High Representative for Disarmament Affairs Hopes First Committee Can ‘Meet Rising Tide of Expectations’ by Redirecting ‘Counter-Currents’

7 October 2013
GA/DIS/3474

High Representative for Disarmament Affairs Hopes First Committee Can ‘Meet Rising Tide of Expectations’ by Redirecting ‘Counter-Currents’

7 October 2013
General Assembly
GA/DIS/3474
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-eighth General Assembly

First Committee

3rd Meeting (AM)

High Representative for Disarmament Affairs Hopes First Committee Can ‘Meet Rising

Tide of Expectations’ by Redirecting ‘Counter-Currents’

 

For Now, Divergent Views Persist as Some Speakers Repudiate Rationales for Nuclear

Weapons Retention, while Others Cite Proliferation, Non-Compliance as Key Concerns

Like a river that flowed in two directions, the deliberations of the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) had been characterized by two opposing currents, the High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, Angela Kane, said today at the start of that body’s annual debate.

While the Committee’s discussions had often been characterized by polarized debates on past setbacks, disappointments, unfulfilled commitments and common frustrations, Ms. Kane said another current flowing in the opposite direction represented the growth of global solidarity behind principles.  That current had led to the adoption of the Arms Trade Treaty earlier this year.

But now, the Committee was, once again, confronting two currents, she said.  The recent outpouring of international recognition of the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons was auspicious and had helped the world “look through the same lens”.  However, some still viewed nuclear weapons as an indispensable insurance policy and a status symbol.  Still, that was unlikely to “alter the flow of this particular river”, since the growing abhorrence of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction was setting the stage for future progress in many related fields.

That also had helped to clarify the vital need for a Middle East zone free of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction, she said, voicing hope that the positive current would soon “flow to a great hall”, hosting an international conference on establishing that zone.  Similarly, the recognition of the terrible humanitarian effects of chemical weapons in Syria had helped provide a common foundation for collective action.

Indeed, Mexico’s representative said, the Committee was beginning its work against the “dark background” of the recent use of a weapon of mass destruction in Syria.  However, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons had established an unprecedented plan to dismantle and destroy all of Syria’s chemical weapons and equipment within the first six months of 2014, and that country’s accession to the Chemical Weapons Convention was “an important step”.

Yet, she said, while it was essential to prohibit and eliminate chemical weapons, it was equally important to eliminate nuclear weapons, and the lack of progress in nuclear disarmament was an “historical irresponsibility”.  The world community was not prepared to be held “hostage to a few” when it came to advancing on nuclear disarmament.

In a similar vein, Indonesia’s representative, speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, said the total elimination of nuclear weapons was the only absolute guarantee against their use or threat of use.  Insisting that the doctrines and rationales of the nuclear-weapon States posed the greatest threat to peace, he urged them to immediately cease plans to modernize, upgrade, refurbish or extend their nuclear arsenals and facilities.  Until that goal was achieved, he warned, all non-nuclear-armed States should receive binding assurances against the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons under any circumstances.

Moreover, he said, nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation were mutually reinforcing and essential to strengthening international peace and security.  The Movement felt that pursuing non-proliferation alone was both counterproductive and unsustainable.  Additionally, non-proliferation policies should not undermine the inalienable right of States to peaceful nuclear activities — that right was inviolable, and the attack or threat of attack against such facilities, be they operational or under construction, endangered human beings and the environment.

The representative of the European Union expressed deep concern over proliferation challenges posed by Syria, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and Iran, underlining the responsibility of the United Nations Security Council to maintain international peace and security in cases of non-compliance.

Regarding Syria, the Union, he said, welcomed the Secretary-General’s investigation into the alleged use of chemical weapons, Security Council resolution 2118 (2013) and the recent Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons decision, but regretted that Syria had “yet to provide the necessary cooperation” with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), in accordance with a pledge made by that country in May 2011.

The representative from Japan said it was vital for both nuclear- and non-nuclear-weapon States to overcome their differences and unite in efforts to achieve the “total elimination” of those weapons.   Japan had long worked to raise awareness of the humanitarian impact of those weapons’ use, and in the context of its historical background, it sincerely hoped for a world free of nuclear weapons.

