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Space


Sixty-third General Assembly
First Committee
12th Meeting (AM)

PREVENTING OUTER SPACE ARMS RACE WOULD AVERT GRAVE DANGER; POSSIBLE NEW VERIFIABLE

BILATERAL, MULTILATERAL AGREEMENTS NEEDED, SAYS DRAFT TEXT IN FIRST COMMITTEE

Russia Promotes Russian-Chinese Treaty to Fill Gaps in Space Law; United States
Says 'Not Possible' to Define Space-Based Weapon, Develop Verifiable Prohibition

Preventing an arms race in outer space was the hot-button issue on the floor of the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) today, as Egypt, in one of two draft resolutions introduced in the Committee, sought to highlight the danger of an arms race in outer space, while representatives of countries with major space capabilities debated how best to address the issue.

Recognizing that prevention of an arms race in outer space would avert a grave danger for international peace and security, and convinced that further measures should be examined in the search for effective and verifiable bilateral and multilateral agreements in that regard, the General Assembly would call upon all States, particularly those with major space capabilities, to contribute actively to the objective of the peaceful use of and the prevention of an arms race in outer space, and to refrain from actions contrary to that objective.

The representative of the Russian Federation stressed that a key factor in ensuring international security was preventing the placement of weapons in space. The majority of countries saw that as a danger, and he called on the international community to coordinate an arrangement encompassing that issue. A Russian-Chinese draft treaty had been introduced in Geneva to "fill in the gaps" in space law and prevent the use of force or the threat of use of force in space. The Russian Federation now wished to advance the text in the international community in an attempt to prevent the militarization of space.

Saying there was much rhetoric about the prevention of an arms race in outer space, the United States' representative said that for nearly three decades, her delegation had consistently pointed out that it was not possible to define the nature of a space-based "weapon". The United States did not think it was not possible to develop an effectively verifiable agreement for the banning of either space-based "weapons" or terrestrial-based anti-satellite systems.

In preparation for the General Assembly, her delegation had sought to work with Russia and China on a draft resolution to explore the feasibility of new voluntary "TCBMs" (transparency and confidence-building measures), she said. But, " Russia and China refused to agree to a neutral TCBM resolution unencumbered by linkages to space arms control constraints and limitations. Instead, they unyieldingly insisted on linking expert evaluations of pragmatic TCBMs to the commencement of pointless negotiations on an unneeded and unverifiable space arms control agreement".

Furthermore, the Russia-Chinese draft treaty introduced in Geneva -- CD/1847 -- contained no reference to the deployment of terrestrial-based anti-satellite weapons, and it would do nothing to impede the development of military systems, such as the direct-ascent terrestrial-based anti-satellite weapon, which China flight tested in January 2007, she said. The United States was also particularly troubled by the Chinese Government's continued refusal to provide adequate responses to questions posed by the international community regarding its military intentions for that and many other counter-space programmes.

China's Foreign Ministry had already expanded in great detail about the space test in January 2007, that country's speaker said, adding that the test had not been directed at any particular country, nor had it violated any international law provisions. The shadow of the weaponization of space had been lingering since the day mankind entered outer space. And in recent years, space had become increasingly important in the security arena with, for example, the possibility of missile defence systems in outer space. Despite that development, the legal regimes concerning the use of outer space had remained at the level of the 1960s and 1970s, and they did not cover weapons that were not classified as weapons of mass destruction. There was an urgent need to close the gap between old legal instruments and emerging challenges -- to create new legal regimes to deal with the new problems.

The representative of Sri Lanka noted that concerted action to alleviate the threats to outer space security was imperative. "Considering all the technical developments that have taken place in recent decades, it is important to acknowledge that the international instruments regulating outer space activities have not developed at the same pace," she said. "The existing legal regime for outer space fails to eliminate the danger of the militarization of outer space and is insufficient to prevent the deployment of weapons."

Also speaking on the disarmament aspects of outer space were the representatives of Belarus, Cuba, the Republic of Korea and Canada.

The representative of the Russian Federation spoke in exercise of the right of reply on that issue.

