Highlighting the frighteningly easy availability of illegal guns and bombs, delegates cautioned that the unless tighter controls stemmed their spread, attacks on civilians and violence would flourish, spilling across cities and borders, as the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) continued its general debate.
Calling for new measures to tackle the problem, Afghanistan’s delegate shared the grim experience of terrorist attacks that have already claimed thousands of citizens’ lives, with perpetrators deploying large‑scale explosions and using a range of weapons, including improvised explosive devices. Describing the double threat that terrorism and organized crime pose to international peace and security, he warned that unless more effective controls are enforced to prevent the flow of small arms and light weapons, conflicts and other forms of criminal activity will continue, with a spillover effect reaching across borders.
Eritrea’s representative agreed, declaring that: “Meaningful cooperation is critical if we are to meet the complex and transnational challenge of conventional weapons.” One crucial response to the “death and misery” caused by the increased availability of this weaponry, he said, has been the important role played by the United Nations Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat, and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects.
But, several delegates called for more control efforts. Singapore’s representative said Member States must develop international standards for the transfer of conventional arms, a critical element in the fight against trafficking. In a similar vein, New Zealand’s delegate said civilians caught in the crossfire of urban warfare desperately needed better protection. To that end, New Zealand is joining the call for a political declaration on the issue of the use of explosive weapons in populated areas. Such a declaration, he emphasized, must acknowledge the humanitarian devastation inflicted by such devices.
Delegates also called for better control over nuclear weapon programmes and for States possessing them to fulfil their disarmament and non‑proliferation commitments. Speaking as the representative of the only country to have experienced the effects of atomic bombings in wartime, Japan’s delegate made an impassioned plea for a world without nuclear weapons. “Hiroshima and Nagasaki must never be repeated,” he said. With that in mind, he raised concerns about the continuing development of nuclear missile capabilities by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, calling for the complete and irreversible dismantlement of its related programmes.
Several delegates applauded the creation of atomic‑weapon‑free zones as a deterrent. Paraguay’s representative said his region is protected by the Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean, adding that the agreement represents a significant contribution to global peace, security and disarmament efforts. Agreeing, Uruguay’s delegate recalled that his delegation was among the first to ratify the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which is another vital step towards a nuclear‑weapon‑free world.
Speaking in exercise of the right of reply, delegates addressed regional issues.
The First Committee will reconvene on Monday, 19 October, at 10 a.m., to continue its general debate.
The representative of New Zealand underlined the need to fully implement the Treaty on the Non‑Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. Recalling the recent use of chemical weapons in the poisoning of Russian opposition leader Alexei A. Navalny, he said the global community should not allow for the normalization of this unacceptable behaviour that violates international law. Also highlighting a need for better protection of civilians caught up in urban warfare, he said New Zealand supported a political declaration on the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, which must address the humanitarian harm done by their use.
The representative of Afghanistan, recognizing that the continued flow of conventional arms contributes to many conflicts, called for new measures to tackle the problem. Terrorism and organized criminal activity also pose a serious threat to international peace and security. In Afghanistan, terrorist attacks have resulted in thousands of deaths, with perpetrators deploying large‑scale explosions and using a range of weapons, including improvised explosive devices, so unless more effective controls are enforced, conflicts and other forms of criminal activity will continue, with its spillover effect across borders. As such, the inflow of precursors and other explosive material into Afghanistan is a major challenge and ending the flow of such material must be part of broader efforts to combat transnational crime, he stressed.
The representative of Eritrea said the increased accessibility of small arms and light weapons is causing death and misery in developed and developing countries alike, with commercial and security interests driving their production. “Meaningful cooperation is critical if we are to meet the complex and transnational challenge of conventional weapons,” he said. As such, the only internationally agreed framework and vital tool to halt trafficking is the United Nations Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat, and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects. Turning to cybercrime, he called for a global legal framework to deter and hold cybercriminals accountable. “We need to better exchange information on harmful technologies, expand the capacity‑building to increase technological know‑how and bridge the technological divide,” he said.
The representative of Ethiopia, associating himself with the African Group and the Non‑Aligned Movement, underlined the importance of the peaceful use of nuclear energy and commended the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) for its important role. In his subregion, arms trafficking has been fuelling conflicts, including their easy availability, relative low cost, technical simplicity and broad mobility. Ethiopia continues to suffer from weapons trafficking due to its porous borders and is working to tackle this challenge by adopting a new national policy and legal frameworks to improve cooperation and coordination among law enforcement agencies at all levels.
The representative of Singapore, aligning herself with Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the Non‑Aligned Movement, expressed support for establishing regional nuclear‑weapon‑free zones as a vital step towards a world free of atomic bombs. Member States must continue to develop common international standards for the transfer of conventional arms to end trafficking and regulate stockpiles while ensuring the full implementation of the Programme of Action on Small Arms.
The representative of Japan said that as the only country to have ever suffered atomic bombings during wartime, Tokyo will spare no effort to realize a world without nuclear weapons, declaring that: “Hiroshima and Nagasaki must never be repeated.” Emphasizing that nuclear‑weapon States must take concrete steps to meet this goal, he said his delegation will submit a draft resolution on joint courses of action and future‑oriented dialogue towards a world without nuclear weapons, which contains updates, provides a common denominator on issues of disarmament and non‑proliferation and confronts new challenges. Concerned by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and its continued development of nuclear and ballistic missile capabilities, he reaffirmed Japan’s strong commitment to the goal of achieving the complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantlement of Pyongyang’s related programmes, armaments and facilities.
