Calling for more control of the flow of small arms and light weapons and enhanced regulations on autonomous weapons systems, delegates highlighted the damage done to communities around the world by a range of legal and illegal weaponry, as the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) concluded its thematic debate on conventional weapons.
Delegates condemned the high number of deaths attributed to small arms and light weapons, with some calling for enhanced arms control efforts to stem their tide. Painting a grim backdrop to the discussion, the representative of Myanmar recalled that 589,000 violent deaths were recorded in 2017 from the use of this category of weapons, less than 20 per cent of them as the direct result of armed conflict.
Indeed, Latvia’s delegate said that a century ago, combatants accounted for 90 per cent of casualties whereas today, civilians comprise 90 per cent of them. This shift clearly shows that the international community must focus not only on weapons of mass destruction, but also on conventional arms, he said.
Further, the Permanent Observer for the Holy See said, just as the illicit trade of small arms and light weapons must be combatted, the very demand for those weapons must be challenged.
Several representatives from African States took the floor to denounce the massive flow of conventional weapons to the continent. Cote d’Ivoire’s delegate said more than 100 million illegal small arms are currently in circulation in Africa, with 10 million in the Sahel region alone. Such proliferation is a cause of major concern because it is linked to drug and mineral trafficking and to terrorism, which all fuel instability and insecurity, he said.
The representatives of Democratic Republic of Congo and Nigeria underlined the importance of the Programme of Action on Small Arms and the International Tracing Instrument, which also supports regional efforts such as the African Union’s Silencing the Guns by 2020 initiative. The representative of Eritrea explained her country’s first‑hand experience in the Horn of Africa, where non‑State actors have access to illicit markets, resulting in regional tensions that have spanned two decades.
Sudan’s delegate said the transfer and smuggling of small arms and light weapons can be influenced by climate change, drought, desertification and competition over water resources and grazing grounds. For its part, national efforts have seen results, including through heightened border control and a campaign to collect small arms from civilians that has yielded more than half a million weapons.
Meanwhile, Madagascar’s representative said financial and technical assistance to her country via the Arms Trade Treaty made it possible to improve arms control, including the introduction of laser marking for firearms.
The representative of Burkina Faso said national efforts include passing legislation to complement the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Convention on Small Arms and Light Weapons, Their Ammunition and Other Related Materials. She urged States to adopt by consensus the ECOWAS draft resolution on assistance to States collecting small arms and light weapons.
At the same time, the representative of Mali called for the full implementation of all necessary instruments, including those directed at facilitating weapons tracing. Such efforts would help tackle weapons proliferation in his country, where illicit arms are widely used by terrorists and traffickers to attack civilian and public armed forces, wreaking havoc on daily life and undermining development efforts.
Representatives from the Middle East spotlighted the increasing influx of arms in their region. Iran’s delegate said the growth of conventional arms transfers is alarming, with the flow of arms to the Middle East increasing by 87 per cent in 2018 from 2009, representing 35 per cent of all global arms imports. During that period, more than half of United States arms exports went to the Middle East, an increase of 134 per cent, which “proves the irresponsible export of arms” by that State.
As for other categories of weapons, the Russian Federation’s delegate called for caution to be taken when approaching new topics, and remained sceptical of decisions taken about lethal autonomous weapons systems because there is a lack of working models and an inability to grasp concepts related to this arms category.
However, the representative of Brazil said these new weapons systems are “intrinsically problematic”, introducing novelties such as miniaturization or artificial intelligence. As such, a better framework must be developed through the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, he said.
In this regard, the representative of Sri Lanka said the development of lethal autonomous weapons, also known as “killer robots” devoid of human control, create an unprecedented risk for humanity. China, on its part, also supports in‑depth discussions on this type of weapon within the framework of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, adding that an international legally binding instrument is needed to prevent automated killing by machines.
At the outset of the meeting, the Chair of the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms briefed the Committee via video‑teleconference, noting that the Register is the only global instrument with information on more than 90 per cent of conventional weapons transfers. Much of that information comes from major arms exporters, but it is important that all Member States participate, she said, including small exporters, importers and those not engaged in arms transfers.