Also warning about the “catastrophic humanitarian consequences” of a nuclear detonation was Jamaica’s representative, who, on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said he was convinced that international peace and security could only be guaranteed through the “total elimination” of nuclear and others weapons of mass destruction.

Humanity must be freed from the threat of nuclear weapons, Bahrain’s representative told the Committee on behalf of the Arab Group, and the funds used to maintain them should be diverted to development.

Nigeria’s representative, speaking on behalf of the African Group, said there had been “renewed efforts” across a wide spectrum of disarmament and international security issues during the sixty-seventh session of the General Assembly, and the Group continued to underscore a multilateral approach to addressing global disarmament issues.  In the context of global security, there were “no substitutes” for multilateral diplomacy, he stressed.

The Committee Chair made opening remarks.

Also speaking in the course of the meeting were the representatives of Libya and Switzerland.

The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea spoke in exercise of the right of reply.

The First Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 8 October, to continue its general debate.

Background

The First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) met this morning to begin its annual general debate, scheduled to run through 29 October, on all disarmament and international security agenda items entrusted to it.

Among the documents before the Committee would be the report of the Conference on Disarmament (document A/68/27), dated 20 September.  The report states that the Conference adopted its agenda for the 2013 session, including cessation of the nuclear arms race and nuclear disarmament; prevention of nuclear war; prevention of an arms race in outer space; effective international arrangements to assure non-nuclear-weapon States against the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons; new types of weapons of mass destruction and new systems of such weapons and radiological weapons; comprehensive programme of disarmament; and transparency in armaments.

The Conference decided, on 16 August, to establish a working group with a mandate to “produce a programme of work robust in substance and progressive over time in implementation” (document CD/1956/Rev.1).  The Group held three meetings, respectively, on 26 August and 2 and 9 September.  The Co-Chair, reported to the plenary meeting on 10 September on progress (document CD/PV.1300).  The Conference further decided that, should the Group not be able to complete its work during the 2013 session, it may resume its work, if the member States of the Conference, in accordance with the rules of procedure, so decide in the 2014 session.

Also on file was the report of the Disarmament Commission for 2013 (document A/68/42).  It recalls General Assembly resolution 67/71, which among other things reaffirms the mandate of the Disarmament Commission as the Organization’s specialized deliberative body for in-depth deliberations on specific disarmament issues.  The report further emphasises the importance of enhancing dialogue and cooperation among the First Committee, the Disarmament Commission and the Conference on Disarmament.

Among its recommendations, the Disarmament Commission is encouraged to continue consideration of recommendations for achieving the objective of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, as well as practical confidence-building measures in the field of conventional weapons.

The Committee also had before it the Secretary-General’s report on work of the Advisory Board on Disarmament Matters (document A/68/206), which covers the Board’s fifty-ninth session, during which it deliberated on the relations between nuclear-weapon-free zones in advancing regional and global security, and on disarmament and security implications of emerging technologies.

According to the Board, the Secretary-General should explore the establishment of new nuclear-weapon-free zones and encourage further participation of think tanks and civil society in efforts to overcome current deadlocks.  The report also encouraged the Secretary-General to support efforts to establish a nuclear-weapon-free zone free in the Middle East and North-East Asia. The Organisation should be appraised of the rapidly emerging new technologies and possible dangers of weapon systems determined by machine algorithms, and encourage efforts to promote increased transparency in conjunction with the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR) and others.

The following reports were also before the Committee:  document A/68/131 and Add.1; document A/AC.159/L.144; document A/68/98; document A/68/156 and Add.1; document A/68/124 — Part I and Part I Add.1; document A/AC.281/2; document A/CONF.217/2013/2; document A/68/96; document A/68/99; document A/68/118 and Add.1; document A/68/119 and Add.1; document A/68/133/Add.1; document A/68/137; document A/68/138 and Add.1; document A/68/140; document A/68/152 and Add.1; document A/68/154 and Add.1; document A/68/160; document A/68/164; document A/68/166 and Add.1; document A/68/171; document A/68/189; document A/68/272; document A/68/112; document A/68/114; document A/68/134; document A/68/384; document A/68/42; document A/68/182; document A/68/206; document A/68/132; document A/68/136; and document A/68/139.

