Despite recent progress, the continued impasse in the Conference on Disarmament undercuts its credibility and raises doubt about its continued relevance, delegates stressed today, as the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) took up its cluster on the disarmament machinery before concluding the thematic portion of its work.
The decades‑long paralysis cannot be accepted as normal, Mexico’s representative said. Highlighting the Conference on Disarmament’s limited results, the dearth of Disarmament Commission recommendations and the plethora of repetitive First Committee draft resolutions lacking paths to progress, he called on all Member States to decide on which decisions are needed to breathe new life into the disarmament machinery, a vehicle built to reach a certain destination, which is international peace and security. At the same time, the disarmament machinery must adapt to new developments and Member States must consider whether new mechanisms are needed.
South Africa’s representative said that the heart of the problem of stalled negotiations in the Conference on Disarmament lies in the continued resistance by a small number of States to implement their disarmament obligations and be subjected to the international rule of law.
Echoing this sentiment, Egypt’s delegate said that the stalemate is largely a reflection of the lack of political will by some States that believe in deterrence, rather than collective security. The Conference on Disarmament can only adopt a programme of work once negotiations on the verifiable and irreversible total elimination of nuclear weapons, with specific benchmarks and timelines, begin, he added.
Myanmar’s delegate said that the current achievements of the disarmament machinery are far from meeting common expectations. It is time to identify concrete measures on how it could be made more effective, he said, warning against the dangers of the accumulating “rust” and witnessing the continued deadlock.
Many representatives called for existing multilateral disarmament institutions to be reinvigorated and better utilized, while some called for greater representation. Noting that almost two decades have passed since the last enlargement of the Conference on Disarmament, Portugal’s delegate said that, ever since then, the door has remained closed to the admission of new States, like his. The body’s agenda encompasses global concerns that should be dealt with by a wider United Nations membership than the current 65 members, he said.
Meanwhile, Indonesia’s representative, speaking on behalf of the Non‑Aligned Movement, expressed deep concerns about a lack of adequate representation in the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs, calling for efforts to correct the imbalance.
Some delegates pointed to progress made in the 2018 decision of the Conference on Disarmament to establish subsidiary bodies. The representative of the European Union said that her region is encouraged by the constructive atmosphere in the Conference’s subsidiary bodies, noting that the adoption of four substantive reports for the first time in years could provide a solid foundation to build on in 2019.
Highlighting new initiatives considered in the Disarmament Commission, the representative of the Bahamas, speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), welcomed recommendations on confidence‑building measures in the field of conventional weapons, which paved the way for the consideration of a new agenda item related to outer space. Also welcoming the unprecedented addition of an outer space cluster to the Commission’s agenda, the representative of France raised concerns about the serious funding problem facing the disarmament conventions, urging States to fulfil their financial obligations and pay their contributions on time.
Underlining the importance of the First Committee’s work, Paraguay’s delegate said that deliberations are valuable as delegations have a chance to hear the positions of other countries or regions.
Also speaking on the disarmament machinery were the representatives of Egypt (on behalf of the League of Arab States), Namibia (on behalf of a group of States), Switzerland, India, Kazakhstan, Ireland, Algeria, Austria, Pakistan, Indonesia, Poland, Netherlands, Australia, Nepal, Spain, Russian Federation, Syria, Bangladesh, China, United Kingdom, Czech Republic, Republic of Korea, Thailand, Philippines, Iran, Japan and Turkey.
Concluding the Committee’s debate on regional disarmament, the representatives of Egypt (on behalf of the Arab Group), Peru, United Kingdom, Malaysia, Israel, Kuwait, Iran, Russian Federation, United Arab Emirates, Timor‑Leste, Uzbekistan (on behalf of a group of States) and Myanmar also spoke.
Speaking in exercise of the right of reply were the representatives of the United States, Iran, Russian Federation, Syria, Ukraine and the Republic of Moldova.
The First Committee will meet again on Thursday, 1 November, at 3 p.m. to take action on all draft resolutions and decisions before it.
The First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) met today to conclude its thematic debates on regional disarmament and security and on the disarmament machinery. For background information, see Press Release GA/DIS/3597 of 8 October.
Regional Disarmament and Security
BASSEM YEHIA HASSAN KASSEM HASSAN (Egypt), speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, underscored the importance of practical measures to rid the Middle East of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction. Renewed efforts must support the implementation of the 1995 resolution related to the Treaty on the Non‑Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. At the 2015 Non‑Proliferation Treaty Review Conference, three countries blocked consensus on convening a conference to establish a Middle East zone free of such weapons. The Arab Group is gravely concerned about the adverse effects of a continued delay in this matter and anticipates a positive outcome during the current General Assembly session to give momentum to this issue, he said, calling for support for the Group’s draft decision aimed at convening the conference.
ENRI PRIETO (Peru) underscored the important role played by the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace, Disarmament and Development in Latin America and the Caribbean, which his country hosts. The Centre has already helped States in the region to enhance their capacities in the field of disarmament and has conducted 15 legal and technical programmes. It helped Peru and other States to adopt national action plans and to localize the Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects. With this in mind, his delegation is tabling a draft resolution on the important role the Centre plays in regional disarmament and non‑proliferation efforts.
AIDAN LIDDLE (United Kingdom) said that while regional stability is key to global security, prosperity and peace, certain countries and groups are determined to erode previously accepted norms. For example, the use of chemical weapons has clear implications for regional security. As a strong supporter of a zone free of weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East, the United Kingdom has made efforts to advance the issue by meeting the Arab League Wise Person Panel and sponsoring a workshop to which all States from the region were invited. Nevertheless, his Government is concerned that current proposals for taking this issue forward are not inclusive. At the same time, he expressed concern about Iran’s damaging regional activity, including its support for non‑State actors. Furthermore, he welcomed the ongoing discussions between the United States and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. He then raised serious concerns about the Russian Federation’s compliance with the Intermediate‑Range Nuclear Forces 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. Despite this, the United Kingdom would nevertheless like to see the Treaty continue to stand.