Earlier, Poland's representative introduced a draft resolution on the implementation of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on Their Destruction (Chemical Weapons Convention).

Opening the thematic debate on conventional weapons was the Chairman of the Group of Governmental Experts, established to examine the feasibility, scope and draft parameters for a comprehensive, legally binding instrument establishing common standards for the import, export and transfer of those arms, Roberto Garcia Moritan.

Speakers on that item today included the representatives of France (on behalf of the European Union), Brazil (on behalf of Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR), Indonesia (on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement), Barbados (on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM)), Honduras (on behalf of the Central American Integration System (SICA) and Mexico), and Denmark.

The Committee will continue its thematic debate on conventional weapons at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 21 October.

Background

The First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) met this morning to begin its thematic discussion on the disarmament aspects of outer space and on conventional weapons, and to hear the introduction of related draft texts.

Expected to address the Committee was the Chairman of the Group of Governmental Experts established to examine the feasibility, scope and draft parameters for a comprehensive, legally binding instrument establishing common international standards for the import, export and transfer of conventional arms.

Thematic Debate, Introduction of Drafts

Following the thematic debate on weapons of mass destruction on Friday, 17 October (Press Release GA/DIS/3370), MAREK SZCZYGIEL (Poland) introduced a draft resolution today on the Implementation of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on Their Destruction (Chemical Weapons Convention). In the work on the draft, Poland had concentrated on the progress achieved in the Convention's implementation since the adoption of last year's resolution. The real achievements of last year's text were reflected in this year's draft. Special emphasis had been placed on maintaining the importance of the Second Review Conference of the Chemical Weapons Convention, held in April at The Hague.

He said that the text gave unequivocal support to the United Nations to the full and effective implementation of all the Convention's provisions. Consensus on the resolution was crucial to provide the necessary support to United Nations efforts towards the treaty's implementation. Poland remained the sole sponsor of the resolution, and asked that the Committee act on it without a recorded vote.

VICTOR VASILIEV (Russian Federation) said one of the key factors in ensuring international security was preventing the placement of weapons in space. The majority of countries agreed in seeing that danger, and he called upon the international community to coordinate an arrangement encompassing that issue. The Russian and Chinese draft treaty that was tabled in Geneva intended to "fill in the gaps" in space law and prevent the use of force or the threat of use of force in space. For the first time, specific ideas had been expressed by the American side. The Russian Federation would now like to advance the text in the international community in an attempt to prevent the militarization of space.

He said that transparency and confidence-building measures were needed in forming a careful and responsible approach. In terms of practical efforts to strengthen trust, he suggested that Member States join the Russian initiative not to weaponize space. The European Union had prepared a draft on a code of conduct in space, which he believed should also include references to the peaceful uses of space. Russia would also be tabling an updated resolution, with 20 co-sponsors, and it would continue discussions with other possible additional ones. He called on all other countries to support the draft tabled by Russia and China.

IGOR UGORICH (Belarus) said that outer space activities were accessible to an increasing number of States. Space should not be weaponized. Belarus supported full compliance with space law. He noted the existence of a number of draft treaties on activities in outer space, including the draft treaty on the placement of weapons in outer space. However, there were some issues on outer space activities not tackled in the existing treaties, and he urged the States concerned to undertake all possible measures to negotiate the proposed relevant treaties. He supported Russia's declaration of a moratorium on not placing any weapons in space, and he called on all States that had the capacity to launch weapons in outer space to join the moratorium.

KAREN E. HOUSE (United States) said that United States national security space policy was best characterized by continuity across many decades. The country continued to support the Outer Space Treaty, which still provided the legal framework necessary to deal with the emerging challenges of the twenty-first century. It had been the consistent policy of the United States to oppose arms control concepts, proposals and legally binding regimes that sought to impose prohibitions on the use of space for military or intelligence purposes. The United States also opposed any arms control proposals that failed to preserve the rights of the United States to conduct research, development, testing and operations in space for military, intelligence, civil or commercial purposes.

