Amid a crumbling foundation of the international disarmament and non‑proliferation architecture, efforts must focus on returning to a multilateral path towards the commonly shared goal of a world without nuclear weapons, delegates said, as the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) continued its general debate.
Delegates agreed that among the best ways to do so is through advancing the principles set out in the Treaty on the Non‑Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons — which turns 50 in 2020 — which are based on three pillars: disarmament, non‑proliferation and the peaceful use of nuclear energy. The landmark agreement remains the cornerstone of this global architecture, many said, with some placing high hopes on its 2020 Review Conference.
Samoa’s representative said that even with the best intentions and goodwill of Member States ahead of the 2020 Review Conference, the instrument will remain dormant and worthless if it is not ratified by the few who have not yet done so. However, the very existence of atomic bombs represents a real threat, he said, emphasizing that the Pacific region still bears scars from real‑life experiences of nuclear testing.
Several delegates raised similar concerns, with Nepal’s representative citing the existence of 14,000 atomic bombs on the planet alongside a trend of bloated military spending, which reached $1.8 trillion dollars in 2018. In the same vein, Nigeria’s delegate highlighted the “astronomical proportion” of resources allocated to defense budgets, including for recently upgrading existing nuclear arsenals.
Agreeing, Ireland’s representative cautioned that the international disarmament and security system is under “significant strain”. As examples, she drew attention to severe challenges facing the Intermediate‑Range Nuclear Forces Treaty and the Treaty between the United States of America and the Russian Federation on Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms, known as the New START Treaty.
Slovenia’s delegate expressed deep disappointment that the Russian Federation has failed to address concerns about non‑compliance with the Intermediate‑Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. More broadly, she said, the two States possessing the largest nuclear arsenals bear a special responsibility vis‑à‑vis arms control and nuclear disarmament.
Many delegates from non‑nuclear‑weapon States expressed strong support for the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, adopted in 2017. Namibia’s representative called for full implementation of the agreement while also expressing strong support for creating nuclear‑weapon‑free zones as an effective way to promote its ultimate goal of a world free of those arms.
Indeed, many members highlighted the existence of such zones in Africa, South America, the Caribbean and the Pacific, and some representatives, such as the delegate from Angola, pointed at the necessity of creating one in the Middle East. In this vein, Iran’s delegate said that to prevent a further deterioration of the security situation in the Middle East, Israel must be compelled to join the Non‑Proliferation Treaty without preconditions and participate in a conference on the establishment of a nuclear‑weapon‑free zone in the region, to be held at Headquarters in November.
Kyrgyzstan’s representative recalled that his country is one of the initiators and a depository of the Treaty on a Nuclear‑Weapon‑Free Zone in Central Asia, known as the Semipalatinsk Treaty. With this agreement, the region has become a prime example of strengthened regional and global security.
A representative of the Agency for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean, said members had negotiated a regional consensus, reflected in its issuance of a declaration on the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons and its submission of a position paper to the Third Preparatory Committee of the Non‑Proliferation Treaty’s 2020 Review Conference. Moreover, in 2018, members supported a draft resolution to convene the fourth Conference of States Parties and Signatories to Treaties that Establish Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zones and Mongolia, to be held at United Nations Headquarters in April.
On procedural matters, the Committee decided to extend its general debate to Friday, 18 October. The Committee, at its meeting on 8 October, had set 16 October for the conclusion of the general debate after some delegations raised concerns about Headquarters access and the issuance of visas by the host country. (See Press Release GA/DIS/3623.)
Also speaking today were representatives of Montenegro, Pakistan, Haiti, Cameroon, Lithuania, Timor-Leste and San Marino.
Representatives of India, United States, Syria, Pakistan, Iran and Turkey spoke in exercise of the right of reply.
The First Committee will reconvene on Thursday, 17 October, at 3 p.m., to continue its general debate.
The First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) met this afternoon to continue its general debate. For background information, see Press Release GA/DIS/3624 of 10 October.
