‘Poor Man’s Atomic Bomb’ Made of Dual-Use Biological, Chemical Material Replaces Nuclear Weapon for Non-State Actors, First Committee Told
Securing High-Containment Biological Labs Can Avert Next Pandemic
Chemical and biological weapons had become the best alternative to nuclear weapons for rogue States and non-State actors, the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) heard today as it concluded its thematic debate on weapons of mass destruction and opened debate on conventional weapons.
The path to chemical and biological weapons was easier and cheaper than developing a nuclear bomb, said Myanmar’s representative. The “poor man’s atomic bomb” could be created using equipment and materials that had a host of civilian applications. He urged the international community to tighten its grip on their proliferation and added a call to strengthen the Biological Weapons Convention. Its lack of a verification system weakened its effectiveness and relevance.
Deeply concerned about the risk, India’s representative tabled its annual resolution on the dangers of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and the potential for their exploitation by non-State actors (document A/77/C.1/L.60). The text urged support for international efforts to combat that threat, as well as strengthen national measures. India had a robust national export‑control system and a control list of sensitive material, equipment and technologies consistent with the highest international standards.
Similarly, the representative of Bangladesh expressed concern over the growing possibility of terrorists and other non-State actors using or gaining access to weapons of mass destruction. The COVID-19 pandemic had revealed global vulnerability to the potentially catastrophic consequences of pathogens and other biological threats, he said, calling for an international body mandated to investigate suspected outbreaks of biological agents.
Indeed, said Pakistan’s speaker, the COVID-19 pandemic had laid bare the fragilities of the global public health architecture, including the intersecting issues of life sciences, viruses and infectious diseases. There were important lessons for the Biological Weapons Convention regime from the pandemic, such as the mutually reinforcing nature of its prevention and protection aspects, as well as the urgency of amplifying international assistance and cooperation in the field of life sciences.
“We have witnessed and experienced the catastrophe of a pandemic and we cannot afford to have another,” the representative of Sri Lanka said. He sought a harmonized international regime that ensured biosafety and biosecurity. Confidence-building measures among States would facilitate greater information‑exchange within the research community and create trust for a verifiable common standard against biological weapons.
Dual-use material was worrying, agreed Colombia’s representative, who supported bolstering biological control mechanism to prevent access and weaponization by non-State actors. She advocated for international cooperation in the field of biocontainment to enhance capacity to prevent and respond to those types of threats, asserting that the pandemic had highlighted the need to safeguard that material for strictly peaceful use.
While biological weapons were “poorly regulated”, chemical weapons were under intense scrutiny, said Brazil’s speaker. It was unfortunate that, even with all the institutional apparatuses, “much to his revulsion”, chemical weapons were still used.
Algeria’s representative said that the Chemical Weapons Convention had made progress, but faced challenges at all levels in today’s changing world. He welcomed reductions in chemical weapons stockpiles, but said divisions among States parties were concerning.
Also speaking on weapons of mass destruction were representatives of China, Russian Federation, United Kingdom, Switzerland, Spain, Republic of Korea, Czech Republic, Kazakhstan, Türkiye, Japan, Cuba, Hungary, Syria, Israel, Ireland, Angola, Ukraine and Iran.
Exercising the right of reply were representatives of the Russian Federation, United States, Syria and Ukraine.
Speaking on the theme of conventional weapons were representatives of Cambodia (on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)), Mexico, Canada, Egypt, Finland and Norway.
The Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 20 October, to continue his thematic debate on conventional weapons.
Weapons of Mass Destruction
SOON YEE LIANG (China) said that strengthening the Biological Weapons and Chemical Weapons Conventions were ever more important for maintaining international peace and security and promoting economic and social development. Parties should practice true multilateralism and uphold the purposes and objectives of the two Conventions and safeguard their authority and effectiveness. The United States should provide in-depth clarifications on the allegations made by the Russian Federation, as well as questions raised by China and other States, and set an example of compliance to win the international community's confidence in its compliance with the Biological Weapons Convention.
He urged States parties to utilize the Biological Weapons Convention’s mechanism, including relevant arrangements under the Treaty’s article VI. He called on them to ensure the right of developing countries to peaceful uses of biotechnology. The United States, as the only country in the world with chemical weapons stockpiles, should earnestly fulfil its obligations and expedite the destruction of its stockpiles. Recently, China and Japan invited the Director General and the delegation of the Executive Council of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to visit China virtually and advise on ways to speed up the destruction of abandoned Japanese chemical weapons. The representative urged Japan to honour its commitment. The practice of disregarding communication and consultations among States parties severely undermined the authority and effectiveness of the Chemical Weapons Convention and negatively impacted the OPCW’s normal operation.
KHALIL HASHMI (Pakistan) expressed concern about the possibility of the acquisition, production and use of chemical and biological materials as well as technology by non-State actors and, in some cases, by States as well. He agreed that sensitive technologies and materials should be adequately regulated to guard against any use incompatible with the two Conventions. However, that objective should not justify impediments to the legitimate use of biological or chemical sciences, equipment and technology among States parties for peaceful purposes. It was vital to restore balance and even-handedness in the implementation of the export control regimes. Non-discriminatory implementation of the Conventions, national physical protection and international assistance and cooperation were key tools to prevent non-State actors’ acquisition production, or use of those weapons.
