8 October 2021
Seventy-sixth Session, Virtual Meeting (AM)

Cooperation, Multilateralism Must Replace Tensions, Division, Disarmament Chief Tells First Committee, Stressing Choice between ‘Breakdown or Breakthrough’

The world is at a point where cooperation and multilateralism must replace tensions and division, the High Representative for Disarmament Affairs said today, as the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) convened the first of three virtual dialogues to be held during its seventy-sixth session.

Izumi Nakamitsu, High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, opened the dialogue with a briefing on issues ranging from nuclear disarmament and non‑proliferation to autonomous weapons, presenting related reports.  She noted that, unfortunately, a year deeper into the coronavirus pandemic, one area COVID‑19 has not affected is global military expenditure.  The world is at an inflection point in history, compelled to choose between breakdown or breakthrough, she emphasized.

Summarizing two reports of the Secretary‑General on the impacts of technology, she said the emphasis is timely, noting that, while the pace of multilateral discussions recover from the pandemic, technological advances continue at unprecedented speed.

Taking up the first report, “Reducing space threats through norms, rules and principles of responsible behaviours” (document A/76/77), she said it presents existing and potential threats and security risks to space systems, including those arising from actions, activities or systems in outer space or on Earth.  It concludes that there is a growing capacity among States to attack space systems with a variety of means ‑ without a common understanding of the consequences of such actions.  She cautioned that the normative and legal framework governing outer space is not developed enough to prevent the emergence of an arms race.  Possible solutions to outer space security should involve both binding and voluntary norms, rules and principles, she said, stressing that the United Nations should remain central in that regard.

Turning to the report on “Current developments in science and technology and their potential impact on international security and disarmament efforts” (document A/76/182), she said it covers artificial intelligence and autonomous digital technologies, biology and chemistry, aerospace and electromagnetics, among other fields.  Concerning the implications of emerging technologies for nuclear risks as well as human rights, she recommended that Member States continue to seek ways to integrate reviews of developments in science and technology into their work.

She went on to welcome proposals to that end within the framework of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on Their Destruction (Biological Weapons Convention); the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons; the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and of Their Destruction (Chemical Weapons Convention); the Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects; and the International Tracing Instrument.

Ecuador’s representative said the presentation will help his delegation craft a constructive approach to development and to the First Committee’s deliberations.  He sought the High Representative’s perspective as to whether, as the world exits the pandemic, there is a way to help implement a more positive way to send signals of cooperation and peace instead of divisiveness, both in the field and in discussions.

The High Representative said arms control and disarmament should be at the centre, going forward towards greater security and fewer strategic risks. Efforts to demonstrate cooperation in the First Committee’s discussions must precede a busy multilateral disarmament schedule of meetings in 2022, she emphasized.  To do so, multilateral cooperation is critical, as no single country alone can resolve the current challenges confronting the world, she said, stressing:  “You will have to talk to each other; you will have to come up with creative solutions and options.”  The First Committee is at the beginning of that process, she added.

Also included in the dialogue was an exchange between delegations and representatives of civil society organizations.

The First Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. on Monday, 11 October, to continue its general debate.

For information media. Not an official record.