SHIVANAND SIVAMOHAN (Malaysia), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), supports the strengthening of all ASEAN‑led mechanisms, citing them as invaluable links between the Association’s member States and the broader international community. He also underscored the importance of the Treaty on the Southeast Asia Nuclear Weapon‑Free Zone, known as the Treaty of Bangkok. Calling for nuclear‑weapon States to join this instrument, he also expressed support for the establishment of a nuclear‑weapon‑free zone in the Middle East and implored all relevant parties to work towards its realization.
MICHAL SEHAYEK-SOROKA (Israel) said that the core struggle in the Middle East today is between moderates and radicals, but if the former want genuine and positive change that can counter the latter, then their views and perceptions of the region must change. Turning a blind eye to the Iranian regime’s efforts to export its revolution to other Middle East countries and beyond is a critical mistake. “Reaching out won’t work,” she said, adding that the Iranian regime, like the Bashar Al‑Assad regime in Syria, has no problem terrorizing its own people. Terrorists meanwhile have their own agendas, but some are being used as tools in the Iranian regime’s tool‑box with no inhibitions regarding religious orientation. The international community and moderates in the Middle East must work together – without hesitation, without double standards and without illusion – against radical forces, adopting a proactive approach to stop the proliferation of conventional weapons, missiles, rocket technologies and weapons of mass destruction know‑how. Emphasizing the growing danger posed by one General Assembly member, she said that moderates must not waste energy and resources on a destructive agenda that will only strengthen radicals. Continuing in Arabic, she said that Israel, like other moderate nations in the region, faces threats. Describing Israel as “a part and parcel of the Middle East”, she said that its approach has always been constructive and it stands ready to work with others. Direct interactions and bilateral and regional platforms are essential, she said, adding that “we are all in the same boat and must work together to reach safe shores.”
MESHARI SALEH AL-MUZAINI (Kuwait) expressed support for the creation of areas free of nuclear weapons, particularly in the Middle East, to promote the consolidation of peace. In that context, he called on States to implement the 1995 Non‑Proliferation Treaty resolution and urged Israel to accede to the instrument and put its facilities under International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards. More broadly, Kuwait welcomes all dialogue between parties to promote disarmament. Welcoming direct talks between the United States and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, he expressed hope that it will result in a Korean Peninsula free of nuclear weapons. Kuwait also supports efforts to promote the universalization of disarmament and non‑proliferation instruments.
SEYED MOHAMMAD ALI ROBATJAZI (Iran) said that the oldest threat to Middle East security stems from the expansionist strategies, war‑mongering policies and brutal practices of Israel. Indeed, it has invaded its neighbours, waged more than 15 wars and repeatedly commissioned international crimes. For too long, the United States and its regional allies have made mistakes in the region and then blamed others, particularly Iran, for the consequences of their own short‑sighted blunders. Yet, they use the Committee and other forums to revive the hysteria on Iran’s regional policies. The ongoing arms race in the Middle East is an example of the destructive rivalry that has made the neighbourhood unsafe and insecure. As the United States is the biggest supplier of these weapons, no one should expect the country to have an interest in resolving the problems in the region. Looking ahead, the region requires a fresh regional security architecture in which small and large nations contribute to its stability. Towards that end, he proposed that countries in the Persian Gulf region establish a regional dialogue forum based on generally recognized principles and shared objectives.
ANDREY BELOUSOV (Russian Federation) said that his Government actively participates in constructive dialogue on various aspects of European security, yet certain actors are undermining security in the region. The Russian Federation is particularly concerned with growing military activity of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) countries along its borders and the number of foreign contingents stationed in neighbouring countries. Meanwhile, there is a clear anti‑Russian view in NATO exercises wherever they are held. Drawing attention to planned increases in NATO expenditures and the United States rising military budget, he said such spikes in spending are taking place as the Russian Federation is reducing its own military expenditures. For its part, the Russian Federation is in favour of reducing tensions and engaging in respectful dialogue, but that cannot happen when there is a trust deficit. Russian military activities are transparent and abide by the Treaty on Open Skies and Vienna Document 2011 on Confidence- and Security‑Building Measures. Moreover, Russian troops stationed in Moldova, Transnistria and Southern Ossetia are there on the basis of existing agreements and to help to ensure stability and create conditions for development. Concerning the Russian Federation’s alleged militarization of Crimea, he said that this is total propaganda that serves to conceal plans by NATO to control the region.
MAJID ABDELQADIR ABDALLAH (United Arab Emirates) underscored the importance of principles enshrined in the Non‑Proliferation Treaty to face the problem of nuclear weapons. The result of the 2010 Non‑Proliferation Treaty Review Conference must be implemented without delay, she said, urging Israel to accede to the instrument. She welcomed the developments on the Korean Peninsula and highlighted the importance of denuclearization in reducing tensions. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea must put an end to nuclear testing. For its part, the United Arab Emirates promotes the use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. She also called for a renewed commitment to fight against the proliferation of weapons.
FRANCISCO VITAL ORNAI (Timor-Leste) said that regional disarmament and security issues are both an individual country’s responsibility and a collective concern with regard to combating illegal small arms and light weapons, terrorism, and drug trafficking. His delegation supports regional and international initiatives on the non‑proliferation of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction that should be eliminated regionally and globally. His country does not support any entity, whether a State or non‑State actor, attempting to develop, manufacture, acquire, possess, transfer or use weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery.
