Speakers Say Insufficient Political Will, Not Deficiencies in Machinery, Causing Impasse
The United Nations Disarmament Commission’s significance as a platform for dialogue and cooperation had only been heightened in light of current rising global tensions and mistrust, the 193-member subsidiary body heard today during its general debate, moving into the second day of its 2015 session.
With a view to advancing discussions despite its 15-year impasse on adopting concrete guidelines, the Disarmament Commission succeeded today, after two days of intense negotiations, in approving a provisional agenda for the current three-year cycle. It thereby agreed to include items on recommendations for achieving the objective of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation of nuclear weapons and on practical confidence-building measures in the field of conventional weapons.
With those issues in mind, delegates weighed in on a range of pressing concerns during the general debate that began this afternoon. As for the disarmament machinery, some agreed that the Commission’s difficulties related less to any inherent deficiencies in the machinery and more to a lack of political will of Member States to invest in multilateral outcomes that would benefit the entire international community. In fact, current realities had bolstered the Commission’s importance as a forum for discussion, India’s delegate said.
The disarmament regime and architecture, said Pakistan’s representative, were not immune to the “gloomy advent of new cold wars” that had replaced the promise of a new century of peace and stability. She was concerned that some nuclear-weapon States were neither willing to give up their large inventories of those weapons nor their modernization programmes, even as they pursued non-proliferation with “messianic zeal”.
Commission-led dialogue was indeed needed on a range of issues, speakers said, with some expressing deep concern over the lack of progress in the implementation obligations and commitments by the nuclear-weapon States. Speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, Indonesia’s delegate said progress on nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation in all aspects was essential to strengthening international peace and security and should not be made conditional on non-proliferation efforts. He pointed to the concrete road map to achieve that, as outlined in General Assembly resolution 69/58.
Pending a comprehensive nuclear weapons convention, he said, all non-nuclear-weapon States should be provided with universal, unconditional, non-discriminatory and legally binding security assurances by all nuclear-weapon States against the use or threat of use of those weapons under all circumstances.
Calling for a binding instrument on such assurances, Ecuador’s delegate, speaking for Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), also urged nuclear-weapon States to respect the denuclearized character of Latin America and withdraw all reservations to the Protocols of the Treaty of Tlatelolco, which established a nuclear-weapon-free-zone in his region in 1967. As to other such zones, some speakers called for expedited efforts to hold the agreed conference on ridding the Middle East of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction.
In working towards a world free of nuclear weapons, Japan’s delegate said cooperation between nuclear- and non-nuclear-weapon States was key. Inclusive discussions based on the humanitarian consequences of those weapons should steer both groups towards eradicating them. To better understand the catastrophic effect of atomic bombings, he encouraged colleagues to visit Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
In other business, the Commission elected Kairat Abdrakhmanov (Kazakhstan) as Chair of Working Group I, Bouchaib el Oumni (Morocco) as Chair of Working Group II.
Comprising all United Nations Member States, the Commission was created as a deliberative body that considers and makes recommendations on various issues in the field of disarmament, usually taking up two substantive items each year. The 2015 session began 6 April and will conclude on 24 April.
Also delivering statements today were representatives of the Russian Federation, Malaysia, Kazakhstan, Mexico, United States, Republic of Korea, Turkey and Egypt.
Exercising the right of reply were the representatives of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and the Republic of Korea.
The Commission will meet again at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 8 April, to continue its work.
DESRA PERCAYA (Indonesia), speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, stressed the need for concrete results in the 2015-2017 cycle of the Disarmament Commission and urged all Member States to demonstrate the required political will and flexibility. Underscoring the absolute validity of multilateral diplomacy in disarmament and non-proliferation, he reiterated the Movement’s deep concern over the lack of progress in the implementation obligations and commitments by the nuclear-weapon States. Progress on nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation in all aspects was essential to strengthening international peace and security. In that context, nuclear disarmament should not be made conditional on confidence-building measures or non-proliferation efforts. General Assembly resolution 69/58 provided a concrete road map to achieve that objective.
He said that the urgent start of negotiations in the Conference on Disarmament for the early conclusion of a comprehensive convention on nuclear weapons to prohibit their possession, development, production, acquisition, testing, stockpiling, transfer, use or threat of use, and to provide for their destruction, would enable tangible progress. Welcoming the continued consideration of the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons, he emphasized that the total elimination of those weapons was the only absolute guarantee against their use or threat of use. Pending that, all non-nuclear-weapon States should be provided with universal, unconditional, non-discriminatory and legally binding security assurances by all nuclear-weapon States against the use or thereat of use of nuclear weapons under all circumstances.
