Discussion on disarmament and development at the UN General Assembly First Committee
During UN General Assembly First Committee, Article 36 was following how states were discussing the interrelation between disarmament and development, and which states were drawing attention to these issues. Our week by week accounts, first published in Reaching Critical Will‘s First Committee Monitor, are reproduced here:
Most of the general debate statements drawing attention to the links between disarmament and development noted the recent agreement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Several governments also linked the implementation and achievement of the SDGs to different aspects of disarmament, as well as to the work of the UN disarmament machinery. Bangladesh, Ireland, and Zambia’s remarks on disarmament and development, for example, stated the general connection between disarmament and the achievement of the SDGs. Mexico drew a contrast between the dynamism of the SDG process and the First Committee, noting that the SDG process showed what can be achieved when there is political will.
The Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), Burkina Faso, Costa Rica, Cuba, Ghana, Jamaica, Maldives, Nepal, and Tanzania all highlighted military expenditure as a barrier to development, and called for resources currently spent on weapons to be diverted to economic and social development and addressing poverty. A number of these delegations noted that current global military expenditure is estimated to be $1 7 trillion, whilst significant funds are needed to achieve the new SDGs. Peru also called for the diversion of resources to development, alongside disarmament and arms control.
The New Agenda Coalition (NAC), Botswana, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Lebanon, Madagascar, the Philippines, and Tunisia highlighted the particular impact of nuclear weapons on development. Most noted the vast resources spent on the upkeep and modernisation of nuclear weapons, calling for these resources to be diverted to development. Kenya also highlighted the particular difficulties countries with fewer resources would face in dealing with a nuclear detonation.
The Caribbean Community (CARICOM), Botswana, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Serbia, Tanzania, Turkey, and Uganda drew attention to how the accumulation and spread of small arms and light weapons undermines economic and social development and the provision of essential services, with national budgets having to be diverted from development to addressing these weapons’ effects. Ireland, Kenya, and Serbia welcomed the SDG target 16.4 on reducing arms flows. Afghanistan noted the impact of mines and improvised explosive devices on infrastructure projects and development, and Lao PDR raised the impact of unexploded ordnance, particularly on agricultural development.
Regarding other related concerns, Kenya stated that the militarisation of outer space was inimical to the promotion of economic development. China highlighted peaceful development as a general priority. Costa Rica called for states to move beyond strictly military conceptions of security, towards human security and sustainable development.
On behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), Indonesia introduced a draft resolution this week on the relationship between disarmament and development. This was not substantially different to resolutions adopted in recent years. The draft resolution recalls the UN Charter’s vision of the maintenance of peace and security with the least diversion of resources to armament, and notes that increased global military expenditure could be spent on development.
The draft resolution calls on states to divert resources made available through disarmament to development and to provide the UN Secretary-General with information on any such activities. It also calls on states to note the contribution that disarmament could make towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The Holy See and South Africa drew attention at First Committee this week to the links between aspects of disarmament and the achievement of the MDGs’ successors, the Sustainable Development Goals.
The Caribbean Community (CARICOM), Ireland, and Portugal drew attention to the particular impact of any nuclear detonation on developing countries, with Portugal highlighting the impact of the risk of nuclear weapon use on international and national efforts for sustainable development. Unión de Naciones Suramericanas (UNASUR), Ireland, and South Africa noted that the resources spent on nuclear weapons could be better used towards development. Ireland noted that South Africa’s draft resolution on the ethical imperative of nuclear disarmament matched the ambition of the majority of states to prioritise human development over narrow security interests.
Trinidad and Tobago highlighted the catastrophe for sustainable development that any civilian nuclear waste accident in the Caribbean Sea would represent.
BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa), Malawi, Pakistan, and South Africa underlined the role of the cooperation provisions of the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention in promoting economic and technical development, and reducing the impact of disease on development. Pakistan noted that the Ebola outbreak showed the need for this assistance to developing countries, and also highlighted the capacity-building role of the Organization for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), as did Malawi.
NAM, UNASUR, Algeria, Iran, Kuwait, Pakistan, Switzerland, and Venezuela highlighted the role of outer space in sustainable development, and its increasing role in countries’ economies, with a number of these statements also observing that the regulation of outer space must be sure to serve the interests of developing countries.
