Enough Bullets Made Each Year to Kill ‘Twice the Number of Planet’s Inhabitants’, First Committee Hears during Debate on Conventional Weapons
New Technologies Could Quash Government Efforts to Suppress Illegal Arms Trade
The world was manufacturing enough bullets each year to kill almost twice the number of inhabitants on the planet, the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) heard today as it continued its thematic debate on conventional weapons.
Yet, said the representative of Peru, that seemed to fall on deaf ears when some States openly blocked efforts to deal with the $15 billion spent annually on ammunition, while others blocked efforts to staunch the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons. As with nuclear disarmament, when it came to conventional weapons disarmament, some countries were perpetuating their power, despite that the use of those weapons caused the largest number of victims in the world.
Those weapons’ indiscriminate use was particularly worrying, echoed the representative of Brazil, acknowledging the risks to public order posed by the illicit small arms trade. The disarmament and arms control regime must not enable criminals and non-State actors to have the upper hand in relation to Governments’ efforts to suppress the illegal trade.
Also spotlighting concern about non-State actors was the speaker for the Democratic Republic of the Congo, who said that their activities were reinforced in the eastern part of her country by the proliferation of small arms and light weapons. Those groups derived their income sources and supply of arms and ammunition from illicit exploitation and looting of the area’s natural resources.
The situation in West Africa and the Sahel also imperilled the population, Ghana’s representative said, urging concerted global action to deal decisively with depriving terrorists and extremist groups from accessing improvised explosive devices and small arms and light weapons. Those groups were responsible for more than 300 terrorist attacks on the African continent within the first quarter of 2022, with more than half in the West African subregion.
It was only right that conventional weapons were equated with "weapons of mass destruction", said the representative of Senegal, highlighting weaknesses in the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms, which, he said, undermined its relevance and credibility. To live up to its purpose, the Register should include small arms and light weapons, alongside the seven traditional categories.
Moreover, he said, it only covered international transfers of conventional arms, while some States acquired those weapons through their national arms industries. The level of transparency required from those countries on their procurement was higher than that of countries that sourced their weapons through domestic production, making the Register discriminatory against those that relied on arms imports.
Brazil’s representative urged the disarmament community to be ready to tackle the challenges posed by emerging technologies in the conventional weapons field. Modern technologies, such as modular and polymer weapons, and 3D printing, should not enable criminals and non-State actors to gain the upper hand in relation to government efforts to suppress the illegal trade.
Asserting that Azerbaijan was one of the most landmine-contaminated countries in the world, its speaker said that those weapons had been planted by Armenia during its military occupation of nearly three decades. Since 2020 alone, Azerbaijan had neutralized more than 67,000 anti-personnel and anti-tank landmines, clearing an area constituting just 4 per cent of the overall mass subjected to mine action. During the past 30 years, more than 3,300 Azerbaijani citizens had become mine victims, including 357 children and 38 women, he said.
Also speaking today were representatives of Austria, Ukraine, New Zealand, Algeria, Lithuania, United Kingdom, Iraq, Burkina Faso, Sri Lanka, Switzerland, Spain, Colombia, Togo, Czech Republic, India, El Salvador, Republic of Korea, Türkiye, Guatemala, Japan, Kuwait, Cuba and Viet Nam.
Speaking in right of reply were Armenia, Iran, Russian Federation, Belarus, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and the United States, as well as the representative of the European Union, in its capacity as observer.
The Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. on Monday, 24 October, to conclude its thematic debates.
ALEXANDER KMENTT (Austria), speaking on behalf of 69 States, said that, although it had proven difficult to translate progress in the discussion on the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons into concrete outcomes, the consideration of substantive proposals had facilitated the development of shared understandings and convergence on key substantive issues. That included, in particular, an approach based on the prohibition of autonomous weapon systems in non-compliance with “IGL” and the regulation of other types of autonomous weapons. States might have different understandings of terms like human judgment, control or involvement, but there was many shared the recognition that the human element should remain central to the use of force. He emphasized the need to exert appropriate control, judgment and involvement in the use of weapon systems in order to ensure that any use was in compliance with international law, in particular, international humanitarian law, and that users remained accountable for those decisions.
ANATOLII ZLENKO (Ukraine), noting that it was the 239th day of the full-scale invasion unleashed by "terrorist Russia" against Ukraine, he said that throughout the last few weeks, "terrorist Russia" had intensified its attacks against critical infrastructure and residential buildings with the use of Iranian kamikaze drones. Dozens of people, including children, had been killed or injured, and one third of Ukraine's energy infrastructure had been affected. The Russian Federation was striking power stations, which had no military purpose, to deprive the civilian population of its basic needs, including heat, electricity and water, amid the onset of cold weather. Moscow would bear full responsibility for its atrocities against the Ukrainian people. Ukraine called on Iran to immediately stop supplying Moscow with any weapons. Iran would bear the strictest responsibility, including within the framework of international legal proceedings addressing the Russian Federation's crimes against Ukraine. While the entire civilized world was abandoning and banning anti-personnel landmines, the Russian Federation was increasing their use in Ukraine and even testing new types of anti-personnel mines. Invaders deliberately mined toys and shiny objects, to which children turned their attention. Unfortunately, due to the Russian Federation's full-scale war, much of the de-mining of the territories together with the international partners had been nullified.
