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Lofty goals of peace, disarmament, non-proliferation require sound regional programmes, First Committee hears as thematic debates continue

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GA/DIS/3375

Sixty-third General Assembly
First Committee
17th Meeting (PM)

Disarmament Commission Needs Profound Self-Evaluation; If Disarmament Conference Remains Paralysed, Calls Will Ensue to Pursue Other Avenues to Advance Disarmament

The lofty goals of peace, disarmament and non-proliferation would not be achieved without effective programmes at the regional level, the representative of Nepal told the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) today as it completed its thematic debate on regional disarmament and security and continued hearing statements on disarmament machinery and nuclear weapons.

Introducing a draft resolution on the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Asia and the Pacific (document A/C.1/63/L.42), the representative said that, while global disarmament instruments were stagnant, regional centres could play a significant role to promote confidence at the regional and subregional levels.

Colombia's representative said the Regional Centres for peace disarmament and development, established by the United Nations in various parts of the world, particularly the Centre in Latin America and the Caribbean, had been particularly valuable. She stressed the importance of coordination among the different United Nations offices operating in the region, saying the establishment of synergies between them and the use of their technical and administrative infrastructure were critical to the support of national programmes and projects.

A number of other representatives, including from Pakistan, agreed that, if the world wanted peace, it would have to broker and maintain it at the regional level. "Global peace and security depends, in large measure, on stability at the regional and subregional levels," said Pakistan's delegate. "Instability at the regional and subregional levels spawns arms races and undermines the international community's efforts aimed at arms control and disarmament."

Then, too, when States were engaged in a bilateral process of confidence-building, they failed to register progress on arms control and disarmament measures because of extra-regional concerns, he said. Such "roadblocks" could only be removed through effective measures for disarmament and arms limitation at the global level, both in the fields of weapons of mass destruction and conventional arms.

Algeria's delegation introduced a draft resolution on the Strengthening of security and cooperation in the Mediterranean region (document A/C.1/63/L.18). The representative of the Netherlands, on behalf of the extended bureau of the United Nations Disarmament Commission, introduced the draft resolution on the Report of the Disarmament Commission (document A/C.1/L.48). Venezuela's delegate tabled the draft text entitled Report of the Conference on Disarmament (document A/C.1/63/L.47).

If the Conference on Disarmament remained paralysed, Norway's representative warned, "there will be stronger calls for considering other avenues in order to move the disarmament process forward". The Conference was plagued by standstill and ran the risk of being marginalized. As long as there was no consensus on a programme of work, the Conference could not move on negotiations on a much-needed fissile material cut-off treaty. Norway urged its Member States, especially those which had not yet joined consensus on a work programme, to demonstrate flexibility and allow the Conference to do what it was intended to do.

He further noted that the Disarmament Commission was not performing as well as it should. This year, it could not agree on any substantive recommendations. The Commission was intended to be a deliberative body, yet few countries found it useful enough to send experts from their capitals or Geneva. If the Commission was to be maintained, it should engage in an honest debate on its working methods. It had to provide an added value. He suggested having a shorter session with a focus on one or two topics, clearly defined by the General Assembly. Also, the Commission's report did not necessarily have to be a negotiated document; a Chair's summary should suffice. The Commission was, after all, a deliberative body, and he urged it to engage at its next session in "profound self-evaluation".

Statements were also made by the representatives of Brazil (on behalf of Southern Common Market (MARCOS)), Angola, Myanmar, Azerbaijan, Malta, Peru, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia.

The Committee will meet again at 3 p.m. on Monday, 27 October to conclude its thematic debates.

Background

The First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) met this afternoon to continue its thematic discussions on regional disarmament and security and on disarmament machinery. The Committee would also hear the introduction of related draft texts.

Thematic Debate on Regional Disarmament and Security

LUIZ FILIPE DE MACEDO SOARES (Brazil), speaking on behalf of the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR), pointed to General Assembly resolution 41/60J and said it had been 21 years since the establishment of the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace, Disarmament and Development in Latin America and the Caribbean. It was the only one of three Centres in the Office for Disarmament Affairs with a mandate that included, not only measures towards peace and disarmament, but also growth in economic and social development. That mandate had allowed the Regional Centre to establish the cooperation of some United Nations agencies and civil society to promote and integrate disarmament into the development programmes of States in the region.