BAKHTIYOR IBRAGIMOV (Uzbekistan), speaking on behalf of the States parties to the Treaty on a Nuclear‑Weapon‑Free Zone in Central Asia (Semipalatinsk Treaty), said this landmark instrument was the result of collective efforts of all five Central Asian nations in their desire to provide security, stability and peace in the region and to create the necessary conditions for prosperity and well‑being of its people. The States parties to the Treaty have committed themselves voluntarily and unequivocally to ban the production and deployment on their territories of nuclear weapons and their components or other nuclear explosive devices. The zone also conforms with provisions of the Non‑Proliferation Treaty and other disarmament instruments.
Providing details of the zone’s characteristics, he said it is landlocked and is the only zone which in the past contained nuclear weapons. The region’s declaration of its nuclear‑weapon‑free status significantly enhances security and stability geopolitically. During the current session of the General Assembly, Uzbekistan will introduce a draft resolution containing technical updates that reflects progress since the Treaty was signed in 2006. The draft reaffirms a strong commitment to enhancing the effective implementation of measures in disarmament and non‑proliferation.
PYE SOE AUNG (Myanmar), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement and ASEAN, reiterated his commitment to preserving the South‑East Asian region as a zone free of nuclear weapons and all other weapons of mass destruction. Expressing support for the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs as the provider of advice and expertise on the issue, he noted his Government is working with the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Asia and the Pacific to formulate international instruments and domestic legislation regarding control of small arms and light weapons. Restoring trust and confidence among Member States is key to breaking the current stalemate.
ANDREANO ERWIN (Indonesia), speaking on behalf of the Non‑Aligned Movement, called on the Conference on Disarmament to agree by consensus on a balanced and comprehensive programme of work without further delay, taking into account the security interests of all States. The Movement strongly rejects the politicization of the work of the Conference on Disarmament and calls upon Member States to fully respect its rules of procedure and agreed methods of work. Welcoming efforts made during the 2018 session of the Conference on Disarmament’s programme of work, the Movement encourages States to ensure it fulfils its negotiating mandate.
Reaffirming the importance of the Disarmament Commission as the sole specialized and deliberative body within the multilateral disarmament machinery, he called upon all Member States to achieve consensus in the Working Group on recommendations for achieving the objective of nuclear disarmament and non‑proliferation of nuclear weapons. Meanwhile, he underscored the importance of convening the fourth special session of the General Assembly devoted to disarmament. Expressing deep concerns about a lack of adequate representation from Non‑Aligned Movement countries in the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs, he called for efforts to make it more balanced and equitable.
Mr. HASSAN (Egypt), speaking on behalf of the League of Arab States, highlighted the importance of efforts to ensure the universality of the Non‑Proliferation Treaty and underlined the vital role played by the disarmament machinery. There is a need to develop a system that considers the three pillars of the Treaty - disarmament, non‑proliferation and the peaceful use of nuclear energy - and create a zone in the Middle East free of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction. Due to a lack of will by certain States, the Conference on Disarmament has stalled, he said, underscoring a need to reactivate it as a matter of international priority. The Group is disappointed at its failure to adopt recommendations for several years because of opposition from certain States. The Group calls on nuclear‑weapon States to show the necessary political will and flexibility to help make tangible progress towards the 2020 Non‑Proliferation Treaty Review Conference.
KYAW MOE TUN (Myanmar), speaking on behalf of ASEAN, underscored a need to preserve and strengthen the nature, role and purpose of the various forums under the United Nations disarmament machinery, particularly the First Committee, Conference on Disarmament, Disarmament Commission, Advisory Board on Disarmament Matters, and the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR). Existing multilateral disarmament institutions must be reinvigorated and better utilized by improving coordination and integration of expertise into their work. The current achievements of the disarmament machinery are far from meeting common expectations. It is time to identify concrete measures on how it could be made more effective, he said, warning against the dangers of accumulating “rust” and witnessing the continued deadlock.
SHEILA CAREY (Bahamas), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said that the shifting global context has demonstrated a need for innovative and enhanced dialogue and redoubled commitments towards the goal of disarmament. Welcoming the 2018 decision of the Conference on Disarmament to establish subsidiary bodies, she encouraged the prompt resumption of negotiations. CARICOM hopes delegations work within the Conference on Disarmament and the Disarmament Commission to overcome the paralysis that has prevented the conclusion of agreements in key areas. In this regard, she welcomed the Disarmament Commission’s 2017 report and its recommendations on practical confidence‑building measures in the field of conventional weapons, which in turn paved the way for consideration of a new agenda item related to outer space.
Meanwhile, she continued, sustainable development hinges on security, justice, good governance and peace. She also emphasized the importance to her region of the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in the context of Goal 16. Disarmament is the fundamental link between peace and sustainable development, she said, calling for regional and global approaches to be pursued simultaneously and in a complementary manner. In this vein, she commended the contributions of the United Nations Regional Centres for Peace and Disarmament, which provide Member States with capacity‑building and training opportunities.
LINDA ANNE SCOTT (Namibia), making a joint statement on behalf of a large group of Member States concerned with the gender dimension of disarmament, made several suggestions on ways to ensure progress in this area. The gendered impacts of weapons and their dissemination must be assessed and a deeper examination made of how gender shapes the work of the Committee and the dynamics of joint disarmament efforts. Although there is more to be done, she welcomed the high number of initiatives already taken, including calls from the Chairs of various forums for delegations to strive for equal representation; more statements and side events where gender perspectives are applied and discussed; and increased analysis in resolutions, most notably persistent work by Trinidad and Tobago in putting forward the draft resolution on “Women, disarmament, non‑proliferation and arms control”.
Citing further gains, she pointed to the establishment of the International Gender Champions Disarmament Impact Group. In addition, there was a sharper focus of the Arms Trade Treaty on gender and gender‑based violence and the Secretary‑General’s Agenda on Disarmament addressed related challenges and concerns. To build on this momentum, the group encourages the Committee to focus on the nexus linking disarmament with the 2030 Agenda and the women, peace and security agenda, she said, also welcoming continued partnerships with civil society on such issues.