Opening Remarks

Committee Chair IBRAHIM DABBASHI (Libya) commended the recent agreement reached on Syria’s chemical weapons and believed the General Assembly’s high-level session on nuclear disarmament was an excellent opportunity to further the work aimed at eliminating nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction, including in the Middle East.  The international community must capitalize on that momentum in a way that served international peace and security in the region and in the world.

He said that a Conference on creating a zone in the Middle East free of nuclear and other mass destruction weapons must not be postponed for too long, as further delays would negatively affect the 2015 NPT (Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons) Review Conference.  In the field of conventional weapons, the Arms Trade Treaty was a “great step”.  So far, 113 countries had signed it; an additional 50 signatories were needed for it to go into effect.  That would constitute a significant step towards curbing the acquisition of small arms and light weapons and the threat those weapons posed to international peace and security.

Also in the disarmament context, much work remained to be done in the fields of outer space and the Internet security, he said, urging States to work harder to safeguard those two spheres.  Great challenges lay ahead, which could not be faced by individual States or groups of States alone, but must be tackled through the cooperation of all countries within a framework of mutual respect, trust and political will.

ANGELA KANE, High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, said it was ironic that the United Nations was located on the banks of the East River, with its tides that flowed daily in two directions, because the Committee had followed a similar course and resembled a river with counter-currents.  On one level, its deliberations had been characterized by polarized debates on past setbacks, disappointments, unfulfilled commitments and common frustrations.  Yet there was another current flowing in the opposite direction, representing the growth of global solidarity behind principles, standards and norms regarding both disarmament and the regulation of armaments.  The latter current had led to the adoption of the Arms Trade Treaty earlier this year.

Now the Committee was once again confronting these two currents, she said.  This year, there had been an outpouring of international recognition for the humanitarian consequences of the use of nuclear weapons, as featured at the international conference in Oslo and at two special United Nations initiatives focused on nuclear disarmament, in Geneva and at Headquarters.  That theme had also been stressed at the so-called Article XIV Conference of States Parties to the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT).  Most of the world was now looking at nuclear weapons through the same lens, and that offered an auspicious sign for future progress in disarmament. 

There was a “counter-current”, however, of those who still viewed nuclear weapons as an indispensable insurance policy and a status symbol, but it was hardly likely to alter the flow of this particular river, she said.  The general and growing abhorrence of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction was setting the stage for future progress in many related fields and had helped to clarify the vital need for a Middle East zone free of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction.  She hoped that that current would soon “flow to a great hall”, hosting an international conference on establishing that zone.

She said that shared concerns about nuclear weapons had expanded cooperation between members of regional nuclear-weapon-free zones and at common multilateral arenas, such as the sessions of the Preparatory Committee for the 2015 NPT Review Conference.  Those concerns extended to the proliferation of all weapons of mass destruction as well as the danger that they could be acquired by non-State actors.  Her Office had long been assisting NPT States parties throughout the treaty review process, as well as in implementing Security Council resolution 1540 (2004) to forestall proliferation.

The Office had also worked to implement the Secretary-General’s mechanism to investigate allegations of the use of chemical weapons in Syria, she said, adding that international recognition of the terrible humanitarian effects of those weapons had helped provide a common foundation for collective action.  While Syria’s tragic civil war continued, its decision to abandon its chemical weapons arsenal and to join the Chemical Weapons Convention were welcome developments and could have positive repercussions throughout the region and the world.  As of today, 190 States had signed the Chemical Weapons Convention, which was the same number as had joined NPT.

In the field of conventional arms, the highlight of the year had been the adoption of the Arms Trade Treaty, which established common standards for the regulation of international trade in those weapons, she said.  That Treaty would help “enormously” to prevent destabilizing arms flows to conflict regions and to ensure that arms trade policy was more responsible so as to limit and prevent the humanitarian consequences currently surrounding that unregulated industry.  In so doing, it would also create a more suitable environment for achieving economic and social development objectives.  So far, 113 States had signed the Treaty, and that number would surely grow in the years ahead.