He said that the COVID‑19 pandemic had laid bare the fragilities of the global public health architecture, including the intersecting issues of life sciences, viruses, and infectious diseases. There were important lessons for the Biological Weapons Convention regime from the pandemic, such as the mutually reinforcing nature of its prevention and protection aspects, as well as the urgency of amplifying international assistance and cooperation in the field of life sciences. He remained committed to the full, effective and balanced implementation of that Convention. Neither the Secretary-General’s mechanism, nor voluntary confidence-building measures could substitute for the widely supported proposal to conclude a legally binding verification protocol. He added the importance of avoiding distortions in the OPCW’s mandate, which might render it susceptible to political manoeuvring.
KONSTANTIN VORONTSOV (Russian Federation) said that the Biological Weapons Convention was a reliable tool for reducing that threat. The treaty’s utmost effectiveness could best be achieved through its full implementation by all States parties and by adopting a legally binding protocol establishing a credible and efficient verification mechanism. In order to address the implementation issues by the United States and Ukraine with reference to the military and biological activities in the Ukrainian territory, the Russian Federation initiated a Consultative Meeting of States parties. His country had not received exhaustive answers to the submitted detailed specific claims regarding those States' compliance with the Convention’s articles I and IV. Thus, the issues were pending, as were the solutions.
He said the Russian Federation had fulfilled its obligations, in good faith, under the Chemical Weapons Convention. In 2017, it destroyed one of the largest arsenals of chemical weapons, three years ahead of the Organisation’s deadline. He urged the United States, which had the financial and technological capacity to eliminate the remaining stockpiles of toxic substances as quickly as possible, to follow the Russian Federation example. European allies led by the United States were deliberately pursuing a destructive policy of further politicizing the OPCW, which was technical in nature.
Mr. KHANDKER (Bangladesh), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, expressed concern over the growing possibility of terrorists and other non-State actors using or gaining access to weapons of mass destruction. Stressing the importance of the full and non-discriminatory implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention, he detailed his country’s compliance, but spotlighted the use of those weapons in recent years. He called on the international community to unite in condemning that and holding those responsible in a transparent manner. Further, the credibility and integrity of OPCW must be upheld to enable it to deliver on its mandate. Bangladesh cooperated with it to promote the peaceful use of chemicals and was the first member to have introduce chemical-incident preparedness measures for hospitals. He noted that the COVID‑19 pandemic revealed global vulnerability to the potentially catastrophic consequences of pathogens and other biological threats, urging the full, effective and non-discriminatory implementation of the Biological Weapons Convention. He added a call to establish an international body mandated to investigate suspected outbreaks of biological agents.
FLAVIO DAMICO (Brazil) said the mere existence of weapons of mass destruction shocked the conscience and challenged international humanitarian law. Brazil favoured the resumption of negotiations regarding a multilateral mechanism to verify compliance with the Biological Weapons Convention, which would foster trust regarding the exclusively peaceful use of knowledge and technology in the field of life science. While biological weapons were poorly regulated, chemical weapons were under intense scrutiny. It was unfortunate that even with all the institutional apparatus, much to his revulsion, chemical weapons were still used. He pledged his country’s unyielding support for the OPCW and hoped it could overcome the politization that undermined its culture of consensus. Of special concern was the possibility of weapons of mass destruction falling into the hands of non-State actors, particularly terrorists. In that, Council resolution 1540 (2004) was a valuable tool. Spotlighting the new risks of proliferation and rapid advances in science, technology, and commerce, he reiterated that changes in resolution 2325 (2016) should not impede access to sensitive and dual-use goods and technologies for peaceful purposes.
MOHAMED ENNADIR LARBAOUI (Algeria) said that the Biological and Chemical Weapons Conventions were key milestones and served as a framework for socioeconomic development. He called on countries to accede to both Treaties without delay. The Biological Weapons Convention required balanced implementation to achieve its objectives. Legally binding instruments were the best way to ensure States’ adherence. The upcoming Review Conference is an opportunity to strengthen the instrument. The Convention facilitated technical development for peaceful uses of that material by developing countries and assisted them in responding swiftly to biological threats. The Chemical Weapons Convention had made progress but faced challenges on all levels in today’s changing world. He welcomed its accomplishments in reducing chemical weapons stockpiles, which showed Member States robust trust in the regime. Divisions between States parties, however, remained a source of concern. He called for collective action to ensure their right to the relevant technology for peaceful use and underlined the importance of Council resolution 1540 (2004). It was crucial to articulate a balance between peaceful use for socioeconomic development and protection against misuse.
