18th & 19th Meetings (AM & PM)

Sobering Impact of Conventional Weapons Deserves ‘No Less Attention’ Than Weapons of Mass Destruction, First Committee Told

Landmines — Legacy of War — Easy to Produce, Hard to Eradicate, Say Speakers

The proliferation of small arms and light weapons deserves no less attention than the dangers posed by weapons of mass destruction, the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) heard today as its thematic debate on conventional weapons continued.

The uncontrolled flows of these weapons fuel armed conflict, terrorism and organized crime while undermining stability and development around the world, Türkiye’s representative warned.  In particular, terrorist groups are acquiring weapons from poorly secured stockpiles, illicit markets or States themselves.  He called on all to refrain from selling or granting weapons and their means of delivery to any terrorist organizations.

Mauritania’s delegate likewise deemed the widespread proliferation of approximately 1 billion small arms around the world as the greatest threat to peace and sustainable development.  All States, especially major producing States, must ensure that the supply of these weapons is limited to Governments or entities authorized by them — without undermining States’ sovereign right to acquire, manufacture, export, import and retain conventional arms and ammunition for self-defence.

Meanwhile, Mexico’s representative called on the private sector to also act with shared responsibility.  He urged arms-producing companies to establish self-regulation and responsible commercial practices.  Without cooperation among all stakeholders in the arms and ammunition life cycle, binding legal instruments and political commitments to prevent weapons trafficking remain limited.

Turning to landmines and explosive remnants of war, many speakers emphasized the lasting legacy and human costs of these weapons, which are easy to produce but difficult to eradicate.  “Conflicts should end when the fighting stops, but landmines simply continue to kill after the fact,” Croatia’s delegate stressed. Although her country quickly began demining after liberating its territory in 1995, the process will not be fully completed until 2026, 31 years after the end of hostilities.

Similarly, Angola’s representative underscored that anti-personnel mines continue to victimize innocent civilians in the country 21 years after its civil war.  Even after fighting stops, landmines last and civilians bear the consequences for decades.  Noting that demining can be much more expensive than the production of these weapons, he urged all Member States to implement relevant legal instruments to save as many lives as possible.

“Easy to conceal, easy to traffic and exceptionally durable”, conventional weapons cast a long shadow in many regions long after armed conflict has subsided, Sri Lanka’s delegate cautioned.  The world is over-armed, and peace is underfunded, he said. 

At the outset of the meeting, the Chair of the Open-Ended Working Group on Conventional Ammunition briefed on the body’s work. 

The First Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. tomorrow, 24 October, to conclude its thematic debate on conventional weapons and begin discussion of other disarmament measures and international security.

Conventional Weapons

ALBRECHT VON WITTKE (Germany), Chair of the Open-Ended Working Group on Conventional Ammunition, called on all delegations to support the adoption of the “global framework for through-life conventional ammunition management”.  The framework is a “tremendous achievement” in collective efforts to reduce the risks and human costs of illicit trafficking and diversion of conventional ammunition, once considered the “orphan” of conventional arms control. The framework will also prevent and mitigate unplanned explosions at munition sites.  Even in a challenging political environment, progress, compromise, good will and multilateral collaboration are possible when there is political will to succeed.

Through a comprehensive approach, the global framework covers all types of conventional ammunition, from small-calibre to the largest. It addresses dual risks at every stage of conventional ammunitions’ life-cycle — from the point of manufacture through pre-transfer, transfer, relocation and transport, stockpiling and recovery to eventual use or disposal.  Under this cooperative framework, Member States identified 15 objectives and 85 related measures to promote security and sustainability, including standards and guidelines, a needs-driven approach to international assistance, support to regional mechanisms and the prioritization of national capabilities.

The framework also outlines technical safety and security measures, including ammunition surveillance, inventory management, risk reduction, explosive limit licensing, minimizing diversion risk, end-user documentation, marking and tracing, diversion data collection and investigation, management of seized and recovered ammunition and information-sharing.  The framework integrates an innovative two‑tier approach recognizing the diversity in national and regional circumstances.  In closing, he urged everyone to take the necessary steps to implement their commitments.  Adopting the global framework is not simply an end goal, but a crucial step towards lasting peace and sustainable development.  

MICHAL KARCZMARZ, representative of the European Union, in its capacity as observer, reiterated the European Union’s firm commitment to the humanitarian imperatives that underscore many international instruments on conventional weapons.  However, this architecture is under unprecedented strain due to ongoing armed conflicts, particularly the Russian Federation’s illegal war of aggression against Ukraine.  The European Union actively supports the work of the International Criminal Court and measures to ensure accountability.  It strongly encourages all States to join the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) and its protocols.  It welcomes the work over the past years by the Group of Governmental Experts on Emerging Technologies in the Area of Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems and underlines that the CCW is the relevant international forum in this regard.  Human beings must exert control over lethal autonomous weapons systems.

The European Union supports the universal ban on anti-personnel mines.  The Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction is a success story of multilateral diplomacy, with a total of 164 States parties.  He expressed deep concern about the ongoing use of these weapons, including in Ukraine, and called on all States to join the Convention without further delay towards achieving a world free of anti-personnel mines by 2025.  The assistance provided by the European Union in 2022 amounted up to 90 million euros for 20 mine-affected countries, including Armenia, Azerbaijan, Colombia, Libya, Somalia, Ukraine and Yemen.  An additional programme of up to 25 million euros was adopted to support demining in Ukraine in territories liberated from Russian occupation.

CRAIG BARRINGTON DOUGLAS (Jamaica), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said that the majority of homicides in the region are committed with illegal firearms. “The unfortunate reality is that these weapons are not manufactured or exported from the region,” he said.  New technologies and proliferation trends, including ghost guns, 3D printing and conversion devices intensify the situation and deter efforts to trace and control these weapons.  Through the Caribbean Firearms Roadmap, CARICOM member States are actively working towards promoting peace, stability and ensuring a safer region.  The goal of the Roadmap focuses on the reinforcement of regulatory frameworks, reducing the illicit flow of firearms and ammunition, bolstering law enforcement capacity and systematically decreasing the risk of diversion of firearm ammunition. 

He recognized the crucial role of key regional and international organizations and advocacy groups in helping achieve these goals.  CARICOM remains committed to the fulfilment of obligations in international instruments such as the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) and the Programme of Action on Small Arms. Furthermore, empowering women in decision-making processes related to arms control initiatives not only promotes gender equality but also leads to more inclusive, effective and sustainable outcomes.  “Women should be actively involved in all stages of efforts to address the proliferation and misuse of conventional weapons,” he stressed.  Afterall, women and girls are disproportionately affected by armed violence.  Their involvement is essential in creating safe and secure environments and reducing gender-based violence. 

YASEEN LAGARDIEN (South Africa) announced that his country has met an eight‑year cluster munitions stockpile destruction deadline, which it completed on 7 September.  The South African delegation plays an active role in the Open-ended Working Group’s discussions regarding improving ammunition management.  These negotiations have led to the adoption of political commitments establishing a new global framework on the matter.  Over the past three years, South Africa also facilitated the discussions in the Sub-working Group on Article 9 of the ATT on “transit or trans-shipment”, which culminated in the development of a Voluntary Guide to implementing this Article.  While treaties and other legal instruments on conventional weapons contain commitments, their full universalization will “remain elusive” without tangible and ongoing assistance, particularly for developing countries facing implementation challenges.

MOCHAMMAD IQBAL SIRIE (Indonesia) said continued armed conflicts around the world remind us of the devastating consequences of unchecked conventional weapons’ proliferation. Civilians bear the brunt of these conflicts, and dire humanitarian situations are a stark reminder of the need for action.  Regarding Gaza, he said it is time to put an end to the onslaught against civilians and civilian facilities, allow access for humanitarian aid and address the root causes of the conflict.  All States have a sovereign right to acquire and retain small arms and light weapons for security needs.  Yet, the challenges accompanying the illicit trade continue.  Strengthening the regulation of small arms and light weapons and ammunition should be a key priority.  He looked forward to the establishment of a new fellowship. Strong regional cooperation to curb illicit arms transfers should be a priority.  Investing in technical assistance would help countries strengthen cooperation.