“In short,” she said, “we are witnessing a new flow in the current towards universal norms governing the arms trade.”  Also, last month, the Security Council adopted its first ever resolution devoted to the question of small arms and light weapons, which underscored the vital need for cooperation and exchange of information among peacekeeping operations and missions in the field, Member States and other stakeholders.  The illicit weapons trade prolonged armed conflicts, delayed social and economic development, aggravated threats to peacekeepers and caused regional instability.

She noted among other efforts of her disarmament education the United Nations Programme of Fellowships on Disarmament, workshops across Latin America and the Caribbean in stockpile management and small arms and ammunition destruction, and the production of 25 fact sheets for the public on disarmament, non-proliferation, and arms control issues. 

In the field of reforming the United Nations disarmament machinery, she welcomed the establishment of an Informal Working Group in the Conference on Disarmament, adding that the recent adoption of the Arms Trade Treaty could also help to reduce the number of First Committee resolutions.  Further, a Group of Governmental Experts on fissile material would soon help identify a path towards negotiating a long-awaited treaty in that field.  A trend in reducing the size and resources of expert groups was a current flowing in the wrong direction.  Similar currents were at work elsewhere in the machinery, especially with regard to the limitation of expert-level meetings focused on the various Protocols to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons.

Inviting the Committee to recall the words of William Shakespeare, she said: “There is a tide in the affairs of men — and all people — which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune.”  She was confident that the Committee would benefit from the rising tide of expectations throughout the world for new progress, both in disarmament and the regulation of armaments.

Statements

DESRA PERCAYA (Indonesia), speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, said the group was concerned by the continued erosion of multilateralism in the field of disarmament, non-proliferation and arms control, and was determined to promote that process as the only sustainable method for addressing those issues.  The existence of nuclear weapons and the doctrines of the nuclear-weapon States and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) posed the greatest threat to peace because they set out rationales for the use or threat of use of those weapons.  He called on the nuclear-weapons States to immediately cease their plans to further modernize, upgrade, refurbish or extend the lives of their nuclear arsenals and related facilities, stressing that the total elimination of those weapons was the only absolute guarantee against their use or threat of use.  Until achievement of that goal, all non-nuclear weapon States should receive effective, non-discriminatory and legally binding assurances against the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons under any circumstances.

Reaffirming the importance of the Conference on Disarmament as the sole multilateral negotiating body on disarmament, he called on that body to agree on a balanced and comprehensive program of work.  Enhancing the effectiveness of the United Nations disarmament machinery was a shared objective, and the Movement believed that the main difficulty lay in a lack of political will by some States to achieve progress, particularly on nuclear disarmament.  Nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation were mutually reinforcing and essential to strengthening international peace and security.  Pursuing non-proliferation alone was both counterproductive and unsustainable.  Any action covering multilateral weapons of mass destruction treaties must not be undermined by the Security Council, existing multilateral instruments or the General Assembly.  The practice of using the Council’s authority to define the legislative requirements for Member States in implementing decisions should not be continued.

He said that the acquisition of weapons of mass destruction by non-State actors should be addressed in an inclusive manner by the General Assembly, taking into account the views of all Member States.  At the same time, non-proliferation policies should not undermine the inalienable right of States to acquire, access, import or export nuclear material, equipment and technology for peaceful purposes. States must be able to develop research, produce and use nuclear energy, including a full national nuclear fuel cycle, without discrimination.  He called for the immediate removal of any limitations or restrictions on exports of nuclear material for peaceful purposes to developing countries, adding that technical assistance from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) should not be subjected to any conditions incompatible with its Statute.  The right to peaceful nuclear activities was inviolable, and the attack or threat of attack against peaceful nuclear facilities, be they operational or under construction, posed a great danger to human beings and the environment, and was a grave violation of the principles of the United Nations Charter, international law and the resolutions of the IAEA General Conference.