XAVIER LASSO MENDOZA (Ecuador), speaking for the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), expressed support for the conclusion of a universal legally binding, effective, irreversible and verifiable nuclear disarmament instrument leading to the complete elimination of those weapons under a multilaterally agreeable timetable. He also called for the negotiation and adoption, as soon as possible, of a universal and legally binding instrument on negative security assurances and urged nuclear-weapon States to withdraw all reservations to the Protocols of the Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean (Treaty of Tlatelolco), as well as to respect the denuclearized character of the region. He regretted the failure to hold the agreed international conference on a Middle East zone free of nuclear and all other mass destruction weapons, and urged its convening as soon as possible. Emphasizing the importance of achieving the NPT’s universality, he urged States that had not yet done so to accede to it and called on the nuclear-weapon States to comply with their commitments under its article VI. He also urged States whose ratification was indispensable for the test-ban Treaty’s entry into force to accelerate their signing and/or ratification of that instrument. He welcomed the General Assembly’s decision to hold a high-level conference no later than 2018 to identify measures and actions to eliminate nuclear weapons in the shortest time possible.
On conventional weapons, he noted confidence-building measures taken in the region, which contributed to enhancing international peace and security and encouraged Member States to strengthen such measures at all levels. The Community reaffirmed the crucial importance of the Programme of Action on small arms and light weapons and stressed the need for its full implementation, further emphasizing the need for multilateral-level work towards the adoption of legally binding instruments on marking and tracing, and illicit brokering, to prevent the diversion of small arms and light weapons to the illicit market. In light of the recent entry into force of the Arms Trade Treaty, he called for its application in a balanced, transparent and objective manner, respecting the sovereign right of all States to ensure their self-defence. He also welcomed the Declaration of Central America as a mine-free zone and supported international efforts to reduce suffering caused by cluster munitions. Expressing regret that the Conference on Disarmament had yet to agree on and implement its programme of work, he urged its members to show the political will needed to commence substantive work without delay, and on all delegations to show the necessary political will to enable the Commission to fulfil its mandate and formulate substantive recommendations.
VENKATESH VARMA (India), associating with the Non-Aligned Movement, said that the Commission’s current difficulties related less to any inherent deficiencies in the machinery and more to the lack of political will of Member States to invest in multilateral outcomes that would be of enduring value to the entire international community. “At a time of growing mistrust and rising international tensions, the role of this Commission as a platform for dialogue and cooperation assumes greater significance,” he said. India attached the highest priority to global, non-discriminatory, verifiable nuclear disarmament and the complete elimination of nuclear weapons in a time-bound manner. The country had, therefore, supported the proposal put forward by the Non-Aligned Movement to commence negotiations on a comprehensive nuclear weapons convention, and it also supported the start of negotiations on a fissile material cut-off treaty in the Conference on Disarmament on the basis of the agreed mandate. It had also called for meaningful dialogue among all States possessing nuclear weapons to build trust and confidence for reducing those weapons’ salience in international affairs and security doctrines. While India’s priority remained nuclear disarmament, it would not stand in the way of consensus on a third agenda item, especially if it could help the international community respond to new and emerging challenges to the disarmament agenda.
OLGA KUZNETSOVA (Russian Federation) stressed the need for a comprehensive and multilateral approach based on strategic stability and equal and undiminished security for all. The Commission faced the same hindrances that were impeding effective functioning of other elements of the United Nations disarmament machinery. The current session should focus primarily on a high-quality agenda that would serve as the basis for its work within the next three years. The Russian Federation was actively pursuing nuclear disarmament and stressed the need for substantive dialogue without double standards. Unilateral and unconstrained deployment of the United States’ global missile defence was among the extremely destructive factors. The Russian-Chinese initiative of not to be the first to place weapons in outer space was an important intermediate measure. The removal of all chemical weapons components from Syria followed by their destruction was made possible due to the strong political will of the Syrian Government, as well as decisive contributions by the Russian Federation and the wider international community. The dialogue on arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation should build on the current mandate and the unanimously acknowledged principle of consensus.
RAJA REZA RAJA ZAIB SHAH (Malaysia) said current challenges to the disarmament machinery were an opportunity to take stock of the impasse and reaffirm a resolve to collectively reinvigorate the process. As such, he called on Member States and groups to renew positions and demonstrate flexibility and political will to bridge gaps. The forthcoming NPT Review Conference should add to the momentum towards greater cooperation in achieving disarmament goals. Despite advances in drafting a nuclear weapons convention, the international community was far from that goal and the Commission should focus its discussions on concrete proposals for such an instrument. On conventional weapons, he welcomed the outcome of the fifth Biennial Meeting of States on the United Nations Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade of Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects and looked forward to the related meeting of Government experts, to be held in June. Confidence-building measures at all levels would contribute to strengthening international peace and security, and, in that regard, he hoped the Commission would be able to find common ground.
