Delegates from developing countries put a harsh spotlight today on the human cost of the worldwide proliferation of small arms and light weapons alongside ballooning military budgets, as the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) continued its general debate.
Echoing a common concern, Myanmar’s representative said that with global military spending reaching $1.8 trillion in 2018, he said the world is under dangerous threat of growing arsenals.
At the same time, Côte d’Ivoire’s delegate said that despite efforts made so far, it is proving difficult to curb the illicit worldwide circulation of 800 million small arms and light weapons that are responsible for 500,000 deaths every year. Current strategies must be redefined, he said, looking ahead to the seventh Biennial Meeting of States to Consider the Implementation of the Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects, to be held in New York in 2020.
Niger’s representative voiced concern about the widespread availability of firearms in conflict‑affected areas and the resulting negative regional consequences. As such, he stressed the need to universalize the Arms Trade Treaty to fight terrorism and transnational crime as well as to control global arms flows.
Congo’s delegate said the proliferation of small arms and light weapons represents a security challenge, particularly for developing countries like his. In Central Africa, these arms are fuelling transnational crime, terrorism and other forms of illicit trafficking. Like some others who took the floor today, he noted the steps being taken at the national level — including, in Congo, fresh legislation and the establishment of a national commission to address the problem.
Among others speaking today, Israel’s delegate, highlighting a persistent lack of commitment among States to fulfil their arms control obligations, said that the Middle East has a culture of non‑compliance and disregard for international obligations. Highlighting the use of chemical weapons in Syria, she also called on the international community to demonstrate zero tolerance towards Iran’s behaviour. For its part, Israel will not participate in the conference on establishing a Middle East zone free of nuclear weapons, to be held in November at United Nations Headquarters.
Venezuela’s representative said the threat of the use of force and unilateral coercive measures for geopolitical purposes are undermining trust and leading to conflict. The failure by some nuclear‑weapon States to meet their commitments and their repeal of previously agreed instruments are grave concerns and reason for reflection, he said, urging those States with nuclear weapons to draw down their arsenals and to eliminate them from their security doctrines.
Also speaking today were representatives of Ecuador, Bulgaria, Liechtenstein, Ethiopia, United Republic of Tanzania, Tajikistan, Armenia, Nicaragua, Guinea‑Bissau, Burkina Faso, Niger, Lesotho, Comoros and Morocco.
Representatives of Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iran and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea spoke in exercise of the right of reply.
The First Committee will reconvene on Friday, 18 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.
ANDRÉS FERNANDO FIALLO KAROLYS (Ecuador), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, highlighted his country’s adherence to the Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean, known as the Treaty of Tlatelolco. Underscoring the connection between non‑proliferation and disarmament, he said it is sad to see that those States that possess nuclear weapons are not meeting their obligations. With the approach of the seventy‑fifth anniversary of the use of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the best tribute States can make to the victims would be to sign and ratify the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, as his country has done. For its part, Ecuador totally rejects the planning and execution of nuclear tests. Indeed, world peace requires a change in the security doctrines of States that possess nuclear weapons.
NELI RASHEVA (Bulgaria), associating herself with the European Union, underlined the importance of the Treaty on the Non‑Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, expressing hope for a successful outcome at its 2020 Review Conference. The only feasible way to achieve universal verifiable and irreversible nuclear disarmament is through a progressive approach based on practice steps that considers the complex security environment and the strategic context. The Comprehensive Nuclear‑Test‑Ban Treaty’s entry into force would be another building block in the construction of a nuclear‑weapon‑free world. She urged the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to return to compliance with the Non‑Proliferation Treaty and to sign and ratify the Test‑Ban Treaty. She also expressed concern about Iran’s decision to suspend the implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Programme of Action on its nuclear programme. On the issue of future weapon‑related technologies, the 11 guiding principles agreed on by the Group of Governmental Experts on lethal autonomous weapons systems can serve as an excellent basis for developing an effective and comprehensive normative and operational framework to control their production, use and transfer.
PETER MATT (Liechtenstein) said key elements of the nuclear disarmament and non‑proliferation architecture are lost or eroding, pointing at the “defunct” Intermediate‑Range Nuclear Forces Treaty and the lack of effort to extend 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. Liechtenstein considers abandoning the latter agreement without attempting to resolve disputes is inconsistent with article VI of the Non‑Proliferation Treaty obligations of both the Russian Federation and the United States. At the same time, the outlook for the Non‑Proliferation Treaty Review Conference is not promising. However, the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons has the potential to restore the original balance enshrined in the Non‑Proliferation Treaty, drawing a clear legal line against attempts to justify the use of nuclear weapons. There is also a need to further define a common understanding that international law fully applies to cyberspace, adding that the Paris Call for Trust and Security in Cyberspace and the International Partnership for Information and Democracy could benefit further from expert views.