MILICA PEJANOVIĆ ĐURIŠIĆ (Montenegro), associating herself with the European Union, affirmed that the Treaty on the Non‑Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons is a cornerstone for disarmament and non‑proliferation and called for its universalization and full implementation. She also called for the ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear‑Test‑Ban Treaty and to start negotiations around a fissile material cut‑off treaty. Underscoring the importance of respecting Security Council resolution 2231 (2015) concerning Iran’s nuclear programme, she voiced support for a complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and asked the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to comply with relevant Council resolutions. Her delegation is committed to the Arms Trade Treaty and welcomed its new focus on the gender perspective, affirming it is a very important step in strengthening the respect for the international humanitarian law. She reiterated her support for a rules‑based multilateral system that engages in arms control, disarmament and non‑proliferation.
DOMINIC MISIOLO JUNIOR SOFE (Samoa) regretted to note that the Pacific region “continues to bear scars from real‑life experiences of nuclear testing” which moved regional countries to sign the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty, known as the Treaty of Rarotonga, as a deterrent to help safeguard biodiversity and the ocean from radioactive contamination. Expressing concerns about nuclear waste storage facilities in the region and the grave consequences of natural disasters fuelled by climate change, he said these challenges pose significant long‑term threats on the health of the people and environment. He condemned the existence of nuclear weapons, which pose a needless and unnecessary threat, especially for non‑nuclear‑weapon States. While expressing hope ahead of the Non‑Proliferation Treaty’s 2020 Review Conference, he said that even with the best intentions and goodwill of Member States, the instrument will remain dormant and worthless if it is not ratified by the few who have not yet done so.
MALEEHA LODHI (Pakistan) said negative global trends are pronounced in South Asia, where one State is unabashedly seeking to establish its dominance and hegemony through a massive build‑up of its nuclear and conventional military forces and acquiring destabilizing capabilities. Its conduct represents a clear and present danger, especially to Pakistan, to which the bulk of its offensive capability is deployed. The recent consolidation of its illegal occupation of Jammu and Kashmir has fostered further regional volatility. Pakistan’s proposal for a strategic restraint regime in South Asia remains on the table, she said, adding that any meaningful progress on disarmament requires concrete steps to address regional and global challenges. In this regard, nuclear disarmament must be pursued in a comprehensive and holistic manner, in line with the principles agreed by the first special session of the General Assembly devoted to disarmament.
GERALDINE BYRNE NASON (Ireland), associating herself with the European Union and the New Agenda Coalition, said the Committee’s work has never been more important. “The architecture developed over decades to support the goals of disarmament and enhance security is under significant strain,” she said, citing the recent withdrawal of parties from the Intermediate‑Range Nuclear Forces Treaty since the Committee’s last session. Meanwhile, the modernization of nuclear arsenals risks triggering a new arms race amid growing threats to peace and stability in cyberspace. Multilateral forums — while far from perfect — offer the only real hope for constructive engagement on these issues. In this vein, she underlined Ireland’s determination to work in support of the Non‑Proliferation Treaty, which will soon mark its fiftieth anniversary, and spotlighted the full complementarity of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. Encouraging all Member States to promptly sign and ratify the latter, she noted the special responsibility of the States with the two largest nuclear arsenals, calling on them to prioritize the extension of the Treaty between the United States of America and the Russian Federation on Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms, known as the New START Treaty. In addition, she urged Iran to return to full compliance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to cease its nuclear testing and re‑engage in denuclearization talks without preconditions.
PATRICK SAINT-HILAIRE (Haiti), associating himself with the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said his country desires peace and security for all, but the current international security environment looks fragile and not very reassuring. Greater efforts are required, particularly by Member States that have, or would like to have, nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction. He strongly encouraged all stakeholders to strive for consensus, particularly with regard to human security, while also addressing issues related to the security of States. He underscored Haiti’s unconditional support in the Non‑Proliferation Treaty, among other instruments, and its satisfaction that other regions have followed in the footsteps of the Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean, known as the Treaty of Tlatelolco.