AIDAN LIDDLE (United Kingdom) said that upholding the complete ban on chemical and biological weapons remained crucial for international peace and security. The United Kingdom called on all States to adhere to the Conventions. It was unacceptable that the Russian Federation spread false narratives and disinformation about those weapons in Ukraine. He warned that country that any use would be met with severe consequences. The pandemic demonstrated the importance of bolstering the global biosecurity regime. States parties must seize the opportunity at the ninth review of that Convention to strengthen it.
He noted that the Secretary-General’s Mechanism for Investigation was the sole instrument available to investigate alleged use of chemical weapons by non-States parties. Consequently, the United Kingdom would not support proposals that undermined its mandate or independence. The Russian Federation should answer questions regarding the Alexei Navalny and Salisbury cases and declare all its chemical weapons. Syria had obstructed the OPCW’s work and should comply with the Convention and Council resolution 2118 (2013). The OPCW should conduct its work free from disinformation or assaults on its integrity. He underlined his support for the Global Partnership against the spread of mass destruction weapons and related material, as well as the need for the Council to reaffirm resolution 1540 (2004). The world must redouble its effects to uphold the ban on the use and spread of those horrific weapons, he concluded.
SUGEESHWARA GUNARATNA (Sri Lanka), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, underlined the need to achieve universal implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention and to prevent access to such weapons by non-State actors. Any allegation regarding their use must be addressed pursuant to the Convention. Turning to the Biological Weapons Convention, he said that, while it was a vital component of the legal architecture to combat weapons of mass destruction, the lack of a verification system continued to challenge its effective implementation. “What is sought is a harmonized international regime that ensures biosafety and biosecurity,” he stressed, also underlining the need to improve the security of high-containment biological laboratories. “We have witnessed and experienced the catastrophe of a pandemic and we cannot afford to have another.” Confidence-building measures among States would facilitate greater information exchange within the research community, while also creating trust for a verifiable common standard against biological weapons. His country understood the danger of weapons of mass destruction falling into the hands of non-State actors, and it continued to implement Security Council resolution 1540 (2004).
FÉLIX BAUMANN (Switzerland) said that chemical weapons use was incompatible with maintaining public order. The last reports of OPCW investigation and fact-finding missions showed compelling arguments that the Syrian Army used chemical weapons. Their use was reprehensible, and all perpetrators should be held accountable. He called on Syria to fully cooperate with OPCW. He commended the OPCW’s professionalism and voiced full respect for its mandate. Pointing to the effects of the pandemic, he warned that deliberate dissemination of biological agents could have the same result. The Biological Weapons Convention should be strengthened, and Switzerland stood ready to particate in discussions on a legally binding instrument to beef up the Convention. Similarly, the Secretary-General’s Mechanism must be strengthened and its independence ensured. He underscored that the Russian Federation’s allegations against Ukraine regarding the use of biological and chemical weapons did not amount to violations under either Convention. Switzerland condemned any groundless allegations that threatened the global order, the Conventions or international cooperation.
ALBERTO MIRANDA DE LA PEÑA (Spain), aligning himself with the European Union, stressed that the paradigm of global security architecture had changed completely, as the Russian Federation’s unjust, unprovoked and illegal war against Ukraine constitutes a grave violation of the Charter. Turning to the Biological Weapons Convention, he noted that its imminent ninth Review Conference was an excellent opportunity to design an ambitious inter-sessional programme to strengthen the treaty’s implementation. He hoped that States would find the political will to equip the Convention with a verification mechanism and promote universalization. On the Chemical Weapons Convention, he said that instrument was a multilateral achievement eliminating an entire class of weapons, and, thanks to the OPCW, it had been possible to eliminate certain chemical arsenals. However, the recent use of those weapons ‑ both in armed conflict and for assassination ‑ was worrying. There was no room for impunity in that regard, and all cases must be clarified through transparent investigation. He called on all States to abide by their regulations under Council resolution 1540 (2004).
SUNGHOON KIM (Republic of Korea) said that the international community’s achievement since the Chemical Weapons Convention’s entry into force in 1997 was remarkable. More than 98 per cent of all declared chemical weapons had been destroyed. The remaining would be destroyed by September 2023 and verified by the OPCW. However, concerns remained over the threat posed by the repeated use of those weapons. She was deeply concerned that the cooperation to address all outstanding issues between Syria and the OPCW Technical Secretariat had been seriously hampered. She urged Syria to immediately take necessary actions to redress the situation and comply with the Convention. She attached great importance to establishing an independent, transparent, and inclusive science and technology review mechanism and saw it necessary to set voluntary guiding principles for scientists and strengthen bio-risk management standards.
She said the Republic of Korea was actively implementing obligations under the Biological Weapons Convention by submitting confidence-building measures reports, enacting domestic legislation, managing a reliable export control regime, and building operational capabilities. The representative expressed her deep concern about the Russian Federation’s unfounded allegations regarding the development and possible use of chemical or biological weapons, which might impede the full implementation of the Convention. He was also concerned that those might be precursors to the use of biological or chemical weapons.
