Cybersecurity, lethal autonomous weapons, environmental protection and the gender perspective took centre stage in the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) today as delegations embarked on a far-reaching thematic debate on other disarmament measures and international security.
Speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, Indonesia’s representative underscored how fast-changing information and telecommunication technologies could potentially be used for purposes inconsistent with maintaining international stability and security. Given the potential danger to peace and security, she proposed that a legal framework should be developed within the United Nations.
In that vein, the representative of the United States said it was a fundamental goal of his Government to create an environment in which all States could enjoy the benefits of cyberspace. International cyberstability and conflict prevention were best advanced through the application of existing international law, he said, warning that his Government could not support other approaches that would only serve to legitimize repressive State practices.
His counterpart from the Russian Federation said that every year, the global economy withstood billions of dollars in damages caused by the malicious use of information and communication technologies. That situation undermined the security and sovereignty of States, created a chain reaction of mistrust and ramped up the information arms race, he said, introducing a draft resolution the topic of which all Member States were encouraged to support.
Some speakers discussed how their countries and regions were responding to cybersecurity challenges, with an accent on regional cooperation. Singapore’s representative, for example, said various steps had been taken to protect the country’s networks, alongside collaboration with its fellow Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) member States. Venezuela’s delegate, on behalf of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), recalled how leaders of that regional group had undertaken to speed up work on cyberdefence projects. Effective cooperation between States was essential to reduce threats, he added.
Other speakers raised concerns about pressing threats and how to tackle them. The representative of Trinidad and Tobago, on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said gender perspectives could advance the achievement of disarmament-related goals. While men were most often the victims of gun crimes, it was women who were left to become the sole bread-winner for families and thus risked falling into poverty. For that reason, women were indispensable agents in the disarmament process, she added, arguing for gender-based violence to be given a prominent place in the implementation of the Arms Trade Treaty.
Pakistan’s delegate called attention to the development of lethal autonomous weapons systems, saying they were by nature unethical because life and death decisions were delegated to machines. He also expressed concern that such weapons would lower the threshold of going to war, in addition to the danger of their proliferation to non-State actors and terrorists.
On behalf of the Arab Group, the representative of Tunisia said it was important to give attention to environmental factors in the disarmament debate. All countries had to make a contribution to guarantee respect for environmental standards when treaties and standards were implemented, he added.
Also today, the Committee heard the introduction of several draft resolutions and held a panel discussion featuring the President of the Conference on Disarmament, Chair of the United Nations Disarmament Commission, Chair of the Advisory Board on Disarmament Matters and the Director of the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR). Earlier today, the Committee concluded its debate on conventional weapons and heard a briefing with officials from the Regional Disarmament Branch of the Department of Disarmament Affairs focusing on the work of United Nations centres for peace and disarmament in Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Asia.
Also speaking were the representatives of Morocco, Zambia, Sri Lanka, Spain, Sweden, Ethiopia, Fiji, Canada, Ecuador, Norway, Republic of Korea, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Lithuania, Colombia, Burkina Faso, Yemen, India, Netherlands, Italy, Venezuela (in its national capacity), Switzerland, Paraguay, Australia, Algeria, China, Iran, Fiji, Cuba, Trinidad and Tobago (in its national capacity), Bangladesh and Spain.
The representatives of Iran, Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Saudi Arabia spoke in exercise of the right of reply.
The Committee will meet again at 3 p.m. on Tuesday, 25 October, to continue its thematic debate on other disarmament measures and international security.
The First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) met today to continue its general debate on all agenda items before it. For background, see Press Release GA/DIS/3545 of 3 October.
The Committee then engaged in a panel discussion on “Regional disarmament and security”. The panel featured: Xiaoyu Wang, Acting Chief of the Regional Disarmament Branch of the Office of Disarmament Affairs; Olatokunbo Ige, Director of the Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Africa of the Office of Disarmament Affairs; Mélanie Régimbal, Director of the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace, Disarmament and Development in Latin America and the Caribbean; and Yuriy Kryvonos, Director of the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Asia and the Pacific.
Mr. WANG said the regional centres had worked very closely with partners, particularly Member States, in advancing initiatives to promote arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation in their respective regions. Since the First Committee’s 2015 session, the three regional centres had undertaken a number of activities, including capacity-building programmes and legal and technical assistance to Member States, conferences and workshops to promote dialogue and confidence-building and advocacy and outreach initiatives to promote global treaties and raise public awareness.
He then summarized the outcome of the final report of the sixth Biennial Meeting of States to Consider the Implementation of the Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects. Delegates had highlighted that the illicit arms trade had implications for the attainment of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and several Sustainable Development Goals, including those related to peace, justice and strong institutions, poverty reduction, economic growth, health, gender equality and safe cities and communities. Moreover, States had emphasized the importance of the full implementation of the Programme of Action on Small Arms and the International Tracing Instrument for the attainment of Sustainable Development Goal 16 and target 16.4. That recognition underlined the valuable role that the regional centres could play in contributing to the Goals, he said.
Ms. IGE provided an overview of work that had been conducted over the past decade, including more than 130 activities benefiting more than 7,500 national authorities across Africa. The Centre continued to work closely with the African Union, including support for the implementation of its arms control strategy, and was jointly discussing the implementation of the 2030 Agenda while examining synergies with the African Union Agenda 2063 and the Silencing the Guns in Africa by 2020 initiatives.
Among other activities, she said, the Centre had contributed to providing technical assistance in the implementation of the United Nations integrated strategy for the Sahel and had actively participated in inter-agency coordination efforts led by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for West Africa and the Sahel, she continued. In addition, the Centre had provided substantive support on disarmament, arms control and non-proliferation issues to State members of the United Nations Standing Advisory Committee on Security Questions in Central Africa.
