United Nations General Assembly 73rd Session
New York, 11 October 2018
Statement by Leena Pylvänäinen
Director for Arms Control, Ministry for Foreign Affairs
Let me congratulate you on your election as chair of the First Committee, and assure you of the full support of my delegation in your important task.
In addition to the statements by the European Union and the Nordic countries, allow me to highlight a few key issues from a national perspective.
Mr Chair, dear colleagues,
“We are living in dangerous times.” These are the opening words of the Secretary-General’s Agenda for Disarmament – an assessment easy to agree with. With increasing international tension and volatility, the backdrop to our meeting this year is indeed less than encouraging. And that is why the Secretary-General’s initiative is so important, and so timely.
The Agenda is a call to action for the UN system, but also for us Member States. It should remind us all of why we are gathered here, and what our shared responsibility is: Securing our common future, as the Agenda puts it.
We particularly welcome the emphasis of the Agenda on the links between security, disarmament and development. Nowhere are these clearer than in conventional arms control. The Agenda 2030 already clearly showed the contribution that disarmament and arms control can make to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. Now it’s time to ensure that this is reflected in our daily work – at the UN, and in our capitals.
Given the current security situation, our deliberations this year should be guided by one key consideration: How can we most effectively strengthen the international arms control architecture, and pave the way for concrete progress in the months ahead.
In nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, our shared aim must be to support and strengthen the NPT. With the NPT review process well underway, we must look beyond our differences and focus on our common interest in reinforcing the treaty. The review conference in 2020 should be an opportunity for reaffirming our commitment to all three pillars of the treaty and to commitments undertaken at previous review conferences, including on article VI.
Concrete steps in nuclear disarmament by the nuclear weapon states will be crucial to reduce tensions and to contribute to a successful review. Transparency measures, negative security assurances and confidence building related to tactical nuclear weapons are some of the issues where we believe progress is possible over the next two years.
The continued implementation of the New START and INF treaties is of vital importance to international and European security. We call on the United States and Russia to extend the New START, and urge the parties to resolve any dispute regarding these agreements as a matter of priority.
Our views, in line with those of the EU, on the DPRK‘s nuclear weapons and missile programmes are well known. While we are encouraged by the ongoing diplomatic efforts, we continue to urge the DPRK to fully comply with its international obligations, in line with relevant UN Security Council Resolutions.
Finland has provided substantive support to the implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the agreement on the Iranian nuclear programme, and remains committed to Security Council resolution 2231. We deeply regret the US withdrawal from this landmark agreement.
The prevention of nuclear terrorism, if anything, is a challenge we need to tackle together. Finland is currently responsible for the international coordination of the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism, a network of 88 countries and 6 international organisations working together to prevent, detect and respond to nuclear threats. Russia and the United States are co-chairs of this initiative that focuses on hands-on, practical cooperation between national authorities working on nuclear security. Please join us for a side event on the GICNT on Wednesday 24 October.
Regarding chemical weapons, our most urgent priority is to preserve the integrity of the norm against the use of chemical weapons and to ensure that those that violate it are held to account.
The decision on attribution taken at the Special Conference of States Parties of the Chemical Weapons Convention in June marked an important milestone. Reinforcing the capacity of the OPCW to identify the perpetrators of the use of chemical weapons is a first, important step in combatting impunity for these crimes – crimes we have witnessed time and again over the past months and years, in Syria and Iraq, in Malaysia and in the United Kingdom.
Going forward, we must ensure that the OPCW has the support and resources needed to implement the decision. But even with the OPCW’s new capacities, final responsibility for achieving accountability still rests with the UN Security Council. We are yet to see the Council fully shoulder this responsibility.
Raising the profile of conventional arms is one of the merits of the Secretary General’s Agenda for Disarmament. These are the real weapons of mass destruction, causing by far the most victims, but often overshadowed in international discussions. Yet conventional arms are also an area where even small investments can bring immediate results – where real progress is possible with profound benefits for the lives of civilians.
In the area of conventional arms, our task is clear: to ensure effective implementation of commitments taken in the context of the different instruments. In this, international assistance is often essential.
The Arms Trade Treaty, four years after its entry into force, has already proven its worth. Promoting national implementation and the universalisation of the treaty remain key priorities. At the Third Review Conference of the UN Programme of Action on Small Arms and Light Weapons in June, the importance of both regimes, and their mutually reinforcing nature, was emphasised by many delegations – even if not yet shared by all.
The ATT has a pioneering role as regards gender-based violence. We are very pleased that the PoA Review Conference also clearly highlighted, for the first time, the importance of combatting gender-based violence and mainstreaming gender in all implementation efforts. This is an important example to follow for all other arms control instruments and organisations – and not only in the area of conventional weapons.
Finland has engaged actively in the work of the Group of Governmental Experts on Lethal Autonomous Weapon Systems. The discussions of the GGE have been extremely useful in bringing countries closer to a common understanding of the risks and benefits related to this emerging technology. Despite divergent views on the issue, all parties agree that any weapon system, whether autonomous or not, must be used only in accordance with international humanitarian law. Going forward, this is the consensus we should build upon.
We look forward to continued deliberations in the GGE format next year. Meanwhile, we do not see merit in attempting to ban something that we have not yet been able to define adequately. Instead, an agreed set of principles or a political declaration would seem like the best way forward.
With our overall objective in mind – strengthening the rules-based international system and the institutions that work to uphold it – we look forward to working with you and all delegations to make this session a success.
Thank you, Mr Chair.