She said there was much rhetoric about the prevention of an arms race in outer space. For nearly three decades, the United States had consistently pointed out that it was not possible to define the nature of a space-based "weapon". The United States believed that it was not possible to develop an effectively verifiable agreement for the banning of either space-based "weapons" or terrestrial-based anti-satellite systems. The Russia-Chinese draft treaty introduced in Geneva -- CD/1847 -- contained no reference to the deployment of terrestrial-based anti-satellite weapons. The treaty would do nothing to impede the development of military systems such as the direct-ascent terrestrial-based anti-satellite weapon, which China flight tested in January 2007.

The United States and other space-faring nations remained concerned about the lack of transparency surrounding China's development of direct-ascent "ASAT" weapons, she continued. China's unannounced test in 2007 was a military action that had generated more than 2,750 pieces of orbital debris attributable to the intentional destruction of a space object. "The debris cloud created by this intentional act means that China is now responsible for more debris in low earth orbit than any other country. The debris will pose a hazard to human spaceflight and satellites well into the twenty-second century," she said.

She said that the United States was particularly troubled by the Chinese Government's continued refusal to provide adequate responses to questions posed by the international community regarding its military intentions for that and many other counter-space programmes. She urged all countries that benefited from the commercial and security-related activities in outer space to continue to register their concerns about the increased risk of collisions with debris from that test.

The existing in-force regime was sufficient to guarantee the right of all nations for access to, and operations in, space, she stressed. The legal regimes included the four "core" space treaties: the 1967 Outer Space Treaty (Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies),the 1968Rescue Agreement(Agreement on the Rescue of Astronauts, the Return of Astronauts and the Return of Objects Launched into Outer Space); the 1972 Liability Convention (Convention on International Liability for Damage Caused by Space Objects); and the 1975 Registration Convention (Convention on Registration of Objects Launched into Outer Space). International cooperation was a fundamental element of United States' space policies. She supported a recent initiative by France to establish an informal working group that brought together experts from public and private space sectors to explore additional measures to ensure long-term sustainability of space activities.

The United States was also considering initiatives for voluntary transparency and confidence-building, commonly referred to as "TCBMs" (transparency and confidence-building measures), she said. It had welcomed the opportunity for trans-Atlantic dialogue with the European Union on proposals for a set of TCBMs that focused on a pragmatic and incremental approach to space safety and security. In preparation for the General Assembly, her delegation had sought to work with Russia and China on a draft resolution to explore the feasibility of new voluntary TCBMs. Unfortunately, it had not been possible to reach an agreement. " Russia and China refused to agree to a neutral TCBM resolution unencumbered by linkages to space arms control constraints and limitations. Instead, they unyieldingly insisted on linking expert evaluations of pragmatic TCBMs to the commencement of pointless negotiations on an unneeded and unverifiable space arms control agreement," she said.

She said the United States was also disappointed by Russia's continued inability to accept invitations for experts from the Russian Space Forces to meet in Omaha, Nebraska, with their counterparts at United States Strategic Command.

MARIETA GARCIA JORDAN (Cuba) said existing legal instruments, including the Partial Test Ban Treaty of 1963 (Treaty Banning Nuclear Weapon Tests in the Atmosphere, in Outer Space and Under Water)and the 1979 Agreement Governing the Activities of States on the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies (the Moon Treaty) played a constructive part in promoting the peaceful uses and regulation of outer space. The prevention of an arms race in outer space had long been a universal goal, but unfortunately, existing treaties had failed to eliminate the dangers of possible non-compliance with that aim. Thus, Cuba supported ongoing efforts in the General Assembly and the Conference on Disarmament, and the establishment of a special or ad hoc committee therein, to pursue negotiations to remedy that shortcoming.

She noted that, at the 2008 Conference on Disarmament, the Russian Federation and China had presented a draft proposing to ban all outer space weapons. The text had since gained support. Such concrete actions merited support from the international community. However, a number of the objects currently in outer space had been launched for military or espionage purposes, and would ultimately increase the volume of space debris, the mitigation of which had become a major challenge. In addition, Cuba said the use of nuclear energy sources in outer space should be restricted until a security framework and a system to ensure transparency and safety had been initiated.