Ms. RÉGIMBAL said that over the past year, almost 50 activities in 13 Latin American and Caribbean countries had included specialized training, technical assistance and legal and policy support, covering the gamut of disarmament, arms control and non-proliferation issues. It had also supported Member States in their implementation of the Programme of Action on Small Arms, the International Tracing Instrument, the Arms Trade Treaty, Security Council resolution 1540 (2004) and the General Assembly resolution on women, disarmament, non-proliferation and arms control.
Providing a few highlights of the Centre’s recent work, she noted its participation in a United Nations multi-year, multi-agency project in northern Peru, where more than 10,000 weapons had been destroyed. Other initiatives had included an updated regional study on the impact of stray bullets, the development of a training tool to help stop illicit small arms trafficking through postal shipments and activities involving private security companies in Central and South America. Efforts had also helped Member States to improve their strategic trade controls and modernize their legislative and policy frameworks in line with resolution 1540 (2004), including a counter-proliferation financing guide.
Mr. KRYVONOS said efforts had included conducting 37 projects individually and 34 in cooperation with other players in the Asia-Pacific region. Prioritizing the promotion of dialogue and confidence-building, the Regional Centre had cooperated with the Republic of Korea to organize the fourteenth United Nations-Republic of Korea Joint Conference on Disarmament and Non-Proliferation Issues, in Seoul. It had also carried out several national capacity-building projects to help Member States to implement the Arms Trade Treaty, the Programme of Action on Small Arms and Security Council resolution 1540 (2004).
Cooperation with the Governments, he said, had resulted in holding capacity-building workshops for the Philippines and Myanmar, focusing on small arms, light weapons and the Programme of Action on Small Arms. A national workshop for Thailand had aimed at enhancing capacities to implement the Programme of Action on Small Arms and to meet import, export and transfer standards as stipulated in the Arms Trade Treaty. Subregional capacity-building workshops, held in Thailand and Samoa, had aimed at facilitating the implementation of the Arms Trade Treaty and efforts on regional implementation of resolution 1540 (2004) had included three events for Central Asian States in the framework of a joint project involving the United Nations Office of Disarmament Affairs and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). Looking forward, he said the resumption of the Regional Centre’s operation in Nepal was a priority. It was also working with donor States and other funding bodies to secure resources for new projects and laying the groundwork for 2017.
Mr. WANG said the quality work of the Regional Centres would not be possible without voluntary contributions of Member States. He expressed particular appreciation for donors that had provided consistent support through the years and to Nepal, Peru and Togo for their partnerships in hosting and operating the Centres. Total donor contributions had been steady, with only a brief dip in 2009 following the global financial crisis, he said. The total average annual contribution was more than $2 million, not including in-kind contributions. In 2015, the Regional Centres had seen the highest level of voluntary funding to date, demonstrating a recognition of their important work done and a strong indication of the increasing demand from recipient States for the capacity building and technical assistance needed to the address challenges. Unfortunately, because of limited financial resources, many of the calls by States for assistance could not be answered, he said.
Thematic Debate on Conventional Weapons
BOUCHAIB ELOUMNI (Morocco) said the uncontrolled proliferation of small arms and light weapons had catastrophic consequences to peace, security and development, particularly in Africa. He expressed concern about the link between the weapons trafficking and terrorism, which threatened stability, especially in the Sahel region. International cooperation and political commitment were crucial to efforts aimed at stamping out trafficking. As such, he called for the full implementation of all outcomes of the sixth Biennial Meeting of States, including the enhancement of capacity building, know-how and transfers of technology. For its part, Morocco had co-sponsored draft resolutions “L.25”, on the fight against trafficking, and “L.32” on assisting States to curb trafficking.
GIVENS SHITUBOTU MUNTENGWA (Zambia), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement and the African Group, said that almost two years had passed since the Arms Trade Treaty entered into force and yet the real challenge was its effective universalization. If done successfully, the Treaty would improve regional security, reduce human suffering and improve transparency in conventional arms transfers. Zambia called for a more deliberate role for subregional institutions to encourage more States to ratify or accede to the Treaty. Calling on those on the African continent who had not yet done so to join, he said Zambia supported calls to help sub-Saharan countries to build sufficient institutional capabilities to tackle the issue of the illegal arms trade. In addition, for the Treaty to be optimal at national, regional and global levels, more women should be engaged in policy formulation.
NILUKA PRABHATH KADURUGAMUWA (Sri Lanka), endorsing the Non-Aligned Movement, said the wide use of conventional weapons had been further aggravated by an illicit trade that had enabled their use by non-State actors. As a country that had suffered from three decades of internal armed conflict, Sri Lanka was well aware of the ramifications of small arms and light weapons, he said, drawing attention to Goal 16 of the 2030 Agenda. He said a principal element of international humanitarian law rested on 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.
JULIO HERRÁIZ (Spain) said that every year, more than 500,000 people were killed by firearms, noting that their proliferation had gone beyond the military sector. The universalization of the Arms Trade Treaty would be a key element in preventing the use of small arms and light weapons, which endangered the security and stability of regions and States. He emphasized Security Council resolutions which addressed small arms and light weapons, including resolution 2242 (2015), on the role of women in formulating policies to combat their illicit trade. Spain was firmly opposed to cluster munitions and it was deeply concerned by their continued use in various parts of the world.
MAGNUS HELLGREN (Sweden) said his country would make contributions to the newly established Arms Trade Treaty Voluntary Trust Fund and its sponsorship programme before the end of 2016. With a view to fostering confidence-building measures, Sweden encouraged all Member States to report annually to the Group of Governmental Experts on continuing operation and relevance of the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms and its further development. The Programme of Action on Small Arms together with the Arms Trade Treaty provided a comprehensive toolkit to tackle the illicit trade, he said, warning that those types of weapons continued to destabilize societies and undermine both peace and development. Sweden expressed deep concern about reports of the use of cluster munitions affecting civilian populations, calling on all actors to strictly observe international humanitarian law. In conclusion, he emphasized that Sweden would continue to support a gender-based approach to the disarmament and arms control agenda.
