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Approving 18 Drafts on Disarmament Measures, First Committee Urges General Assembly Call for States to Sign Nuclear-Weapon Ban Treaty

The First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) today approved 16 draft resolutions and 2 decisions related to nuclear weapons, including one that would have the General Assembly call upon all States to take further steps and measures towards the total elimination of nuclear weapons, based on the principle of undiminished and increased security for all.

Following multiple recorded votes on elements of the draft resolution “United action with renewed determination towards the total elimination of nuclear weapons” (document A/C.1/72/L.35), the Committee approved it, as a whole, by a vote of 144 in favour to 4 against (China, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Russia Federation, Syria), with 27 abstentions.

In explanation of position, the representative of Switzerland said his delegation would vote in favour of the draft text, as a whole, but had several reservations, including that language in operative paragraph 2 could undermine consensus documents agreed upon at review conferences of the Treaty on the Non‑Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.

The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea said that “L.35” was full of prejudice and hypocrisy and included unacceptable paragraphs that endangered his country’s interests.

Egypt’s representative, echoing common concerns, said that while appreciating the overall objective of “L.35”, language in the draft text fell short of expectations and obligations related to the Treaty on the Non‑Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.  New Zealand’s speaker called the draft a departure from its predecessors.

Elaborating on that point, several delegates, including representatives of Algeria and Mongolia, said “L.35” had deviated from its original text in versions that had been tabled during previous sessions.  In addition, it had not included language on the new Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, an omission Nigeria’s delegate said was inconceivable.  “L.35”, a text Nigeria had co‑sponsored in 2016, had made a joke out of Member States who had worked tirelessly towards the adoption of the new instrument, he said.

Meanwhile, by a vote of 118 in favour to 38 against, with 11 abstentions, the Committee approved the draft resolution “Taking forward multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations” (document A/C.1/72/L.6), which would have the Assembly welcome the adoption of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, and call upon all States that have not yet done so to sign and, thereafter, ratify, accept or approve the instrument.

Casting a spotlight on the growing call for unconditional security assurances, the Committee also approved the draft resolution “Conclusion of effective international arrangements to assure non-nuclear-weapon States against the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons” (document A/C.1/72/L.10/Rev.1), by a vote of 118 in favour to none against, with 59 abstentions.  By the text, the Assembly would appeal to States, especially those possessing nuclear weapons, to work actively towards establishing an international, legally binding instrument.

In addition, the Committee approved the draft resolution “Convention on the Prohibition of the Use of Nuclear Weapons” (document A/C.1/72/L.47), which would have the Assembly reiterate its request to the Conference on Disarmament to commence negotiations on an international convention prohibiting the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons.  That draft text was approved as a whole by a vote of 115 in favour to 50 against, with 11 abstentions.

In addition, the Committee approved the following draft resolutions: “The risk of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East” (document A/C.1/72/L.2); “Follow‑up to nuclear disarmament obligations agreed to at the 1995, 2000 and 2010 Review Conferences of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non‑Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons” (document A/C.1/72/L.4); “Humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons” (document A/C.1/72/L.5); “Ethical imperatives for a nuclear-weapon-free world” (document A/C.1/72/L.17); “Towards a nuclear-weapon-free world: accelerating the implementation of nuclear disarmament commitments” (document A/C.1/72/L.19); “Reducing nuclear danger” (document A/C.1/72/L.22); “Nuclear-weapon-free southern hemisphere and adjacent areas” (document A/C.1/72/L.28); and “Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty” (document A/C.1/72/L.42).

It also approved the following draft decisions: “Treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices” (document A/C.1/72/L.50) and “Nuclear disarmament verification” (document A/C.1/72/L.55).

The Committee also approved several draft resolutions without a vote, including “Establishment of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the region of the Middle East” (document A/C.1/72/L.1); “International Day against Nuclear Tests” (document A/C.1/72/L.36); “African Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty” (document A/C.1/72/L.37); and “Prohibition of the dumping of radioactive wastes” (document A/C.1/72/L.38).

Speaking in explanation of position were the representatives of Costa Rica, Russian Federation, Mexico, Ukraine, Venezuela, Pakistan, United States, Ecuador, Sweden, Chile, India, Australia, Canada, Norway and Brazil.

The representatives of the United States, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, Iran and Ukraine spoke in exercise of the right of reply.

The Committee will meet again on Monday, 30 October to continue its consideration of all draft resolutions and decisions before it.

Background

The First Committee met this afternoon to conclude its debate on disarmament machinery and take action on all draft resolutions and decisions before it.  For background information, see Press Release GA/DIS/3571 of 2 October.