MARKETA HOMOLKOVA, of the European Union delegation, said that the disarmament machinery and its three mutually reinforcing forums remain central and irreplaceable. As such, the international community must ensure their relevance and use them more effectively so they can fulfil their respective roles and achieve results in line with their agreed mandates. The annual sessions of the First Committee provide a good opportunity for more focused and topical debates on current major challenges to collective security and, where appropriate, for identifying concrete measures to address these challenges, rather than simply updating previously adopted resolutions. While the Conference on Disarmament should negotiate multilateral disarmament treaties, it could also elaborate on other instruments and norms, such as guidelines and codes of conduct. The European Union regrets that efforts to reach a consensus on a negotiating mandate have been stalled for more than 20 years.
Nevertheless, the European Union is encouraged by the constructive atmosphere in the Conference on Disarmament’s five subsidiary bodies, she continued. The adoption of four substantive reports for the first time in years is an important step forward and could provide a solid foundation to build on in 2019. Expressing regret that Syria, in view of its lack of legitimacy, assumed the presidency of the Conference on Disarmament in May, she highlighted that these concerns were expressed in a joint statement supported by the European Union and a number of other States. Turning to the Disarmament Commission, she welcomed that a new topic on outer space has been included on its agenda and expressed hope that a focused approach would allow it to reach a consensus on relevant recommendations. She went on to emphasize the importance of UNIDIR as an autonomous institution of the disarmament machinery.
ENRIQUE JOSÉ MARÍA CARRILLO GÓMEZ (Paraguay) urged greater transparency in the work of the Conference on Disarmament, which makes important recommendations, and expressed hope that the work programme will be adopted by consensus. His delegation is in favour of a larger membership and participation by civil society and academia. Highlighting the First Committee’s valuable deliberations, he said delegations have a chance to hear the positions of other countries or regions. For its part, Paraguay is committed to the principles of the United Nations Charter. Consultations on disarmament matters must be multilateral and based on international law, he said, pointing out that bilateral negotiations cannot be a replacement for multilateral ones. His delegation rejects any unilateral measures that seek to undermine multilateralism. States must make every effort to shift resources from weaponry to sustainable development.
SABRINA DALLAFIOR (Switzerland), spotlighting positive developments in the Conference on Disarmament, said much remains to be done to revitalize it, as demonstrated by its difficulties in adopting an annual report. Regarding financial difficulties faced by several disarmament treaties and conventions, she said the situation deteriorated further in 2018 with the dismantlement of the Implementation Support Unit 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. Highlighting difficulties related to the non‑payment of mandatory contributions by some States, she said that cash flow is a challenge whereby States pay contributions throughout the year while liquidities must be on hand several months before any formal meeting can be convened. On UNIDIR, its current report includes important considerations to ensure a stable financial structure. She also noted that contributions from the United Nations regular budget have decreased to 9 per cent of UNIDIR’s budget today, with an imbalance between voluntary and regular budget funding appearing to run counter to the spirit of the Institute’s founding document.
Mr. HASSAN (Egypt), said that the stalemate in disarmament efforts is largely a reflection of the lack of political will by some States seeking to maintain absolute military dominance and to pursue policies of deterrence, rather than collective security. Indeed, the Conference on Disarmament can only adopt a programme of work once negotiations begin on the verifiable and irreversible total elimination of nuclear weapons, with specific benchmarks and timelines. Similar efforts could help to revitalize the Disarmament Commission. Meanwhile, the First Committee has a central role in bridging gaps and creating momentum and guidance for the disarmament machinery.
The representative of Portugal, associating himself with the European Union, said that almost two decades have passed since the last enlargement of the Conference on Disarmament. Ever since then, the door has remained closed to the admission of new States, like his, which seek to become full parties to that body, whose agenda encompasses global concerns that should be dealt with by a wider United Nations membership than the Conference’s current 65 members. In addition, he said that incorporating gender perspectives will help to revitalize the disarmament machinery. His delegation calls for the immediate start of negotiations on a treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.
MAYANK JOSHI (India) said that the work of the disarmament machinery is not hampered by any procedural flaw or inherent deficiency, rather, it is lack of will on the part of Member States that has impeded its smooth functioning. The First Committee is the embodiment of the international community’s faith in multilateral approaches on disarmament and international security issues. It provides Member States with diverse perspectives and a platform to voice their views, acting as a forum for building consensus for collective action on the disarmament agenda. India attaches great importance to the Disarmament Commission as a universal forum and the specialized deliberative part of the disarmament machinery established by the first special session of the General Assembly on disarmament.
SHUAIB MAHOMED (South Africa) said that while his country recently joined the majority of States in welcoming the landmark adoption of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, such advances have not resonated in all fields of nuclear disarmament. Expressing concern about the continued paralysis in the disarmament machinery, he said the current impasse in the Conference on Disarmament undercuts its credibility and raises doubt about its continued relevance. At the heart of the problem lies the continued resistance by a small number of States to implement their disarmament obligations and subject themselves to the international rule of law. Meanwhile, the member States of the Conference on Disarmament have met the costs of the Conference through their assessed contributions. As such, all Member States have a right to hold the Conference responsible for the resources that are being committed to sustain the functions of a non‑functioning Conference.
ANAR FAZYLOVA (Kazakhstan), noting that the United Nations “disarmament triad” – the First Committee, Disarmament Commission and the Conference on Disarmament – has experienced numerous impediments over recent years, expressed regret that the balance between them has been lost due to varying national perspectives “that take precedence over the common collective good”. She called for constructive and pragmatic stances and unity among Member States during the present cycle, despite their differing points of view and current geopolitical tensions. The Committee itself “is also far from being an example of unity”. Despite general statements declaring States’ commitments to nuclear disarmament, none of the Committee’s disarmament resolutions, except for the recognition of nuclear‑weapon‑free zones, has been adopted by consensus. Noting that the Conference on Disarmament is the only multilateral forum for negotiations on this issue, she went on to encourage Member States to extend financial and political support to UNIDIR and support the important work of the Secretary‑General’s Advisory Board on Disarmament Matters.
