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GA/DIS/3031
27 October 1995

MARKING DISARMAMENT WEEK, ASSEMBLY PRESIDENT URGES PRACTICAL ACTIONS TO ADVANCE CONTROL OF ARMAMENTS

27 October 1995


Press Release
GA/DIS/3031


MARKING DISARMAMENT WEEK, ASSEMBLY PRESIDENT URGES PRACTICAL ACTIONS TO ADVANCE CONTROL OF ARMAMENTS

19951027 First Committee Holds Special Meeting to Observe Week

At a special meeting of the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) this morning in observance of Disarmament Week, which began on Tuesday 24 October, General Assembly President Diogo Freitas do Amaral said that a theme echoing through the recent fiftieth anniversary celebrations of the United Nations had been the irreplaceability of the Organization. That wide support should now be translated into initiatives and followed by practical actions in all domains of endeavour of the United Nations.

The focus of disarmament nowadays was multilateral in nature, he said, more comprehensive in terms of issues and both global and regional in thrust. Progress in disarmament could help create the environment essential for the settlement of disputes, peacemaking and peace-building initiatives, as well as for the promotion of democracy and the sustainable development of societies. Though the threat of a nuclear conflagration had receded, nuclear weapons and weapons of mass destruction were still with us. The international community was still seeking its rightful place in controlling, reducing and eliminating the tools of war that had killed millions of human beings since the end of the Second World War. The lives of people everywhere would be touched if such weapons were reduced, controlled and eventually eliminated.

Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Marrack Goulding said that conventional weapons -- easy to produce and difficult to control -- "made a mockery of the new world order". He also said that if the First Committee was looking for a theme for its work it should be the urgent need to rid the world of land-mines, which the Secretary-General had called "a slow-motion weapon of mass destruction".

The Chairman of the First Committee, Luvsangiin Erdenechuluun (Mongolia), presented an overview of the main disarmament items facing the Committee: conclusion of a comprehensive nuclear test-ban treaty, the cut-off

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of fissile materials for nuclear weapons, the establishment of nuclear-weapon- free zones, and security assurances to non-nuclear-weapon States.

Disarmament Week was proclaimed by the General Assembly in 1978, to be observed annually in the promotion of disarmament.

When the Committee meets again on Monday, 30 October, at 10 a.m., it will begin structured discussion of specific subjects on the adopted thematic approach on disarmament and international security items.

Statements

In his statement this morning, the Chairman of the First Committee, LUVSANGIIN ERDENECHULUUN (Mongolia), said the observance of Disarmament Week was a tradition established by the General Assembly at its first special session devoted to disarmament. Its observance could play a major role in developing a strong public awareness in favour of strengthening the multilateral bodies which deal with disarmament issues. It was his strongest hope that the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) review conference would speed the progress towards the ultimate goal of complete elimination of nuclear weapons.

To that end, he said that several initiatives were crucial, including a comprehensive test-ban treaty, the cut-off of fissile materials, the establishment of nuclear-weapon-free zones, and security assurances to non- nuclear weapon states. An early conclusion of an effective and verifiable comprehensive test-ban treaty would be fundamental to real progress towards the ultimate goal of complete disarmament. The issue of the peaceful transfer of technology was another topic that deserved the attention of the international community. Finding an arrangement to allay concerns of non- nuclear-weapon States should proceed without delay. Such security assurances would also help discourage many non-nuclear-weapon States, which had the ability to produce nuclear weapons. The entry into force of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and of Their Destruction and the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on Their Destruction would also contribute to the goal. There had been encouraging developments over past years which demonstrated the interaction between regional and global control over disarmament. The treaty for an African nuclear-free-zone would be a welcome success. The misuse of land-mines was a matter of great concern. It was hoped appropriate Protocol would be further strengthened. The increased trend of illicit transfer of conventional arms had a destabilizing impact. It was therefore imperative for the international community to explore ways and means to reverse that trend. Those were a few subjects under consideration, but there were other concerns equally important. The President of the General Assembly, DIOGO FREITAS DO AMARAL (Portugal), said that one of the themes echoing through the recent fiftieth

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anniversary celebrations of the United Nations had been the assertion that the Organization was irreplaceable, although after 50 years it needed strengthening and reform to be ready for the new challenges ahead.

That wide support, expressed at the highest political level, should be translated into initiatives and followed by practical action. The United Nations had always considered disarmament one of its highest priorities, because the Organization was born of the experience of the Second World War and in the same year as the first use of nuclear weapons. Since 1945, it had spared no effort to give full effect to the relevant provisions of the Charter, which call for the establishment and maintenance of international peace and security -- with the least diversion of the world's human and economic resources for armaments.