NICHOLAS CLUTTERBUCK (New Zealand) said that, while the international community grappled with new and escalating conflicts, the highest level of nuclear risk since the end of the cold war and challenges in space and cyberspace, it must not lose focus on conventional weapons issues. With the Russian Federation’s illegal invasion of Ukraine, the world had witnessed many examples of illegal weapons use. Now was the time to shore up important norms and treaties and strengthen the protection of civilians. He welcomed the Political Declaration on Explosive Weapons in Populated Areas, calling on all countries to sign on and play their part in its universalization and implementation. The development of autonomous weapons systems posed legal, ethical and security challenges, making legally binding rules among the most pressing items on the path forward. Now, States Parties to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons should meaningfully translate the substantive understandings into formal, agreed progress. The social, economic and humanitarian consequences of the illicit conventional arms trade continued to motivate his country’s support for the Arms Trade Treaty to strengthen regulation and reduce human suffering.
NANA AMA BIMAH QUASHIE (Ghana), associating with the Arab Group and the Non-Aligned Movement, said the increasingly wide use of improvised explosive devices and small arms and light weapons, especially in West Africa, was a major cause of concern. Not only did they fuel most conflicts in the region, but they had contributed to the rise in criminality, youth violence and cross-border crimes. Their impact had led to some 346 terrorist attacks on the African continent within the first quarter of 2022, alone, 49 per cent of which had taken place in the West African subregion. Between 2016 and 2019, more than 4,000 deaths had been recorded in Niger, Burkina Faso and Mali, attributable to the detonation of improvised explosive devices. The situation in West Africa and the Sahel urgently called for global concerted action to deal decisively with depriving terrorists and extremist groups from accessing them. She implored arms manufacturing and exporting countries to respect the exemption certificate regime for arms imports into West Africa, which had bene established by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), in order to reduce diversion and illicit transfer.
ILGAR GURBANOV (Azerbaijan) said his country was one of the most landmine-explosive‑remnants-of-war-contaminated in the world. Those weapons had been planted by Armenia during its military occupation of its territories across nearly three decades. Since the signing of the Trilateral Statement of 10 November 2020, Azerbaijan had neutralized more than 67,000 anti-personnel and anti-tank landmines, clearing an area constituting approximately 4 per cent of the overall area subjected to mine action. That humanitarian problem could be mitigated through Armenia’s release of all maps of minefields, however, following the end of the conflict, Armenia, at first, denied the presence of any maps and then had handed over some of the pre-2020 mine-field records. During the past 30 years, more than 3,300 Azerbaijani citizens had become mine victims, including 357 children and 38 women, and in the post-conflict period, over the past two years, some 260 Azerbaijani civilians and military personnel had been killed or seriously injured by mine explosions. Despite the commitments on the termination of all military activities, Armenia’s armed forces had continued to plant mines on a massive scale on Azerbaijan’s territory.
SARA ALVARADO (Peru) noted that the world was spending $15 billion annually on ammunition, manufacturing enough bullets to kill almost twice the number of inhabitants of the planet. That fed violence around the world, yet those arguments seemed to fall on deaf ears when some States openly blocked efforts to deal with the issue, while others blocked efforts to staunch illicit the trade in small arms and light weapons. Peru was honouring its commitment to be a country free of landmines and was working to demine other States. Condemning the use of cluster munitions by any actor under any circumstances, she called on all countries to join that Convention. Further, lethal autonomous weapons systems called for an urgent legal and political response from the international community. As with nuclear disarmament, when it came to conventional weapons disarmament, some States were instead perpetuated their power, despite the fact that the use of those weapons caused the largest number of victims in the world.
PAPA SAMBA DIACK (Senegal) said it was only right that conventional weapons were equated with "weapons of mass destruction" in some parts of the world, due to their wide dissemination, facilitated in part by gaps in control regimes. The United Nations Register of Conventional Arms, which was the only universal, transparent and confidence-building mechanism in the field of conventional weapons, suffered from several weaknesses, which undermined its relevance and credibility. In order to adequately meet its definition, the Register must include small arms and light weapons, alongside the seven traditional categories. Many States were already accustomed to reporting their international transfers in those weapons to other instruments, such as the Arms Trade Treaty. The transition, therefore, from "Form 7 + 1" to Category VIII should be a simple administrative task. The Register only covered international transfers of conventional arms, while some States acquired those weapons through their national arms industries, making the Register discriminatory against countries that relied on arms imports. The level of transparency required from those countries on their procurement was higher than that of countries that sourced their weapons through domestic production.