ESHAGH AL HABIB (Iran), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, said that since the Committee’s 2018 session, the global security situation has deteriorated due to irresponsible policies and a lack of political will among certain States. The development and modernization of nuclear weapons by the United States and the diminishing authority of key multilateral and bilateral instruments are both alarming trends. The illegal withdrawal of the United States from the Joint Plan of Action on Iran’s nuclear programme has left that key achievement in multilateral diplomacy in critical condition. Iran will continue to comply with that agreement, but it alone cannot, shall not and will not carry the burden of preserving it. Iran must receive the intended benefits of the Joint Plant of Action, he said, adding that the steps his country has taken to bring a balance to the agreement are minimal and reversible. The remaining participants in the agreement, particularly the European three, must show goodwill by taking serious and practical steps to preserve it, or to accept full responsibility for the consequences. Calling for the full, effective and balanced implementation of the Non‑Proliferation Treaty, he said nuclear weapons are dangerous in the hands of Israel, “with its long dark record of occupation, aggression and committing all core international crimes”. To prevent a further deterioration of the security situation in the Middle East, Israel must be compelled to join the Non‑Proliferation Treaty without preconditions and forced to participate in November’s conference on the establishment of a nuclear‑weapon‑free zone in the region.
ZACHARIE SERGE RAOUL NYANID (Cameroon) said disarmament is an instrument of conflict prevention. As such, Cameroon is resolutely attached to disarmament as part of broader efforts to strengthen international peace and security. It must move forward while at the same time avoiding any new arms race. Efforts to create new nuclear‑weapon‑free zones must continue, engaging as many States as possible. Non‑proliferation must remain on the agendas of those United Nations bodies dealing with disarmament issues, he said, emphasizing that a destabilizing arms race could emerge if there is no balance between nuclear disarmament and efforts to reduce the threat of biological, chemical and other weapons. He added that the establishment of internationally recognized zones along the lines of the African Nuclear‑Weapon‑Free Zone Treaty, known as the Treaty of Pelindaba, will strengthen regional peace and security as well as the non‑proliferation regime.
REGINA AONDONA (Nigeria), associating herself with the African Group and Non‑Aligned Movement, pointed at the astronomical proportion of resources allocated for defense budgets, including the upgrade of nuclear arsenals by possessor States. She also highlighted the large number of conventional weapons in the hands of non‑State actors all over the planet, stating that “the carnage has become phenomenal and unprecedented”. Furthermore, these weapons are used by terrorists and other criminal groups “to unleash mayhem and massacre innocent lives”. On the issue of nuclear weapons, she called for their total elimination and warned all Member States against the catastrophic consequences of their use on human health, the environment and the economy. Commending Africa for its status as a nuclear‑weapon‑free zone, she called for the implementation of more of such areas, including in the Middle East. Regretting to note the impasse at the Conference of Disarmament, she called on Member States to do whatever is needed to overcome obstacles.
AUDRA PLEPYTĖ (Lithuania), associating herself with the European Union, affirmed that protecting the current rules‑based international system is of critical importance to preserve global peace and security and called for the respect of agreed instruments, such as the Non‑Proliferation Treaty. She defended an inclusive and gradual approach to disarmament to achieve the goal of a world without nuclear weapons. She said the Russian Federation has challenged the current disarmament system through violations, selective implementation and refusal to enter dialogue, actions that have led to the demise of the Intermediate‑Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. Expressing support for the work of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in finding those responsible for related incidents in Syria, she called for unity of all Member States against their use.
JOÃO IAMBENO GIMOLIECA (Angola), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement and the African Group, remarked that most regions of the world, including Africa, have nuclear‑weapon‑free zones and that the Middle East should follow suit. Emphasizing that Angola is committed to ratifying the Arms Trade Treaty in the near future, he credited the commitment of the Government and its partners for the clearance of landmines laid during 30 years of war. Despite renewed signs of commitment to nuclear disarmament, there remains much to be done, he said, underscoring the danger of non‑State actors gaining access to nuclear technology.
