The illicit circulation of small arms and light weapons around the world is having humanitarian and socioeconomic consequences that are undermining sustainable development and efforts to prevent and resolve conflicts, delegates said today as the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) continued its thematic debate on conventional weapons.
Indonesia’s representative, speaking on behalf of the Non‑Aligned Movement, affirmed the sovereign right of States to acquire and retain conventional weapons for self‑defence. However, given the significant imbalance in the production, possession and trade of conventional weapons between industrialized countries and the Non‑Aligned Movement member States, he called on arms‑producing nations to reduce both output and military spending and devote these resources to economic and social development needs, in particular in the fight against poverty.
Moreover, he said the spread of weapons and the impact of the illicit circulation of small arms and light weapons require action, including the full implementation of international instruments such as the Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects.
Echoing that view, Zambia’s delegate, speaking for the African Group, urged all States to fulfil their obligations regarding reporting, technological transfer and international cooperation and assistance. Developed countries must render more technical and financial assistance to developing nations to realize the objectives of the Programme of Action on Small Arms and the International Tracing Instrument, with a view to eradicating their illicit trade, he added.
Speaking for a group of countries, Ireland’s representative highlighted the long‑term humanitarian impacts of the use of explosive weapons with wide‑area effects in populated areas. In 2018 alone, more than 20,000 civilians were killed or injured by such explosive weapons, she said, citing a report from the Secretary‑General. Such alarming numbers reinforce the need for States and all parties to a conflict to reverse the trend and step up compliance with international humanitarian law, she said, calling for a political declaration on the issue in 2020.
Germany’s representative suggested developing and sharing military good practices aimed at minimizing the humanitarian impact of combat in urban areas. He also voiced support for a deeper conversation on the responsible export of armed unmanned aerial vehicles.
Kazakhstan’s delegate was among several speakers who raised concerns about autonomous lethal weapons that have the potential to challenge the most basic principles of global law, particularly international humanitarian law. Everyone knows the influence of artificial intelligence, he said, but more work is needed to deepen international understanding of such weapons.
Norway’s representative said that in many places, conventional arms are the real weapons of mass destruction. As such, the Arms Trade Treaty has great potential to reduce human suffering and gender‑based violence, he said, encouraging all States who have not yet done so to join and ratify this instrument. For its part, Norway will host in November the next review conference of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction
Other States affected by anti‑personnel mines and other unexploded ordnance and those taking action towards ridding the world of these weapons shared their perspectives. The representative of Lao People’s Democratic Republic said that of the 270 million cluster munitions dropped on its territory, 30 per cent failed to detonate and remain a major challenge to domestic socioeconomic development. Citing ongoing national and international efforts, he said cooperation is key.
Similarly, the delegate from the Republic of Korea said demining operations are underway along the Demilitarized Zone, under the military agreement signed in Pyongyang in September 2018. But, the job of removing the estimated 380,000 anti‑personnel mines in this area is expected to take 15 years, he said, adding that the support of the international community will be valuable in progressing toward the zone’s complete demilitarization.
Kuwait’s first‑hand experience during the Iraqi occupation revealed the terrible humanitarian impacts of anti-personnel mines, said its delegate, who added that instability plagues the Middle East partly because of the influx of small arms and lights weapons.
Samoa’s delegate said increased military spending, and the contribution of small arms and light weapons to insecurity, are a sure formula for a disaster of unfathomable proportions. For the Pacific region, a joint approach is the best way to combat the problem, he said, as set in the 2018 Boe Declaration on Regional Security that expanded human security to include climate change and the environmental protection.
Similarly, Cuba’s representative said the $1.8 trillion spent on the world’s armed forces in 2018 would be better directed towards development and fighting extreme poverty.
In other business today, the Committee conducted an informal exchange with Izumi Nakamitsu, Under‑Secretary‑General and High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, and Martin García Moritán (Argentina), speaking on behalf of the Agency for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean.
