First Committee Delegates Discuss Best Tools for Fighting Illegal Arms Trade, amid Calls to Boost Control of Conventional Weapons

To combat the proliferation of illicitly produced and traded small arms and light weapons that is fuelling conflict within and between countries, delegates in the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) explored the tools needed to counter this threat, as its general debate continued.

“As a victim of their proliferation, Liberia knows first‑hand their devastating humanitarian and economic consequences,” said the West African country’s representative, referring to the illicit trade, manufacture and possession of small arms and light weapons.  For its part, Liberia has made great strides in using available tools to combat this threat, including nationally implementing the Arms Trade Treaty and the United Nations Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects.

Several other African countries also joined calls for strengthening control of these conventional weapons.  Describing violence wreaked by Boko Haram in some parts of the continent, the Central African Republic’s delegate underlined a need to find an effective solution to stop the spread of firearms and light weapons.  In that regard, he highlighted the entry into force in 2017 of the Kinshasa Convention, officially known as the Central African Convention for the Control of Small Arms and Light Weapons, Their Ammunition and All Parts and Components That Can Be Used for Their Manufacture, Repair and Assembly.

Mali’s representative, while welcoming the outcome of the third Review Conference on the Programme of Action on Small Arms, expressed firm support for the Bamako Declaration on an African Common Position on the Illicit Proliferation, Circulation and Trafficking of Small Arms and Light Weapons.  For its part, Mali has established a permanent national secretariat to combat the proliferation of such armaments, which continue to hinder Africa’s development and prosperity.  Together with partners, his delegation will submit a draft resolution to the First Committee on countering illegal weapons trafficking so that the international community can find a lasting solution.

Meanwhile, Sudan’s delegate outlined some national efforts to stamp out the spread of illegal weapons, including by participating in several regional, subregional and international initiatives to reduce their misuse.  However, “responsibility for combating the proliferation of such weapons should be placed on manufacturing States, not only the affected countries,” he said, urging these States to refrain from exporting such weapons to non‑State actors.

Indeed, Zambia’s representative said, the “collective conscience does not protest when countries stockpile or use weapons”.  While humanity has made quantum leaps in the development of weaponry and the art of killing, he continued, it has been moving steadily backwards in the development of measures that should edify it.

Delegates from other regions shared their experiences.  Jamaica’s representative joined other States from the Latin American and Caribbean region in expressing a commitment to stemming the flow of small arms.  In that vein, she said disarmament efforts must include education initiatives that allow for greater public engagement in reducing, controlling and eliminating all categories of weapons.

Delegates also discussed other pressing disarmament and international security issues, including the weaponization of outer space, a nuclear‑weapon‑free zone in the Middle East, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action contained in the Iran nuclear agreement and the Comprehensive Nuclear Test‑Ban Treaty.

Also delivering statements were the representatives of Samoa, Netherlands, Malaysia, Republic of Moldova, Georgia, Italy, Malawi, Ethiopia, Peru, United Kingdom, Nicaragua, Portugal and Bahrain.  The representative of Syria spoke in exercise of the right of reply.

The First Committee will reconvene at 3 p.m. on Monday, 15 October, to continue its general debate.

Background

The First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) met this morning to continue its general debate on all agenda items before it.  For background information, see Press Release GA/DIS/3597 of 8 October.

Statements

ABDULLAH HALLAK (Syria), speaking on a point of order, said his delegation took issue with the remarks made on 11 October by his counterpart from the United States.  He said the representative of the United States, who spoke in exercise of the right of reply, described the Syrian representative as “a joke”.  In doing so, the representative of the United States showed a lack of respect for diplomatic traditions and common manners.  These comments demonstrated a lack of respect on behalf of the United States for standards of international practice, he said, adding that this affects the work and deliberations of the Committee.