Cuba was concerned with the deployment of anti-ballistic-missile defence systems and the quest for advanced military technology, she said. Although transparency and confidence-building measures were not a substitute for arms control and disarmament measures, they could facilitate the achievement of disarmament commitments for verification. Such measures would also play an important role in the drafting, adoption and implementation of a new treaty banning the deployment of weapons in outer space and the use or threat of use of force against spatial objects. For those reasons, Cuba had decided to co-sponsor again the draft resolutions on outer space presented in this Committee.

WANG QUN (China) said the United States had made unwarranted allegations and charges about China's space test in January 2007. China's Foreign Ministry had already expanded in great detail about the test, but in the current security context, he emphasized that the test carried out in space by China had not been directed at any particular country, and it did not violate any provisions of international law. The space mission made a significant contribution to the peaceful use of outer space by mankind. The test had increased understanding about space and, indeed, had narrowed the gulf between outer space and what humankind knew about it. Space was, no doubt, becoming an indispensable area of human life, and mankind's reliance on outer space was increasing with each passing day.

He said that the shadow of the weaponization of space had been lingering since the day mankind entered outer space. In recent years, space had become increasingly important in the security arena with, for example, the possibility of missile defence systems in outer space. Despite that development, the legal regimes concerning the use of outer space had remained at the level of the 1960s and 1970s. The existing legal regimes on space did not cover weapons that were not classified as weapons of mass destruction.

There was an urgent need to close the gap between old legal instruments and emerging challenges -- to create new legal regimes to deal with the new problems, he said. The General Assembly had called for an international legal instrument on the prevention of an arms race in outer space. And last February, China and Russia had submitted a draft treaty to the Conference on Disarmament regarding the issue. Proposals had been suggested on the draft treaty. China was also open to participating in relevant transparency and confidence-building aims that were not legally binding.

IM HAN-TAEK (Republic of Korea) said that, in view of the exponential development of space technology since the signing of the Outer Space Treaty, the world's daily lives had become increasingly dependent on the peaceful use of outer space. Space-faring and non-space-faring nations had a common stake to ensure that space was safeguarded. Militarizing outer space would cause global damage if satellite systems were targets in a future war. It was worrisome that the artificial barriers between civil and military activities were already dissolving.

He said that the Russian-Chinese draft treaty provided a basis upon which the complex and abstract concepts and natures of outer space could be explored. Such a treaty would contribute to achieving a consensus on ways to enhance the peaceful uses of outer space for all mankind. The Conference on Disarmament was the forum in which to address issues of cooperation with other relevant forums and search for a viable solution by sharing experiences and expertise. To ensure the peaceful use of outer space, security for and physical protection of space systems on the ground should be enhanced.

ARUNI WIJEWARDANE (Sri Lanka) attached great importance to the prevention of an arms race in outer space. Together with the delegation of Egypt, Sri Lanka, for many years, had introduced the resolution in the Committee calling for the earliest restart of stalled negotiations on the issue. The resolution was adopted last year with 170 votes in favour.

She said that outer space must be maintained as the property of mankind, and its exploration and use for peaceful purposes must be for the common good of man. The potential threat of the dual use of space technology was of great concern. All States, particularly those with major space capabilities, should contribute to the goal of preventing an arms race in outer space as a prerequisite to promoting and strengthening international cooperation in its exploration for peaceful purposes.

"We note with regret, however, that the Conference on Disarmament, the sole multilateral disarmament negotiating forum, has not yet come up with a balanced and comprehensive programme of work on this subject," she said, reiterating the call on the Conference to establish an ad hoc committee on the prevention of an outer space arms race, with an appropriate mandate.

She noted that the accumulation of objects in Earth's orbit had been increasing steadily in recent years, and threatened space systems through the possibility of collisions. Some scientists had warned that, if not controlled, the quantity of space debris would rise twice in 100 years, and no space vehicles could exist in space in a few centuries. As space shuttle missions became more frequent and construction of space stations began, debris would continue to increase. Implementation of global action plans should start now before the loss of critical space systems or human life resulted.