JAROSLAV ŠTĚPÁNEK (Czech Republic), associating with the European Union, condemned the Russian Federation’s aggression, which had aggravated the risk of weapons of mass destruction. He also strongly condemned that country’s disinformation attempts about Ukraine’s alleged misuse of toxic chemicals. It must stop the “disinformation fog,” by which it tried to divert attention from its inadmissible actions. In fact, the pro-Russian Federation separatist forces had threatened chemical weapons use during the Azovstal siege. In addition, 11 cases of chemical weapons use in Syria had been established through OPCW’s investigations, of which eight had attributed to the Syrian armed forces. The OPCW was not an accountability mechanism, so the United Nations should act now to ensure justice for the victims and end impunity. He urged the Russian Federation to acknowledge its poisoning of Sergei and Julia Skripal and Alexei Navalny and
ANUPAM RAY (India) said he was deeply concerned about the risk of weapons of mass destruction falling into the hands of terrorists and non-State actors. He supported strengthening of efforts through international cooperation and within the United Nations framework to address it. India has confronted terrorism for many decades. Its annual resolution on the subject focused on the dangers of weapons of mass destruction proliferation and the potential for their exploitation by terrorists and non-State actors. Tabled since 2002 and adopted by consensus, the resolution urged Member States to support international efforts, as well as to take and strengthen national measures, as appropriate, to prevent terrorists from acquiring mass destructive weapons and their delivery means. The representative was pleased that the last year had received the support of almost 92 sponsors and co-sponsors. India had enacted comprehensive domestic legislation and had a robust and effective national export control system based on legislation, regulations, and a control list of sensitive material, equipment and technologies consistent with the highest international standards.
ensure it was not repeated. Policy discourse should be based on objective and reliable scientific advice, and he supported a science advisory mechanism for the Biological Weapons Convention. The Review Conference must not be hijacked by the Russian Federation’s fabricated accusations.
ARSEN OMAROV (Kazakhstan) strongly condemned the existence of any weapons of mass destruction and called for their complete elimination, especially in light of rapidly developing technologies. He reaffirmed his commitment to Biological Weapons Convention and would actively work with all States and relevant international organizations to achieve its goals and universalization. During the present General Assembly session, Kazakhstan’s President had introduced his proposal for establishing an international agency for biological safety and had received positive feedback. At the upcoming Biological Weapons Convention Review Conference, Kazakhstan would introduce a proposal for a working group, and he kindly requested States parties to join the initiative. Kazakhstan hoped to foster dialogue on the matter. The Convention on Chemical Weapons, the Geneva Protocol, and the Biological Weapons Convention were vital to guiding the international community in the struggle to overcome the existence of those weapons. He supported a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East and hoped that the upcoming Conference would maintain the positive momentum. His country fulfilled its obligations under Council resolution 1540 (2004), especially regarding export controls on goods and technologies.
MEMET MEVLÜT YAKUT(Türkiye) condemned the re-emerging use of chemical weapons in certain parts of the world, noting that the case of Syria was “particularly worrisome.” That was the country where the bulk of serious violations of the Chemical Weapons Convention had occurred in the last decade and where the risk of recurring violations persisted. He underscored that the Syrian regime must comply with its obligations under the Convention, present an accurate declaration of all its stockpiles and production facilities, and completely destroy them. It must also cooperate with the OPCW, facilitating the work of its investigation teams rather than obstructing it. “Impunity in Syria cannot simply be tolerated,” he stressed. For its part, Türkiye supported efforts to ensure accountability for those responsible for chemical attacks. He also supported the integrity, independence and professionalism of the OPCW Technical Secretariat, expressing regret over increasing attempts to discredit it. He highlighted the importance of the Secretary-General’s Mechanism for Investigation of Alleged Use of Chemical and Biological Weapons, which proved useful in 2013.
ICHIRO OGASAWARA (Japan) remained fully committed to multilateral efforts related to arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their delivery means. The repeated use of chemical weapons in recent years was serious, and the international community should be united in condemning it. He urged Syria to ensure accountability by addressing all outstanding issues. States parties to the Biological Weapons Convention had been constructively discussing possible measures to strengthen it. He commended the consultation mechanism for that purpose and cautioned against its abuse for political purposes with “flimsy” allegations. Further, he supported the concept of preserving and strengthening the Secretary-General’s Mechanism for investigating the alleged use of biological and chemical weapons, as that was the only available tool to independently investigate such cases.
PEDRO LUIS PEDROSO CUESTA (Cuba), associating with the Non-Aligned Movement, supported the full, transparent and verifiable elimination of weapons of mass destruction, in line with his country’ foreign policy and Constitution. Cuba did not have, nor did it intend to possess, weapons of mass destruction and rejected their use by any actor. It was a founding signatory of the Biological Weapons Convention and had shown leadership in its implementation. He condemned the unilateral coercive measures aimed at preventing international science and technology cooperation and progress in the areas of biology and chemistry. He called for legally binding instruments and verification measures for biological and chemical weapons. He opposed the United States’ obstructive stance and rejected politically motivated actions at the upcoming Review Conferences. He called on the United States as the only possessor of those weapons to eliminate them, within the given period and subject to international verification. The upcoming reviews were appropriate places to show support for the full implementation of the Conventions. He hoped consensus would prevail over politization. Cuba would continue to seek a world free of weapons of mass destruction.