That shortcoming, he said, should be addressed to enable the Register to cover the two main forms of conventional arms acquisition on an equal footing and thus fulfil its primary function, namely, to identify and prevent the excessive and destabilizing accumulation of conventional weapons. Another weakness was the Register’s secretariat’s inadequate capacity. The recommendation of the 2022 Group of Governmental Experts reviewing the Register deserved full support.
MÔNICA FUGANTI CABELLO CAMPOS DE ALMEIDA (Brazil) said that the overwhelming share of casualties and fatalities from armed conflicts were provoked by conventional weapons. He acknowledged the risks to public order posed by the illicit small arms trade. Particularly worrying was the indiscriminate use of those weapons, in violation of international humanitarian law and in contradiction with the text of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons. The disarmament and arms control regime of such weapons should be kept up to date. In particular, the regime should tackle the challenges posed by emerging technologies in the conventional weapons field. Modern technologies, such as modular and polymer weapons, and 3D printing, should not enable criminals and non-State actors to have the upper hand in relation to Governments’ efforts to suppress the illegal trade. Likewise, regarding ammunition, the representative advocated for the adoption of minimal standards of marking, with a view to strengthening tracing activities in the crucial fight against ammunition diversion. The speaker had stressed the need for a regulation that recognized the centrality of human control in the development and use of autonomous systems, in line with international humanitarian law.
NAZIM KHALDI (Algeria), associating with the Non-Aligned Movement, the African Group and Arab Group, said that the illicit small arms and light weapons trade remained a serious threat to peace and stability, particularly in Africa. Algeria’s steadfast endeavours stemmed from its unique experience in fighting the scourge of terrorism and multiple security challenges along its borders. He pledged Algeria’s commitment to the Programme of Action on small arms and light weapons and the International Tracing Instrument and welcomed the fellowship training programme. Regionally, Algeria worked tirelessly to implement the African Union’s strategies and initiatives and cooperated with neighbouring countries, including from the Sahel region, to consolidate stability beyond its own borders. The legal framework and Protocols of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons should be further developed to codify humanitarian rules in order to place the protection of human beings above all other considerations. The technological developments in lethal autonomous weapons systems in armed conflict were deeply alarming, requiring legally binding instruments to address humanitarian and security challenges. The Mine Ban Convention was a top priority, and he highlighted Algeria’s successful model in the field of mine clearance and victim assistance.
ROBERTAS ROSINAS (Lithuania), associating with the European Union, noted that just ahead of the Russian Federation’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the Baltic States and Ukraine had invoked the mechanism for consultation and cooperation in accordance with the risk reduction Chapter of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Vienna Document. The Russian Federation and Belarus had completely disregarded those legitimate concerns and misused the mechanism. That was proof that “the so-called Russian-Belarusian joint exercises was used as a disguise for the upcoming invasion”. He condemned the illegitimate efforts to incorporate the Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions into the territory of the Russian Federation and called on all States to reject those blatant attempts to acquire territory by force. He also condemned the use of anti-personnel landmines and cluster munitions directed against civilians in Ukraine. He called on Belarus to end its complicity and stop providing heavy weapons to the aggressor State and allowing the use of its territory as a launchpad for attacks.
VICTORIA LIETA LIOLOCHA (Democratic Republic of the Congo) said that the uncontrolled spread of conventional weapons remained an ongoing concern, including an obstacle to peace and an impediment to development. The proliferation of small arms and light weapons reinforced the activities of armed groups in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. Indeed, those groups derived their sources of income and their supply of arms and ammunition from the illicit exploitation and looting of the area’s natural resources. Thus, it was important for the process of reducing and controlling those weapons to continue, for which consultations to limit international arms transfers must continue. The representative remained committed to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons and its protocols, because the human, social, economic and political consequences of the uncontrolled proliferation of those weapons left behind an irreparable burden. The United Nations Mine Action Service continued to provide technical support to Congolese authorities and peacekeeping operations through activities such as specialized training, installation and upgrading of weapons and ammunition storage, as well as disposal of unserviceable ammunition, assessment of ammunition storage areas and development of mitigation measures to reduce risks to the population.
ELEONORA SAGGESE (United Kingdom) said that tackling the illicit or destabilizing arms, the global community must improve the management of ammunition. The United Kingdom consistently reported its exports to the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms, and she urged others to follow suit. Her country would continue to support the Register’s implementation and wider transparency. In parallel to reducing instability and conflict, it was imperative to respect international humanitarian law. When her country presided over the tenth Meeting of States Parties to the Convention on Cluster Munitions last month, it had pursued universalization though bilateral, regional and multilateral efforts, and continued work on alternative financing options for mine action.
She expressed concern about the extensive and well-documented use of cluster munitions and landmines, particularly in Ukraine, where they had caused hundreds of civilian casualties. Consistent reports of the Russian Federation’s use of anti-personnel mines and victim-activated booby traps, including placed on corpses, called into question its compliance with its obligations under Amended Protocol II of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons. Those developments also underscored the importance of the Political Declaration on the protection of civilians from the use of explosive weapons in populated areas. Her country would sign the Declaration at the adoption ceremony in Dublin next month.