Statements

The representative of Egypt said his delegation would abstain from voting on the draft resolution “United action with renewed determination towards the total elimination of nuclear weapons” (A/C.1/72/L.35).  While Japan was a key partner and he appreciated the overall objective of the draft, its message suggested that nuclear disarmament was the responsibility of non‑nuclear‑weapon States.  Many paragraphs fell below expectations and obligations of the Treaty on the Non‑Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.  On the draft resolution “Implementation of the Convention on Cluster Munitions” (A/C.1/72/L.41), Egypt would cast a favourable vote as a sign of its continued support.  Turning to the draft decision “Treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices” (A/C.1/72/L.50), he said while his delegation intended to vote in favour, it wanted to note that any future fissile material cut‑off treaty must address pre‑existing stockpiles.

The representative of Costa Rica expressed support for “L.35” and shared the concerns of escalation of tensions on the Korean Peninsula.  However, it could not support the current draft text, as 2017 had marked a turning point with the adoption of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.  Moreover, “L.35” was weak and did not unequivocally call for the destruction of nuclear stockpiles.

The representative of the Russian Federation said when controversial draft texts had been initially submitted, his delegation had cautioned their authors about creating alternate tracks that could have damaging consequences.  That had unfortunately become a reality.  The multiplication of parallel structures had moved the world further away from the noble goal of achieving a nuclear‑weapon‑free world.  The Russian Federation objected to draft resolution “Follow‑up to the 2013 high‑level meeting of the General Assembly on nuclear disarmament” (document A/C.1/72/L.45), which contained a proposal to convene a conference in 2018 to review progress.  On the draft resolution “Taking forward multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations” (document A/C.1/72/L.6), he said adopting the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons was a mistake.  Real progress could only be achieved by ensuring equal security for all States, without any exceptions.  The step‑by‑step process must involve all States with military nuclear potential.  The Russian Federation approached nuclear disarmament with great seriousness and responsibility, and called on all Member States to engage in constructive dialogue to create effective measures toward a nuclear‑weapon‑free world based on the Non‑Proliferation Treaty and other instruments reached by consensus.  In that context, his delegation would vote against “L.6”, “L.45” and the following draft texts: “Follow‑up to nuclear disarmament obligations agreed to at the 1995, 2000 and 2010 Review Conferences of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non‑Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons” (document A/C.1/72/ L.4), “Humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons” (document A/C.1/72/L.5), “Ethical imperatives for a nuclear‑weapon‑free world” (document A/C.1/72/L.17), “Nuclear disarmament” (document A/C.1/72/L.18), “Towards a nuclear‑weapon‑free world: accelerating the implementation of nuclear disarmament commitments” (document A/C.1/72/L.19), “Nuclear‑weapon‑free southern hemisphere and adjacent areas” (document A/C.1/72/L.28) and “Follow‑up to the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice on the legality of the threat or use of nuclear weapons” (document A/C.1/72/L.57).

The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea said that “L.35” was full of prejudice and hypocrisy and included unacceptable paragraphs that endangered his country’s interests.  His delegation could also not support “L.19” and the draft resolution Comprehensive Nuclear‑Test‑Ban Treaty “L.42”, which also encroached upon his country’s supreme interests.

The representative of Mexico said changes in “L.35” had altered the balance of previous versions and its approaches had undermined the truism of the international community.

The representative of New Zealand said her delegation would abstain from voting on “L.35”.  While it had voted in favour of previous versions of “L.35”, the current draft text was a “departure from its predecessors”.

The representative of Ukraine said his delegation would abstain from voting on “L.6” and “Towards a nuclear weapon free world: accelerating the implementation of nuclear disarmament commitments” (document A/C.1/72/L.19).  The full implementation of the Non‑Proliferation Treaty, which was the cornerstone of disarmament and non‑proliferation, was the only way to achieve success in disarmament, he said, noting that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and the Russian Federation had violated the instrument.

The representative of Venezuela said his delegation would abstain from voting on “L.35”.  Language that had been previously agreed upon to achieve nuclear disarmament had been omitted and the text would weaken the Non‑Proliferation Treaty.  Citing an example, he said language in operative paragraph 2 referring to the complete elimination of nuclear arsenals to achieve article VI of the Non‑Proliferation Treaty had been removed.