HUDA MOHAMMED (Ethiopia) said his Government had been working closely with partners in the region in addressing the challenges posed by the illicit transfer of conventional weapons. With a view to enhancing collective efforts, the East and Central African regions had continued to coordinate and assist States to effectively control arms transfers. In that regard, it was imperative for all countries to implement the Programme of Action on Small Arms. Equally important was the full implementation of Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction, he added, stressing that Ethiopia stood ready to assist in efforts aimed at the rehabilitation of mine victims.
GENE BAI (Fiji) said one of the most challenging goals in international relations was to achieve complete disarmament. When conventional weapons fell into the wrong hands, they could kill hundreds of thousands, destroy cities, collapse societies and trigger mass migration. “Conventional weapons are in relatively wide use, more easy to procure and can cause comparatively more human suffering than other weapon known to us, including weapons of mass destruction,” he said, emphasizing that Fiji believed that the goal of conventional arms control was to make populations feel more secure. As a small island developing State, Fiji was vulnerable to the challenges of the illicit arms trade as it did not have sufficient resources to combat those activities alone. Engaging in a global partnership was the only path to overcoming those challenges and securing a peaceful future.
JOHN DAVISON (Canada) said a world free of landmines would only be achieved through dedicated action by all States and the universalization of the Mine Ban Convention. The indiscriminate use of explosive weapons remained a pressing need in many conflicts. As civilians, including humanitarian workers and medical personnel, were being targeted by such attacks, there was an urgent need to strengthen compliance with international humanitarian law through education, accountability and sharing of best practices. Unregulated arms transfers intensified and prolonged conflict, she said, expressing strong support for the objectives of the Arms Trade Treaty and calling on non-State parties to join that important instrument.
FERNANDO LUQUE MÁRQUEZ (Ecuador), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement and the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), reiterated his Government’s firm commitment to the Convention on Cluster Munitions. International public opinion condemned such weapons, no matter where they were used or who used them, he said. He also expressed Ecuador’s firm support for the Mine Ban Convention. Borders should be made safer through joint development projects with neighbouring countries, he said, summarizing efforts in that regard with Peru. Unmanned aircraft and lethal autonomous weapons gave rise to humanitarian, ethical and moral concerns. Those concerns should be considered at the upcoming Review Conference of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, with a view to efforts that could lead to a ban on their use.
KNUT LANGELAND (Norway) said distinguishing between combatants and non-combatants in conflicts was a clear obligation, and dialogue was needed to enhance civilian protection and compliance with international humanitarian law. Norway was pleased to co-sponsor the resolution on the Convention on Cluster Munitions, welcoming the 100 countries that had ratified it and calling for continued efforts to reach 130 States parties by 2020. Norway was currently providing humanitarian mine action and victim assistance in 20 countries and would, along with the United States, lead a global demining initiative in Colombia. He characterized small arms and light weapons as “weapons of mass destruction in slow motion”, killing more than half a million people every year. The Arms Trade Treaty was the first international instrument providing for an obligation to assess the potential for gender-based violence. The substantive outcome of the second Conference of States Parties to the Treaty had provided a solid foundation forward for the regime and for continued universalization efforts.
SEO EUNJI (Republic of Korea) said debating conventional weapons was uniquely difficult, as they had never been made illegal per se, even if they claimed more lives than other types of weapons. The international community must work hard to impede their illicit transfer, destabilizing accumulation and misuse. With the Arms Trade Treaty in full effect, efforts should be made to strengthen synergies between it, Security Council resolutions 2117 (2013) and 2220 (2015) and the Programme of Action on Small Arms, she said, adding that the Republic of Korea was at the very last stage of ratifying the Treaty. Her Government attached great importance to universalization of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, she said, highlighting also the importance of addressing the humanitarian impacts of improvised explosive devices.
RAUF DENKTAŞ (Turkey) said the threat to safety, security and social and economic development posed by the proliferation of illicit conventional weapons was no less important than that of weapons of mass destruction. At the same time, there was a well-documented relationship between their illicit trade on the one hand and conflict, terrorism and organized crime on the other. As such, the illicit transfer and uncontrolled spread of small arms and light weapons must be eradicated. For its part, Turkey was committed to the effective implementation of the Programme of Action on Small Arms and the International Tracing Instrument. Looking ahead, the Programme of Action Review Conference in 2018 provided an opportunity to create improved mechanisms for cooperation, with a view to developing a tailored programme of work for the next six-year cycle.
SAAD ABDULLAH N. AL SAAD (Saudi Arabia) said his country had suffered from the arms smuggling that were being used in terrorist operations. Nevertheless, his Government had worked on removing and destroying those weapons in cooperation with specialists and continued to combat smuggling. Recently, several Iranian terrorist cells had been arrested for smuggling weapons and explosives into Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Kuwait. Indeed, Iran was fuelling sectarianism between communities in the region, providing arms to militias and terrorist groups, he said. Iran had provided weapons to Hezbollah, harboured senior leaders of Al-Qaida and supported the Houthi rebels’ coup in Yemen. He underlined the importance of adhering to the provisions of the United Nations Charter and the principles of international legitimacy.
Thematic Debate on Other Disarmament Measures
DELFINA JANE ALOYSIUS DRIS (Malaysia), associating herself with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), underscored the need to address the root causes of illicit arms transfers, including their supply to armed groups either by Governments or through the black market. She called on Member States with the relevant expertise and experience to play a larger role in helping States to develop capacities to meet the aspirations of the Programme of Action on Small Arms. Malaysia was currently taking the necessary steps towards ratifying the Arms Trade Treaty, which must be implemented in a consistent, objective and non-discriminatory manner.