Nuclear-weapon States should ratify related protocols to all nuclear-weapon-free zone treaties, he said.  Pending establishment of such a zone in the Middle East, Israel, which was the only country in the region that remained outside the NPT and had not declared its intention to join it, must renounce any possession of nuclear weapons, accede to the NPT without precondition or further delay, and promptly place all its nuclear facilities under IAEA full-scope safeguards.  It was also important to achieve universal adherence to the CTBT, and he welcomed the ratification of that Treaty by Chad, Guinea Bissau and Iraq.

He called on possessor States parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention to ensure the complete destruction of their remaining such arsenals within the final extended deadline, and he welcomed Syria’s accession.  The lack of a verification system in the Biological Weapons Convention continued to challenge that treaty’s effectiveness.  The Movement’s States parties to that Convention called for the resumption of negotiations to conclude a legally binding verification protocol and urged the party that was rejecting such negotiations to reconsider its policy.  The Movement further called for a universal, comprehensive and non-discriminatory approach towards the issue of missiles within the United Nations, insisting that any initiative on that subject should take into account the security concerns of all States.  The Movement would introduce a draft resolution intended to build upon the universal support for nuclear disarmament.  That included negotiations on a comprehensive convention on nuclear weapons, designation of 26 September as the International Day for the total elimination of nuclear weapons, and the convening an international conference on nuclear disarmament in 2018.

COURTENAY RATTRAY ( Jamaica), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), stressed the importance of peace and security as “prerequisites to development”.  He noted, however, that progress in the area of disarmament had been discouraging.  While he acknowledged the complexity of the disarmament agenda, he encouraged the First Committee to pursue disarmament efforts relentlessly, “with perseverance and political will”.

CARICOM, he said, welcomed the concerted action that had led to the adoption of the Arms Trade Treaty in April, and reaffirmed the Community’s conviction that that instrument could contribute significantly to reducing suffering around the world.  He noted the particular impact of small arms and light weapons in his region, where they continued to fuel armed violence.  He, thus, welcomed recent developments, such as those weapons inclusion in the new treaty.

Warning of the “catastrophic humanitarian consequences” of a nuclear detonation, he said that CARICOM remained convinced that international peace and security could only be guaranteed through the “total elimination” of nuclear and others weapons of mass destruction.  In that regard, he welcomed the recent General Assembly high-level meeting on nuclear disarmament, in particular, the momentum it had generated around the issue.

CARICOM considered the NPT to be the “bedrock” of global disarmament, he said, urging nuclear-weapon States to fully comply with their treaty obligations and commitments.  Likewise, the Test-Ban Treaty was a major instrument in promoting the disarmament agenda.  A ban on the production of fissile material was an “essential prerequisite” for an effective non-proliferation regime, he added.

In conclusion, he welcomed the opportunity to “jump start” negotiations to make meaningful progress on disarmament and the non-proliferation agenda.  He hoped that CARICOM’s contributions would assist efforts aimed at breaking “a 16-year deadlock in the multilateral disarmament machinery”.

JACEK BYLICA, representative of the European Union, reaffirmed the Union’s commitment to nuclear disarmament and arms control, and highlighted three main goals of the Union’s non-proliferation strategy:  effective multilateralism; prevention; and international cooperation.  Recent positive developments had underlined the United Nations importance as a “fundamental framework” for effective multilateralism and international cooperation.

The European Union, he continued, welcomed the adoption of the Arms Trade Treaty, and stressed the importance of turning it into a “truly universal treaty”.  The Union intended to play an active role in promoting its early entry into force.

At the same time, the Union was deeply concerned by the proliferation challenges facing the international community by Syria, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and Iran, he said, underlining the responsibility of the United Nations Security Council to maintain international peace and security in cases of non-compliance.  Regarding Syria, the Union welcomed the Secretary-General’s investigation into the alleged use of chemical weapons, as well as Security Council resolution 2118 (2013) and the recent decision of the Executive Council of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).

Turning to nuclear proliferation, he regretted that Syria had “yet to provide the necessary cooperation” with the IAEA in accordance with the pledge made by that country in May 2011.  The Union condemned the third nuclear test by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea on 12 February 2012, and remained concerned by Iran’s nuclear Programme, he said.  It demanded that that country abandon all of its existing nuclear programmes in a complete and “irreversible” manner.  It likewise urged Iran to “demonstrate its commitment to resolve the ongoing nuclear issue” through constructive engagement.

