Weighing potential risks to international security posed by such new technologies as militarized drones, delegates exchanged views today on ways to control these lethal autonomous weapons, as the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) continued its work.
Mexico’s representative, highlighting the Secretary‑General’s new Agenda for Disarmament, commended its focus on the challenges of these new technologies, which must be used exclusively for peaceful purposes. In this regard, he underlined a need to discuss the establishment of a legally binding instrument to control drones and lethal autonomous weapons. Cuba’s delegate agreed, calling for the adoption of a protocol to prohibit lethal autonomous weapons, as their use is incompatible with international humanitarian law.
The representative of the Netherlands said that emerging technologies could lead to humanitarian benefits, but there should be a shared understanding of risks. Any use of armed drones must be anchored in international law and these weapons should not fall into the hands of unauthorized armed groups, she said.
India’s representative said the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons is the relevant forum to address this issue because of the fine balance it strikes between humanitarian concerns and military necessity. It also provides a dynamic and adaptive platform bringing together multiple stakeholders and addressing the issue within that framework strengthens the Convention and underlines its capability to respond meaningfully to evolving technologies applicable to armed conflict, she added.
During the debate, many delegates expressed support for the Group of Governmental Experts on lethal autonomous weapons systems. Some called on the Group to find ways towards a common understanding and precise definitions of such weapons.
The Committee also began a thematic discussion on other disarmament measures and international security.
At the outset of the meeting, the Committee, in a recorded vote of 31 in favour to 55 against, with 54 abstentions, decided to reject the consideration of the Russian Federation’s late submission of the draft resolution “Preservation of and compliance with the Intermediate‑Range Nuclear Forces Treaty”.
Also speaking during the thematic debate on conventional weapons were the representatives of Singapore, Mozambique and the Republic of Moldova.
Delivering statements on other disarmament measures and international security were the representatives of Indonesia (for the Non‑Aligned Movement), Russian Federation, Singapore (for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations), Antigua and Barbuda (for the Caribbean Community), Egypt (for the Arab Group) and Canada (for a group of countries), as well as the European Union.
The First Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. on Monday, 29 October, to continue its work.
The First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) met this morning to continue its thematic debate segment, on conventional weapons and on other disarmament measures. For background information, see Press Release GA/DIS/3597 of 8 October.
ION JINGA (Romania), Chair of the First Committee, informed delegates that after extensive consultations with interested delegations, consensus could not be reached on whether to consider the draft resolution “Preservation of and compliance with the Intermediate‑Range Forces Treaty,” submitted by the Russian Federation after the 18 October deadline. He then asked delegates whether they are willing to accept the draft resolution so that it can be considered during the action phase of the Committee’s work.
The representative of the United Kingdom said the rules of procedure that have served the Committee so well must be accepted. Without such procedures, the United Nations as an institution would not function. If the draft pertains to a matter of international security, the right forum is the Security Council.
The representative of Iran recalled that, on 24 October, the Chair raised a similar question about a resolution tabled by Cameroon, which was also submitted after the deadline. The Chair said that, given extraordinary circumstances, as well as the importance of the draft, the Committee should accept Cameroon’s draft. The same reasoning applies to the proposal submitted by the Russian Federation. The draft proposed by Cameroon was not blocked by rules of procedure. Indeed, the Committee is the master of its own rules of procedure. Furthermore, the Russian draft is not bilateral — it has an impact on the global nuclear disarmament agenda.
The representative of China said that given recent developments, the Committee should provide a platform to act on the Russian draft. While the rules of procedure should be respected, space should be provided for that purpose.
The representative of the United States said the issue tabled by Cameroon was on the agenda of the Committee, while the recent attempt by the Russian Federation to put a politicized issue on the agenda is different. It is important to respect the rules of procedure, otherwise the Committee would not be able to function.
The representative of Syria said double standards must be avoided in dealing with matters before the Committee. When the Chair said that Cameroon’s late submission would not create a precedent, that was acceptable to delegates. There was no problem in including an amendment to A/C.1/73/CRP.1 on an issue that carries special importance to many countries. Thus, the Russian Federation’s draft can be considered, with the view that it would not create a precedent for future years.
Mr. JINGA clarified that A/C.1/73/CRP.1 was not amended for the Cameroon text.
