high hopes for the multilateral negotiations for an arms trade treaty, she said, urging the Security Council to consider giving sustained attention to the issue.
The world, she said, would live in peace and security when disarmament was complete under international transparent and verifiable control. The whole world would continue to live in fear of the effects of nuclear weapons until they were eliminated. As such, CTBT and jumpstarting the Conference on Disarmament should be priorities. Burkina Faso congratulated Ghana and Guinea for signing the Test-Ban Treaty and urged all other Governments to do the same. She remained troubled by the lethargy within the Conference on Disarmament, particularly since the subjects were so crucial to the survival of humanity.
She said her country had been working actively to establish peace and security in the West African subregion, and it welcomed the revitalization of the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament for Africa in Togo.
FEODOR STARČEVIĆ ( Serbia) said that his country supported all efforts aimed at strengthening global security and promoting international stability. It had acceded to all major agreements in the areas of non-proliferation, disarmament and arms control and was committed to a full and systematic implementation of the obligations it has assumed. His Government shared the conviction that risks from proliferation of the weapons of mass destruction, including the increasing danger of their acquisition by non-State actors, especially terrorist groups and individuals, posed the greatest challenge to international peace and security.
He said his country was committed to a consistent fulfilment of its obligations under NPT and has taken extensive legislative, regulatory and other measures for the Treaty’s implementation. Since 2007, Serbia also had regularly submitted an annual declaration related to the application of the Hague Code of Conduct against Ballistic Missile Proliferation. The Government had also made significant progress regarding strengthening physical protection of nuclear objects and overall nuclear safety and security, including the establishment of the Agency for Protection against Ionizing Radiation and Nuclear Safety. It had also ratified the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material, Convention on Early Notification on a Nuclear Accident, as well as the Convention on Assistance in the Case of a Nuclear Accident or Radiology Emergency.
Additionally, he said, his Government was developing procedures to adhere to the Convention on Nuclear Safety and the Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and the Radioactive Waste Management, and undertaking intensive activities to improve the national system for emergency preparedness and response.
Serbia had also been active with IAEA, and had joined the group of countries having no enriched uranium on its territories, thus contributing in a concrete way to the prevention of nuclear terrorism. Serbia was also committed to the full and effective implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention. The new law on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on Their Destruction had been adopted by the Parliament in May 2009.
In order to contribute fully to United Nations activities in the field of disarmament, Serbia submitted its candidature for membership in the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva, he noted. The country supported the initiative to appoint a special coordinator on expanding the Conference’s membership. Serbia called on all Member States of the Conference to invest additional efforts to overcome the ongoing stalemate and engage, seriously and without delay, in substantive discussions on core issues on its agenda in order to make a credible contribution to international peace and security.
AMMAR HIJAZI, Permanent Observer of Palestine, aligning with the statement made on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, said that Palestine’s application for United Nations membership would open doors for its increased contribution to the international efforts on disarmament. Disarmament efforts must uphold the principles of international humanitarian law, which should apply to any serious international disarmament initiative. Discussions of efforts outside that context would be counterproductive and allow States to violate the rules of war while illicitly stockpiling weapons of mass destruction to escape accountability.
He said that to further the work of this Committee, Member States must consider ways to stop arms transfers to States violating international humanitarian law. That was particularly relevant to belligerent occupying Powers that did not respect their obligations under international law and had been proven to use indiscriminate and excessive force against civilians. Stemming the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons also needed attention, alongside examining instances of State-sanctioned and State-armed militias that resided unlawfully in an occupied land; that only fed conflicts and perpetuated human rights violations.
International disarmament efforts, including at the Conference on Disarmament, and any future treaties, must address the indiscriminate effects of certain conventional weapons, especially when used illegally against civilians, like cluster munitions, anti-personnel landmines, flechette missiles, dense inert metal explosive munitions, and ammunition containing depleted uranium. The illegal use of weapons not proscribed as illegal under international law, such as white phosphorous, should also be considered, he said, adding that States proven to perpetually violate those laws of war should be banned from owning and using those weapons. Moreover, the long-term and devastating effects of those weapons on civilian populations had been proven beyond any doubt.
He pointed, in particular, to the Report of the United Nations Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict, and noted that in South Lebanon, the civilian population continued to suffer from Israeli cluster munitions, which had claimed the lives and limbs of scores of innocents every year. He supported all instruments and efforts to prohibit those munitions and address unnecessary humanitarian risks to civilians. States responsible for laying those weapons outside their territory should be responsible for clearing them and adhering to their legal commitments to compensate the victims. He regretted that the Middle East had not yet become a nuclear-weapon–free zone, and that Israel, the occupying Power, remained the only State in the region that had neither become nor stated its intention to become a party to NPT. Establishing such a zone was an indispensible condition to stability and peace in the region.
It was the world’s collective responsibility to stop the scourges of needless and senseless wars, he said. “Instead of squandering $1.6 trillion a year on military expenditures at a time of economic difficulty, food shortages and social turmoil, everything must be done to invest in peoples’ future.”
Rights of Reply
The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, exercising his right of reply, responded to the Canadian delegate’s comments regarding his country’s presidency of the Conference on Disarmament. He said the existence of nuclear weapons on the Korean peninsula had stemmed from the United States. In 1957, after the Korean War, a nuclear weapon had been deployed. In 2002, former United States President, George W. Bush, had listed the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea among a group of target countries, as part of an “axis of evil”.
He said he wanted to set out those basic facts so that the Canadian delegate could understand the situation on the Korean peninsula. Additionally, in 1959, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea proposed turning the peninsula into a zone of peace, but there had been no response. Canada’s statement undermined its own position when it said that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s presidency of the Conference on Disarmament undermined the Conference.
The representative of Iran, exercising his right of reply, also referred to the Canadian delegate’s statement. He said Iran’s Natanz facilities were never secret and had been declared to IAEA, in advance of deadlines. Regarding Iran’s nuclear enrichment, it was completely legal to provide fuel for its reactor, which was used for medical purposes. Canada’s sincerity on non-proliferation concerns was questionable, considering that country’s deadly silence on the “Zionist regime” and its nuclear weapons programme. Canada had also supplied weapons to that regime, he added.
In addition, he said, Canada had concluded an agreement with a non-NPT State in which it would supply nuclear technology to a country outside that Treaty.
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