Describing the NPT as the “cornerstone” of the global non-proliferation regime, he emphasized the importance of its universalization.  Similarly, the CTBT was of “crucial importance” and a “top priority” for the European Union.  Its entry into force would be a critical “practical step” for disarmament and non-proliferation efforts.  A treaty banning the production of fissile material was another top priority for the Union, he said, highlighting the “crucial role” of the Conference on Disarmament in negotiating multilateral treaties.  He hoped for “concrete and tangible” results in that regard, and reaffirmed the Union’s commitment to engage in substantive discussions on all the core issues before it.

JAMAL FARES ALROWAIEI ( Bahrain), speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, said that a lasting worldwide peace could not be achieved while there were nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction.  Humanity must be freed from those weapons, and the funds used to maintain them should be diverted to development.  The Arab States had participated in all multilateral disarmament forums and had become parties to the NPT, subjecting all nuclear installations to IAEA safeguards.  The three NPT pillars should be considered on an equal basis, in particular, the right of all States to conduct research and development and to acquire nuclear technology for peaceful ends, in line with relevant legal commitments and in conformity with IAEA agreements.  The appeal by the Arab Group for a treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons was based on its commitments to the principles of nuclear disarmament.  The United Nations disarmament machinery should not be modified or amended unless there was a new special session dealing with disarmament that agreed to do so.

He said the Group supported the creation of nuclear-weapon-free zones, including in the Middle East.  Noting Israel’s continuing refusal to take part in the Conference on Disarmament or sign the NPT, he said ridding the region of nuclear and other mass destruction weapons was a collective responsibility.  The Arab group had made contributions, he said, noting Libya’s submission of a relevant report.  The convening of a conference to establish a Middle East zone in had been postponed several times owing to extremely weak reasons.  Political will was needed in order to ensure the conference was held without delay and to make it a success.  Linking denuclearization to the peace process was “illogical”.  Making the Middle East a nuclear–weapons-free zone was a necessary precondition for regional peace and security, and vital to ensuring trust between the parties.

The paralysis in the Conference on Disarmament was not due to any shortcomings in the forum itself, but to a lack of political will, he said, calling for maintaining its vital role and voicing hope that ongoing efforts would lead to a consensus and allow the Conference to begin its work immediately.  Turning to the Arms Trade Treaty, he expressed support for arms control as a means to maintain national and regional peace and security.  However, the Treaty must be implemented in line with the rights of States to maintain their national security and territorial integrity.  The Arab Group understood that the programme of work was extremely difficult.  That should not limit the international community’s ambitions, but motivate it to undertake further efforts in line with the United Nations Charter to ensure success of the First Committee’s success. 

U. JOY OGWU (Nigeria), speaking on behalf of the African Group and associating with the Non-Aligned Movement’s intervention, noted “renewed efforts” across a wide spectrum of disarmament and international security issues during the sixty-seventh session of the General Assembly.  The African Group continued to underscore a multilateral approach to addressing global disarmament issues, and in the context of global security, there were “no substitutes” for multilateral diplomacy.  For the African Group, complete nuclear disarmament was the “utmost prerequisite” for world peace and security, she said, adding that none in the Group was a nuclear-weapon State; all believed that the existence of those weapons was a threat to the future survival of the human race.

In that light, she said the African Group endorsed the road map proposed by the Non-Aligned Movement and invited all Governments, civil society, academia and the media to “join hands” to make it a reality.  The Group urged nuclear-armed States to work for the “total elimination” of their nuclear arsenals.  Any doctrine justifying their use was “unacceptable”.  While the African Group acknowledged efforts to reduce the current number of nuclear weapons as “steps in the right direction”, that should not be mistaken as a substitute for total elimination.