It also presented certificates to the 2019 graduates of the United Nations Programme of Fellowships on Disarmament, which aims to train and build the capacity of officials from Member States to enable them to participate more effectively in international disarmament deliberating and negotiating forums.
Also speaking were representatives of South Africa, Poland, Austria, Italy, Ukraine, Ghana, El Salvador, India, Philippines, Israel, Thailand, Mexico, Senegal, Portugal, Bangladesh, Namibia, Mozambique, Armenia, Czech Republic, France, Ireland (national capacity), Japan and Algeria.
The First Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m., on Friday, 25 October, to continue its thematic debate on conventional weapons.
The First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) met this morning for a panel discussion and to resume its thematic discussion on conventional weapons. For background information, see Press Release GA/DIS/3624 of 10 October.
The Committee held an informal exchange with Izumi Nakamitsu, Under‑Secretary‑General and High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, and Martín García Moritán (Argentina), speaking on behalf of the Agency for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Ms. NAKAMITSU said the current disarmament, non‑proliferation and arms control landscape is, at best, fraying and, at worst, collapsing. Her Office, in particular through its branches in Nepal, Peru and Togo, is directing efforts to areas such as ammunition and stockpile management, gender inclusion and women’s empowerment in disarmament affairs and implementing Security Council resolution 1540 (2004), regarding the non‑proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Regional approaches to disarmament are critical because they reinforce norms and principles, complement multilateral treaties and adapt approaches to local contexts. For instance, nuclear‑weapon‑free zones contain some of the strictest provisions against atomic bombs and, taken together, have made the entire southern hemisphere effectively free of these terrible arms. Another example of negotiations undertaken with a regional approach is the Group of Governmental Experts on Developments in the Field of Information and Telecommunications in the Context of International Security.
Mr. GARCÍA MORITÁN said the Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean, known as the Treaty of Tlatelolco, with 33 member States, has been complied with rigorously for more than 50 years. At the same time, the Agency for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean is the world’s only intergovernmental organization specializing in non‑proliferation and nuclear disarmament. Both the Treaty of Tlatelolco and the Agency are institutional reference points for establishing other nuclear‑weapon‑free zones. Emphasizing that the world’s 14,000 nuclear weapons pose an unacceptable threat to humanity, he called on nuclear‑weapon States to remove such stockpiles from their security doctrines, to refrain from improving their arsenals and to refrain from developing new kinds of weapons. Given the current erosion of the treaty‑based disarmament structure, the Agency supports all multilateral related efforts. Nuclear‑weapon States must take immediate steps to implement article VI of the Treaty on the Non‑Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and to fulfil their obligations, he said, adding that ahead of its 2020 Review Conference, commitments agreed at previous reviews remain fully relevant. The Agency’s member States remain committed to promoting dialogue and cooperation at the fourth Conference of Nuclear‑Weapon‑Free Zones and Mongolia, to be held in New York on 24 April 2020. Highlighting the Agency’s education programmes, he said it is important to share information about the danger of nuclear weapons in this time of uncertainty in international security.
The Committee then suspended its meeting for an informal discussion between the panellists and delegations.
PANGERAN IBRANI SITUMORANG (Indonesia), speaking on behalf of the Non‑Aligned Movement, affirmed the sovereign rights of States to acquire, manufacture, export, import and retain conventional arms and related parts and components for purposes of self‑defence and security. However, he voiced concern about the humanitarian and socioeconomic consequences arising from the illicit circulation of small arms and light weapons and called for the full implementation of the Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects. Spotlighting the terrible humanitarian consequences of such weapons as cluster munitions and anti‑personnel mines, he called on Member States to provide the necessary assistance to help its victims and clear mines in affected countries. International instruments must be fully implemented, including the Arms Trade Treaty and the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti‑Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction. The development of lethal autonomous weapons systems raises a number of ethical, legal, moral, technical and international peace and security concerns, and Member States should pursue a legally‑binding instrument within the framework of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons. Given the significant imbalance in the production, possession and trade of conventional weapons between industrialized countries and the Non‑Aligned Movement member States, he called on arms‑producing nations to reduce both output and military spending and devote these resources to economic and social development needs, in particular in the fight against poverty.
