Press Releases

    GA/DIS/3272
    5 October 2004

    Adapting to World’s Changing Reality, while Not Renegotiating Basic Principles Greatest Challenge for Current Session, Disarmament Committee Told

    Under-Secretary-General Says Committee Has Responsibility to Clarify Common Goals, Identify New Norms, Asses Progress

    NEW YORK, 4 October (UN Headquarters) -- The greatest challenge facing the current session of the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) was reconciling two divergent objectives -- realistically adapting to the world’s changing reality, while realizing that certain basic principles, including those enshrined in the Charter, should not be subject to renegotiation every year, the Committee was told this morning, as it began its general debate.

    Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs, Nobuyasu Abe, said if those objectives could be simultaneously addressed, common goals might be met. While it was not the duty of the Committee to solve all the world’s international security challenges, it did have the responsibility to clarify common goals, insist upon concrete practical steps to achieve them, assess progress, identify new norms, and make Committee procedures as adequate as possible.

    Committee Chairman Luis Alfonso de Alba (Mexico) said that, while noble words were nice, it was more important to identify specific practical methods to move forward. After all, multilateralism was in a state of crisis. The Disarmament Commission had not been able to agree on an agenda, and, just as in the past seven years, the Conference on Disarmament had failed to agree on a programme of work.  Nevertheless, if the international community engaged in the gradual implementation of reforms, in a constructive environment, then progress might still be achieved.

    Speaking on behalf of the New Agenda Coalition -- which includes Brazil, Egypt, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, South Africa and Sweden -- the representative of Sweden said that, if the nuclear-weapon States continued to use nuclear arms to enhance their security, there was a real danger that other States would also consider acquiring them. That possibility, combined with current events, underlined his belief that the only real guarantee against the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons was in their total elimination and the assurance that they never be produced again.

    He added that non-proliferation was vital, but not sufficient. After all, non-proliferation and disarmament were mutually reinforcing processes.  Without nuclear disarmament, the risk of new nuclear arms races would always remain. In that regard, he said States Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) could not comply with the Treaty “a la carte”. All commitments must be honoured.

    Several representatives addressed reforming the Committee’s methods of work and making it more relevant. The speaker from Australia, for example, said that, if the Committee was to remain significant and enjoy the support of Member States, it could not be seen as working in an isolated vacuum. It, therefore, had to acknowledge that the treaty-based regime for preventing nuclear proliferation was “under challenge”.

    Statements in the general debate were also made by the representatives of Mexico, New Zealand, Netherlands (on behalf of the European Union), Brazil (on behalf of the Rio Group), South Africa, Norway, Peru, Indonesia, Canada and Japan.

    The Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. Tuesday, 5 October, to continue its general debate.

    Background

    The First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) met this morning to begin its general debate on all disarmament and international security agenda items. Reports before the Committee include:

    The report of the Disarmament Commission for 2004 (document A/59/42) highlights the deliberations of members of the Commission during its substantive session held at Headquarters from 5 to 23 April. The Commission held 10 formal and five informal meetings. According to the report, at its 265th meeting, the Commission decided to continue its deliberations on substantive agenda items for the 2005 substantive session and requested the Chairman to continue informal consultations and to present the outcome to the organisational session of the Commission in November-December 2004.

    Keeping with last year’s format, the Secretary-General combined the following topics into a single report (document A/59/136): “Follow-up to the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice on the Legality of the Threat or Use of Nuclear Weapons”; reducing nuclear danger; “Towards a nuclear-weapon-free world: the need for a new agenda”; and nuclear disarmament.

    That report states that the international community continues to confront dangers from the acquisition, possession and possible use of weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons, and that reducing such threats requires efforts at all levels. Regarding the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), which remains the cornerstone of the global non-proliferation regime and the essential foundation for the pursuit of nuclear disarmament, the report notes that it has recently been challenged by questions of compliance and withdrawal.

    Because the Preparatory Committee was unable to agree on a number of issues essential for the preparation of the Review Conference in 2005, the report stresses that it is important for the success of the Conference and the validity of the Treaty that States Parties strive to resolve the remaining issues in the months leading to the Review Conference.