Also speaking today on conventional weapons were representatives of Indonesia, Netherlands, Guatemala, New Zealand, Spain, Turkey, Cameroon, Australia, Slovenia, Bahamas, Lithuania, Malaysia, Argentina, Republic of Moldova, Colombia, Syria and Ecuador.
Also speaking on other disarmament measures and international security were representatives of Indonesia (on behalf of the Non‑Aligned Movement), Antigua and Barbuda (on behalf of the Caribbean Community) and Tunisia (on behalf of the Group of Arab States), as well as the European Union.
Representatives of the Russian Federation, Syria, Israel, United Kingdom, United States, Iran and Argentina spoke in exercise of the right of reply.
The First Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m., on Tuesday, 29 October, to continue its thematic debate on disarmament measures and international security.
The First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) met this morning to hear a presentation by the Chair of the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms, conclude its thematic discussion on conventional weapons and begin a debate on other disarmament measures and international security. For background information, see Press Release GA/DIS/3624 of 10 October.
United Nations Register of Conventional Arms
MARIELA FOGANTE (Argentina), Chair of the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms, briefed the Committee via video‑teleconference on its work. Among other things, she noted that the Register is the only global instrument with information on more than 90 per cent of conventional weapons transfers. Much of that information comes from major arms exporters, but it is important that all Member States participate, she said, including small exporters, importers and those not engaged in arms transfers. To that end, the report of the Register contains recommendations to improve participation. The Register now covers a full range of conventional weapons and, with a three‑year review cycle, fulfills a confidence‑building role.
MARCELO PAZ SARAIVA CÂMARA (Brazil) said further efforts are needed to control illicit flows of ammunition, he said, calling for the full implementation of the Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects. Brazil has pioneered related legislation, he said, anticipating the convening of a group of governmental experts on problems arising from the accumulation of surplus conventional ammunition. Having assisted in demining efforts in Central America and Central Africa for 20 years, Brazil is a party to the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti‑Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction. However, new weapons such as lethal autonomous weapons systems are “intrinsically problematic”, introducing novelties such as miniaturization or artificial intelligence, and a better framework must be developed through the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons.
PANGERAN IBRANI SITUMORANG (Indonesia), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement and Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), called on major weapons producing States to ensure that they are transferred to Governments only. Equally essential is a balanced, full and effective implementation of the Programme of Action on Small Arms and the International Tracing Instrument. Anti‑personnel mines and cluster munitions have severe human consequences both during and after conflicts. However, reasserting the sovereign rights of States to acquire, manufacture, export and import conventional weapons, he said Indonesia rejects any undue restrictions and coercive measures placed by exporting nations on importing countries.
VICTORIA LIETA LIOLOCHA (Democratic Republic of the Congo), associating herself with the African Group and Non‑Aligned Movement, said outlined challenges facing the eastern provinces, where armed groups are using proceeds from illicit natural resource exploitation to acquire weapons. This has resulted in civilian deaths, widespread displacement, human rights violations and mass rape. Kinshasa attaches great importance to the Programme of Action on Small Arms and the International Tracing Instrument, also supporting regional and subregional efforts, including the African Union’s Silencing the Guns by 2020 initiative. She said the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s national action plan on small arms and light weapons deserves financial and technical support, noting that the Government is working to meet a 1 January 2021 deadline to eliminate all anti‑personnel mines.
SANDRA DE JONGH (Netherlands), associating herself with the European Union, expressed support for a responsive policy that takes account technological advances. “While recognizing the potential benefits of increased autonomy in weapons systems, we cannot turn a blind eye to possible risks,” she said, noting her delegation’s involvement in updating the International Mine Action Standards related to improvised explosive devices and developing international standards on armed unmanned aerial vehicles. Condemning any use of cluster munitions and anti‑personnel mines by any actor, she remained committed to mine action worldwide. A responsible arms control policy should refrain from providing weapons in instances where parties breach international law, and must aim at combating the illicit trade. As sponsor of the transparency in armaments resolution during the current First Committee session, the Netherlands also believes that the low reporting rate to the Arms Trade Treaty and Register of Conventional Arms remains concerning and disappointing. Full accountability requires universal membership of arms control and disarmament frameworks.
