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Members Also Conclude General Debate on Review of Special Political Missions, Approving Related Draft Resolution

Delegates detailed their country’s efforts regarding radiation safety, urging sufficient resourcing for the Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation, as the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) approved a draft resolution on the effects of atomic radiation and another on special political missions. 

By the terms of the former text, the General Assembly would support the Scientific Committee’s intentions and plans for the conduct of its programme of work, in particular its next periodic global surveys of radiation exposure.  The Assembly would also ask the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to continue, within existing resources, to service the Scientific Committee and disseminate its findings to Member States, the scientific community and the public.  UNEP would also be asked to take proactive steps to ensure continuity through the timely appointment of the next Secretary of the Scientific Committee.

By other terms, the Assembly would decide to review the possible increase in the Scientific Committee’s membership with a view to establishing at its seventy‑third session a procedure for further increases.

Before today’s annual general debate on the topic, Hans Vanmarcke, Chair of the Scientific Committee, made a statement and presented the report of that body’s sixty‑fourth session.  The Scientific Committee had conducted an evaluation regarding observed thyroid cancer incidence after the 1986 Chernobyl accident, he said.  That incidence had continued to increase over the period 2006‑2015 and approximately 25 per cent could be attributed to radiation exposure from the accident.  Regarding the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident, he said that, so far, no evidence of an increase in thyroid cancer rates that could be attributed to radiation exposure had been observed. 

He also noted that contributions from some Member States to the General Trust Fund had helped accelerate the Scientific Committee’s work and expand outreach and infrastructure development.  However, if such contributions were not sufficient and sustained, he warned, the secretariat would have a significantly reduced capacity for supporting the Scientific Committee and taking on new projects.

Ukraine’s representative said his country had made a significant contribution to the Scientific Committee’s work dedicated to evaluating data on thyroid cancer in regions affected by the Chernobyl accident.  Practical and theoretical knowledge gained since that accident had also been widely used by the expert community to address the causes and consequences of the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi accident in Japan. 

On disaster preparedness, Pakistan’s representative said that her country had a commitment to further enhancing infrastructure, capacity and training of its personnel in collaboration with international organizations to support a radiation safety regime.  It was also committed to protecting workers and the environment from radiation, including by regularly participating in emergency exercises conducted by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). 

Algeria’s representative also noted his country’s cooperation with the IAEA, pointing out that it had arranged many regulatory and international symposiums to improve infrastructure for all countries that used radiological resources.  Also, while commending the Scientific Committee’s efforts and the circulation of its findings, he regretted that the entity had decided to reduce its liaison activities due to understaffing at the secretariat and diminishing resources.  He urged the Scientific Committee to reconsider so that its important work could continue.

Agreeing, Argentina’s representative said the entity’s current competencies should be maintained so that it would remain able to provide updated information for dissemination.  As such, she called for the appointment of the next Secretary and the maintaining of adequate human resources.  She also urged States to make material contributions and support its conclusions.  That was particularly important because voluntary contributions could be interpreted as impinging on the scientific work’s independence. 

Also today, the Committee concluded its consideration of the comprehensive review of special political missions, approving a related draft resolution by consensus.  By the terms of that text, the Assembly would stress the need for the United Nations to continue improving its capabilities in the peaceful settlement of disputes.  It would also request the Secretary‑General to hold regular, inclusive and interactive dialogue on the overall policy matters pertaining to special political missions and to reach out to Member States prior to the holding of such dialogue to ensure participation.

Also speaking today were representatives of Iran, Cuba, Bangladesh, Mexico, Venezuela, Cameroon, Japan, Belarus, Belgium, Iraq, Sweden and the Russian Federation, as well as the European Union and the Holy See. 

The Fourth Committee will reconvene at 3 p.m. on Friday, 3 November, to take up the report of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories.

Background

Before the Committee was the report of the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation at its sixty‑fourth session (document A/72/46) — held from 29 May to 2 June 2017 in Vienna; a list of Member States expressing interest in membership in the Special Committee (document A/72/557) and a related draft resolution titled “Effects of atomic radiation” (document A/C.4/72/L.13).

Effects of Atomic Radiation

Opening Remarks

HANS VANMARCKE (Belgium), Chair of the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR), introducing the report, said that more than 120 scientists and the Scientific Committee’s 27 States members had participated in the sixty‑fourth session.  The session had approved two scientific annexes, now in the publication process.  The first entailed principles and criteria for ensuring the quality of the Scientific Committee’s reviews of epidemiological studies of radiation exposure.  Evidence from such studies was very important in scientifically evaluating radiation effects and risks, he noted.  The second annex dealt with the evaluation of epidemiological studies of cancer risk from exposure at low‑dose‑rates from environmental sources.  Overall results of that work showed no evidence that the risk of cancer per unit dose at low‑dose‑rates was higher than that derived from studies at higher doses.  However, he cautioned that there were considerable uncertainties because statistical power had been limited and there were confounding factors and inaccuracies in exposure assessment.

He went on to report that the Scientific Committee had conducted an evaluation of the latest data provided by Belarus, the Russian Federation and Ukraine on observed thyroid cancer incidence after the 1986 Chernobyl accident.  Over the period 2006‑2015, both the total number of cases of thyroid cancer and the number of cases per 100,000 person‑years had continued to increase, he said.  As such, the Scientific Committee had estimated that approximately 25 per cent of the observed incidence could be attributed to radiation exposure from the accident. 

Regarding the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident, he recalled that, following the UNSCEAR 2013 report, the Scientific Committee had established a follow‑up mechanism so it could remain abreast of new publications in the scientific literature.  Since then, the Scientific Committee had endorsed two White Papers in 2015 and 2016, respectively.  A third White Paper had been published the previous week and shared with the authorities, scientific community and public in Japan.  He reported that, so far, no evidence of an increase in thyroid cancer rates that could be attributed to radiation exposure had been observed.  However, some scientific topics did warrant further analysis or additional research, and thus, the Committee had asked the secretariat to develop a plan for updating the 2013 report.

He recalled that, at its previous session, the Scientific Committee had also agreed on long‑term strategic directions for its work beyond 2019, envisaging the establishment of standing working groups, inviting expertise from non‑member States, increasing efforts to present its evaluations and further enhancing liaison with other bodies.  He voiced gratitude for contributions from some member States to the UNSCEAR General Trust Fund, which assisted the secretariat in accelerating work and addressing outreach and infrastructure development.  If such contributions were not sufficient and sustained, he warned, the secretariat would have a significantly reduced capacity in terms of supporting the Scientific Committee and taking on new projects.

MALCOLM CRICK, Secretary of UNSCEAR, said he would be stepping down from his position at the Scientific Committee at the end of February.  He emphasized that UNSCEAR was “a very important cog in a system” to ensure that people exposed to radiation in different forms were protected.

Statements

ANNE KEMPPAINEN, European Union, said the work and assessments undertaken by the Scientific Committee played an important role in improving international scientific understanding of the levels of exposure to ionizing radiation and its health and environmental effects.  She welcomed the Scientific Committee’s focus on quality criteria for epidemiological studies of radiation effects and its decision to publish a dedicated document.  She went on to note, with approval, the Scientific Committee’s intention to issue electronically, on its website, the evaluation of thyroid cancer data in regions affected by the Chernobyl accident.  She also welcomed its future plan to incorporate quality criteria for reviews of epidemiological studies of cancer risk to low‑dose‑rate radiation from environmental sources. 

GABRIELA MARTINIC (Argentina) noted that substantive scientific assessments had been carried out during the Scientific Committee’s sixty‑fourth session, expressing hope that the United Nations would publish the annexes.  Regarding the future work of the Scientific Committee, she said that her delegation was interested in updates on the risks of exposure to radon gas and a coefficient to calculate the active concentration of radon in the atmosphere.  The Scientific Committee should also focus on secondary cancers caused by the use of radiotherapy.  The current competencies of the entity should be maintained so that it would remain able to provide updated information for dissemination.  As such, she called for the appointment of the next Secretary and the maintaining of adequate human resources.  She also urged States to make material contributions and support its conclusions, as her country had been doing since the Scientific Committee was established.  That was even more important because voluntary contributions could be interpreted as impinging on the scientific work’s independence.  Looking forward to the sixty‑fifth session, her delegation agreed that each State should be invited to appoint a scientist to participate as an observer, but doing so should not be interpreted as an invitation to join the Scientific Committee. 

EHSAN MATIN RAZM (Iran), commending the work of the Scientific Committee, said that despite the benefits and diverse uses of atomic energy, the possible harmful effects of atomic radiation should not be ignored.  Nuclear technology should be handled with the utmost care and control, he said, underscoring the paramount importance of sharing best practices, knowledge and experiences.  He went on to say that all nations with a high level of expertise and scientific potential in nuclear issues and scientific potential should contribute to strengthening the Scientific Committee.

ANAYANSI RODRIGUEZ CAMEJO (Cuba) welcomed the Scientific Committee’s report that included data on the effects of the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi accident and was pleased that it included epidemiological studies on the effects of radiation.  The superior scientific quality of the report meant the data could be used as benchmarks for national Governments seeking to protect their citizens from radiation.  Cuba reiterated its position on the need to completely eradicate nuclear weapons.  Despite the financial challenges it faced, Cuba had shown support for Ukraine after the Chernobyl accident.  The Cuban project there also had proved important scientifically as the data collected was shared at international conferences and with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).  The Scientific Committee had cited the work of Cuba in publications addressing the aftermath of Chernobyl.  Partnerships and cooperation between the scientific community and United Nations were crucial, she stressed.  Experience had shown that only by working together would the goals of nuclear safety be achieved.

FAIYAZ MURSHID KAZI (Bangladesh) said that as his country continued to invest in nuclear safety and safeguards as part of efforts to further expand the scope of peaceful uses of nuclear energy, he found the Scientific Committee’s current programme of work covered a range of issues that were relevant to its national context.  In particular, he acknowledged the work of the Committee on the assessment of human exposure to ionizing radiation.  In view of the relevance and ramification of the entity’s work across multiple sectors, he underscored the importance of its enhanced synergy and coordination with other relevant United Nations entities, including the IAEA, World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Labour Organization (ILO).

Ms. JAQUEZ (Mexico) said that Mexico continued to play an active part in the Scientific Committee’s work in order to ensure that Member States would benefit from it.  Her delegation had participated in the translation of a document on radiation effects and sources, which had been published by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to mark the Scientific Committee’s sixtieth anniversary.  In August, Mexico had joined the Group of Experts on Occupational Exposure and was charged with literature review and data analysis for a report by the Scientific Committee on that topic.  Her delegation would provide its data through the Scientific Committee platform designed for that purpose. 

VOLODYMYR LESCHENKO (Ukraine) said there was a continuing need to examine and compile information about atomic and ionizing radiation and analyse its effects on mankind and the environment.  He also pointed out the importance of disseminating results of the Scientific Committee’s work to widely publicize scientific knowledge about atomic radiation.  During 2016‑17, Ukraine had made a significant scientific contribution to the Scientific Committee’s work dedicated to evaluating data on thyroid cancer in regions affected by the Chernobyl accident.  That work was contained in document A/AC.82/R.723.  An authoritative report had been developed on thyroid health effects observed to date, primarily among people who had been children or adolescents at the time of the accident.  Practical and theoretical knowledge gained since the Chernobyl disaster had also been widely used by the expert community to address the causes and consequences of the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan. 

He went on to report that the New Safe Confinement (Arch) over Chernobyl’s destroyed Unit 4 had been completed in late 2016.  It was an unprecedented engineering project in terms of its design and construction, intended to replace the sarcophagus presently in place, and aimed at converting the Unit into an environmentally safe system.  It was a key part of the Shelter Implementation Plan, whose activities were an example of new approaches and technologies elaborated after Chernobyl, enabling radiation safety for more than 16,000 workers in a high‑risk area.  Moreover, a number of important national projects on decommissioning and radioactive waste management at Chernobyl had been successfully implemented through the IAEA’s Technical Cooperation Programme.  That agency had provided technical expertise to reduce exposure and advised the Government on securing the site and returning the land to productive use. 

SAIMA SAYED (Pakistan) said that the use of nuclear technology for peaceful means was rapidly increasing.  Pakistan used nuclear technology in many areas including power production, health, agriculture, bio-technology and pharmacology, she said, and had a robust national infrastructure to monitor those activities and protect the environment, general public and radiation workers.  She went on to say that measures were in place to appropriately respond to any accident or emergency situation.  Pakistan had a commitment to further enhance infrastructure, capacity and training of its personnel in collaboration with international organizations to support a radiation safety regime and protect workers and the environment from radiation, including by regularly participating in emergency exercises conducted by the IAEA.  Pakistan regularly used the Scientific Committee’s reports and recommendations as reference in developing national regulations, she added, and would continue to contribute to its activities by providing relevant data and information.

Ms. RODRIGUEZ (Venezuela) underscored the importance of the continued study of the effects of radiation on human health and the environment.  She reiterated Venezuela’s rejection of the use of weapons of mass destruction, but reaffirmed its position that it was a sovereign right of States to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.  Venezuela continued to develop its nuclear capabilities especially in the health field.  Her country established a regulatory system to guarantee the secure handling of nuclear resources and cooperated with the IAEA on various regulatory measures.  Although Venezuela was able to become fully functional in the nuclear sphere, it chose to only pursue nuclear activities for peaceful purposes, she said, adding that her country had signed an agreement in 2010 to construct two new reactors but had decided to freeze the project.  She praised the Scientific Committee’s follow‑up work in the field, including on the effects of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident.  She was concerned that the Scientific Committee’s awareness‑raising activities could be hamstrung by the lack of secretariat staff and financial resources.  The international community should act urgently to strengthen cooperation and support of those issues and, given the increasing use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, be ready for accidents that might occur as a result of natural disasters, she said.

MAMOUDOU MANA (Cameroon) said it was commendable that the international community had mobilized to combat the constant threat to mankind and the environment from atomic radiation.  He welcomed the Scientific Committee’s work and its methods evaluating the risk of exposure of the public to radioactive waste as well as the biological effects of certain emissions.  His Government had set up a national agency for protecting individuals against the effects of nuclear combustibles and had also provided legislation on protection from radiation.  It had adopted a set of measures to regulate the use, export and import of radiation sources, as well as dosage follow‑up for workers exposed to radiation.  In 2015, Cameroon had also ratified an additional protocol on applying safeguards as part of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. 

Ms. OKU (Japan), emphasizing her country’s commitment to nuclear safety, said today’s draft resolution affirmed ongoing support for the Scientific Committee and its programme of work.  She commended the publication of its report and annex on the levels and effects of radiation exposure following the great east Japan earthquake and tsunami in March 2011, saying those two documents had helped to alleviate public concerns when they were presented by the Secretary of the Scientific Committee in Iwaki City.  She also reaffirmed Japan’s continued support for the Scientific Committee’s work going forward.

MUSTAPHA ABBANI (Algeria) said his country was cognizant of the effects of radioactive contamination because it continued to suffer from the tests conducted in the Algerian desert in the 1960s.  Those affected areas were no longer useable or liveable, he said.  The Algerian Atomic Energy Commission played a significant role in creating legislation to control and monitor radiation sources, and regularly held training courses and awareness‑raising activities.  Algeria had arranged many regulatory and international symposiums including in cooperation with the IAEA to improve infrastructure for all countries that use radiological resources.  The Scientific Committee’s report provided valuable information, he said, and welcomed the annex that reflected the evaluation of low‑dose exposure.  He commended the significant efforts in implementing its strategy and the circulation of findings to the benefit of all.  However, he regretted that the Scientific Committee had decided to reduce its liaison activities due to understaffing at the secretariat and diminishing resources.  He urged the Scientific Committee to reconsider, so its important work could continue.