ERICK MWEWA (Zambia), speaking on behalf of the African Group and associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, drew attention to the humanitarian and socioeconomic consequences of the illicit trade, transfer and circulation of small arms and light weapons on the continent. Citing extensive efforts made by regional and subregional organizations, he called on all States to fulfil their obligations regarding reporting, technological transfer and international cooperation and assistance. Developed countries must render more technical and financial assistance to developing nations to realize the objectives of the Programme of Action on Small Arms and the International Tracing Instrument, with a view to eradicating their illicit trade. He urged States parties to implement the Arms Trade Treaty in a manner that protects the interests of all countries, and not just major international production and exporting nations. He also recognized the sovereign right of States to acquire, manufacture, export, import and retain conventional weapons for self‑defence and security needs. Arms transfers to unauthorized recipients fuels the illicit trade, he said, urging all States to prohibit and to refrain from such activities.
JØRN OSMUNDSEN (Norway) regretted to note that in many places conventional arms are the real weapons of mass destruction and their irresponsible and illegal trade and use must be combatted. The Arms Trade Treaty has great potential to reduce human suffering and gender‑based violence, he said, encouraging all States who have not yet done so to join and ratify this instrument. Noting that Norway holds the presidency of the Mine Ban Convention, he said its next review conference will be held in Oslo in November. As such, he called for progress in the area of mine clearance while suggesting that the conference should also address the issue of improvised explosive devices. In addition, he highlighted a need to strengthen mine risk education and prevention measures for local populations affected by these weapons.
MARTIN ERIC SIPHO NGUNDZE (South Africa) said conventional weapons impact society as much as weapons of mass destruction because they destabilize communities and compromise development. As a party to the Arms Trade Treaty, his delegation called on other States that have not yet joined to do so, with a view to achieve the instrument’s universalization. Noting that the Programme of Action on Small Arms is the only internationally recognized standard to address illicit trading, he highlighted South Africa’s commitment to this instrument and to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons and the Convention on Cluster Munitions.
MIROSŁAW BROIŁO (Poland) said the most effective way to lower the number of civilians killed and wounded by conventional weapons is to ensure compliance with international humanitarian law and respect for international agreements. Prevention and education are key for reducing the number of landmine victims, of whom 47 per cent are children, most of them boys. In such a context, the gender perspective means different educational approaches for boys and girls. To be truly effective, the Arms Trade Treaty should be close to universal, he said, expressing regret at the absence of major arms manufacturers, exporters and importers from that instrument. As a non‑permanent member of the Security Council, Poland promotes responsible export policies for small arms and light weapons while also supporting the new European Union strategy against illicit items in this category, with particularly attention focused on the Western Balkans.
THOMAS HAJNOCZI (Austria), associating himself with the European Union, said the increasing urbanization of conflict is a major challenge, particularly when explosive weapons are used in populated areas, more than 90 per cent of victims are civilians. Austria hosted the conference on protecting civilians in urban warfare in October, with participants from 133 States from all regions and international organizations. Welcoming efforts to develop a political declaration on this issue, he encouraged all States to participate in related discussions, to held in Geneva in November. Turning to other concerns, he said the weaponization of artificial intelligence poses fundamental challenges to a broad range of weapons categories. Humans must remain in control of armed conflict and of the weapons that are deployed and used. “It is not only a responsibility or obligation, but also our shared security interest to regulate the issue of lethal autonomous weapons systems before we are overtaken by facts on the ground,” he said, voicing support for the immediate start of negotiations on a legally binding instrument to ensure meaningful human control of such arms.