ABDELRHMAN MOHAMED FARID HEGAZY (Egypt) said that the dangerous escalation in Gaza requires urgent action, including an immediate and unconditional ceasefire, unhindered access to humanitarian assistance, addressing the conflict’s root causes and halting indiscriminate attacks against civilians and civilian infrastructure in Gaza.  The Middle East and Africa face severe threats from increasing illicit flows and intentional conventional weapons transfers to terrorist and illegal armed groups, with direct support from a few States arming terrorists as a foreign policy tool.  While some argue that the ATT would stop all illegal flows, its lack of clear definitions and criteria undermine its effectiveness, making it possible to abuse the Treaty and manipulate legitimate weapons trade in a politicized manner. He reiterated calls on States parties to ensure its implementation is consistent with the Charter of the United Nations, without infringing on States’ rights to meet national security and self-defence needs by managing their own conventional ammunitions.

PETER MOHAN MAITHRI PIERIS (Sri Lanka) said that the world is over-armed and peace is underfunded.  It is well known that conventional weapons remain the principal means of armed violence and conflict worldwide.  “Easy to conceal, easy to traffic and exceptionally durable, they cast a long shadow in many world regions long after armed conflict has subsided.”  Ironically, the Charter of the United Nations does not forbid Member States to own and use conventional arms in conformity with international law, he added.  It is therefore not difficult to discern why the terms “arms control” and “arms limitations” are more often used than “disarmament” when referring to conventional arms.  There is an urgent need to strike a balance between the legitimate needs of self-defence and the prevention of conventional weapons misuse, as well as the need for the full and effective implementation of the Programme of Action on Small Arms and the International Tracing Instrument, he said.

LIU JIAMIN (Singapore) expressed concern over the impact that the indiscriminate use of conventional weapons has on innocent civilians. Singapore continues to maintain its indefinite moratorium on the export of anti-personnel landmines and cluster munitions.  It is also committed to promoting transparency and establishing common international standards in the conventional arms trade, having regularly submitted national reports to the UN Register of Conventional Arms (UNROCA) since 1993.  “As one of the world’s busiest transit and trans-shipment hubs, Singapore adopts a rigorous approach to curb the illicit flow of arms through a robust export control regime, which we review regularly.” While all States must fulfil their obligations to eradicate the illicit trade in, and indiscriminate use of, conventional arms, this responsibility must be balanced with the sovereign right of States to acquire arms for legitimate self-defence, she added.

CHRISTIAN HOPE REYES (Philippines) said that humanitarian imperatives drive her country’s disarmament policies.  Noting that the Philippines ratified Protocol V of the CCW and the Arms Trade Treaty in 2022, she urged all Member States to likewise accede to these instruments.  South-East Asia’s experience shows that cluster munitions cause superfluous injury and that their remnants pose a grave threat to peoples for decades.  In this regard, she called on Member States to accede to the Convention on Cluster Munitions and support its universalization.  On improvised explosive devices, she called for collaborative action to counter the threat posed by armed non-State actors and supported efforts to improve the implementation of international humanitarian law in the context of explosive weapons in populated areas.  She further joined a call for the development of governance structures to prevent the weaponization of emerging technologies.

SHAMSURI BIN NOORDIN (Malaysia) said the full and effective implementation of the Programme of Action and its International Tracing Instrument remains critical.  Malaysia welcomes the adoption of the final report of the eighth Biennial Meeting of States in July 2022, and looks forward to the convening of the fourth Review Conference in June 2024. Although the action Programme is not legally binding, it gives the international community important guidelines and parameters in this field.  As a signatory State of the ATT, Malaysia firmly believes that that instrument will provide additional impetus in strengthening national policies and regulations on conventional weapons, while recognizing the legal right of States to use such weapons judiciously for security, self-defence research and trade. Malaysia has participated in the annual Conference of States Parties to the Treaty since 2015, he added.

OUMAROU GANOU (Burkina Faso) stressed that his country is directly affected by the scourge of uncontrolled proliferation of small arms and light weapons.  Growing terrorism fed by the illicit circulation of these weapons has disastrous consequences for stability, development and human rights.  Burkina Faso supports initiatives for transparency and cooperation among States for greater controls and enforcement on the trade and traceability of these weapons.  He called on States’ producers and exporters to strengthen verification mechanisms on final recipients to reduce crime.  It is essential to shut off the weapons flow to criminal and terrorist groups.  At the same time, he insisted on the right of self-defence and acquisition of weapons to that end, as recognized in the Charter of the United Nations.  All disarmament efforts must strike a balance between States’ legitimate defence needs and the goal of eliminating these weapons. 

ROBERT IN DEN BOSCH (Netherlands) said that the rapid development of new technologies such as artificial intelligence continues unabated and impacts the world in profound ways.  These technologies not only change day-to-day lives but redefine conflict.  Bringing the issue into frameworks of both existing and new disarmament treaties and agreements is a collective responsibility.  The Netherlands hosted an event earlier this year as the start of a fundamental and inclusive discussion towards the development of norms in this domain.  Of equal importance is the process of establishing rules and principles for the development and use of autonomous weapons systems within the Group of Governmental Experts. 

CAMILLE PETIT (France) said that conventional weapons continued to pose a major security challenge for all regions, whether they are conflict-affected or not.  “As in many other areas, there is no sole response, but a series of specific, tailored and concrete measures,” she added.  The poor management of conventional ammunition stockpiles is a major challenge, owing to the risk of explosion or the diversion of this type of ammunition towards illicit markets.  Also true is that the diversion of ammunition to armed groups facilitates the manufacturing of improvised explosive devices, a danger to which civilian populations are “particularly exposed”.  France is committed to the implementation and universality of the ATT, she said, underscoring the role of private and industrial sectors in supporting States parties.  Furthermore, she condemned the Russian Federation’s violation of the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations, as well as its serious violations of international humanitarian law on Ukrainian territory.

EDUARDO SANCHEZ (Mexico) said that the binding legal instruments and political commitments to prevent the trafficking of conventional weapons remain limited due to lack of cooperation among all stakeholders in the arms and ammunition life cycle.  In this regard, he called on the private sector “to act from a mindset of shared responsibility” and urged arms-producing companies “to establish self-regulation and responsible commercial practises”. Noting that Mexico has invested significant efforts to identifying synergies for humanitarian disarmament, he said it was imperative to prioritize the protection of civilians, support for victims and accountability throughout the development and utilization of conventional weapons.  Next year, Mexico will chair the meeting of States parties to the Convention on Cluster Munitions and will continue to call for the instrument’s universalization. Turning to lethal autonomous weapons, he called on the Committee “to be a space for reflection on these emerging technologies, and the international law, in particular”. 

ALEXANDER KMENTT (Austria) said that the window for preventative international action is closing rapidly, therefore he introduced in the name of 28 co-sponsors draft resolution (document A/C.1/2023/L.56), entitled “Lethal autonomous weapons systems”. He underscored that this first ever resolution on these systems was developed by a cross-regional group of sponsors and promotes the understanding of the challenges related to them.  “For Austria, the rule of law and the respect for it is the foundation of our collective security,” he stressed, adding that his country is concerned about the risk of erosion of key regimes to outlaw inherently indiscriminate weapons that have unacceptable humanitarian consequences for civilians.  His country will host a workshop for the military in January 2024 and welcomes the conclusion of the “global framework for through-life conventional ammunition management” aimed at countering diversion of conventional ammunition.

