First Committee Delegates Call for United Drive to Crush Illegal Arms Market, Close Security Gaps, as General Debate Continues

Casting a spotlight on the illicit trafficking of small arms and light weapons, delegates highlighted the global security risks and humanitarian toll of conventional weapons today, as the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) continued its general debate.

Several speakers called for multilateral efforts to combat the illicit trade in, and proliferation of, conventional weapons and munitions. Addressing the issue was a shared global responsibility and no one country alone could secure its borders from all existing threats, the Committee heard.

Many of the tribulations facing the world today were directly or indirectly linked to the wide-spread availability of illicit arms and light weapons, Eritrea’s delegate said, noting that the impact of such weaponry was particularly acute in developing countries, where State control was weak or non existent.

Other speakers expressed concern that terrorist groups and criminal networks were taking advantage of security gaps. Algeria’s representative said countries in North Africa and the Sahel regions faced threats stemming from the illicit trade of weapons, which had fuelled terrorist groups and organized crime. To tackle that problem, he said it was essential to implement the International Tracing Instrument and the Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects.

Indeed, the widespread availability of small arms had contributed to many unnecessary conflicts, terrorism, poaching, piracy and other criminal activities, Kenya’s representative said, urging the United Nations to do more in addressing proliferation by offering best practices and tools, and by sharing information.

The illegal weapons market also created a breeding ground for organized crime and threatened the economy of many countries, stressed the Dominican Republic’s speaker, highlighting the trade’s connection to development and its negative effects on tourism and investment. Yet, other factors hindered both security and national development, he continued. Conflict could also come from nature, he explained, noting that some Caribbean countries had faced up to five hurricanes in one season, leaving massive damages to infrastructure in their wake.

Meanwhile, the representative of Lao People’s Democratic Republic spoke of the devastating effect of cluster munitions on his country. Those weapons, which had been the most heavily used during nine years of war, continued to kill and maim the Lao people, he said.

Delegates also raised a host of regional and global concerns during the debate, including nuclear weapon free zones, preventing terrorism, reducing nuclear stockpiles, verifying non use of chemical weapons as well as global nuclear security and safety.

At the outset of the meeting, the Committee approved, without a vote, a draft decision (document A.C.1/72/CRP.4) by which the Secretary-General of the Agency for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean (OPANAL) would be included in a panel discussion to be held on 11 October.

Also delivering statements today were representatives of Belgium, Mongolia, Hungary, United Republic of Tanzania, Switzerland, Finland and Slovakia.

Speaking in exercise of the right of reply were representatives of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and Syria.

The Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Friday, 6 October, to continue its debate on all disarmament and related international security questions.

Background

The First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) continued its general debate today. For background information, see Press Release GA/DIS/3571 of 2 October.

Action

MOHAMMED HUSSEIN BAHR ALULOOM (Iraq), Chair of the First Committee, presented a draft decision contained in document A.C.1/72/CRP.4, Participation in panel in the exchange with the High Representative for Disarmament Affairs and other High-Level Officials. By the terms of the draft text, the Secretary-General of the Agency for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean (OPANAL) would be included in a panel to be held on 11 October.

The representative of the United States proposed an alternative, inviting representatives of all the nuclear weapon free zones to participate as members of a new panel on 23 October during the regional disarmament and security segment of thematic debate.

The representative of Mexico said he would examine the United States’ proposal, which was very good and creative.

The representative of Brazil reiterated its original request for the Secretary-General of OPANAL to participate in the 11 October panel.

Mr. ALULOOM then proposed that the United States proposal be circulated and the Committee would act on it at a later date.

The representative of Brazil urged the Committee to take action without delay.

The representative of United States said he would expeditiously circulate its proposal.

The representative of Australia expressed support for the Chair’s proposal.

The representative of Ecuador, noting that the Committee had routinely set aside the request for OPANAL’s participation, said the panel proposed by the United States was interesting and could be considered for the General Assembly’s seventy third session.

The representative of France requested time to consider the United States’ proposal.

The representative of Brazil, highlighting that the United States’ proposal could be examined in the future, emphasized the importance to act now on his delegation’s proposal.

The representative of the United Kingdom requested to know the status of the participants of the panel.

A representative of the Office of Disarmament Affairs said the panel would be represented by high-level officials and/or their deputies.

The representative of the United Kingdom noted that the level of attendance was not significantly different from the 23 October panel.

The representative of Mexico expressed support for Brazil’s proposal.

The representative of Guatemala said Brazil’s proposal was reasonable and transparent.

The representative of United States said Brazil’s proposal was not an issue that should be voted on; a compromise should be reached instead.

The representative of Brazil, reiterating that there was no reason not to invite OPANAL to the panel, insisted on a vote without delay.

Mr. ALULOOM said the Committee would proceed to a vote, as there was clearly no consensus on the issue.