ROSITA ŠORYTĖ (Lithuania) said the entry into force of the Arms Trade Treaty could mark a turning point in ensuring a more transparent and responsible international arms trade. If applied in good faith, the OSCE could serve as a good model for regional cooperation in conventional arms control, including confidence- and security-building measures. Participating States could benefit from existing instruments towards achieving concrete results, such as increasing opportunities for verification and modernizing and updating military information exchanges. Modernizing the Vienna Document 2011 on Confidence- and Security-Building Measures and the non-selective implementation of the Treaty on Open Skies could ensure stability and security in Europe. Lithuania also welcomed the global demining initiative for Colombia and announced its contribution through the European Union Trust Fund.
JUAN CAMILO DÍAZ REINA (Colombia) said arms trafficking had deeply affected his country, which had played a leadership role on the issue at regional and international levels. While Colombia attached great importance to the Programme of Action on Small Arms, States must join efforts toward adapting the instrument to new realities. Colombia, with South Africa and Japan, had presented a draft resolution on the illicit trade of small arms and light weapons. Thanking the “Group of 77” developing countries and China for co-sponsoring the draft, he called on other States to support it. Turning to landmines, his Government had strengthened clearing action and had introduced best practices for other countries to combat that scourge. Meanwhile, there was a need to control improvised explosive devices, which could be very harmful and currently remained outside international law, he said.
MARIAME FOFANA (Burkina Faso) said the transfer of conventional weapons was all the more relevant given the current global security environment. Arms trafficking posed a great danger to peace and security around the world and contributed to cross-border crime and terrorist activities. Her Government continued to strengthen its domestic legal arsenal on such weapons and the domestication of Arms Trade Treaty provisions. At the same time, a national commission on combating the spread of small arms was trying to raise awareness on consequences of that trend. The humanitarian and economic consequences of anti-personnel mines were terrifying and the international community could not remain indifferent. She called for the universalization of the Mine Ban Convention to address victims’ needs and for greater assistance to affected States.
KHALED HUSSEIN MOHAMED ALYEMANY (Yemen), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said the illicit and unregulated trafficking in small arms and light weapons was a threat to international peace and security. He said that his country knew the grief they brought and asked Member States to combat and eliminate that dangerous phenomenon so that such weapons did not end up in the hands of non-State actors for terrorist purposes as was case in his country. He said the Iranian regime provided to Houthi rebels conventional weapons and ballistic missiles, with consequences for regional peace and security as well as maritime routes in the southern Red Sea. A recent incident involving a United States naval ship could bear witness to that. He said Yemen was a country that supported legitimacy and made sure that weapons did not end up with terrorists. It supported the Programme of Action and asked all States, in particular Iran, to abide by international instruments and not to undermine peace by supplying weapons to armed groups.
Right of Reply
The representative of Iran, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said the unfounded allegations that the representative of the Saudi Arabia regime had made represented a manufactured fiction. The Saudi Arabia regime was known as the mother of terrorism and violent extremism in the Middle East region and well-known for being the main sponsor of dangerous terrorist groups like Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) and Jabhat al-Nusrah li-Ahl al-Sham. Sponsored terrorist acts had extended beyond the Middle East, he added, pointing out the links between Saudi Arabia and the perpetrators of the September 2001 attacks in the United States. The representative of the Saudi regime could not create a smokescreen for the crimes being committed during its 20-month-long aggression against Yemen and the Yemeni people that had seen the bombing of 3,000 civilian sites. Those and other facts pointed to an undeniable violation of international humanitarian law by Saudi Arabia and constituted a crime of war for which that country must be accountable. It was a shame that the representative of Yemen had, instead of defending his country’s innocent civilians, become a puppet of Saudi Arabia and had raised baseless allegations against others.
The representative of Iraq said his Government was concentrating on combatting terrorism, in particular Da’esh. The representative of Saudi Arabia allegation that Iraq was assisting terrorist groups was not true. He called for the peaceful settlement of disputes and for united efforts to address terrorism and its sources in the region.
The representative of Syria said the Saudi regime, among others, had been responsible for killing Syrian people. It was astonishing that Saudi Arabia had spent a considerable amount from its budget in order to destroy Syria, its people and civilization and was now asking the international community to combat arms trafficking. The Saudi regime had been purchasing weapons and munitions from eastern European countries and the Western world that had been funnelled via countries neighbouring Syria to terrorist groups. At the beginning of the Syrian crisis, many criminals and terrorists had been released from Saudi prisons on the condition that they join terrorist groups in Syria. There were friends currently present in Syria, at his Government’s request, to eliminate Da’esh and others who had been supported by the Saudi regime, he said.
The representative of Yemen requested that the Committee did not focus attention on regional conflicts. The representative of Iran had spared no effort to worsen conflicts that already existed. Iran had been supplying weapons and experts to the Houthi for a long time, an act that was a threat to Yemen and a violation of international law and customs. Yemen would have liked to have seen Iran play an essential role in bringing security to the region. He said he did not want to open all the dossiers about the murders, lies and destructive plans of Iran in the area, but advised Iran to be satisfied with discussing the subject before the Committee.
The representative of Saudi Arabia said his country was not on the list of terrorist countries, but Iran was. That was a clearly established fact and non-debatable. Saudi shipments had not been sent illegally to other countries, whereas Iranian ships had been loaded with weapons for Houthi. That had been documented by the United Nations and represented a violation of Security Council resolutions and decisions. It was also a fact that Saudi Arabia did not want to support a Head of State who was despotic, authoritarian and responsible for the deaths of thousands of Syrians. Iran, however, had supported that individual. Those were facts that could not be contested, he said, adding that there was no need for long speeches on that subject.
The representative of Syria said there was no doubt that the Saudi regime had played a destructive role in supporting religious extremism and terrorism in the region and wider world. It was well known that the Saudi regime had contributed to the training and financing of Al-Qaida in the 1980s and continued today to destabilize the region by supporting terrorism and religious extremism in many countries in the world.
The representative of Iran said hearing comments about the political systems and democracy of other countries from Saudi Arabia, whose citizens had not experienced one election, was not credible.
