7758th Security Council Meeting: Non-Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction - Part 2

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23-Aug-2016 02:12:30
States must urgently refocus on eliminating nuclear arms, keeping all weapons of mass destruction from non-state actors, speakers tell Security Council.

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Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon called upon all States to focus on eradicating weapons of mass destruction today, as the Security Council held a day-long open debate on the issue where speakers underscored the evolving threat of such weapons falling into the hands of non-State actors and terrorist groups.

Stating that “the disarmament agenda has stalled in several areas,” and expressing disappointment on a lack of progress on eliminating nuclear weapons, Mr. Ban urged the Council to show leadership and develop further initiatives to bring about a world free of weapons of mass destruction. “It is time to refocus seriously on nuclear disarmament,” he said, calling on all parties to embrace a spirit of compromise during the next review cycle of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons beginning in May 2017.

On biological weapons, Mr. Ban questioned the international community’s ability to prevent or respond to a biological attack. He also suggested giving a closer look at the nexus between emerging technologies — such as information and communication technologies, artificial intelligence, 3-D printing and synthetic biology — and weapons of mass destruction.

The Council heard from several experts on the issue, including Emmanuel Roux, Special Representative of the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL), who described how Al-Qaida, Aum Shinrikyo and other extremist groups had announced their intention — backed by attempts — to develop, acquire and deploy weapons of mass destruction against civilians. Citing examples, Mr. Roux recalled the case of a laptop, owned by a Tunisian student and seized in Syria in August 2014, which revealed a 19-page document on how to develop biological weapons and test them on mice. Technology once perceived as sensitive military-grade expertise was now available to broader audiences, he said, adding that a lack of coordination between agencies, ministries and States had created loopholes for terrorists to exploit.

Gregory Koblentz, Director of the Biodefense Graduate Programme at the Schar School of Policy and Government of George Mason University in the United States, drew attention to several new areas of concern, such as the use of unmanned aerial vehicles, 3-D printers and a part of the Internet called the Dark Web. He cited a growing risk that non-State actors could use malicious software to launch a cyberattack on a chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear facility, saying: “We should not be just one click of the mouse away from a cyber Chernobyl.” Yet, new technologies had created opportunities to make it harder for non-State actors to acquire weapons of mass destruction. Drones, for instance, could be used by border security to detect such weapons, while biometrics and radio frequency identity chips could help improve security and inventory control, he said.

Kim Won-Soo, Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, said Security Council resolution 1540 (2004) — currently the subject of a comprehensive review — had enabled the international community to make advances in addressing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction to non-State actors. A chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear attack would almost certainly constitute a complex international health emergency and in such an event, he said, the world would turn to the United Nations.

Leading the open debate, Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia and Minister for Home Affairs, who holds the Council presidency for August, said States should strengthen their respective law enforcement and national legislation by enacting effective export and trans-shipment controls. He recalled recent incidents concerning the use of chemical weapons against civilians in Syria and stockpiles controlled by terrorists in Libya, saying that such realities highlighted the dangers and threats non-State actors posed.

The representatives of Japan, Spain, Uruguay, France, the United Kingdom and the United States were among speakers voicing concern over nuclear weapons tests taken by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea despite Council resolutions and sanctions. Others mentioned the use of chlorine in the conflict in Syria, ahead of the expected release on 24 August of the findings of a joint investigation by the United Nations and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), saying those responsible should be held accountable.

Egypt’s speaker expressed concern that weapons of mass destruction in the hands of groups such as Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) could find their way to Libya. His counterpart from Angola, however, stated that, in Africa, small arms and light weapons were the real weapons of mass destruction.

On behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, Iran’s representative called for all weapons of mass destruction to be eliminated, but warned against Council actions undermining the Charter of the United Nations, multilateral treaties or the role of the General Assembly. He called nuclear disarmament Iran’s highest priority, but expressed concern over the development of new nuclear weapons as provided by the military and security doctrines of some States.

Also participating in the debate were the representatives of the Russian Federation, Ukraine, Uruguay, New Zealand, Venezuela, Senegal, China, Slovakia, Pakistan, Mexico, Kazakhstan, Guatemala, Singapore, Indonesia, Chile, Iraq, Morocco, Italy, Syria, Philippines, Canada, Belgium, Peru, Germany, Republic of Korea, Cuba, South Africa, Netherlands, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Brazil, Ecuador, Israel, Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Turkey, India, Australia, Viet Nam, Argentina, Poland, Slovenia, Nigeria and Algeria, as well as the European Union, Holy See, League of Arab States and the Organization of American States.
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