He said that the Centre, since its creation, had assisted States in the region, through human and financial resources, in the promotion of security, disarmament and development at the regional and subregional levels. In disarmament, its assistance was aimed at development and confidence-building measures. It had helped to organize seminars, such as the one on developing a regional instrument for marking and tracking weapons. He underscored the contribution of the Centre in fighting the illicit trafficking of firearms.

In coordination with global organizations, the Centre had supported initiatives proposed by Member States to promote and implement multilateral instruments on disarmament and the non-proliferation of nuclear, chemical, biological weapons and their delivery systems, he noted. The lack of financial resources would seriously affect its capacity to effectively complete its mandate.

ISMAEL A. GASPAR MARTINS (Angola), speaking on behalf of the United Nations Standing Advisory Committee for Security Questions in Central Africa, recalled that the Committee had been established by the Secretary General on 28 May 1992. It was composed of the 11 member States of the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS). Its main goal was to put in place confidence-building measures, work towards the decrease in armaments in the region, and promote the economic and social development of the Central Africa subregion. It was an instrument of preventive diplomacy, aimed at heading off conflicts within and between its member countries. It met twice per year; initially, at the expert level with civil and military high-ranking officials, and subsequently, at the ministerial level, with the participation of Ministers of External Relations and Defence. It could also meet at the level of Heads of State and Government.

He said that the Committee, at its ministerial meetings, had adopted recommendations aimed at preventing the eruption or resurgence of conflicts and restore peace in situations of open conflict. The Committee had also discussed measures to promote interactive cooperation in the security domain, share experiences on disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programmes for former combatants, as well as examine ways and means of implementing the various international instruments relating to disarmament and non-proliferation in Central Africa. It had achieved several things so far, including: the signing of a non-aggression pact in Yaoundé (Cameroon) on 8 July 1996; the creation of an early warning mechanism for Central African countries (MARAC); the creation of a Central African multinational force (FOMAC); the creation of the Peace and Security Council of Central Africa (COPAX); and the creation of the Subregional Centre for Human Rights and Democracy.

The Committee had played an undeniably pivotal role in the prevention of conflicts, he said. Angola, during its mandate, would continue to encourage member States to spare no effort in dealing with any relevant situation that constituted a threat to peace, stability and security of the subregion.

U KYAW ZWAR MINN ( Myanmar) said that, in the face of current global challenges, the Regional Centres for Peace and Disarmament fostered a climate of understanding and cooperation, and provided education on disarmament and non-proliferation. The Centres also functioned as a forum for States in the region to interact on security issues of regional and global concern.

He welcomed the opening of the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Asia and the Pacific in Kathmandu and commended its important work promoting international and regional dialogue. Conferences held in Japan and the Republic of Korea had offered participants from Governments, non-governmental organizations, academia and research institutions, among others, an opportunity to discuss various issues.

The Centre would effectively serve the needs of its 43-county constituency. But to continue to do so depended largely on resources made available to it. Myanmar shared the view expressed in the Secretary-General's report that sporadic and insufficient core funding impacted directly on the sustainability and quality of the activities and services of the Centre. He hoped that adequate resources from the regular budget and from voluntary contributions would be made available.

RAZA BASHIR TARAR ( Pakistan) said global peace and security still depended largely on stability at regional and subregional levels. Instability at regional and subregional levels spawned arms races and undermined the international community's efforts aimed at arms control and disarmament. But at times, States that were engaged in a bilateral process of confidence-building failed to register progress on arms control and disarmament measures because of extraregional concerns. Such "road blocks" could only be removed through effective measures for disarmament and arms limitation at the global level, both in the fields of weapons of mass destruction and conventional arms.

He said that confidence-building measures in the realm of security at regional levels had to be tailored to the region's character and should begin with issues such as transparency and risk reduction, before States found themselves in a position to pursue more substantive arms control and disarmament measures. In addition, those measures should also aim at preserving a balance in the defence capabilities of States at the lowest level of armaments, placing special responsibility on the militarily significant States and States with larger military capabilities to promote agreements for regional peace and security.

Regional arrangements for disarmament and arms limitation should give priority to the elimination of the most destabilizing military capabilities and imbalances, he said. A stable balance of conventional forces was necessary to ensure strategic stability, particularly in tense regions. Massive inductions of sophisticated weaponry increased conventional asymmetries and forced greater dependence on nuclear and missile deterrence.