The representative of Saudi Arabia said the King had fostered real national cohesiveness in his country. Shiites were brothers and Saudi Arabia considered their needs. Iran was playing a losing game.
The Committee then held a panel discussion on the “Disarmament machinery”. The panel featured: Kim Inchul, President of the Conference on Disarmament; Odo Tevi, Chairman of the United Nations Disarmament Commission; Mely Caballero-Anthony, Chair of the Advisory Board on Disarmament Matters; and Jarmo Sareva, Director of the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR).
Mr. KIM reported on the Conference on Disarmament during its 2016 session, which had included intensive activities and discussions surrounding a draft programme of work. That encouraging sign reflected Member State support for and interest in its work. Several programmes of work drafts had been submitted, including by Nigeria and the United Kingdom, and the Russian Federation had presented a proposal to establish a working group. Throughout the session, efforts had been made to conduct intensive consultations with a view to reaching consensus on a programme of work on the basis of the relevant proposals, but had not be able to reach agreement.
Turning to matters of substantive work, he said plenary meetings had been held for delegations to express their national positions and exchange views on a proposal that had been introduced during the Peruvian presidency. The Conference had also conducted informal discussions on several important issues. Initiated by the Pakistani presidency, the Conference had held in May an informal meeting on women and disarmament, calling for more attention to that issue. An informal meeting in August on the main international challenges for disarmament had been held during the Polish presidency. The second informal Conference on Disarmament-Civil Society Forum had also been convened whereby delegations exchanged their views on topics such as new weapon technologies and the role and possible contribution of the Conference for strengthening the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals. Little progress had been made with regard to expansion of the membership of the Conference on Disarmament, but future sessions should address that issue.
Mr. TEVI said the Disarmament Commission had adopted its substantive agenda at the beginning of the 2015 session with the understanding that consultations would continue on ways to implement resolution 69/77, which referred to a proposal to include a third agenda item. At the end of the substantive session of 2016, there had been no consensus on that proposal. However, the Commission’s report for 2016 stipulated that the Commission Chair would conduct further consultations with Member States. While there had not been agreement on formally adopting a third agenda item during the current triennial cycle, consultations had resulted in an understanding that the Commission could hold substantive discussions on transparency and confidence-building measures in outer space activities without prejudice to the deliberations on the existing agenda items, he explained.
He said the Commission had held its substantive session in 2016 against a backdrop of a particularly challenging security environment and increasing divisive multilateral disarmament fora. Nevertheless, it had succeeded in engaging in focused, constructive deliberations in a positive atmosphere. Working groups had taken forward their deliberations on the respective agenda items and had succeeded in laying the necessary groundwork for making further progress in 2017. The Disarmament Commission had agreed to 16 sets of recommendations and guidelines during the first two decades of its existence. It had played, and should continue to play, a unique role within the United Nations disarmament machinery as the only body with universal membership for in-depth deliberations on relevant disarmament issues. Underutilizing that precious asset would undermine peace and security, he stressed.
Ms. CABALLERO-ANTHONY provided highlights of the Advisory Board’s sixty-fifth session, in Geneva on 27-29 January, and sixty-sixth session, in New York on 29 June-1 July. Both meetings had focused on the following: challenges facing the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and its review process, with a particular focus on the Middle East; the relationship between sustainable development, security and arms control; and the emerging nexus between chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear threats, cybersecurity and terrorism.
On the Non-Proliferation Treaty, she said the Board had recommended that the review process focus on the delivery of actionable recommendations. It had also addressed the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s withdrawal from the Treaty and the issue of Security Council resolutions pertaining to that country. It had discussed proposals for a weapons-of-mass-destruction-free zone in the Middle East, recommending that the Secretary-General lead and encourage initiatives to bring concerned parties into a constructive dialogue. The Board had suggested commissioning a study on the development of long-range conventional weapons using hypersonic technology. Members had also taken note of the role of education in advancing disarmament and non-proliferation.
On sustainable development, security and arms control, she said the Board had recommended concerted efforts to encourage the strengthening of the Arms Trade Treaty and the Protocol against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, Their Parts and Components and Ammunition, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime. It had also recommended examining new technology for tracing and identifying small arms and capacity building for States. Other suggestions had included voluntary measures, confidence building, information sharing and the integration of armed violence reduction programmes into development frameworks.
She said the emerging nexus between chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear threats, cybersecurity and terrorism had novel and complex implications for international peace and security, all deserving serious attention. The Board had recommended that the Secretary-General raise the issue during the General Assembly’s current session. Going forward, it had suggested that attention be given to the threat of a terrorist cyberattack on nuclear facilities.
Mr. SAREVA said a number of long-standing administrative challenges that had faced UNIDIR had been largely resolved, although a gap between dedicated project funding and institutional funding was still an outstanding challenge. The past year had seen substantial growth in the Institute’s research programme, with projects focusing in such areas as understanding nuclear weapons risks and increasing transparency, oversight and accountability vis-à-vis unmanned aerial vehicles. In the conventional weapons domain, it continued to focus on weapons and ammunition management in fragile and conflict-affected settings, the prevention of the diversion and proliferation of illicit arms and support for the review and implementation of global instruments and standards.
In several respects, he said, the Sustainable Development Goals were directly relevant to the work of the Institute. It was currently working with other United Nations agencies and Member States to advance the Goals for the benefit of all. It was also important to bring gender into the disarmament discourse, with the interaction between gender and conflict having major implications for how conflict, security and opportunities for peace should be considered. As a small extrabudgetary entity, the Institute’s funding and operations model did not always fit easily with the United Nations bureaucracy. But, it consistently accomplished much. Still, it would always be only as good and as attractive to current and potential funders as the quality of its most recent substantive work, he concluded.