NOA FURMAN (Israel), highlighting a persistent lack of commitment among States to fulfil their arms control obligations, said that the Middle East has a culture of non‑compliance and disregard for international obligations. Offering several examples, she highlighted the use of chemical weapons, serious Non‑Proliferation Treaty violations and the transfer of rockets and missiles to terrorist organizations. Iran has violated Security Council resolution 2231 (2015), testing ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads and attempting to destabilize the region, she said, calling on the international community to condemn such activities and demonstrate zero tolerance towards Tehran’s behaviour. Turning to the Syrian regime’s use of chemical weapons, she expressed hope that the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) investigation and identification team will succeed in attributing those attacks to their actual perpetrators. However, the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on Their Destruction does not create, contribute to the development of, or indicate the existence of customary law related to the subject or the content of that instrument. Turning to regional concerns, she said the idea of establishing a comprehensive security architecture in the Middle East without direct engagement with Israel is “untenable”. Moreover, initiatives by the Arab Group, such as a conference on a Middle East zone free of nuclear weapons, to be held at Headquarters in November, go against the guidelines and principles of establishing such zones, as agreed by consensus by the Disarmament Commission in 1999. As such, Israel will not cooperate with such counterproductive initiatives nor will it participate in the upcoming conference and will also refrain from other fora dealing with regional arms control topics.
BANTIHUN GETAHUN (Ethiopia), associating himself with the African Group and Non‑Aligned Movement, said the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons is an important milestone towards achieving the goal of a world without such arsenals and complements and reinforces the Non‑Proliferation Treaty, which remains the cornerstone of the global non-proliferation regime. His delegation supports the convening of a conference on the establishment of a Middle East nuclear‑weapon‑free zone. The African Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty, known as the Treaty of Pelindaba, reaffirms the continent’s status as an area that prohibits research on atomic bombs, dumping of radioactive waste and the stationing and testing of related explosive devices on its territory. His country attaches importance to International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) mandates enhancing the peaceful use of nuclear energy, while seeking to meet its international and regional commitments to combating illicit trafficking in small arms and light weapons.
MODEST JONATHAN MERO (United Republic of Tanzania), aligning himself with the African Group and Non‑Aligned Movement, said “there would always be no winners in nuclear warfare”. As such, he joined other Member States in calling for nuclear‑weapon States to fully comply with legal obligations to accomplish the total elimination of those weapons unconditionally, in a transparent, irreversible and internationally verifiable manner. Expressing regret that the ninth Non‑Proliferation Treaty Review Conference was unable to release a final outcome document, he encouraged the peaceful use of related technology, urging the IAEA to continue providing scientific and technical support to Member States. He cited the proliferation of conventional weapons, including small arms and light weapons, landmines and cluster munitions, as the most immediate security challenge to individuals, societies and States, as they fuelled civil wars, organized crime and terrorism. In this vein, he reiterated his Government’s commitment to support international efforts to prevent, combat and eradicate the illicit trade in these weapons.
MAHMADAMIN MAHMADAMINOV (Tajikistan), emphasizing that the threat of nuclear proliferation remains a serious concern, said strengthening existing multilateral agreements is key for global security and stability. Because the Non‑Proliferation Treaty remains a cornerstone for the global non-proliferation regime, its 2020 Review Conference is an “excellent opportunity” for its further implementation. Supporting the idea of a world free of nuclear weapons, he called on all parties, especially nuclear‑weapon States, to cooperate in achieving this goal. He also called for a global enforcement of Test‑Ban Treaty. Underlining the importance of nuclear‑weapon‑free zones for global disarmament goals, he declared that Tajikistan is a “proud part” of the Treaty on a Nuclear‑Weapon‑Free Zone in Central Asia, known as the Semipalatinsk Treaty. He also pointed out the importance of implementing necessary measures against the proliferation and manufacturing of anti‑personnel mines and hoped that Central Asia would become a zone free of these destructive weapons.