SAMSON SUNDAY ITEGBOJE (Nigeria), associating himself with the African Group and Non‑Aligned Movement, said small arms and light weapons undermine otherwise peaceful societies, trigger displacement and are responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths. He commended steps taken within the framework of the Programme of Action on Small Arms and the International Tracing Instruments, he said Nigeria is also fully committed to the Arms Trade Treaty. Domestic achievements include conducting capacity‑building programmes for security agencies and a comprehensive national survey on the spread of illicit weapons. Nigeria has also taken steps to protect civilians from the use of explosive weapons in populated areas. While significant gains have been made in curbing the menace of conventional weapons, much more must be done for the full implementation of instruments like the Arms Trade Treaty or the Programme of Action on Small Arms.
JI ZHAOYU (China) said his country stands for strengthening and improving the international legal mechanism for conventional arms control through a balanced approach that addresses the legitimate security needs and humanitarian concerns of each State. Beijing’s intention to acceded to the Arms Trade Treaty reflects China’s strong support for multilateralism. China also supports in‑depth discussions on lethal autonomous weapons within the framework of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons and that an international legally binding instrument is needed to prevent automated killing by machines. China also supports the formulation of reasonable solutions to the abuse of improvised explosive devices by non‑State actors, also in the framework of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons. He went on to note China’s role in the training of more than 800 professional demining technicians.
ELSA HAILE (Eritrea), associating herself with the African Group and Non‑Aligned Movement, said conventional weapons claim more lives and destroy socioeconomic progress more than any other type of weaponry, due to their wide availability. An effective international instrument such as the Arms Trade Treaty or the Programme of Action on Small Arms, can effectively address illicit trafficking. She explained her country’s first‑hand experience in the Horn of Africa, where non‑State actors have access to illicit markets, resulting in regional tensions for the last two decades. However, she showed optimism in the face of positive developments on this issue and called for stronger regional collaboration.
WENDBIGDA HONORINE BONKOUNGOU (Burkina Faso), associating herself with the African Group and Non‑Aligned Movement, said the weapons circulating in the Sahel has contributed to the grave security crisis gripping her country since 2015. National efforts include passing legislation to complement the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Convention on Small Arms and Light Weapons, Their Ammunition and Other Related Materials. Urging States to adopt by consensus the ECOWAS draft resolution on assistance to States collecting small arms and light weapons, she also called for the universalization of the Mine Ban Convention, drawing attention to the use of improved explosive devices by terrorist groups.
LUIS ANTÓNIO LAM PADILLA (Guatemala), associating himself with Ireland, who spoke on behalf of a group of countries, highlighted the connection linking small arms and light weapons with drug trafficking, organized crime and impediments to sustainable development. The main purpose of the Arms Trade Treaty is to save lives, and its success depends on States to fully implement all provisions, and delays in financial contributions to assist in doing this are unacceptable. He welcomed the inclusion of the gender perspective at the last review conference of the Programme of Action on Small Arms. He also urged all States not party to the Mine Ban Convention to accede to that instrument, and noted that Central America is the first region in the world to be free of cluster munitions.
HEIDAR ALI BALOUJI (Iran), aligning himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, noted the alarming growth of conventional arms transfers, with the flow of arms to the Middle East increasing by 87 per cent from 2009 to 2018, representing 35 per cent of all global arms imports. During that period, more than half of United States arms exports went to the Middle East, an increase of 134 per cent, which “proves the irresponsible export of arms” by that State. In addition, “a certain European country” increased its own exports by 261 per cent during that same time frame, in violation of its international commitments under the Arms Trade Treaty and the European Union code on arms transfers. “These exports mainly end up in the hands of countries involved in occupation, aggression and military conflict,” he said. Noting that a certain Middle Eastern country has received 33 per cent of arms transfers to the region over the past five years, he said its defence spending is now the third largest in the world. Over that period, western‑made weapons have been used to kill hundreds of thousands of Yemeni civilians. Israel’s large arsenal of sophisticated offensive conventional weapons, in addition to weapons of mass destruction, continues to threaten the peace and security of the region, as these arms are used systematically to kill civilians, commit genocide and war crimes.