GYÖRGY MOLNÁR (Hungary) took the floor to introduce the draft resolution on the Prohibition of Biological and Toxin Weapons (document A/C.1/77/L.74). This year, the draft had technical updates, as well as a new preambular paragraph, concerning Article V, requested by the Russian Federation. Hungary wished to remain the text’s sole sponsor. He hoped that the resolution would again be adopted by consensus as was the case every year. Through adoption, the international community reaffirmed its support for the prohibition of biological weapons and confirmed that the Convention was a fundamental pillar. Moreover, its adoption would send a positive signal to the upcoming ninth Review Conference of the Biological Weapons Convention.
BASSAM SABBAGH (Syria) rejected the use of chemical weapons by anyone, anywhere and under any circumstances. In 2003, during its membership in the Security Council, Syria had tabled a draft resolution to establish a zone free from nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East. The draft was obstructed by the United States. he reaffirmed that the main obstacle to the zone’s establishment was Israel's intransigence and its continued refusal to accede to treaties or agreements related to the prohibition and the non-proliferation of mass destruction weapons. That made Israel the main threat to peace and security in the region.
In the light of the serious threat that those weapons could be acquired by terrorists, he said Syria addressed hundreds of letters to the Secretary-General and the Committees tasked with combating terrorism. Those letters included important information about the acquisition by armed terrorist groups of chemical material and their use. There was a need to deal with the shortcomings of the relevant international instruments through the conclusion of an agreement to coordinate international efforts to defeat acts of biological and chemical terrorism. In that, he supported the Russian Federation draft agreement in the Conference on Disarmament on the matter. The international community’s failure to face the risks of the acquisition of those weapons by terrorists encouraged them to seek to acquire them.
MAAYAN MICHAL (Israel) said that rogue States continued to challenge the foundations of arms control and non-proliferation. That began with the lack of commitment by States to fulfil their obligations in good faith and the persistence of blatant non-compliance with existing norms. The Middle East struggled with a chronic lack of compliance. That culture of non-compliance and disregard for international obligations and norms had become dangerous. The use of chemical weapons by States in the region against their own population and against neighbouring countries had occurred numerous times since the Second World War, in clear violation of the 1925 Geneva Protocol. Furthermore, two additional cases of regional Member States violating the Convention on Chemical Weapons still had outstanding questions to be investigated. Despite the chemical-weapon disarmament process in Syria, beginning in 2014, hundreds of incidents of chemical weapons use in that country against the Syrian population had been witnessed. Syria still had chemical weapons capabilities and never deserted its ambition to acquire further such capabilities. Syria's lack of cooperation with OPCW investigative teams, as well as its continued concealment and deception raised a real fear that there was a significant residual chemical array in Syria.
Ms. UDOM (Ireland), aligning with the European Union, condemned the Russian Federation’s engagement in dangerous disinformation campaigns concerning weapons of mass destruction, across multiple fora, against Ukraine, the United States and others. Such efforts risked undermining essential multilateral disarmament and non-proliferation instruments, upon which collective security depended. Ireland would continue to denounce those baseless claims. Her country fully supported the OPCW and rejected efforts to undermine its work or legitimacy. It looked forward to strengthening the Biological Weapons Convention at the upcoming ninth Review Conference. Developments since the last such conference – particularly the COVID‑19 crisis – illustrated that biological threats would not discriminate in an increasingly interconnected world. She added that export controls were central to countering the spread and use of weapons of mass destruction. She detailed Ireland’s support for certain export-control regimes, and stressed that they facilitated legitimate trade and supported international cooperation on the peaceful use of nuclear, chemical and biological materials.
NADER LOUAFI (Angola) said his country had signed and ratified the Chemical Weapons Convention in 2015. Angola was committed to create legal mechanisms to achieve its objectives. Chemical weapons should be prohibited as they represented an obstacle to socioeconomic development in countries like his. In Angola, the national authority for arms control and disarmament and a civil commission had been created. Those bodies helped guide the relevant activities in his country, and, through its national strategy, prepared it to respond to chemical emergencies. As part of its implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention, Angola had hosted training cycles for Portuguese-speaking Member States and participated in workshops, such as the basic course on responding to chemical emergencies in Rwanda, held in 2022. Interested in personnel training, it had decided to join other countries in contributing funds to finance a new centre for chemistry and technology, the “Chem-Tech Centre”.
NOHRA MARIA QUINTERO CORREA (Colombia) said disarmament and the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destructions were part of Colombia’s foreign policy principles and constitutional mandate. She highlighted the need to investigate instances of weapons of mass destruction use and for perpetrators’ accountability. The OPCW was the competent forum for investigations. She supported the Chemical Weapon Convention’s universalization and greater cooperation and technical assistance under its article 10. The Technical Secretariat with States Parties of Latin America and the Caribbean was aimed at capacity-building to ensure national and regional implementation.