MHER MARGARYAN (Armenia) called the Non‑Proliferation Treaty the cornerstone of international efforts to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons and strengthen the nuclear security architecture. A number of on‑site IAEA inspections have reaffirmed Armenia’s commitment in implementing its international obligations with the highest level of transparency. In the same vein, he highlighted the importance of counter‑proliferation initiatives like the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism and the Proliferation Security Initiative. In addition, international cooperation is required to effectively implement the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on Their Destruction. Concerning regional disarmament, he said implementation of all legally binding obligations under the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe is key to ensuring transparency, predictability and military balance. Armenia views its participation in peacekeeping operations as an important contribution to the preservation of international peace and security, he said, adding that his country is mainstreaming the role of women in the security sector.
N'CHO VIRGILE AKIAPO (Côte d’Ivoire), associating himself with the African Group and Non‑Aligned Movement, emphasized the degree to which the proliferation of small arms and light weapons is fuelling conflict, terrorism and organized crime. Despite the numerous mechanisms and forums established to address the problem, it is proving difficult to curb the illicit worldwide circulation of 800 million small arms and light weapons that are responsible for half a million fatalities every year. Current strategies must be redefined, he said, adding that Côte d’Ivoire is putting its hopes on the seventh Biennial Meeting of States to Consider the Implementation of the Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects, to be held in New York from 15 to 19 June 2020. Hopefully the issue of ammunition will be integrated into the Programme of Action on Small Arms, he added. He drew attention to steps taken by his country, including modernizing armouries and digitizing its arsenal. He went on to call on nuclear‑weapon States to draw down the operational status of their related weapons systems and extend assurances to non‑nuclear‑weapon countries.
MANUEL ANTONIO MADRIZ FORNOS (Nicaragua), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement and Central American Integration System, said ballooning military spending worldwide just four years before the deadline of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development cannot be justified. The international community must direct its efforts towards peace and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. He emphasized that the only guarantee against the use or threat of use of weapons of mass destruction, and to ensure non‑proliferation among non‑State actors, is to eliminate nuclear weapons completely. Nicaragua looks forward to the entry into force of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which it has ratified. He also called on the eight countries on which the entry into force of the Test‑Ban Treaty depends to sign and ratify that instrument as soon as possible. Outlining steps the Government is taking with regard to small arms and light weapons, he noted that Nicaragua is one of the safest countries in its region.
JOÃO SOARES DA GAMA (Guinea-Bissau), associating himself with the African Group and Non‑Aligned Movement, said that given the increasing tensions among key players in the international disarmament arena, the United Nations must pursue efforts that foster peace and security globally, as reflected in Article 1 of the Organization’s Charter. Underlining the importance of establishing zones free of nuclear weapons, he encouraged Member States to also join instruments such as the Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. Raising concerns that the Middle East was not a nuclear‑weapon‑free zone, he called on all States to respect the provisions of the Non‑Proliferation Treaty, including using nuclear energy for peaceful purposes only. As for small arms and light weapons, he regretted to note their “disastrous impact”, pointing out that their widespread use by terrorists and armed groups in places like the Sahel region in Africa is hampering the development goals of countries. For its part, Guinea Bissau has ratified the Convention on Cluster Munitions and has announced the destruction of its current stocks.
YEMDAOGO ERIC TIARE (Burkina Faso), associating himself with the African Group and Non‑Aligned Movement, regretted to note the context of uncertainty in which the First Committee is meeting. Multilateralism can find the way to solutions, especially in the realm of disarmament. Condemning the existence of and desire to acquire or develop atomic weapons because they are “a threat to everyone”, he said Burkina Faso has joined the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. Calling for the complete elimination of these weapons, he asked for commitments to be turned into specific actions, expressing hope for progress ahead of the Non‑Proliferation Treaty’s 2020 Review Conference. Meanwhile, the Test‑Ban Treaty is an integral part of the non‑proliferation regime, he said, calling for its full entry into force. He also spotlighted the challenges posed by the trafficking of small arms and light weapons in regions like the Sahel and called for the full implementation of the Arms Trade Treaty.