Thematic Debate on Other Disarmament Measures
ANGGI SAZIKA JENIE (Indonesia), speaking for the Non-Aligned Movement, noted the considerable progress in developing and applying the latest information and telecommunication technologies. She expressed concern that those technologies could potentially be used for purposes inconsistent with the objectives of maintaining international stability and security. That could, in turn, adversely affect the integrity of States’ infrastructure to the detriment of their security in both civil and military fields. She also noted, with concern, cases of the illegal use of new information and communication technologies, including social networks, and strongly rejected such violations. The Non-Aligned Movement called on Member States to multilaterally promote the consideration of existing and potential threats in the field and possible strategies to address emerging ones. Because the use of those technologies had the potential to endanger international peace and security, developing a legal framework to address the issues should be pursued within the United Nations.
She also emphasized the importance of observing environmental norms in preparing and implementing disarmament and arms limitation agreements. International disarmament fora should consider such norms when negotiating treaties and agreements and all States should contribute fully to ensuring compliance with the norms when implementing treaties and conventions. The Non-Aligned Movement would present three draft resolutions in the current cluster: “Effects of the use of armaments and ammunitions containing depleted uranium”, “Observance of environmental norms in the drafting and implementation of agreements on disarmament and arms control” and “Promotion of multilateralism in the area of disarmament and non-proliferation”.
PENNELOPE ALTHEA BECKLES (Trinidad and Tobago), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said that women and disarmament were of particular importance to her region. Disarmament did not exist in a vacuum, nor could its objectives be achieved in isolation. Because disarmament was fundamentally about people, she said gender perspectives could advance the achievement of related objectives, away from the traditional male-centric discourse to one that embraced an interdisciplinary, multidimensional and humanitarian approach. Statistics had revealed that small arms and light weapons were the dominant weapons of warfare within her region, with 70 per cent of homicides caused by the use of firearms. While men were most often the victims of gun crimes, it was women who were left to become the sole bread-winner for families and thus risked falling into poverty. For that reason, women were indispensable agents in the disarmament process.
CARICOM considered it essential that gender-based violence be given a prominent place in the Arms Trade Treaty, she said. In that respect, she welcomed draft resolution “L.37” on women, disarmament, non-proliferation and arms control, piloted by her delegation. She highlighted new substantive additions to the draft text as they related to language on the 2015 review of the women, peace and security agenda and the adoption of the 2030 Agenda. While there had been some advancement, greater progress was needed in entrenching the gender perspective in disarmament, arms control and non-proliferation policies and programmes, she said.
HENRY ALFREDO SUÁREZ MORENO (Venezuela), speaking on behalf of UNASUR, said developments in information and telecommunication technology should be tools for inclusion, development and peace and not be used in violation of international law, humanitarian law, peaceful relations between nations or the privacy of citizens. The Heads of State and Government of UNASUR had decided to speed up work on cyberdefence projects and on more secure cross-border fibre optic connections, amid increasing concern over the vulnerability of critical infrastructure to cyberattacks.
He said UNASUR member States had followed with interest discussions in the Group of Governmental Experts on Developments. Recognition of the applicability of international law and the principles of the United Nations Charter vis-à-vis information and telecommunication technology would make it possible to make strides towards a peaceful digital environment. A no-first-use standard should apply with regard to offensive operations using information and telecommunications technology, thus ensuring that such technology would not be used as tools of aggression. Effective cooperation between States was essential to reduce threats, including for cyberattacks, he concluded.
RIADH BEN SLIMAN (Tunisia), speaking on behalf of the Arab Group and endorsing the Non-Aligned Movement, expressed concern at the increase in global military expenditures, which could instead be diverted to development, poverty eradication and treating illnesses. He reiterated the importance of ensuring the implementation of the Final Document adopted in 1987 at the International Conference on the Relationship between Disarmament and Development. Priority should go to evaluating the negative impact of military spending on implementing the Sustainable Development Goals.
The ongoing development of weapons of mass destruction, he said, was a real danger to international peace and security, the environmental balance of the planet and the sustainable development of all countries. It was important to give attention to environmental factors in the disarmament debate. All countries had to make a contribution to guarantee respect for environmental standards when treaties and standards were implemented. The Arab Group was concerned by the use of information and telecommunication technologies for harmful purposes in the political, military and science sectors. He welcomed the positive contribution of the United Nations on that very important issue and the work of the Group of Governmental Experts.
SIDDHARTHA NATH (India), endorsing of the Non-Aligned Movement, said international cooperation in the peaceful use of science and technology had to be promoted through all relevant means, including technology transfers, sharing of information and exchange of equipment and materials. Scientific and technological developments had civilian and military applications, including weapons of mass destruction, and could lead to the emergence of entirely new weapon systems, having an impact on international security. He raised concerns, including the misuse of information and communication technologies for criminal or hostile purposes and the potential development of lethal autonomous weapons systems. While progress in science and technology for civilian applications should be encouraged, it was imperative that international transfers of dual-use goods and technologies and high technology with military applications were effectively regulated, keeping in mind the legitimate defence requirements of all States. National regulations and export controls of appropriate standards in that area should be strengthened and effectively implemented.
USMAN JADOON (Pakistan), endorsing the Non-Aligned Movement, said that while the international community was justifiably focused on weapons of mass destruction, the rapid development of new weapons and technologies in the conventional domain also posed a serious threat to peace, security and stability. The development of lethal autonomous weapons systems remained a concern, particularly as they were by nature unethical because life and death decisions were delegated to machines. He expressed concern that using those weapons would lower the threshold of going to war and that their proliferation to non-State actors and terrorists posed grave threats. Stressing that developments in the field of artificial intelligence needed to be appropriately addressed and regulated and should not outpace the evolution of the regulations governing them, he reiterated Pakistan’s call for a ban on lethal autonomous weapons systems and added that the use of drones, especially against civilians, constituted a violation of international law, the United Nations Charter and international humanitarian and human rights law.