TATYANA FEDOROVICH (Belarus) said that the Scientific Committee was the most authoritative platform to study the effects of radiation.  She welcomed the work it was carrying out in the study of cancer as a result of outside sources of radiation in low doses and praised the qualitative methods used to gather criteria for those studies.  She went on to note that the rates of thyroid cancer in the areas around Chernobyl had been three times higher during the period after that accident (1991‑2015) than the number of those registered for the previous period.  That data suggested continued work was needed.  She also highlighted the importance of translating the findings of the Committee into all of the languages of the United Nations.

BERNARDITO CLEOPAS AUZA, Permanent Observer for the Holy See, said the recently‑adopted Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons was largely the result of renewed attention paid to the catastrophic consequences of nuclear weapons, including radiation‑related injuries.  The adoption of the Treaty brought the international community closer to a world without nuclear weapons and was a step toward the full implementation of the Treaty on the Non‑Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.  After the nuclear accidents in Chernobyl and Fukishima, peaceful uses of nuclear energy needed to be pursued with an approach that minimized the risk of accidents.  At the same time, improving the safety and protection of nuclear energy plants and sites would discourage terrorists from targeting them.  He commended the Scientific Committee for its important work, which would not only help eliminate the global health threats caused by nuclear explosions, but would also contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.  Listing the many benefits of nuclear technology, he called for those benefits to be more widely available to developing countries.

Action on Draft Resolution

The Fourth Committee then took up the draft resolution titled “Effects of atomic radiation” (document A/C.4/72/L.13). 

The representative of Belgium, introducing the draft resolution on behalf of its co-sponsors, said that the Scientific Committee’s work was recognized as important.  The resolution had been facilitated primarily in Vienna and was cosponsored by a high number of Member States from different regions. 

The Fourth Committee approved that text without a vote.

General Debate on Special Missions

The Committee then concluded its general debate on the comprehensive review of special political missions.

Mr. AL‑SAHHAF (Iraq), associating himself with the statement made by the Non‑Aligned Movement, said his Government functioned in a harmonious manner and promoted regular dialogue between national and regional bodies.  However, in some cases, the Government could not agree with regional decisions that might hinder the unity of the country as guaranteed by its Constitution.  For instance, the Government had refused a referendum which would have violated the Constitution.  The relationship between the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) and the Government was characterized by ongoing communication, advice and assistance.  That cooperation had been instrumental in planning the population census and electoral process, ensuring good relations with neighbours and on matters related to human rights and judicial reforms.  The coordination with United Nations bodies would only increase as they worked to provide assistance to Iraqis who had been displaced in the aftermath of occupation by Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh).  He welcomed UNAMI’s activities and stressed the importance of communication and cooperation between the Mission and his Government.

SIGRUN RAWET (Sweden) noted that special political missions were versatile, flexible and effective peace and security tools that should be sustained throughout the conflict cycle.  Therefore, States should be ready to ensure that their financing and backstopping was set up to deliver that versatility and flexibility over time, while bearing in mind that preventing conflict was cheaper than stopping violence after it broke out.  Such missions were also well‑placed to work across pillars and with regional partners in the field, ensuring that early political engagements and long‑term political strategies continued in tandem with development, human rights and humanitarian efforts.  The Secretary‑General’s proposed reforms aimed to better integrate peace operations in the Organization’s holistic efforts to prevent conflict and sustain peace.  Those changes were absolutely necessary, she stressed, expressing Sweden’s strong support for the Secretary‑General’s reform agenda to bring together the capacity of the three pillars.  Further, lasting peace required the full, equal and effective participation of women as a key component of mission work. 

IGOR KUZMIN (Russian Federation) said special political missions were effective institutions in settling crises and assisting with the maintenance of international peace and security.  They were instrumental in preventing nations from lapsing into new conflict phases, helping to set up dialogues within societies and assisting with national reconciliation.  Adding that the mandates of those missions must be clearly set out and realizable, he pointed to the growing complexity of their tasks, which might include assisting with maintenance of law and order, holding elections and reforming the security sector.  He stressed the significance of special political missions closely cooperating with host countries, paying due respect to national sovereignty.  Regional and subregional organizations, in coordination with the United Nations, could also contribute to resolving post‑conflict situations.

Action on Draft Resolution

Next, the Committee took up a draft resolution titled “Comprehensive review of special political missions” (document A/C.4/72/L.10), approving it by consensus.

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Regional Partners Must Steady Increasingly Unstable Security Landscape, First Committee Speakers Stress, Calling for Drive to Boost Trust

Regional efforts must advance common disarmament priorities and address global security challenges, said speakers in the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) today as they highlighted the importance of cooperation and confidence‑building in an increasingly unstable world.

The representative of Pakistan said achieving a stable balance of conventional forces and weapons through cooperative initiatives was imperative, particularly in regions characterized by tension and disputes.  At the same time, confidence‑building measures could help to create favourable conditions to resolve disputes peacefully, but they should not become an end in themselves, he added.

Offering a similar perspective, the representative of Bangladesh said the notion of “strategic stability” based on nuclear deterrence was of concern for his country.  Peaceful dialogue and diplomacy remained the best option for building sound regional security architecture.

In that connection, Cameroon’s delegate introduced a draft resolution on regional confidence‑building measures and activities of the United Nations Standing Advisory Committee on Security Questions in Central Africa.  The draft text reaffirmed efforts to promote confidence‑building measures for removing tensions and reducing conflict in the region.

Several delegates highlighted best practices at the regional level that, in some cases, could be replicated in other parts of the world.  France’s representative cited the Group of Five for the Sahel (G‑5 Sahel) Joint Force, which encouraged the five States — Chad, Niger, Burkina Faso, Mali and Mauritania — to bolster their military presence in border areas and improve coordination through a single chain of command.  He also noted that global, regional and subregional non‑proliferation and disarmament initiatives could be mutually reinforcing when designed with a view to achieving complementarity.

Indeed, mutual trust was essential, Cuba’s delegate said.  She emphasized that the proclamation of Latin America and the Caribbean as a zone of peace had promoted general and complete disarmament and enabled confidence‑building in the region.  Implementing regional confidence confidence‑building measures contributed to avoiding conflict and preventing unwanted or accidental break of hostilities.

Underscoring some of the challenges in implementing regional agreements, the representative of Egypt said the long‑standing unresolved issue of establishing a nuclear‑weapon‑free zone in the Middle East was undermining the sustainability and credibility of the Treaty on the Non‑Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.  Many delegates echoed his call for resolving the issue, with some asking Israel to accede to the Non‑Proliferation Treaty and end the impasse on the issue.

A panel discussion on “Disarmament machinery” featured the President of the Conference on Disarmament; Chair of the United Nations Disarmament Commission; Chair of the Secretary‑General’s Advisory Board on Disarmament Matters; and the Director of United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR).

The following draft resolutions were introduced: regional confidence‑building measures in Central Africa; the strengthening of security and cooperation in the Mediterranean region; the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace, Disarmament and Development in Latin America and the Caribbean; the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Asia and the Pacific.

Also speaking today were the representatives of Kazakhstan, Iraq, Algeria, United Arab Emirates, Peru, Togo, Kuwait, Myanmar, Azerbaijan, Nepal, Ukraine, Bahrain, Russian Federation and Iran.

The representatives of Syria, Myanmar, Armenia, Russian Federation, United States, Azerbaijan and Bangladesh spoke in exercise of the right of reply.

The Committee will meet again at 3 p.m. on Wednesday, 25 October, to conclude its debate on the disarmament machinery.

Background

The First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) met to continue its thematic discussion on regional disarmament and security and held a panel discussion on the disarmament machinery.  For background information, see Press Release GA/DIS/3571 of 2 October.

Panel Discussion

A panel discussion on “Disarmament machinery” featuring Julio Herráiz, President of the Conference on Disarmament; Gabriela Martinic (Argentina), Chair of the Disarmament Commission; Trevor Findlay, Chair of the Secretary‑General’s Advisory Board on Disarmament Matters; and Jarmo Sareva, Director of the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR).

Mr. HERRRÁIZ asked Member States to strengthen their patience vis‑à‑vis the two‑decade‑long paralysis in the Conference on Disarmament because the alternative was not an option.  Presenting the 2017 report, he highlighted activities, including that 27 States to date had requested joining.  Also, an open‑ended working group had taken stock of progress made on all issues of the agenda.  Although divided on its approach, members had debated ways to make advancements towards a nuclear‑weapon‑free world, with disarmament emerging as a priority.  Discussions had focused on two priority issues that would be important to a future programme of work: a fissile material cut‑off treaty and continued negotiations towards a mandate on negative security assurances.  Overall, there was a need to strengthen the constructive, common view to bring back to the Conference the mandate of negotiating treaties.  To do so, serious decisions needed to be adopted, he said, emphasizing that the power was in Member States’ hands.

Ms. MARTINIC said that while the Disarmament Commission was a deliberative body charged with producing a set of recommendations, it had been in a paralysis for 18 years.  The 2017 substantive session, the third year of the cycle to address nuclear disarmament and confidence‑building measures on nuclear arms, had seen delegations having discussions on a range of issues and reach an understanding, which was what multilateralism was all about.  Discussions on outer space had proven to be constructive.  Compromise was possible with lots of patience, goodwill and listening, she said, adding that multilateralism offered a win‑win situation for all.  It could be difficult and frustrating, but it took time, she said, encouraging all to follow that path.

Mr. FINDLAY said substantive issues on the Advisory Board’s 2017 agenda included the threat of cyberattacks by terrorists on nuclear facilities, the impact of artificial intelligence and a review of the recommendations contained in a United Nations study on disarmament and non‑proliferation education.  Recommendations included forming a science and technology advisory group, allocating more resources to nuclear security and that Member States should consult on measures to deal with biosecurity threats, given the lack of a verification system or implementation body for the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on Their Destruction.  In addition, he proposed that Member States table a draft resolution dealing with artificial intelligence, which represented both an opportunity and a threat to international security.  On disarmament and non‑proliferation education, he called for a landmark study to be reissued with a new foreword by the Secretary‑General.  He also noted the disappointing response by Member States to report on disarmament and non‑proliferation education efforts.  Turning to UNIDIR, he said it was weathering funding and institutional challenges, but the Advisory Board was confident it had a bright future as a critical component of the disarmament machinery.

Mr. SAREVA, commending UNIDIR staff, said the Institute was constantly held accountable and had been able to deliver on that reputation.  Drawing attention to the report (document A/72/154), which described the road map of the organization and the rationale behind its agenda, he said its administrative and financial footing was more stable, but that could not be taken for granted.  The need to ensure its stability while maintaining its autonomy persisted.  While it did well in mobilizing earmarked resources, financing the institutional operations was challenging.  That strain was particularly pronounced when earmarked resources were declining.  Recalling General Assembly resolution A/RES/70/69, which had called for exceptional one‑off funding for UNIDIR for the biennium 2018‑2019 to preserve its future, he said the Institute offered fact‑based analysis on a range of security issues, acted as a facilitator and had, through its activities, helped Member States to improve their international security programmes.

After the floor opened, the representative of Myanmar said developing countries depended on UNIDIR and its good quality research, calling on colleagues in a position to do so to financially support the Institute.

Regional Disarmament and Security

KAIRAT UMAROV (Kazakhstan) said persistent instability and growing tensions around the world were making regional disarmament and security complicated to achieve.  Establishing a nuclear‑weapon‑free zone in the Middle East was an effective non‑proliferation measure and such designated areas should be expanded to all regions.  Turning to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on Iran’s nuclear programme, he said that ensuring its proper implementation could show the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea “the right road map” with a legal solution that could actually work pragmatically.

Mr. HASSAN (Egypt), associating himself with the Arab Group and Non‑Aligned Movement, said the longstanding unresolved issue of establishing a nuclear‑weapon‑free zone in the Middle East undermined the sustainability and credibility of the Treaty on the Non‑Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.  The right way forward on that issue had been outlined in the proposal presented by the Non‑Aligned Movement at the 2015 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non‑Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, which had been acceptable to all States except three.  Egypt would continue to seek the implementation of the 1995 Review and Extension Conference resolution by creating a clear road map aimed at starting negotiations to conclude a legally binding treaty establishing a Middle East zone free of nuclear weapons.

Mr. SAEED (Pakistan) said regional arrangements for disarmament and arms limitation should give priority to addressing the most destabilizing military capabilities and imbalances in both the conventional and non‑conventional spheres.  In regions characterized by tension and disputes, achieving a stable balance of conventional forces and weapons through cooperative initiatives was imperative.  Confidence‑building measures could help to create favourable conditions to resolve disputes peacefully, but they should not become an end in themselves.  Rather, they should be pursued alongside sincere dispute settlement efforts, in line with the United Nations Charter.

FAIYAZ MURSHID KAZI (Bangladesh), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, said the notion of “strategic stability” based on nuclear deterrence was of concern for his country.  Peaceful dialogue and diplomacy remained the best option for building sound regional security architecture.  He emphasized the need for establishing a nuclear‑weapon‑free zone in the Middle East in the interest of sustainable peace and stability in the region.  Recognizing the useful role of the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Asia and the Pacific in convening relevant experts and policymakers to share views on issues of concern, he said that his country benefited greatly from the centre’s customized support in promoting the implementation of the Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects.

MICHEL TOMMO MONTHE (Cameroon) introduced a draft resolution on regional confidence‑building measures and activities of the United Nations Standing Advisory Committee on Security Questions in Central Africa.  The draft recalled the principles guiding general and complete disarmament.  The role of the Committee was to promote disarmament, non‑proliferation and development in the subregion, as well as to serve as an element of preventive diplomacy in the region.  The new elements of this year’s draft resolution took into account the revitalization of the work of the Committee to improve its peace agenda, and of the entry into force of 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 (Kinshasa Convention).  The draft resolution reaffirmed efforts to promote confidence‑building measures for removing tensions and reducing conflict in the region.  It had also included a timeline of activities to fight terrorism and arms trafficking.

Ms. SÁNCHEZ RODRÍGUEZ (Cuba), associating herself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, stressed the importance of regional and subregional initiatives in proclaiming zones free of nuclear weapons and weapons of mass destruction.  The proclamation of Latin America and the Caribbean as a zone of peace promoted general and complete disarmament and enabled confidence‑building in the region.  Implementing regional confidence‑building measures contributed to avoiding conflict and preventing unwanted or accidental hostilities.  Establishing a nuclear‑weapon‑free zone in the Middle East would be a fundamental step for regional peace.  Underlining the importance of the work of the United Nations regional centres for peace and disarmament, including in her region, she lamented that the current resources were limited and insufficient.

Mr. REDHA (Iraq), associating himself with the Arab Group and Non‑Aligned Movement, reaffirmed the importance of establishing nuclear‑weapon‑free zones, which would “bring us closer to achieving international peace and security”.  He regretted to note the failure to achieve consensus on the final document of the 2015 Review Conference of the Non‑Proliferation Treaty.  Establishing a nuclear‑weapon‑free zone in the Middle East to ease the tensions in the region depended on Israel joining the Non-Proliferation Treaty as a non‑nuclear‑weapon party.

ABDELKARIM AIT ABDESLAM (Algeria), associating himself with the Arab Group and Non‑Aligned Movement, stressed his country’s emphasis on regional solidarity on security issues and its correspondingly deep concern at the lack of a nuclear‑weapons‑free zone in the Middle East.  In addition, he reiterated warnings about the uncontrolled proliferation of all types of conventional weapons in North Africa and the Sahel, and its close link with terrorism and transnational crime.  Given the magnitude of the humanitarian consequences of the spread of such arms, he underlined the importance of technical and financial assistance to stem their proliferation.  Affirming support for reconciliation among Algeria’s Libyan and Malian brothers, he expressed hope that he could count on support for the draft resolution submitted by his country, as in years past, on strengthening of security and cooperation in the Mediterranean region.

Ms. OWEIDA (United Arab Emirates), associating herself with the Arab Group and Non‑Aligned Movement, said the Non‑Proliferation Treaty was a model in the region for the peaceful uses of nuclear energy.  On the establishment of a nuclear‑weapon‑free zone in the Middle East, she renewed the call for Israel to enable progress on that issue and accede to the instrument.  Turning to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, she said Iran must adhere to its provisions.  Further, United Arab Emirates supported international efforts to end Iranian activities that undermined security and stability in the region.  It also supported the First Committee’s efforts geared towards adopting effective measures that would contribute to the promotion of regional and international peace.

