A First Committee side event was held on 18 October at the Permanent Mission of Kazakhstan to the United Nations.
The event featured a panel discussion about consolidating and enhancing cooperation among nuclear-weapon-free zones (NWFZs). It was chaired by Yerzhan Ashikbayev, the Deputy Foreign Minister of Kazakhstan.
Mr Ashikbayev opened the discussion by highlighting the importance of NWFZs. NWFZs are essential for creating a safe and nuclear-weapon-free world, although their potential is yet to be fully realized. The international community should strengthen NWFZs as articulated in the Secretary-General’s Disarmament Agenda.
Following Mr Ashikbayev’s remarks, a statement was delivered by Izumi Nakamitsu, the UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs. She noted that States are showing increased dedication to NWFZs. Almost 60% of the UN membership have committed to them.
“Nuclear-weapon-free zones can be considered success stories,” the High Representative said.
However, she cautioned that much work remains to be done. Nuclear weapons possessor states are yet to ratify the protocols to the treaties establishing NWFZs and there is a lack of progress in establishing new zones, especially in the Middle East. More cooperation is also needed between the zones.
The second speaker was the Secretary-General of the Agency for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean (OPANAL), Luiz Filipe de Macedo Soares. The OPANAL Secretary-General explained that consolidation involves several aspects.
All states within a NWFZ must firstly become parties to the relevant treaty. Once this is achieved, nuclear weapons possessor states must be encouraged to ratify the protocols. Additionally, there should be collaboration between different NWFZs.
John Borrie, Chief of Research at the UN Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR), spoke next. Mr Borrie summarized the Vienna Center for Disarmament and Non-Proliferation (VCDNP)’s Task Force Report, Cooperation among Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zones: History, Challenges and Recommendations. He noted that collaboration between the NWFZs is both necessary and desirable.
“Steps can be taken which are neither demanding nor very costly,” iterated Mr Borrie.
These could include communication and institutionalization of contacts; research and analysis; cooperation with international organizations; and disarmament education.
The Permanent Representative of Mongolia, Sukhbold Sukhee, was the last to speak. The Permanent Representative said that NWFZs are contributing to confidence-building and emerging as a standout in disarmament efforts. Mongolia supports efforts for a fourth conference of the zones in 2020.
Mr Ashikbayev subsequently opened the floor to comments and questions.
An audience member made a comment that collaboration between NWFZs was unlikely to persuade nuclear possessor states to sign the relevant protocols. The OPANAL Secretary-General responded that increased cooperation could have other benefits, such as enhancing the influence of signatory states.
A question was asked about whether progress could be achieved by creating single-state NWFZs. The Permanent Representative was doubtful, noting how it was difficult to create the zone in Mongolia.
The final question concerned the status of Latin America and the Caribbean’s efforts to negotiate with nuclear possessor states about ratifying the Treaty of Tlatelolco. The OPANAL Secretary-General said it had engaged in consultations, but the outcome had been negative.
Mr Ashikbayev concluded the event by expressing his hope for future discussions.
Drafted by: Victoria Brownlee