Report of the Secretary-General: G. Disarmament

Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration of Ex-combatants in Côte d’Ivoire UN Photo/Abdul Fatai

The elimination of nuclear and all other weapons of mass destruction remains a central but elusive objective of the United Nations. Despite commitments from Member States, there has been limited progress on this long-standing goal. For nuclear weapons, this is largely due to growing tensions between nuclear-armed States and sclerotic disarmament machinery. I am deeply disappointed that the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty is not yet in force 20 years after it was negotiated and that a fissile material treaty has not been negotiated. The fourth nuclear test by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in January 2016 and its ballistic missile launches remain a source of serious international concern.

The inability of the 2015 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons to reach a substantive outcome created significant uncertainty over prospects for nuclear disarmament as well as for a Middle East zone free of nuclear and all other weapons of mass destruction. I have made clear my readiness to support efforts to promote the inclusive regional dialogue necessary to achieve the goal of a Middle East zone.

I was particularly pleased to welcome the adoption on 14 July 2015 of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action agreed by the Ministers for Foreign Affairs of the EU 3+3 (China, France, Germany, Russian Federation, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and United States of America) and the Islamic Republic of Iran. This historic accomplishment — a testament to the value of diplomacy — marks an important turning point in the international community’s relationship with the Islamic Republic of Iran and benefits nuclear non‑proliferation. I am confident that this agreement will lead to greater mutual understanding and cooperation on the many serious security challenges in the region and beyond.

 I appreciate the efforts of the Open-ended Working Group on nuclear disarmament in taking forward multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations and hope that those will produce an outcome that is inclusive and forward-looking.

I have condemned any use of chemical weapons and remain fully committed to their elimination. The Security Council demonstrated its resolve in this matter, adopting in August resolution 2235 (2015), by which it established an Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons-United Nations Joint Investigative Mechanism to identify those involved in the use of chemicals as weapons in the Syrian Arab Republic. The United Nations will continue to support the Mechanism so that it can finish its task in an impartial, professional and timely manner. Accountability matters not only to this case but as a future deterrent to the use of these inhumane weapons. The taboo against the use of chemical weapons has been broken and accountability is required to repair it.

Protecting civilians and combatants from indiscriminate weapons is a fundamental mission for the United Nations. Humanitarian disarmament thus continues to be a priority. I am encouraged by the interest in the challenges posed by lethal autonomous weapons systems. I welcome the engagement by the General Assembly and the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons on the urgent humanitarian challenge posed by improvised explosive devices, and the growing support for a political commitment to reduce the devastating impact posed by the use of explosive weapons in populated areas. During the reporting period, the United Nations continued to support the universalization of and adherence to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention and the Convention on Cluster Munitions. I welcome the Dubrovnik Action Plan adopted in 2015 by the First Review Conference of States Parties to the Convention on Cluster Munitions. These conventions are an example of partnership between States, the United Nations and civil society. Their implementation continues to be affected by donor resources, however.

I am deeply concerned by irresponsible arms transfers and the continued large-scale illicit trafficking of weapons. Some States made important decisions to deny arms exports, including decisions based on the formulation in the Arms Trade Treaty of an “overriding risk” that the export would contribute to undermining peace and security or be used to commit or facilitate serious acts of gender-based violence or violence against women and children. I am pleased that 2015 saw further growth in the number of ratifications of the Treaty.

The adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development was a defining moment for global efforts to prevent, combat and eradicate the illicit arms trade: the Agenda included a specific target to significantly reduce illicit arms flows by 2030.

As our world becomes increasingly dependent on information and communications technology, the potential security implications continue to grow. In 2015, a group of governmental experts, as mandated in General Assembly resolution 68/243, produced a report on norms, rules and principles of responsible State behaviour in the cybersphere. The next group of governmental experts will meet late in 2016 and should enhance this baseline framework.

Similarly, the importance of outer space means we must ensure that its benefits can be enjoyed by all States. I am encouraged by efforts to implement transparency and confidence-building measures in outer space, including through enhanced cooperation between the First and Fourth Committees of the General Assembly.

 I remain particularly concerned by the growing nexus between terrorism and chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear security. The Nuclear Security Summit in Washington in 2016 endorsed a United Nations Action Plan, focused on two relevant United Nations instruments: Security Council resolution 1540 (2004) and the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism. The United Nations can play a key role in advancing this issue, including by engaging all Member States.

I am pleased to note that the United Nations has provided capacity-building assistance to Member States upon request to, inter alia, improve the control of small arms and light weapons and promote the effective implementation of both Security Council resolution 1540 (2004) and the Arms Trade Treaty. Outreach to civil society has been intensified. We also commemorated the seventieth anniversary of the first General Assembly resolution, which established the goal of eliminating atomic weapons.