ENRI PRIETO (Peru), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, highlighted the varied efforts of the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace, Disarmament and Development in Latin America and the Caribbean.  Member States had benefited from technical and legal assistance, and from training in marking, destruction and tracing of small weapons as part of an initiative to promote the implementation of the International Tracing Instrument and the Programme of Action on Small Arms.  The Regional Centres had also strengthened the capacity of Governments and assisted in the destruction of small arms.  For its part, Peru had launched a project to promote the participation of young people and raise awareness about dangers of firearms, he said, introducing a draft resolution titled “United Nations Regional Centre for Peace, Disarmament and Development in Latin America and the Caribbean” and calling for delegations to approve it by consensus.

ESSOHANAM PETCHEZI (Togo) said that in Africa, where small arms and light weapons had posed grave challenges for States, the Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Africa had encouraged cooperative efforts and provided technical support.  It had provided support to the African Union in carrying out its sustainable development agenda, particularly in achieving the goal of silencing weapons by 2020, to efforts in the Sahel to stop the illicit circulation of small arms and light weapons and to the emerging debate on maritime security, having participated in an extraordinary session of the African Union on that issue.  Expressing gratitude for the Regional Centre’s efforts, he highlighted its financial challenges and appealed to Member States to donate funds and to support Nigeria’s related draft resolution.

Mr. COUSSIÈRE (France) said ambitious best practices at the regional level could inspire work in United Nations forums and disarmament conventions.  The European Union was the best example, having succeeded in drawing lessons from a painful past, and its cooperation tools had a strong regional dimension, including in the field of disarmament.  Among other international initiatives, France was involved in the Group of Five for the Sahel (G‑5 Sahel) Joint Force, encouraging the five States Chad, Niger, Burkina Faso, Mali and Mauritania to bolster their military presence in border areas and improve coordination through a single chain of command.  At the European level, France strongly supported establishing transparency and confidence‑building measures adapted to the geographic situation in the region.  Outlining some of those agreements, he said global, regional and subregional non‑proliferation and disarmament initiatives could be mutually reinforcing when designed with a view to achieving complementarity, and cited the international community’s mobilization against the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons as one positive example.

TALAL S. S. S. AL FASSAM (Kuwait), associating himself with the Arab Group and Non‑Aligned Movement, underlined the importance of achieving a world free of nuclear weapons.  Urging States to focus on working towards achieving that objective, he regretted to point out the failure of achieving a nuclear‑weapon‑free zone in the Middle East despite all efforts.  In 2010, States had been very close to achieving that goal; however, such a zone had not been created because of Israel.  Voicing concern about the failure of Israel to join the Non‑Proliferation Treaty and place its nuclear capabilities under International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) control, he said the current situation posed a threat to the security and humanitarian and environmental safety in the region.

PYE SOE AUNG (Myanmar), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), recalled that in 2016, his country had organized a national round table on the implementation of Security Council resolution 1540 (2004) in cooperation with the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs.  At that event, stakeholders had exchanged views on best practices regarding implementing the resolution to counter the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction to non‑State actors.  Also in 2016, the Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Asia and the Pacific had organized a capacity‑building workshop on small arms and light weapons in Myanmar in order to formulate international instruments as well as domestic legislation and available tools for assistance.

FARID JABRAYILOV (Azerbaijan), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, said that although his country had not ratified the 1992 Tashkent Agreement on the Principles and Procedures for the Implementation of the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe, it had been voluntarily applying and observing the provisions.  Stressing the importance of confidence‑building measures, he cited Azerbaijan’s participation in the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and said that illicit trade in small and light weapons must be eradicated.  However, implementation of arms control and disarmament instruments was being hampered by Armenian aggression against Azerbaijan.  Armenia was in flagrant violation of the treaty obligations, continued its military build‑up in occupied territories and misinformed the United Nations community by providing false information.  Any confidence‑building measure proposed by Armenia would not be considered by his country until it withdrew its armed forces from Azerbaijan’s territories.

Mr. THAPA (Nepal), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, highlighted the important role of regional centres in promoting international peace and security, and encouraged them to partner with youth, the private sector and civil society to develop confidence‑building measures and to act as a repository of best practices.  They should also be strengthened to fulfil their mandates.  In partnership with the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Asia and the Pacific, Nepal had encouraged confidence‑building measures in the region and had also organized a conference on the implementation of resolution 1540 (2004).  Recognizing the role regional centres could play in supporting Sustainable Development Goal 16 and in including women in disarmament activities, he called for voluntary contributions by Member States.  As host of the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Asia and the Pacific, Nepal had tabled a resolution on that topic and hoped it would gain consensus.

ANDRIY TSYMBALIUK (Ukraine), expressing support for draft resolutions on regional and subregional arms control and confidence‑building measures, said his country was a long‑term participant of confidence‑building mechanisms, including the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe, the Open Skies Treaty and the Vienna Document on Confidence- and Security-Building Measures.  Ukraine had continued to comply with its obligations, despite shouldering the burden of the Russian Federation’s invasion.  Expressing support for bilateral confidence‑building measures with neighbouring countries in border areas, as outlined in the Vienna Document, he regretted to note that the Russian Federation had caused an impasse on subregional military cooperation and confidence‑building agreements between the littoral States of the Black Sea.  Nevertheless, experience gained in the OSCE area with the development of confidence‑building measures deserved proper attention, and the Vienna Document could serve as an example for similar arrangements in other regions of the world.

Mr. NOJEM (Bahrain), associating himself with the Arab Group and Non‑Aligned Movement, highlighted the importance of an agreement to establish a nuclear‑weapon‑free zone in the Middle East for achieving regional peace and stability.  He also underlined the importance of the Non‑Proliferation Treaty in facing the catastrophic security and humanitarian danger resulting from nuclear weapons.  Denouncing Israel’s rejection to adhere to that instrument and to IAEA safeguards, he said such actions represented a threat to the security in the region and obstructed progress in non‑proliferation endeavours.  His delegation looked forward to obtaining positive results in establishing a nuclear‑weapon‑free zone in the Middle East.

VLADIMIR YERMAKOV (Russian Federation) said his delegation had presented a draft treaty on comprehensive European security to substitute the outdated Treaty on Conventional Forces in Europe.  Instead, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) had accelerated its “reckless expansion to the East”, building military infrastructure near his country’s border.  There had also been direct interference in the internal affairs of the Russian Federation’s neighbouring country and attempts at a regime change using anti‑constitutional methods.  For that reason, the Russian Federation had supported the German initiative to launch a “structured dialogue” on European security issues in the OSCE region, easing tensions and restoring trust.  The OSCE Forum for Security Cooperation could become the best platform for promoting dialogue; however, its potential had been weakened by unilateral NATO actions that severed military cooperation with the Russian Federation.  The Open Skies Treaty remained an important confidence‑building measure.  However, after the coup d’etat in Kyiv, followed by unjustified claims against the Russian Federation on alleged armed forces concentrations near Ukraine’s border, he said his country had demonstrated transparency by allowing observation flights in that area.

ESHAGH AL HABIB (Iran), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, said the Middle East remained one of the world’s most volatile regions, with the Israeli regime and two Persian Gulf States among the world’s top 15 countries for military expenditures in 2016.  To restore security and stability, the elimination of Israel’s nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction, and its accession to related international instruments, was crucial.  So too would be the establishment of a Middle East nuclear‑weapon‑free zone.  There must also be a sharp decrease in military expenditures and arms imports by Israel and certain Persian Gulf States, he said, emphasizing that Iran continued to have one of the lowest levels of military expenditures in the region while being party to all major treaties banning weapons of mass destruction.

Right of Reply

The representative of Syria, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said many European Union countries had trafficked and smuggled weapons to armed terrorist organizations in the region, and its coercive measures against his country were mainly responsible for the suffering of millions of people.

The representative of Myanmar said the humanitarian situation along the border of Bangladesh had nothing to do with disarmament issues being addressed by the Committee.  He affirmed that his Government was responding to the humanitarian crisis and would continue to work with others in good faith.

The representative of Armenia said his counterpart from Azerbaijan had failed to explain the reason behind constantly rejecting the establishment of any confidence‑building measures vis‑à‑vis Nagorno‑Karabakh.  It was unacceptable to allow Azerbaijan to continue ceasefire violations, he said, adding that Armenia would keep working towards a peaceful settlement through the OSCE Minsk Group.

The representative of the Russian Federation said the Kyiv authorities had fulfilled none of their commitments under the Minsk agreements, which contained no provisions that dealt directly with his country.  The Russian Federation could not withdraw troops from Donbass because there were none there.

The representative of the United States said improved relations between NATO and the Russian Federation would depend on the latter’s compliance with international law and commitments.  Emphasizing that NATO enlargement was not directed at the Russian Federation, he said the United States would keep honouring its Open Skies Treaty commitments.  The Russian Federation must stop interfering in its neighbours’ affairs, he said, adding that “all those little green men causing havoc in Ukraine” did not come out of nowhere.

The representative of Azerbaijan said Armenia must demonstrate constructiveness and respect for international law by withdrawing its forces from Azerbaijani territory.  He emphasized that Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity would never be a subject for negotiation.

The representative of Bangladesh said the situation in Rakhine State was far from stabilized.  The humanitarian situation was the reason why thousands of Rohingya refugees were crossing into Bangladesh, he said, adding that concerned and responsible Member States should reconsider arms transfers to Myanmar’s military forces.

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Break Deadlock in Disarmament Machinery by Casting Aside Narrow National Interests, ‘Misguided Notions of Parity’, Speakers Tell First Committee

States must overcome narrow national interests and “misguided notions of parity” to overcome the disarmament machinery’s deadlock and lead the Conference on Disarmament to adopt a programme of work, the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) heard today as its general debate entered a second week.

Speakers, including those from El Salvador and India, expressed hope for a new momentum to break the impasse in the Conference on Disarmament.  As the only multilateral negotiating forum for disarmament agreements, its 65 members had failed to agree on a work programme for almost two decades.  Disappointed to note that the proposed enlargement process at the Conference on Disarmament had been stalled for years, the representative of Cyprus stressed that its expansion would give a “new impetus to its work”.

Alongside calls to break the deadlock in the Conference on Disarmament, topics including chemical weapons, terrorism and a fissile material cut-off treaty took centre stage as delegates underscored the importance of multilateral cooperation in tackling some of the world’s most pressing disarmament challenges.  Reaffirming its support for such a unified approach, Portugal’s speaker emphasized that multilateralism, based on universal rules and values, was the most effective way to address common security challenges, manage shared disarmament responsibilities and devise collective non-proliferation initiatives.

Meanwhile, Kazakhstan’s representative reminded the Committee that disarmament and peace must be pursued in parallel and founded on mutual trust.  Yet, said Turkey’s speaker, the global nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation architecture was being challenged by the actions of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and Syria at a time of growing polarization in the area of nuclear disarmament,

No initiatives aimed at increasing safety, however, should be used as a pretext to restrict developing countries’ rights to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, said Namibia’s delegate, echoing a view held by several other speakers, including representatives of Bahrain and Jordan.

Other speakers expressed grave concerns over the looming risks of a radiological attack by terrorists and non-State actors.  To counter such threats, national measures must be adopted and international cooperation intensified, Singapore’s speaker stressed.  Striking a similar note, Saudi Arabia’s representative emphasized the importance of keeping dangerous weapons out of terrorists’ hands.  Meanwhile, Syria’s delegate condemned several States for supporting terrorist groups who were using toxic chemicals in his country.

Also delivering statements today were representatives of Cameroon, Costa Rica, Ireland, Canada, Panama, Nepal, Bulgaria and Poland.

Speaking in exercise of the right of reply were representatives of the Republic of Korea, Syria, United States, Qatar, Libya, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Turkey and Saudi Arabia.

The Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. tomorrow, 10 October, to conclude 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.

Statements

MOHAMMED HUSSEIN BAHR ALULOOM (Iraq), Chair of the First Committee, announced that an additional meeting would be held at 10:00 a.m. on Tuesday, 10 October to ensure that all Member States on the list of speakers for the general debate had the opportunity to participate.

HECTOR ENRIQUE JAIME CALDERÓN (El Salvador) congratulated the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons for its tireless efforts and for being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.  Commending the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, El Salvador had signed and ratified it, as its adoption strengthened the mechanism for disarmament.  It also complemented the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, he said, calling on parties to meet its provisions and seek consensus by the 2020 Review Conference.  Turning to current increased tensions and nuclear tests, he said renewed dialogue was the only way to ensure peace in all regions.  On the issue of small arms and light weapons, he praised the Arms Trade Treaty for being the first legally binding agreement of its kind.  Meanwhile, he expressed concerns that the Conference on Disarmament was not able to comply with its mandate, and urged for the swift commencement of its substantive work.

AMANDEEP SINGH GILL (India) said “national security interests and misguided notions of parity” had obstructed the Conference on Disarmament’s adoption of a programme of work.  India did not adhere to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, but was willing to work with its signatories in disarmament forums to prohibit the use of nuclear weapons and was ready to support negotiations on a fissile material cut-off treaty in the Conference on Disarmament.

For its part, India had completed its obligations on stockpile destruction under the 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.  It had also contributed to efforts for the destruction of Syria’s declared chemical weapons stockpiles.  Concerned about the threat of use of biological agents for terrorist purposes, he called on States parties to effectively implement the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on Their Destruction.  He also called for a continued substantive mandate, adequate funding and the participation of all stakeholders in the Group of Governmental Experts discussions on the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons.

KORNELIOS KORNELIOU (Cyprus), expressing his country’s commitment to all of the main disarmament and non-proliferation treaties, said he was disappointed to note that the enlargement process at the Conference on Disarmament had been stalled for almost two decades.  Its expansion would give a “new impetus to its work”, he said.  Condemning the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s recent actions, he called for cooperation and inclusiveness in the pursuit of common goals.  For that reason, Cyprus supported the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and was examining the possibility of acceding to it, he said, expressing a commitment to the Non-Proliferation Treaty and the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty.

CRISTINA MARIA CERQUEIRA PUCARINHO (Portugal), associating herself with the European Union, said multilateralism, based on universal rules and values was the most effective way to address common security challenges, manage shared disarmament responsibilities and devise collective non-proliferation initiatives.  The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s recent testing activities underscored the urgency of achieving the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and the importance of the Test-Ban Treaty, she said, reaffirming Portugal’s support for the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on Iran’s nuclear programme and for the Non-Proliferation Treaty, which remained the cornerstone of the international non-proliferation regime.  She also expressed support for the work of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and the joint OPCW-United Nations Joint Investigative Mechanism in Syria, Arms Trade Treaty and the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction.

KHALED ALMANZALAWIY (Saudi Arabia), associating himself with the Arab Group and Non-Aligned Movement, welcomed the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.  He regretted to note Israel’s rejection of efforts to create a nuclear‑weapon‑free zone in the Middle East and the failure of the 2015 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.  Emphasizing the importance of Iran’s commitment to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, he said sanctions should be swiftly reapplied in the case of any violations.  He reaffirmed, however, the right of all countries to the peaceful use of nuclear energy under International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) standards.  Calling for the implementation of conventions on biological and chemical weapons, he said accountability must be ensured for parties who had used chemical agents in Syria.  Other important issues included keeping dangerous weapons out of terrorists’ hands, activate national programmes to combat the illicit trade in small arms and ensuring outer space was used for peaceful purposes.

NEVILLE MELVIN GERTZE (Namibia), associating himself with the African Group and the Non-Aligned Movement, affirmed the importance of all three pillars of the Non-Proliferation Treaty.  Nuclear disarmament should remain a top priority.  Reiterating the call on nuclear-weapon States to fully comply with their obligations to accomplish the immediate, total, verified elimination of such arms, he said any further development of them contradicted that goal.  All non-nuclear-weapon States must be provided with unconditional assurances against the use or threat of such arms.  Reiterating support for nuclear-weapon-free zones, universal accession to the Test-Ban Treaty, and the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, he said all States must comply with international humanitarian law.  No initiatives aimed at increasing safety, however, should be used as a pretext to restrict developing countries’ rights to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, he said, calling for the removal of restrictions on importing related material.