    The report adds that, despite more ratifications of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) since the Secretary-General’s last report, the Treaty still lacks the necessary number for its entry into force. Pending that entry into force, it is essential that the moratoria on nuclear-weapon-test explosions and other nuclear explosions be maintained.

    According to the report, the threat of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, their means of delivery, and related materials, as recently attested by the discovery of clandestine markets for nuclear technology, and the possibility that such weapons and materials may fall into the hands of terrorists, have added to the challenges faced by multilateral disarmament efforts.

    For the second year in a row, the Committee will have before it a report on measures to prevent terrorists from acquiring weapons of mass destruction (document A/59/156), which details measures taken by international organisations on issues relating to the linkage between the fight against terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. In addition to containing replies from ten international organisations -- including the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) -- the report transmits views from Argentina, China, Costa Rica, Georgia, Lebanon and Panama. It also notes that, on 28 April, the Security Council adopted resolution 1540 (2004) on the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

    A report entitled “Missiles” (document A/59/137) transmits national positions on the issue from the following States: Argentina; China; Ireland (on behalf of the European Union); Lebanon; Mexico; and Venezuela. A further report notes that the Secretary-General, in accordance with resolution 58/37, appointed a panel of governmental experts to discuss the issue of missiles in all its aspects (document A/59/278) and submit a report for consideration by the General Assembly. However, although the experts had an in-depth exchange of views, they were unable to reach consensus on the preparation of a final report, given the complexity of the issues at hand.

    In his report on the establishment of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East (document A/59/165, Part I), the Secretary-General notes that the issue remains of considerable importance. States parties to the NPT, during the third preparatory session for the 2005 Review Conference, reiterated their support for such a zone, reaffirmed the importance of the implementation of the 1995 Review and Extension Conference’s resolution on the Middle East, and recognized that the resolution remained valid until its goals and objectives were achieved. The report also offers replies from China, Guatemala, Ireland (on behalf of the European Union), Israel, Lebanon, Mexico, Oman, Syria and Venezuela.

    In addition, the Committee will be considering reports on: regional confidence-building measures in Central Africa (document A/59/182); strengthening security and cooperation in the Mediterranean (document A/59/130); and a consolidated report (document A/59/181) on assistance to States for curbing illicit traffic in small arms and collecting them and the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons in all its aspects.

    Also before the Committee are reports on: disarmament and non-proliferation education (document A/59/178); United Nations disarmament fellowship, training and advisory services (document A/59/177); and the United Nations Disarmament Information Programme (document A/59/171). A further report transmits national views on improving the effectiveness of the methods of word of the First Committee (document A/59/132).

    The Committee has before it notes on cooperation between the United Nations and the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organisation (document A/59/296) and measures to uphold the authority of the 1925 Geneva Protocol (document A/59/179). In addition, it has the following reports containing views of Member States: promotion of multilateralism in the area of disarmament and non-proliferation (document A/59/128); conventional arms control at the regional and sub regional levels (document A/59/118); and confidence-building measures on the regional and sub regional context (document A/59/127); and prevention of an arms race on the seabed and the ocean floor and in the subsoil thereof (document A/59/117).

    Also:  developments in the field of information and telecommunications in the context of international security (document A/59/116); observance of environmental norms in disarmament and arms control agreements (document A/59/129); the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Africa (document A/59/209); the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Asia and the Pacific (document A/59/169); the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace, Disarmament and Development in Latin America and the Caribbean (document A/59/157); and the relationship between disarmament and development (document A/59/119).

    Statements

    LUIS ALFONSO DE ALBA (Mexico), Committee Chairman, said that, given a particularly complex global situation, featuring new threats, progress in disarmament and international security was urgently needed.  Noble words were nice, but it was more important to identify specific practical methods to move forward. After all, it was not inconceivable that weapons of mass destruction might fall into the hands of terrorists, especially given the fact that some countries considered such arms to be essential to their security policies, and that horizontal and vertical proliferation was increasing. Calling for international consensus to be reached on the elimination of such weapons, he echoed recent remarks by the Secretary-General, who had said that it was through the strengthening of disarmament treaties and the rule of law that we could best defend ourselves.