AHMED KAMIL RHAIF ALBU-MOHAMMED (Iraq) urged the international community to redouble its efforts to create a comprehensive international system to combat the illicit trafficking in small arms and light weapons, particularly to ban their export and monitor their movement across borders. Anti-personnel mines, explosive remnants of war and cluster munitions were a major danger resulting in countless deaths or injury and thwarting socioeconomic development and causing long-term environmental consequences. Iraq had suffered mightily from that. He reiterated that it was of the highest importance to continue providing international support aimed at eliminating those deadly and destructive weapons, both for the economy and the environment.
SEYDOU SINKA (Burkina Faso), associating with the Non-Aligned Movement and African Group, said that the proliferation of illicit small arms and light weapons threatened peace in security, including in Africa. Only second to drug trafficking, that proliferation threatened survival, strengthened corruption and international crime and terrorism, and undermined efforts have made towards development. “We are the victims of their circulation,” he said, adding that in the last six years he had seen unprecedented crises and loss of life. Preserving peace should be the absolute priority and Burkina Faso had incorporated the Arms Trade Treaty into its national institutional framework. He spotlighted the numerous consequences of landmines and improvised explosive devices and called for the universalization of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons and assistance for affected countries. Cluster munitions and anti-personnel mines hampered services in regions around world, delaying the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. He was committed to change things and to work towards a world free of peril and weapons.
NIRMALA PARANAVITANA (Sri Lanka), associating with the Non-Aligned Movement, stressed the need to fully implement the Programme of Action and the International Tracing Instrument, and to build national capacity for weapons marking, identification and tracing. Looking forward to the sixth Review Conference of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, she noted the unique challenges posed by autonomous weapons systems and the need for urgent action towards internationally agreed regulations and limitations. Sri Lanka had destroyed its last remaining stockpile of 11,840 landmines in August 2021, almost a year earlier than the deadline set in the Mine Ban Convention. She affirmed the sovereign right of States with regard to conventional arms, emphasizing that the problem was not with the regular trade, but with their illicit flow to non-State actors, especially terrorist groups and militia.
FÉLIX BAUMANN (Switzerland) said that civilians were the first victims of armed conflicts and conventional weapons use. He was deeply concerned about credible allegations of cluster munition and anti-personnel‑mine use in Ukraine by the Russian Federation’s forces. Addressing the humanitarian consequences of explosive weapons use in populated areas was a priority for his country, and he called for better implementation of humanitarian law and voiced his support for the Political Declaration on that regard. The consensus at the eight Biennial Meeting of States to Consider the Implementation of the Programme of Action on the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects had showed States’ willingness to move forward jointly on discussions, which was even more necessary given the implementation challenges, including on the international tracing instrument. He underlined the Arms Trade Treaty’s central aspect of the common effort against the transfer of conventional weapons to undesirable end recipients and welcomed this year’s emphasis on post-shipment verification. Switzerland had carried out 50 verifications with positive results. Regarding autonomous weapons systems, he underlined that if they did not comply with humanitarian law, they should not be developed or used.
ALBERTO MIRANDA DE LA PEÑA (Spain), aligning with the European Union, said that the whole world felt the consequences of the Russian Federation’s unjustified aggression. Disarmament conventions provided peace and development to millions of communities and had Spain’s full support. Spain actively contributed to de-mining by providing capacity-building training in the context of peace operations. The diversion of small arms and light weapons destabilized countries, fed conflicts and undermined community development. He underlined the importance of the Programme of Action and the International Tracing Instrument’s implementation to gain a better understanding of their devastating efforts and to stop diversion to terrorist groups. The Arms Trade Treaty and Programme of Action were solid frameworks for addressing the challenges. He also encouraged international training to support governments in dealing with the scourge. Technical advancements, such as artificial intelligence, required regulation. The Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons was the right framework for addressing challenges flowing from legal autonomous weapons systems.
QUINTERO NOHRA (Colombia) said conventional weapons continued to inflict pain and death and undermine the dignity of millions. Their accumulation and diversion hampered peace, security and sustainable development, because of their links to organized crime and drug trafficking. She called on the international community to pool its efforts to implement the 2030 Agenda, synergize various mechanisms and ensure the full participation of youth and women to face the challenges. Colombia’s joint draft resolution on small arms and light weapons (document A/77/C.1/L.50) sought to uphold dialogue and strengthen implementation of the Action Programme and International Tracing Instrument. The Open-Ended Working Group on conventional weapons should establish a new framework, which addressed existing gaps, particularly in connection with ammunition. Comprehensive mine action was a key component to building peace, restoring land, protecting ethnic populations and promoting rural development. Colombia had de‑mined 79 per cent of its land. Mines remained the preferred weapon of non-State actors, and that is why Colombia had co-sponsored the draft resolution on the prohibition of anti-personnel mines (document A/77/C.1/L.40).