THOMAS GÖBEL (Germany) supported regional approaches to complement national efforts to contain the illicit trafficking of small arms and light weapons, such as the Western Balkans Small Arms and Light Weapons Control Roadmap.  He also requested broad support for the draft resolution on the “global framework for through-life conventional ammunition management”, saying it will “finally close the gap” of a dedicated regulatory instrument at the international level. On the Anti-Personnel Landmines Convention, he emphasized the urgent issues that need to be reflected in the next action plan, including contamination with landmines of an improvised nature, integrating environmental considerations and a gender perspective and enhancing cooperation between mine-affected and supporting State partners. On emerging technologies, including lethal autonomous weapons systems, he called for further intensified efforts to achieve tangible results, including this year’s General Assembly resolution on laws to revitalize the Group of Governmental Experts process.

CAOIMHE UDOM (Ireland) recalled that, last November in Dublin, 83 States adopted a political declaration on strengthening the protection of civilians from the humanitarian consequences arising from the use of explosive weapons in populated areas.  She called on all States to endorse it.  The Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons is a key instrument of international humanitarian law.  She noted the growing consensus within the CCW’s Group of Governmental Experts on a two‑tiered system of prohibition and regulation, and emphasized that human beings must make and remain accountable for decisions on lethal force and exert full control over lethal weapons systems.  “Affording machines the right to make decisions on human lives is inconsistent with international law, in particular international humanitarian law, norms, values and ethics.   

MARITZA CHAN VALVERDE (Costa Rica) said that the ultimate goals of arms control instruments cannot be achieved without a better understanding of the gender dimension of violence and insecurity.  “We must continue to work to break down silos and improve the synergies and complementarities amongst all of these instruments, as well as to acknowledge that firearms-related violence is inherently gendered.”  States must not weaken their ambition — or let down their guard — against threats associated with emerging technologies and their use, including autonomous weapons systems, she added.  These weapons can perpetuate and amplify existing societal biases, including gender biases, which must be countered and mitigated.  It is important to link autonomous weapons systems to the intersectionality of gender, equality, racism, prejudice, proliferation and other concerns of particular relevance to the region.  For Costa Rica, these issues must be included in international debates to strengthen the collective response to autonomous weapons and to contribute to dismantling global structures of oppression and inequality, she added.

JORGE VIDAL (Chile) called for collective action to combat criminal networks involved in arms trafficking as well as to promote transparency measures.  Improved traceability of arms components and ammunition should be part of the registration and monitoring mechanisms.  “Arms and ammunition producers have an unavoidable responsibility in that traceability process.”  He condemned the use of cluster ammunition and anti-personnel landmines and called for the implementation of relevant resolutions and conventions.  Emphasizing the destructive nature of conventional weapons, he said that the ATT should become universal, particularly given the risks of conventional weapons.  He further voiced concern about the rapid technological advancement in autonomous lethal weapons and expressed support for the efforts, such as the Group of Governmental Experts and the creation of a legally-binding mechanism, to address these challenges.

NUNO MONIZ ALVES (Timor-Leste) said that the lack of adequate controls on firearms contributes to the challenges that many developing States face. “The Programme of Action has shown its essence in improving coordination and cooperation among States.”  For a small developing State such as Timor-Leste, the action Programme provides a way to address the illicit trade of small arms and light weapons.  “Timor-Leste recognizes that peace and security as well as sustainable development are closely intertwined to the achievement of peaceful societies,” he said, conveying appreciation for the work of the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Asia and the Pacific (UNRCPD) and encouraging all parties to work together towards an effective implementation of their obligations.

HAMZA AL-SADR (Iraq) demanded the cessation of aggressive attacks on civilians in occupied Palestine, the complete cessation of systematic forced displacement and the prompt entry of humanitarian assistance. On the illicit conventional weapons trade, he hoped that the global framework would bridge the technological gap between developed and developing countries.  A relevant fellowship program is promptly needed to build developing countries’ national capacities.  As one of the countries most affected by anti-personnel landmines and explosive remnants of war, Iraq continues to focus on sustainable solutions to displacement and the reconstruction of cities liberated from “terrorist ISIS gangs”. He also called for the formulation of legally binding provisions to deal with challenges related to emerging technologies and lethal autonomous weapons systems, accounting for the risks of these weapons being provided to or acquired by terrorist groups.

WICHAYAPORN KHUNDEE (Thailand) said that the challenges posed by conventional weapons are complex and critical. Although these weapons’ destructive power is limited, their proliferation, diversion and misuse are not, as they kill innocents across the globe.  Her country attaches importance to the legitimate right of a State to self-defence.  At the same time, it is necessary to prevent conventional weapons from falling into the wrong hands.  Thailand cleared 99 per cent of landmines and returned safe land to its people. Transparency is vital to arms control. The United Nations Register of Conventional Arms is an important mechanism, and her country has submitted annual reports to it.  She called for international cooperation in capacity-building to help developing countries effectively implement global instruments on conventional weapons.  The absence of peace and stability are the barriers to sustainable development, including to Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4 on education, SDG 5 on gender equality, SDG 11 on sustainable cities and SDG 16 on justice.

AHMET ERMAN ÇETIN (Türkiye) said that the proliferation of small arms and light weapons deserves no less attention than those posed by weapons of mass destruction.  Terrorist groups engage in illicit trafficking and diversion of small arms and light weapons, and have access to the latest technology, as well as acquiring weapons from poorly secured stockpiles and transfers from the illicit market or States themselves.  He reiterated Türkiye’s call to States to refrain from selling or granting weapons and their delivery means to any terrorist organization.  Türkiye is committed to the effective implementation and strengthening of the Programme of Action.  Information sharing and transparency in armaments is a crucial confidence-building measure and one of the best ways to prevent diversion.  The country diligently implements a robust export control mechanism, including through the Wassenaar Arrangement. 

MAI NGAN HA (Viet Nam) drew attention to the negative humanitarian and socioeconomic impacts of the proliferation and use of conventional weapons for criminal purposes.  Peace, order and stability can be maintained by putting in place effective control and regulation of conventional weapons, she said, highlighting in this regard the primary, leading role of Member States.  International cooperation is indispensable to tackle the problem of conventional weapons, she said, noting her country’s support for the UN Register of Conventional Arms, the implementation of the Programme of Action and consensus conclusion of an outcome to the Open-Ended Working Group on Conventional Ammunition.  Turning to the issue of landmines and explosive remnants of war, she said they threaten the peace, security and stability of Member States and impede sustainable economic development.  She urged enhanced support for mine-affected Member States, including through the exchange of best practices and technological and financial assistance.

TIÉMOKO MORIKO (Côte d’Ivoire) spotlighted the urgent need to eradicate the illicit trafficking of conventional weapons, including small arms and light weapons, and their diversion to illicit markets.  Also vital was preventing the development and possible use of lethal autonomous weapons systems with “no human input”, he said, urging a response to the ethical, technical and humanitarian challenges posed by these systems.  The contribution of women and young people to peace and security is crucial and must be encouraged, he stressed, adding that, since 2019, his country has been implementing its second five-year action plan for the women, peace and security initiative. The country also aims to take specific actions to ensure the participation of youth in disarmament and non-proliferation programmes.

JULIA ELIZABETH RODRIGUEZ ACOSTA (El Salvador) reaffirmed her country’s commitment to the Programme of Action, International Tracing Instrument, ATT and Anti-Personnel Landmines Convention.  Regarding autonomous weapons systems, the term “lethal” limits the scope to address these systems, since an autonomous weapon does not have to be lethal to cause serious civilian harm.  She called on Member States to work on a more progressive approach to comprehensive regulations and prohibitions, aiming to preserve human life and integrity.  El Salvador is open to discussing new technologies in other forums, but maintains that the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons is the appropriate framework to develop a legally binding instrument.  It is also crucial to mainstream a gender approach to data collection and public policies that effectively address the different impacts of conventional weapons on women, men, girls and boys. 

