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Directors of Regional Centres Call for More Funding to Advance Disarmament Goals, as First Committee Holds Virtual Dialogue, Highlighting Progress amid Pandemic

Highlighting progress made amid COVID‑19 pandemic-related challenges, directors of United Nations regional centres called for increased funding to further advance arms reduction initiatives, while the heads of related entities presented reports on their activities, as the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) held the final virtual informal interactive dialogue of its seventy‑fifth session today.

The directors of regional disarmament centres cited a range of efforts that had overcome pandemic‑related obstacles, from launching a road map to tackle the spread of illegal firearms in the Caribbean to holding webinars versus in‑person sessions and covering such topics as weapon marking and detection.  In terms of the First Committee’s work, its Chair announced that the current break in in‑person meetings due to pandemic‑related restrictions would end next week, when live meetings would resume at United Nations Headquarters.

Yury Ambrazevich (Belarus), outgoing President of the Conference on Disarmament for 2020, presented its report (document A/75/27), saying that due to the pandemic, members had met in a hybrid format for six plenary sessions to deal with such issues as the non‑proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and preventing an arms race in outer space.  However, despite intensive consultations, its 65 members failed to reach consensus on a programme of work.  “The terrible deterioration of the international security architecture means that it is especially important to make efforts to step up the substantive work of the Conference,” he said, appealing to members to demonstrate political resolve and a constructive attitude to enable the Conference to move on from its present deadlock.  Still, he went on to say, the Conference is forwarding two draft resolutions to the First Committee for adoption by the General Assembly, one dealing with a prohibition of the production and transfer of new weapons of mass destruction and another on the need to prevent dangerous technologies from falling into the hands of non‑State actors.

Noting that the pandemic had increased the work of her team, Renata Dwan, Director of the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR), highlighted annual activities, including issuing 37 publications and holding 42 events with more than 5,000 participants.  Efforts aimed at supporting the participation of all Member States in disarmament, generating new ideas to support intergovernmental discussions and facilitating a wider range of options that Member States can explore, from integrating conventional arms control in conflict‑affected areas to new ways of addressing the verification of the absence of nuclear weapons.

Selma Ashipala-Musavyi, Chair of the Secretary-General’s Advisory Board on Disarmament Matters, presenting its latest report (document A/75/283), cited encouraging progress towards implementing Securing Our Common Future:  An Agenda for Disarmament.  To work towards a cooperative global security regime, the Board identified the need for a diverse and modern diplomatic toolkit to address tension between States, promote effective dialogue, enhance transparency and tamp down on strategic competition among nuclear‑armed States.

Mary Soliman, Chief of the Regional Disarmament, Information and Outreach Branch of the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs, provided an overview of its regional centres.  Citing several achievements, saying the Caribbean Firearms Road Map was launched in March, aiming at preventing the illicit proliferation of firearms and ammunition in the Latin American and Caribbean region over the next decade, and Kathmandu’s centre is on track to conclude a project helping countries in Asia and the Pacific to mainstream gender in their policies and actions to control small arms and light weapons.  Togo’s centre has further deepened its working relationships with both the African Union and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).  The Vienna office, working with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), offered an online course to help young women professionals begin building careers in the field of disarmament, non‑proliferation and arms control.

Directors of three regional centres agreed that funding was crucial in order to carry out their mandates and continue to work with States in a variety of areas, from combating the illicit flows of small arms and light weapons to advancing gender perspectives in the disarmament field.

Yuriy Kryvonos, Director of the Office of Disarmament Affairs’ Regional Centre in Asia and the Pacific, elaborated on its gender mainstreaming initiative, which involved women, non‑governmental organizations and parliamentarians from across the region.  Despite the COVID‑19 pandemic, the Regional Centre continued its activities to support States, shifting from in‑person meetings to webinars and utilizing the Office for Disarmament Affairs’ Disarmament Education Dashboard.

Also highlighting recent accomplishments, Anselme N. Yabouri, Director of the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Africa, said despite pandemic‑related challenges, it used information technology platforms and virtual meetings to advance the delivery of its mandate, having conducted research and surveys and provided training and capacity‑building to combat the illicit flow of small arms and light weapons.  It further provided technical and equipment support for marking weapons of defence and security forces and for the destruction of seized and obsolete weapons and ammunition on the occasion of the African Union’s “amnesty month” for the surrender and collection of illegally owned firearms.

Mélanie Regimbal, Director of the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace, Disarmament and Development in Latin American and the Caribbean, said 70 activities reached 1,200 officials, of which 770 were women, in 25 States, including specialized trainings for X‑ray screening operators working at entry and exit points.  The Caribbean Road Map was perhaps the greatest achievement in 2020, as it will accelerate and support national efforts to prevent and combat the illicit proliferation of arms and ammunition and make the region safer.

Marcus Bleinroth, Chairperson of the Group of Governmental Experts on problems arising from the accumulation of conventional ammunition stockpiles in surplus, updated the Committee on its discussions on several key issues, including an understanding of existing processes relevant to ammunition management, safety and security risks.

When the floor opened, the Russian Federation’s representative said the United Nations and its mechanisms have a key role in the consideration of disarmament and international security issues, and that the task of promoting arms control should be resolved in the Conference on Disarmament.

The Committee will next meet at 10 a.m. on Tuesday 3 November, to begin taking action on all draft resolutions and decisions.

For information media. Not an official record.