Seventy-sixth Session of the United Nations General Assembly
First Committee: Second Cluster.
Other disarmament measures and international security,
regional disarmament and security
and disarmament machinery
New York, 18 October 2021
In order for the international community to rely less on force as a means to resolve issues between States, the effective functioning of the disarmament machinery is essential. There is also a need to focus on how regional issues and new technologies impact our efforts to eliminate weapons of mass destruction, reduce the role of conventional weapons, and maintain outer space for peaceful purposes.
The United Nations Disarmament Commission (UNDC) last held an informal session in 2019 and has been prevented from meeting for the last two years due to the outbreak of the pandemic and other issues of a technical nature. It remains the hope of my Delegation that the Commission be convened, in person, next spring so that all Member States and Observers may be able to participate fully in its deliberations. The UNDC makes needed dialogue possible between States, with and without nuclear weapons, on difficult matters such as the role and relevance of nuclear deterrence, as well as the reduction, and elimination, of nuclear weapons.
The Conference on Disarmament should similarly be supported by all UN Member States so that it may overcome struggles to achieve consensus on further disarmament measures, such as with the Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty, a process begun over two decades ago. Since all States have committed to moving toward a nuclear-weapon free world, it is unacceptable and contradictory that any State increase its fissile material for weapons purposes. All Nuclear Weapon Possessing States should therefore pursue not only the cutoff, but also other measures necessary to prevent an arms race in outer space and to advance the Conference on Disarmament’s previous work to negotiate a ban on radiological weapons.
Many Delegations have addressed the risks posed by the misuse of the ever-evolving information and communication technologies, in cyberspace and in daily life. Indeed, these risks need urgent attention, to preclude the further pursuit of means to disrupt commerce and communication. The development of information and communication technologies (ICTs) has brought with it the inevitable increase in global connectivity and in reliance on such technologies. Therefore, the “imperative of building and maintaining international peace, security, cooperation and trust in the ICT environment has never been so clear.” The final Report of the Open-Ended Working Group on Developments in the Field of Information and Telecommunications in the Context of International Security expressed shared concern that “harmful ICT incidents are increasing in frequency and sophistication and are constantly evolving and diversifying. Increasing connectivity and reliance on ICTs without accompanying measures to ensure ICT security can bring unintended risks, making societies more vulnerable to malicious ICT activities. Despite the invaluable benefits of ICTs for humanity, their malicious use can have significant and far-reaching negative impacts.” A cyber tool may not look like a gun or a bomb, but its malicious use can be even more destructive on civilians, as seen in attacks on critical infrastructure such as medical facilities, energy systems and water supplies.
There is even greater reason to ensure the security of technologies operating in cyberspace and to prevent interference with the command and control of weapon systems, especially nuclear weapons. Until such weapons can be eliminated, it is not only highly imprudent but deeply problematic to maintain systems in which an electronic intrusion into its controls might lead to the launch and detonation of a nuclear weapon. Thus, rules and norms negotiated in an intergovernmental forum to ensure the peace and security of cyberspace are necessary. The Open-Ended Working Group, established for this purpose, is well suited to bring this about, and is, in and of itself, an important confidence-building measure.
The eleventh report of the Secretary-General on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) praises the JCPOA and Resolution 2231 “as a success of multilateral diplomacy and nuclear non-proliferation” and notes that it continues “to enjoy the full support of the broader international community.” Its complete restoration to fully operational status is the logical next step and is a key part of efforts to preclude conflict in the Middle East, particularly the risk of further nuclear proliferation. Measures to address ballistic missile capabilities can perhaps be more readily resolved when the nuclear situation has been stabilized. Prudence similarly demands Member States revive the quest for a Middle East Nuclear Weapon Free Zone. Opportunities for States of the region to work together in an inclusive manner to strengthen this effort should be pursued, which in turn would pave the way for better chances of success in January’s Review Conference of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.
On the Korean Peninsula, the Holy See earnestly hopes that negative rhetoric and unilateral measures may give way to the resumption of genuine diplomatic efforts to address the nuclear weapon program in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), and related issues involving the DPRK and the Republic of Korea, as well as those involving the United States. Bringing the state of war there to an end would provide for a redirection of diplomacy to address current problems.
It is incumbent upon Member States to redouble their efforts to achieve progress across the entire range of arms control and disarmament issues. This requires prompt resolution of procedural impasses as well as to the substance of the issues under consideration. The Holy See delegation pledges its support for such redoubled efforts.
Thank you, Mr. Chair