The representative of the United States, saying it was deeply regrettable that the Committee would proceed with a vote, withdrew his delegation’s proposal.

The representative of the United Kingdom said it opposed the decision to proceed with a vote.

The representative of Greece said it also opposed holding a vote.

The representative of the United Kingdom clarified that it did not want to call a vote and therefore abided by the decision.

The Committee then approved, without a vote, draft decision A.C.1/72/CRP.4.

Statements

JEROEN COOREMAN (Belgium), associating himself with the European Union, condemned the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s ballistic missile and nuclear programmes and called on Pyongyang to change its course, comply with Security Council resolutions and take steps towards denuclearization. We cannot be satisfied by the current pace of nuclear disarmament, he said, noting that arsenals were still being modernized and new nuclear capabilities added. Actual stockpile reductions must be coupled with policy steps to reduce the salience of nuclear weapons in defence doctrines. Expressing doubt that the recently concluded Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons would foster progress � as it lacked the support of the main stakeholders and a verification regime to ensure compliance and deter infraction � he said that since the new instrument had declared its primacy over other international agreements, it risked weakening some basic components of the existing global non�proliferation regime. For those and other reasons, Belgium would not sign it, but remained ready to cooperate with all stakeholders to jointly further the goal of a world without nuclear weapons.

SUKHBOLD SUKHEE (Mongolia), associating himself with the Non Aligned Movement, said nuclear-weapon States had a legal obligation to pursue and conclude negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament. A world free of nuclear weapons would guarantee a safer future for humankind, which was indispensable for the attainment of peace, security and development. As a country with a 25 year old nuclear weapon free zone status, Mongolia believed in the maintenance of peace and security in North-East Asia and a resolution to the Korean Peninsula issue through peaceful means. Concerning the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, Mongolia was committed to its early entry into force. The international monitoring system remained an essential feature of the instrument, he said, commending efforts made over almost two decades to complete and install the final hydro acoustic station for its verification activities.

GYORGY MOLNA�R (Hungary), associating himself with the European Union, said nuclear disarmament could only be achieved through a gradual and inclusive process that fully engaged nuclear-weapon States. The Non Proliferation Treaty remained the cornerstone of the global non proliferation regime and future progress should be built based on it. The Test Ban Treaty was one of the building blocks of an incremental approach and a further concrete step would be starting negotiations on the fissile material cut-off treaty. Nuclear-weapon States and non nuclear-weapon States should work together to create verification tools. Turning to the Arms Trade Treaty, he asked States to fulfil their obligations and highlighted a need to reach out to major exporters in order to turn the instrument into a real milestone in trade regulation. He welcomed the successful outcome of the fifth review conference on Convention on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons Which May Be Deemed to Be Excessively Injurious or to Have Indiscriminate Effects and hoped for the approval of a related draft resolution on the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on Their Destruction.

MODEST JONATHAN MERO (United Republic of Tanzania), associating himself with the African Union and Non Aligned Movement, said his country looked forward to signing and ratifying the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which complemented the Non Proliferation Treaty. Disarmament efforts, however, must not hinder the right of developing countries to access nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. The United Republic of Tanzania was fully committed to multilateral efforts to combat the illicit trade in, and proliferation of, conventional weapons and munitions. Underscoring the link between disarmament and development, he said investment in better living conditions could reverse irregular migration from South to North resulting from poverty and hopelessness.

ELSA HAILE (Eritrea), associating herself with the African Group and Non Aligned Movement, said international peace and security could only be guaranteed through stable and inclusive global economic and social development. That task was a shared global responsibility and no one country alone could secure its borders from all existing threats. Many of the tribulations facing the world today were directly or indirectly linked to the widespread availability of illicit arms and light weapons, she continued, noting that the impact of such weaponry was particularly felt in developing countries, where State control was weak or non existent. She warned that terrorist groups and criminal networks were taking advantage of security gaps. Weapons only fuelled insecurity, she said, emphasizing that disarmament was the only viable tool to build a secure planet.

KHIANE PHANSOURIVONG (Lao People’s Democratic Republic), associating himself with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)and Non Aligned Movement, said the total elimination of nuclear weapons was the only absolute guarantee against their use or threat of use. Therefore, his delegation had signed the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and was a strong supporter of preserving the region as a nuclear weapon free zone, as enshrined in the Treaty on the Southeast Asia Nuclear Weapon Free Zone (Treaty of Bangkok). Turning to cluster munitions, he said those weapons, which were the most heavily used during nine years of war, continued to kill and maim the Lao people, hindering national development. Resources were needed to support the clearing of contaminated areas, he said, calling on the international community to assist in implementing his country’s national Sustainable Development Goal 18, which promotes saving lives from unexploded ordnances.