He said that confidence-building measures could lead to favourable conditions for the peaceful settlement of international problems and disputes. However, without progress towards eliminating underlying disputes and causes of mistrust between States, the utility of confidence-building measures diminished.

Pakistan had tabled draft texts on regional disarmament, conventional arms control and confidence-building measures at regional and subregional levels, recognizing the significance of regional approaches, he said.

In South Asia, Pakistan was pursuing a composite dialogue process that included confidence-building measures in nuclear and conventional weapons fields. He said some measures were already operational, including the establishment of hotlines and agreements of pre-notification of flight testing of ballistic missiles, and reducing risks of accidents relating to nuclear weapons.

It was time to advance from risk reduction to restraint, and the avoidance of an arms race, he said. For that purpose, Pakistan had proposed the establishment of a strategic restraint regime (SRR) in South Asia with three interlocking elements: conflict resolution; nuclear and missile restraint; and conventional balance. The regime's objectives could be facilitated through parallel progress towards the resolution of outstanding disputes in the region.

He said that the international community had an important role to play in promoting regional peace by supporting a comprehensive and equitable approach to peace and security, and by avoiding policies that created nuclear disparities, which undermined strategic stability. The international community could also promote regional peace by discouraging the introduction of destabilizing weapon systems, which could lead to an arms race and undermine military balance. It could agree on arms control and disarmament measures at the global level to create an environment conducive for substantive restraint measures in different regions.

OGTAY ISMAYIL-ZADA ( Azerbaijan) said his country actively participated in joint efforts to address regional and global issues, with particular focus on regional security, combating terrorism, non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and ensuring energy security. The region should be free from weapons of mass destruction. Development of regional relations in line with the nuclear non-proliferation norms was a precondition for ensuring and strengthening stability at the regional and global levels.

He said that regional disarmament and security played a vital role in establishing peace in conflict situations. Unfortunately, unresolved conflicts in many instances became a source of concentration of uncontrolled arms and provided fertile ground for transnational organized crime and other illegal activities.

During the last decade, Armenia had intensively built up its military presence and capability in the Nagorno-Karabakh region and other occupied territories of Azerbaijan. Data had shown that the numbers of unaccounted for and uncontrolled arms in the occupied territories had been consistently increasing. So far, Armenia was hiding up to 316 tanks, 324 armoured combat vehicles and 322 artillery systems in occupied territories. "These items of equipment must be counted against the maximum levels of Armenia's holdings and it is obvious that our neighbour has exceeded its ceilings more than twice, thus, seriously changing the military balance in its favour", he asserted.

As a consequence, he said, great numbers of UTLEs (unaccounted and uncontrolled treaty-limited equipment) were accumulated in the occupied territories of Azerbaijan. The occupied territories of Azerbaijan gave Armenia an opportunity to use repair facilities and transfer and hide UTLEs from the CFE (Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe) community.

"The statements of Armenian officials are full of accusations towards Azerbaijan about its alleged militaristic intentions and armaments race. The Armenians are stirring hysteria about oil revenues of Azerbaijan, which are supposedly being used for military purposes only", he said.

The increase in Azerbaijan's military budget was a matter of overall economic development of the country and the general increase of the State budget. "We are not exceeding the usual norms of expenditures in a peace time despite the fact of occupation and undeclared war", he said, while noting that the considerable part of expenditures went towards salaries, housing and other social needs of the military personnel. The military budget of Armenia as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP) was 3.86 per cent, while Azerbaijan's figure held at 3.26 per cent. "I want to declare that, as long as Armenia continues to follow its aggressive policy, any talks about peace, stability and all-inclusive cooperation in our region are irrelevant", he said.

CLAUDIA BLUM DE BARBERI (Colombia) said the Regional Centres for peace disarmament and development, established by the United Nations in various parts of the world, particularly the Centre in Latin America and the Caribbean, had been particularly valuable. She stressed the importance of coordination among the different United Nations offices operating in the region, saying the establishment of synergies between them and the use of their technical and administrative infrastructure were critical to the support of national programmes and projects.

She said Colombia was an example of those synergies. In 2005, her country had started consultations with the Regional Centre, in order to start benefiting from its training courses. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) had participated in those consultations.

The Regional Centre should play an increasingly active role in facilitating cooperation and in monitoring the implementation of the Programme of Actionto Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade inSmall Armsand Light Weapons in All Its Aspects. Colombia was also interested in the Regional Centre's support in carrying out some projects of national interest.