She said the upcoming Biological Weapons Convention Review Conference was an opportunity to assess its implementation and compliance. Dual-use material was a source of concern, and she supported export and import control. States parties must bolster biological control mechanisms to avoid these materials slipping into the non-State actors’ hands. Moreover, terrorism financing should be investigated and sanctioned. She advocated for international cooperation in the field of biocontainment to bolster State capacity to prevent and respond to those types of threats. Moreover, the pandemic’s consequences on health, the economy, and society showed the need to promote solidarity, multilateral cooperation, and mutual confidence-building measures regarding the strictly peaceful use of those technologies. The legal instruments and established regimes on weapons of mass destruction must be safeguarded. Lastly, a gender perspective must be incorporated and the fundamental role of women in peacebuilding must be recognized, she said.
KYAW MOE TUN (Myanmar), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), pointed out that the path to chemical and biological weapons was easier and cheaper than developing a nuclear bomb. The “poor man’s atomic bomb” could be created using equipment and materials that had a host of civilian applications. Such weapons had become the best alternative to nuclear weapons for rogue States and non-State actors, and therefore, the international community must strengthen efforts to stop their proliferation. Condemning the use of chemical weapons under any circumstances, he said that Myanmar’s military had reportedly engaged in a chemical programme that manufactured a sizeable amount of a Schedule I chemical. Information indicated that a facility under the military’s control near the town of Tongbo in the Bago region had produced sulphur mustard in the 1980s. The military had never been transparent regarding past chemical-weapons programmes and also had failed to be a good partner for nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation. He added a call to strengthen the Biological Weapons Convention, as the lack of a verification system hindered its effectiveness and relevance.
ANATOLII ZLENKO (Ukraine) condemned in the strongest terms the repeated use of chemical weapons. Any possible use of weapons of mass destruction, including by terrorists, was a clear and ever-present danger to humankind. Ukraine, as a State with a nuclear-weapon past and a full-fledged State party to the NPT and Conventions on Chemical and Biological Weapons, adhered to Council resolution 1540 (2004). The Russian Federation was waging a full-scale war against Ukraine. The unprovoked and unjustified aggression was a serious challenge to the “WMD regime”. The continuous shelling of Ukraine’s peaceful nuclear, chemical and other facilities by the Russian Federation forces threatened the integrity and physical protection of sensitive materials. That country had made many false allegations of chemical weapons use by Ukraine. None was true and no evidence was offered. The Russian Federation was failing to reach its goals on the battlefield and was becoming increasingly desperate. There was a real risk that Russian troops might use weapons of mass destruction as a last resort. He urged the international community to increase its pressure on that country to make it stop immediately its full-scale war of aggression and withdraw all its troops from the territory of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders.
SEYED MAHDI SAJJADIEH (Iran) said recent developments had seriously damaged the Chemical Weapons Convention. A particular group of States parties had turned OPCW from a technical organization into a politicized and confrontational instrument to advance their narrow political goals. It was imperative that the United States, the sole possessor State of chemical weapons, take all necessary measures to expedite the completion of the destruction of its remaining stockpiles. In addition, the unilateral coercive measures imposed by the United States against Iran hampered access to necessary medicine and equipment for Iranian chemical weapons victims. The viability of the Chemical Weapons Convention, as well as OPCW, required enforcement of a consistent and apolitical approach. It was not acceptable to pressure Syria while it was implementing its obligations under the Convention and cooperating with OPCW, while also turning a blind eye to the clandestine Israeli chemical arsenal and its dangerous policies. Also, the unrestricted trading of chemicals by some States parties with a regime not party to the Convention challenged its universality, as well as the establishment in the Middle East of a zone free of mass destruction weapons.
Right of Reply
The representative of the Russian Federation, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, refused all attempts by the United States and its allies to cast doubts on the convincing materials his country had submitted at the Biological Weapons Convention States Parties Consultative Meeting. The Russian Federation had initiated the event because of well-founded questions regarding the honouring of the Convention’s obligations by the United States and Ukraine. The fact that those discussions took place attested to the fact that the issues were topical. During the special military operation, the Russian Federation Ministry of Defence had submitted information regarding the United States’ and Ukraine’s non-compliance with their obligations. The Russian Federation had submitted the questions, but was not getting substantive answers. It had done everything in its power to ensure that the Consultative Meeting achieved the objectives and solved the issue.
He wanted Kyiv and Washington, D.C., to fix their state of affairs. As no consensus had been reached at the meeting, there remained outstanding issues that needed to be resolved, without which, the Biological Weapons Convention might be undermined. At the meeting, the United States and Ukraine made themselves the victims of unfounded attacks and tried to change the subject to ensure the event failed. They did not achieve their goal. With their destructive behaviour, they tried to conceal the Pentagon’s military activities outside its territory, right next to the Russian Federation. They said it was peaceful and had nothing to do with weapons, but that was just another attempt to distort fact and distract the international community from its own activities — at odds with the Convention.
