Delegates Stress Need to Forge Convergence Out of Differences over Disarmament, Non-proliferation, as First Committee Concludes Thematic Debate
Any new impetus for dialogue on disarmament and non‑proliferation must forge convergence out of the current differences among States with a view to advancing the goal of a safer world, free of nuclear weapons, delegates said today, as the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) concluded its thematic debate on several agenda items.
Over the course of three days, more than 80 speakers offered suggestions on how to overcome the current disarmament deadlock in the fragile security environment to advance progress in addressing the threats posed by nuclear weapons, other weapons of mass destruction and conventional weapons, and to consider related outer space issues.
“Dialogue can help us, but it is not enough; we need to use the time we have wisely to define areas of convergence,” said Tancredi Francese (Italy), speaking on behalf of a group of countries. He added that the First Committee has an opportunity to give fresh impetus to discussions ahead of forthcoming disarmament meetings.
With the COVID‑19 pandemic serving as a reminder that multilateral dialogue and political will can produce beneficial collective actions, he said that a successful Review Conference of the Treaty on the Non‑Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons in 2022 will require meaningful commitments made through an honest examination of progress and by identifying common interests in strengthening the instrument.
He said that among the group’s considerations are universal adherence to the Non‑Proliferation Treaty, the entry‑into‑force of the Comprehensive Nuclear‑Test‑Ban Treaty and negotiations in the Conference on Disarmament on a fissile material cut-off treaty.
While hope springs from the extension of the Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms Treaty (New START Treaty), he said the First Committee cannot ignore the international security environment or fail to recognize the constraints it may impose. However, inaction is not the answer, he emphasized, calling on the nuclear‑weapon States to shoulder their responsibilities. Similarly, major challenges related to other weapons of mass destruction must be addressed through universal and effective implementation of existing treaties, he stressed. Multilateralism must be at the centre in securing sensitive materials, especially from access by terrorist networks, and implementing effective export controls.
Lucy Duncan (New Zealand), while noting that the credibility of the nuclear disarmament and non‑proliferation regime is at a critical juncture, said there is nevertheless cause for celebration with the entry‑into‑force of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. She condemned the use of chemical weapons ‑ expressing deep concern about the poisoning of Alexei Navalny and Syria’s confirmed and repeated chemical weapons use ‑ as an affront to global rules and norms.
Affirming that all countries have a national and collective interest in ensuring the safe, sustainable and peaceful use of outer space, she called for preventing an arms race there, or any action that may initiate conflict in, or extend conflict to that realm. She cited anti‑satellite missile testing, which poses significant risks to the safety of existing satellites and orbital launches.
Amir Hamzah bin Mohd Nasir (Malaysia) cautioned that the new strategic partnership entailing strategic delivery systems for nuclear technology could further accelerate the current arms race. He went on to express regret that member countries have once again failed to submit their substantive resolution on the Southeast Asia Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone Treaty, also known as the Bangkok Treaty, to the First Committee’s current session. Indefinite extension of the status quo will not augur well for the future of the Bangkok Treaty, a core element of Association of Southeast Asian Nations’ (ASEAN) regional security architecture, he warned.
Pointing out that none of the nuclear‑weapon States has yet signed or ratified the Treaty’s protocol, even though the instrument has been in force for more than two decades, he emphasized the need for strong political will and concrete action to resolve outstanding matters pertaining to the signing and ratification of protocol at the earliest opportunity, in accordance with the aspirations of the regional leaders, as enshrined in the ASEAN Political-Security Community Blueprint 2025.
The First Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Friday, 15 October, for a virtual dialogue with independent experts, high‑level officials and chairs of several groups of governmental experts and open‑ended working groups.