    Multilateralism was in a state of crisis, he said. For example, the Disarmament Commission had not been able to agree on an agenda. Also, the Conference on Disarmament, just as in the past seven years, had failed to agree on a programme of work. In the face of such disappointment, the Committee had the duty to reaffirm the urgent need to make progress on substantive issues and identify specific initiatives to address the security concerns of all Member States. Multilateralism required dialogue and a political environment based on collective action and shared interests. If the international community engaged in the gradual implementation of reforms, in a constructive environment, then progress would be achieved. Emphasizing the importance of honouring commitments, enhancing transparency, implementing agreements, and promoting understanding and public support, he stressed that the principles and norms expressed in the United Nations Charter should be applied in a universal manner, without double standards.

    NOBUYASU ABE, Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs, said it was not the duty of the First Committee to solve all the world’s international security challenges. However, it did have the responsibility to clarify common goals, insist upon concrete practical steps to achieve them, assess progress, identify new norms, and make Committee procedures as adequate as possible.  Despite the non-binding nature of the General Assembly’s disarmament resolutions, they helped guide Member States. They were also, as former Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjold had said many years ago, “hardy perennials,” since they appeared every year and had been able to survive in some difficult environments.

    He said the greatest challenges facing the Committee’s present session involved the question of how to reconcile two divergent objectives. On the one hand, it was necessary to realistically adapt to the world’s changing reality. On the other hand, States had to realize that certain basic commitments and principles, including those enshrined in the Charter, should not be subject to re-negotiation every year. If those objectives could be simultaneously addressed, common goals might be met.

    Turning to nuclear weapons, he said delegates should take little comfort in the fact that such arms had not been used since 1945. After all, it would only take one deployment to jeopardize thousands of lives and the “entire architecture of international peace and security.” He also suggested that the Treaty on the NPT might not be able to single-handedly solve all problems related to disarmament and non-proliferation. Declaring that disarmament and non-proliferation should be pursued together, in a mutually reinforcing manner, he reasoned that if there was wide agreement on that basic issue, progress would be more likely.

    Before concluding, he called for greater universality of the conventions governing biological and chemical weapons. He also addressed conventional weapons, including small arms and light weapons. Such weapons did not “look as horrible as weapons of mass destruction”. Nevertheless, they continued to kill thousands of people each year, prolonged and aggravated conflicts, and negatively affected development, trade, and the environment. In that regard, he was pleased that the Committee would be taking up the issue of conventional weapons this session.

    ENRIQUE DE BERRUGA (Mexico) said that terrorism, arms control and weapons of mass destruction have been linked in an unprecedented manner in the last three years, but that situation should not result in the international community being forced to make a choice. The time had come for determined action to avoid access by non-state actors to weapons of mass destruction. The best way to proceed in that regard was through the total elimination of such weapons, through action at the multilateral level. The current universal regime emphasised non-proliferation to the detriment of disarmament. Mexico believed that a genuine non-discriminatory regime was needed in order to achieve results. There was also a need to encourage a culture of peace and non-violence.

    He noted that nuclear weapons continue to be produced and improved and that the Convention on Biological Weapons continued to lack appropriate mechanism for verification. Mexico reaffirmed that disarmament was playing a central role in collective security and that implementation of obligations undertaken multilaterally had become the best way for endorsing decisions taken universally. With the support of Tletloco Treaty, Mexico was offering to host a conference of states parties and signatories to treaties creating nuclear-weapon-free zones. Mexico also wanted to see the revitalisation of the role of General Assembly in the maintenance of international peace and security.

    CAROLINE MACDONALD (New Zealand) said that disarmament -- complete, verifiable and irreversible -- remained her country’s goal.  New Zealand was working toward disarmament with other members of the New Agenda Coalition. The New Agenda played a role with others at the 2000 NPT Review Conference in negotiating practical steps in pursuit of nuclear disarmament, as required by article VI of the Treaty. Those steps, agreed by consensus, set out an achievable framework for nuclear disarmament and emphasised the fact that the NPT was a two-way street:  the nuclear-weapons States had obligations to disarm and not proliferate, as the non-nuclear-weapon States had obligations not to proliferate.