DELL HIGGIE (New Zealand), outlining her country’s involvement in developing the Arms Trade Treaty, Convention on Cluster Munitions and Mine Ban Convention, said activities included co‑hosting workshops and producing related legislation. New Zealand also is engaging with discussions about the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, she said, adding that an overwhelming majority of States support the negotiation of a political declaration on the topic. The Parliament is currently considering new firearms legislation to improve its ability to monitor firearms lawfully entering the country and allow it to accede to the United Nations Protocol against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, Their Parts and Components and Ammunition.
ANDREY BELOUSOV (Russian Federation) called for the further strengthening of existing instruments to combat the inhumane use of weapons. However, he called for caution to be taken when approaching new topics, considering humanitarian concerns and defence interests, and remained sceptical of decisions taken about lethal autonomous weapons systems because there is a lack of working models and an inability to grasp concepts related to this arms category. His delegation supports the Group of Government Experts’ ongoing discussions on the issue. As for the use of explosives in populated areas and calls for regulations, he said this is neither a new or an acute problem, as these weapons have been around for centuries. Given the experience of the Second World War, the international community does not need new regulations, but instead must strengthen existing humanitarian law. He regretted to note the lack of effectiveness of the Arms Trade Treaty because the flow of arms has not decreased and condemned the de facto withdrawal of the United States from the instrument, given that it is the world’s largest arms manufacturer.
DAVID IZQUIERDO ORTIZ DE ZARATE (Spain), associating himself with the European Union and Ireland, who spoke on behalf of a group of countries, said conventional arms are the main tool of aggression in armed conflicts and organized crime, and their proliferation and illicit trafficking causes suffering and hinders development. Despite progress in curbing the presence of weapons that cause harm in an indiscriminate manner, like anti‑personnel mines and cluster munitions, much more must be done. While the Mine Ban Convention has led to the destruction or removal of more than 51 million mines, more has to be done in the current framework of negotiations to achieve a world free of these weapons by 2025. Small arms and light weapons should be the priority because they cause the most deaths and fuel organized crime and terrorism. He commended the achievements of the Arms Trade Treaty and welcomed the inclusion of the gender perspective as a clear indication of progress.
MEMET MEVLÜT YAKUT (Turkey) said the proliferation of illicit conventional weapons, especially small arms and light weapons, is equally as important as the threat posed by weapons of mass destruction. Besides causing a huge death toll worldwide, excessive accumulation and the uncontrolled spread of conventional weapons and ammunition also endanger socioeconomic development. Moreover, there is a clear and well‑documented relationship between their illicit trade and terrorism and organized crime. Highlighting also the importance of issues related to improvised explosive devices and lethal autonomous weapons systems, he expressed concern at the increasing impact of such weapons worldwide, especially through the perpetration of terrorist acts.
SALLY GORNAS (Sudan) said the transfer and smuggling of small arms and light weapons can be influenced by climate change, drought, desertification and competition over water resources and grazing grounds. Sudan’s border control initiatives have greatly reduced smuggling in weapons as well as drugs and persons. A national campaign to collect small arms from civilians has meanwhile yielded more than half a million weapons and curbed the activities of criminal gangs. She underscored the positive impact that international cooperation can have on effective implementation of the Programme of Action on Small Arms.
LALAINA RAHARIMBOAHANGY (Madagascar), associating herself with the African Group and Non‑Aligned Movement, said that financial and technical assistance to her country via the Arms Trade Treaty made it possible for her country to make progress on controlling the circulation of weapons within its borders, such as the introduction of laser marking for firearms and better management of weapons and ammunition. She thanked the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Africa and others for their assistance, adding that countries like hers cannot face increasingly multifaceted challenges on their own.
KWENDA NELLY DOMINIQUE (Cameroon) said that for developing countries, it would be better to baptize small arms and light weapons as weapons of mass destruction. She reviewed steps being taken by Cameroon to implement the Arms Trade Treaty, noting how it has benefited from that instrument’s voluntary trust fund. She called on the international community to work towards a better harmonization of efforts to address the global trade in small arms and light weapons.