Concerted action to alleviate the threats to outer space security was an imperative need, she said. Some Member States advocated voluntary confidence- building measures, while others sought more ambitious proposals to prohibit the weaponization of outer space through multinational negotiations.

"Considering all the technical developments that have taken place in recent decades, it is important to acknowledge that the international instruments regulating outer space activities have not developed at the same pace," she said. "The existing legal regime for outer space fails to eliminate the danger of the militarization of outer space and is insufficient to prevent the deployment of weapons." Thus, the international community should play a key role, as it had done so far, in defining the global legal framework to facilitate the peaceful uses of outer space and encourage international cooperation for the benefit of mankind.

GILLIAN FROST (Canada) said the continued access to, and use of, outer space by the global community should not be jeopardized by human actions. All States should accept that as a common goal. Canada was disappointed that the Conference on Disarmament's efforts had not ultimately come to fruition, but she believed that that was still the most appropriate forum for negotiating a legally binding treaty on the prevention of an outer space arms race. She welcomed future discussions, which needed to, among other things, address deficiencies in the existing outer space architecture. Continued collaboration between the Conference and the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space should ensure complementarity and avoid duplication within those two organizations.

She welcomed advances by other delegations, including the Russia-China draft treaty, as well as practical initiatives being pursued, including to increase transparency and to contribute to confidence-building efforts. Codes of conduct could serve well as practical mechanisms to define best practices, and she encouraged all States to adopt and respect the debris mitigation guidelines of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space. An increasingly broad and encompassing approach to space security that included, not only addressing the weaponization of outer space, but also, the broader military, environmental, commercial and civil dimensions should be developed. Practical steps towards achieving a common understanding of space security could set in place a foundation for a more comprehensive regime to be built in the coming years.

"The international community cannot allow divergences among our national security interests blind us to our shared collective interest in preserving the secure and sustainable use of outer space for peaceful purposes," she said. Progress towards a treaty might be slow, but there was much that could be done to build mutual confidence and to prevent harmful incident.

HOSSAN ALY (Egypt) introduced a draft resolution, entitled the prevention of an arms race in outer space (A/C.1/63/L.4). It contained technical updates of General Assembly resolution 62/20, which had been adopted at the last session. A total of 40 States had sponsored the current draft, which remained open to additional co-sponsors. Since it was in the interest of mankind to preserve outer space for peaceful purposes, the draft text addressed the important issue of compliance with existing agreements, including bilateral agreements, and with the legal regime concerning the use of outer space.

He said that the draft text would also have the General Assembly confirm that further measures should be examined on effective and verifiable bilateral and multilateral agreements to prevent an outer space arms race. The draft also saw the Conference on Disarmament as the sole multilateral forum with the primary mandate to negotiate multilateral agreements, and again establish an ad hoc committee on the issue as early as possible during its next session.

Right of reply

The representative of the Russian Federation exercised his right of reply to the statement made by the United States' representative. Referring to the comment by the United States' speaker that China and Russia had refused to agree to a neutral "TCBM resolution unencumbered by linkages of space arms controls, constraints and limitations", he said that Russia had begun work on that issue last year. The problem was, specifically, that, just like at the Conference on Disarmament, as in the First Committee, the issues at hand concerned disarmament and arms control, and if there was a need to work out such a resolution within other bodies, that could be done, and then, no one would try to encumber the problems of disarmament and arms control.

He said that when discussing a treaty in the area of arms control and non-proliferation, that was not quite a correct approach -- that such treaties needed to be neutral and unencumbered with obligations in the area of disarmament. It was the reverse: "they are encumbered by obligations, and it was specifically the United States delegation at this session that intends to table a draft resolution on compliance, which speaks to the fact that such obligations do need to be implemented," he said. Therefore, Russia continued to be open to discussions with the United States and other countries on those aspects concerning the work of this Committee or the Conference on Disarmament.