Highlighting the importance of universal adherence to the CTBT, she noted the “special responsibilities” of nuclear-armed States in that regard.  The African Group regretted that Treaty’s non-entry into force so many years after negotiations on the instruments had concluded.  Concerning the Conference on Disarmament, she reiterated the African Group’s call for agreement on a comprehensive and balanced programme of work.  A reinvigorated Conference, as the sole multilateral negotiating body on disarmament, should be supported.  Similarly, the work of both the Disarmament Commission and First Committee should be “enriched”.  It was important, she stressed, to strengthen “each part” of the United Nations disarmament machinery.

On the Arms Trade Treaty, she said that the African Group welcomed its adoption on 2 April, concerned that an unregulated conventional arms transfer system fuelled “illicit trade”.  The Group urged major arms suppliers to ratify the Treaty, as it remained deeply concerned about the “uncontrolled spread” of small arms and light weapons, particularly in Africa.

YANERIT MORGAN ( Mexico) said this year the Committee was beginning its work in a difficult context of scenes of suffering and against the dark background of the use of a weapon of mass destruction in Syria.  She supported the work of the Executive Council of OPCW, which had established an unprecedented plan to eliminate that category of arsenal, under a resolution that would dismantle and destroy all of Syria’s chemical weapons and equipment within the first six months of 2014.  Syria’s accession to the Chemical Weapons Convention was an important step, and all States should follow suit.

While it was essential to prohibit and eliminate chemical weapons, it was equally important to eliminate nuclear weapons, she said.  Nuclear weapons endangered humanity, and the lack of progress in nuclear disarmament was an “historical irresponsibility”.  Representatives of 70 nations had participated in the General Assembly’s high-level meeting on nuclear disarmament on 26 September, giving voice to the outcry of the international community to urge the United Nations to make concrete progress.  Indeed, the world community was not prepared to be held “hostage to a few” when it came to advancing on nuclear disarmament.

In Oslo this year, 127 countries had met to discuss the catastrophic consequences of nuclear weapons, and Mexico was set to host the Second International Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons in Nayarit, he noted.  That meeting would allow the international community to deepen its knowledge of the disastrous effects of nuclear weapons, including the humanitarian impact, to health, the environment, food security and human displacement.

Without a doubt, one of greatest multilateral disarmament successes had been the adoption of the Arms Trade Treaty, she said, noting that Mexico had deposited its ratification on 25 September.  It was encouraging that 133 countries had so far signed the treaty, and seven had ratified it; she appealed to all Member States to sign and ratify as soon as possible, as that was the best way to prevent, combat and eliminate the illicit small arms and light weapons trafficking.  Everyone knew a small group of States were not party to the main international instruments prohibiting weapons of mass destruction; those had not participated in the NPT or in treaties banning chemical or biological weapons, and a small number had not banned landmines or cluster bombs.  The international community must put an end to that “irregular” situation, and she urged those few States to remedy the situation.  “Humanity must not go unheard” because of the interests of a very few.

TOSHIO SANO ( Japan), noting that the overall objective of disarmament was to “achieve a safer world with fewer weapons”, urged that now was the time to combine efforts for making progress in disarmament.  He stressed the importance of political will of the kind demonstrated by leaders during last month’s high-level meeting on nuclear disarmament.  He also highlighted the recent adoption of the Arms Trade Treaty as an “epoch-making success” in the history of arms control.

Nevertheless, he said, Japan shared the frustration surrounding the long stalemate in the Conference on Disarmament and felt that it was vital for both nuclear- and non-nuclear-weapon States to overcome their differences and unite in efforts to achieve the “total elimination” of those weapons.  As the sole multilateral disarmament negotiating body, the Conference required such an approach to move forward.  At the same time, no efforts should be spared to maintain the NPT, as it was a cornerstone of disarmament and non-proliferation.  The people of Japan sincerely hoped for a world free of nuclear weapons, especially in the context of their country’s historical background.

In that context, Japan regarded a nuclear test by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea as “totally unacceptable” and urged that country to abandon its nuclear weapons programmes in a “verifiable and irreversible” manner, he said.  Elsewhere, the “Iran nuclear issue” was of serious concern to the whole international community, and he called upon that country to take “substantive actions” for the issue’s peaceful resolution.  Japan had for a long time worked to raise awareness of the humanitarian aspect of the use of nuclear weapons, he said, adding that disarmament was a “universal issue to every member of this community”.