LARBI EL HADJ ALI ( Algeria) introduced a draft resolution on the Strengthening of security and cooperation in the Mediterranean region (document A/C.1/63/L.18). It called upon all States of the Mediterranean region that have not yet done so to adhere to all multilaterally negotiated legal instruments in the field of disarmament and non-proliferation, thus creating the necessary conditions for strengthening peace and cooperation in the region.

He said the draft text would encourage the Mediterranean countries to strengthen further their cooperation in combating terrorism in all its forms, including the possible resort by terrorists to use weapons of mass destruction, and in combating international crime and illicit arms transfers and illicit drug production, consumption and trafficking.

A new paragraph welcomed the adoption of a joint declaration of the Paris Summit in July, launching a reinforced partnership, the Barcelona Process: Union for the Mediterranean, he noted, adding his hope that the draft text would garner the Committee's support.

SAVIOUR BORG ( Malta) said the First Committee remained the "perfect platform" during the annual General Assembly session for Member States to discuss, not only matters related to global disarmament, but urgent pressing issues concerning international security, especially regional items.

He said that the Mediterranean region epitomized many of the thorny and multifaceted problems related to socio-economic and political instability. Since its independence in 1964, Malta had worked hard to promote security and cooperation in the region. Initiatives and processes of inclusion that various organizations had set in motion had bridged the divide within that strategically divided area and Malta had actively participated in diverse regional institutions and initiatives, including the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Mediterranean Action Plan and the Med Forum. Malta was looking forward to working closely with European Union-Med partners in the Barcelona process. Critical issues persisted in the region, however, including difficulties in the search for a durable solution in the Middle East and the core question of Palestine.

This year, Malta had hosted the first ever European Union-League of Arab States foreign affairs ministerial meeting, at which participants had stressed the need for a dialogue between the Union's 27 members and the League's 22 Arab States, he noted. The meeting had provided a useful and constructive opportunity for open dialogue on enhanced cooperation on regional and global issues of common concern. Subsequent meetings to be held in Vienna and a proposed meeting in Cairo would serve as "building blocks" for an invigorated partnership.

He said that one of Malta's current concerns was the influx of migrants, which was impacting negatively on the country's limited resources. Malta had already received a total of 2,522 migrants, a situation in the Mediterranean demanding concerted action. Malta remained committed to its international obligations in addressing that pressing humanitarian problem and welcomed the adoption of the European Union's Pact on Immigration and Asylum, which would contribute to a holistic approach to tackle illegal and legal immigration.

LUIS ENRIQUE CHAVEZ ( Peru) highlighted the positive work of the Regional Centre for Latin America and the Caribbean since its creation by the General Assembly 21 years ago. It was the only one of three regional centres whose mandate included not only the implementation of measures in favour of peace and disarmament, but also the promotion of social and economic development.

He said that the additional mandate had allowed it to develop activities that went beyond the mere field of disarmament, establishing relations of cooperation and synergies with some United Nations agencies, such as the Office on Drugs and Crime, among others. The Regional Centre had assisted the States of the region on initiatives directed at disarmament, integrating the disarmament theme into sustainable development. It had also granted assistance to States in the promotion and implementation of multilateral instruments and the creation of standards for confidence- and security-building measures.

Those and other initiatives had been made possible thanks to voluntary contributions, he said. Despite insufficient financial and human resources, the Centre had been consolidated as an efficient, viable, and relevant institution for assistance to all States of the region in the promotion of security, disarmament and development at the subregional and regional levels. The voluntary contributions had drastically reduced since last year, while the demands of States were increasingly more numerous and diversified, affecting the Centre's capacity to respond in an efficient manner.

He said that the Centre's financial stability deeply concerned the countries of the region. He pointed to the draft resolution A/63/157 which requested the Secretary-General to provide, for the biennial 2010-2011, the necessary support to assure the sustainability of the activities and basic operations of the Centre.

MADHU RAMAN ACHARYA (Nepal), introducing a draft resolution on the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Asia and the Pacific (document A/C.1/63/L.42), said that, while global disarmament instruments were stagnant, regional centres could play a significant role to promote confidence at regional and subregional levels. As the host country of a Regional Centre, Nepal was committed to lend its full support by consolidating the Kathmandu process.