BASHAR JA’AFARI (Syria), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said existing nuclear arsenals and threats by nuclear-weapon States and by terrorists continued to grow and proliferate.  Meanwhile, some Member States, including those on the Security Council, were using terrorism as a political weapon.  The United States and the United Kingdom, which were absent from the 2015 Review Conference, had persisted in defending Israel and its continued possession of nuclear weapons.  Other Western States had encouraged Israel to defy international opinion and not accede to the Non-Proliferation Treaty, he said, calling on all Member States to help establish a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East.

Turning to the issue of chemical weapons, he firmly condemned the crime of using such arms.  Syria had acceded to the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on Their Destruction and had honoured all its commitments.  Nevertheless, terrorist groups had obtained toxic chemical substances with the aid of intelligence services, sponsored by some States that were giving them orders to use such chemicals with the goal of accusing the Government of Syria.  The truth must come to light, he urged, adding that his delegation had sent letters expressing such fears to the Secretary-General, Security Council and Joint Investigative Mechanism and other stakeholders.

YERBOLAT SEMBAYEV (Kazakhstan) said that given current tensions, disarmament and peace must be pursued in parallel and based in mutual trust.  Nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation were main foreign policy priorities, he said, expressing deep concerns that nuclear-weapon States were not fulfilling their Non‑Proliferation Treaty obligations.   Those States must further reduce arsenals until they were fully eliminated, he urged, adding that nuclear weapons were no longer an asset, but a danger.  Further, nuclear-weapon-free zones played an important role in regional stability and every effort must be made to create such areas around the world, he said.  The early entry into force of the Test-Ban Treaty was in the basic interest of all, as was negotiating a fissile material cut-off treaty.  Also critical was the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action and the upcoming meeting on the Biological Weapons Convention.

RAUF ALP DENKTAŞ (Turkey) said the global nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation architecture was being challenged by the actions of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and Syria at a time of growing polarization in the area of nuclear disarmament.  Highlighting the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action as an example of the success of multilateral diplomacy in advancing the Non‑Proliferation Treaty’s objectives, he said Turkey was fully committed to the total elimination of nuclear weapons.  Recognizing the lack of an “easy shortcut” to a nuclear‑weapon‑free world, he said Turkey strongly supported the Non‑Proliferation Treaty and would not support any action that could undermine it.  At the same time, Turkey attached great importance to the Chemical Weapons Convention, as the use of such weapons constituted a crime against humanity.  To prevent the use of such weapons, the international community must ensure that there was no impunity for perpetrators.

Mr. ALTIDJU (Cameroon) said the international threat posed by the use of nuclear weapons remained high and the non-proliferation regime was not yet complete.  On the issue of conventional weapons, he said small arms and light weapons fed armed violence in Cameroon, which was committed to the idea that the efforts to achieve a nuclear-weapon-free world must be expanded in all areas, including chemical, biological, conventional and ballistic missile proliferation.  Yet, for developing countries like Cameroon, a priority was controlling small arms and light weapons and addressing the threat posed by terrorism and violent extremism.  Efforts to silence guns by 2020 would be helped by the entry into force of 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 (Kinshasa Convention).  Among other concerns, Boko Haram remained a serious regional threat despite collective efforts among the countries of the Lake Chad Basin Commission, he said, asking for the international community’s assistance and “solidarity” in coping with that terrorist group.

JOHN KHOO WEI EN (Singapore), endorsing the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the Non-Aligned Movement, expressed grave concern over the escalation of tensions on the Korean Peninsula and the looming risks of a radiological attack by terrorists and non-State actors.  Earlier in 2017, regional authorities had made arrests in connection to a theft of iridium-192, a radioactive material used to make dirty bombs.  To counter such threats, national measures must be adopted and international cooperation intensified.  For its part, Singapore had passed a terrorism bill in May and ratified the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism in August.

JAMAL FARES ALROWAIEI (Bahrain), associating himself with the Arab Group and the Non-Aligned Movement, expressed appreciation for the role of the United Nations in promoting stability in a number of regions.  He called for the universalization of the Test-Ban Treaty and for the establishment of a nuclear‑weapon-free zone in the region, urging Israel to submit its nuclear arsenal to IAEA safeguards.  He expressed support for Security Council sanctions on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, but affirmed the right of States to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.  Speaking of the need to prevent the militarization of outer space, he said Bahrain was committed to working with other States toward that objective.

JUAN CARLOS MENDOZA-GARCÍA (Costa Rica) said the adoption of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons represented a milestone of hope and closed a legal gap by categorically banning those arms.  Inaction was not an option, he said, noting that the status quo would lead humanity close to its own annihilation.  Achieving strength through weapons was a false premise, he said, calling on States to accede to the new treaty.  Pointing to the scant progress in implementing Article VI of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, he reminded nuclear‑weapon States that compliance in reducing their arsenals was compulsory.  Condemning nuclear-weapon States for spending billions of dollars on the continued development and modernization of their arsenals, he said such actions undermined the spirit of the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Ms. O’HALLORAN (Ireland), aligning himself with the European Union and the New Agenda Coalition, said the Nobel Peace Prize that had been awarded to the International Campaign for the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons had emphasized the urgency of the First Committee’s work.  The Korean situation, in addition, had demonstrated the urgency of Test-Ban Treaty’s entry into force, she said, calling on all remaining Annex II States to sign and ratify the instrument.  Further, momentum must be regained on establishing a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East and other States should follow Ireland’s example in swiftly acceding to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.  Expressing grave concern at the confirmed use of chemical weapons in Syria, she welcomed the recent announcement by the Russian Federation of the verifiable destruction of their arsenal.  Expressing support for all international instruments designed to minimize harm from conventional weapons, she raised several concerns, emphasizing that compliance with international humanitarian law must be strengthened in the matter of explosive weapons in populated areas.  She finally affirmed the importance of the participation of civil society, women and representatives of least-developed countries.

Ms. ROSEMARY MCCARNEY (Canada) raised concerns about the reckless actions of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and called for greater pressure on that country, especially through better sanctions implementation.  Canada remained unconvinced that the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons would be effective, she said, adding that the Non-Proliferation Treaty was the cornerstone for progress towards a nuclear-weapon-free world.  Emphasizing that a fully implemented Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action was in everyone’s interest, she called on Member States to consider making voluntary contributions to IAEA efforts to monitor and verify its implementation.  Voluntary measures that solidified international norms of behaviour were the most practical ways to develop confidence and transparency with regard to space security and the peaceful use of outer space.

LAURA ELENA FLORES HERRERA (Panama), condemning the nuclear and missile tests by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, said her country supported a range of disarmament measures and had subscribed to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.  Raising several other concerns, she regretted to note that the Test-Ban Treaty had not yet entered into force.  For its part, Panama placed great importance on the Non-Proliferation Treaty and was a member of a nuclear‑weapon‑free zone, lending support to all efforts to achieve related goals.  Disarmament was a fundamental component of development, not only to peace and security, she said, expressing support for taking a multidimensional view of security while considering human rights and development.

DURGA PRASAD BHATTARAI (Nepal), underscoring the importance of the General Assembly’s convening of a high-level conference on nuclear disarmament in 2018, said establishing nuclear-weapon-free-zones was a critical step towards giving disarmament genuine meaning.  Nuclear weapons could never be a useful deterrent and a legally binding instrument regarding negative security assurances by nuclear-weapon States would be an important step towards disarmament.  Noting that the worldwide humanitarian and development impacts of the proliferation of small arms and light weapons had reached a menacing proportion, he said regional mechanisms could play greater roles in promoting non-proliferation, general disarmament and confidence-building measures.  In addition, United Nations regional centres for peace and disarmament should be further strengthened and funded.

Mr. MANITAH (Jordan), associating himself with the Arab Group and the Non-Alignment Movement, said Member States must ensure that the First Committee’s work proceeded fruitfully.  The adoption of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons would enable progress in the disarmament process, he said, calling on States to sign and ratify the Non-Proliferation Treaty.  On that latter instrument, he recalled the need for Israel to join it and allow the establishment of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East.  Countries needed nuclear energy for sustainable development purposes and such endeavours must be subjected to IAEA safety and security standards.  Jordan had been among the first countries to ratify the Test-Ban Treaty, he said, calling on States to follow suit.  Citing several merging concerns, he said accelerated progress in technology had created a need for creating a mechanism that would stop terrorism in cyberspace and prevent militarization of outer space.

GEORGI VELIKOV PANAYOTOV (Bulgaria), associating himself with the European Union, called on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to stop its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes, which constituted a threat to global peace and security.  The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action had demonstrated that a very complex issue could be resolved through diplomatic means, he said, encouraging all parties to continue to strictly abide by its terms.  A world without nuclear weapons would not be achieved by simply prohibiting them, he said, underscoring that progress was only possible within the framework of the Non-Proliferation Treaty.  Bulgaria also fully supported the work of the Joint Investigative Mechanism and the OPCW fact-finding mission.

MARCIN WRÓBLEWSKI (Poland), associating himself with the European Union, said despite different views on the pace of the Non-Proliferation Treaty’s implementation commitments, all States parties shared its objectives.  Poland’s chairmanship of the Preparatory Conference for the 2020 Review Conference would therefore focus on upholding the instrument’s integrity and credibility, creating the environment for an open, inclusive, mutually respectful and transparent dialogue, and ensuring that the meeting would be as efficient as possible and serve as a practical step towards the 2020 Review Conference.  Among other things, he voiced concern about the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s recent nuclear test and urged that country to refrain from further provocative actions.

Right of Reply

The representative of the Republic of Korea, speaking in exercise of the right to reply, said the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s military provocations spoke for themselves.  “No Government will sit back and wait” when its own security was at stake, she said, adding that “we will continue to speak out” until the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea nuclear programmes ended.  Any further provocation would be met by the entire global community.   The window of opportunity was closing, she said, emphasizing that the Republic of Korea was committed to a peaceful resolution of the issue.

The representative of Syria said the United Kingdom should allow the Scottish people to express their right to independence, to leave the colony of Gibraltar and to resolve its problems with the European Union and focus on their internal problems instead of interfering with other countries.  Asking the United Kingdom to apologize for the invasion of Iraq, he emphasized that, in the twenty‑first century, that country still occupied territories.

The representative of the United States said evidence had shown the repeated use of chemical weapons in Syria.  Using chemical weapons by any party in Syria violated international norms and standards and was a serious concern for the entire international community.  The United States must protect its national interests and act as necessary to protect victims.

The representative of Qatar rejected accusations from his counterpart from Syria.  The Syrian regime had used chemicals as weapons in the battlefield and on civilians, as multiple United Nations reports had shown.

The representative of Libya said his country no longer had any kind of usable chemical weapons.

The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea reiterated his country’s position on maintaining nuclear deterrence.

The representative of Turkey said he categorically denied the allegations made by his Syrian counterpart.  The use of chemical weapons was a crime against humanity and a war crime and those responsible must be held accountable.

The representative of Syria said the regime in Saudi Arabia had spent millions of dollars to finance terrorist groups in Syria, and Qatar was a known sponsor of terrorism.  Responding to the delegate of the United States, he recalled that according to WikiLeaks documents, secret messages had been exchanged between the Department of State and the United States ambassador in Damascus concerning a regime change.  For its part, Syria had implemented all provisions of the Chemical Weapons Convention.

The representative of Saudi Arabia said his counterpart from Syria was shirking his responsibility.  Syria had failed to comply with Security Council resolutions, he said, adding that the fifth report of the Joint Investigative Mechanism had proven the Syrian regime’s responsibility for three chemical attacks.  He appealed to the international community to stand side by side with the Syrian people and to hold accountable those who had committed crimes against them.

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Atoms for Health – Conclusions from the 2017 Scientific Forum

Nuclear medicine has a key role to play and should be a major element in healthcare systems, but substantial costs and a lack of skilled practitioners often pose a challenge to ensure wide application in countries, particularly in the developing world. Private-public partnerships and the integration of equipment purchase and maintenance in broader health plans are crucial to mobilize resources and ensure the sustainability of these services. The IAEA is in a unique position to help countries build partnerships and use these technologies safely and securely. These were the main conclusions of this year’s Scientific Forum.

In two days, several high-level speakers, including King Letsie III of Lesotho, the ministers from Cameroon and Russia and over 40 dignitaries and experts, joined IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano to discuss the role of nuclear techniques in the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of diseases, especially the major killers of our time: non-communicable diseases (NCDs).  

This article summarizes the takeaways from the five thematic sessions. Highlights from the opening session can be found here, and individual presentations here.

In session 1, Preventing Disease through Better Nutrition, speakers looked at the crucial role of diet in the prevention of diseases. “Investing in nutrition is a mandate for the future. If we fail to do that we will compromise human and social development for at least one generation,” said Ricardo Uauy, Professor at the Institute of Nutrition at the University of Chile. Presentations focused on the use of isotopic techniques to look at body composition and metabolic activities to support actions to tackle conditions such as undernutrition and obesity.

In session 2, Looking beyond the Visible: New Frontiers in Diagnostic Techniques, the key role of nuclear medicine for early-stage disease detection was highlighted, particularly as countries look to address the growing burden of non-communicable diseases such as cancer. The cost of PET scans is only about 1.5% of total cancer care, and such precise technologies are crucial for best treatment outcome, offering physicians the best chance to manage their patients correctly, said Homer Macapinlac, Distinguished Professor of the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. The crucial part these technologies play in helping to diagnose infectious and neurological diseases was also discussed.

The various challenges countries face in ensuring the safe use of nuclear medicine was examined in session 3, Addressing Implementation Challenges in Countries. A major topic was health expenditures and budgets, and discussions centred on ways to help governments mobilize resources effectively, such as through the support of technology transfer and also through training to build expertise. The audience had the opportunity to enjoy an interactive session with Neerja Bhatla, Professor from the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, who demonstrated the cancer staging app – a tool to facilitate optimal patient management in a practical and user-friendly way.

“Approximately almost 50% of cancer patients worldwide will need to receive radiotherapy treatment,” said Julie Wetter of the Groote Schuur Hospital and University of Cape Town. Session 4, Radiotherapy: Saving and Improving Quality of Life of Cancer Patients through New Approaches, looked at the future of this life-saving treatment option, including personalized treatment and the latest technological innovations to improve patient care, such as proton and carbon ion beam therapy. In addition, Professor Mack Roach from the University of California in San Francisco emphasized that an understanding of the role of these technologies requires robust data from well-designed clinical research studies.

It is estimated that 10 million people undergo diagnostic and therapeutic procedures involving medical radiation every day, and the need to ensure best treatment outcome for patients and the protection of medical personnel was discussed in session 5, Ensuring Quality and Safety. Issues such as the need for peer reviews, clinical audits and quantification of performance were explored. The session also reviewed requirements for quality and safety in applying nuclear medicine, and the challenges that countries may face in implementing these, as well as examples of successful IAEA projects to assist in this respect  

The Forum concluded with a session on the future of nuclear techniques in medicine. The audience heard differing perspectives, from both physicians and policy makers.

Mr Amano, who confirmed that health will remain a priority in his forthcoming term, emphasized that the IAEA’s key role in support of health, particularly in fighting NCDs, needs to be better recognized. He mentioned that, in light of budget constraints that many countries face, private-public partnership could provide a way to increase the availability of equipment.. The importance of government support and the recognition of the vital role of nuclear medicine and radiotherapy in health care, especially cancer, was particularly highlighted by the panel during the closing discussion. Policy- and lawmakers were urged to place human health at the top of their list of priorities.