GIANFRANCO INCARNATO (Italy), associating himself with the European Union, voiced support for all international instruments restricting or prohibiting the use of weapons that violate international humanitarian law, calling for the universalization and full implementation of the Mine Ban Convention. Condemning the indiscriminate use of anti‑personnel mines, he highlighted the importance of assisting survivors and their families in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The Convention on Certain Weapons must also be fully implemented, he said, calling attention to threats posed by lethal autonomous weapons systems, adding that: “the decision to use lethal force must remain in the hands of human beings.”
ANATOLII ZLENKO (Ukraine) said Kyiv adheres to resolutions and decisions of the United Nations, Organization for Secure Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the Wassenaar Arrangement on Export Controls for Conventional Arms and Dual‑Use Goods and Technologies. Ukraine also recognizes the important role played by the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons in addressing post‑conflict remedial measures to minimize the occurrence, risk and impact of explosive remnants of war. Drawing attention to the long‑standing issue of illicit arms transfers to Ukrainian territory occupied by the Russian Federation, he said Moscow continues to illegally transfer arms and ammunition and send its military personnel through uncontrolled parts of the Ukraine‑Russia border. As such, Ukraine is also dealing with a drastically increased number of anti‑personnel mines and dangerous explosive remnants of war in the occupied territory.
FRED FRIMPONG (Ghana), associating himself with the African Group and Non‑Aligned Movement, highlighted the link between the Secretary-General’s disarmament agenda and the African Union’s Silencing the Guns by 2020 initiative. Ghana strongly advocates a holistic approach to combatting the illicit proliferation of small arms and light weapons, he said, calling for a greater effort to delineate the issue of ammunition management and regulation of its trade within the proper context. He reaffirmed the importance of international cooperation and assistance for implementing the Arms Trade Treaty and called for its universalization.
EGRISELDA ARACELY GONZÁLEZ LÓPEZ (El Salvador) called for suitable regulations to ensure that small arms and light weapons acquired by legitimate Governments do not find their way to illegal markets. El Salvador supports a preventive approach, she said, also recognizing the impact of illegal transfers on sustainable development efforts. The promotion of international cooperation and assistance can open the way to sharing good practices and new technology. In addition, the universalization of the Arms Trade Treaty is a fundamental part of ensuring the fulfilment of its provisions. Similarly, ammunition must be seen as part of a product chain that must be addressed through an integrated multilateral approach, she said, adding that El Salvador supports the role of the United Nations in this context.
PETER BEERWERTH (Germany), associating himself with the European Union, called for closing the implementation gap between the multilaterally agreed guidance and actual practices on the ground regarding the widespread circulation of illicit weapons. The vital provisions laid down in the Programme of Action on Small Arms need to be put into practice, with comprehensive regional processes, relying on clear implementation deadlines and agreed key performance indicators helping achieve this goal. Along with France and in close cooperation with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the South Eastern and Eastern Europe Clearinghouse for the Control of Small Arms and Light Weapons and the six Western Balkan States, Germany has initiated a regional road map that aims at achieving control of small arms and light weapons by 2024. Because weapon systems capable of attacking urban areas can have grave humanitarian consequences, a possible solution is developing and sharing military good practices aimed at minimizing the humanitarian impact of combat action. Germany also supports deepening the conversation on the responsible export of armed unmanned aerial vehicles, he said, noting that a series of working papers by the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR), supported by Germany, can contribute substantially to the debate on this issue.
ANJANI KUMAR (India), expressing concern about arms transfers to terrorists and non‑State actors, said his delegation prioritizes the full and effective implementation of the Programme of Action on Small Arms and the International Tracing Instrument. Regarding the current financial status of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, he called on all States to make their contributions in full and on time. Detailing his country’s compliance with its international obligations in this area, he highlighted India’s ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the corresponding importance of victim assistance. Regarding Pakistan’s “baseless and unsubstantiated” allegations against India, he said his Government abides by its international obligations.