He said that the draft resolution took into account the valuable suggestions provided in informal consultations, as well as the report of the Secretary-General, in which he indicated that the Regional Centre needed core funding for its staffing and operations. The lofty goals of peace, disarmament and non-proliferation would not be achieved without effective programmes at the regional level. He thanked Governments and donors that had provided resources and urged Member States to generously contribute to the Centre's programmes so it could fulfil its objective effectively.

Thematic Debate on United Nations Disarmament Machinery

PIETER DE KLERK (Netherlands), speaking on behalf of the extended bureau of the United Nations Disarmament Commission, introduced the draft resolution contained in document A/C.1/L.48 entitled Report of the Disarmament Commission.

In accordance with General Assembly resolution 61/67, the draft text recommended that the Commission include in its agenda for the 2009 substantive session an item entitled "Elements of a draft declaration of the 2010s as the fourth disarmament decade". It also recommended that the Commission intensify consultations, with a view to reaching agreement on remaining agenda items before the start of its substantive session in 2009. Those consultations might be conducted by the present Bureau or by the Bureau to be elected in the coming month. The urgency of issues before the Commission was increasing and it should seize the opportunity of having fruitful, multilateral dialogue in the field of disarmament and non-proliferation.

GERMAN MUNDARAIN HERNANDEZ (Venezuela) introduced a draft resolution entitled Report of the Conference on Disarmament (document A/C.1/63/L.47), which would have the Assembly recognize the need to conduct multilateral negotiations with the aim of reaching agreement on concrete issues and call on the Conference to further intensify consultations and explore possibilities, with a view to reaching an agreement on a programme of work. He called on the Committee to adopt the resolution without submitting it to a vote.

VEHBI ESGEL ETENSEL ( Turkey) said his country favoured global disarmament and supported all efforts towards sustaining international security through arms control, non-proliferation and disarmament. As global problems could not be solved unilaterally or in small circles of "likeminded nations", effective multilateralism was "necessary and achievable". On the multilateral disarmament machinery, he said the Conference on Disarmament, the largest disarmament negotiating forum, had a leading role in addressing security challenges, but it had not yet overcome its decade-long stalemate.

He said that, under Turkey's presidency of that Conference, a compromise package had been submitted on behalf of the 2008 Presidents, and he encouraged members to begin talks on a fissile material cut-off treaty. The forum might also take initiatives in other areas, such as parallel advances on negative security assurances and prevention of an arms race in outer space. Calling the "P-6" platform an effective instrument for successfully steering the Conference, he welcomed the incoming Presidents' intention to continue that practice. Expanding membership was not a priority, and that matter should be addressed on a case-by-case basis.

In closing, he said that, while the current disarmament machinery had developed significant commitments, it could do better, and he urged States to find the political will to do so.

KNUT LANGELAND ( Norway) said that multilateral approaches to disarmament and non-proliferation were essential in developing, maintaining and further strengthening fundamental norms. A landmark was achieved this year through the adoption of the Cluster Munitions Convention in Dublin. The Convention strengthened international humanitarian law and provided a framework for implementation. The process towards its adoption had clearly demonstrated that multilateralism worked. What were required were innovative approaches involving all relevant stakeholders and mobilization of the necessary political will and determination to move forward. Important lessons could be drawn from the humanitarian disarmament approach.

He said that the Conference on Disarmament was plagued by standstill and ran the risk of being marginalized. As long as there was no consensus on a programme of work, the Conference could not move on negotiations on a much needed fissile material cut-off treaty. Norway urged its Member States, especially those which had not yet joined consensus on a work programme, to demonstrate flexibility and allow the Conference to what it was intended to do. However, the Conference was not an end in itself, he said, adding "if this body remains paralysed, there will be stronger calls for considering other avenues in order to move the disarmament process forward".

He further noted that the Disarmament Commission was not performing as well as it should. This year, it could not agree on any substantive recommendations. The Commission was intended to be a deliberative body, yet few countries found it useful enough to send experts from their capitals or Geneva to its session. If the Commission was to be maintained, it should engage in an honest debate on its working methods. It had to provide an added value. He suggested having a shorter session with a focus on one or two topics, clearly defined by the General Assembly. The report of the Commission did not necessarily have to be a negotiated document; a Chair's summary should suffice. "The UNDC is, after all, a deliberative body. We hope that the next UNDC session will engage in profound self-evaluation," he said.

It had been affirmed that profound reforms could only take place within the framework of a possible fourth special session of the General Assembly on disarmament, he said, adding that Norway would be more than plea