TOUFIQ ISLAM SHATIL (Bangladesh), expressing grave concern that more than 200,000 civilian deaths every year are due to the use of small arms in conflict situations, said that there is a pressing need for all countries to restrict the distribution of small arms and light weapons exclusively to Governments or entities duly authorized by them. Bangladesh welcomes a decision to establish a standing dedicated fellowship training programme to help developing countries strengthen technical knowledge and expertise for implementation of the Programme of Action.  It also supports international initiatives against the indiscriminate use of anti-personnel landmines, cluster munitions and conventional weapons.  He went on to urge Myanmar to immediately stop its use of landmines and to join the ATT.

PAPA SAMBA DIACK (Senegal) said that the proliferation of small arms and light weapons remains a major concern in the Sahel-Sahara region, which is fertile ground for sociopolitical and intercommunal conflicts.  There is also a deeply concerning and persistent terrorism threat and the threat of transnational organized crime in the region. Senegal underscores the urgency of supporting the ATT and the action Programme.  Confidence-building measures, including transparency in the military realm, are vital for arms control and disarmament, and thus, important for the maintenance of international peace and security and the strengthening of international cooperation.  Senegal favors the revitalization of the UN Register of Conventional Arms, he said, adding that as the only universal mechanism for strengthening transparency and confidence in the conventional realm, the Register should include all conventional weapons, rather than certain categories.

MATÍAS ANDRÉS EUSTATHIOU DE LOS SANTOS (Uruguay) pointed to an increase in crimes linked to the possession of light weapons, including homicides and femicides.  While men are more likely to be perpetrators and victims of armed violence, women are disproportionately affected, facing intimidation, injury or death in domestic violence incidents involving light weapons.  The illicit trade, inadequate storage and misuse of these weapons have global implications.  To address this, he highlighted the importance of stronger national regulations, administrative procedures, ammunition management and border and customs controls.  “Let us not forget that developing countries need technical and financial assistance in this battle,” he said, calling for strengthened dialogue, cooperation, technological transfer, capacity-building and coordination at various levels.  He further stressed the importance of the through-life management of ammunition, which is vital in preventing its diversion to conflict zones.

NOHRA MARIA QUINTERO CORREA (Colombia) said that the rapid advance of technology and the adaptivity of criminal organizations require that States act quickly to guarantee the application and effectiveness of existing voluntary and binding instruments, as well as to extend and update them.  Coordinated action is required, particularly in relation to border and customs controls, arsenal management and the marking, recording and tracking of weapons. Colombia is among the sponsors of the draft resolution titled “Illicit trade in small arms and light weapons in all its aspects” and invites all States to support that text and co-sponsor it. She went on to say that Colombia has seven accredited humanitarian demining organizations, including one made up of ex-combatants.  “Today, Colombia can say that 80 per cent of the national territory is free of mines,” she said.

CARLA MARIA RODRÍGUEZ MANCIA (Guatemala) said that the ATT’s success depends on Member States’ good faith in applying every provision — especially the producing, exporting and importing countries. The obligations of States parties go above and beyond simply making financial contributions, she emphasized. Progress must be made on stricter measures to tackle the proliferation and illicit trade of small arms and light weapons, especially weapons diversion that feeds into narco-trafficking and organized crime.  Additionally, the use of technology, including artificial intelligence, to develop new weapons should be banned through a legally binding instrument, she said, adding that lethal autonomous weapons should also be banned as a threat to society and human life.

YOON SEONGMEE (Republic of Korea) said that the world is at an inflection point from the post-cold war order to a new global order.  The conflict environment is rapidly becoming complex due to growing scientific advancement and emerging disruptive technologies.  Likewise, conventional weapons pose new multidimensional challenges.  “Our response should evolve to address those challenges”.  Stressing the importance of the Arms Trade Treaty, she said her country, as the rotating president for 2022-2023, focused on domestic export control systems, stakeholder engagement and membership expansion.  The ninth Conference of States Parties to the ATT emphasized the importance of universalizing the Treaty.  Her country will also “carry the torch” from the Netherlands by hosting the second summit on responsible AI in the military domain in 2024.  She expressed grave concern about military cooperation between the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and the Russian Federation.  Arms transfers to and from the former violate multiple Security Council resolutions, and she urged them to stop illicit activities.

HUGO EMMANUEL GUERRA (Argentina) said that his delegation maintains a sustained commitment to civil disarmament, destruction of materials, awareness-raising and prevention of armed violence, as well as the promotion of research and development aimed at controlling the proliferation of conventional weapons.  The ATT is a fundamental instrument, bringing together three critical dimensions:  production, trade and human rights.  Argentina’s commitment to the Treaty also includes policies to prevent gender violence. He highlighted Argentina’s traditional support to the action Programme and to strengthening the gender perspective. Argentina recognizes the emerging challenges of technologies in the field of autonomous weapon systems.  The Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons and its Protocols are key tools within the framework of disarmament regulation. “Our country hopes that by universalizing the legal instruments, we can take account of the needs to respect the overarching humanitarian goals and principles,” he said. 

OGASAWARA ICHIRO (Japan) encouraged all Member States to join and implement the instruments on conventional arms control and disarmament. “We should renew our commitment to prevent the illicit trade and diversion of small arms and light weapons,” he said, noting that these weapons remain the source of regional insecurity and have a wide range of humanitarian and socioeconomic impacts.  In this regard Japan, together with Colombia and South Africa, submitted a draft resolution on the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons.  On the mine ban, he said Japan’s contribution last year to the clearance of mines, cluster munitions and unexploded ordnance, surpassed $52 million across a multitude of countries.  He urged progress on discussions concerning the military use of artificial intelligence and autonomy, and to ensure they are used in a responsible, transparent manner in line with international law.

MICHELLE CARR (Australia) said that while States have a legitimate right to acquire and use conventional weapons for self-defence, all parties to armed conflict must adhere to international humanitarian law.  Turning to cluster munitions and anti-personnel mines, she called on Member States to redouble efforts to put an end to the suffering.  To this end, Australia condemned the Russian Federation’s use of cluster munitions in targeted attacks against civilians in Ukraine and expressed concern about ongoing landmine contamination in Myanmar.  On the effects of explosive remnants of war, in 2023, Australia elevated its support for Pacific States to address unexploded ordnance from the Second World War, as part of its contribution to humanitarian demining.  Noting that improvised explosive devices (IEDs) remain a growing threat and that production methods are constantly evolving, she urged Member States to intensify efforts to stem the flow of materials and equipment used for these devices.

ANDREEA MOCANU (Romania) reaffirmed her country’s firm support for the ATT since the inception of its negotiation process.  As President of the tenth Conference of Treaty States parties next year, Romania will take stock of substantial work done so far and facilitate concrete discussions on practical implementation to address challenges. Her country will promote a thematic discussion on the role of inter-agency cooperation in the ATT’s effective implementation.  The ATT community has expanded and tirelessly worked to implement national export control policies, and these efforts should never stop.  There is already considerable common ground on which States parties should build.  In closing, she called for broad support and co-sponsorship from Member States for Romania’s draft resolution on the ATT.

MANUEL JESÚS DEL ROSARIO VELA (Spain) said that the increase in the arms trade in an unstable world with many active armed conflicts means that the international community must work together to ensure the security of the communities most affected by violence.  He hailed the accession of Andorra and Ghana to the ATT but expressed regret over the absence of the main arms exporters.  He noted the risk posed by the diversion of conventional ammunition of all types and calibres to unauthorized recipients, including organized criminal groups and terrorists.  Accidental explosions of ammunition stockpiles have affected more than 60 countries and caused thousands of casualties over the past 15 years.  To this end, Spain welcomed the draft global framework for the management of conventional ammunition throughout its life cycle.  Madrid remains committed to supporting demining efforts.  Since 1999, the Spanish International Demining Centre has trained more than 1,300 operators and trainers from 27 countries, mainly in Latin America.