CHRISTIAN HOPE REYES (Philippines), associating herself with ASEAN and the Non‑Aligned Movement, said millions of people worldwide suffer each year from violence and instability due to the poorly regulated arms trade and illicit trafficking. Particularly concerned about terrorists’ use of illicit weapons, she said strong regulations should be implemented to address the alarming proliferation of conventional weapons, including small arms and related ammunition, parts and components. The Philippines joined the Convention on Cluster Munitions in 2019, and will never use, produce, stockpile or transfer these weapons. Acknowledging the harmful effects of cluster munitions to both military personnel, combatants and civilians, she said the Philippines supports affected countries and communities.
ASAF SEGEV (Israel) said conventional weapons have been acquired and proliferated throughout the Middle East in unprecedented quantities and quality over the past few years. Iran, seeking to gain regional dominance and spread its extremist ideology, is the biggest proliferator of conventional arms in the region and beyond. Since the entry into force of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on Iran’s nuclear programme, Tehran has also exported a significant number of rockets and advanced missile technology to Hizbullah in Lebanon and to the Houthis in Yemen. Iran is also financing and inflaming Palestinian terrorism. Syria uses its own weapons, conventional and non‑conventional alike, mainly against its own civilian population. These countries should continue to be under relevant international sanctions, as they are working against the international community to collapse the arms control fora. Regarding the Programme of Action on Small Arms, this instrument is not the right venue to deal with ammunition, as it will be taken up by a group of governmental experts in 2020. Unfortunately, Israel is one of the few Middle East countries to submit an annual report to the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms.
EKTO VONGPHAKDY (Lao People’s Democratic Republic), associating himself the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the Non‑Aligned Movement, recalled the traumatic humanitarian and developmental impact that the use of conventional weapons has had on his country. Of the 270 million cluster munitions dropped on its territory, 30 per cent failed to detonate and remain a major challenge to domestic socioeconomic development, he said, citing ongoing national and international efforts, including implementing provisions of the Convention on Cluster Munitions. Also voicing concern over the security and humanitarian impact of the illicit manufacture, transfer and circulation of small arms and light weapons, which are widely used by criminals and drug traffickers, he expressed support for the Programme of Action on Small Arms.
ZHANGELDY SYRYMBET (Kazakhstan) reaffirmed his delegation’s commitment to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons and supports its humanitarian aspect while continuing to enhance preventive mechanisms and measures. The possible development of lethal autonomous weapon systems is particularly concerning in today’s world and Kazakhstan supports the Group of Governmental Experts on this category. These systems have the potential to challenge the most basic principles of global law, particularly international humanitarian law. It is not known whether an autonomous weapons system could comply with the three fundamental international humanitarian law principles. While everyone is aware of the influence of artificial intelligence, additional work is required to help the international community deepen its understanding of lethal autonomous weapons systems.
IBRAHIM ALDAI (Kuwait), associating himself with the Arab Group and Non‑Aligned Movement, he said the proliferation of small arms and light weapons are a threat to regional and international security and must be addressed. As a party to a number of treaties, Kuwait intends to meet its obligations, he said, adding that all related resolutions and instruments must be balanced and in line with the Charter of the United Nations. While expressing support for the Arms Trade Treaty, he highlighted the rights of Member States to acquire weapons for self‑defence and security purposes. However, imbalances persist between developed and undeveloped countries, and some agreements can be manipulated, creating the danger of these weapons falling into the hands of non‑State actors and terrorists. To address this, he called for enhanced border control mechanisms, among other measures. Turning to the issue of anti‑personnel mines, he recalled Kuwait’s first‑hand experience during the Iraqi occupation, noting that these weapons have terrible humanitarian impacts and are an obstacle for development efforts. The Middle East suffers from instability partly because of the influx of small arms and lights weapons, he said, anticipating that the disarmament regime will bolster peace and security through dialogue.