    The implementation of the 2000 NPT outcome was even more important in a security environment in which recourse to the ingredients of weapons of mass destruction by terrorist was no longer a remote risk, she continued. The challenge for next year’s NPT Review Conference was for the States parties to demonstrate -- through their actions, rather than their words -- that the NPT could stand the test of time in serving the security interests of all States parties.

    New Zealand had demonstrated its support for curbing the spread of weapons of mass destruction by contributing $NZ1 million to the Group of 8 Global Partnership -- an initiative that offered a practical programme addressing problems that posed a real risk to global security; endorsing the statement of interdiction principles as set out under the Proliferation Security Initiative; participating in initiatives to tighten export controls on items that could contribute to weapons of mass destruction; and sponsoring , in partnership with the International Peace Academy in March, a conference entitled “Weapons of Mass Destruction and the United Nations: Diverse Threats and Collective Responses”. New Zealand’s view, however, was that the most effective non-proliferation moves would be to:  ensure and enhance compliance with the NPT in all its aspects, including nuclear disarmament; bring the CTBT into force; and negotiate a fissile material cut-off treaty.

    CHRIS SANDERS (Netherlands), speaking on behalf of the European Union (EU), said the Union’s recent enlargement was an important development, since strengthening cooperation across borders was the best answer to meeting the world’s current security challenges. Citing the positive developments associated with the increasingly open borders of today’s globalizing world, he, nevertheless, stated that such freedom and interconnectedness also made it easier for hostile non-State actors to wreak havoc. In that context, he said that the five key threats to international security involved the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, terrorism, regional conflicts, State failure, and organized crime.

    In order to meet today’s challenges, the Union had formulated three strategic objectives. First, it was rethinking methods of addressing new threats. For example, it was now placing emphasis on early conflict prevention, multilateral treaties with effective verification mechanisms, national and international export controls, security around facilities containing sensitive materials, and the root causes of instability, including poverty. Second, it was focusing on regional security, stressing the need for regional solutions to regional problems. After all, the best way to combat the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction would be to make countries feel like they did not need such arms. Third, the Union was promoting an international order based on the rule of law and effective multilateralism.

    He said that, if the multilateral treaty regime was to remain credible, it would have to be made more effective, and compliance would have to be taken more seriously. Also, resolutions such as Security Council resolution 1540, which addressed weapons of mass destruction falling into the hands of terrorists, needed international support. The most important thing to remember was that most problems could not be tackled alone and, in that respect, international organizations and bilateral partnerships could be helpful.  Flexibility was also important.

    RANALDO MOTA SARDENBERG (Brazil), on behalf of the Rio Group, said his region, one of the most peaceful in the world, had served as an example to the world when it became the first to establish a nuclear-weapon-free zone through the Treaty of Tlatelolco. Nevertheless, nuclear proliferation continued to be a problem in other parts of the world.  Criticizing recent non-proliferation efforts that fell outside the framework of the United Nations, he said they failed to contribute to a constructive debate.  He also stressed that the integrity of the NPT had to be maintained and that all the commitments enshrined in that treaty should be respected. Those commitments involved not only non-proliferation, but also disarmament, verification, and the inalienable right to develop nuclear technology for peaceful use.

    Turning to other treaties, he stressed the importance of the Comprehensive CTBT and called for all States, to adhere to it. Pending the Treaty’s entry into force, he highlighted the importance of maintaining the current moratorium on nuclear test explosions. He also expressed hope that the Chemical Weapons Convention would become universal and that the Biological Weapons Convention would soon be fortified with a verification mechanism. Such treaties were important, because effective multilateralism was the only path to the maintenance of international peace and security, he said.

    With respect to small arms and light weapons, he praised international efforts to negotiate an international instrument on tracing. More work still had to be done on landmines, however. After all, such weapons created a threatening environment that constrained regional development by impeding the use of land for agricultural purposes and limiting employment opportunities. In that regard, he called for States that had not yet done so to become parties to the Ottawa Convention. He also touched upon the revitalization of the First Committee, stressing that, in order for the Committee’s methods to be enhanced, there would first need to be more confidence and cooperation among Member States.