Referring to his own experience of visiting hospitals around the world, Mr Amano stressed that actions that lead to more equipment and training were required at the ground level, and more political support to ensure the sustainability of technical assistance projects are needed at the national level. Panellists highlighted the importance of partnerships between governments, non-governmental organizations, professional societies, international organizations and the private sector in order to fund equipment, gain access to nuclear medicine and radiotherapy procedures, and ensure a qualified workforce of health professionals in this area. All this must be done within a quality assurance framework to ensure safety and accurate delivery of therapy.

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General Conference Day 2 Highlights

During the plenary session of the General Conference, over 46delegations delivered statements, which are available here.

The 2017 Scientific Forum on Nuclear Techniques in Human Health: Prevention, Diagnosis and Treatment opened today. At the two-day event, experts and scientists are showcasing how nuclear science and technology help to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages. IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano delivered an opening statement, welcoming participants to the event. He highlighted the huge contribution that nuclear techniques have made to human well-being and saved tens of millions of lives.

King Letsie III of the Kingdom of Lesotho also delivered a statement at the opening of the Scientific Forum drawing attention to the importance of nuclear science and technology in the area of human health.

At the first side event this morning, a panel discussion on The Added Value of Gender Parity at the IAEAfocused on how diversity is crucial to fostering innovation in science, and in enabling organizations to perform measurably better. The discussion was moderated by the Deputy Director General and Head of the Department of Management, Mary Alice Hayward.

At this year’s Nuclear Operators Forum: Challenges in Human Resources Management for Sustainable Nuclear Power Generation, participants received an overview on human resources challenges and the response necessary to support the future of nuclear energy, including building and maintaining the workforce, economic challenges and new ways of learning.

The first two of six short presentations by the IAEA Department of Safeguards on different aspects of safeguards implementation were held. Today’s presentation on the Faces of Safeguards focused on the State Declaration Portal and on the Instrument Records Integrator for Safeguards.

The event on Qualified Technical Centres for the Management of Disused Sealed Radioactive Sources provided participants with an update on the qualified technical centres concept for the long-term management of disused sealed radioactive sources.

At theNuclear High Temperature Heat for Industrial Processesevent, the IAEA’s activities in the field of non-electric applications of nuclear power were highlighted. It also showcased demonstration projects planned by Member States.

The event onRecruitment at the IAEA – Assessing Talentprovided an overview of recruitment initiatives focusing on candidate experience and on initiatives planned in the coming period, including talent pipelines.

At the Multi-unit Probabilistic Safety Assessment – Challenges Related to Risk Assessment event, high level representatives, experts and IAEA staff delivered presentations and discussed the risk assessment of multi-unit sites.

At the event Radiation: See, Understand and Protect Yourself, information was delivered on how to measure the radiation dose received from natural sources. Participants also learned about the different types of radiation and how to protect oneself. The presentation also featured information about how the IAEA helps Member States limit the radiation dose.

The eventNuclear Energy Innovation and the Paris Agreement presented roadmaps for nuclear energy innovation linked to nationally determined contributions (NDCs) to the global response to climate change. Issues from research and development to regulatory framework and infrastructure to support Member States’ NDC updates from 2020 to 2050 were discussed.

The Decommissioning: Education and Training event highlighted the IAEA’s training activities as well as its collaboration with the European Commission to improve the coordination of training activities in Europe.

The objective of the eventNuclear Security e-Learning: Enhancing States’ Capacity to Strengthen a Global Response to a Global Threatwas to showcase the suite of IAEA nuclear security e-learning modules and to engage a wide range of users in an interactive and hands-on presentation, including a quiz and demonstration of different modules.

Member States side events:

Plasma Treatment of Radioactive Waste – Startup of the Kozloduy NPP Plasma Facility organised by Belgium provided information on plasma technology as a single process solution for treating solid organic and inorganic radioactive and problematic chemical waste, based on the startup of the plasma facility at Kozloduy nuclear power plant.

At the Annual Plenary Meeting of the Forum of Nuclear Regulatory Bodies in Africa organized by Cameroon, representatives of African Member States that have established an operational regulatory infrastructure for radiation safety and security met under the auspices of this regional network to plan activities and projects aimed at enhancing nuclear and radiation safety and security in Africa and at improving the governance of the Network.

At the event 20 years of the Ibero-American Forum of Radiological and Nuclear Regulatory Agencies (FORO): Enhancing Nuclear and Radiation Safety and Security through Regional and International Cooperation, the achievements in the strengthening of regulatory bodies as a result of the cooperation between FORO and the IAEA and identify possible lines of further collaboration among associations and networks was discussed.

An event to commemorate the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons organized by the Vienna Chapter of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) took place today.

At the event Nuclear in Clean Energy and Mission Innovation Efforts: Building Partnerships for the Future organised by Canada, international partners convened to discuss how nuclear collaboration could be formalized through the mission innovation and clean energy ministerial initiatives.

The event International Peer Review of the SOGIN Decommissioning and Radioactive Waste Management Programme organised by Italy showcased the results of the Integrated Review Service for Radioactive Waste and Spent Fuel Management, Decommissioning and Remediation (ARTEMIS). This peer review was requested the Government of Italy. Rome-based SOGIN, the state-owned company responsible for the decommissioning and radioactive waste management programme in Italy, hosted the ARTEMIS mission. In addition, a bust of Enrico Fermi was donated to the IAEA.

A commemorative event organised by Kazakhstan on the Opening of the IAEA Low Enriched Uranium (LEU) Bank Storage Facility in Kazakhstan and IAEA participation in EXPO-2017 took placetoday.

The IAEA Additional Protocol: 20 Years and Beyond event organised byJapan, Australia, France and Sweden marked the 20th anniversary of the Additional Protocol. It highlighted the important contributions of the additional protocol to strengthened safeguards, and aimed to promote understanding by sharing experiences in additional protocol finalization, implementation and efforts for universalization.

The event Nuclear Energy Development in China showcased the latest nuclear energy developments in China and explored opportunities to further strengthen cooperation with the IAEA and other Member States and to contribute to safe and secure nuclear energy development in the world.

At the event New National Centres of Nuclear Science and Technologies with Research Reactors and ICERR Experience, specialists from the Russian Federation provided presentations on current Russian projects for establishing national centres for nuclear science and technologies in developing countries and an overview of activities in IAEA-designated ICERR in Russia.

Follow the IAEA and #IAEAGC for the General Conference or #Health for the Scientific Forum on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn for updates throughout the week.

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Nuclear Techniques in Human Health: Scientific Forum Opens

The use of nuclear techniques in human health helps to save millions of lives every year and the IAEA works with national governments to increase countries’ expertise in radiotherapy, nuclear medicine and the use of isotopic techniques in nutrition, said IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano at the opening of the 2017 Scientific Forum today.

“Cancer and cardiovascular conditions are the leading causes of death in the world, accounting for 26.5 million of the 56.4 million deaths recorded in 2015,” he said. “Nuclear techniques make a real difference in these areas.”

He spoke of the gap between developed and developing countries in access to nuclear technology for medical diagnosis and treatment, and the IAEA’s role in narrowing that gap.

“The enormous benefits of nuclear technology for human health are clear. However, many developing countries lack both equipment and the trained medical and technical experts needed to make full use of the latest nuclear techniques. The IAEA is working to change that.”

Held over two days during the IAEA General Conference, the Scientific Forum this year is showcasing how nuclear techniques are used in the prevention, detection, diagnosis and treatment of major diseases, including cancer and cardiovascular conditions. Senior officials, leading experts and academics will review the important contribution of nuclear technology to human health and how these techniques can support countries’ efforts to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 3: to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages.

The livestream of the Scientific Forum is available via this link. See a short video and our series of Impact Stories on how the IAEA supports development, including in health, around the world. Follow and use #Health on Twitter to get updates and join the discussion on the Scientific Forum.

Opening session

Cancer is the second highest cause of death globally, and its greatest impact increasingly falls on developing countries, saidKing Letsie III of Lesotho. “The work that the IAEA is undertaking in the diagnosis and treatment of a myriad of diseases, in particular cancer, is unparalleled.”

When it comes to infectious diseases in an increasingly globalized world where diseases know no borders, international cooperation is vital, he said. “The response by various international agencies, including the IAEA, to the recent outbreaks of Ebola, the zika virus and cholera is a testimony to what can be achieved through collective action by all relevant stakeholders.” (Read more here on the use of nuclear-derived techniques in the rapid and accurate diagnosis of several infectious diseases.)

King Letsie also spoke of the importance of proper nutrition, an area in which nuclear science makes a contribution by helping professionals assess nutrition levels and combat malnutrition. “It would only be proper for governments to allocate significant proportions of their budgets to programmes that will enhance nutrition in order to reverse all the adverse effects of malnutrition and at the same time improve the prospects for higher economic growth.”

Cancer is on the rise in Africa, and many countries on the continent do not have the means to deal with it, said Madeleine Tchuinte, Minister of Scientific Research and Innovation of Cameroon. “Late diagnosis and lack of treatment are the causes of death,” she said. Many countries do not have the means to offer radiological treatment. “African countries do not have the appropriate material and human resources to meet even part of the needs,” she said. “Governments need to put a higher priority on fighting cancer. We also need to bring in funds from the private sector via public-private partnerships.”

Nuclear medicine and radiation therapy are some of the priorities for nuclear science in Russia, said Veronika Skvortsova, the country’s Minister of Health. Russia’s framework to develop nuclear medicine and radiation by 2020 prioritizes the implementation of new technologies, safety and access throughout the country. “We will use only the most effective and innovative technologies and develop next generation pharmaceuticals,” she said. 

Ageing and increasing obesity are leading to more cases of cancer in developing countries and the best way to combat the disease is through early detection, said Eric Ulloa, Panama’s Vice Minister of Health. “More than 90% of patients diagnosed with breast cancer early survive, compared to only 50% for women diagnosed late,” he highlighted. Nuclear medicine plays an increasing role in early detection in many developing countries, but having the right equipment is not sufficient. “Capacity building [of medical staff] is still a challenge for many countries, and it should be prioritized.”

Detlev Ganten, Founder of the World Health Summit, spoke of the joint responsibility of scientists and politicians to make sure science delivers benefits to all. “Less than 25% of people benefit from the fast progress of science,” he said. “It is only thanks to international organizations and non-governmental organizations that we can bring this progress to people around the world.” The M8 Alliance, in which 25 major academic health centres work together to translate cutting edge science into public health, as well as the IAEA, play a leading role in spreading the benefits of science in health care, he said.

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News in Brief 29 June 2017 (AM)

29 Jun 2017

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Nigerian refugees returning from Cameroon wait to register at Banki camp in northern Nigeria. Photo UNHCR/Romain Desclous

UNHCR warns against involuntary return of Nigerian refugees

The forced return of Nigerian refugees from Cameroon must be avoided at all costs, the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, said on Thursday.

These people are being sent back to northeast Nigeria where conditions are “dangerously unprepared to receive them,” according to the agency.

UNHCR said ongoing insecurity there is making it difficult for refugees to return to their places of origin.

Many end up in the Nigerian border town of Banki which is already hosting more than 45,000 internally displaced people in severely overcrowded conditions that lack basic facilities such as drinking water and sanitation.

The warning comes after nearly 900 Nigerian refugees, most of them children, were repatriated on Tuesday.

UNHCR renewed its call on Cameroon and Nigeria to halt further returns.

UNICEF seeking US$22 million to support children in Sudan

Children continue to bear the brunt of multiple emergencies in Sudan, according to the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

Over the past few months, the country has recorded more than 16,000 cases of acute watery diarrhoea, resulting in 317 deaths, in addition to high rates of malnutrition.

Furthermore, an influx of refugees from neighbouring South Sudan has also increased the burden on host communities in a country where more than 2.3 million are already displaced.

UNICEF is appealing for US $22 million to provide children with lifesaving water, health and other services.

Young scientists awarded by UN nuclear energy agency

Six young nuclear scientists have been awarded by the UN for their solutions to address climate change.

They were the winners of a competition which solicited original research proposals on how nuclear technology which can contribute to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The scientists, all under the age of 35, were presented with certificates during a three-day conference organized by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) which concluded in Russia on Thursday.

More than 600 experts attended the conference, representing 29 countries and six international organizations.

Dianne Penn, United Nations.

Duration: 2’20”

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Speakers Underline Urgency of Expanding Protected Coastal Areas, Tackling Sea Acidification, as United Nations Ocean Conference Continues

Speakers emphasized the urgency of expanding protected coastal and marine areas — one of the targets of Goal 14 of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development — as well as tackling the problem of ocean acidification during partnership dialogues on the second day of the United Nations Ocean Conference.

Tommy Remengesau, President of Palau and co-chair of a morning discussion on the theme “Managing, protecting, conserving and restoring marine and coastal ecosystems”, said “we should increase our ambition” and protect at least 30 per cent of coastal and marine areas by 2030 — compared with the 10 per cent set out in the Sustainable Development Goals.

He said that for his Pacific island country, the best option was to set aside 80 per cent of its waters — 190 square miles of ocean — as a marine sanctuary, with the remaining 20 per cent available for domestic fishing.

Within that setting, however, Palau still had to deal with management, monitoring, protection and restoration issues, he noted, adding that multi-country and multi-stakeholder partnerships were needed in order to tackle illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing, human and drug trafficking and harmful fisheries subsidies.

Silvia Velo, Under-Secretary of State in the Ministry of Environment, Land and Sea of Italy, co-chairing the same meeting, said that while marine protected area coverage had grown over the decade, their geographic distribution was uneven, with more needed in Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, South-East Asia and in small island developing States.

Cristiana Paşca Palmer, Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity, said during a panel discussion that the world was well on the way to achieving the 10 per cent target, noting that since the agreement came into force in 1993, such areas had increased 10 fold to 5.7 per cent today.  Much remained to be done, however, to improve the management of those areas and ensure that they were representative of many ocean ecosystems, she added.

In an ensuing interactive debate, participants from States and civil society touched upon a broad range of measures for creating and sustaining protected areas, with the Prime Minister of Palau announcing that, upon his return home, its Parliament would set aside 16 per cent of its exclusive economic zone as a marine protected area in which no industrial activity would be permitted.

From Latin America and the Caribbean, the representative of Grenada told how conservation was being mainstreamed into its wider economic strategy, with the private sector playing a key role as demonstrated by an underwater sculpture park described by National Geographic as a wonder of the world.

France’s delegate — a sailor who said she felt responsible for the rubbish she encountered on every one of her sea voyages — said the good health of the oceans depended on implementation of the Paris Agreement, given their acknowledged role in regulating climate.

From civil society, the representative of the Drammeh Institute advocated enshrining the eco-theological beliefs of more than 200 million people in Haiti, Cameroon, the United States and Ghana into marine management issues.

The afternoon featured a partnership dialogue on minimizing and addressing ocean acidification — a phenomenon with a potential for considerable ecological and socioeconomic consequences running alongside other climate-driven changes such as ocean warming, sea-level rise and deoxygenation.

Prince Albert II of Monaco, who co-chaired the session alongside Agostinho Mondlane, Minister of the Sea, Inland Waters and Fisheries, Mozambique, said acidification, while not a well-known phenomenon, had severe consequences.  Noting that his country was home to the Ocean Acidification International Coordination Centre, he said understanding acidification required global and local approaches to decision-making.  He added that limiting greenhouse gas emissions towards a carbon-free economy should be a common goal, as the effects of such efforts on acidification would be a slow process.  Indeed, climate change and acidification must be fought holistically, he emphasized.

Mr. Mondlane, noting that Mozambique had one of the world’s longest coastlines, said increased acidification, with its adverse impacts on marine resources, had brought about a huge awakening, as it affected people’s survival.  “The solutions must come from us,” he said, adding that the phenomenon risked undermining his country’s efforts to develop mussels, bivalves and prawns as a means of alternative livelihoods for its people.

The Conference — officially titled the United Nations Conference to Support the Implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 14: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development — will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 7 June.