ARMANDO FERNÁNDEZ ISLA (Cuba), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, said the current world military expenditure of $1.8 trillion in 2018 would be better directed towards development and fighting extreme poverty. At the same time, the development of more sophisticated weapons and the imbalance between arms‑producing States and those who don’t undermines peace and security. Cuba does not support the Arms Trade Treaty because it does not fully prevent non‑State actors from acquiring weapons, as its parameters can be manipulated. The United States must show the necessary political will and not block the adoption of a legally binding instrument to prevent non‑State actors from accessing certain weapons. Cuba sets high priority for the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons and is in favor of a protocol prohibiting lethal autonomous weapons systems before they reach mass production.
MANASSINEE MOOTTATARN (Thailand), aligning herself with ASEAN and the Non‑Aligned Movement, said the illicit use and transfer of conventional weapons continues to destabilize the world, fuelling the cycle of violence and instability, with civilians too often bearing the brunt of fatalities. Her Government upholds the Arms Trade Treaty as a core multilateral instrument in promoting transparency and accountability on the illicit use and transfer, and in fostering synergies with other frameworks, including the United Nations Programme of Action on Small Arms. Thailand is committed to clearing all anti-personnel mines by 2023 under the Mine Ban Convention, having cleared 86 per cent of its contaminated area, and is ready to assist other States in achieving the common goal of a mine‑free world by 2025.
EDUARDO SANCHEZ (Mexico) said small arms and light weapons are claiming more and more victims every day, with 90 per cent of firearm deaths occurring in places outside conflict zones. Highlighting the link between their illegal trade and trafficking in humans and drugs, transnational organized crime and terrorism, he said this weapons category represents the perfect tool for those engaging in hate speech and racial and religious supremacism, citing the recent mass shooting in El Paso, Texas. Mexico is committed to the Programme of Action on Small Arms, Arms Trade Treaty and other international and regional instruments, he said, adding that controlling the circulation of such weapons is a humanitarian imperative. He urged the international community to address the challenge of lethal autonomous weapons and the risk they represent if not subjected to substantive human control.
FATIMATOU FAYE (Senegal), associating herself with the African Group and Non‑Aligned Movement, likened conventional arms to weapons of mass destruction due the wide distribution and gaps in their respective control regimes. Senegal ratified the Arms Trade Treaty in 2014 and, with support from its partners, has made significant progress in integrating its provisions into national legislation. Together with the European Union, the Government has organized workshops to raise awareness about the instrument and strengthen national ownership. However, implementing the Programme of Action on Small Arms and the International Tracing Instrument depends on the capacity and will of States to fulfil their commitments.
JOSÉ ATAÍDE AMARAL (Portugal), associating himself with the European Union, said his country has faith in effective multilateral cooperation, with the United Nations at its core. He also expressed support the Programme of Action on Small Arms, welcoming the convening in 2020 of the Group of Governmental Experts on problems arising from the accumulation of conventional ammunition stockpiles in surplus. His delegation expects the forthcoming conference to review the Mine Ban Convention in Oslo to contribute significantly to the realization of a world free of anti‑personnel mines by 2025. “It is our collective responsibility to make progress in conventional disarmament and arms control, helping to prevent conflicts and achieve a safer world,” he said.
SHAH ASIF RAHMAN (Bangladesh), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, said his country remains committed to fulfilling its obligations under various international instruments including the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons and its protocols. Bangladesh is committed to minimizing further gaps for the meaningful implementation of the Programme of Action on Small Arms through multilateral cooperation and mutual assistance. As signatory to the Arms Trade Treaty, Bangladesh believes that States have the sovereign right to acquire, manufacture, export, import and retain conventional arms for self‑defence, adding that: “we also emphasize that no unilateral coercive measure be imposed on the transfer of such arms.” In 2018, his delegation highlighted findings of the report of the independent international fact‑finding mission on Myanmar, which subsequently denied the facts. The 2019 report once again mentions “use of landmines at the border” as one of the “civilian Government and Tatmadaw‑led activities making it very difficult if not impossible for the Rohingya to return to their villages,” he said, calling on Myanmar to take urgent steps to ensure mine clearance, declare a moratorium on production of anti‑personnel mines and end casualties suffered by civilians.