TRACY HALL (United States) said among his Government’s fundamental goals was creating a climate in which all States could enjoy the benefits of cyberspace. International cyberstability and conflict prevention were best advanced through the application of existing international law. He expressed hope that an examination of how existing international law applied to States’ cyberactivities would be part of the next report of the Group of Governmental Experts on Developments in the Field of Information and Telecommunications in the Context of International Security. The Group of Governmental Experts should build on its 2015 report, which had highlighted that the United Nations Charter applied in its entirety to the cyberdomain, affirmed the inherent right of States to self-defence, as recognized in Article 51, and noted the applicability of the law of armed conflicts’ fundamental principles of humanity, necessity, proportionality and distinction. Favouring international engagement to develop a consensus on appropriate State behaviour in cyberspace, he said it should be based on existing international law. The United States could not support other approaches that would only serve to legitimize repressive State practices, he concluded.
SACHI CLARINGBOULD (Netherlands), drawing attention to the national annual assessment, cautioned Member States against increasing geopolitical tension in cyberspace. “States used cyberoperations to pursue their interests,” she said, emphasizing that such actions could cause instability in international peace and security. At the same time, the international community was seeking ways to promote dialogue and ensure responsible State behaviour. For its part, the Netherlands had organized a number of consultations on cybersecurity with a view to achieving clarity on international law. Furthermore, it supported UNIDIR in its efforts to make progress.
PALMA D’AMBROSIO (Italy) said two goals underpinned her Government’s current national action plan for the implementation of Resolution 1325 (2000): reducing the impact of conflict and post-conflict situations on women and children and promoting women’s participation as agents of change in the prevention and resolution of conflicts. Affected by armed violence in different ways than men, women must play an active role in conflict prevention, reconciliation and reconstruction. The action plan’s other goals included encouraging their presence in national armed forces, police and peace-support operations in conflict areas; protecting the rights of women, children and the most vulnerable groups fleeing from conflict or living in post-conflict zones; and strengthening the role of women in decision-making and peace processes. Adding a gender dimension to the disarmament debate meant identifying the needs of different people and creating adequate responses. For Italy, that inclusion was crucial in mine action assistance programmes to ensure that the specific needs of women, girls, boys and men were fully considered and contributed to the long-term stability of affected communities. In addition, Italy had made every effort to include the prevention of gender-based violence in the Arms Trade Treaty.
RAFAEL DARÍO RAMÍREZ CARREÑO (Venezuela), associating with the Non-Aligned Movement and UNASUR, said his delegation had been paying close attention to the Group of Governmental Experts on information technologies and telecommunications, particularly the validity of international law in regulating cyberspace. The preliminary recommendations of the Group of Governmental Experts represented progress, but they were inconclusive when it came to the direction the international community should take. Two trends had emerged, one being the prohibition of weapons in outer space and the other its control and regulation. More than 40 States were developing military outer space activities, he said, warning that a cyberattack on a country’s key infrastructure would cause a collapse of the State and a grave human cost. Because of the speed of developing technology, an institutional dialogue was needed under the auspices of the United Nations, he said, calling on the Organization’s relevant bodies to promote those discussions. The international community still had the ability to prevent the militarization of space, he concluded.
CHRISTPHER CARPENTER (Switzerland) welcomed that the Group of Governmental Experts had broadened their discussions in 2016 to include how international law could be applied to cyberspace threats. Switzerland endorsed the applicability of existing international law to the activities of States in cyberspace, but intended to contribute to a clearer distinction between binding principles and non-binding norms. It was important for the Group of Governmental Experts, on both cyberspace and outer space, to also consider ways to universalize and operationalize the recommendations of past reports in order to strengthen their impact on a global level. Switzerland was open to exploring various ways in which the invaluable work of the groups could be advanced taking into account criteria such as legitimacy and inclusiveness.
ENRIQUE CARRILLO GÓMEZ (Paraguay) recognized that advances in information and communication technology were critical to ensuring the development of future civilizations and achieving the common good. Drawing attention to the gap between developing and developed countries regarding scientific and technological developments, he emphasized that such a gap must be bridged to achieve the 2030 Agenda. Such advances must be utilized with respect to human rights, international peace and security and the principle of sovereignty, he said, calling upon Member States to refrain from taking any action that might violate international law.
VLADIMIR YERMAKOV (Russian Federation) said information and communication technologies had turned into one of the main challenges to global development. States, private companies and often ordinary citizens had all become a target for computer attacks. Every year, the global economy withstood billions of dollars in damages caused by the malicious use of information and communication technologies. That situation undermined the security and sovereignty of States, created a chain reaction of mistrust and ramped up the information arms race. The prevention of conflicts in the cyberspace and the preservation of its security and stability remained the key challenge in the area of international information security. The Russian Federation had once again submitted for consideration a draft resolution on “Developments in the field of information and telecommunications in the context of international security”, which contained mainly technical amendments as compared to the 2015 version. He urged all Member States to support the document and, if possible, co-sponsor it.
HYUNG-MIN KIM (Australia) said the Government’s second cybersecurity strategy had set out a national vision for an open, free and secure Internet and established national partnerships with relevant stakeholders. The strategy had also aimed at developing strong cyberdefences, enhancing Australia’s international engagement through the appointment of a cyber ambassador, promoting growth and innovation in cybersecurity companies and creating a cybersmart nation. Turning to the Group of Governmental Experts, he noted that it had continued its important deliberations on existing and potential threats in information security, identification of norms and rules and confidence-building measures. However, providing clear guidance on the State behaviour norms in cyberspace had been a challenge for the Group, he said.
MUSTAPHA ABBANI (Algeria) said international communication technologies provided opportunities to achieve economic and social development. However, the use of such technologies for non-peaceful purposes, particularly by terrorists, had also become a true danger to international peace and security. Given increased insecurity, cybersecurity was a challenge worldwide. Algeria had established an authority to prevent cybercrime that could threaten national security. His Government had organized a cybersecurity workshop to discuss recent technological developments and related legislation and policies. He went on to stress the importance of the United Nations disarmament fora were important tools for countries to participate in discussions and assist countries in implementing treaties they had signed and ratified. Turning to artificial intelligence applications, he said while such developments could benefit humanity, they also presented ethical challenges and thus required international regulations.