The representative of France said rules of procedure should be followed. The time frame for the submission of drafts has passed. Regarding the Cameroon precedent, the situation is not comparable. They were faced with a technical issue on a resolution previously considered by the Committee. Member States must abide by rules of procedure and law, the best way to defend multilateralism.
The representative of Iran said that while A/C.1/73/CRP.1 was not amended, the Committee made a decision based on the Chair’s reasoning. It was not different, as his French counterpart said. The same extraordinary situation exists. Some of his colleagues are taking a tough approach on the Russian Federation’s draft for political reasons. If the same approach is taken, the new cybersecurity draft from the United States should not be considered as it was not on the agenda.
The representative of the Russian Federation drew attention to the rules of procedure of the General Assembly. The Special Committee [on the Rationalization of the Procedures and Organization of the General Assembly] recommends that no rigid rule need be applied to the submission of drafts. On a case‑by‑case basis, delegations can decide when to submit draft resolutions, with the programme of work outlining target dates for the consideration of items. Therefore, he said, the issue of a deadline for submission is important, but not paramount to the Committee’s work. Delegates have flexibility in the timing of the submission of resolutions. He rejected the statement by the United Kingdom’s delegate, referring him to the recommendations of the Special Committee. The Russian delegation put forth the draft with ample time to consider the resolution. Concerning questions raised about going to the Council, he said his delegation will pursue that option once the United States has officially left the Treaty, formally known as the Treaty between the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics on the Elimination of Their Intermediate‑Range and Shorter‑Range Missiles. Meanwhile, there is an opportunity for Member States to send a signal to the Government of the United States to refrain from taking a short‑sighted step that carries serious negative consequences and will impact international peace and security. Concerning the issues raised by delegates about the absence of the draft’s topic on the Committee’s agenda, he highlighted that there are at least two items under which his delegation’s resolution could fit. Therefore, there are no official reasons for the Committee to not consider the proposal, he said.
The representative of Australia said that, rules of procedure aside, it is important to look at what is reasonable. The proposals of Cameroon and of the Russian Federation are different. Cameroon’s draft is familiar to delegations, while the Russian Federation’s text falls into a different category. It is unreasonable to give countries a few days to make a decision without appropriate time for consultations.
The representative of Finland said the issue is purely about the rules of procedure. The draft was submitted one week after the agreed deadline. Thus, it should not be considered. As for the Special Committee’s recommendations, it was referring to actions and procedures of the plenary, not the Committees.
The representative of Israel said that because the Treaty is a bilateral issue, the First Committee is not the right venue to consider the matter.
The representative of the Russian Federation said the Treaty is indeed multilateral. While the reciprocal obligations between his country and the United States are bilateral, the United States departure from the instrument will have negative consequences for the entire disarmament, proliferation and arms control system. He then requested a recorded vote on the matter.
Mr. JINGA clarified that those voting “yes” are in favour of the Committee accepting the draft resolution of the Russian Federation for consideration during the action phase of its work. Those voting “no” are not in favour of the Committee accepting the draft resolution of the Russian Federation for action.
In a vote of 31 in favour, to 55 against, with 54 abstentions, the Committee decided not to accept the draft resolution “Preservation of and compliance with the Intermediate-Range Forces Treaty” for consideration.
The representative of the Russian Federation, speaking in explanation of his delegation’s position, expressed surprise and grief at the results. The majority of States that abstained are active allies of nuclear disarmament. Many of those States that voted against are in favour of maintaining the Treaty. He could not comprehend their position. The Russian Federation endeavoured to send a serious signal to the political forces of the United States of the danger of the course of action taken by the current Administration. In one year, if the United States withdraws from the Treaty and brings an uncontrolled build‑up of nuclear weapons, Member States will be confronting a very different reality, making the rules of procedure debated today small and insignificant by comparison and causing regret about the decision taken. As diplomats, duty requires expeditiously reacting to everything happening in the world and attempting to prevent negative developments when possible. Nevertheless, his Government will work with States that share its position to convince the United States to continue dialogue within the Treaty and refrain from building up its nuclear potential, as stated two days ago by United States President Donald Trump. While the Russian Federation will go to the General Assembly, and possibly the Security Council, that does not relieve the responsibility from States that showed cowardice today.
The representative of Argentina said that while his country firmly supports all multilateral instruments relating to disarmament, it voted against the proposal to consider the Russian draft because it believes the Treaty is a bilateral agreement. Parties must resolve their issues bilaterally. Additionally, the draft resolution was submitted outside established deadlines.