BOLOT KULMATOV (Kyrgyzstan) said the current destruction of the existing nuclear arms control system is a dangerous trend for all humankind. Recalling that his country is one of the initiators and a depository of the Treaty on a Nuclear‑Weapon‑Free Zone in Central Asia, known as the Semipalatinsk Treaty, he said the region is a prime example of strengthened regional and global security. Describing the strengthening of the Non‑Proliferation Treaty as the most important goal, he also underlined the significance of the Test‑Ban Treaty — which has still not entered into force. He also encouraged States to demonstrate the necessary political will to allow the Conference on Disarmament and other international disarmament bodies to fulfil their mandates. Meanwhile, he said, international safeguards and the physical protection of nuclear materials and facilities remain the first line of defence against nuclear terrorism. For that reason, Kyrgyzstan strongly endorses efforts by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to strengthen such safeguards as well as efforts to implement Security Council resolution 1540 (2004) aimed at addressing proliferation challenges posed by non‑State actors.
ALFARO DE ARAUJO (Timor-Leste), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, recalled that his country, as a non‑nuclear‑weapon State, is a party and signatory to a number of key treaties and conventions on disarmament. Reiterating that international legal instruments and United Nations resolutions on disarmament are fundamental for sustainable development, he said Timor‑Leste continues to promote peacebuilding and State building as fundamental guarantees for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Emphasizing the importance of the use of international mechanisms in the peaceful settlement of disputes between States, he highlighted Timor‑Leste’s compulsory conciliation mechanism under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. In cooperation with its neighbours, Timor‑Leste is making efforts to control its seas and safeguard against terrorism, organized crime and arms trafficking.
AMRIT BAHADUR RAI (Nepal), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, said that with the military spending worldwide running at more than $1.8 trillion dollars a year and given the existence of 14,000 nuclear weapons, he remained deeply concerned about scarce resources being squandered on ways to decimate fellow human beings and not to lift people out of poverty, hunger and disease. Noting that Nepal is in the process of ratifying the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, he said technological developments such as weaponized drones, artificial intelligence and automated robots can also pose serious threats to humanity. He added that Nepal will table the draft resolution “United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament”, emphasizing that such centres can raise the awareness of disarmament issues among policymakers and the public.
NEVILLE MELVIN GERTZE (Namibia), associating himself with the African Group and Non‑Aligned Movement, said nuclear disarmament should remain the Committee’s priority. Nuclear‑weapon States must eliminate their arsenals and give legally binding assurances that they will not use, or threaten to use, atomic bombs against States that do not possess these arms. As a committed State party to the Treaty of Pelindaba, Namibia joins others in calling for a zone free of nuclear weapons in the Middle East. He also called for full implementation of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. Efforts to strengthen nuclear safety and security must not be a pretext to deny or restrict the right of developing States to develop and use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.
NATASCIA BARTOLINI (San Marino), pointing out that an estimated 14,000 atomic bombs exist around the world, called on countries who have not yet done so to sign and ratify the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. Any nuclear detonation would have catastrophic and long‑lasting humanitarian consequences. With large amounts of money being invested in modernizing arsenals, she said a “qualitative nuclear arms race is underway”, which is incompatible with the Non‑Proliferation Treaty. She also expressed concern for the collapse of the Intermediate‑Range Nuclear Forces Treaty and for the future of the Joint Plan of Action. San Marino is in favour of permanent peace in the Korean Peninsula, which can only be achieved through a diplomatic process. Concerned about the use of chemical weapons by any party, she called for full accountability for perpetrators. She warned against the development of new technologies such as armed drones and fully autonomous weapons, which pose deep ethical and legal doubts, life and death decisions need human supervision. She underlined that women and children are affected disproportionately by the uncontrolled accumulation of such weapons and ammunitions.
EZEQUIEL SABOR, President of the Council of the Agency for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean, outlined its work, including the issuance on 26 September of a declaration on the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons and its submission of a position paper to the Third Preparatory Committee of the Non‑Proliferation Treaty’s 2020 Review Conference. These consisted of negotiated language reflecting a regional consensus, he said. Moreover, in 2018, members supported a draft resolution to convene the fourth Conference of States Parties and Signatories to Treaties that Establish Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zones and Mongolia. He also highlighted the bloc’s efforts in terms of disarmament and non‑proliferation education, including four courses held on disarmament and non‑proliferation of nuclear weapons in Uruguay, Bolivia, Guatemala and Nicaragua over the previous two years.