Partnership Dialogue I

In the morning, the Ocean Conference held a partnership dialogue on the topic “Managing, protecting, conserving and restoring marine and coastal ecosystems”.  Moderated by Martha Rojas-Urrego, Secretary General, Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, and co-chaired by Tommy Esang Remengesau Jr., President of Palau, and Cristiana Paşca Palmer, Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Environment, Land and Sea, Italy, it featured a panel discussion by Lin Shanqing, Deputy Administrator, State Oceanic Administration, China; Cristiana Paşca Palmer, Executive Secretary, Convention on Biological Diversity; Jake Rice, Chief Scientist Emeritus, Fisheries and Oceans Canada; and Cyrie Sendashonga, Global Director, Program and Policy Group, International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Opening the discussion, Mr. REMENGESAU said Governments were faced with the “monumental” task of developing a new model of ocean governance to replace a failed one that had allowed unlimited human activity to damage marine ecosystems.  There was now the forum and the obligation to develop a sustainable approach to the management, protection, conservation and restoration of marine and coastal ecosystems.  He encouraged delegates to keep an open mind and maintain transparency in implementing the sometimes contradictory — but necessary — objectives.  For Palau, the best option was to create a large marine protected area, setting aside 80 per cent of its waters — 190 square miles of ocean — as a marine sanctuary, with the remaining 20 per cent available for domestic fishing.  Within that setting, Palau still had to deal with management, monitoring, protection and restoration.  In line with the Convention on Biological Diversity, stakeholders must work together to establish by 2020 an effectively managed set of marine protected areas, beyond areas of national jurisdiction, covering 10 per cent of marine and coastal areas.

“We should increase our ambition” and protect at least 30 per cent of such areas by 2030, he said, noting that States must also consider sustainable development and create opportunities for food security initiatives by enhancing small-scale and artisanal fisheries, as well as building tourism and aquaculture.  Multi-country and multi-stakeholder partnerships must tackle illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing, human and drug trafficking and harmful fisheries subsidies.  He urged all States to ratify the Port State Measures Agreement, stressing that connections must be made to funding mechanisms — such as the Green Climate Fund, Global Environmental Facility, World Bank and Asian Development Bank — with new and unique funding mechanisms focused solely on oceans identified.  He objected to funding mechanisms that were impossible for least developed countries and small island developing States to access, based on a perceived lack of capacity.

Ms. VELO said that Italy in 2010 had introduced measures for the management of marine protected areas, a multi-stakeholder model that mapped habitats and protected space.  Italy had adopted a methodology for the allocation of financial resources, based on objective criteria and performance indicators, with assessments conducted in areas such as conservation and human-impact free management.  Italy could count 29 marine protected areas within a European Union network, which overall accounted for the protection of nearly 20 per cent of its territorial waters.

At the global level, she said that while marine protected area coverage had grown over the decade, the geographic distribution was uneven, with more needed in Africa, Latin American and the Caribbean, South-East Asia and in small island developing States, which depended more heavily on protected marine systems.  Noting that Italy was chair of the Ocean Sanctuary Alliance, along with Kenya, Bahamas, Palau and Poland, she said the group was working to mobilize efforts to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 14.5 and identify globally significant areas as candidates for additional marine protected area development.  Italy also had increased its engagement with small island developing States, focusing on capacity-building and the establishment and maintenance of marine protected areas.  It also had partnered with Palau on the implementation of marine sanctuaries, and more broadly, was ready to support its partners in moving towards more sustainable ocean-based economies.

Ms. ROJAS-URREGO said the topic under discussion went to the heart of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands.  Conservation management and restoring marine ecosystems were prerequisite for achieving Sustainable Development Goal 14 as well as other Goals.  Many communities, especially in developing countries, depended on marine ecosystems for food and water.  Such ecosystems also played a critical role in the context of climate change by mitigating disasters and serving as carbon sinks, she said.  However, marine ecosystems were being lost at an unprecedented rate, she added, noting for example that 90 per cent of coral reefs had suffered damage.  Measures were being taken by States and stakeholders, but there was still a long way to go, she said, adding that the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development was an opportunity to put the preservation of marine ecosystems at the heart of development.

Mr. LIN said the Government of China paid great attention to environmental protection, with the marine space being a critical part of its overall environmental plan.  Since the turn of the century, China had promulgated and amended ocean-related laws and regulation, creating a comprehensive legal system for marine protection.  It also sought to move towards a payment system through which the State regulated royalties, with revenue going towards conservation efforts.  The percentage of marine protected areas and reserves was being increased, he said, adding that China was also introducing an ecological monitoring system that went beyond measuring pollution alone.

Ms. PAŞCA PALMER said conservation efforts had failed to put a dent on the loss of species or the degradation of marine ecosystem functions.  The consequences would be severe, particularly for those who relied on the oceans for their livelihood and nutrition.  Noting that adherence to the Convention on Biological Diversity was near-universal, she said Goal 14 represented a critical opportunity to build on political will and experience.  An integrated and holistic approach was a must, however.  She said the world was well on the way to achieving the target of conserving at least 10 per cent of coastal and marine areas, noting that since the Convention came into force in 1993, such areas had increased 10 fold to 5.7 per cent today.  But there remained much to do to improve the management of those areas and to ensure that they were representative of many ocean ecosystems.  In that regard, the Sustainable Ocean Initiative produced by the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity addressed the question of capacity-building, especially for developing countries.  Going forward, she emphasized the critical importance of having clear targets and political commitments, as well as basing actions on a scientific understanding of the ecological and biological value of marine biodiversity.

Ms. SENDASHONGA said that since the 2016 World Conservation Congress, the International Union for Conservation of Nature had included a new membership category for indigenous peoples’ organizations.  More broadly, its structure involved 16,000 experts in six commissions and many of its projects were implemented with local communities.  Sharing lessons learned in working with those communities, she said success was about ensuring the resilience of ecosystems, and, in turn, the communities that depended on them.  The “Mangroves for the Future” project was being carried out in South and South-East Asia across 11 countries by bringing together all stakeholders.  Through a “resilience approach” the project was examining socioecological systems, exploring the dynamics and interactions associated with the ecological system.  “You can’t do that without involving all the stakeholders,” she said, stressing that local communities understood their context best.  Another project called “Biodiversity and Ecosystems Services in Territories of European Overseas” was funded by the European Commission across five regions.  In terms of alternative livelihoods, her organization had learned to take a holistic view of an ecosystem and create a framework of jobs that aligned with the goods and services produced by the marine or coastal ecosystem at hand.  The conditions for equitable benefit sharing included empowering the community with knowledge and establishing good governance.  Projects that allowed all voices to be heard, promoted local ownership and fostered opportunities for collaboration were those that succeeded.

Mr. RICE, describing technical measurement challenges, said “the ocean is not an easy place to sample” to create the iron-cast knowledge that justified management decisions.  There must be a proper forum to translate that knowledge into advice for decision-makers in terms that could be understood.  The conceptual challenges about what constituted progress — about the outcomes to seek, for example, or the costs and benefits involved — could be perceived differently.  While the ocean had been “woefully” under-sampled, there was a huge scientific legacy, with the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) among the vast number of forums created.  If anything, there was a turf war over who had the right to assess what, creating a travesty that allowed people with preconceived ideas of what answers should be to find the data that supported the answers they wanted.  Those challenges must be overcome.  “We need to discuss more”, he said, stressing that focusing on how much of the ocean should be put away in “pristine deposit boxes” of protection was insufficient.  Several of the Sustainable Development Goals would not be achieved without using the ocean as a greater source of wealth.  The issue of measuring progress was an equally great challenge, as costs and benefits were perceived by people with different world views.  In terms of assessment, interest groups — those holding the knowledge and those whose lives would be forever altered by the decisions made — must participate in assessment processes.  The vast knowledge of the ocean was not being used as effectively as it could be and he advocated using it more wisely.

In the ensuing discussion, participants discussed a range of initiatives being undertaken to manage, protect, conserve and restore marine and coastal ecosystems.

HENRY PUNA, Prime Minister of the Cook Islands, said that upon his return from the Conference, legislation would be tabled in his country’s Parliament that would establish 16 per cent of its exclusive economic zone as a marine protected area comprising 324,000 square kilometres in which no industrial activity would be permitted.  The Cook Islands aimed to be a model of sustainability, but its efforts would be in vain if it was left to do it alone, he said, calling upon the international community to do more to control high-seas activities and to meet emissions commitments.  He added that his country supported the immediate creation of a “blue fund” for sustaining conservation efforts.

A representative of the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme, which served 21 Pacific island countries and territories over an area almost twice the size of the Russian Federation, said its work currently focused on climate change resilience and environmental governance, among other topics.  Noting that the region led the world in marine protected areas and sanctuaries totalling 3 million square kilometres, he emphasized the enormous strain and threat posed by climate change, overexploitation and pollution.  He suggested that, with regards to the environment, the word “pristine” should be removed from the English language.  He added that achieving Goal 14 would require a major ongoing commitment on the part of Pacific Island countries and partners.

The representative of French Polynesia called the ocean a link between people and cultures.  Since 2002, French Polynesia had become one of the world’s largest sanctuaries for marine animals, where all shark species were protected.  The Marquesas Islands had established the first six educational marine areas.  In terms of resource management, French Polynesia had in 1996 stopped selling fishing licenses to foreign fleets to its exclusive economic zone.  Fishing in the maritime area was reserved for Polynesian fishers and its exclusive economic zone would be reclassified as a marine protected area.

The representative of Tonga described lack of financing mechanisms to achieve long-term conservation goals, stressing the need to build the capacity for using financial and management tools.  He saw the dialogue to build a unified path to achieving Goal 14.  In Tonga, conservation efforts had been carried out to address challenges.  It sought to enhance and foster new partnerships to support those efforts, which included a marine protected area as part of the “10 times 20” initiative between Tonga and Italy.

The representative of Monaco said his country had a long regional history in establishing the Pelagos Sanctuary, which today was seeing a new impetus with an agreement signed in April for the protection of marine mammals.  Monaco was focused on creating new marine protected areas to achieve the Aichi Biodiversity Targets; developing regulatory and legal frameworks on national, regional and international levels; supporting scientific studies on the merits of such areas; and strengthening the management and financing for such areas.

ANTÓNIO DA CONCEIÇÃO, Minister for Commerce, Industry and Environment of Timor-Leste, said his country depended on the unique biodiversity of both Asia and Australia.  Although it was a small developing country, it took its responsibilities seriously, as demonstrated in the Coral Triangle Initiative.  Through traditional law, Timor-Leste had created marine protected areas that were co-managed with local communities, thus protecting biodiversity and improving food security while guarding against the effects of climate change.  While Timor-Leste would do its part, it looked to the community of nations for partnerships, he said, adding that even the biggest countries could not go it alone.

The representative of Grenada said that without ocean health, there could be no ocean wealth.  In his country, conservation was mainstreamed into the wider economic strategy, with the private sector playing a key role as demonstrated by an underwater sculpture park described by National Geographic as a wonder of the world.  Emphasizing that Grenada was open to innovative partnerships, he said it had developed investment prospects of bankable projects that were environmentally sustainable.

The representative of France said that, as a sailor, she had never made a voyage without seeing garbage at sea.  While that made her feel responsible, she hoped that an historic moment had come to raise awareness and take collective action.  She added that, since the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP21) in Paris, the substantial role of the oceans in regulating climate was acknowledged.  For that reason, France supported the Oceans and Climate Initiatives Alliance and affirmed that the good health of the oceans depended on implementation of the Paris Agreement on climate change.

The representative of the Seychelles addressed the problem of marine plastic pollution, stressing that his country was doing its best to ensure effective solid waste management and take targeted approaches to plastics.  It had banned the import of plastic bags, utensils and other items, and was partnering on another strategy that sought to avoid their design.  To implement such plans, effective partnerships were required.

The representative of the Pacific Community said more ocean data and better communication of ocean science was required for decision-making.  She advocated knowledge- and skills-transfer, under the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, as well as funding for adequate monitoring.  Her organization was committed to providing the best scientific and technical advice to Pacific islands and territories so they could make informed decisions.

A representative of the Drammeh Institute, explaining she was a Haitian voodoo priestess, advocated enshrining the eco-theological beliefs of more than 200 million people in Haiti, Cameroon, the United States and Ghana into marine management issues.

The representative of Togo described the creation of the High Council of the Sea, composed of public, private and civil society bodies, which regulated sea and coastal areas, and worked to strengthen regulations related to assessments.

The representative of Sri Lanka explained that coral reefs, mangroves, sand dunes and coastal wetlands played an important role in protecting his country from tidal waves.  Marine protected areas covered 289,000 hectares and there were six marine sanctuaries.  Sri Lanka aimed to increase its marine protected areas by 1,000 square kilometres by 2020.

The representative of Nepal said landlocked countries were catchment areas from where rivers eventually flowed into oceans.  Welcoming the Call of Action that would emerge from the Conference, he said special support must be given to climate-vulnerable countries, both coastal and landlocked, to fight climate change in a smart manner.  It was incumbent upon mankind to manage, protect, conserve and restore marine and coastal ecosystems and Nepal was on board that effort, he said.

Also speaking were Heads of Government, ministers and other senior officials and representatives of Samoa, United Arab Emirates, Sweden, Colombia, Philippines and Canada, as well as of the Holy See.

Also taking the floor were representatives of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Union Nationale des Travailleurs Democrates and the Ocean Sanctuary Alliance.

Partnership Dialogue II

In the afternoon, the Conference held a partnership dialogue on “Minimizing and addressing ocean acidification”.  Moderated by Petteri Taalas, Secretary-General, World Meteorological Organization, it featured presentations by Cardinal Peter Turkson, Head of the Dicastery for Integral Human Development, Holy See; Rahanna Juman, Deputy Director, Institute of Marine Affairs, Trinidad and Tobago; David Osborn, Director of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Environment Laboratories; and Carol Turley, Senior Scientist, Plymouth Marine Laboratory, United Kingdom.  Prince Albert II of Monaco and Agostinho Mondlane, Minister of the Sea, Inland Waters and Fisheries, Mozambique, co-chaired the meeting.

Prince ALBERT II of Monaco said acidification, while not a well-known phenomenon, had severe consequences.  Target 14.3 had established a framework for collective action to combat its affects, notably by strengthening scientific cooperation.  Through the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, the Ocean Acidification International Coordination Centre had been established in Monaco, and action must focus on better understanding, adaptation and prevention.  Noting that oceans absorbed 30 per cent of carbon dioxide and 80 per cent of excess heat, he said that at that pace oceans would no longer be able to act as climate regulators.  Revenue loss related to sustainable tourism in coastal areas could be affected and 90 per cent of coral reefs could be threatened with extinction by 2030.  Understanding acidification required global and local approaches to decision-making.  On adaptation, he advocated working with local communities to devise solutions that strengthened the resilience of ecosystems.  Calling prevention the most complex challenge, he said limiting greenhouse gas emissions towards a carbon-free economy should be a common goal, as the effects of such efforts on acidification would be a slow process.  Indeed, climate change and acidification must be fought holistically.  An inventory of good mitigation and adaptation practices would foster better responses to the challenges ahead.

Mr. MONDLANE, noting that 40 per cent of Mozambique’s territory lay within a marine environment, said his country had one of the world’s longest coastlines of 2,700 kilometres inhabited by 26 million people and hosting more than 70 per cent of the nation’s cities.  Marine fisheries provided livelihoods for most coastal communities.  That scenario highlighted the importance of oceans to Mozambique’s economy, he said, underscoring the need to maintain such resources so they could continue to serve society.  Increased acidification, with its adverse impacts on marine resources, had brought about a huge awakening, as it affected people’s survival.  “The solutions must come from us,” he said, noting that in addressing the exploitation of marine resources in Goal 14.6, Mozambique was keen to develop such marine cultures as mussels, bivalves and prawns to provide alternative livelihoods.  The Government was finalizing a national action plan for aqua-culture, the implementation of which hinged on the health of the ocean.  Acidification trends threatened those efforts, and the lack of action to address that phenomenon would lead to a failure to achieve objective Goal 14.6, rendering Mozambique unable to feed its people.