    KIM TARAVIK (Norway) said that the NPT was one of the main pillars of the multilateral arms control and non-proliferation architecture. That Treaty was under considerable strain. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s non-compliance was a serious matter. There were also unresolved issues with respect to Iran’s nuclear programme. Iran must fully implement the resolution recently adopted by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Board of Governors, and allay justified concerns about its nuclear programmes.

    The lack of universality of the NPT was yet another challenge, he continued and called for renewed efforts by all States to achieve universal adherence to the Treaty. The international community had an obligation to ensure a positive and balanced outcome of the 2005 NPT Review Conference. That outcome would only be possible if the international community was able to bridge the gap between the differences among the States parties, in a spirit of mutual accommodation. Norway was ready to contribute actively toward that end. The NPT represented a bargain between non-proliferation and disarmament. A successful outcome of the Review Conference would only be possible if a stalemate between the two were avoided.

    He added that the Group of 8 Global Partnership against Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction was clearly making the world safer. Norway was the first non-G8 country to join that partnership. His country remained committed to the partnership and to mutually beneficial nuclear safety cooperation with the Russian Federation. Threat reduction was a crucial part of the broader efforts to prevent nuclear terrorism, one of the defining challenges to the international security in the 21st century. His country was determined to prevent Norwegian vessels from being used for purposes related to terrorism. It attached importance to the Proliferation Security Initiative, as a practical means for upholding global non-proliferation. Existing export control regimes needed to be adhered to, and further strengthened.

    DUMISANI KUMALO (South Africa) said that his country shared the concerns regarding the threat posed by weapons of mass destruction not only to individual countries, but also to the international community as a whole. The current endeavours to address those concerns however, continued to be characterised by actions that served narrow interests, which paralysed the multilateral instruments specifically established to address them. The reality that initiatives to protect international peace and security were dependent on the collective participation of the international community, therefore, continued to escape the international community. The threat posed by weapons of mass destruction could only be effectively addressed through the established instruments in the field of non-proliferation and disarmament. Universal adherence to, full implementation of and compliance with those international agreements on weapons of mass destruction, and the complete and early elimination of those weapons, would provide the only genuine guarantees that they could never be used.

    If the Conference on Disarmament continued to demonstrate an inability to commence with required negotiations, then it might become necessary to consider whether a better course of action would not be to suspend its activities until a consensus resolution or resolutions were adopted by the General Assembly mandating the commencement of negotiations, he said.  Such an approach could help avoid the never-ending dispute and deadlock in the Conference on its programme of work.

    South Africa recognised and supported the inalienable right of States to utilize atoms for peaceful purposes only, in conformity with the rights and obligations contained in the NPT, he continued. It, however, believed that existing instruments were not adequate and that the non-proliferation regime needed to be strengthened. That situation should be addressed collectively, within the relevant technically competent and established multilateral institutions. While his country fully supported international efforts aimed at maximizing the benefits of nuclear technology applications for peaceful purposes, particularly in the context of accelerating socio-economic development, the sustainability of peaceful applications of nuclear technology remained dependent on ensuring the safety and security of such programmes.

    ANDERS LIDÉN (Sweden) spoke on behalf of the New Agenda Coalition, which includes Brazil, Egypt, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, South Africa and Sweden. Stating that today, thirteen years after the end of the cold war, there were still “tens of thousands” of nuclear weapons, he warned that if the nuclear-weapon States continued to use such arms to enhance their security there was a real danger that other States would also consider acquiring them. That possibility -- combined with current events, the dangers of proliferation, and the prospect of weapons of mass destruction falling into the hands of terrorists -- underlined his belief that the only real guarantee against the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons was in their total elimination and the assurance that they never be produced again.

    He said that non-proliferation was vital, but not sufficient. After all, non-proliferation and disarmament were mutually reinforcing processes. Without nuclear disarmament, the risk of new nuclear arms races would always remain. In that regard, he said NPT States parties could not comply with the Treaty “a la carte”.  All commitments had to be honoured.  Turning to the theme of universality, he called on India, Israel and Pakistan to adhere to the NPT as non-nuclear-weapon States. Their refusal to respect the Treaty undermined global efforts, he said. He also urged the 11 States whose ratification was required for entry into force of the CTBT to adhere to the Treaty without further delay. Singling out the United States and China, he said that the former’s withdrawal of support for the Treaty and the latter’s delays in ratification were “particularly disturbing”.