MALEEHA LODHI (Pakistan), associating with the Non-Aligned Movement, said that the promise of a new century of peace and stability was giving way to the “gloomy advent of new cold wars”, a trend from which the disarmament regime and architecture were not immune. Some nuclear-weapons States were neither willing to give up their large inventories of nuclear weapons nor their modernization programmes, even as they pursued non-proliferation with “messianic zeal”. Many States continued to pursue policies of granting waivers and exemptions from long-held non-proliferation principles, thus contributing to insecurity and imbalances in some regions, such as South Asia. She put forth several ideas to promote greater cooperation in strengthening global security. She called for, among other things, recognition of the right to equality for all States; addressing the underlying security considerations which drove smaller States to seek weapons to defend themselves; renewed commitment among nuclear-weapon States to achieve nuclear disarmament that reduced and eliminated nuclear warhead delivery systems within a reasonable timeframe; an agreed, criteria-based and non-discriminatory approach to promote peaceful uses of nuclear energy under appropriate international safeguards; and assurances for non-nuclear-weapon States that they would not be threatened with the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons.
KAIRAT ABDRAKHMANOV (Kazakhstan) underlined the need to break the current stalemate, revitalize the disarmament machinery and address today’s many new threats. With regard to regional tensions, he called for the NPT’s universalization, noting that the entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty would also help to further the process. On the Treaty on a Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone in Central Asia, he said Kazakhstan was working to guarantee the physical security of nuclear materials and would, with the approval of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), host an international low-enriched uranium bank. Turning to the Middle East, he welcomed the recent agreement on Iran’s nuclear programme and urged concerned Member States to hold as soon as possible a conference on establishing a regional nuclear weapon-free zone. On the Commission, he said if the body continued to fail to adopt a strong work programme, the General Assembly should consider reorganizing the disarmament machinery as it was time to start drafting a fissile material cut-off treaty and a nuclear weapons convention and to put into operation the Secretary-General’s five-point plan.
JUAN SANDOVAL MENDIOLEA (Mexico) said several anniversaries relating to the disarmament imperative converged to make 2015 a landmark opportunity for progress. Mexico would work to ensure a substantive outcome of the NPT Review Conference, he said, adding that the vital priority was to ensure decisive work on the disarmament dimension. On the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons, all forums should discuss the various manifestations of accidental, as well as deliberate use. The Commission and the Conference on Disarmament should incorporate the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons as part of their efforts to ensure that disarmament became, not merely a process, but a tool of ensuring international peace and security. Mexico supported Austria’s proposal to include recommendations on ways of achieving the disarmament and non-proliferation items on the Commission’s agenda, he said, emphasizing the need to take earnest steps to fulfil the United Nations mandate in that regard. Welcoming the entry into force of the Arms Trade Treaty, he said the international community now faced the challenge of implementation. Mexico would hold the first conference of States parties to the Treaty as a means of promoting effective implementation.
JOHN A. BRAVACO (United States) looked forward to working with all States parties at the 2015 NPT Review Conference to advance “realistic, achievable” objectives. His Government would pursue a “balanced” agenda across the Treaty’s three pillars, seeking to ensure that IAEA safeguards remained robust and to address non-compliance. On disarmament, dialogue among the Security Council’s permanent five members at high political levels continued to increase transparency and confidence-building, creating opportunities for more technical and cooperative engagement. The International Partnership on Nuclear Disarmament Verification — formed to pursue technical work on disarmament goals — held its first meeting from 19 to 20 March, discussing potential areas of cooperation. The United States was committed to its moratorium on fissile material production and encouraged other States to adopt such bans. It sought the immediate start of negotiations on a cut-off treaty, with the Conference on Disarmament its preferred venue. As the Shannon report outlined the need to ban fissile material production for weapons use, on which everyone agreed, all else should be the subject of consensus negotiations in the Conference. The Commission, for its part, should establish a third agenda item on recommendations for implementation of transparency and confidence-building measures in outer space activities.