DARJA BAVDAŽ KURET (Slovenia), associating herself with the European Union, said the focus going forward must be on ensuring a successful outcome of the 2020 Review Conference of the Non‑Proliferation Treaty. The noble goal of the total elimination of nuclear weapons requires a progressive approach with concrete steps and tangible results. Slovenia is deeply disappointed that the Russian Federation failed to address concerns about non‑compliance with the Intermediate‑Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, she said, adding that the two States possessing the largest nuclear arsenals bear a special responsibility vis‑à‑vis arms control and nuclear disarmament. She went on to emphasize the international community’s responsibility to hold accountable those who use chemical weapons, the need to recognize the gender dimension in arms control and Slovenia’s commitment to the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti‑Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction.
Right of Reply
The representative of India, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said his counterpart from Pakistan had tried to make unfounded accusations and to revive old discredited proposals. Emphasizing that his delegation tackles security issues in the Committee from a global perspective, he said allegations regarding Jammu and Kashmir do not merit a response because the situation there is India’s internal affair. He added that he hoped that Pakistan, going forward, will refrain from wasting the Committee’s time.
The representative of the United States said that Iran, given its long history of terrorism and hostage‑taking, is in no position to lecture others. The Joint Plan of Action was agreed to in the hope that Iran’s behaviour would improve, but instead it became more aggressive, he said, citing its ballistic missile programme and human rights record. The United States is open to a new agreement so long as Iran is ready to conduct itself as a normal country.
The representative of Syria said his country has no lessons to learn from the “regime of the family of Saud”, which has supported terrorism around the world and continues to supply weapons and chemical substances to terrorist groups in Syria, in addition to waging a bloody war in Yemen. He added that Turkey has supported the use of chemical weapons on Syrian territory and that its regime is using the pretext of security concerns to violate Syria’s national sovereignty.
The representative of Pakistan, in response to the statement from India, said the world is witness to the human rights violations in Jammu and Kashmir, which represents an internationally recognized disputed territory. India’s unilateral actions carry grave implications for regional stability. There is continuous firing and shelling of civilian areas, he said, calling on India to work towards preserving peace in the region. The bulk of India’s defensive capability is directed toward Pakistan.
The representative of Iran said everything in the United States statement is baseless. Washington, D.C. approached the First Committee in an aggressive manner, he said, noting that IAEA explained its position on Iran’s cooperation and suggesting that the United States seeks to undermine the credibility of that agency. The United States is not honouring its obligations under many disarmament regimes while Iran is honouring its commitments under the Joint Plan of Action. In fact, the vast majority of the international community disapproves of the United States withdrawal from that agreement.
The representative of Turkey said comments made by his counterpart from Syria are futile efforts to distort the reality of the war crimes being committed by the Government. It has been confirmed that the Government used chemical weapons against its own people, he said, observing that whoever speaks up about the situation is accused of providing chemical weapons to distract from the reality on the ground. The regime is the root cause of the conflict in Syria. Regarding the Turkish operation that was just launched, it is in line with laws of self‑defence.
The representative of the United States noted that his counterpart from Iran had accused him of making fabrications. Supposedly, the hostage‑taking at the United States Embassy in Tehran in 1979 and the seizing of crews from oil tankers are fabrications. The malign behaviour of Iran’s regime is a threat to global peace and security and the international community must hold it to account.
The representative of Iran said he would welcome his counterpart from the United States to look at history, reminding him that Washington, D.C., sponsored a coup d’état in Iran in 1953, shot down an Iranian airliner in the 1980s and invaded several countries as well.
The representative of Syria said his counterpart from the Turkish regime is attempting to divert attention from its actions, including its direct support to terrorist groups. Oil stolen by ISIL from Syria and Iraq was marketed and sold in Turkey, with the regime getting a big share of the revenues, he said, adding that Turkey is violating all of its disarmament obligations.