KARIN CHAI (Singapore) said steps had been taken to protect national networks and promote a secure information and communication technology environment. Singapore had developed its Smart Nation initiative with a view to enabling citizens to live inclusive and meaningful lives. In 2015, the Cyber Security Agency had been established to raise awareness and provide centralized oversight system in the country. Since regional and international cooperation were essential to detect and counter threats in cyberspace, Singapore was working with ASEAN member States to enhance its capacity building. Furthermore, it had hosted various conferences on the topic, including the ASEAN Ministerial Conference on Cybersecurity and Cybercrime Prosecutors’ Roundtable Meeting. For its part, the United Nations must play a leading role in the development of cybernorms, which would allow the international community to regulate behaviour.
LU XIN (China) said information technology had boosted productivity and digital opportunities. However, cybersurveillance, cyberattacks and cyberterrorism were becoming global scourges. Cyberspace was a common space of human activity and the international community must strengthen cooperation with a sense of urgency to jointly build an online “community of common destiny”, one that would contribute to lasting peace. It was vital to reject the old mentality of a “winner takes all” zero-sum game and uphold the new concept that meant shared by all, built by all and governed by all. There should be more focus on common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security in cyberspace. The formulation of State behaviour norms was an important step to regulate activities. The international community should discuss relevant norms and create concrete measures in the areas of the protection of critical infrastructure and in the fight against cybercrime and cyberterrorism. China attached great importance to bridging the digital divide and scaling up capacity-building assistance to developing countries and to overcome weaknesses in global cybersecurity.
SEYED MOHAMMAD ALI ROBATJAZI (Iran) said strengthening the security of information and communication technology and preventing its use for illegal purposes required Governments to undertake all appropriate infrastructural, legal and technical measures at the national level. General Assembly resolution 70/237 stressed the need for promoting common understandings of the issue and addressing challenges relevant to information security. Since such an understanding could not be adequately promoted through the work of the Group of Governmental Experts, the time was ripe to engage all States in an open and inclusive manner. Turning to the principle of sovereignty, he stressed that States must refrain from adopting any measures to deny or restrict the transfer of advanced information and telecommunication knowledge. Furthermore, ensuring security at the national level was the responsibility of individual States, he said, adding that they must be encouraged to cooperate in preventing threats resulting from the malicious use of such technologies.
SWASTI SUBHA CHAND (Fiji) said that compliance was a vital element of international peace and security. The world would be a much safer place with complete disarmament of all nuclear and conventional weapons as it was a fact that those arms diminished the security of all States. Complete disarmament and the compliance of all conventions, treaties and conferences on disarmament was a right step toward the prevention of conflict. The world was looking to the Committee for decisive action to address the growing crisis of conflict and international security. For Fiji and small island developing States, environmental threats were of great concern. A single event could wipe out the national economy and set back progress for decades. In addition, her Government shared concerns regarding the security of information and telecommunication. Such important resources should be used responsibly and should in no way compromise international security, she said.
LILIANNE SANCHEZ RODRIGUEZ (Cuba) said the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on Their Destruction was the only international instrument to outlaw the production, stockpiling, and use of such weapons. Similar regimes must be established to eliminate nuclear and biological weapons, she added. “Multilateralism must be the basic principle for all disarmament and non-proliferation negotiations,” he said, emphasizing that any decision taken on that issue must fully respect the United Nations Charter and international human rights. Drawing attention to the linkage between disarmament and development, she reiterated Cuba’s call to establish a fund with a view to meeting the economic and social needs of countries and bridging the development gap.
CHARLENE ROOPNARINE (Trinidad and Tobago) introduced a draft resolution on “Women, disarmament, non-proliferation and arms control”. First introduced in 2010, the draft text would have the Committee recognize the role of women, including in decision-making processes relating to disarmament, non-proliferation and arms control. The draft had built on its preceding versions, highlighting specific commitments States were being requested to undertake and to accord priority to the leadership role of women in disarmament, non-proliferation and arms control. As the main sponsor of the draft text, her Government was cognizant of all views that had been expressed by interested delegations during informal consultations and bilateral discussions. Trinidad and Tobago had endeavoured to produce a draft that had sought to accommodate the constructive proposals of delegations while maintaining particular elements that had added substance and meaning to the text.
TAREQ MD ARIFUL ISLAM (Bangladesh) underscored the need to further expand disarmament education and research, and to mobilize the use of social media tools to raise awareness among the wider public. Bangladesh attached great importance to mainstreaming and preserving relevant environmental norms in the international legal regime concerning disarmament and arms control. Yet, the applicability of such norms should be subjected to further informed research and analysis. Expressing concern over the potential misuse of the information and communication technology, he called for cooperation among all actors to ensure information security, including through appropriate transparency and confidence-building measures. Warning against possible terrorist threats, he sought further suggestions from the Group of Governmental Experts concerning the need for developing a comprehensive legal instrument.
JULIO HERRAIZ (Spain) said the risks of cyberattacks on critical infrastructure deserved the Committee’s attention, particularly since the Group of Governmental Experts had recommended that States should not undertake activities that would deliberately attack a State’s critical infrastructure. The possibility of cyberattacks was real and posed a threat to any country, he stressed. Governments around the world were realizing the need to be involved in Internet legislation. States would continue to strengthen their defensive and offensive cybercapabilities. A cyberwar between States could change the balance of power in international relations. In that regard, small States could face powerful countries. His delegation hoped that the Group of Governmental Experts would show progress in that priority area.
KIM IN-CHUL (Republic of Korea) introduced a draft resolution on “Preventing and Combatting Illicit brokering activities” (document A/C.1/71/L.9), calling on all to support the text.