DAIRE COURTNEY (Ireland) said that breaking the deadlock in the Conference on Disarmament is a top priority for her country. It is deeply troubling that Ireland has been a member of the body for almost 20 years, but in that time, consensus on a programme of work has never been achieved. But, her delegation was greatly encouraged by the valuable work that has been undertaken by the subsidiary bodies in 2018 and hopes that the momentum can help to reach an agreed programme of work as soon as possible. Ireland supports the broadening of the body’s membership to boost its credibility as an inclusive forum.
YANN HWANG (France), expressing regret at the stalemate in the Conference on Disarmament, pointed to encouraging progress made in 2018 in its subsidiary bodies. Such platforms allowed for substantive exchanges on each item on the Conference’s agenda, including on a fissile material cut‑off treaty. He welcomed the adoption of four related reports, which constitute a solid foundation to build on for future sessions. Turning to the Disarmament Commission, he welcomed the unprecedented addition of an outer space cluster to its agenda before raising concerns about the serious funding problem facing many disarmament conventions. In this regard, he urged States to fulfil their financial obligations and pay their contributions on time, noting that the cancellation of meetings due to funding shortfalls is unacceptable.
NAZIM KHALDI (Algeria), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement and the Arab Group, expressed deep concern that the Conference on Disarmament remains unable to reach consensus on a comprehensive and balanced programme of work. This intolerable state of affairs has existed in the body during two decades, with particularly harmful effects for non‑nuclear‑weapon States. The impasse is not due to the failure of the body and not inherent to its mode of operation or methods of work. Its Member States should demonstrate the necessary political will to move forward, he said, recalling a 2009 consensus decision taken under the presidency of Algeria to establish a programme of work.
Right of Reply
The representative of the United States, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said that Iran is the world’s leading State sponsor of terrorism, maiming innocent men, women and children all over the world. Just yesterday, Denmark said it had foiled a plot by Iran on its soil. Iran has also threatened to wipe Israel off the face of the map, funded weapons shipments to Hizbullah and Syrian President Assad, taken American hostages in its country and has no credibility. For a long time, it hid its nuclear weapons programmes. While it tries to claim it is a peace‑loving State committed to multilateralism, it is fooling no one. On 4 November, the United States will make it difficult for Tehran to finance terror. Turning to the Russian Federation, he said the country’s malign behaviour is of great concern. He urged the Russian Federation to stop undermining the Ukrainian and Georgian Governments, hiding its use of chemical weapons, and violating treaties, including the Intermediate‑Range Forces Treaty. Furthermore, the Russian Federation must destroy the cruise missile it developed and stop trying to redraw borders in Europe by force.
The representative of Iran rejected allegations made against his country and the lies told by the representative of the Israeli regime, which is trying to put up a smoke‑screen to hide the atrocities it has committed against the Palestinian people. The Iranian threat is more hype than anything else. Israel tries to posture itself as moderate, while its history is filled with acts of aggression against its neighbours in the region. They have become an apartheid and racist regime, while flouting international instruments, including the Non‑Proliferation Treaty; Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on their Destruction; and the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on their Destruction. Israel is the obstacle to the creation of a nuclear‑weapon‑free zone in the Middle East. In fact, nuclear weapons in the hands of the Israeli regime poses the greatest threat to the security of States in the region, he said, noting its violation of at least 86 Security Council resolutions between 1948 and 2016, an appalling record that affords them no moral authority. Meanwhile, terrorist recruitment in the region has been the result of foreign occupation. The contempt of the United States for international law and its attempts to undermine the rule of law in international relations have been prominent features of the current Administration’s foreign policy. Sanctions have miserably failed at reaching their objectives. The United States must commit to its obligations to Security Council resolution 2231 (2015) and the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action contained in the Iran nuclear agreement. Noting that the United States withdrawal from this agreement has been rejected by its allies, he said Washington, D.C., must respect the will of States in the region, including Iran, which is the pillar of stability in the Middle East.
The representative of the Russian Federation, thanking his counterpart from the United Kingdom for bringing attention to the situation related to the Intermediate‑Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, said that since 2000, the United States has avoided a real substantive dialogue on its non‑compliance with the instrument. While avoiding dialogue, the United States has been conducting an aggressive campaign to discredit the Russian Federation. In 2016, after the United States agreed to discuss mutual concerns, the Russian Federation provided information to address Washington, D.C.’s concerns about missiles and testing results. Meanwhile, his delegation’s concerns remain unaddressed by the United States since 2000. The United States continues to speculate that the Russian Federation violated the Treaty. On 20 October, President Donald Trump announced his country’s withdrawal from the Treaty. Highlighting that the United States has 700 bases around the world, of which about 170 are around the Russian Federation’s territory, he said that this concentration of military power poses a real threat to peace and security.
The representative of Syria denied allegations levelled against his country by the European Union. Member States of the European Union are destabilizing the Middle East by exporting nuclear, chemical and biological capabilities, including nuclear reactors and submarines, to Israel, where United States nuclear weapons are located. Most European Union members exported terrorists and weapons to Syria. The United States has withdrawn from international treaties, undermining international peace and security, imposed sanctions on Iran and are withdrawing from the World Trade Organization and the Intermediate‑Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. In addition, the United States is assisting Israel in violation of the Non‑Proliferation Treaty and also helped Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) to move their operations. Meanwhile, the United Kingdom is the first country to fund terrorists in Syria while Israel, a racist regime, handed Da’esh poisonous agents and supplied weaponry and munitions to terrorists.