MOHAMED A. A. ELSHAKSHUKI (Libya), speaking in his national capacity and associating with the Non-Aligned Movement, Arab Group and the African Group, reiterated his country’s continuing commitment to disarmament.  There was no doubt that the elimination of nuclear weapons was the only way to guarantee against their use, and that was why Libya had voluntarily renounced production of nuclear and all other mass destruction weapons.  He called on the nuclear-weapons States to implement their commitments, including under the NPT’s article VI.  That Treaty, along with the Chemical and Biological Weapons Conventions, was an important instrument for the international community, and Libya reiterated its call for their universal adherence.

He expressed his country’s full support for international efforts to establish nuclear weapon-free-zones as a step in the right direction towards ridding the world of the dangers of those weapons.  It was time for the international community to apply pressure on Israel, which was the only country in the region remaining outside the NPT.  Also important was to intensify diplomatic efforts to clarify the status of Iran’s nuclear programme.  All should show commitment to the CTBT and work together to ensure its entry into force.

While Libya, he said, welcomed action to control the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons, including through the Arms Trade Treaty, it emphasised the need to respect international law principles.  “Double standards”, which could be used for exercising “political embezzlement”, should be avoided.  In conclusion, he expressed Libya’s frustration that the multilateral mechanisms of disarmament were moving “regrettably slowly, if not deadlocked”.

URS SCHMID ( Switzerland) said that this year’s Committee was taking up its work against the backdrop of conflict in Syria.  It was now confirmed that chemical weapons had been used there on a relatively large scale, which was a serious violation of international humanitarian law.  He condemned that in the strongest possible terms and said it was vital to prevent any such future violations.  The crimes such as those must not go unpunished, regardless of the alleged perpetrators.  He welcomed the unanimous adoption by the Security Council of resolution 2118 (2013) concerning the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons stockpiles.  He expressed concern about anti-personnel mines in Syria.  All parties to the conflict must respect their international law obligations, and all necessary measures must be taken to protect civilians, as well as persons no longer taking part in the hostilities.

The year 2013 had been marked by the conclusion of the Arms Trade Treaty, he said, adding that its adoption by an overwhelming majority represented the culmination of years of effort to better regulate the international small arms and light weapons trade.  Institutional support for the treaty would play an essential role in its implementation.

The objective of preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons and ridding the world of them altogether must be pursued with resolve and determination, he said.  Recent efforts had underlined that the use of nuclear weapons would have devastating immediate and long-term consequences, which could not be effectively addressed.  Such humanitarian consequences would be unacceptable.  The Oslo Conference in March had helped to deepen the international community’s understanding of the matter, and the follow-up in Mexico next year would be an opportunity to explore the issue further.  He regretted that the Conference on Disarmament had again failed to start negotiations, but welcomed efforts this year to revitalize the debate.  The establishment of the informal working group mandated to produce a programme of work demonstrated the willingness of the Conference’s members to emerge from the stalemate.  The Conference should also establish a subsidiary body to improve its functioning.

Right of Reply

Speaking in exercise of the right of reply, the representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, addressing his remarks to the statement made by Japan’s representative, said his country was a party to the Outer Space Treaty and had exercised its legitimate rights by launching a peaceful satellite.  However, that was being “totally abused” by the Security Council, which condemned the activity.  However, Japan had also launched a satellite using ballistic missile technology, and the Council had not questioned it.  That was “totally nonsense”.  Further, the Japanese delegate had questioned the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea over its third nuclear test, which had been an exercise of sovereignty, in order to protect national sovereignty and its legitimate rights to the peaceful uses of outer space.  Japan’s representative had also commented on the Six-Party Talks, which were also “totally nonsense”, since other members of the talks had discussed putting Japan aside.  Japan’s representative had also urged the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to commit to its international obligations and commitments, including Security Council resolutions and the 2005 Joint Statement.  Those comments were a total violation of sovereignty, independence and the right to peaceful uses of outer space.

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