ALI’IOAIGA FETURI ELISAIA (Samoa) said his country’s geographic location no longer shields it from today’s complex security challenges.  The interconnectedness of the world has magnified a need for close cooperation among States.  Recalling that the region has been a testing ground for nuclear powers since the 1970s, he said the Pacific Islands Forum Leaders have included in their communiqué a reference to engage with nuclear‑weapon States in addressing the ongoing impact of these tests.  The presence of the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty, known as the Treaty of Rarotonga, has played a deterrent role to safeguard the region and protect the ocean from radioactive contamination and dumping.  Samoa ratified the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons two weeks ago, he said, reaffirming his country’s belief that possessing nuclear weapons only makes the world less peaceful.  Regarding the Arms Trade Treaty, Samoa is committed to implementing its obligations under that Treaty, including by conducting its annual gun amnesty that allows people to hand in firearms without prosecution.

DIEDRE NICHOLE MILLS (Jamaica), emphasizing that new sources of conflict are fuelled by social, economic and political discontent, commended the Secretary‑General for launching his disarmament agenda.  She said the disarmament machinery must function more effectively and not be allowed to fall victim to divisiveness.  The United Nations must continue playing a pivotal role in supporting peace and security at all levels, she said, adding that Jamaica has benefited from practical and technical assistance provided by United Nations regional offices.  Jamaica is committed to stemming the flow of small arms.  In that vein, disarmament efforts must include education initiatives that allow for greater public engagement in reducing, controlling and eliminating all categories of weapons.  Women are contributing to the establishment of peace and are critical agents in the maintenance of international peace and security, she said, also noting that Jamaica will continue efforts to ratify the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

ROBBERT GABRIËLSE (Netherlands) said the Treaty on the Non‑Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons is the cornerstone of the multilateral disarmament and non‑proliferation architecture, reflecting a shared goal of a world free of nuclear weapons.  As such, negotiations should commence immediately on the fissile material cut‑off treaty, disarmament verification work and the entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear‑Test‑Ban Treaty.  Deeply regretting to note the withdrawal of the United States from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action contained in the Iran nuclear agreement, he said the agreement is vital for international security.  Based on confirmation by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that Iran continues to uphold its obligations, the Netherlands and the European Union will also adhere to their commitments in that regard.  Turning to conventional weapons, he highlighted the importance of preventing the recurrence of conflict, which means creating a secure environment for people to return home.  In that context, his delegation is fully committed to achieving the goal of a mine‑free world by 2025.  On the disarmament machinery, he expressed concern about structural arrears of contributions and problems related to the financial liquidity of some Geneva‑based conventions, adding that these issues hampered the instruments’ proper functioning.

M. SHAHRUL IKRAM YAAKOB (Malaysia) said the establishment of nuclear‑weapon‑free zones is pivotal to achieve the objectives of nuclear disarmament.  As a State party to the Treaty on the Southeast Asia Nuclear Weapon‑Free Zone, known as the Treaty of Bangkok, Malaysia urges nuclear‑weapon States to accede to the protocol as proof of their support towards nuclear disarmament and non‑proliferation.  Providing an update on the incident involving the use of VX nerve agent at Kuala Lumpur International Airport in 2017, he said an Indonesian and a Vietnamese national charged with using the chemical will take the stand in High Court to defend themselves once their trial resumes on 1 November.  Malaysia has been providing regular updates to the Executive Council Meeting of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).  Recognizing the imminent threats posed by the illicit manufacture, transfer and circulation of small arms and light weapons, Malaysia calls for the full and effective implementation of 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 through international cooperation and assistance.

ISSA KONFOUROU (Mali), associating himself with the African Group and the Non‑Aligned Movement, said that nuclear bombs, conventional weapons, small arms and light weapons cause untold suffering across the world, and reaffirmed the crucial role of the Conference on Disarmament as the only multilateral disarmament treaty body.  He welcomed the third Review Conference on the Programme of Action on Small Arms, expressing firm support for the Bamako Declaration on an African Common Position on the Illicit Proliferation, Circulation and Trafficking of Small Arms and Light Weapons.  For its part, Mali has established a permanent national secretariat to combat the proliferation of such armaments, which continue to hinder Africa’s development and prosperity.  Together with partners, his delegation will also submit a draft resolution to this Committee on countering the illegal trafficking of these weapons so that the international community can find a lasting solution.