The representative of Ukraine said that while the Russian Federation claims that the militarization of Crimea is propaganda, it is in fact a real threat not only for his country, but for regional States and beyond. His counterpart gave the impression that NATO is trying to attack a peaceful country. This is an attempt by the Russian Federation to divert attention away from its aggressive policies towards its neighbours. Indeed, the Russian Federation’s destabilizing activities in Ukraine, Georgia and the Republic of Moldova, including the annexation of some territories, confirm its hostile policies in the region.
The representative of the Republic of Moldova said the presence of the Russian Federation’s forces in her country in the Transnistria region is not legitimate, as they are stationed without permission of the host country. Moreover, the Russian Federation agreed to withdraw its forces in 1999 at the Organization for Security and Co‑operation in Europe (OSCE) summit and never fulfilled its obligations. In addition, it is not a neutral party or peacekeeping operation, she said, condemning the Russian Federation delegate’s attempts to legitimize their presence, which runs counter to the United Nations Charter.
The representative of the United States condemned the propaganda machine of Syria, noting that the Assad regime has wreaked havoc on its own country for seven years, gassing its own people. All of this has been well documented and their chemical weapons use is not in doubt. The Government of Syria is creating fictitious narratives. When all is said and done, the Syrian regime will be held accountable. Turning to the Russian Federation, he said that when Moscow was confronted with evidence on its Intermediate‑Range Nuclear Forces Treaty violations, it issued denials, saying that the United States was the one that had violated the instrument. Noting that the Russian Federation’s delegate will say a bottle of water is a coffee maker, he said that the United States has provided Moscow with plenty of facts on the Treaty‑related matter for more than five years. It is not possible for one country to adhere to the agreement while the other violates it. The Russian Federation needs to stop bullying countries that do not agree with it. The Russian Federation saw last week in the Committee just how counterproductive that bullying can be.
The representative of Syria said that the United States delegate levelled falsehoods and demonstrated hypocrisy before Member States. Everyone knows it is the State that used nuclear, biological and chemical weapons against citizens around the world. They used heinous weapons of mass destruction to achieve narrow goals. Current and past administrations used prohibited weapons, including depleted uranium, and develops its nuclear weapons in violation of the Non‑Proliferation Treaty and other conventions. The United States also administers secret military programmes that develop new biological weapons and uses terrorist groups to achieve its illegitimate goals. Concerning the undeclared facility in Syria mentioned by the United States representative, he said that if Washington, D.C., indeed had evidence, it would have submitted it. The United States conduct is based on creating a pretext to be followed by militarization. While the United States has had administrations that have sought to spread peace, its current tendency is to undermine stability all over the world.
ELISABETH TICHY-FISSLBERGER (Austria), associating herself with the European Union, expressed deep regret that the Conference on Disarmament is not fulfilling its mandate as a negotiating forum for 22 years. While Austria values the efforts that were put into substantive deliberations in the framework of subsidiary bodies in 2018, this cannot replace compliance with its negotiating mandate. “We must not lose sight of the fact that the Conference on Disarmament has remained in deadlock as regards the start of negotiations on key issues of international peace and security,” she said, calling for prioritizing efforts to break the stalemate. She also welcomed the addition of a new topic, outer space, on the Disarmament Commission’s agenda.
USMAN JADOON (Pakistan) said that since 1996, the United Nations disarmament machinery has not been able to produce a legally binding instrument. This is squarely a consequence of the competing priorities of different Member States. Some States are opposing the commencement of negotiations on new treaties simply because they clash with their strategic calculus aimed at perpetuating their military advantage and preferential positions. The interplay of various factors has resulted in a deadlock of the disarmament machinery. He recalled that the same disarmament machinery has produced landmark treaties in the past. Certain countries are only prepared to advance a partial non‑proliferation measure in the form of a fissile material cut‑off treaty that, without addressing existing stocks, will make no contribution to nuclear disarmament. The solution to the impasse cannot be found by seeking action outside established forums.
HARYO BUDI NUGROHO (Indonesia) said that while its pace may not be ideal at times, the disarmament machinery is the best system to deal with questions of disarmament and non‑proliferation. If certain approaches are not gaining traction, it is not the fault of the disarmament machinery, but rather because the merit in these concepts is not convincing for the majority. Indeed, that is how democracy works. The major reason the disarmament machinery has been unable to produce outcomes is the lack of political will by the States possessing nuclear weapons to achieve a clear elimination of these arsenals. Revitalizing the disarmament machinery will only be possible when nuclear‑weapon States undertake their disarmament commitments, he said, noting that other States must act responsibly and fulfil their commitments as well.
MARCIN CZEPELAK (Poland) noted the significance of the establishment of five subsidiary bodies and the subsequent adoption of four reports, the first such achievement in the last 22 years in the Conference on Disarmament. He expressed hope it would lead member States to even more successful work in 2019. At the same time, the disarmament machinery is not a perpetuum mobile; it needs constant engagement and the inflow of ideas and good will. Disarmament is not an abstract concept, but a complex, fragile and cumbersome process. While Poland wholeheartedly supports a multilateral approach in the field of disarmament, it also believes that the potential of traditional, intensive and bilateral diplomacy always needs to be exhausted. Towards that end, the political engagement of all actors and their leaders is crucial.
REINT VOGELAAR (Netherlands) said that his country launched an integrated foreign and security strategy, which guides its foreign and security policy for the period 2018‑2022. As such, his delegation attaches great importance to the proper functioning of the disarmament machinery as part of the wider United Nations system to uphold and strengthen the rules‑based international order. The Netherlands coordinated meetings of one of the five subsidiary bodies in the Conference on Disarmament, producing a report agreed by consensus that provides a solid basis for the Conference on Disarmament to move towards negotiations of a fissile material cut‑off treaty. In this vein, he urged all delegations to show the utmost flexibility to commence the talks.