To resolve the issue required discussion at the ninth Review Conference of the Biological Weapons Convention, he said. The international community should not restrict itself to exchanging opinions, but should use all tools available, including article 6, to investigate the breaches of the Convention by the United States and Ukraine. There was an acute need to strengthen the Convention and set up a legally binding protocol. Since 2001, the United States had blocked that as it did not want its activities to become common knowledge. The Russian Federation had repeatedly asked for the inclusion of information about military activities beyond State borders and the placement of those activities under strict international control.
The representative of the United States, also speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said that, yesterday, the United States’ full transparent participation in the article 5 consultations had been discussed. The United States would continue to assist partners to strengthen global health security and assess the impact of infectious diseases on health. International cooperation and assistance, such as that provided to dozens of partners, played a critical role in capacity-building. Those partnerships were exclusively devoted to peaceful purposes and had nothing to do with weapons, only to protect the health of human and animals and biological security. Those efforts should be reinforced, not undermined. The unfounded accusations by the Russian Federation and China were not only an attack on the United States, but also on the partner countries and were unacceptable and reprehensible.
In addition, several delegations had raised questions regarding United States efforts in destroying its chemical weapon stockpiles. Her country had completed the destruction of 98 per cent of its declared stockpiles and remained on track to meet its 30 September 2023 deadline. The United States had shown extraordinary transparency and continued to accelerate towards its planned completion date. It had allowed OPCW continued presence to ensure verified destruction, even during the pandemic. She was committed to eliminating all chemical weapons stockpiles around the world and her country had provided aid in that regard. For example, it had given $3 billion to the Russian Federation to eliminate its declared stockpile.
The representative of Syria rejected allegations levelled against his country by others regarding the deployment of chemical weapons and a lack of cooperation with OPCW as fabricated and groundless. He pointed to the politicization of OPCW’s work and its usurpation for political purposes. Syria rejected the use of chemical weapons in all circumstances, but the OPCW Investigation and Identification Team and its activities were an attempt to attack Syria. Several Western Governments had neglected Damascus’ cooperation with OPCW, but his country was committed to the destruction of all chemical weapons. It was unfortunate, however, that OPCW was being exploited to pursue the agendas of certain Western countries and that it had strayed from its established decision‑making practices. Syria had provided detailed information in relevant fora, and it was “unacceptable” that doubt was being cast on the declaration it submitted to OPCW. It wis also strange that Western countries were accusing Damascus of using chemical weapons while they ignored well-documented attacks by terrorist groups.
To the representative of Israel, he said it was “laughable that Israel is the one lecturing us about upholding international commitments”, as that State had an enormous arsenal of weapons of mass destruction, which had not been placed under international oversight. It also continuously attacked Syrian territory in violation of international law.
The representative of Ukraine said that the Russian Federation continued to disseminate fake narratives concerning the alleged development of a biological-weapons programme in Ukraine. The so-called evidence presented by the Russian Federation was concocted during its unjustified, unprovoked, full-scale war of aggression against Ukraine, a component of which was a powerful disinformation campaign. The origin of such evidence was also doubtful, as the Russian Federation was known for deceit, sabotage and cover-ups. He underscored that Ukraine had “never, ever” developed, produced or stored any chemical or biological weapon. It never had that intention, did not now and would not in the future, nor did it have the infrastructure to do so as it did not have biological labs capable of such research. Its national labs were devoted to public health, and its cooperation with the United States and other partners was entirely peaceful, aimed at preventing and counteracting outbreaks of infectious diseases.
The representative of the Russian Federation said he wished to respond to the groundless and provocative information by the United States and Ukraine regarding the well-founded rationale and evidence provided by the Russian Federation concerning articles I and IV of the Biological Weapons Convention. All the lies and misinformation were very easy to say, and propagandists loved to divert the attention of the international community from real threats in the biological sphere. The Russian Federation had gathered information regarding military biological activities in Ukraine. The aforementioned delegations had not taken a constructive approach to resolving the situation, he said, and had shown no interest in submitting well-argued, detailed answers to the questions put to them.
SOVANN KE (Cambodia), speaking on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and associating with the Non-Aligned Movement, said that, owing to the current situation of conflict and political tensions, ASEAN was concerned about the illicit proliferation of conventional weapons throughout the world, which contributed to more violence and instability, prolonged poverty, and undermined human well-being. Those weapons not only effected local people, but also local governments and surrounding regions. Their effective regulation and control were needed, for which States bore the primary responsibility. At the same time, ASEAN acknowledged States’ sovereign rights to manage their conventional inventory for self-defence and national security.