Mr. VAN DER HAEGEN (Switzerland) said that when delegations show the necessary political will, it is possible to achieve widely supported multilateral solutions which accommodate the various needs and priorities of States.  The global framework will have to be properly implemented by all States to meet the expectations placed in it.  He welcomed that national ownership and international cooperation and assistance are at the core of the framework because they will be key for its success. Contamination from mines, cluster munitions and other explosive ordnance remains a persistent threat to civilians. Switzerland is deeply concerned by the use of cluster munitions and anti-personnel mines in various contexts and by the resulting increase in the number of victims.  Since the beginning of the Russian Federation’s military aggression against Ukraine, Switzerland has provided more than 50 million Swiss francs to address contamination from mines and other explosive ordnance resulting from this armed conflict, he added.

MATETE NENA (Lesotho)said that the African continent faces constant and severe threats due to the increasing illicit flows and international transfers of small arms and light weapons to terrorist and armed groups. Escalating geopolitical tensions and challenges threaten established norms in arms control and disarmament, he said, calling for collective action to preserve and advance these legal instruments.  He further urged a reduction in the human suffering linked to the illicit trade and trafficking in small arms and light weapons, pointing to their severe impact on civilians, exacerbation of conflicts and pervasive crime, including in Southern Africa.  He expressed strong support for the ATT.  Turning to autonomous lethal weapon systems, he warned about their potential to quash the efforts to combat the illegal arms trade, stressing that such systems neither comply with humanitarian law nor should they be developed. 

EL HADJ LEHBIB MOHAMEDOU (Mauritania) said that the Programme of Action and International Tracing Instrument need to be implemented in full, as the widespread proliferation of approximately 1 billion small arms around the world poses the greatest threat to peace and sustainable development.  All States, particularly major producing States, must ensure that the supply of small arms and light weapons is limited to Governments or to entities authorized by them, without undermining States’ sovereign right to acquire, manufacture, export, import and retain conventional arms, relevant parts and ammunition for self-defence.  Strongly condemning the heinous crimes and horrific massacres committed by the Israeli occupying Power, resulting in thousands of martyrs, he called on the international community to impose an immediate cessation of the genocide of Palestinians and provide them with urgent protection and humanitarian aid.

ANDREY BELOUSOV (Russian Federation) urged the international community to address the Kyiv regime’s non-compliance with the CCW.  Ukraine’s deployment of heavy weapons in residential areas, the use of civilians as human shields and the use of civilian infrastructure for military purposes demonstrate the conscious use of inhumane tactics of combat in violation of international humanitarian law.  The most egregious example is the mining of towns and cities in Donbas with PFM‑1 “Lepestok” anti-personnel mines.  Kyiv also violates the Ottawa Convention, to which it has been a party since 2006.  Kyiv was to destroy more than 6.5 million mines of different types as part of its obligations under the Anti-Personnel  Convention, but it did so only on paper, he said. Turning to the UN Register of Conventional Arms, he said that the Russian Federation is wary of attempts by some countries to expand its scope.  Moscow also considers it inappropriate to accede to the ATT because it sets standards which are lower than the Russian Federation’s own standards. The practical application of the Treaty also raises serious questions, he said, adding that it is unacceptable that some parties to that text continue to supply military products to conflict zones.

ELEONORA SAGGESE (United Kingdom) said that the ATT is crucial to countering the illicit and destabilizing proliferation of conventional weapons.  The treaty is in a stronger position following the ninth Conference of States Parties.  Moreover, implementation of the ambitious global framework will help all make effective improvements to the through-life management of conventional ammunition. The United Kingdom strongly condemns the appalling act of terrorism committed by Hamas, she said, adding: “We support Israel in its legitimate efforts to defend itself and its people.”  The United Kingdom is working with partners to deescalate tensions and is urging all parties to act in accordance with international humanitarian law. The Russian Federation’s continued use of cluster munitions, anti-personnel mines and other indiscriminate weapons in ways that contravene international humanitarian law following its brutal and illegal invasion of Ukraine remains a cause of significant concern, she said.

ASADOLLAH ESHRAGH JAHROMI (Iran) extended solidarity and condolences to the resilient nation of Palestine, while condemning the crimes committed by the Israeli regime.  The United States’ substantial military support to the Israeli regime exacerbates the suffering of the Palestinian people, he said, adding: “Both the supplier and the user are in violation of international law and humanitarian principles and so this reprehensible action demands accountability for both parties involved.” On conventional arms, he said that the Charter of the United Nations firmly upholds the rights of States to acquire, manufacture, export, import and retain conventional arms for self-defence and security.  No regulation or any multilateral processes can infringe upon those rights.  Noting the excessive arms purchases and military spending in the Middle East, he warned it could exacerbate regional peace and security challenges. 

KODZOVI MEDZNYUIE (Togo), while noting that Africa has paid the highest price for the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons, recalled that commitments related to conventional weapons should not affect States’ sovereign right to acquire weapons in line with their security needs.  Togo supports all initiatives aimed at tackling the illicit trade, transfer, manufacturing, possession and circulation of small arms and light weapons.  At the national level, it has set up a normative and institutional framework to combat this illicit trade, including tracing initiatives and raising public awareness.  He called for more international cooperation and more emphasis on the supply of equipment, capacity-building and technology transfer.

LAURI VOIONMAA (Finland) said his country is a long-standing contributor to capacity-building.  Its total contribution in the areas of small arms and light weapons control and humanitarian mine action is about €3.8 million every year.  Finland seeks to address the grave humanitarian consequences of mines and other explosive ordnance, and continues its long-standing support to humanitarian mine projects, presently in Ukraine, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Somalia. He highlighted the importance of the Mine-Ban Convention and its full implementation and universalization, urging all States to join it.  He stressed the need to intensify discussions regarding new and emerging technology, welcoming pioneering initiatives, such as The Responsible AI Forum in the military domain, organized by the Netherlands and the Republic of Korea, as well as the United States’ Political Declaration on the Responsible Military Use of Artificial Intelligence and Autonomy.

SO INXAY SOULIYONG (Lao People’s Democratic Republic) said he is profoundly concerned with the announcement and possible use of cluster munitions.  “For over four decades, the Lao people were victimized by cluster munitions and, until today, the deadly unexploded ordnance have continued to harm and maim innocent people and posed major constraints for social and economic development,” he said.  His country urges all States and actors to refrain from all use, production, transfer and stockpiling of cluster munitions as prescribed by the Convention on Cluster Munitions “so that innocent people will not be victimized by such heinous weaponry”.  He reiterated that mine action is crucial for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and encouraged all efforts to promote mine action at the international and national levels.  “History has demonstrated that conventional weapons, particularly the explosive remnants of war continue to cause deadly impacts on innocent lives,” he added.

ELENA GAI (Italy) called for the universalization and effective implementation of the Anti-Personnel Landmines Convention and the Convention on Cluster Munitions.  Noting with regret that civilians, including children, continue to represent the majority of victims in the context of Russia’s war in Ukraine, she urged all States to refrain from any weapons transfers to the Russian Federation.  She expressed concern about the growing use of improvised explosive devices by non-State actors and emphasized the need for risk education and victim assistance efforts to address the impact on civilians and peacekeeping personnel.  Turning to mine action, she noted that, since 2001, Italy has channeled almost 80 million euros to mine-action programmes.  Italy is committed to the effective implementation of the CCW, she said, emphasizing the need to adapt its structure and scope to address normative developments and military weapons technologies, especially the use of artificial intelligence.

HUSHAM AHMED (Pakistan) said that the UN budget is less than 1 per cent of the world’s military spending, a staggering disparity where 150 times more funds are allocated to fuelling conflicts rather than preventing them.  Attempts to regulate conventional weapons, such as the ATT, have seen only partial success.  Citing the consensus-based Final Document of the first special session of the General Assembly devoted to disarmament as a robust roadmap to regulate conventional weapons, he said that States with the largest military arsenals have a special responsibility to reduce conventional arms.  In South Asia, worrying trends are amplified as one State is being supplied with advanced weapons and technologies despite its destabilizing policies, aggressive posturing and rhetoric, and complete defiance of Security Council resolutions.  Pakistan is committed to establishing a strategic restraint regime in the region, including a conventional force balance.  It neither wants nor is engaged in an arms race.