VANESSA WOOD (Australia) said her country was a leader in the drive towards the landmark Arms Trade Treaty, which can potentially evolve into one of the most important normative initiatives in the global prevention of the illicit trade in conventional arms. Her Government also prioritizes mine action and all international agencies working in clearance, risk education and victim assistance, and is actively participating in the Group of Governmental Experts on lethal autonomous weapons systems. Australia recognizes that the accumulation and misuse of conventional weapons violently intersects with gender and disability issues on many levels, including in conflict and post‑conflict situations, criminal activity, violence and homicide, and ensures that initiatives are progressive and inclusion‑sensitive.
DARJA BAVDAŽ KURET (Slovenia), associating herself with the European Union, outlined various activities contributing to addressing the use of conventional weapons. Among them is a project launched in 1998 to enhance human security, with a view to helping to alleviate the grave impact of anti‑personnel mines. Over the last 20 years, projects have reached many communities around the world, including in the Gaza Strip, Syria and Ukraine. In addition, Slovenia provided a symbolic voluntary contribution for the Mine Ban Convention’s Implementation Support Unit.
ANGELIKA D. HILLEBRANDT (Bahamas), aligning herself with the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the Non‑Aligned Movement, highlighted the special challenges facing a small island developing State geographically located in a strategic route for the transhipment of conventional arms and related trans‑organized criminal activity. To address this problem, her Government must divert human, technical and financial resources away from critical socioeconomic development efforts. In the wake of Hurricane Dorian, “the Bahamas needs now more than ever before to funnel resources into rebuilding,” she added. Domestic measures include background checks and limitations on the quantities of guns and ammunition per licence.
JORŪNĖ MARTINAVIČIŪTĖ (Lithuania) highlighted the importance of the Arms Trade Treaty and called for all countries, especially major arms producers and exporters, to join the instrument. States must also comply with all provisions of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, and discussions on new technologies and conventional weapons should remain within the instrument’s framework. Moreover, the arms control obligations stipulated by the Vienna Document 2011 on Confidence- and Security‑Building Measures and the Open Skies Treaty must be respected and preserved, she said, expressing worry about instances of selective implementation. Lithuania remains greatly concerned about the militarization of the Crimean Peninsula and transfer of weapons systems and ammunition. The presence of Russian Federation troops and military equipment in Crimea is contrary to the national sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine while undermining regional security and stability. As such, she called on the Russian Federation to halt support for illegal armed groups in eastern Ukraine and stop the inflow of weapons and equipment there.
N’CHO VIRGILE AKIAPO (Côte d’Ivoire), associating himself with the African Group and Non‑Aligned Movement, said the proliferation of small arms and light weapons is a cause of major concern because it is linked to drug and mineral trafficking and to terrorism, constituting an impediment to peace, security and development. More than 100 million illegal small arms are currently circulating in Africa, 10 million of them in the Sahel region, fueling insecurity. As such, a comprehensive approach is needed and must include the communities most affected. Citing several national efforts, he said activities include destroying confiscated weapons and strengthening storage site security and databases. Calling for a community‑level approach and awareness raising, he said all efforts to curb arms and ammunition trafficking can only be done through synergistic approaches, welcoming contributions from partners such as the European Union, Germany and Japan.
NUR ATHIRA HANI ABDUL RAHMAN (Malaysia), aligning herself with ASEAN, Non‑Aligned Movement and Ireland, who spoke on behalf of a group of countries, said her Government is not yet party to several international instruments on conventional weapons, but remains supportive of the Arms Trade Treaty and its role in combatting and eradicating illicit trade. She also expressed support for a future political declaration on the use of explosive weapons in populated areas. Stating that the illicit transfer, manufacture and circulation of small arms and light weapons and their excessive accumulation remains an issue of global concern, she called for full implementation of the Programme of Action on Small Arms to counter their spread.
CARLOS FORADORI (Argentina) introduced the draft resolution “Arms Trade Treaty” (A/C.1/74/L.25), saying it features new language, including on transparency, gender and international humanitarian law. Noting that Malvinas* is the only part of his country affected by anti‑personnel mines, he said it has been unable to comply with its obligations under the Mine Ban Convention as that area is illegally occupied by the United Kingdom and the subject of a sovereignty dispute. Argentina has proposed to the United Kingdom that the two countries jointly carry out mine clearance operations for humanitarian purposes.