VANESSA WOOD (Australia) said that her country chaired the Disarmament Commission in 2018, which enjoyed the quickest agenda adoption since 2006. The Commission successfully launched working groups on nuclear risk reduction and outer space transparency and confidence‑building measures. The Commission now has a solid foundation to build towards an outcome at the end of its three‑year cycle in 2020. However, she expressed concern over the funding crisis in Geneva‑based arms control conventions. “To maintain and strengthen these conventions, we need to be able to hold effective meetings and have implementation support,” she said, urging States to pay their contributions in full and on time. Raising another concern, she said bringing women into the fold of international security is much more than altruism, as diversity in a room of decision makers leads to better decisions.
DILIP KUMAR PAUDEL (Nepal), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, said that the active engagement of all Member States can facilitate effective and sustainable outcomes in all areas of policy discussions. His delegation, therefore, recommends that all nations, irrespective of their capabilities, nuclear or other, be taken on board in disarmament deliberations and negotiations. “The least developed countries are not just silent observers,” he said. “They also face the disproportionate and indiscriminate consequences of armament and arms proliferation.” Therefore, they should be given equal opportunity in international disarmament mechanisms. The United Nations Regional Centres for Peace and Disarmament could be of enormous significance for discussions and building confidence at regional levels. As important contributors to the disarmament process, these centres should be further strengthened, well resourced and developed to their fullest potential.
JULIO HERRAIZ ESPANA (Spain), associating himself with the European Union, expressed support for multilateralism and the United Nations disarmament machinery. Credibility of the disarmament machinery can be acquired only through clear steps and results. States must go beyond updating existing resolutions. The Conference on Disarmament needs political will to move forward as the only multilateral negotiating body. It cannot fall prey to division. Spain welcomes the work of the subsidiary bodies that set future guidelines. Regarding the need for a ban on the production of fissile material, some alternatives would be to adopt a political declaration while seeking a legally binding treaty. In addition, gender equality is an ethical imperative for the work of the disarmament machinery.
ANDREY BELOUSOV (Russian Federation) said that the consideration of issues of international peace and global security belongs with the United Nations. While each disarmament triad should be responsible for its mandate, Member States need to ensure the necessary preconditions are in place. Unfortunately, the international community is witnessing the overpoliticization of discussions, which changes the format of its work, as seen in the Conference on Disarmament in 2018. As such, it was not possible to maximize the work of its subsidiary bodies. It is unacceptable to move away from the Conference’s established practices. Meanwhile, there is a trend to admit issues outside the agenda of the forum and its mandate, as reflected in a technical report the Conference adopted. Member States are witnessing the same thing in the First Committee, he said, pointing out as an example the recent vote to consider the Russian Federation’s draft on the Intermediate‑Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. More positively, there has been progress in the Disarmament Commission, as for the first time since 1999, it managed to adopt a consensus document. In addition, discussion in the five subsidiary bodies allows Member States to identify points of convergence and delineate the issues in which the Conference could focus on in the future.
ABDULLAH HALLAK (Syria), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, said that his country is committed to multilateralism, including the disarmament machinery, whose work has been undermined by a lack of political will by some States. Syria served as President of the Conference on Disarmament for the May‑June session in 2018 and worked hard to ensure a balanced approach, transparency, cooperation and productivity. For more than 20 years, the Conference on Disarmament’s work was clearly undermined by some countries’ double standards and the imposition of some agenda items. The United States opposed the proposed work by the Russian Federation on biological and chemical terrorism. The United States, France and the United Kingdom were unwilling to accept the programme of work. In addition, a memorandum submitted by France, the United Kingdom and the United States contains false accusations against Syria, he said, requesting that the document should not be attached to the annex of the Conference’s annual report.
FAIYAZ MURSHID KAZI (Bangladesh) emphasized a need to reinvigorate the disarmament machinery to add further momentum to intergovernmental negotiations on outstanding disarmament and non‑proliferation issues. Sharing frustration at the continued failure of the Conference on Disarmament to reach a consensus, he said the status quo should not be allowed. If history is any guide, the prevailing tension in the international security environment should create an impetus for giving a new lease on life into the Conference on Disarmament’s work. It is critical that Member States rise above the mindsets and modus operandi of the previous century to keep the United Nations and its disarmament tools relevant. In 2018, Bangladesh has taken a particular interest in further progress in developing a set of internationally agreed norms for regulating responsible behaviour in cyberspace. In this vein, he underscored the need to factor in the voices and concerns of developing countries in the process. Expressing appreciation for UNIDIR, he highlighted a need to ensure enhanced and predictable resources for the Institute.
HU HUIFANG (China) said that the international community must decide whether to maintain the existing machinery or reinvent the wheel. In its early years, the disarmament machinery made important contributions to international peace and security. Against the current security backdrop, it should be strengthened and revitalized, not weakened, and joint efforts are needed to do so. Indeed, the conclusions of the Chemical Weapons Convention and Comprehensive Nuclear‑Test‑Ban Treaty demonstrate that the problem is not with its rules and procedures. The global community should not discard the machinery just because it has experienced some setbacks. Reinventing the wheel is not the correct way to solve current problems. The current stalemate is due to a lack of political will. It is not generated in a vacuum but based on each State’s assessment of the international security environment and its own needs. New agendas should be set up according to new developments to keep pace with new challenges. For its part, China has made recommendations to the Conference on Disarmament on new agenda items, including new and emerging technologies for frontier issues.
AIDAN LIDDLE (United Kingdom), associating himself with the European Union, affirmed the best way to achieve the ultimate goal of a world without nuclear weapons is through gradual mutual disarmament negotiated within existing frameworks. He noted the Conference on Disarmament, a forum for nuclear‑weapons States and other key players to hold serious discussions informed by the right expertise, is the only place where disarmament measures binding all relevant actors can be negotiated. If progress is slow, it is due to a lack of political will among Member States rather than the disarmament machinery itself. Despite recent progress, he expressed concern that the Conference on Disarmament has still failed to agree on a substantive programme of work. Offering firm support for the current arms control machinery and regimes, he noted that structural problems in some conventions can only be resolved if all States parties pay their contributions on time, in full, and settle arrears.