ILGAR GURBANOV (Azerbaijan) deplored that the recent developments in the South Caucasus region, which unveiled the dire condition of the regional arms control commitments.  The presence, until recently, of Armenian forces’ remnants in Azerbaijan’s Karabakh region was a serious threat to regional security.  Even after the signing of the Trilateral Statement of 10 November 2020, Armenia misused Azerbaijan’s Lachin road to continue military, financial and logistical support to its 10,000-strong forces, well-equipped with conventional weapons.  In response, Azerbaijan carried out local counter-terrorism measures in the Karabakh region to disarm, disband and eliminate the remnants of Armenia’s forces. Over the years, Armenia has provided inaccurate and incomplete information about its armed forces, including under the 2011 Vienna Document of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the UN Register of Conventional Arms.  Armenia turned Azerbaijan into one of the countries most contaminated with landmines and explosive remnants of war, creating several thousand victims.

MÉLINÉ SVADJIAN (Canada) said that the proliferation and unlawful use of conventional weapons can fuel and intensity conflict, perpetuate crime and terrorism, and contribute to violations of international humanitarian law, including gender-based violence.  Governments can and should work together to address the transfer and proliferation of conventional weapons.  It is critical to universalize the agreed-upon international norms and frameworks to regulate the use and transfer of these weapons, she said. Canada is an active member of the ATT, which represents a growing international norm, but that instrument is at a critical juncture and the world must act to ensure its sustainability. “This is key to achieving our common objectives to reduce human suffering.”  Canada will engage in the Group of Governmental Experts on lethal autonomous weapons systems under the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons.  She further reaffirmed that all weapons used in armed conflict must be compliant with international humanitarian law.

MOHAMMED BIN SHAFI (Saudi Arabia) condemned the attack on the Al Ahli Arab Hospital perpetrated by the Israeli occupying Power as a flagrant crime and international law violation.  Delivery of humanitarian assistance must be allowed into Gaza.  He rejected forced displacement of the Palestinians.  While expressing support for the establishment of international norms for the regulation of conventional weapons, he emphasized that these standards should not infringe upon a nation’s right to acquire weapons for its national security and resource protection.  Detailing Saudi Arabia’s proactive measures in combating the illicit trade of small arms and light weapons, he said tracing these weapons is a priority.  This issue is closely tied to national security and should be primarily managed by individual States, respecting their sovereignty.  He urged against linking international agreements and conventions, especially those lacking consensus, such as the ATT, to Committee decisions. 

MAHMUD MOHAMMED LAWAL (Nigeria) called on all States, especially major producers, to ensure that the supply of small arms and light weapons is restricted to Governments or entities authorized by them. Nigeria is most worried about these weapons falling into the hands of bandits, militia, criminal gangs and terrorists.  Noting Nigeria was the first African country to sign and ratify the ATT, he urged States parties to implement it in a balanced and objective manner.  Nigeria also redoubled efforts to strengthen its borders and cooperation across West Africa.  It set up a national centre to control these weapons, organized capacity-building programmes for security agencies and established a collaboration framework with civil society organizations.  He called on Member States to expedite action towards implementing a UN fellowship programme to train officials from developing countries to implement the Programme of Action.

ALISON STORSVE (United States) said man-portable air defence systems remain a significant threat to civil and military aviation.  Her country works with Ukraine and other partners worldwide to deter illicit diversion.  The Russian Federation’s invasion of Ukraine has increased the risk of illicit diversion of these advanced systems.  The United States developed a comprehensive action plan to support Ukraine’s efforts to secure advanced conventional weapons and prevent their diversion.  It is disappointing that the Russian Federation and Belarus broke consensus on a recommendation to establish the “global framework for through-life conventional ammunition management”.

Last February, she noted, the United States announced a revised Conventional Arms Transfer Policy.  Now, all proposed defence sales are assessed on their individual merits and on a case-by-case basis to determine if a potential transfer is in the national interest, and factoring in considerations of human rights, international humanitarian law and security sector governance.  In Ukraine, the United States has committed $182 million in demining assistance since January 2022.  This support plays a critical role in clearing mines, unexploded ordnance, and improvised explosive devices left by the Russian Federation’s forces, making it possible for Ukrainian civilians to safely begin to rebuild their lives.

RAJESH PARIHAR (India) noted that his country is a leading contributor to UN peacekeeping missions and will continue to extend its assistance to international demining efforts.  India is deeply aware of the grave humanitarian consequences caused by explosive remnants of war.  He underscored the importance attached to addressing the pain of victims.  On lethal autonomous weapons systems, he said that the issue must be discussed within the framework of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons.  “There is a need to develop a shared understanding of the fundamental concepts, including definitions and characterization of laws.”  Underscoring the importance of the Programme of Action, he noted India’s contributions to the discussion of the Open-Ended Working Group on Conventional Ammunitions.  India is committed to working towards further strengthening the global non-proliferation architecture, he added.

KONSTANTINOS CHRISTOGLOU (Greece) said that the development and use of lethal autonomous weapons systems could lower the threshold for engaging in armed conflict.  He also expressed doubts about the compliance of fully autonomous weapons systems with international humanitarian law, especially vis-à-vis principles such as target discrimination and proportionality.  The potential use of artificial intelligence in controlling or initiating nuclear weapons is another major concern, leading to legal, moral and ethical questions in the context of nuclear warfare.  Greece endorses the two-tier approach from the Group of Governmental Experts on lethal autonomous weapons systems, he said, emphasizing that Greece will not develop or acquire weapon systems which are not under human control.  Noting that the ATT established common international norms for the trade and transfer of conventional weapons, he called on all States to ratify or accede to that instrument without further delay.

SHEN JIAN (China) said that his country has always taken a responsible approach to its military export control regime, strictly abiding by three principles:  the legitimate self-defence capability of recipient countries, not undermining regional and global stability and non-interference in recipient countries’ internal affairs.  He called for States to fulfil their primary responsibilities in the management, research, use and transfer of conventional weapons by improving laws and strengthening enforcement.  Major exporting countries should take the lead by adopting a responsible arms export policy.  They should desist from interfering in internal affairs, avoid exporting to countries with non-State actors and prevent illicit diversion.  China also supports negotiating a legally-binding instrument to prohibit fully autonomous weapons systems, if and when conditions are ripe and when all parties agree on issues of definition and characterization.

TOR HENRIK ANDERSEN (Norway) said that the endorsement in 2022 by 83 States of the Political Declaration on the Use of Explosive Weapons in Populated Areas was an important milestone. That Declaration aims to strengthen efforts to protect civilians by committing States to assess, update and improve military policies and practices.  Norway is looking forward to hosting the follow-up conference in Oslo in 2024.  To this end, States that have yet to do so should endorse the Political Declaration. Autonomous technology and artificial intelligence are developing at exponential speed, he said, adding that the use of such technology for military purposes poses serious legal, humanitarian and military concerns.  Weapons systems featuring autonomy must remain under meaningful human control. He went on to say that disarmament cannot be a matter for States only, as civil society, international organizations and academia also play a significant role.

BENJAMIN SHARONI (Israel) said that during the past several weeks, Israel has been the target of a brutal and barbarous attack that claimed the lives of more than 1,700 men, women and children.  These events clearly demonstrated the immense damage that the proliferation of conventional weapons can cause.  Such weapons have found their way into the hands of oppressive regimes, terrorist organizations and terrorist-sponsoring States.  The implementation of normative instruments, such as the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, are of great importance, he said, adding that Israel acknowledges the significance of the ATT to curb the illicit transfer of arms. With regard to lethal autonomous weapons systems, the progress made this year should be highlighted.  Furthermore, he said that the proliferation of weapons to Hamas, Da’esh, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah is not only a growing challenge in the Middle East, but also a global threat.  “If we don’t act together now, the results will be nothing short of disastrous for all,” he added.