    Calling the Moscow Treaty between the United States and Russian Federation a “step in the right direction”, he, nevertheless, criticized the fact that it had no verification mechanisms and that it was neither irreversible nor transparent. In that context, he called for all nuclear weapons to immediately be taken off alert. He also expressed alarm over some nuclear-weapon-States’ plans to develop new kinds of nuclear weapons, to consider using such weapons pre-emptively against non-nuclear-weapon States, and to see such arms as possible defences against conventional weapons. Before concluding, he noted with concern that the following goals had still not been achieved: a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East; legally binding security assurances from nuclear-weapon States for non-nuclear-weapon States within the NPT; and negotiations on a verifiable fissile material cut-off treaty.

    JOHN DAUTH (Australia) said that, if the Committee was to remain relevant and enjoy the support of Member States, it could not be seen as working in an isolated vacuum. It, therefore, had to acknowledge that the treaty-based regime for preventing nuclear proliferation was “under challenge”. Developments such as the exposure of Abdul Qadeer Khan’s nuclear black market, the lack of progress on disarmament in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and the unclear direction of Iran’s nuclear programme, represented challenges that could not be ignored. In that context, he called for the universal application of the IAEA’s strengthened safeguards system.

    Expressing support for more international dialogue on limiting the spread of sensitive nuclear technology, he stressed that such discourse should not be seen as efforts to reinterpret the NPT, but rather to hold States parties to their commitments. He also emphasized that he did not share the view that nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament always had to go hand in hand. Rather, although disarmament was indeed vital, improvements in the non-proliferation regime could proceed without it. Turning to the prospect of a fissile material cut-off treaty, he said that, to be effective and credible, such an instrument would need to include appropriate verification measures.

    Highlighting the link between missiles and weapons of mass destruction, he said the proliferation of missiles destabilized regional and global security. In that regard, he called for The Hague Code of Conduct to be firmly established as a universal and viable confidence-building measure. He also expressed support for Security Council resolution 1540, since it constituted a “timely and appropriate response” to missile proliferation, among other things. With respect to conventional weapons, he said that, this year, his country -- along with Turkey and Argentina -- would introduce, for the first time, a draft resolution on man-portable air defence systems (MANPADS).

    OSWALDO de RIVERO (Peru), agreeing with the statement by the representative of Brazil on behalf of the Rio Group, announced that the Andean region had fulfilled one of the most advanced regional commitments in the areas of  limitation, control and transparency on conventional armament, including measures of confidence and verification. Those commitments were contained in the “Commitment of Lima”.  The Andean Community had also adopted a decision that established a plan to prevent, combat and eradicate illicit trafficking of small arms and light weapons. Those decisions constituted the first sub regional instrument aimed at achieving the United Nations Programme of Action and had been reaffirmed with a presidential declaration establishing the Andean Zone of Peace. That Zone of Peace covers the territories, aerial space and waters under the sovereignty and jurisdiction of Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela.

    Peru hoped that based on the sub regional achievements on limitation, control and transparency of armament, confidence-building measures and verification measures and verification, fruitful negotiations could be achieved in the year 2005, in particular for the implementation of the Programme of Action on Small Arms and Light Weapons, and in the Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference.

    REZLAN ISHAR JENIE (Indonesia) said that the international community remained concerned at the challenges posed by the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, the clandestine transfer of weapons of mass destruction-related technologies and materials, the development of new types of nuclear weapons and their means of delivery, the weaponization of outer space and the threat posed by terrorists acquiring weapons of mass destruction. Those concerns called for concerted efforts under multilateral auspices, which offered the only legitimate and lasting solutions.  Such an approach was a necessity in order to revive efforts to achieve the total elimination of nuclear weapons and to prevent the further erosion of existing multilateral arms control, non-proliferation and disarmament regimes.