The representative of Belarus voted in favour of the proposal so that the Committee could look at the Treaty. A lot was said about respecting the rules of procedure, but many countries do not pay attention to the consistency of their decisions. Member States never talked about rules of procedure or violations of deadlines when others brought forth a new draft resolution, such as Cameroon. Pointing out this double standard, he expressed his delegation’s disappointment with the voting results, since the implementation of the Treaty has an impact on regional and international security.
The representative of Finland said the vote is about the rules of procedure and honouring decisions and deadlines. It did not pertain to the content of the draft. As for the Treaty itself, Finland made its position clear during its delivered statement.
The representative of the United States said it is unfortunate that the Russian Federation used inappropriate language to describe States’ positions on the issue. This is an example of how it intimidates countries to take a certain position. For the past five years, the United States has tried to engage the Russian Federation regarding their Treaty violations. Until recently, the Russian Federation vehemently denied that they had a ground‑launched cruise missile. Other countries would not tolerate such violations by another party of a Treaty. The Government of the United States has been extremely patient, he said, expressing hope that the Russian Federation will do the right thing and destroy the ground‑launched cruise missile.
The representative of El Salvador said, without prejudice of his Government’s views on the Treaty, a precedent was set this week with the Cameroon draft.
The representative of Iran said the representative of the United States should practice what he preaches. It was just the other day that he called his colleague “a joke”. Before ordering others to be good, he should remember that himself.
The representative of the Russian Federation, speaking on a point of order, took issue at the laughter of delegates at the end of his previous statement. He then questioned the United States contention that they have raised claims for five years about compliance to the Treaty. He reaffirmed that the Russian Federation is ready to defend its country, its values and its people, but in a different way than the United States. Nevertheless, while the Russian Federation is preparing for a war, the United States is preparing a war, he said, noting that the difference lies in one word.
JUAN SANDOVAL MENDIOLEA (Mexico) warned against producing firearms for the profit of industry. The irresponsible trade of conventional weapons is intolerable, as there is a risk of these weapons falling into the hands of terrorists and armed groups. War must not target civilians, he said, adding that certain weapons should never be used because of their humanitarian consequences. Noting that 2018 marks the tenth anniversary of the Convention on Cluster Munitions, he called for the universalization of the instrument, as damages caused by explosive devices in the populated areas are immense. The Secretary‑General’s new disarmament agenda has devoted a section to the challenges of new technologies, which must be used exclusively for peaceful purposes. In this regard, he underlined a need to discuss the establishment of a legally binding instrument to control drones and lethal autonomous weapons.
TONG HAI LIM (Singapore), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), expressed support for global efforts to address the illicit trade and indiscriminate use of small arms and light weapons. Singapore has a strong expert control regime underpinned by legislation that regulates the movement of strategic goods, including conventional military items and dual‑use goods. Singapore signed the Arms Trade Treaty in 2014, with domestic consultations underway to put in place processes and legislative amendments to enable its full implementation. Singapore has also imposed an indefinite moratorium on the export of anti‑personnel landmines and cluster munitions and supports transparency in international arms transfers.
NIDHI TIWARI (India), associating herself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, said the universality of 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 remains critical for its success. Noting India’s financial contributions to the plan of action and expressing concern about the Convention’s current financial status, she called on States to make their contributions. For its part, India hosted in December an international conference on the Convention, drawing more than 83 participants from 24 States. Regarding the potential development and use of lethal autonomous weapons systems, she said the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons is the relevant forum to address the issue because of the fine balance it strikes between humanitarian concerns and military necessity. It also provides a dynamic and adaptive platform bringing together multiple stakeholders. Addressing the issue within this framework strengthens the Convention and highlights its capability to respond meaningfully to evolving technologies applicable to armed conflict.
ANTÓNIO GUMENDE (Mozambique), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement and the African Group, said conventional weapons control is a fundamental pillar in the framework aimed at realizing the disarmament agenda while ensuring and sustaining international peace and security. As such, this principle is enshrined in Mozambique’s Constitution. The Government has also taken steps to implement the Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects. Activities include adopting legal instruments and conducting regular public awareness campaigns, seminars and workshops to explain and promote public debate with all relevant stakeholders. It is also part of the Southern Africa subregional arrangements. In addition, Mozambique formally declared itself as a State free of anti‑personnel mines in 2015 and is in the process of ratifying the Arms Trade Treaty. It is also currently implementing international instruments, such as the Convention on Cluster Munitions and the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti‑Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction, known as the Ottawa Convention.