HENRY ALFREDO SUÁREZ MORENO (Venezuela) said the threat of the use of force and unilateral coercive measures for geopolitical purposes are undermining trust and leading to conflict. The failure by some nuclear‑weapon States to meet their commitments and their repeal of previously agreed instruments are grave concerns and reason for reflection. Emphasizing that upholding the three pillars of the Non-Proliferation Treaty — disarmament, non‑proliferation and the peaceful use of nuclear energy — is essential for the survival of the planet, he urged those States with nuclear weapons to draw down their arsenals and to eliminate them from their security doctrines. Venezuela condemns the nuclear deterrent strategy as an excuse to justify the possession of nuclear weapons, he said, adding that the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons complements other fundamental disarmament instruments. He also called for work to begin on a binding international framework to prevent an arms race in outer space, highlighting related Chinese and Russian efforts.
FLAMEL ALAIN MOUANDA (Congo), associating himself with the African Group and Non‑Aligned Movement, said non‑proliferation remains a divisive question among Member States, but the existence of weapons of mass destruction cannot be ignored. Given the danger of such weapons falling into hands of non‑State actors, he recommended strengthening confidence‑building measures at all levels. The current context must lead to a positive outcome of the Non‑Proliferation Treaty’s 2020 Review Conference. Meanwhile, no Member State can be denied the inalienable right to nuclear technology for peaceful purposes. At the same time, the proliferation of small arms and light weapons is a security challenge, particularly for developing countries. In Central Africa, they are fuelling transnational crime, terrorism and other forms of illicit trafficking. He underscored the steps taken by Congo, including fresh legislation and the establishment of a national commission to address the problem.
KYAW MOE TUN (Myanmar), associating himself with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the Non‑Aligned Movement, said nuclear disarmament has always been a priority, with his delegation tabling a related draft resolution on the issue in the First Committee. While welcoming the adoption of various arms control disarmament and non‑proliferation treaties, he expressed concern over the ending of the Intermediate‑Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. With global military spending reaching $1.8 trillion in 2018, he said the world is under dangerous threat of growing arsenals. Recognizing the Non‑Proliferation Treaty as the cornerstone of the global non‑proliferation regime, he urged all nuclear‑weapon States to comply with obligations under article VI of the agreement. He reaffirmed the importance of regional nuclear‑weapon‑free zones including in South‑east Asia, and expressed support for their establishment, especially in the Middle East, also calling for all concerned parties to work towards a peaceful solution on the Korean Peninsula.
OUSMANE KOUSSOURI (Niger) said that the United Nations is the “temple of peace” and its mission is to spare the world from the dangers of nuclear weapons. Niger has consistently been involved in removing the nuclear threat, he said, adding that his delegation is party to the Non‑Proliferation Treaty and has ratified the Test‑Ban Treaty. He pointed out the importance of nuclear energy for peaceful uses and that his country is interested in its applications for human health in areas such as the fight against malaria or the use of radiation therapy for the treatment of cancer. He expressed concern about the widespread availability of firearms in conflict‑affected areas and the negative consequences in the region. As such, he underlined the need to universalize the Arms Trade Treaty to fight terrorism, international crime and control the flow of these weapons.
NKOPANE RASEENG MONYANE (Lesotho), associating himself with the African Group and Non‑Aligned Movement, said the total elimination of all weapons of mass destruction remains the only absolute and viable panacea against their use or threat of use. In this regard, he called on the international community to show resolve in ensuring arms control and disarmament efforts are carried out on a multilateral basis. Expressing concern over slow progress in adherence to the Non‑Proliferation Treaty, he highlighted that the agreement has yet to attain universality 50 years after adoption even as it remains the only legal regime for preventing the spread of nuclear weapons technology. While the future credibility of Non‑Proliferation Treaty depends on implementing a ban on testing, he said the Test‑Ban Treaty has yet to enter into force. Such developments raise concerns that the risk of nuclear use is in fact increasing.
KADIM OUSSEIN (Comoros), associating himself with the African Group, Arab Group and Non‑Aligned Movement, said the danger posed by nuclear weapons is as great today as it was during the cold war. Their use, intentional or otherwise, would lead to catastrophic global humanitarian consequences. To protect current and future generations, the current international situation must be transformed in ways that benefit all humanity, he said, describing the Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons as an important step forward. He emphasized the importance of strict controls on the transfer of small arms and light weapons and noted the measures taken by Comoros in that regard, including stronger legislative frameworks. The widespread availability of small arms and light weapons contributes to armed conflict, particularly in Africa, he said.