MARTIN KLUČAR (Czech Republic) stressed the importance of a well‑functioning and fully operational disarmament machinery. Expressing regret over the Conference on Disarmament’s lack of meeting expectations for more than two decades, he deplored the continuing deadlock and repeated failure to commence and conclude substantial negotiations on a legally binding fissile material cut‑off treaty. He reiterated a call for appointing a special coordinator to initiate a debate on enlarging the Conference on Disarmament, which would promote transparency and inclusiveness and thusly, help to regain its credibility. Welcoming the adoption of recommendations on confidence‑building measures regarding conventional weapons after an 18‑year‑long stalemate, he expressed hope that this will provide much‑needed momentum for further positive developments throughout the disarmament machinery. He also called for upholding the principle of consensus and conducting negotiations in the spirit of mutual compromise and understanding.
MYUNG EUNJI (Republic of Korea) welcomed the successful conclusion of the substantive session of the Disarmament Commission in April, the first of its three‑year cycle. It was even more meaningful in the sense that transparency and confidence‑building measures in outer space activities were first discussed as a new agenda item for Working Group II, with the goal of preventing an arms race in that sphere. However, a consensus on adopting its recommendations was not achieved, and much more needs to be done. Her Government disagrees with the view that the Conference on Disarmament has lost its relevance because of a prolonged stalemate. During the current session, efforts to maintain its relevance has been seen in discussions in its five subsidiary bodies, she said, anticipating more progress in 2019.
PICHAMONCH PINTOLA (Thailand) said that an effective disarmament machinery is one that leads the international community towards common disarmament and non‑proliferation goals and whose work is integrated within broader objectives of the United Nations. At the same time, the disarmament machinery must keep up with important developments and adapt to a changing international security landscape. Perhaps it is time to examine whether the disarmament machinery should be reviewed. However, to do so, Member States must recognize the important developments taking place. Making several suggestions he said that disarmament and non‑proliferation discussions can no longer be limited to States. Also, the Secretary‑General’s preventative agenda should formally fit into a comprehensive disarmament machinery as an effective response to looming conflicts. A rules‑based international system is the most effective way to manage multiple security challenges, he said, adding that the First Committee continues to be the most multilateral, representative and effective platform for discussions.
ARIEL RODELAS PENARANDA (Philippines) said that, as a gender champion, his country calls for increased gender balance in the disarmament process. For its part, the Philippines’ national action plan provides ways to uphold gender inclusion in consultative meetings and planning activities. At grassroots and policy-making levels, women are involved in the Mindanao peace process, which includes the disarmament of belligerent groups. In this context, his delegation recommends that Member States develop appropriate and effective programmes or mechanisms to protect women who have participated in the implementation of disarmament-related matters. The contribution of women is vital across the peace process. Looking ahead, Member States should heighten support for their meaningful participation in all decision-making processes.
MOHAMMAD HOSSEIN GHANIEI (Iran), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said “there is no alternative for multilateralism” in disarmament negotiations. The disarmament machinery remains relevant despite a lack of genuine political will among certain nuclear-weapon States. The United States annual “Report on Adherence to and Compliance with Arms Control, Non‑proliferation, and Disarmament Agreements and Commitments” seriously undermines the authority of IAEA and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), and its withdrawal from multilateral international instruments and institutions is an attempt to weaken them. Expressing support for the Non-Aligned Movement’s call for the strict application of equitable geographical distribution in the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs, he also underlined the significant role played by the United Nations Programme of Fellowships on Disarmament in training young diplomats.
NOBUSHIGE TAKAMIZAWA (Japan) said that his country attaches importance to the final report compiled in 2018 by the High-level Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty Expert Preparatory Group. The Conference on Disarmament remains essential as it is the single multilateral negotiating forum for disarmament. He underscored a need to use this forum to effectively address challenges posed by technological advancements, from the influence of artificial intelligence on weapons systems to new threats in the realms of cyberspace and outer space. It is evident that emerging issues and new challenges will not only affect various cross-cutting fields and stakeholders, but all humanity, which is precisely why there is a pressing need to collectively act in multilateral forums.
ELIF ÇAHŞKAN (Turkey) said that while consensus on the programme of work has not emerged in the Conference on Disarmament, encouragement and significant developments took place, referring to the establishment of five subsidiary bodies and the adoption of four substantive reports. Her delegation was the latest President of the Conference on Disarmament in 2018, conducting negotiations in a responsible and transparent manner, with a view to reaching consensus on both the report of the Conference on Disarmament and related resolution. The annual draft resolution on the report was submitted to the Committee, she said, calling on member States to support the text.
EDUARDO ALCIBIADES SANCHEZ KIESSLICH (Mexico) said that the Conference on Disarmament has not delivered a mandate in 22 years and its working methods contribute to the paralysis of the forum. The creation of subsidiary bodies produced limited results, raising the question of whether the resources spent could instead have been used on sustainable development. The international community should not just perpetuate one mechanism. In the Disarmament Commission, despite the adoption in 2017 of confidence‑building measures on conventional weapons, no recommendations were made. In the First Committee, many draft resolutions are repetitive without any real challenges or measures that would lead to progress. He expressed hope that progress would be made in the fourth special session of the General Assembly devoted to disarmament would allow Member States to overcome the current impasse. True reform will only happen if there is a real understanding on the current situation. Paralysis cannot be accepted as normal. At the same time, the disarmament machinery must adapt to new developments. As such, Member States must consider whether new mechanisms are needed. He called on all Member States to decide which decisions need to be taken to breathe new life into the disarmament machinery, a vehicle built to reach a certain destination, which is international peace and security.