LILIANNE SÁNCHEZ RODRÍGUEZ (Cuba), associating herself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, expressed concerns over an increase in global military spending when hunger and poverty persist in many parts of the world. Indeed, about $1.7 trillion is spent for militaries, while billions of people live in poverty and chronic hunger. Cuba rejects selective access of dual‑use technologies by developing countries. Her country continues to support and implement the Programme of Action on Small Arms. Regarding the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, her delegation calls for the adoption of a protocol to prohibit lethal autonomous weapons, especially military drones, as the use of such weapons are incompatible with international humanitarian law, she said, welcoming the Group of Governmental Experts focusing on this subject.
VICTOR MORARU (Republic of Moldova) said the proliferation, excessive accumulation and misuse of conventional arms are at the heart of today’s security challenges. He urged Member States to do more to reduce the unregulated availability of conventional arms and small arms and light weapons in areas of conflict or potential conflict by ensuring strict transfer controls and safe destruction of surplus weapons. He expressed deep concerns about the illicit production, illegal transfers of and excessive and destabilizing build‑ups of conventional arms in “grey zones”, where Governments do not exercise complete control of their territory. Such is the case on his country’s territory with regard to the Russian Federation’s conventional arms and munitions. Indeed, the Government of the Republic of Moldova and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) have been prevented from verifying existing stockpiles, monitoring their transfers or assessing the technical conditions of munitions. The situation in Transnistria is the main obstacle preventing his Government from fully implementing the provisions of multilateral instruments. The complete withdrawal of Russian military forces and armaments from the territory would contribute to the demilitarization of the region and the subsequent effects of the extension of relevant instruments in the eastern part of the country.
SANDRA DE JONGH (Netherlands) said disarmament and arms control are not just a paper exercise, but actually save lives, by, for instance, clearing explosive devices from communities. Her delegation underscores the links between disarmament and development. The outcome document adopted at the third Review Conference for the Programme of Action on Small Arms acknowledges firearms disarmament initiatives contribute to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The Netherlands rejects the indiscriminate use of certain weapons against civilians, she said, highlighting the need for strict control of these weapons so that they do not fall into the hands of terrorists. As for lethal autonomous weapons, the Group of Governmental Experts is a good forum for further discussions. Emerging technologies could lead to humanitarian benefits, but there should be a shared understanding of risks. Any use of armed drones must be anchored in international law and these weapons should not fall into the hands of unauthorized armed groups.
Other Disarmament Measures
INA HAGNININGTYAS KRISNAMURTHI (Indonesia), speaking on behalf of the Non‑Aligned Movement, underscored the need to prevent all discriminatory practices and policies that hinder access by developing nations to the benefits of information and communications technologies. She noted with concern cases in which these technologies are used for illegal purposes, as such practices endanger international peace and security. The use of such technologies must fully comply with the purposes and principles of the United Nations Charter and the principle of sovereignty.
Discussions on the matter must continue to ensure the transparent and inclusive participation of all Member States on an equal footing, she said, adding that the Movement emphasizes the importance of observing environmental norms in the preparation and implementation of disarmament and arms limitation agreements. “The Movement affirms that international disarmament forums should take fully into account the relevant environmental norms in negotiating treaties and agreements,” she said.
ANDREY BELOUSOV (Russian Federation) said that while today’s world is dependent on communications technology, the situation in the global digital environment is worsening every day. Such instruments are falling into the wrong hands and being used for political purposes to undermine national sovereignty and violate human rights. A number of countries are building up their cyberpotential, which will create an opportunity for the first cyberattack. Under such conditions, countries will spend money not on development, but on defence systems in the event of a cyberwar. The United Nations does not have enough mechanisms to deal with such issues and must maintain a leadership role in the maintenance of cyberspace security. Drawing attention to the draft resolution tabled by his delegation on the issue, he said its provisions will add value to the discussion. The process should be democratic, inclusive and transparent, with direct involvement of all interested States regardless of their technological development. This would build a foundation for a just world order in the digital sphere. He expressed support for an open‑ended working group to consider important related topics that allows each country to make individual contributions. Like norms about how States should behave in cyberspace, the international community needs order in the digital sphere. Meanwhile, it is important that accusations States make against other States not be provocative, nor used as a reason for force. The Russian Federation looks forward to broad support for the draft resolution.