SABRINA DALLAFIOR MATTER (Switzerland), condemning the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s recent testing activities, said challenges related to nuclear weapons went beyond the Korean Peninsula. The quantitative and qualitative development of nuclear arsenals and scant progress in key areas of disarmament, such as those regarding doctrines, were worrying. Actions must refrain from calling into question Non Proliferation Treaty commitments, she said, adding that nuclear-weapon States should take decisive steps to honour their obligations. Voicing concern over some of the provisions of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, she said Switzerland planned to carry out a thorough evaluation of the instrument’s possible implications. Raising another concern, she reiterated Switzerland’s full support for efforts to investigate cases of chemical weapons use in Syria and for the request made to the Security Council to refer those cases to the International Criminal Court.

SABRI BOUKADOUM (Algeria), associating himself with the African Group, Arab Group, and Non Aligned Movement, called on States to swiftly join the Non Proliferation Treaty. For its part, Algeria had signed the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and believed in establishing nuclear weapon free zones. However, it was disappointing that the Middle East remained prevented from having that status and related progress had languished. On conventional weapons, he said many countries in North Africa and the Sahel regions faced threats stemming from the illicit trade of weapons, which had fuelled terrorist groups and organized crime. To address that situation, it was essential to implement 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. For its part, Algeria’s recent disarmament activities included the destruction of its remaining anti personnel mine stockpile and removal of 8.8 million mines, demonstrating its commitment to the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction.

FRANCISCO ANTONIO CORTORREA (Dominican Republic) said the illicit trafficking of small arms and light weapons was a breeding ground for organized crime and a threat to the economy of many countries, including its negative effects on tourism and investment. The Dominican Republic was working tirelessly to control the acquisition of such weapons with strict controls around granting licenses. He praised the Arms Trade Treaty as an opportunity for more stringent and uniform regulation. As a candidate for non permanent membership in the Security Council in 2020, the Dominican Republic wanted to bring further attention to climate change and its impact on the international security of small island developing States. Conflict could also come from nature, he explained, highlighting that some Caribbean countries had faced up to five hurricanes in one season, leaving massive damages to infrastructure in their wake. That was a sign from nature to better understand the challenges to international peace and security facing the world today, he said.

ILKKA RENTOLA (Finland), commending the Security Council for its leadership and unanimous approach towards solving the threatening situation caused by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, urged all States to fully implement that body’s decisions. Raising several concerns, he noted that thousands of tactical nuclear weapons were stationed in Europe, in close vicinity to Finland. Those weapons were not covered by any binding, verifiable agreement, he noted, calling for a clear division in military doctrines and exercises between those weapons and conventional weapons. Turning to terrorism prevention, he noted that Finnish experts had been training chemists in more than 130 developing countries in the field of chemical weapons verification. Finland was also assisting in building capacity in fields including biosecurity and nuclear safety.

KAROL MISTRIK (Slovakia) called for progress in implementing the Non Proliferation Treaty. The best way to achieve the goal of eliminating nuclear weapons was through effective, verifiable and irreversible disarmament that considered the prevailing security environment. Slovakia supported the building blocks approach because the mere existence of a legally binding international instrument banning nuclear weapons would totally eliminate all such arms. The substantive and constructive engagement of nuclear-weapon States was inevitable. With regard to other areas, Slovakia had made tangible contributions to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) with regard to provisions of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on Their Destruction. Related training had taken place in 2016, with more sessions being planned for 2017.

KOKI MULI GRIGNON (Kenya), associating herself with the African Group and Non Aligned Movement, said overwhelming international support had been shown with the adoption of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons � even if nuclear-weapon States had been absent from the negotiating process � and its full implementation must be a top priority. Raising other concerns, she pointed at growing tensions on the Korean Peninsula and called on all parties to embrace a peaceful political dialogue and avoid war like rhetoric. Turning to the links between disarmament and development, she said investments in the former must be accompanied by initiatives to build or rebuild economic, social and governance structures that fostered political participation, social integration and equality. Addressing the serious threat to international security posed by the illicit transfer and trade in small arms and light weapons, she said Kenya had taken important steps to implement the Programme of Action on Small Arms, block legal loopholes and ensure effective national stockpile management. The widespread availability of small arms had contributed to many unnecessary conflicts, terrorism, poaching, piracy and other criminal activities, she said, urging the United Nations to do more to address proliferation by offering best practices, tools and information-sharing.

Right of Reply

The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, responded to several delegates’ groundless allegations, emphasizing that that his country’s nuclear and ballistic missiles are powerful self defence weapons and their nuclear deterrence serves to protect the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s sovereignty and its interests.

The representative of Syria, emphasizing his country’s commitment to all legal provisions against the use of chemical weapons, responded to comments made by his counterpart from Belgium. Recent counter terrorism reports had confirmed that Belgian conventional weapons were present in most of the world’s hot spots, he said, adding that Belgium had also exported terrorism to Syria.

Source: United Nations