Mr. TAALAS said ocean acidification, while concentrated in tropical zones, was emerging at high latitudes, while concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere were at record-breaking levels.  “We are not moving in the right direction” in implementing the Paris Agreement, he said.  Stressing the importance of strengthened monitoring systems, he said successful implementation of the Agreement could stabilize greenhouse gas trends by 2060.

Ms. TURLEY said carbon dioxide emissions were a global issue that was being experienced very locally.  While their economic impacts remained uncertain, they were indeed happening, she said, citing an 80 per cent mortality rate at oyster hatcheries in the Pacific North-West of the United States and costly efforts to respond to that development.  Going forward, she said, the most important option was to mitigate the impact of acidification by reducing carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions, adopting sustainable practices and using infrastructure to protect ecosystems.  Even if the Paris Agreement targets were fulfilled, she added, the impact would be there and the risks would be quite high.

Mr. OSBORN likened the oceans to a sophisticated Swiss watch that one never really owned, but passed along for future generations.  Using radio isotopes and sensitive monitoring equipment, it was possible to monitor ocean acidification and even to measure past levels of acidity through the use of a pH proxy.  He described a new project to collate data and encourage the training of experts in techniques for monitoring acidification at the local level.  Science had revealed that changes due to acidification were not linear, but varied in terms of time and space, but the overall trend was a significant concern, with coral reefs being particularly susceptible.  Some species would do better than others, but as the oceans — like a Swiss watch — was a finely tuned system, the collapse of one or two or three species would have a domino effect.  He went on to emphasize the need to bridge a gap between science and policy, noting that international legal regimes currently did not address acidification.

Ms. JUMAN said coral reefs were responsible for one quarter of total fish catches in developing countries.  They protected shorelines, coastal dwellings, land and beaches.  Small island developing States would have fewer livelihoods if their reefs were damaged.  At least 60 per cent of global coral reefs were already degraded, with tropical and subtropical corals expected to be the worst affected.  More broadly, internationally-funded climate change projects addressed sea-level rise and ecosystem-based adaptation, with acidification considered only in the context of such issues as food security, rather than prioritized.  Noting that donors had provided $55.5 billion to Caribbean and Pacific small island developing States between 1995 and 2015, she said those countries had also been able to leverage $460 million from the Green Climate Fund.  The main challenges were around competition for aid, limited local human resource capacity, duplication of donor efforts, limited private-sector involvement and changing money flow and priorities.  As small island developing States had limited ability to monitor the impacts of acidification, she recommended a number of measures.  Those included enhancing research capacity through partnerships; developing indicators for Goal 14.3; rehabilitating coastal blue carbon ecosystems, like mangroves, that sequestered carbon dioxide; and advocating for reducing greenhouse gas emissions by meeting international obligations, targeting support for alternative livelihoods and increasing awareness about the benefits.

Mr. TURKSON underscored the importance of oceans and seas, providing food and raw materials, as well as essential environmental benefits such as air purification, a global carbon cycle, waste management, and maintenance of the food chains and habitats that were critical to life on Earth.  Pope Francis regularly called for ecological citizenship, from a belief in a moral imperative to care for the environment, a gift entrusted to the current generation for stewardship.  He had repeatedly affirmed that intergenerational solidarity was not optional, but rather, a question of justice.  There was an obligation to conserve — or care — a word that invited people to be compassionate, sympathetic and to understand the state of the environment.  Efforts to establish an effective regulatory framework to safeguard ocean health were often blocked by those profiting from marine resources and intent on maintaining their advantages, to the detriment of the poor.  The Pope also advocated the principle of integral ecology, which captured the belief that “everything belongs together”.  The environment was not regarded as something separate from ourselves.  “We are part of it,” and thus, a crisis of environment was one for humanity.  On the pontiff’s third principle — an integrated approach in seeking solutions to global problems — he said ethical considerations must be integrated into approaches to the environment.  Technical solutions were never enough.  “Leaving no one behind” was a call to solidarity that should spur everyone on to achieve the Goals, he said, stressing that the fourth principle centred on the role of education, all the more necessary where proper waste disposal was either scarce or non-existent, and the fifth principle on the need to collaborate at all levels to arrive at sustainable solutions.

ENELE SOSENE SOPOAGA, Prime Minister of Tuvalu, said studies on the impact of ocean acidification on his country were urgently needed.  Everyone had a responsibility to address ocean acidification by dramatically reducing carbon dioxide output, he said, calling upon all nations to ratify the Paris Agreement and to urgently reduce their reliance of fossil fuels.  He went on to propose a halt to the trade in sea cucumbers, which through their natural digestive systems made water more alkaline, mitigating the effects of acidification at a local level.  Action under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora might be required in that regard, he said.

BJÖRT ÓLAFSDÓTTIR, Minister for the Environment and Natural Resources of Iceland, said that for an island State like hers, where sustainable fisheries were a backbone of society, acidification was very alarming.  She expressed deep disappointment at the decision by the United States to pull out of the Paris Agreement, but celebrated the fact that some American states and cities would fulfil its goals.  Noting that Iceland produced all of its energy from renewable sources, she said its efforts would further contribute to reducing acidification.

The representative of Palau said nutrient-poor ocean deserts had increased 15 per cent since the 1980s.  Urgent steps were needed to boost ecosystem resilience and protect their capacity to provide vital goods and services.  One of the most cost-effective strategies in that regard was the creation of marine protected areas.

The representative of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said the nexus between climate change and the ocean presented a challenge in terms of population displacement.  According to the International Displacement Monitoring Centre, 22.5 million people had been displaced annually since 2008 due to adverse climate change.  In 2016 alone, 24.2 million people had been displaced, most of whom from ocean coastal areas, small island developing States or areas or regions affected by “climate change fault lines”, such as the El Niño phenomenon.  Some 40 million people were at risk for displacement, including 15 million living in the Ganges-Brahmaputra Delta of Bangladesh, due to sea-level rise.  He advocated a whole-of-Government approach to solutions.

The representative of Peace Boat, noting that he was from Japan, described the “Eco-ship” project to design the most environmentally green ship using solar and wind power, as well as a closed-loop water system.  A Finland shipyard had agreed to build the vessel.  Efforts by the maritime industry were not enough; strong will must be generated to protect the oceans.

The representative of the International Chamber of Shipping said the association represented 80 per cent of the world’s merchant ships.  Noting that shipping was responsible for 2.2 per cent of annual man-made carbon dioxide emissions, which contributed to acidification, he said Chamber members had reduced those emissions between 2008 and 2012, despite increased maritime trade.  There was an incorrect perception that shipping might have escaped the Paris Agreement.  However, in three weeks, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) would unveil a strategy to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from ships to match the ambition of the Paris accord.  Global shipping would propose that IMO agree to keep total carbon dioxide emissions below 2008 levels, setting that year as the peak year for emissions, and then progressively cutting annual emissions by a percentage to be agreed by IMO member States by 2050.  He clarified that it was not proposing a binding cap on such emissions.

The representative of the International Alliance to Combat Ocean Acidification said the group included the United States states of California, Oregon and Washington.  It should not be confused with the United States Climate Alliance, formed recently in response to United States President’s decision to pull out of the Paris accord.  The International Alliance included 12 states, along with Puerto Rico, representing 36 per cent of the United States.  Its nearly 40 members had pledged to develop ocean acidification action plans to assist in the implementation of Goal 14.3.  They sought to understand acidification, take actions against it, protect coasts from its impacts and build support for addressing that problem.  It aimed to increase its membership to 60 members by June 2018 and support the development of action plans.

The representative of the United States, citing her role as co-chair of the Ocean Acidification Observing Network, drew attention to voluntary commitment 16542 and her group’s close work with international and intergovernmental partners, including the Ocean Foundation, the University of Gothenburg, the University of Washington, as well as IAEA and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).  The group also had launched a mentorship programme, pairing scientists with researchers to new ocean acidification work.

The representative of Colombia said her country was considered one of the top five with the most marine diversity, which in turn, supported local populations.  She underscored the need for gathering scientific information at the local level, including for ecosystem responses and socioeconomic impacts.

Also speaking in the interactive dialogue were representatives of Tuvalu, Iceland, Palau, New Zealand, Vanuatu, Finland, France, Argentina and Iran, as well as speakers from the European Investment Bank, Vision Tool, International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, Scientific Centre of Monaco and the Ocean Foundation.

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Secretary-General Calls for Strategic Vision, New Model of Governance to Save World’s Seas, as United Nations Ocean Conference Opens

The inaugural United Nations Ocean Conference opened today with a call for urgent action to improve the health of the world’s seas, now in peril after decades of pollution, overfishing and the unattended effects of climate change that were decimating marine life, and in turn, livelihoods.

The Conference, which runs through 9 June, will explore how to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 14:  conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.

Opening the event, Secretary-General António Guterres told world leaders that unless they could overcome the territorial and resource interests that had blocked progress, the state of the oceans would continue to deteriorate.  “We need a new strategic vision,” he said, a new model of ocean governance.  The first step was to end the artificial dichotomy between economic demands and the health of our seas.

Concrete steps were needed, he said, from expanding marine protected areas and managing fisheries, to reducing pollution and cleaning up plastic waste, the latter of which, if left unchecked, would outweigh fish in the sea by 2050.  The political will which had led to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Paris Agreement on climate change and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda must now be translated into funding commitments.  Better data must be gathered and best practices shared.

“Improving the health of our oceans is a test for multilateralism,” he said. “We created these problems.  With decisive, coordinated global action, we can solve them.”

Peter Thomson (Fiji), President of the General Assembly, said the time had come to correct wrongful ways.  It was inexcusable that humanity tipped the equivalent of a garbage truck of plastic into the ocean every minute of every day.  Illegal fishing and harmful fisheries subsidies were driving fish stocks to collapse, he said, while greenhouse gases were causing sea levels to rise.

The task was to ensure that Goal 14 received the support necessary to meet its targets, he said.  “We are here on behalf of humanity to restore sustainability, balance and respect to our relationship with our primal mother, the source of life, the ocean.”

Co-President of the Conference Isabella Lövin, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for International Development Cooperation and Climate of Sweden, said the ocean was 30 per cent more acidic than in pre-industrial times.  Big predatory fish stocks had declined by 70 to 90 per cent, and in some areas, there were more microplastics than plankton.  Without a healthy planet, people would not prosper.  She called on Member States, business, civil society, academia and other stakeholders to start making a real difference.

Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama, Prime Minister of Fiji and Conference Co-President, said oceans were being treated as rubbish dumps.  The rich marine bounty that generations had relied on for sustenance was being destroyed.  He urged participants to act in concert to protect marine resources, stressing that no one country or Government could afford to ignore the magnitude of the threat.  Goal 14 must rocket to the top of the global agenda.

Stressing that oceans had a direct impact on poverty education, health, economic growth, food security and job creation, Frederick Musiiwa Makamure Shava (Zimbabwe), President of the Economic and Social Council, added that solutions must be put into place to ensure that oceans remained a source of life and human well-being for generations.

Wu Hongbo, Secretary-General of the Ocean Conference and Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, said special attention should be paid to the means of implementation for Goal 14, including capacity-building and enhanced financing, which was critical for small island developing States, least developed countries and developing nations alike.

The afternoon featured a partnership dialogue on marine pollution, during which world leaders, along with senior officials from Government, the private sector, scientific community and civil society, explored challenges relating to particular pollutants, such as microplastics, and broader trends, such as the rapid growth of coastal cities, which would require more scientific research, knowledge sharing and governance arrangements.

The Conference — officially titled the United Nations Conference to Support the Implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 14: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development — opened with a traditional Fijian welcome ceremony, featuring three calls of a ceremonial conch shell, a Kava drinking ceremony and cultural dance.

In other business, delegates elected Mr. Bainimarama and Ms. Lövin as the Presidents of the Conference.

The Conference also adopted, without a vote, its rules of procedure (document A/CONF.230/2) and agenda (document A/CONF.230/1), as well as a Secretariat note on organizational and procedural matters (document A/CONF.230/3).  Twelve Vice-Presidents were elected by acclamation:  Algeria, Croatia, Estonia, Guatemala, Indonesia, Ireland, Kenya, Morocco, New Zealand, Poland, Trinidad and Tobago, and Venezuela.  Arthur Amaya Andambi (Kenya) was elected Rapporteur-General.

The nine members of the General Assembly Credentials Committee — Cameroon, China, Malawi, Netherlands, Paraguay, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, Saint Lucia and the United States — were meanwhile appointed members of the Conference Credentials Committee without a vote.

The Ocean Conference will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 6 June.

Opening Statements

ISABELLA LÖVIN, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for International Development Cooperation and Climate of Sweden, and Co-President of the Conference, described the global ocean conveyer belt as a sort of ocean bloodstream that connected everybody.  The ocean accounted for 97 per cent of the living biosphere, contained 1.3 billion cubic kilometres of water and provided 50 per cent of the planet’s oxygen.  Mankind always believed it was endless, infinite and impossible for humans to affect in any significant way, she said, but today it was 30 per cent more acidic than in pre-industrial times, big predatory fish stocks had declined by 70 to 90 per cent and surface waters were getting warmer.  In some areas, there were more microplastics than plankton.

She recalled an interview a few years ago with an Australian yachtsman who, while crossing the Pacific Ocean, saw rubbish floating everywhere, including toys, car tires and telegraph poles.  More recently, researchers on uninhabited Henderson Island, a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Site, found 38 million plastic items on its shore.  “By now we know one thing for certain — the ocean is not endless, not infinite,” she said.  “But it has no borders.  It knows nothing about nations.  It is just one united ecosystem and we are part of it.”

Environmental protection and economic development were inseparable, she said, adding that without a healthy planet, people would not prosper.  Sweden was committed to maintaining the political momentum created by the Paris Agreement on climate change and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and called on all Member States, business, civil society, academia and other stakeholders, to start working towards making a real difference.  “We know what needs to be done.  We know the ocean is broken.  We now need to sit together and make the long to-do list we all need to be ticking off together in order to fix it,” she said, adding that a better moment to do so would never come.

JOSAIA VOREQE BAINIMARAMA, Prime Minister of Fiji and Co-President of the Ocean Conference, said climate change and the state of the world’s oceans could not be separated.  Rising sea levels and ocean acidity had a direct impact on people’s lives and countries’ prosperity.  “We come from opposite sides of the Earth but we are united in our determination to meet the challenges head-on,” he said, appealing to young people in particular to become agents for change, whether by collecting bottles from a beach or banding together to clean up coastal areas.  “Our waterways are choking,” he said, and oceans were being treated as rubbish dumps.  Turtles, dolphins and sharks were being caught in nets, and whales had stomachs full of rubbish.  The rich marine bounty that generations had relied on for sustenance was being destroyed.

He said the degradation must stop, appealing to the world’s people to act in concert to protect marine resources.  “That effort starts now,” he said, pressing to participants to send a message that time was running out to save our seas and oceans.  No one country or Government could afford to ignore the magnitude of the threat.  As a Fijian, he had the Pacific Ocean “running through my blood,” and it said it pained him to see the deterioration of that precious resource.  Where there once had been an abundance of fish, boat hulls were now increasingly sparse or non-existent.  Greedy nations and commercial interests were robbing countries like Fiji of food and livelihoods through over-fishing.  Noting that small island developing States lacked the means to police their economic zones, he said Goal 14 must rocket to the top of the global agenda and he encouraged all participants to make the Ocean Conference a success.

ANTÓNIO GUTERRES, Secretary-General of the United Nations, said oceans and seas covered two thirds of the planet, providing food, energy, water, jobs and economic benefits to every country.  They were a crucial buffer against climate change and a massive resource for sustainable development.  Many nationalities, including his own, had a special relationship with the sea.  The truth was, the sea has a special relationship with all of us.  Yet pollution, over-fishing and the effects of climate change were severely damaging ocean health, he said, with one study finding that plastic in the seas could outweigh fish by 2050.