BURHAN GAFOOR (Singapore), speaking on behalf of ASEAN, said the more digitalized and connected societies become, the more important it is to have a secure cyberspace. As no one Government has all the answers to deal with cyberthreats, international and regional cooperation is paramount. Towards this end, his region has taken a series of concrete, practical measures to address these challenges. Specifically, its leaders affirmed their collective determination to build closer cooperation and coordination on cybersecurity policy development and capacity‑building initiatives.
At the same time, he said, the United Nations must continue to play a key role in discussions on cybersecurity. In that respect, ASEAN supports the Secretary‑General’s new disarmament agenda, which encourages responsible innovation by industry, engineers and scientists and welcomes contributions towards capacity‑building in his region. Speaking in his national capacity, he said it is important for all States to be equipped with the capabilities to safeguard their critical information infrastructure and effectively implement norms that will enhance predictability and stability in cyberspace. Taking note of resolutions put forward under this cluster, Singapore is disappointed that there has not yet been convergence towards a single, consensual draft resolution to chart the way forward on this important subject.
WALTON ALFONSO WEBSON (Antigua and Barbuda), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said disarmament and arms control are fundamentally important to his region to ensure that people live in a secure world. It is the regional group’s firm view that a gender perspective must be incorporated in any humanitarian approach. No women, girls, men or boys should be left behind, he said, citing Security Council resolution 1325 (2000) and other subsequent resolutions, which highlighted the need for women’s participation in peace negotiations, peacebuilding, humanitarian responses and post-conflict rebuilding. In this vein, Trinidad and Tobago will table a resolution on this issue during the current session, he said, asking for full support for the draft.
At the 2018 Review Conference on the Programme of Action on Small Arms, he said, States agreed on increased efforts to ensure women’s participation and collect disaggregated gender data on the impacts of small arms and light weapons. His region is not affected by armed conflict, but greatly faces the consequences of armed violence, as 70 per cent of homicide cases are linked to the use of firearms. As a result, significant resources are diverted from sustainable development. The World Health Organization (WHO) indicated that injuries, decreases in access to food and nutrition, and reductions in public health services in this region increase the rate of deaths.
BASSEM YEHIA HASSAN KASSEM HASSAN (Egypt), speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, highlighted the crucial importance of multilateralism, urging the international community to renew its commitment to such a principle and underscoring the role of the United Nations in this regard. The Group is concerned over growing global military spending, which could be used to eliminate poverty around the world. The presence of weapons of mass destruction and their modernization are a grave threat to international security and development. International forums must take into account environmental concerns when negotiating arms control and disarmament treaties. Regarding information and communications technology, it must not disrupt international peace and security. The international community must develop norms and rules to encourage responsible behaviour and increase cooperation, he said, underlining a need for concrete progress in dealing with such threats posed by lethal autonomous weapons and the use of artificial intelligence in armaments.
JOHN DAVISON (Canada), speaking on behalf of a group of countries, said that despite the international legal framework governing State behaviour in cyberspace, many States undertake malicious cyberactivity directed at the essential systems, infrastructure and democratic processes of other States. Such behaviour threatens international peace and security, undermines the rules‑based international order, and imperils the benefits that arise from the development of cyberspace. Moreover, civil society actors, human rights defenders and ordinary citizens are being targeted by some States in an effort to silence opposition and stifle criticism. Cyberspace is not a lawless realm, nor is it ungoverned as some would have us believe, he said. International law applies to the actions of States in cyberspace as it applies in other realms of State behaviour. He called for a deepened commitment to international law and the implementation of existing voluntary norms of responsible State behaviour in cyberspace.
NARCISA VLADULESCU, European Union, reiterated a concern over the increased willingness of some States and non‑State actors to conduct malicious cyberactivities that threaten international peace and security. This includes attempts by the Russian military intelligence service to undermine the integrity of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). The European Union’s Member States promote the establishment of a framework for conflict prevention, cooperation and stability in cyberspace that is based on the application of international law.
She said implementing regional cybersecurity confidence‑building measures will increase the predictability of State behaviour and contribute to stabilizing cyberspace. The European Union calls on the Secretary‑General to convene a new group of government experts in 2019, with a focus on the applicability of existing international law in cyberspace. In addition, United Nations Member States must submit national contributions on the subject of how international law applies to their use of information and communication technologies.