ABD-EL KADER YASMIN TCHALARE (Togo) said that the scourge of the illicit small arms and light weapons trade undermined the efforts for stability and progress. He was pleased with the interest shown in the issue at the international level, especially since the West African subregion was subjected to growing insecurity that was increasingly affecting coastal States. Togo had a national commission to combat the illicit proliferation, circulation and trafficking of those weapons. It also had a national focus point responsible for the implementation of the Programme of Action, as well as a national action plan. It was aimed at improving knowledge of those categories of weapons based on a solid database, consolidating and developing cooperation, coordination and information exchange among stakeholders at the national, regional and global levels. It also sought to mobilize citizens against the small arms and light weapons threat. He welcomed the initiatives undertaken at the international level to support developing countries, especially in capacity-building and the improvement of modalities and procedures for cooperation and assistance.
JAROSLAV ŠTĚPÁNEK (Czech Republic), associating with the European Union, condemned the Russian Federation’s aggression against Ukraine as an unjustifiable breach of the United Nations Charter and international law. He regretted that some of the important arms producers had not yet joined the Arms Trade Treaty. Taking due note of the Treaty’s alarming financial situation, he called on its States Parties to fulfil their financial obligations. Reiterating support for the goals of the Mine Ban Convention and the Convention on Cluster Munitions, he noted that his country has so far assisted mine action in Afghanistan, Jordan, Iraq, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Ukraine, among others. He urged international endeavours to address the humanitarian impact of conventional weapons and ammunition, including support for strong regulations on, among others, small arms and light weapons, their ammunition, parts and components.
Ms. NARAYANAN (India) said that in an increasingly turbulent global security environment, the world needed to reaffirm its collective commitment to disarmament and arms control instruments. The Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons’ unique structure allowed flexibility in dealing with new developments and weapon technologies. Additional Protocol II struck a balance between humanitarian concerns on landmines and legitimate defence requirements, particularly of States with long borders, as well as improvised explosive devices, which were often deployed by non-State actors. India fought the menace of the use of those weapons by non-State actors, and accordingly attached the highest priority to threat mitigation, victim assistance and technology sharing, as well as explosive remnants of war. Regarding lethal autonomous weapons systems, it was imperative to develop a common understanding of the concepts, before taking decisive steps. Following the Group of Governmental Experts chaired by India, she invited all Member States to participate in the Registry to build transparency and confidence by submitting transfer reports of conventional arms. India would seek to strengthen the global non-proliferation architecture in the area of conventional weapons and related dual-use goods and technologies.
EGRISELDA ARACELY GONZÁLEZ LÓPEZ (El Salvador) stood ready to combat armed violence and firearms, which claimed lives around the world every day. More cooperation was needed in the field of small arms and light weapons, she said, spotlighting new technology, such as 3D printers. A technical open-ended working group should be established to consider the issue, for which she urged a cross-cutting gender focus to address the different impacts on different groups. To fully implement the Action Programme and the International Tracing Instrument, it was necessary to have the full-fledged participation of women, as well as annual training programmes and technology- and knowledge-sharing with developing countries. El Salvador was pleased to have co-sponsored the draft resolution on the illicit traffic in small arms and light weapons (document A/77/C.1/L.50). Regarding ammunition, she said that should be covered in the Programme of Action, and she spotlighted the importance of international cooperation in capacity-building and sharing of best practices. National education systems played an important role in decreasing the illicit traffic. She highlighted the danger of proliferation, and in that context, the work done by civil society, academia and think-tanks, which provided Governments with excellent contributions on conventional weaponry and security.
MIN-JEONG CHO (Republic of Korea) drew attention to the draft resolution on the Arms Trade Treaty (document A/77/C.1//L.39.), which he had the honour to submit this year. The illicit trade in small arms and light weapons was interconnected with other areas, including terrorism, domestic and transnational organized crime, drugs, women and children’s rights and socioeconomic development. He remained committed to the framework of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, which struck a balance between its States Parties’ security concerns and humanitarian considerations. The issue of emerging technologies in the area of lethal autonomous weapons systems had been a focus of discussions in the context of that Convention’s framework for the last several years.
MEMET MEVLÜT YAKUT (Türkiye), citing the uncontrolled flow of conventional weapons, said that given the suffering they caused, the proliferation of small arms and light weapons deserves no less attention than that of weapons of mass destruction. He stressed concern over their association with terrorism and organized crime. In that context, he supported the strong, effective and comprehensive implementation of the Programme of Action. Welcoming the successful outcomes of the seventh and eighth Biennial Meetings of States Parties, he called on the international community to strengthen international tracing instruments. The Arms Trade Treaty remained crucial, and it was impossible to separate the proliferation of conventional weapons from the safety and security of their ammunition. Türkiye proceeded with its diligent implementation of a robust export control mechanism.