VICTOR MORARU (Republic of Moldova), associating himself with the European Union, expressed concern over the illicit production and transfer of and excessive build‑up of conventional arms in “grey zones”, where Governments do not exercise complete control on parts of their territory. The eastern part of his country is partially controlled by an unconstitutional militarized entity, with huge quantities of conventional armaments and ammunitions belonging chiefly to the Russian Federation Operational Group of Russian Forces, which are stationed there without his Government’s consent. To date, his Government and an Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) mission have been prevented from verifying the existing stockpiles to monitor transfers and from assessing the technical conditions of munitions, some of which may pose substantial environmental danger. As such, he said the complete withdrawal of the Russian Federation’s military forces and armaments from the Republic of Moldova’s territory will contribute to the demilitarization of the Transnistrian region.
ANDREJS PILDEGOVIČS (Latvia), aligning himself with the European Union, said that at the outset of the twentieth century, combatants accounted for 90 per cent of casualties whereas today, civilians comprise 90 per cent of casualties. More than 500,000 people are killed by conventional arms annually, 70,000 of them in conflict zones. These figures clearly prove that the international community must focus not only on weapons of mass destruction, but also on conventional arms. Expressing support for the adoption of a robust plan of action on gender‑based violence in the context of the Arms Trade Treaty, he said it is the first intergovernmental agreement that aims at improving the meaningful participation of women in disarmament fora. Universalization of the Arms Trade Treaty is key to a world without violence caused by the illegal circulation of arms. However, he expressed concern over the high level of outstanding national assessed contributions to virtually all arms control treaties, which hinders their effectiveness.
NOËL DIARRA (Mali) associating himself with the African Union and Non‑Aligned Movement, raised grave concerns about the proliferation of small arms and light weapons in his country, where they are widely used by terrorists and traffickers to attack civilian and public armed forces. The devastating consequences include having a high toll on human life and undermining development efforts. Citing national steps towards address this problem, he called for the implementation of all necessary instruments, including those directed at facilitating weapons tracing. Thanking international partners that have helped Mali to combat the flow of these arms, he expressed hope for the upcoming review conference of the Programme of Action on Small Arms.
NOHRA MARIA QUINTERO CORREA (Colombia) said combatting the diversion of small arms and light weapons to non‑state actors is key for her delegation, as it is a threat to peace and development and is linked to drug trafficking, terrorism and crime. Coordinated international actions must combat arms trafficking, a criminal activity that shares the same infrastructure as drug cartels, yet efforts must also be directed against ammunitions, parts and components. As such, Colombia will table a related draft resolution, with the goal of ensuring greater progress in implementing mechanisms to allow the flow of information and systems. Condemning the use of anti‑personnel mines and improvised explosives devices laid by non‑State actors, she commended the role of the United Nations in raising awareness in this area.
ABDULLAH HALLAK (Syria), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, said that despite provisions of the Arms Trade Treaty and Security Council resolutions, some States are directly transferring small arms, light weapons and other war material to blacklisted terrorist groups. Some of those transfers have been carried out with aircraft with diplomatic authorization. Today in Syria, there are countries providing billions of dollars of weapons to Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) and Al‑Nusrah Front. States claiming to support democracy and the rule of law while calling for the adoption of the Arms Trade Treaty are destroying entire nations, while Israel and the White Helmets are transferring weapons to Da’esh, Al‑Nusrah and others. In addition, these activities involved some States that are permanent members of the Security Council.
ANDRES FIALLO (Ecuador), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, appealed for an immediate halt to investments in companies that manufacture cluster munitions. He reiterated Ecuador’s commitment to the Mine Ban Convention, saying it has painful experiences with such weapons and that it would rather sow its borders with development projects. To achieve global security, States must respect international law and the Charter of the United Nations, he said, adding that multilateralism — not an arms race — will lead to a democratic, safe, secure and peaceful international order.
SATYAJIT ARJUNA RODRIGO (Sri Lanka), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, recalling his country’s decades‑long experience with terrorist conflict alongside the 2019 Easter Sunday attacks in Colombo, highlighted the devastating impact of small arms and light weapons. Global military expenditures must drop, with resources redirected towards economic and social development. The development of lethal autonomous weapons, also known as “killer robots” devoid of human control, create an unprecedented risk for humanity. If not regulated, such weapons could threaten international peace and security, he said, encouraging States parties to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons to fast‑track discussions within the Group of Governmental Experts to address the topic. There is also a crucial need to negotiate a legally binding framework with regulatory norms that would including meaningful human control of these weapons.