He said he did not know how politically correct it would be in the current climate to refer to the representative of the Democratic party. Nevertheless, he supported the reference to John F. Kennedy's statement from 1962, to the effect that "we need to set up our sails and sail into new seas because we have new opportunities before us that we need to use for the progress for all humankind". It was for that reason that Russia currently wanted to interact -- for the sake of peace in space, and not a space used to destroy each other.

Thematic Debate on Conventional Weapons

Turning to the thematic debate on conventional weapons, ROBERTO GARCIA MORITAN, Chairman of the Group of Governmental Experts established to examine the feasibility, scope and draft parameters for a comprehensive, legally binding instrument establishing common standards for the import, export and transfer of conventional arms, recalled that, in 2006, a group of countries from different regions presented a draft resolution requesting the Secretary-General to seek the views of Member States on creating a comprehensive, legally binding instrument establishing international standards in the trade on conventional arms. They had also asked the Secretary-General to establish a group of governmental experts, commencing in 2008, to examine the feasibility, scope and draft parameters for such an instrument.

He said that many countries had national controls on conventional arms, but over the years, there had been an acknowledgement that international arms control was the best way to address the trade in those weapons. There was a need for a single international instrument that would bring about international standards in the arms trade and would also recognize the rights and obligations of Member States. That was the thinking behind the arms trade treaty in 2006.

General Assembly resolution 61/89 was the beginning of a process to analyse the feasibility of that effort without forcing any State to accept the outcomes, he said, adding that the group's task had not been to negotiate or outline a draft treaty, but to examine the feasibility of an international instrument on arms transfers. It had been careful of the need to guarantee a transparent and inclusive instrument. The chair's task had stemmed from the voting pattern set during the Assembly's sixty-first session. The group's results would not have been possible without the contribution of the different experts, whose final report had been highly positive.

It was the first time the United Nations has studied the characteristics of an internationally binding instrument on the issue, he added. Discussing the process by which the group had worked, he noted that resolution 61/89 had very careful wording, which had taken into consideration the 101 opinions submitted by Member States. The United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR) had provided an analysis of the national responses. The expert group had also taken account of existing regional and United Nations agreements. He noted the importance of debates on the Register of Conventional Arms. The group had also taken into consideration, among other things, the 2001 United Nations Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects.

On the question of the feasibility of an arms trade treaty, discussion centred on the meaning of the term "feasibility", as well as on political issues and technical questions that had to do with the scope and parameters of the instrument, he recalled. Several experts noted the need to examine illicit transfer of weapons to non-State actors. The question of the parameters of a legally binding instrument on arms transfers had provoked intense debate. It was underlined that the implementation would need to be applied objectively, without any discrimination. Pending an international instrument in a "common language", all States should adopt national systems and domestic controls which complied with strict arms control standards of arms control.

ERIC DANON (France), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said that the illicit manufacture, transfer and flow of small arms and light weapons was the prime risk to the security of the greatest number of people in the world. Those weapons led to half a million deaths each year, mostly civilians, triggered conflict, contributed to terrorism and curbed development.

He said that in light of its strong commitment to eradicating the accumulation of such weapons and their ammunition, the Union had, among other things, adopted a specific strategy and a code of conduct on arms exports. He urged other States to join the Union's efforts. In addition, there was a need for assistance to countries affected by armed violence. Given the close link between security and development, efforts to address related issues should take a multifaceted approach. Resources should be mobilized to support the implementation of the small arms Action Programme, as goodwill would not make the difference without strong political will. Technical projects should coincide with legislative and administrative levels.

The Union praised the progress towards implementing the Action Programme, discussed in July at the Biennial Meeting of States, but it had been disappointed that one delegation had caused the report to be adopted by a vote. He hoped future review conferences and biennial meetings would function on the basis of consensus. The Union believed that the specific provisions about brokering in the Action Programme should be applied more vigorously. In the same vein, it was necessary now to implement all the recommendations of the Group of Governmental Experts in their 2007 report on further steps to enhance international cooperation in preventing, combating and eradicating illicit brokering in small arms and light weapons. It was equally urgent to address the illicit trade in ammunition, and he welcomed the work of the expert group on surplus stock.