MARÍA DEL ROSARIO ESTRADA GIRÓN (Guatemala) said that weapons diversion contributed to drug trafficking and organized crime. It made people more vulnerable and created obstacles to sustainable economic development. Eight years ago, the world celebrated the treaty that would have had a significant impact on security, by effectively regulating weapons and preventing their diversion. The success of the Arms Trade Treaty depended on the good faith of States, including the producing, exporting and importing countries, to effectively apply every one of its provisions. The obligations of States parties to that instrument went beyond financial contributions. Turning to cluster munitions, he strongly condemned their use by any actor under any circumstances. He was concerned by the use of explosive weapons in densely populated areas, as a violation of international humanitarian law. The use of new technology to develop new weapons should be regulated by a legally binding instrument.
NANA NAGAI (Japan) said the world witnessed numerous civilian deaths, massive displacements and family separations in the last 12 months. The source of those tragedies were conventional arms, making the need for universalization of conventional weapons control and disarmament more important than ever. Last year, Japan had contributed more than $41 million in the fight against mines, cluster munitions, unexploded ordnance and small arms and light weapons. Japan co‑submitted the draft resolution on the illicit small arms and light weapons trade (document A/77/C.1/L.50) and hoped its consensus adoption would demonstrate a united determination to tackle the problem. Similarly, Japan supported the resolution on improvised explosive devices (document A/77/C.1/L.41) sponsored by France and Australia. In the current harsh security environment, he recognized the increased value of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons as a multilateral regulatory framework. She welcomed the contributions by the Governmental Group of Experts, which, despite sensitivities, fostered bases for common understanding of lethal autonomous weapons systems. She also voiced support for the Political Declaration on Strengthening the Protection of Civilians from the Humanitarian Consequences Arising from the Use of Explosive Weapons in Populated Areas. All Member States must stand united.
ABDULRAHMAN ALHASHEM (Kuwait) reiterated his country’s unwavering position on the fight against the illicit trade and supply of small arms and light weapons aimed at ensuring peace without undermining the rights of States to defend their sovereignty and territorial integrity. He reiterated his commitment to the full implementation of the Programme of Action, in order to build confidence and cooperation among Member States and to prevent such weapons from falling into the hands of non-State actors. He welcomed the entry into force of the Arms Trade Treaty and called on States to implement it. Technological advancements were a double-edged sword in that regard, and he encouraged States to share their expertise and strengthen their cooperation.
CHRISTIAN PADILLA (Cuba) said the practice by some producers to transfer weapons to unauthorized non-State actors and divert them to the illicit market impeded developing countries to acquire them for legitimate self-defence. At the same time, increasingly strategic, sophisticated and lethal conventional weapons were being developed, while the imbalance between the production, possession and trade of those weapons was ever greater. He supported the establishment of scholarships for developing countries to build the capacity to implement the Programme of Action. He could not support the Arms Trade Treaty since it established parameters that were easily manipulated. The world’s weapons spending was rising at a dizzying rate, now beyond $2 trillion for the first time, while millions lived in extreme poverty and suffered from acute hunger. The producers of conventional weapons were enriching themselves. He wondered how much better off the world be if those resources were devoted to health and sustainable development.
THI THANH HAI TRAN (Viet Nam), aligning with Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the Non-Aligned Movement, said that progress on controlling conventional weapons was a collective effort to ensure peace and security and to safeguard national defence. The issue of conventional weapons must be addressed with great care, balance, non-discrimination and non-politization. She reaffirmed the sovereign right of States to those weapons and ammunition for self-defence. Deploring the use of cluster munitions and anti-personnel mines, she highlighted Viet Nam’s efforts during its Security Council membership last year to combat mines and ensure safety, livelihoods and development. The illicit small arms and light weapons trade fuelled conflict, hindered sustainable development and negatively impacted security. To that end, she supported the Programme of Action. International cooperation played a crucial role in supporting developing countries’ implementation of their obligations. She added that women’s participation would contribute meaningfully to long-term projects of peace, stability and development across regions.
Right of Reply
The representative of the European Union, in its capacity as observer, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said he was responding to the Russian Federation’s right of reply from yesterday. Noting the report of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine submitted three days ago to the General Assembly, the observer said that it revealed that war crimes, and violations of human rights and international humanitarian law had been committed in Ukraine since 24 February. Russian Federation armed forces were responsible for the vast majority of identified violations. The Commission found numerous cases of the Russian Federation’s shelling of civilians that were trying to flee, obtain food or other necessities, which resulted in their death or injury. The victims wore civilian clothes, drove civilian cars, and were unarmed.
He pointed to reports of arbitrary executions, including executions in Bucha, Kyiv, Tetiiv and Sumy regions, as well as detentions, torture and other ill-treatment, sexual and gender-based violence, unlawful forcible transfers or deportations of a significant number of Ukrainian civilians, including children, to the Russian Federation and territories under its military control. In its war of aggression, the Russian Federation used anti-personnel landmines, cluster munitions and other explosive weapons, such as rockets and artillery shells, against civilians. The recent air and missile attacks had deliberately targeted critical infrastructure and attempted to terrorize civilians in Kyiv and other Ukrainian cities. The European Union condemned the delivery of Iranian drones to the Russian Federation and their deployment against Ukraine.