YE MINN THEIN (Myanmar), aligning himself with ASEAN and the Non‑Aligned Movement, recalled that 589,000 violent deaths were recorded in 2017 from the use of small arms and light weapons, less than 20 per cent of them as the direct result of armed conflict. “We fully share the view of the Secretary‑General; disarmament saves lives” he said. He expressed support, in principle, for the provisions of the Convention on Cluster Munitions and the Mine Ban Convention. Myanmar’s military forces, together with ethnic armed organizations that are signatories to a nationwide ceasefire agreement, have engaged in humanitarian demining in Kayin state, clearing more than 36,000 anti‑personnel mines and explosive remnants of war since 2011. Echoing a growing global concern over new lethal autonomous weapons systems, he cited the alarming increase in worldwide military expenditures, which reached $1.8 trillion in 2018.
BERNADITO CLEOPAS AUZA, Permanent Observer for the Holy See, said a secure world is essential for development and the fight against extreme poverty. It is important not to undervalue the role of quality education and respond to the challenge of youth falling prey to recruitment into armed groups. Just as the illicit trade of small arms and light weapons must be combatted, the very demand for those weapons must also be countered. There are those who earn a living and accumulate great wealth through arms trafficking, he observed, adding that the availability of such weapons only aids and abets the protraction of deadly conflicts in the developing world. International collaboration and vigorous implementation of international, regional and bilateral agreements are vital.
Right of Reply
The representative of the Russian Federation, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, noting that certain delegations have an anti‑Russian obsession, said Russian armed forces continue to carry out a role of ensuring stability in the Crimea region. Indeed, the function of its military is to protect the territory and citizens of the Russian Federation living there, with capabilities maintained at appropriate levels to carry out this mission. Any suggestions that counter these purposes are unfounded and absurd. Indeed, 90 per cent of Crimea’s inhabitants voted in favour of being annexed to the Russian Federation at a time when there was a violent overthrow of a legitimate Government in Kyiv. The victims of Kyiv are protected by the Russian Federation, he said. No illegal arms shipments have been sent to the eastern region of Ukraine, he said, regretting to note the Ukrainian military forces have fired more than one million shells, bullets and bombs into the Luhansk and Donetsk region.
The representative of Syria said Israel’s delegation promotes falsehoods and twisted facts against his country. Israel remains unaccountable for its crimes. Many major arms traders are often retired Israel Defense Forces officers, and Israeli weapons are fuelling conflicts all over the world, including many in Africa. Moreover, Israel is involved in the illegal trade of weapons to international crime, terrorist and drug networks and is responsible for the introduction of weapons of mass destruction into the Middle East, made possible by support from one Security Council member. Israel has also violated many Council resolutions and supported groups like Da’esh and Al‑Nusrah Front on Syrian territory.
The representative of Israel expressed outrage at the accusations made by the Iranian regime. Iran is the biggest sponsor of terrorism and arms trafficker and seeks to promote its radical agenda in the region and all over the world.
The representative of the United Kingdom said his country is in no doubt about its sovereignty over the Falkland Islands (Malvinas), South Georgia Islands and South Sandwich Islands and the surrounding maritime areas or the principle and right of those living there to self‑determination. The United Kingdom’s relationship with all its overseas territories is a modern one.
The representative of the United States said Iran’s remarks about his country and Israel were outrageous. When evaluating arms sales and exports, the United States weighs several factors, he said, adding that each delivery sends a message to its friends and foes. The dominant challenge in the Middle East is Iran’s destabilizing and malign behaviour.
The representative of Iran said his delegation rejects Israel’s statement as absurd. Through aggressive policies, Israel is the main source of regional instability. He added that lying is in the DNA of the United States representative, an extraterritorial player in the region.
The representative of Argentina said his country has set out its position on the Malvinas issue in the General Assembly and the Special Committee on Decolonization.