The representative of Syria, associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, said Israel’s nuclear, chemical and biological weapons remain the biggest threat to peace in the Middle East, urging it to join the Non‑Proliferation Treaty as a non‑nuclear‑weapon party. Israel enjoys the support of Canada, France, Germany, United Kingdom and the United States. As such, the failure of the previous Non‑Proliferation Treaty review conference has emboldened Israel, which, along with Washington, D.C., opposes the establishment of a nuclear‑weapon‑free Middle East. Syria is already a party to conventions on weapons of mass destruction, and joined, in 2013, the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and of Their Destruction. Since then, Syria has fulfilled its obligations, dismantled stockpiles and continues to cooperate with the technical Secretariat to close the file once and for all. Syria has also submitted a draft resolution on freeing the Middle East from weapons of mass destruction, but due to the threat of a veto by the United States, the text remains “in blue” and is “gathering dust”.
The representative of Bulgaria, aligning herself with the European Union delegation, said the COVID‑19 pandemic brought further complications into the non‑proliferation and disarmament regimes, which were already suffering from a lack of consensus, stalemate and violations. “Now, more than ever, active engagement and concerted, collective efforts are needed to preserve and build upon the achievements of the rules‑based global system in this field,” she said, noting that during its presidency of the Conference on Disarmament in 2021, Bulgaria will seek common ground to make it deliver its mandate again. While the pandemic forced the postponement of the tenth Review Conference of the Non‑Proliferation Treaty, it must not postpone the international community’s full commitment to its implementation and universalization.
The representative of Albania, aligning herself with the European Union delegation, described recent efforts. As chair of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Albania encourages the full implementation of all OSCE principles and commitments, to increase military transparency, reduce risks and rebuild trust among participating States. A national strategy aims at countering the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and is a proactive contributor to the regional security in this regard. Pointing to the Chemical Weapons Convention as a unique, successful agreement that stands as an example of effective multilateralism, she said Albania co‑sponsored the draft decision addressing the possession and use of chemical weapons by Syria, adopted by the Executive Council of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).
The representative of Paraguay underlined the importance of non‑proliferation efforts and reducing nuclear arsenals. Noting that Paraguay ratified the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in 2020, he said the instrument provides the basis for future negotiations that could eventually allow the full elimination of these weapons in a verifiable and irreversible manner. The Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean, known as the Treaty of Tlatelolco, is one of his region’s most relevant contributions to disarmament. Welcoming the resilience demonstrated by the international system during COVID‑19, he said disarmament, arms control and non‑proliferation are indispensable for maintaining international peace and security.
The representative of Kyrgyzstan said that the international community is witnessing the destruction of the existing nuclear arms control system, which is a dangerous trend for all humankind. As an active supporter of the idea of a nuclear‑weapon‑free world, her country has become one of the initiators and the depositary of the Treaty on a Nuclear‑Weapon‑Free Zone in Central Asia, known as the Semipalatinsk Treaty. Considering the increased activity of terrorist organizations, she underscored the danger of terrorists acquiring weapons of mass destruction. She emphasized that her country attaches great importance to the issue of mitigating the environmental consequences of uranium mining and associated nuclear fuel cycle activities in the production of nuclear weapons.
The representative of Uruguay said his country joined the Treaty of Tlatelolco and other instruments and currently serves as a Council member of the Agency for Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean. It was also among the first to ratify the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which explicitly prohibits these weapons and fills a legal vacuum. At the same time, it does not obstruct the application of article VI of the Non‑Proliferation Treaty. Going forward, States must bank on preventive diplomacy, as the current cycle of mistrust must end, given that mistrust leads to increased risks. In a year marked by the spread of a powerful and unknown virus, it is necessary to create virtuous circles by dismantling and reducing arsenals and transferring resources from the military budgets towards the development agenda.
Right of Reply
The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, responded to his counterparts from France and Japan, saying that Pyongyang has consistently sought the goal of creating peace. With a policy of deterrence against nuclear threats by other States, Pyongyang will not abuse or use nuclear weapons first. But, it will respond with “powerful means” in the face of military attacks. France should seek the complete, verifiable, irreversible withdrawal of the United States forces from the Korean Peninsula. Japan is devoid of moral justification to speak about the subject due to its history of aggression, he said, adding that an increase in Tokyo’s military capabilities is dangerous.
The representative of Japan said Pyongyang’s actions violate Security Council resolutions. The international community’s common goal is the complete, verifiable, irreversible dismantlement of the nuclear weapons and related programmes and facilities. Pyongyang’s fear is groundless, as Japan has humbly contributed to Asia’s peace and prosperity for decades. Instead, Tokyo and Pyongyang should overcome mutual mistrust and share a cooperative approach to seek a bright future.
The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea said Japan’s military budget is increasing, and its pre‑emptive military capabilities are beyond the purpose of its exclusive defence.
The representative of Japan said Tokyo has made sincere efforts to contribute to peace and prosperity in the region, urging his counterpart to seek a cooperative approach for a bright future.
Also delivering statements today during the general debate were representatives of the Maldives, Greece, Azerbaijan, France, Hungary, Tajikistan and Nepal.