In view of the grave situation, he said the European Union had decided to include three individuals and one entity to the list of those subjected to restrictive measures for undermining or threatening Ukraine’s territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence, and in view of their role in the development and delivery of drones used by the Russian Federation in the war. That decision was a signal of the Union’s resolve to respond swiftly and decisively to Iran’s actions supporting the Russian aggression, and it would continue to respond to all such actions. The Union was devastated by the repeated discoveries of atrocities in liberated areas and the increasing horrific number of civilian casualties across the country. The Russian Federation’s armed forces had left behind mine fields, making the delivery of humanitarian assistance impossible and endangering the lives of innocent people.
To ensure accountability, the European Union actively supported the work of the International Criminal Court, he said, stressing that there could be no impunity for war crimes, crimes against humanity, and crimes of genocide. The Russian Federation must be held accountable for its evident violations of international humanitarian law, which were resulting in hundreds of civilian casualties every week.
The representative of Armenia, also speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said Azerbaijan’s intention behind its provocative and false rhetoric and disinformation campaign was to hide from the international community its blatant disregard and violations of all norms in conventional arms control. The security situation in his region continued to be characterized by Azerbaijan’s uncontrolled military build-up, its leadership’s persistent aggressive rhetoric, open territorial claims to Armenia, and the use of force against Armenia’s sovereign territory. In 2020, from the first day of aggression against Nagorno-Karabagh, as part of its policy of spreading terror, Azerbaijan widely used prohibited weapons, such as cluster munitions and incendiary weapons to conduct targeted attacks on the civilian population and infrastructure. Those acts were widely documented by Human Rights Watch and caused long-term and severe damage to both the population and environment. More than 18 hectares of forest had been damaged as a result of the use of incendiary ammunition probably containing chemical elements.
He said that the military offensive unleased by Azerbaijan in September had involved the deliberate targeting of densely populated cities deep in the Armenia’s territory, in gross violation of the Geneva Conventions. Those attacks were preceded by the previous acts of aggression against his country’s sovereign territory in May, July and November 2021. At the Security Council’s emergency meeting on 15 September, upon Armenia’s request, Council members had called the strikes inside Armenia’s territory unacceptable, that all military forces must urgently return to their initial position, and that a complete ceasefire must be unconditionally observed. However, Azerbaijani troops instead remained inside Armenia’s territory and the military build-up continued on Armenian frontiers. Azerbaijan’s grave violations of the conventional arms control regime and confidence-building measures had posed a serious security threat. It had exceeded its ceilings in four or five categories of major conventional arms established by the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe.
For decades, he said, Azerbaijani armed forces along the borders had been excluded from inspection and verification, undermining the credibility of data provided by Azerbaijan and enabling it to concentrate a large amount of unverified forces and military equipment along Armenia’s borders. Grave violations of confidence-building measures in the framework of the Vienna Document also included the conduct of large-scale and unnotified military exercises along the borders with Armenia. For almost three decades, Nagorno-Karabagh people and Armenia’s border communities had been severely affected by massive mine contamination as a result of Azerbaijani military activities. Minor accidents had led to the killing and injury of many civilians, including children, and had impeded socioeconomic development. Azerbaijan had consistently obstructed de-mining as part of its wider policy of obstructing humanitarian access of the international community to Nagorno-Karabagh. In 2016, Azerbaijan had forced OSCE to terminate those de-mining-related efforts.
In the aftermath of its aggression against Nagorno-Karabagh in 2020, Azerbaijan had faced international pressure on some humanitarian issues such as the release of hundreds of Armenian prisoners of war and civilians, he said. Azerbaijan had brought up that issue for mere propaganda purposes to distract the international community from its heinous crimes.
The representative of Iran, in right of reply, said he wished to respond to the irresponsible and false claims made regarding Iranian drones in Ukraine. There was a pattern of unfounded accusations, and Iran’s active neutral position in the conflict, and all the responses given here in this Committee, were not taken into account. Repeating unilateral claims would not make them true and just showed how arbitrary they were. Iran was neutral and categorically rejected unfounded allegations by Ukraine and the European Union that it supplied “UAVs” (unmanned aerial vehicles) in the war against Ukraine. Those countries overlooked Iran’s neutral position and continued to base their claims on unsubstantiated public information.
The representative of Belarus said the accusations by Lithuania’s delegate related to events in Ukraine were baseless. Belarusian armed forces did not participate in the armed conflict in Ukraine, and its Government had always advocated the clearest resolution of the conflict through peaceful means. As the conflict was right next to Belarus’ borders, the country paid a great deal of attention to security in the region. He remained firmly convinced that diplomatic means were the only way to settle any conflict.