NEVILLE MELVIN GERTZE (Namibia), associating himself with the African Group and Non‑Aligned Movement, called on industrialized States to reduce their stockpiles of strategic, sophisticated and deadly conventional weapons. States have a legitimate right to manufacture, import and stockpile convention weapons for their security and self‑defence needs, as stipulated in the Charter of the United Nations, but Namibia cannot support agreements negotiated between countries that impose selective and discriminatory restrictions on developing countries’ access to materials, equipment and technology for peaceful purposes. Eradicating illicit trafficking requires addressing its deep socioeconomic causes and extending international cooperation and assistance to States that request it, according to their need.
GERALDINE BYRNE NASON (Ireland), speaking on behalf of a group of countries, said civilians still bear the brunt of armed conflicts today, 20 years after the Security Council adopted resolution 1265 (1999). On the seventieth anniversary of the adoption of the Geneva Conventions, the protection of civilians must be strengthened and universal compliance with international humanitarian law ensured. Citing a report by the Secretary‑General that found that 20,381 civilians were killed or injured by explosive weapons in 2018, she highlighted the long‑term humanitarian impacts of the use of explosive weapons with wide‑area effects in populated areas. As such, States and all parties to a conflict must take action now, reverse the trend and boost compliance with international humanitarian law. When a conflict cannot be prevented or resolved, the protection of civilians must be strengthened, she said, welcoming the priority given to the issue by the Secretary‑General and the President of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). Full compliance with international humanitarian law can be complemented through a political declaration, operational policies and sharing of good policies and practices. The Conference on the Protection of Civilians in Urban Warfare in Vienna in October was a valuable initiative, she said, encouraging States to work towards a political declaration in 2020.
ANTÓNIO GUMENDE (Mozambique), associating himself with the African Group and Non‑Aligned Movement, said the spread of conventional weapons hinders global arms control efforts and causes great humanitarian suffering. Indeed, the global disarmament agenda should be based on sustainable development and human rights, he said, calling for general and universal disarmament efforts and preserving the Indian Ocean as a region free of nuclear weapons. He also called for the universalization of the Arms Trade Treaty and for strengthened regional efforts to combat the illicit transnational arms trade. Turning to the issue of anti‑personnel mines, he called for initiatives to push the demining process in affected countries, with the ultimate goal of a world free of these types of weapons. Outlining national assistance projects to reach victims and their families, he said Mozambique exports experts to share their skills and expertise with other affected countries.
DAVIT GRIGORYAN (Armenia) said the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe is one of the pillars of regional security and stability. Invoking political disputes to justify open non‑compliance is unacceptable and should be a matter of serious concern to the international community. Armenia received five inspections under that regime in 2018, and six inspections and evaluations under the Vienna Document 2011 on Confidence- and Security‑Building Measures. However, Armenia finds itself in a challenging security environment stemming from open non‑compliance with the conventional arms control regime by some countries in the region, including an accumulation of heavy weaponry and the non‑notification of large‑scale military exercises. He also cited other States’ conditional reception of inspections and their exclusion of armed forces from the verification regime.
HANI STOLINA (Czech Republic) said his country supports mine action projects, including in Afghanistan, Iraq and Jordan. Raising several concerns, he said the reporting capabilities of the States parties to the Arms Trade Treaty must be strengthened, with countries complying with their obligations. The Czech Republic supports the universalization of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons and welcomes the work on lethal autonomous weapons systems. For its part, Prague has developed an effective system of export control of arms and dual‑use goods as it continues to enhance preventive mechanisms in accordance with international standards.