Indeed, oceans were becoming more acidic, he said, causing coral bleaching and reducing biodiversity, while fisheries in some places were collapsing.  Dead zones — underwater deserts where life could not survive due to a lack of oxygen — were growing rapidly.  Conflicting demands from industry, fishing, shipping, mining and tourism were stressing coastal systems.  While numerous reports, global commissions and scientific assessments had described the serious damage to the world’s most vital life support system, Governments were not making full use of the tools available, including the Convention on the Law of the Sea.

“We created these problems,” he said.  “With decisive, coordinated global action, we can solve them”.  The Sustainable Development Goals must be the road map.  The essential first step must be to end the artificial dichotomy between economic demands and ocean health.  Strong political leadership and new partnerships were needed, based on the existing legal framework, and he commended all who had signed the Call for Action, to be formally adopted this week.  From expanding marine protected areas and managing fisheries, to reducing pollution to cleaning up plastic waste, he called for a step change locally, nationally and globally.  The ongoing work to create a legal framework on conservation and the sustainable use of biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction was particularly important in that regard.

Further, the political will of the 2030 Agenda, the Paris Agreement on climate change and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda must be translated into funding commitments, he said, stressing that better data, information and analysis were also required, because “we can’t improve what we don’t measure”.  Finally, best practices and experiences must be shared.  For its part, the United Nations was committed to providing integrated, coordinated support for the implementation of all historic agreements of the past year.  He was personally determined to break down barriers to improve the Organization’s performance and accountability.

He said the United Nations was building partnerships with Governments, the private sector and civil society, as well as working with international financial institutions on innovative financing to release more funds.  It was harnessing big data to improve the basis for decision-making.  A new strategic vision was needed and he called on Member States to define a new model for ocean governance.  Unless the territorial and resource interests that had blocked progress for too long were overcome, the oceans would continue to deteriorate.  He urged participants to set aside short-term national gain to prevent long-term global catastrophe, stressing that “conserving our oceans and using them sustainably is preserving life itself.”

PETER THOMSON (Fiji), President of the General Assembly, stressed that the Conference offered the best opportunity to reverse the cycle of decline that human activity had brought upon the seas.  Sustainable Development Goal 14 — the ocean’s goal — was humanity’s only universally agreed measure to conserve and sustainably manage its resources.  The task ahead was to ensure that the Goal received the support necessary to meet its critical targets.  “To do that, we need to hear the truth about the state of the ocean,” he said. “We are here on behalf of humanity to restore sustainability, balance and respect to our relationship with our primal mother, the source of life, the ocean.”

Indeed, he said, the time had come to correct wrongful ways.  It was inexcusable that humanity tipped the equivalent of a garbage truck of plastic into the ocean every minute of every day.  “We have unleashed a plague of plastic upon the ocean,” he said, defiling nature in tragic ways.  Illegal and destructive fishing practices, along with harmful fisheries subsidies, were driving fish stocks to collapse, while greenhouse gasses were driving climate change and causing sea-level rise through ocean warming, threatening ocean life through acidification and deoxygenation.

The central conclusion was clear, he said:  To secure a future for our species, action must be taken now on the health of the ocean and on climate change.  With Goal 14 in place within the 2030 Agenda and the Paris Agreement ratified, it was time to demonstrate fidelity to those two life-saving agreements.  Describing the mantra of the Ocean Conference as “human-induced problems have human-devised solutions”, he pledged that participants would work to advance Goal 14 targets of 2020, 2025 and 2030.  They would follow-up with diligence on commitments made, “all along holding ourselves responsible to bequeath a conserved and sustainably managed ocean to the stewards of the future”, he declared.

FREDERICK MUSIIWA MAKAMURE SHAVA (Zimbabwe), President of the Economic and Social Council, said the collective focus this week would be on scaling up efforts to halt ocean degradation and reverse a cycle of decline.  Urgent action needed to be taken.  Noting that the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, among other agreements, had been in place for some time, he said what was now needed was implementation of the 2030 Agenda.

“The issue of conserving and sustainably using our oceans is very complex, as oceans have a direct impact on poverty eradication, health, sustained economic growth, food security and creation of sustainable livelihoods and decent work,” he said.  At the same time, biodiversity and the marine environment must be protected and the impact of climate change addressed.  Political guidance from the high-level political forum that would be held on 10-18 July under the auspices of the Economic and Social Council would be critical for promoting integrated consideration of the Sustainable Development Goals.

He described the Ocean Conference as a unique place to raise awareness and to underscore solutions that must be put into place to ensure that the world’s oceans and seas remained a source of life and human well-being for generations.  The Call to Action that would be adopted by the Conference must be a cooperative effort that ensured a pooling of financial and technical resources as well as technology sharing and capacity-building, he said.

WU HONGBO, Secretary-General of the Ocean Conference and Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, said that without oceans and seas, there would be no life on the planet.  Yet, oceans faced a variety of threats, including climate change, marine pollution, extraction of marine resources, and erosion and destruction of marine and coastal habitats.  Member States had committed to conserve and sustainably use oceans, seas and marine resources through Sustainable Development Goal 14.  The message of the Call for Action was clear.  “The time to act is now,” he said, noting that its 22 specific actions promised to galvanize global commitments and partnerships.

He said the number of voluntary commitments was growing daily, and, importantly, covered all targets of Goal 14.  The coming days were a great opportunity to rally support at all levels, as the Conference was a platform for Governments, United Nations agencies, major groups and others to identify the ways and means to support implementation of Goal 14, by building on existing partnerships and stimulating new ones.  Special attention should focus on the means of implementation, such as capacity-building and enhanced financing, which was critical for small island developing States, least developed countries and developing nations alike.  With broad support from all stakeholders, the Conference would bring about solutions for saving the ocean and advancing implementation of Goal 14.

Partnership Dialogue

In the afternoon, the Ocean Conference held a partnership dialogue on the topic “Addressing marine pollution”.  Moderated by Elliott Harris, Head of the New York Office of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and co-chaired by Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan, Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs of Indonesia, and Vidar Helgesen, Minister of Climate and Environment of Norway, it featured a panel discussion by Nancy Wallace, Director, Marine Debris Program, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, United States Department of Commerce; Kosi Latu, Director-General, Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme; Peter Kershaw, Chair of the Joint Group of Experts on the Scientific Aspects of Marine Environment; and Sybil Seitzinger, Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions, University of Victoria, Canada.

Mr. PANDJAITAN called plastic and microplastic debris a major threat to marine and coastal diversity.  Such debris resulted mostly from solid waste management.  Summarizing Indonesia’s recently launched ocean policy as well as research initiatives, he said the country had come up with a plan of action that incorporated, among other pillars, behavioural change and reducing waste leakage.  He emphasized that plastics manufacturers must be involved in fighting marine pollution.  “We can get rid of this problem because we care and we can,” he said, underscoring the need for action at the national, regional and global level.

Mr. HELGESEN said marine litter was possibly the fastest-growing environmental problem as well as a shared challenge.  Providing an example, he said 30 plastic bags and other pieces of plastic debris were found this past winter in the stomach of a beached whale in Norway.  It was both possible and necessary to act, he said, describing a programme in his country that included waste management as a key component in fighting marine litter.  He said his country was also considering extended producer responsibility, and emphasized the need for a higher level of political attention and united action.

Mr. HARRIS said it was a painful fact that oceans, seas, lakes and other waterways were being damaged — or slowly being strangled — by human activity.  Most ocean pollution originated on land, he said, adding that by some estimates there were more microplastics in the world’s oceans than stars in the galaxy.  Many countries were taking courageous action, he said, citing a Canadian ban on microplastics in personal care products, a French restriction on plastic cutlery and a prohibition on plastic bags in some African countries.  More, however, needed to be done.

Ms. WALLACE said the world’s oceans were overflowing with man-made items that did not belong there, including disposable plastic bags, cigarette butts, derelict fishing nets and abandoned vessels.  Lost and discarded items threated health, safety and wildlife.  Marine debris was a complex global problem that called for a wide array of solutions, she said, the ultimate solution being preventing such debris from getting into the oceans in the first place.  Waste management offered a myriad of solutions, but every country had unique challenges in that regard.  Programmes to increase the value of waste would encourage its collection, she said, underscoring the paramount importance of sharing information on challenges and solutions.

Mr. LATU said that countries in the Pacific region — an area that was 98 per cent water and 2 per cent land, with the world’s most important tuna fisheries — had adopted a Cleaner Pacific Strategy, which addressed all forms of waste, including marine plastics and oil leaking from World War II shipwrecks.  Poor waste disposal, mainly on land but also at sea, contributed to the problem.  Research on fishing vessels found that 37 per cent of the waste dumped overboard was comprised of plastics, he said, emphasizing the need to effectively implement relevant international conventions.  Other solutions would include awareness-raising, encouraging recycling and improved practices on vessels.

Mr. KERSHAW said marine litter was a global problem with regional differences.  Microplastics came in many forms, from those used in toothpaste and facial scrubs to plastic resin beads and the secondary fragments of larger plastic items.  A further challenge was that many durable plastics contained modifying chemicals with toxicological properties.  Some solutions were relatively easy, such as removing microplastics from personal products in which they were not needed, he said.  Others, such textile fibres and vehicle tire dust, were more problematic.  Once it was known how microplastics were leaking into the oceans, then solutions — including partnerships — could be sought.

Ms. SEITZINGER discussed the impact of excessive use of nutrients, including toxic algae blooms, hypoxic regions and coral reef degradation.  Fertilizer and manure were the leading source of inorganic nitrogen, but its impact varied between regions.  No single solution was possible because there were multiple sources related to food and energy production, she said, adding that sewage treatment facilities should be designed to capture nitrogen and phosphorous for reuse.  Noting that billions of dollars were spent on subsidies to encourage the use of fertilizers, particularly in China and India, she said that fewer subsidies could lead to reduced fertilizer use with little impact on grain production.  She went on to suggest that consideration be given to laboratory-grown meat, which would reduce land, water and fertilizer use and eliminate manure production.

In the ensuing interactive debate, ministers, other senior officials and representatives of Member States and international organizations discussed the effects of marine pollution in different parts of the world, as well as measures being taken to address the problem.

MARION HENRY, Secretary of Resource and Development for the Federated States of Micronesia, said that, on his walks along the beach in his country, he saw fewer almonds than he did in his childhood, but many plastics.  Perhaps the easiest solution to the problem would be to stop debris from entering the oceans in the first place.  Comparing ocean debris to dumping garbage over a fence onto a neighbour’s backyard, he said “the ocean is our backyard”, and requested that other States be good neighbours in that regard.

NICOS KOUYIALIS, Minister for Agriculture, Rural Development and Environment of Cyprus, said pollution problems were more profound in enclosed or semi-enclosed seas, such as the Mediterranean.  Another serious problem was eutrophication due to treated and untreated domestic sewage and other discharges from land-based sources, he said, noting that his country, in that regard, had since the early 1980s maintained a “no drop of water in the sea” sewage policy.

KAMINA JOHNSON SMITH, Minister for Foreign affairs and Foreign Trade of Jamaica, said marine pollution had severe consequences for her country.  Forging new partnerships and strengthening existing ones to protect and preserve the maritime space was a responsibility that Jamaica took seriously, she said, citing as an example its participation in the Global Ballast Water Management Project to address the transmission of potentially invasive species.

JOHN SILK, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Marshall Islands, said his country had recently banned the importation and use of single-use plastic bags, which had become more common than fish along its shores.  He added that the Pacific was also struggling with the legacy of events it did not cause, including naval shipwrecks, unexploded ordinance and radioactive contamination.

The representative of the Netherlands said his country’s positon was simple:  litter did not belong in the marine environment.  The Netherlands was committed to an integral approach that emphasized prevention, he said, noting that a ban on plastic bags at point of sale went into effect on 1 January 2016.

The representative of the Stiftelsen Stockholm International Water Institute emphasized the importance of engaging upstream sources of marine pollution.  Otherwise, she said, communities located well away from coastal areas might not feel motivated to take relevant action.

The representative of China said his country was taking a number of steps to address marine pollution, including improving urban sewage treatment systems and adhering to the principles of recycling.  At the international level, China advocated the sharing of successful experiences.  It was also striving to reduce fertilizer use while assessing what further measures would be required.

The representative of The Ocean Cleanup said his organization was developing advanced technology to collect existing marine debris through a system that involved natural ocean currents and a fleet of artificial coast lines.  Once deployed, it could clean up 50 per cent of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in 5 years, he said, adding that it would be easy later on to develop spin-off systems that could intercept plastic debris before it could reach the ocean.

His counterpart from World Animal Protection said the issue of abandoned and lost fishing gear, also known as ghost fishing gear, must feature near the top of the agenda.  It represented 10 per cent of all marine debris, but it was the deadliest to marine life, and after overfishing it was most responsible for declining fish stocks, she said, inviting participants to support the Global Ghost Gear Initiative.

Responding to the discussion, Ms. SEITZINGER said an opportunity existed to address the problem of nutrient pollution.  She added that the benefits of working together should always be present in people’s minds.

Mr. KERSHAW said it was encouraging to hear so many positive initiatives, adding however that better partnerships with industry were needed to deal with solid waste before it come become microplastics.

Mr. LATU said that, in devising solutions, it was important to remember that pollution knew no boundaries.  He added that while some countries seemed to have strong waste management policies, others needed to do more work in that regard.

Ms. WALLACE said she had never seen so much commitment and passion on the marine pollution issue.  The next step would be to turn plans into action.

Mr. PANDJAITAN said that, without action, there would be more plastic in the sea than fish.  No single country could work alone, he said, emphasizing the need to strengthen regional and international measures, with the international community acting at the United Nations level to a clear timeline.

Mr. HELGESEN said he took away from today’s meeting a number of important steps, including stronger enforcements of existing measures, the need to develop new and stronger international commitments to combat marine litter, a process to further harmonize measures to monitor marine debris and forging partnership along the entire plastics value chain to promote a circular economy.  Quoting the “famous philosopher” Elvis Presley, he appealed for a little less conversation and a little more action.

Also participating in the discussion were ministers, other senior officials and representatives of Estonia, Italy, Panama, Netherlands, Peru, Turkey, Indonesia, Algeria, Israel and Honduras, as well as the European Union.

Also taking the floor were representatives of the Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission, United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) and United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

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Scientists Explore Groundwater in the Sahel with Nuclear Technology

Bangui, Central African Republic — In the deserts of the Sahel, one of the poorest regions of the world, rich bodies of water underground provide a source of life. Using nuclear-derived techniques, scientists from 13 African countries have carried out the first ever regionwide assessment of groundwater in this area of 5 million square kilometres, with the help of the IAEA. They have so far gathered valuable clues — including contamination levels and flow patterns that connect the different aquifers and basins.

“This information is like gold,” said Eric Foto, head of the isotope hydrology laboratory at the University of Bangui in the Central African Republic. “With it we can tell the Government where we have shallow, renewable water to drill wells, where pollution comes from, or how long quality water will last.”

To policy-makers who struggle to ensure that safe potable water is available in a region that depends on these aquifers, such findings are critical.

The Sahel stretches from western Africa to central and northern Africa and is home to 135 million people. One of the biggest challenges is access to clean water, which is essential not only for drinking, but also for food production and sanitation.

“People need water to live — and to manage water, you need to understand it,” said Beatrice Ketchemen Tandia, Head of the Cooperation Division at the Department of National Sciences of the University of Douala in Cameroon, who has participated in IAEA research projects as a hydrogeologist since the early 1990s.

Through its technical cooperation programme, the IAEA has provided equipment and trained local scientists from 13 countries — Algeria, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Ghana, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal and Togo — to study five main aquifer systems that cross their borders: the Iullemeden aquifer system, the Liptako-Gourma-Upper Volta system, and the Senegalo-Mauritanian, Chad and Taoudeni basins.

People need water to live — and to manage water, you need to understand it.

Beatrice Ketchemen Tandia, Hydrogeologist and Head, Cooperation Division, Department of National Sciences, University of Douala
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