The Union's decade-old code of conduct on arms exports had already strengthened controls on the transfer of small arms and light weapons and their ammunition, he said. The Union also firmly supported the drafting of a full, legally binding instrument establishing common international standards for the import, export and transfer of conventional weapons, with the United Nations being the only appropriate forum for preparing such a document. The appeal launched by States and civil society to establish a treaty to regulate trade in conventional weapons was welcome, but efforts must be pursued along the path already started, with the goal of a legally binding instrument.

He stressed that the use of man-portable air defence systems (MANPADS) by terrorists and non-State actors to threaten civil aviation called for greater attention, and full and sustained action. In that respect, the Union supported broader efforts in multilateral forums and urged other States to contribute towards making stocks secure and destroying surpluses. The Union also remained committed to implementing the Nairobi action plan on small arms. He commended progress made on the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-personnel Mines and on Their Destruction (Mine Ban Convention), and urged all States that had not yet done so to ratify it.

Continuing, he urged States to provide sustained assistance to countries affected by mines, with a focus on demining and assistance to victims. The Union had provided 1.5 billion euros in such assistance, and another 800,000 euros to launch a joint action plan to universalize the Convention on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons Which May Be Deemed to Be Excessively Injurious or to Have Indiscriminate Effects (Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons). Strong commitments must be made regarding cluster munitions; discussions on the Cluster Munitions Convention pursued in parallel with the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons were mutually enriching and reinforced each other. The Union hoped that an agreement would be reached on related matters between States parties to the 1980 Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons by the end of 2008.

Transparency was a key component for combating the uncontrolled dissemination of conventional weapons, and for promoting an atmosphere of trust and security, he said. He hoped the Register of Conventional Arms review in 2009 would follow the successes of 2003 and 2006. The Union favoured an expansion of the Register by categories, including data on purchases, production and national allocations, particularly the inclusion of small arms and light weapons as a separate category.

LUIZ FILIPE DE MACEDO SOARES (Brazil), speaking on behalf of Common Market of the South (MERCOSUR), said that confidence-building measures were an important tool to attain peace and security in the global context, as a complement to disarmament and non-proliferation efforts. Their implementation and consolidation helped to reduce uncertainties, prevent conflicts, and they constituted an effective mechanism towards fostering closer political, economic and cultural integration, through greater transparency and cooperation in defence and security.

He urged all States to support the draft resolution on confidence-building measures in the field of conventional weapons. The issue of small arms and light weapons was of great importance to MERCOSUR and associated States. He underlined their support for the small arms Action Programme and expressed a need for the establishment of a follow-up mechanism. He noted the approval of a substantive document at the conclusion of the third Biennial Meeting of States this year. The instrument examined important issues and underscored recommendations, which, if implemented, would allow progress in the execution of the Programme of Action.

Among other things, he noted the need for the addition of "ammunition and explosives" as part of "all aspects" in the Action Programme, which were referred to in such a way as to allow for a comprehensive approach. That was one of the challenges to effective implementation. He also reiterated the need for establishing legally binding instruments in marking and tracing, and illicit brokering.

The Mine Ban Convention was effective proof of what could be achieved when there was clear political will to address a grave humanitarian challenge, he said, also reaffirming the MERCOSUR's support for efforts to ban the use of cluster munitions. There was also growing support for concluding a legally binding instrument on the transfer of conventional arms, negotiated multilaterally and in a non-discriminatory, transparent manner.

FEBRIAN RUDDYARD (Indonesia), speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, reaffirmed the right of States to acquire, manufacture, export, import and retain conventional arms for their self-defence and security needs. He expressed concern about unilateral coercive measures, emphasizing that no undue restriction should be placed on the transfer of those arms. There was an imbalance of production, possession and trade in conventional weapons between the industrialized countries and those of the Non-Aligned Movement, and he called for a significant reduction in all three areas by industrialized States as a path to enhancing international and regional peace and security.