AUGUSTIN OSMOND GOUROU (Central African Republic), associating himself with the African Group and the Non‑Aligned Movement, hailed the adoption of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and its important contribution to realizing a world free of nuclear weapons.  “Clear will to achieve a nuclear‑weapon‑free world has been shown,” he said, urging the instrument’s early entry into force.  Noting the destruction caused by Boko Haram in Central Africa, he underlined a need to find an effective solution to the proliferation of small arms and light weapons.  The Central African Convention for the Control of Small Arms and Light Weapons, Their Ammunition and All Parts and Components That Can Be Used for Their Manufacture, Repair and Assembly, known as the Kinshasa Convention, entered into force in March 2017.  Many States who joined the instrument have already established national commissions to implement its provisions.  Among a range of related activities, the Central African Republic implemented disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programmes that have, since 2016, reached a total of 7,681 former combatants.

DEE-MAXWELL SAAH KEMAYAH, SR. (Liberia) said United Nations support in his country’s recovery efforts has helped to guarantee peace today.  Concerned about increasing threats to global peace and security, including a new wave of global terrorism, he said multilateral approaches are the best way to address these threats.  He reaffirmed support for the Non‑Proliferation Treaty, the Treaty of Pelindaba (African Nuclear‑Weapon‑Free Zone Treaty) and other instruments that seek to address and eliminate the use of nuclear weapons, while encouraging the discussion of humanitarian considerations on all related deliberations.  Like many other African countries, Liberia is concerned about the illicit trade, manufacture and possession of small arms and light weapons.  As a victim of their proliferation, Liberia knows first‑hand their devastating humanitarian and economic consequences.  Reaffirming Liberia’s support for the Arms Trade Treaty and the central role of the Programme of Action on Small Arms in fighting that scourge, he said his country has made great strides in implementing both instruments nationally.  He also called for international support for the Liberian Commission for Small Arms to consolidate that progress.

OMER AHMED MOHAMED AHMED (Sudan) said the only way to address challenges in the Middle East is through a reinvigorated multilateral approach.  In that vein, he expressed support for convening a conference in 2019 towards the establishment of a nuclear‑weapon‑free zone in the region.  Turning to small arms and light weapons, he said the issue is a priority for Sudan, which suffers from their trafficking and illicit trade.  The phenomenon is compounded by climate change and competition over natural resources, he said.  Sudan has made efforts to control the illegal proliferation of such weapons and participated in several regional, subregional and international initiatives to reduce their misuse.  Nevertheless, responsibility for combating the proliferation of such weapons should be placed on manufacturing States, not only the affected countries, and these States must refrain from exporting such weapons to non‑State actors.  With the help of the United Nations Mine Action Service, Sudan is also focusing on addressing the issue of anti‑personnel mines and was declared free of these weapons in January.  Sudan endeavours to honour all its commitments in the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti‑Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction, known as the Ottawa Convention, by 2019.

VICTOR MORARU (Republic of Moldova) called for the strengthening of the United Nations disarmament and arms control architecture, warning that if the Conference on Disarmament stalemate continues, the international community might lose the only mechanism for developing related multilateral treaties.  While effective multilateral legal instruments can and have been developed using other ad hoc negotiating formats, the Conference on Disarmament should remain the central multilateral body for negotiating agreements critical to international security.  At the same time, it is imperative to advance work on the prevention of an arms race in outer space, negative security assurances, nuclear disarmament and non‑proliferation.  While treaties are not a panacea for international security and stability, they are the basis of global collective security.