    The NPT had been best by a retreat from disarmament obligations and consensus documents of the last two Review Conferences held in 1995 and 2000, he said. Despite the high stakes involved, the third preparatory committee for the 2005 NPT Review Conference held last April was unable to agree on a provisional agenda and substantive recommendations. The 2005 Review Conference offered opportunities to deal effectively with a myriad of issues based on the three pillars under the NPT, namely nuclear disarmament, non-proliferation and the peaceful use of nuclear energy. In recent years, there had been diminished commitment to multilateral agreements and cooperation. The centrality of multilateralism as the core principle in arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation was being undermined. The disarmament machinery was eroding and precipitating a crisis of unprecedented magnitude.

    It was a truism that there could be no lasting security without disarmament, he stated. The United Nations disarmament machinery could not afford to allow its agenda to remain suspended. That agenda needed to be revived on an urgent basis and the highest priority should be attached to the elimination of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction.  Indonesia was of the view, however, that any change in the disarmament agenda and disarmament machinery, including the First Committee as a subsidiary of the General Assembly, should be made in the context of the fourth special session on disarmament in which all States could participate effectively in a comprehensive manner on the basis of equality. Convening such a session would, therefore, be both timely and appropriate to address existing and new threats to global security, as well as to review the existing disarmament agenda and disarmament machinery.

    PAUL MEYER (Canada) said that major threats existed to the universal goal of having a peaceful and secure world.  Nevertheless, the international community had made great strides in developing common norms of behaviour and in eradicating entire categories of weapons of mass destruction. Calling the non-proliferation, arms control and disarmament enterprise a “complex and collective one”, he said that the best way to deal with contemporary security threats was through multilateral cooperation based on the rule of law. Such cooperation was best fortified by legally binding agreements equipped with “robust” verification provisions. That was why his delegation would be proposing this year the establishment in 2006 of a panel of governmental experts to consider issues related to verification.

    Welcoming the current efforts to make the Committee more relevant and efficient, he expressed support for reforms that would allow delegations to better address the substance behind the principal disarmament-related topics at hand. Those issues included weapons in outer space, a fissile material cut-off treaty, verification and compliance, progress in nuclear disarmament, small arms and light weapons, and disarmament education. He also said that more opportunities for interactive debates could lead to substantial results -- which were less likely to emanate from the formal procedures used in past years.

    YOSHIKI MINE (Japan) said that the international community was facing serious challenges in the area of disarmament and non-proliferation. There had, however, also been some progress, such as Libya’s decision to abandon all of its weapons of mass destruction programmes, the United States reaffirmation of its support for the commencement of the fissile material negotiations, a steady increase in the number of countries which have ratified the CTBT, an increase in the number of countries that have signed the IAEA Additional Protocol, as well as the adoption Security Council resolution 1540 on non-proliferation, progress in the Proliferation Security Initiative, and the strengthened non-proliferation efforts in the Asian region.  Progress had also been made in the area of small arms and light weapons.

    The international community must work together to find solutions to those problems, as well as to make further progress in disarmament and non-proliferation, he stated. The Committee provided an important opportunity to express support for maintaining and strengthening the NPT regime, at a time when its viability had been put to the test in the face of various challenges. The successful conclusion of the work of the Committee would contribute greatly to the success of next year’s NPT Review Conference.  In order to fulfil its role and adequately respond to the changing international security environment, the strengthening of the functioning of the Committee was an urgent task. Japan was committed to such a reform of the Committee and was ready to work closely with the Chairman.

    He announced that his country had been making active diplomatic efforts aimed at realizing a peaceful and safe world free of nuclear weapons at the earliest possible date. In that regard, Japan planned to submit a draft resolution entitled “A path to the total elimination of nuclear weapons” reflecting recent developments and providing practical steps toward the elimination of nuclear weapons. It believed that the most realistic and effective means of tackling the various problems faced by the international community today was the strengthening and universalization of existing regimes and their full implementation. Japan also considered international frameworks such as the NPT, CTBT, IAEA Safeguards Agreements, IAEA Additional Protocol, Convention on the Prohibition of the Development and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on Their Destruction (Biological Weapons Convention), and the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and of Their Destruction (Chemical Weapons Convention) of the utmost importance. It was, therefore, important to work towards strengthening those instruments.

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