SOON-HEE CHOI (Republic of Korea) said Seoul has launched a project to translate the Arms Trade Treaty into 10 different Asian languages as part of efforts to expand the participation of Asian States. The Republic of Korea also contributed to the Sponsorship Programme and Voluntary Trust Fund in 2019 to support capacity‑building to better implement the instrument. While Seoul aligns itself with the objectives of the Mine Ban Convention, it has yet to accede to it, given its unique security situation on the Korean Peninsula. Demining operations are underway along the Demilitarized Zone, under the military agreement signed in Pyongyang on 19 September 2018, but the job of removing the estimated 380,000 anti‑personnel mines in this area is expected to take 15 years. The support of the international community will be valuable in progressing toward the complete demilitarization of that zone.
DOMINIC MISIOLO JUNIOR SOFE (Samoa) said increased military spending on conventional weapons and the contribution of small arms and light weapons to insecurity are a sure formula for a disaster of unfathomable proportions. “Simply put, the unregulated and illicit trade in conventional weapons fuels conflict, supports criminal activities, disrupts the peaceful lives of communities and contributes to human rights abuses, all because they are firmly rooted in economic gain,” he said. The weakening of the disarmament architecture and the bending of the international rules‑based system to fit the competitive agenda of a few States for power and control will only lead to a more volatile environment that will indiscriminately affect small island developing States like Samoa that have no military forces. Underscoring the potential of the Arms Trade Treaty, he said strengthening border controls can only yield limited success. For the Pacific region, a joint approach is the best way to combat the problem, he said, as set in the 2018 Boe Declaration on Regional Security that expanded human security to include climate change and the environmental protection.
YANN HWANG (France) said the illicit arms trade continues to feed conflict, exacerbate armed violence and fuel terrorism and organized crime. These weapons kill the most people worldwide and are a “brake” to the development of the most fragile States. The Programme of Action on Small Arms and the International Tracing Instrument remain essential in the fight against trafficking. Regarding emerging technologies, such as lethal autonomous weapons systems, France, together with Germany, actively participates in the Group of Governmental Experts on the issue, helping to establish consensual principles aimed at regulating the development and use of such weapons. In April, France and Germany launched the framework of the Alliance of Multilateralism to promote these principles.
NICOLA BRASSIL (Ireland), associating herself with the European Union, outlined the clear relationship between disarmament, peace, security and sustainable development, expressing full support for the Secretary‑General’s disarmament agenda. Ahead of the next review conference of the Mine Ban Convention, she called on Member States to take an integrated approach based on broad humanitarian, development and peace and security, with a view to realizing the goal of a world free of landmines by 2025. She commended steps taken within the framework of the Arms Trade Treaty to prioritize the fight against gender‑based violence. Turning to the issue of explosive devices in populated areas, she called on all relevant parties to comply with international humanitarian law and ensure the protection of civilians. With regard to lethal autonomous weapons systems, she said such weapons must always remain under human control and that only human accountability is in compliance with international humanitarian law.
NOBUSHIGE TAKAMIZAWA (Japan) said Tokyo contributed $2 million to the Saving Lives Entity Fund, illustrating its support for the Secretary‑General’s disarmament agenda. Japan and its partners will support initiatives such as Silencing the Guns by 2020 initiative in the context of the New Approach for Peace and Stability in Africa. However, much work remains to be done to realize the goal of a mine‑free world by 2025. As a State Party to the Convention on Cluster Munitions, Japan has contributed more than $806 million since 1998 to projects in 51 States.
NAZIM KHALDI (Algeria) said given that arms trafficking is a threat to peace, his country has prioritized securing its borders, dismantling criminal networks and fighting terrorism, especially in the Sahel region. Calling for the full implementation of such instruments as the Programme of Action on Small Arms and the International Tracing Instrument, he highlighted Algeria’s commitment to the Silencing the Guns by 2020 initiative. Working constructively and transparently is key to tackling the illicit arms trade, he said, asking Member States to establish information‑exchange platforms and to share best practices internationally. For its part, Algeria has been working tirelessly towards the fulfilment of obligations to the Mine Ban Convention and is a leading model for achieving a mine‑free region.