Expressing the Movement's deep concern about the excessive accumulation and uncontrolled spread of small arms and light weapons, he said there was a need to establish and maintain controls over private ownership of those weapons. He called on all States, particularly producing States, to ensure that the supply of those arms was limited to Governments or to entities authorized by them. He called for the early and full implementation of the 2001 Programme of Action, and expressed disappointment at the inability of the United Nations review conference to have agreed on a final document. He also called for the full implementation of the international marking and tracing instrument.

The Movement deplored the use, in contravention of humanitarian law, of anti-personnel mines in conflict situations, and called upon States in a position to do so to provide the necessary financial, technical and humanitarian assistance for mine clearance operations, he said. All States not yet party to the Mine Ban Convention should consider joining it.

MOHAMMAD DEGIA (Barbados), speaking on behalf of Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said the group did not produce, import on a large scale, or re-export small arms and light weapons, yet the region was afflicted by that scourge. The serious challenges and threats posed by the clear linkage between the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons and the illicit trafficking in narcotics and related transnational organized crime required concerted action and a multi-dimensional approach at all levels. Issues such as brokering, stockpile management, marking and tracing, binding arms transfer controls, ammunition, possession by non-State actors and civilians were inextricably linked, and should be addressed as part of a holistic approach to combating the illicit small arms and light weapons trade.

He said that CARICOM remained fully committed to the implementation of the 2001 Programme of Action, and agreed that national responsibility and regional action were important in any effort to address the illicit trade. International assistance should be wide-ranging in scope and based on the specific needs of countries and regions. There was an urgent need for greater transparency in the global weapons trade. CARICOM felt that its voice, as well as its economic and security situation, was sometimes marginalized. The closing of the regional United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in Barbados, which had served 29 States and territories in the Caribbean, had been a primary example of that marginalization, and he called for the office's urgent reopening.

JORGE ARTURO REINA IDIAQUEZ (Honduras), speaking on behalf of the Central American Integration System (SICA) and Mexico, said that security had been an essential factor in development in the region, but the issue had not always made it to the centre of the world's agenda. Cooperation and coordination attempts should be made to combat the small arms and light weapons scourge. The risk went beyond traditional threats and terrorism, existing in an arena of increased crime and armed gangs, and benefiting from illegal trade and natural disasters. Statistics in various police departments showed that half of all murders are committed by illegal arms.

He said that the Central American Integration System's biennial meeting in July 2007 had produced a final document emphasizing the importance of follow-up mechanisms to the Programme of Action to identify goals. But, other efforts were needed, including establishing legally binding agreements to stem the flow of illegal arms, and the establishment of a marking system. A collective effort to evolve a legally binding document to regulate the arms trade was also needed. He welcomed the report to establish common standards for the import, export and transfer of arms, and members of the Integration System and Mexico fully supported the United Kingdom-sponsored resolution to eventually create such a treaty.

Turning to cluster munitions, he said that SICA and Mexico did not use or stock those weapons. He was satisfied with progress at Dublin and the Oslo process, and he called upon the international community to join the efforts. He reiterated unequivocal support for the aim of achieving a region free of cluster munitions. He also called on countries to halt production of cluster munitions immediately, since supply was followed by demand. The "SICA" region had suffered from the mass deployment of mine fields in different areas, with 98 per cent, or about 176 332, planted in Nicaragua. The remaining mines were in Honduras, Guatemala, Costa Rica and El Salvador. Removal efforts had been successful everywhere but Nicaragua. He asked the donor community to provide technical and financial support to finalize demining tasks in Nicaragua in a timely fashion.

TIMOTHY HARRIS (Denmark) strongly favoured an arms trade treaty in light of its support for a legally binding instrument on the issue. He strongly encouraged delegations to support the resolution on an arms trade treaty this year. The absence of an international treaty on arms trade was contributing to violence and other social ills. The treaty should include strong provisions promoting human rights, including respect for Article 51 of the United Nations Charter, which establishes the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence of United Nations member countries. He welcomed the recommendations of the Group of Governmental Experts on the issue.




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