FLÁVIO SOARES DAMICO (Brazil) noted that the Sustainable Development Goals are considered among its priorities to halve violent death rates.  In this regard, he stressed the need to combat proliferation, diversion and misuse of small arms and light weapons and strengthen the implementation of existing normative frameworks.  Brazil has been a firm supporter of the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention since its inception.  Since 1994, more than 370 officers from the Brazilian Armed Forces have participated in demining operations in South and Central America and Africa.  Although progress towards the universalization of that Convention has been steady, those weapons are “very far” from being banned. On lethal autonomous weapons systems, he warned that the technological development can outpace diplomatic efforts. Although delegations are moving in the same direction, differences of perception remain regarding the final destination, he said. 

MATEUS LUEMBA (Angola) underscored that anti-personnel mines continue to victimize innocent civilian lives in his country, 21 years after its civil war.  Landmines hinder rural communities from freely accessing valuable land for agriculture and livestock.  Even after fighting stops, landmines last and civilians bear consequences for decades. Angola is implementing a comprehensive programme to eliminate landmines by 2025, but recent economic and health crises have severely affected its financial ability and obligations to the demining process.  Angola has already reduced mined areas by two‑thirds, but completing the process still requires approximately $218 million.  Noting that demining can be much more expensive than those weapons’ production, he urged all Member States to implement relevant legal instruments to save as many lives as possible. 

BLANKA GLASENHARDT (Croatia) said that, as a victim of a brutal aggression in the 1990s, her country is aware of the threat mines pose to human life and health, as well as to livelihoods.  Tens of thousands of mines were laid by the aggressor.  After the liberation of its territory in 1995, Croatia quickly began demining. Today, it produces among the world’s best high-tech demining equipment.  But, demining is a lengthy process.  “Conflicts should end when the fighting stops, but landmines simply continue to kill after the fact.”   The demining of her country will not be fully completed until 2026, 31 years after the end of hostilities.  Since the beginning of the Russian Federation’s brutal aggression against Ukraine, nearly one third of Ukraine's territory is contaminated with mines and cluster munitions, she said.  These mines not only endanger lives, but contaminate the globe’s most fertile land.  The ground which produces grain for the world might remain barren for years to come. The much-needed restoration of the global food supply depends on demining efforts in Ukraine.

JASNA PONIKVAR VELÁZQUEZ (Slovenia) urged all States and non-State actors to refrain from using anti-personnel mines and cluster munitions, adding:  “We call on all States for their accession to the Anti-Personnel Mines and Cluster Munition Convention.”  Noting that the protection of civilians during and after armed conflicts is a cornerstone of Slovenia’s foreign policy, she said that the Government established the International Trust Fund for Enhancing Human Security in 1998 to support mine and cluster munition action, the clearance of explosive remnants of war and assistance to victims in affected countries.  Slovenia remains concerned about the unregulated international trade in conventional weapons, which continues to be a source of global instability, she added, emphasizing the importance of transparency and universalization of international conventions and treaties, particularly the ATT. Turning to lethal autonomous systems, she said that discussions on this matter are ongoing within the framework of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons in Geneva.

LARBI ABDELFATTAH LEBBAZ (Algeria) called for delivery of humanitarian aid to Gaza and rejected any attempt to forcibly displace Palestinians.  Algeria is committed to combating the illicit trafficking in small arms and light weapons, which pose a significant global security threat, particularly in Africa. Furthermore, Algeria commits to various international obligations regarding conventional weapons, including the CCW, and prioritizes humanitarian considerations in dealing with such weapons. There is also a need to continue combating lethal autonomous weapons systems, he said, expressing, in this regard, support to the Group of Governmental Experts on this category of weapons.  He further underscored that Algeria has implemented its commitments on the elimination of anti-personnel mines and landmines, destroying them pursuant to the Ottawa Convention.

YILIAM GOMEZ SARDINAS (Cuba) criticized the double standard of some producers which transfer conventional weapons to unauthorized non-State actors who, in turn, divert them to illicit markets, while also trying to prevent developing countries from acquiring and using these weapons in self-defence.  She defended States’ legitimate right to manufacture, import and store arms and ammunition to meet self-defence and security needs, in line with the UN Charter. On the Arms Trade Treaty, she said that Cuba remains steadfast to the position that it establishes easily manipulable parameters to deny arms transfers to Member States.  She supported adopting an international legally binding UN instrument to prohibit the manufacturing, possession and use of autonomous weapons systems, alongside regulations to govern semi-autonomous weapons.

MARCIAL EDU MBASOGO (Equatorial Guinea) said that Africa continues to face significant challenges, including the lack of recognition by many arms and ammunition manufacturing countries of their responsibilities in the illegal trade in small arms and light weapons and other conventional weapons.  For many developed States and manufacturers, Africa is just a global market for the sale of old weapons decommissioned from their national armies.  Producing and exporting States must strengthen their end-destination verification mechanisms, he said, condemning illegal arms trading with rebel and terrorist groups which fuel many conflicts in Africa.  He called for the establishment of an international mechanism to hold swindlers accountable, as the existing legally-binding instruments and political commitments remain constrained.

JIKITA DE SCHOT (New Zealand) said that it is more important than ever to uphold and reinforce international humanitarian law, including treaties governing conventional weapons.  New Zealand is a strong supporter of the Convention on Cluster Munitions, the Anti-Personnel Landmines Convention, the Arms Trade Treaty and the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons.  These treaties are an integral part of the humanitarian law and disarmament architecture.  “They reduce human suffering, and they offer explicit protections to civilians in armed conflict,” she added.  As a State party to these treaties, New Zealand continues to condemn all use of cluster munitions and anti-personnel mines and opposes any developments that increase the likelihood of their use.  “We call for production, stockpiling and transfer of these weapons to cease,” she said.

Right of reply

Speaking in exercise of the right of reply, the representative of the Russian Federation rejected accusations made by Western delegations concerning the use of conventional weapons in its special military operation in Ukraine.  Those insinuations were diverting international attention away from crimes committed by Ukrainian armed forces.  These include, among others, deployment of heavy weaponry, setting up of firing positions and ammunition depots in schools, hospitals, residential homes and facilities with chemical production.  Ukrainian forces placed mines in populated areas far from the front lines, posing a grave threat to children, in flagrant violation of international humanitarian law.  He expressed frustration with Western countries’ lack of interest in impartial investigations to find the perpetrators of this catastrophic situation. 

He said that the Kyiv regime carried out these actions with the support of Western countries, which extends to the massive delivery of weapons and military technology to Ukraine.  These deliveries, including from the European Union, exceed $160 billion since the start of the special military operation.  The weapons supplied include depleted uranium rounds and cluster munitions, he said, calling for the international community to hold perpetrators accountable.  Turning to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, he said that the sanctions regime and the pressure against that country has failed.  He noted increased pressure on Pyongyang marked by intensive joint exercises of the Republic of Korea and its allies. 

The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, in exercise of the right of reply, said that the Republic of Korea is “running wild” implementing the United States’ hostile policy against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.  Moves, including joint war exercises, deployment of strategic assets, as well as its military alliances, are cancer-like entities that jeopardize international order.  Pyongyang never recognized UN sanctions resolutions “cooked up” by hostile forces. The Republic of Korea will pay a high price by following its master.  “Don’t dare to provoke a sleeping tiger,” he said, expressing his country’s determination to further develop traditional friendly relationships with the Russian Federation and other independent countries.