The representative of the Russian Federation said his country’s limited military presence in the Transnistrian region, dating back to a conflict in the 1990s, contributes to maintaining stability.
The representative of the United States said that if Iran wants to play a constructive role, it could start by ending its support for terrorists and militant groups in the Middle East. For 40 years, Iran has done nothing but torment its neighbours, he said, adding that Islam is a religion based on love, not on torment, death or terrorism.
The representative of the United Kingdom, recalling the results of a 2013 referendum in the Falkland Islands (Malvinas), said Argentina’s claim to the islands is without foundation and that it continues to deny the fundamental right to self-determination of those living there.
The representative of Iran said terrorism in the Middle East has been growing due to the United States support of terrorist groups such as Al‑Qaida. Washington, D.C., maintains a foreign policy based on war, interference and supporting suppression, he said, adding that it must respect the aspirations of the nations in the region.
The representative of Argentina said he regrets the United Kingdom’s erroneous interpretation of historical facts. Noting consensus in the Special Committee on Decolonization regarding the Malvinas, he said the situation over the islands does not involve “people” in the internationally recognized definition of that word.
Other Disarmament Measures and International Security
PANGERAN IBRANI SITUMORANG (Indonesia), speaking on behalf of the Non‑Aligned Movement, said that despite the positive benefits of information and communications technology, he condemned cases of its illegal and malicious use. International law is essential to promoting open, accessible and peaceful environments, as determined by conclusions of the Group of Governmental Experts on Developments in the Field of Information and Telecommunications in the Context of International Security. These technologies must further be used in accordance with the principles of the United Nations Charter, international law and especially of sovereignty and non‑interference in internal affairs. Developing any legal framework to address such technology issues related to international peace and security should account for concerns and interests of all States and be based on consensus. Any such framework, together with other platforms for international cooperation, will contribute greatly to increasing stability and security in cyberspace.
WALTON ALFONSO WEBSON (Antigua and Barbuda), speaking on behalf of CARICOM, said that while the region is not affected by armed conflict, it faces tremendous challenges related to armed violence. As a result, significant resources are diverted from development. Security costs create an untenable burden for countries already heavily indebted and vulnerable to natural disasters. Aside from death by injuries sustained in conflict, he cited the World Health Organization (WHO) on increased mortality rates of people in violent communities due to injury, decreased food access, communicable disease and poor environmental conditions. The problem of illegal weapons in CARICOM States is closely linked to transnational organized crime including drug trafficking and money laundering, which the region is combatting against. The CARICOM Counter‑Terrorism Strategy is one regional response to that scourge, which poses a serious threat to security and stability, endangering the social fabric and economic development of those societies. He also noted the importance of the role of women in prevention and resolution of armed conflicts, as reaffirmed in resolution 1325 (2000).
MOEZZ LAOUANI (Tunisia), speaking on behalf of the Group of Arab States and associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, said the only way to implement disarmament measures is through multilateralism within the framework of the United Nations. Raising concerns about the ballooning worldwide military expenditure, he said those resources should be allocated for sustainable development efforts. At the same time, the continued production and development of nuclear arsenals is a great threat for peace and security. He called for stricter rules governing responsible behaviour, adding that international cooperation is vital role.
ANNE KEMPPAINEN, European Union delegation, said cyberspace must be open, free, stable and secure, with human rights, fundamental freedoms, the rule of law and international law fully respected and upheld. Committed to engaging with ongoing United Nations discussions on cybersecurity to advance and build upon the work of previous Groups of Governmental Experts, the European Union is investing more than €100 million in cyber capacity‑building activities worldwide, contributing to bridging the digital divide and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. It is also supporting a strategic framework for conflict prevention, cooperation and stability in cyberspace, as endorsed by the General Assembly, based on existing international law including the United Nations Charter. However, the bloc and its member States do not see the need for new international legal instruments to be created by cyberissues, she said, adding that collective efforts should focus on building on the work repeatedly endorsed by the General Assembly, notably in resolution 70/237, to raise awareness, build common understanding, exchange best practices and support the effective implementation of agreed norms and confidence‑building measures.
* A dispute exists between the Governments of Argentina and the United Kingdom concerning sovereignty over the Falkland Islands (Malvinas).