The representative of Ukraine categorically rejected all allegations by the Russian Federation from the start of its war on Ukraine, attacking from land, air and sea using various conventional weapons targeting civilians and civilian objects. That country had destroyed cities and villages, razing some of them to the ground. The international community had seen horrific images from Bucha, Izyum and many other cities, with mass graves found after liberation from the occupiers. Russian Federation armed forces were violating international humanitarian law, using booby traps, incendiary weapons and cluster munitions, as well as civilians as human shields. Those forces had attacked prisoners of war, a crime and violation of the Geneva Convention. The Russian Federation seized the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant and shelled it, maintaining 500 military personnel there. Those troops must immediately withdraw, and Moscow must implement decisions by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
Turning to Iran, he stressed that Ukraine had never regarded it as an enemy. However, Iran had become the Russian Federation’s accomplice, which was now using large-scale unmanned aerial vehicles of Iranian origin in indiscriminate attacks on civilians. He also cited strong intentions by the Russian Federation to use advanced Iranian weapons, including ballistic missiles.
The representative of Azerbaijan said it was deplorable that he needed to take the floor to refute the self-serving agent of Armenia. Armenia tried to distract international attention from its wrongful acts. It was unwilling to further release maps of minefields and threatened to kill more people. Armenia had been complicit in civilian deaths with its landmines. Despite ongoing diplomatic efforts toward normalization of inter-State relations initiated by his country and supported by the international community, Armenia had continued “mine terrorism”, which was indicative of the indiscriminate nature of its mine planting and showed the gravity of the humanitarian situation facing Azerbaijani civilians. Armenia’s aim was clear: impede revitalization, reconstruction and the entry of humanitarian personnel into Azerbaijan’s territory liberated from Armenian occupation, and the safe return of internally displaced persons to their homes of which they were deprived for almost three decades. He demanded that Armenia share accurate and complete information about all minefield maps.
Recalling the four-day war, he said Armenia had targeted cities and civilians in Azerbaijan with missiles and artillery far from the conflict zone. Azerbaijan had documented all war crimes committed by Armenia and its use of ballistic missiles and cluster and phosphorous munitions during the six-week war in 2020. The firing of phosphorus munitions was prohibited and was a gross violation of the fundamental principles of the Convention on Biological Diversity. The aim was to inflict colossal damage on the environment. Armenia concealed its military activities from relevant international and regional arms control and verification mechanisms, including its forces, stockpiles and undeclared armaments. Azerbaijan protected its people and restored its territorial integrity, and sovereign control, in line with the Charter and international law. Azerbaijan had not unleashed aggression against anyone, and he rejected the assertion to the contrary.
The representative of the United States said the persistence and insistence of the Russian Federation’s comments were inversely proportional to its credibility. The representative had put together an impressive enumeration of statistics about the assistance being provided to Ukraine in order to help it defend itself. However, in his mind, that was at least a tribute to the transparency with which the United States and a number of other countries had assisted Ukraine in its moment of peril. That transparency contrasted with the lack of transparency on the eve of the Russian Federation’s invasion on 24 February. Then, the Russians were accusing the United States and others of being “hysterical” about the possibility that their country would be invading the territory of its neighbour the very next day.
The speaker said that the purpose of using high precision military weapons was to target military targets, not civilians. That was in contrast to the Russian Federation’s practice of indiscriminate use of force. The Russian Federation’s brutality throughout the war had been and was being well documented and would be scrutinized very carefully. He recalled that, only a few days ago, the General Assembly had passed a resolution with 143 votes in support of Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty. He pointed out that, in opposing that resolution, the Russian Federation was joined by only four other countries, none of which were known as “standard bearers for the democratic international order”.
The representative of Iran highlighted that his country’s position on the ongoing conflict in Ukraine was crystal clear. It had supported and continued to support a peaceful settlement. He called on the Ukrainian delegates to stop raising arbitrary and unsubstantiated claims about his country. He invited Ukraine to cooperate with him to clarify its claims. Iran’s position was clear, and he hoped it would be taken seriously.
The representative of the Russian Federation rejected all allegations from Ukraine against his country. He stressed that the Russian Federation’s forces were conducting their work in full conformity with international law, international humanitarian law, the Charter and Article 51. In addition, the Russian Federation’s Ministry of Defence was completely transparent on the special military operation in Ukraine and organized daily briefings to inform the public on its progress.
The representative of Armenia said that, throughout the years, Azerbaijan had attempted to justify its non-compliance with the conventional arms‑control regimes in the context of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, while ironically rejecting all proposals by mediators aimed at confidence-building, including regarding de-mining conflict zones. The plan was to use that pretext to pursue its massive military build-up and policy of aggression.
The representative of Azerbaijan called on Armenia to abandon its provocations and narratives and fully abide by its obligations for inter-State relations based on international law. He reiterated the demand for all information on landmines, which would also contribute to confidence-building and normalization of relations between the countries.