PAIK JI-AH (Republic of Korea) called NPT “the cornerstone of the international non-proliferation regime” and hoped that, based on a balanced approach to its three pillars, the upcoming Review Conference would strengthen its regime and implementation of the 2010 Action Plan. He welcomed the political framework agreed by the “P5+1” and Iran in the hope that it would lead to a comprehensive resolution of the Iranian nuclear issue. The recent entry into force of the Arms Trade Treaty was an encouraging development, and the current session should work towards specific recommendations on bolstering confidence-building mechanisms in the field of conventional weapons. Achieving the Treaty’s universality was essential. Noting that the “North Korean nuclear issue” posed a grave challenge to nuclear non-proliferation, he urged the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to abandon all nuclear weapons and existing such programmes in a complete, verifiable and irreversible manner, in compliance with its international obligations, and hoped that it would return to a meaningful dialogue on its nuclear issue with a sincere attitude and commitment towards denuclearization.
EFE CEYLAN (Turkey) said the common aim of Member States should be to break the deadlock gripping the international disarmament machinery in order to ensure its credibility. Recent geopolitical challenges and growing activism of civil society, among other developments, provided an opportunity to revitalize that work. Welcoming the adoption of the Commission’s agenda for the next triennial cycle, he said consensus was required of all parties in order to achieve tangible results in all areas. If the linkage problem between the two working groups crept into the discussions once again, the Commission would be condemned to the failures of the past, he cautioned. The concept of security today could not be confined to States, but should encompass its manifold dimensions, which affected the entire world. In that context, the Security Council must review implementation of its own resolutions on Syria’s chemical weapons and the Commission should bring up that agenda for discussion. Diplomacy was the only way of resolving the Iranian nuclear question, he said, calling on all parties to fulfil their obligations towards reaching a final agreement.
RYO FUKAHORI (Japan) regretted that the Commission, once renowned as the leading deliberative United Nations body in the field of disarmament, and the Geneva-based Conference on Disarmament had failed to fulfil their mandates. Although Japan would continue to actively participate in the Commission, the lack of substantive outcomes had put its raison d’être into serious question, he said, pointing out the need to find a way to revitalize the body’s work. A world free of nuclear weapons could not be achieved without cooperation between nuclear-weapon and non-nuclear-weapon States in advancing practical and effective measures towards their long-term vision. Nuclear-weapon States should ensure the transparency of their nuclear forces, he said, urging reductions and the eventual start of multilateral negotiations in that direction. Both groups of States should unite towards freeing the world of nuclear weapons based on the discussions on their humanitarian consequences. Such discussions should be inclusive, he said, encouraging all colleagues to visit Hiroshima and Nagasaki to better understand the catastrophic humanitarian consequence of atomic bombings. Addressing the enormous damage caused by conventional arms remained of utmost importance for the international community.
AMR FATHI ALJOWAILY (Egypt), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, the African Group and the Arab Group, said that, as the Commission began a new cycle of work, a consensus substantive outcome was most important if the body was to preserve its relevance to the multilateral machinery on disarmament. That was especially true given the “successive failures” of past cycles since 1999. He, thus, called upon nuclear-weapon States and major arms exporters to display the necessary political will to reach a substantive outcome on the two important issues on the Commission’s agenda. With regard to nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, the starting point should be the implementation of the General Assembly resolution on the Follow-up to the High-Level Meeting on Nuclear Disarmament, held on 26 September 2013 (A/RES/69/58), which charted a road map towards the total elimination of nuclear weapons. Further, the universalization of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) was an indispensable step to achieve general and complete nuclear disarmament. Regarding confidence-building measures, he called for a number of key elements, including subjecting to international scrutiny the over-production and ever increasing conventional weapons stockpiles in the hands of major arms exporters and producers; mutual accountability; and addressing protracted global peace and security threats.
Right of Reply
Speaking in exercise of right of reply, the representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea said his country possessed nuclear weapons as a deterrent in response to external conditions, namely, the hostile policies of the United States against his country. As long as those policies continued — as manifested by recent declarations by that Government — the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea could not give up its nuclear weapons. The Republic of Korea’s representative, who brought up the issue of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s nuclear weapons during the general debate, ignored the hostile activities taking place in her country in the form of the joint military exercises with the United States.
The representative of the Republic of Korea said the relevant Security Council resolutions obliged the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to give up its nuclear programme in a complete, verifiable and irreversible manner. The United States and the Republic of Korea had been conducting joint exercises for many decades as a defensive measure against hostile activities from the north, with transparency and advance notification.
Taking the floor for a second time, the representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea said the Commission was not the forum for addressing the issues just raised; that was an attempt to change the character of this body’s work. Those statements were unacceptable.
Responding, the representative of the Republic of Korea said that if his counterpart decided to abandon its nuclear programme, the Republic of Korea would cooperate and help it to fully participate in the global economy. His delegation hoped the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea would move in that direction.