The representative of Israel, in right of reply, said he was responding to the “baseless accusations” made by Iraq, Mauritania, Saudi Arabia, as well as the manipulations by Iran’s representative.  It has been more than two weeks since Hamas perpetrated the worst massacre of Jews since the Holocaust.  The 7 October massacre was not done with weapons of mass destruction.  It was done with rifles and rocket-propelled grenades. “The massacre is a perfect example of why we are all here:  to prevent deadly conventional weapons from getting into the hands of murderous genocidal groups,” he said.  “It is a shame that those who make baseless accusations didn't learn from last week's experience when the misleading claims against Israel regarding the tragedy at the Al Ahli hospital were rebutted.”  Accusations against Israel were “a piece of fake news created by Hamas that was swiftly struck with true evidence”. 

He said that since Hamas’ unprovoked attack on 7 October, almost 10,000 rockets were shot from Gaza into Israel — rockets that were aimed at killing innocent Israeli children — and shot cynically from the vicinity of Palestinian children while using them as human shields.  Following the Hamas attack on Israeli towns and villages, the number of weapons caught by Israel displayed “one sad and blunt truth”:  Hamas was armed to the teeth.  Rocket-propelled grenade launchers, anti-tank rockets and machine guns — all in amounts that could easily arm a national army. 

Iran is the biggest proliferator of weapons in the Middle East, he said.  It wishes to destabilize the region, but selfishly wants to keep its hands clean, so it supports terrorist organizations from the Houthis in Yemen to Hezbollah in Lebanon.  If you want to discuss how Iran’s capacity-building measures are implemented in the Middle East, “come to Gaza and see Hamas terror capacities”.  Israel is standing at the forefront to defend the Middle East from falling into the cynical and genocidal hands of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

The representative of the European Union, in its capacity as observer, addressed “the misleading narrative” presented by the Russian Federation regarding the implementation of the ATT.  He explained that the export of arms to conflict zones is not inconsistent with the ATT, which recognizes the inherent right of all States to self-defence.  The ATT prohibits support for aggressors but not for States’ victims of aggression.  He said that external support to Ukraine, including by the European Union, is intended to aid Ukraine in defending its civilian population against indiscriminate attacks by Russian forces.

On the war crimes, he drew attention to the second report of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine, which presents evidence indicating that Russian authorities committed a significant number of indiscriminate attacks against the civilian population of Ukraine, constituting war crimes.

The representative of Armenia, in right of reply, said the baseless accusations made against his country are part of Baku’s massive disinformation campaign to justify its aggressive action, including ethnic cleansing against people in Nagorno-Karabakh. The latest of such aggression was a large-scale attack on 19 September, targeting civilians and civilian infrastructure in Nagorno-Karabakh.  It was preceded by 10 months of seizure of the area through a blockage of the Lachin corridor in violation of a trilateral statement and the relevant orders of the International Court of Justice. Azerbaijan also obstructed demining activities to impede the international community’s humanitarian access to Nagorno-Karabakh.  The case in point is the 2016 termination of demining-related efforts by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). For years, Baku violated its obligations under the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe, excluding a major part of its armed forces from inspection and verification.

The representative of the Republic of Korea said that any military cooperation with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea should be in observance of Security Council resolutions that prohibit, among others, all arms transfers both to and from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.  The threat from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has not gone away. Indeed, it continues to escalate tensions through an unprecedented level of provocations this year.  Now, more than ever, it is imperative for Member States to implement all Security Council resolutions, sincerely and thoroughly, to stop the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea from further advancing its dangerous capabilities.

The Russian Federation, in particular, as a permanent member of the Security Council, has a responsibility to respect and observe resolutions that it agreed to adopt.  The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea says it does not accept Council resolutions.  “As a Member State of the United Nations, they are obliged,” she said.  The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s ever-growing unlawful nuclear and missile threats “are the very reason why we are strengthening extended deterrence cooperation with the United States, not the other way around”.

The representative of Iraq said that the Israeli occupying Power continued to violate and turn a blind eye to several international resolutions including those on disarmament. The use of internationally banned and prohibited weapons against civilians by the Israeli occupying Power constitutes a flagrant violation of international law and international humanitarian law and negatively impacts regional and international security and stability, including in the Middle East.  He further accused the Israeli regime of obstructing international efforts to establish a zone free of weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East. He called for an immediate ceasefire, the reopening of border crossings, and the continuation of humanitarian assistance to address the ongoing crisis.  Following that, there should be a safe and comprehensive transfer of hostages and detainees, and respect for the right of Palestinians to live on their homeland without fear of displacement or settlements.  Current developments in Gaza amount to genocide, he said.  He called for a resumption of talks for a settlement of the Palestinian question. 

The representative of Jordan, speaking for the Arab Group, in exercise of the right of reply, said that the Group will raise its voice every time Israel falsifies facts amid its stepped-up military escalation.  The Group again condemns Israeli attacks on Gaza and the other crimes it commits against humanitarian value and international norms.  Since 7 October, the death toll in Gaza has exceeded 5,000, including 2,000 children.  He called for an immediate cessation of hostilities and unhindered delivery of humanitarian aid, including medical supplies.  He also rejected further forcible displacement of people in the Strip.

The representative of Iran responded to the “false and baseless” allegations made by the representative of the Israeli regime, which he said demonstrated a disregard for the principles of the rule-based system.  It is disheartening to observe that it is a recurring pattern where the Israeli regime commits acts that contravene with international law and then proceeds to blame others while invoking baseless accusations.  Such hate speech only serves to divert the attention of the international community from the grave crimes perpetrated by this regime daily. The Israeli regime stands as the sole entity within the Middle East that has refrained from aligning itself with international actors, such as the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) and the Chemical and Biological Weapons Conventions.  The Israeli regime remains in breach of international law. 

Nations under occupation have the right to self-defence against occupiers, and the Islamic Republic of Iran stands with the Palestinians in their struggle to realize their right to self-determination, he said.  However, it is absurd to claim that Iran has assisted Palestinians in Gaza militarily. In the last two weeks, the Israeli regime has killed more than 5,000 Palestinians civilians, 2,050 of whom are children.  These atrocities have been met with widespread condemnation by numerous nations.  The Security Council must take necessary actions to put an immediate end to the atrocities committed by this regime.  He referred to the Final Communiqué of the extraordinary open-ended meeting of the Organisation of the Islamic Cooperation Executive Committee at the level of Foreign Ministers held last week.  Its provisions are acutely pertinent to the current situation. 

The representative of France, responding to the Russian Federation regarding its “false allegations” on exports of landmines, said that her country was in full compliance with international agreements and conventions related to landmines.  The French Army and its weapons, including certain mines, adhere to international obligations and beyond by implementing robust mechanisms for neutralizing booby traps.

The representative of the United States, in right of reply, said Iran’s development, procurement and proliferation of missiles and related technology remains the gravest challenge in international peace and security.  She underscored the horrific impact of the provision of Iran’s missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles to designated terrorist organizations and its militant proxies.  This directly threatens the security of Israel and its Gulf partners.  Iran’s unmanned aerial vehicles kill civilians in Ukraine.  Her country is focused on addressing Iran’s missile and “UAV” programmes.  It is important to recognize facts.  Two facts are particularly relevant:  the 7 October attacks on Israel were terrorist assaults by Hamas, and the bombing of Al Ahli Hospital appears to have been caused by a Palestinian Islamic Jihad rocket, not by Israel.  The United States stands with Israel and reaffirms the right of all States to individual or collective self-defence.

The representative of Azerbaijan, in right of reply, said that Armenia has neither legal, political nor moral grounds to make any statement concerning Azerbaijan, or the matters falling within Azerbaijan’s sovereign rights and responsibilities. The anti-terror measures conducted on 19 and 20 September were aimed at preventing further provocation. Azerbaijan did not target civilians. Any such claim is groundless and false. Armenia has concealed its military activities from the relevant international regional arms control and verification mechanisms.  Unlike Armenia, Azerbaijan adheres to its commitment to transparency.  Turning to the subject of landmines, he reiterated that the number of landmine victims stands at more than 3,400 persons since 1991. This is not just statistics. “This is a tragedy of more than 3,400 persons, a tragedy of more than 3,400 families,” he said.

For information media. Not an official record.