OMAR KADIRI (Morocco), associating himself with the African Group, Arab Group and Non‑Aligned Movement, said the best guarantee of peace and security lies in peaceful coexistence, which creates favourable conditions for development. Multilateralism, negotiation, dialogue and diplomacy are the foundations of genuine and irreversible disarmament, particularly given the large number of threats facing the world today. The Non‑Proliferation Treaty’s 2020 Review Conference will be an opportunity for the international community to re‑engage with multilateralism and dialogue. Welcoming the upcoming conference on the establishment of a Middle East zone free of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction, he said the creation of such areas can help to bring about a world free of atomic weapons. The international community also has an historic opportunity to engage in discussions on security in outer space through the working group established by the General Assembly. He added that Morocco supports the Secretary‑General’s disarmament agenda and the confidence‑building role that it can play.
Right of Reply
The representative of Saudi Arabia, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said Syria has used terrorism against its own citizens, deployed chemical weapons and violated Security Council resolutions, a claim supported by OPCW reports and fact‑finding missions. It is a lie and fabrication that Riyadh kidnapped the Prime Minister of Lebanon, he said. Recalling past crimes against Lebanese leaders, he said the Government of Syria was responsible in the case of Rafic Hariri. In addition, more than 500,000 people have been martyred in the Syrian conflict, he said, adding that the Government of Syria is responsible for these deaths and for interfering in internal affairs of Lebanon.
The representative of Syria said Saudi Arabia is the Wahhabi regime and a sponsor of takfirist terrorism around the world.
The representative of Saudi Arabia raised a point of order, asking the representative of Syria not to use disrespectful names.
The representative of Syria said Saudi Arabia is a sponsor of takfirist terrorism in the region and the world, with Riyadh offering millions of dollars to spread Wahhabi ideology while committing acts of repression internally. Everyone knows that Saudi Arabia established and financed Al‑Qaida, with an existing law to hold them accountable for the attacks on the United States in 2001, and that Riyadh has kidnapped a prime minister. Today, its delegation has fabricated allegations, nonsense and lies against Syria. Indeed, the regime in Saudi Arabia is responsible of many murders all over the world, not just in Syria. As for his counterpart from Israel, he said she has uttered fabrications and lies, with the larger goal being to divert attention from the nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction present on its territory. Israel is not part of any agreements about weapons of mass destruction, he said, noting that its nuclear weapon programme would have never been possible without the support of a permanent member of the Security Council, and wondering “until when will the spoiled child remain far from the majority”.
The representative of Iran said Israel occupies Palestinian territory, has committed acts of aggression against its neighbours and beyond, and does not comply with any United Nations resolutions. In addition, its nuclear weapons pose a great threat to the region, while international reports have confirmed that, since 1948, it has used chemical and biological weapons including depleted uranium and white phosphorus. Israel has also provided terrorist organizations with arms and munitions and toxic chemical agents in Syria, and it has violated every convention to which it is party. Adhering to the Non‑Proliferation Treaty is the most important requirement for establishing a nuclear‑weapon‑free zone in the region, but Israel objects to all regional and international efforts aimed at establishing such an area. Iran is a country without nuclear weapons and was threatened with atomic annihilation by Israel’s Prime Minister in 2018, he recalled, adding that his delegation categorically rejects all allegations by Israel’s representative.
The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea said his delegation denounces statements made by Bulgaria and Liechtenstein as provocative acts of interference in his country’s internal affairs. Accession to international treaties and conventions is a sovereign right of any State. On missile launches, he said it is absurd to pick holes in his country’s self‑defence programme.
The representative of Saudi Arabia said Syria’s representative is venturing into fiction and incorrectly cites verses in Arabic. Syria’s delegate talked about Iraq and Afghanistan but is ignoring everything happening at home and in Lebanon, its neighbour. Expressing regret about the destruction in Syria, he said his country does not raze cities to the ground, as was done in major historical Syrian cities.
The representative of Syria wondered why Saudi Arabia’s delegate is giving language lessons while he sometimes speaks in classical Arabic and sometimes in dialect. Indeed, the level of education in Syria is a thousand years ahead of the education level in Saudi Arabia. For its part, Syria will fight against any terrorist associates that Saudi Arabia supports in his country. Saudi Arabia has financed and established the Al‑Qaida terrorist organization responsible for horrors in many countries, including against the United States in 2001. In addition, international reports confirm that Saudi Arabia’s regime was involved in financing terrorism to spread the Wahhabi ideology, he said, noting that the Saudi Arabian city referenced in a recent report had not been destroyed with the purpose of rebuilding it, but rather because some had opposed the level of oppression there.