International action was a key step towards disarmament, he said, pointing to the Arms Trade Treaty and the Mine Ban Convention. He welcomed the outcome of the eighth Biennial Meeting, which would enhance global efforts to regulate the flow of small arms and light weapons, and combat their illicit trade. ASEAN had several regional mechanisms that focused on transnational crime and forensic science to combat smuggling and related transnational crimes in the region, as well as mutual legal assistance. In addition, he pointed to the threat posed by improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and lethal autonomous weapons (LAWs), particularly by non-State actors. He commended the role of the ASEAN Regional Mine Action Center (ARMAC) in addressing the issue of explosive remnants of war (ERW) and raising awareness. It was imperative that de-mining take a holistic approach with a focus on victim support and community development, and he called for financial, technical, and humanitarian aid for victims’ reintegration.
EDUARDO ALCIBIADES SÁNCHEZ KIESSLICH (Mexico) said that challenges relating to small arms and light weapons required the United Nations’ attention in light of the destabilizing effects of the weapons trade. He was concerned over the increasing use of such weapons, which were responsible for almost half the violent deaths around the world. Those weapons were also connected to spirals of violence linked to transnational organized crime and terrorism. The illicit small arms and light weapons trade did not have an effective control mechanism, and the illegal trade across borders required shared action by all countries. The effective control of conventional weapons, particularly small arms and light weapons, was both a humanitarian imperative and necessary for sustainable development. To that end, Mexico would continue to promote mechanisms for information-sharing within and between nations. He also called for the creation of an international instrument to protect civilians and infrastructure from the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, and he expressed concern over the development of autonomous weapons.
Ms. KAMINSKI (Canada) said history showed that policy and programming efforts addressing both the drivers and consequences of armed conflict should be gender-responsive in order to achieve robust and lasting outcomes. This year marked the twenty-fifth anniversary of the signing of the Mine Ban Convention, which was the culmination of the Ottawa process and years of civil society engagement. Canada remained firmly committed to advancing the Convention’s goals and objectives towards a world free of anti-personnel mines. It considered mine action to be essential to the achievement of sustainable development, as it supported peace and stabilization efforts and helped ensure the safe delivery of humanitarian assistance. Significant legacy contamination remained and new contamination continued. Under international humanitarian law, weapon systems that were inherently indiscriminate or caused superfluous injury or unnecessary suffering should be restricted or prohibited. Those weapons systems had serious, multifaceted and long-lasting impacts on civilians and their communities.
OSAMA MAHMOUD ABDEL KHALEK MAHMOUD (Egypt), associating with the Arab Group, Non-Aligned Movement and the African Group, voiced his commitment to multilateral efforts to tackle the illicit small arms and light weapons trade. Those efforts, however, should not negatively affect States’ right to legitimate defence. The Programme of Action on Small Arms and Light Weapons was an essential multilateral instrument, and he looked forward to elaborating issues related to the diversion of those weapons to unauthorized recipients. The Middle East and Africa faced serious risks, owing to increasing flows of small arms and light weapons to terrorists and illegal armed groups. Some States resorted to arming terrorists as a foreign‑policy tool, in clear violation of the Charter. That phenomenon required immediate attention. He reiterated the Arms Trade Treaty’s shortcomings, which made it possible to abuse it by monopolizing the legitimate conventional weapons trade in a politicized manner, while ignoring prevention of the illegal supply to unauthorized recipients. Egypt had suffered severely, as 20 per cent of the world’s landmines were placed on its soil during the Second World War, and he underlined the continued need for international cooperation.
Ms. HAKAOJA (Finland), aligning with the European Union, said that recent events had highlighted the importance of protecting the rules-based international system, as that directly impacted the international community’s ability to advance disarmament and non-proliferation. Disarmament and arms-control instruments must be effectively implemented, and as they were jointly created, must be jointly upheld. She underlined the need to promote national implementation of the Arms Trade Treaty and to fulfil its reporting obligations. She encouraged all States yet to do so to join that instrument. She spotlighted the need for continued international assistance to help countries develop their capacities and fulfil their commitments in that area, noting that Finland was a regular contributor to the United Nations Trust Facility Supporting Cooperation on Arms Regulation and the Saving Lives Entity. Finland also supported humanitarian mine action, providing funding for projects in Ukraine, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Somalia. She stressed the need to establish a normative and operational framework for the use of lethal autonomous weapons systems.
Mr. RYDNING (Norway) stated that, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, 2021 broke yet another record for global military spending. Conventional arms and equipment consistently drew the most resources and remained the major cause of casualties and disruption in armed conflict, exacting the heaviest toll on civilians. He was convinced that improved security and protection for all could be achieved at significantly lower levels of armaments. Arms control, non-proliferation, disarmament, and transparency in armaments had a direct positive bearing on international peace and security. Conventional weapons had serious humanitarian impacts and exacerbated conflict and crime worldwide. Civilians accounted for almost 90 per cent of recorded casualties when explosive weapons were used in populated areas. The Russian Federation's brutal attacks on civilians in Ukraine was a stark reminder of that. With the promise of speed, efficiency, and accuracy exceeding human abilities, autonomous functionality was making its way into modern life, including weapons. Autonomy had significant potential, but it also raised serious legal, ethical, and military concerns, challenging conceptions of control and responsibility. Autonomous weapon systems needed human oversight.