A number of states noted the impact on development of the trade and use of conventional weapons. Ireland linked progress on conventional disarmament to the achievement of the sustainable development goal’s target for “a significant reduction in death from violence and related deaths everywhere.” Similarly, the Moldovan Chair of the Meeting of Government Experts on the UN Programme of Action on small arms and light weapons noted, “the linkage between the need to address the illicit flows of arms for development has now been recognized in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.”
Others noted the specific relationship between disarmament and development, with Indonesia introducing the NAM’s annual resolution on this topic. “NAM stresses the importance of the reduction of military expenditures, in accordance with the principle of undiminished security at the lowest level of armaments, and urges all states to devote resources made available from there to economic and social development, in particular in the fight against poverty,” said the Indonesian representative in tabling resolution L.10.
Cuba suggested that disarmament and development are “two major challenges facing humanity, especially given the global nature of the deep economic, social, food, energy and environmental crisis affecting us all.” Cuba reiterated its proposal for a UN fund to direct half of the current global military expenditure “to support the economic and social development of countries in need.” Cuba also recalled its support for the Plan of Action adopted at the International Conference on the Relationship between Disarmament and Development in 1987.
Final week 2-6 Nov and Resolutions:
Introduced by Indonesia on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), was adopted without a vote during the last week of First Committee. Noting that military expenditure could be used instead for development activities, the resolution calls on states to divert resources made available through disarmament to development, and recalls previous work by the UN on this subject. It is almost identical to the 2014 resolution on this subject.
In explanations of position, the United States said that it considers disarmament and development to be separate issues, as it did last year. The United Kingdom and France, though supporting the mainstreaming of disarmament in development, especially with respect to small arms and DDR (disarmament, demobilisation, and reintegration), questioned the relationship of development and military spending, arguing that defence investments could contribute to development.
A number of other resolutions adopted by First Committee address the relationship between disarmament and development in different ways. Resolutions L.6 and L.39 on the illicit traffic of small arms and light weapons, and L.42 on the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace, Disarmament and Development in Latin America and the Caribbean, note the negative impact of the illicit trade in small arms on development. The role of various explosive weapons in hindering development, including post-conflict, is mentioned in resolutions L.49 on the Convention on Cluster Munitions, L.50 on the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention, and L.36 on improvised explosive devices (IEDs), which also highlights a connection to the pursuit of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Resolution L.27 on the implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention notes this treaty’s role in promoting economic and technical development in the field of chemical activities. Nuclear weapon resolutions L.37 and L.38 noted the catastrophic consequences for development of nuclear weapons, and L.40 and L.52 suggest that resources devoted to nuclear weapons could be diverted to sustainable development, with L.42 also noting nuclear disarmament within its mandate. Resolution L.3 on the prevention of an arms race in outer space reaffirms that the exploration and use of space should be for the benefit of all countries irrespective of their level of development.
Resolution L.7 on environmental norms notes that the application of technological progress to disarmament must not be detrimental to the environment or to sustainable development. Regionally focused resolutions L.43 and L.31 also note that the resources released by disarmament initiatives could be devoted to development.
The linkages made in these resolutions broadly reflect those made by states and groupings in their statements during First Committee. Some delegations also noted the role of the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention in promoting economic and technical development. Many statements drew attention to the relationship between disarmament and the achievement of the SDGs. Of the 39 countries that made statements linking disarmament and development issues over the course of First Committee, 11 were low income countries, 7 lower middle income countries, 15 upper middle income countries, and 6 high income countries (using OECD DAC categories). This contrasts with the overall patterns of statement-making in First Committee seen over five years of data, which show that the lower a country’s income category, the less likely it will be in general to make an individual statement.
Work by Article 36’s on disarmament and development
Photo: Ashitaka San https://www.flickr.com/photos/mononoke/225965762/in/photolist-kY8Kq-63GLCJ-dz3xXT-7eUXSQ-ejAgFi-9bKRhz-w1uRtV-vGHWAx-9VgWhC-aDUrK6-63CwDn-yEo3Pu-63Cv3M-etnZ5-aD7NGu-an1fVU-8epU8m-8BJoin-nBvTrC-poBwRp-63GMbY-63CvkV-3JGAsf-avf9qK-EPxK5-63CvtR-8ffHo1-8haGso-63srpi-9RDtMw-vuaGch-wYCfBD-wrhCoV-63GLFj-4gs4Xx-nKs4nU-8sMhtx-8AGdQk-9Vz4F7-eW1u2-8QKe4L-brWhDW-6R1KG2-63CwdB-8XPy9n-6mokFt-2jPV3p-eto1N-63GTr9-8X7BZB