ELENE AGLADZE (Georgia) said that addressing the excessive accumulation and uncontrolled spread of conventional arms and ammunition are priorities.  As a key preventive mechanism, the Arms Trade Treaty is a unique instrument that defines common responsibilities through different stages of arms transfers.  Drawing attention to military aggression by the Russian Federation against Georgia and Ukraine, she said such actions also endanger European security.  More specifically, the Russian Federation continues its military build‑up in Georgia’s occupied territories, isolating these regions.  The Russian Federation’s illegal military bases are equipped with sophisticated weaponry that go beyond any defensive objectives.  The lack of international control mechanisms in the occupied regions creates fertile ground for illegal activities, including those related to chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear materials, and pose an international security threat.

GIANFRANCO INCARNATO (Italy) said the Non‑Proliferation Treaty provides the only realistic legal framework to build a world without nuclear weapons.  Moreover, negotiations in the Conference on Disarmament for a treaty dealing with fissile material for nuclear weapons or explosive devices is also crucial.  In this context, he recalled the potential of negative security assurances, expressing support for the elaboration of recommendations on this topic, including an internationally legally binding instrument.  Turning to the use of chemical weapons, he called for the international community to take a clear stance against impunity for such crimes.  On anti‑personnel mines, he said Italy devotes material, technical and financial resources to the implementation of comprehensive mine‑action programmes.  His delegation is also particularly engaged in promoting integrated, inclusive and gender‑sensitive approaches to victim assistance.

PERKS MASTER CLEMENCY LIGOYA (Malawi) said that small arms and light weapons persist as the “weapons of choice” in many acts of armed violence.  Indeed, more than 560,000 people died as the result of armed violence in 2016, according to the latest Small Arms Survey data, he said, emphasizing that in order to reduce the number of such deaths, armed violence must be examined as a whole, rather than addressing only violence in conflicts.  Unlike its neighbouring countries, Malawi is not highly affected by the illicit proliferation and use of small arms and light weapons.  Still, its people suffer significantly from the illicit use of such armaments in their homes and business premises.  In this regard, community policing continues to play a big role in facilitating the recovery of illegal firearms.  Currently, about 12,000 Malawians legally own firearms, he said, adding that Malawi signed the Programme of Action on Small Arms in 2001.

TAYE ATSKESELASSIE AMDE (Ethiopia), highlighting that nuclear‑weapon‑free zones are playing a central role in consolidating the Non‑Proliferation Treaty and strengthening non‑proliferation across all regions of the world, voiced his delegation’s commitment to keeping Africa free of such bombs under the Pelindaba Treaty.  He regretted to note that given the complex political and security situation in many parts of the world, various internal and external actors are using every opportunity to use many places as a conduit for the illicit transfer and usage of various weapons.  In Africa, the illicit trafficking of small arms and light weapons has been fuelling intra‑ and inter‑State conflicts.  Attributing this to their easy availability, relative inexpensiveness, technical simplicity and easy mobility, he attached great importance to conventional arms control at regional and global levels, with the Programme of Action on Small Arms remaining an important framework.

FRANCISCO TENYA (Peru), reaffirming support for the Programme of Action on Small Arms, as well as the International Tracing Instrument, said legally binding instruments are needed to prevent conventional weapons from being diverted to illicit markets.  Calling for the prohibition of weapons of mass destruction, he urged nuclear‑weapon States to fully eliminate existing nuclear arsenals, while acknowledging the challenges concerning this issue in recent years.  Underlining his delegation’s support for the Non‑Proliferation Treaty and its three pillars, he called on States to appoint a president of the 2020 Review Conference on the instrument as soon as possible.  Calling on Annex 2 States to ratify the Test‑Ban Treaty, he then urged the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to abandon its nuclear programmes.  Until then, Security Council sanctions must remain in place.  Raising other concerns, he said the Conference on Disarmament must be reactivated and greater political will is needed to adopt a balanced programme of work.  There was also a need to examine the humanitarian consequences of lethal autonomous weapons and work towards developing an international framework to regulate their transfer and use.