Disarmament Week, declared by the first special session of the General Assembly devoted to disarmament in 1978, commemorates that enduring commitment. The focus of disarmament nowadays was multilateral in nature, more comprehensive in terms of issues, and both global and regional in thrust. Progress in disarmament could help create the environment essential for the settlement of disputes, peacemaking and peace-building initiatives, as well as for the promotion of democracy and the sustainable development of societies.

Though the threat of a nuclear conflagration had now receded, nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction were still with us. Threats and challenges arose on a daily basis. They included the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction; the contamination of the environment by such weapons and their components; and threats to international security caused by the smuggling of nuclear materials and the risk of their falling into the hands of terrorists.

Those threats demanded global cooperation. Last May the world had been made a safer place by the agreement of 175 States to indefinitely extend the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and thereby strengthen the international nuclear non-proliferation regime. In Geneva, negotiations on a comprehensive nuclear test-ban treaty were under way. The pace of those negotiations must be accelerated to meet the demands of the entire world community for the long- awaited treaty to be concluded by 1996.

Entry into force of the chemical weapons Convention would enhance security worldwide. It was therefore crucial that all States make the utmost effort to ratify that Convention as soon as possible. The negotiations aimed at establishing a regime for the verification of compliance with the biological weapons Convention were likewise of the greatest importance.

However, while efforts to remove the menace of weapons of mass destruction must be unrelenting, the international community still sought its rightful place in controlling, reducing and eliminating the tools of war which had killed millions of human beings since the end of the Second World War.

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The Review Conference on the Conventional Weapons Convention had just this month registered a certain amount of progress in negotiations related to strengthening restrictions on anti-personnel land-mines, booby-traps and other such devices. In addition, a very important result was the adoption of an additional Protocol to the Convention on blinding laser weapons.

Land-mines were a threat to economic and social recovery in certain regions of the globe, and the international community could not disregard the momentum to appeal to those States that had not yet done so to become parties to that Convention.

Regional efforts must also be pursued. The area covered by the existing nuclear-weapon-free zones established by the Treaties of Tlatelolco and Rarotonga might soon be extended with the establishment of the African nuclear-weapon-free zone. Indeed, one of the highlights of the current session of the General Assembly might be the Assembly's endorsement of that treaty.

The lives of people everywhere would be touched daily and in personal ways, if weapons that threatened the world -- whether regionally or subregionally -- were reduced, controlled and eventually eliminated altogether through the steady adoption of meaningful measures of arms control and disarmament.

The Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, MARRACK GOULDING, said that when he first addressed the Committee two weeks ago it was to offer the Secretary-General's opinion on the subject of disarmament. It would not be possible, in the Secretary-General's view, to address issues of conflict without also addressing economic and social dimensions. That required an advance on two broad fronts.

He said the first front was related to weapons of mass destruction. The Review Conference of the NPT was a step forward, as was the announcement by France, the United States, and the United Kingdom of their intention to sign the Treaty of Rarotonga. It was hoped that negotiations would conclude quickly on the comprehensive test-ban treaty, and that negotiations would commence on the banning of fissile material for defense purposes. Security assurances to non-nuclear States in a legally binding operation were also required.

On the conventional front, he said, progress was less positive. The chemical weapons Convention, which encompassed an entire band of weapons, still needed a number of signatures. Confidence-building measures were well- designed to address concerns related to the implementation of that Convention. On behalf of the Secretary-General, he urged all States to sign and ratify the Convention. The goal of bringing the Treaty into force before the end of 1995

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had been missed, but it was still possible to have ratifications by that time by the 165 States needed. The ad hoc committee of the biological weapons Convention should work towards the conclusion of its tasks.

He said the second front on which progress was required was conventional weapons. Those were the weapons destabilizing societies and killing people everyday, that "made a mockery of the new world order", because they were cheap and easy to produce and difficult to control. The adoption in Vienna of the CCW of an additional protocol, Protocol IV, on blinding laser weapons was a step forward. It marked the first time a weapon was banned before its use on the battlefield. Unfortunately, however, the actual problem of land-mines remained unresolved. The Secretary-General had told the Conference that land- mines were "'a slow-motion weapon of mass destruction" because over a long period of time they killed or maimed a large number of people, mostly civilians. At the current rate of clearance, it would take 1100 years to clear existing land-mines. If we were looking for a theme for the work of disarmament, he suggested it was the urgent need to move quickly towards a ban on all land-mines; that was an objective to which the Secretary-General had committed himself.

He said there were other areas in which advances could be made. At the global level, for example, all measures aimed at promoting transparency should be strengthened. Considerable progress had been achieved in the transfer of certain weapons, but less than half the member States had sent in their returns to the Register of Conventional Arms. Regarding technology transfers, there must be an understanding on the need to prevent proliferation of nuclear weapons while avoiding obstruction of the process of development of developing countries.

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For information media. Not an official record.