AIDAN LIDDLE (United Kingdom) said the Non‑Proliferation Treaty stands in stark contrast to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which ignores the security context and does nothing to increase trust or transparency.  The existing counter‑proliferation and arms control framework has made a huge contribution to global security.  However, global security is under threat from States who no longer share fundamental values or respect for international law.  Condemning repeated chemical weapon attacks by the Syrian regime, he said failing to challenge such crimes further risks weakening international norms and inviting further violations.  The world cannot wait until weapons of mass destruction have already been used.  It must act more quickly when States fail to comply with their obligations, he said, citing as an example the inaction by the international community on the situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.  Expressing support for the implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, he raised concerns about Iran’s wider missile programmes, which he said destabilize the region and pose a threat to European security.

LAZAROUS KAPAMBWE (Zambia), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement and the African Group, said that while humanity has made quantum leaps in the development of weaponry and the art of killing, it has been moving steadily in reverse in the development of measures that should edify it.  Collective conscience does not protest when countries stockpile or use weapons, when killing is in order to defend “our way of life” or when millions die of starvation or preventable diseases in another country.  Indeed, the world is out of balance when 1 per cent of the population owns 82 per cent of the world’s wealth, when the “high and mighty” refuse to acknowledge that their ways are killing the environment and would rather produce with machines than give a human being a chance in the interest of profit.  Calling war neither human nor imperative, he urged the international community to take appropriate action.

JAIME HERMIDA CASTILLO (Nicaragua), associating himself with the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), deplored that the international community spends less money to promote sustainable development than it invests in military budgets.  For its part, Nicaragua ratified the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which established global standards for nuclear disarmament, he said, calling on States to sign on to the instrument if they have not done so.  Welcoming positive developments on the Korean Peninsula, he expressed support for the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.  Noting that Nicaragua has taken legal steps to combat the illicit proliferation of small arms and light weapons, he also said the use of information and communications technology must be guided by the purposes and principles enshrined in the United Nations Charter.

FRANCISCO DUARTE LOPES (Portugal) said his delegation shared the concerns and frustration about the lack of concrete steps on nuclear disarmament that led to the adoption of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.  However, the gradual reduction of such weapons, while considering legitimate security concerns, continues to be the best approach to ensure sustainable progress in multilateral disarmament negotiations.  That step‑by‑step approach has been driving progress since the cold war, but gains made may be at risk because of the current rise in global and regional tensions and growing signs of a new arms race.  However, he noted certain beacons of hope as well, including that the majority of Member States continue to support the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action one year after the United States withdrew from the agreement.  Turning to the disarmament machinery, he said the Conference on Disarmament remains closed to the admission of new States, such as Portugal, which has reaffirmed its interest in becoming a full member.  He urged all States to address the membership issue as a decisive step towards the renewal of the Conference’s work.

NAYEF ABDULHAMEED RAHMAN (Bahrain) said that it is an urgent necessity to combat nuclear threats in the Middle East, expressing support for efforts to establish a nuclear‑weapon‑free zone in the region, particularly the draft decision submitted by the Arab Group on holding a conference on the matter.  He also urged the universality of the Non‑Proliferation Treaty, which calls for the peaceful use of atomic energy.  Warning against the risk of weapons of mass destruction falling into terrorist hands, he said the international community needs further procedures to address that threat.  In closing, he said the withdrawal of the United States from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action could destabilize the Middle East.

Right of Reply

The representative of Syria, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said he would not use the comments he had prepared in advance because his counterpart from the United States has sent him a clarification explaining that he did not mean what was said to him on 11 October.  Responding to comments made by the representative of Georgia, he said Georgia is one of the main sources of trafficking terrorists to Syria and continues to host secret prisons for the Central Intelligence Agency of the United States as well as labs that develop biological weapons, in breach of its international obligations.  Meanwhile, the United Kingdom exports terrorists to Syria and beyond, while leading a smear campaign against his country.  The United Kingdom acts as a tool for another major Power and its foreign policy is part and parcel to problems around the world, including the apartheid regime, Cyprus and Hong Kong, among others.

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