The representative of Algeria said “L.35” had raised a number of serious concerns and the draft had become unbalanced.  In its current form, it was far removed from a number of commitments.  As such, it did not meet his country’s aspirations.  Operative paragraphs did not mention obligations under article VI of the Non‑Proliferation Treaty, something his delegation could not accept.  Furthermore, unlike its previous iterations, it did not call on all States, especially Annex 2 countries, to ratify the Test‑Ban Treaty.  As such, Algeria would abstain from voting on the draft text.

The representative of Nigeria said his delegation had co‑sponsored the 2016 version of “L.35”, but was dismayed by the introduction of new language.  The draft had made a joke of Member States’ tireless efforts toward adopting the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.  The draft text’s failure to mention the adoption of that new instrument was unconceivable.  “L.35” also watered down commitments.  For those and other reasons, his delegation would abstain from voting on the draft resolution.

The representative of Mongolia said that while his delegation shared the objective of “L.35”, his delegation would abstain from voting on preambular paragraph 19 and operative paragraphs 2 and 8.  Concerns included new language and the omission of article 6 of the Non‑Proliferation Treaty and references to humanitarian consequences, he said, hoping that those considerations would be taken into account during the seventy‑third session.

The representative of Switzerland, also speaking on behalf of Sweden, said they had long supported “L.35” and continued to share its general objectives.  While they would vote in favour of the draft text as a whole, they had reservations.  They supported the inclusion of affirmative language about nuclear and ballistic missile programmes of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, but regretted to note the absence of the goal of achieving total nuclear disarmament and related commitments.  For instance, operative paragraph 2 could undermine consensus documents of the Non‑Proliferation Treaty review conferences.  Switzerland and Sweden would also abstain from voting on separate paragraphs because of the draft text’s departure from Non‑Proliferation Review conference language that expressed concern about humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons.  Further, he opposed any attempt to rewrite previous nuclear disarmament outcomes.

Action on Draft Texts

The Committee then considered the draft resolution “Establishment of a nuclear‑weapon‑free zone in the region of the Middle East” (document A/C.1/72/L.1), which would have the General Assembly urge all parties directly concerned to seriously consider taking the practical and urgent steps required for the implementation of the proposal to establish a nuclear‑weapon‑free zone in the region of the Middle East in accordance with the relevant Assembly resolutions.

The Committee then approved the draft without a vote.

The Committee then took up the draft resolution “The risk of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East” (document A/C.1/72/L.2), which would have the Assembly call for immediate steps towards the full implementation of the resolution on the Middle East adopted by the 1995 Review and Extension Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non‑Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.  Also by the draft text, the Assembly would reaffirm the importance of Israel’s accession to that instrument, and placement of all its nuclear facilities under comprehensive International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards.

Prior to approving that draft text, as a whole, the Committee held a separate recorded vote to retain preambular paragraphs 5 and 6.

By a vote of 164 in favour to 3 against (India, Israel, Pakistan), with 2 abstentions (Bhutan, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea), the Committee approved the retention of preambular paragraph 5, which would have the Assembly recall the decision on principles and objectives for nuclear non‑proliferation and disarmament adopted by the 1995 Review and Extension Conference.

By a vote of 164 in favour to 3 against (India, Israel, Pakistan), with 2 abstentions (Bhutan, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea), the Committee approved the retention of preambular paragraph 6, which would have the Assembly call upon those remaining States not party to the Non‑Proliferation Treaty to accede to it, thereby accepting an international legally binding commitment not to acquire nuclear weapons or nuclear explosive devices and to accept IAEA safeguards on all their nuclear activities.

Taking up the draft as a whole, the Committee approved it by a vote of 150 in favour to 4 against (Canada, Israel, Micronesia, United States), with 19 abstentions.

The Committee then turned to the draft resolution “Follow‑up to nuclear disarmament obligations agreed to at the 1995, 2000 and 2010 Review Conferences of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non‑Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons” (document A/C.1/72/L.4).  By that text, the Assembly would call for practical steps, as agreed to at the 2000 Non‑Proliferation Treaty Review Conference, to be taken by all nuclear-weapon States that would lead to nuclear disarmament in a way that promoted international stability.

First, the Committee held a separate recorded vote to retain preambular paragraph 6, approving it by a vote of 115 in favour to 5 against (Canada, India, Israel, Micronesia, United States), with 47 abstentions.  By its terms, the Assembly would reaffirm the resolution adopted by the 1995 Review and Extension Conference, in which the Conference reaffirmed the importance of the early realization of universal adherence to the Non‑Proliferation Treaty and placement of nuclear facilities under IAEA safeguards.

The Committee then approved the draft as a whole, by a vote of 112 in favour to 44 against, with 15 abstentions.

It then took action on the draft resolution “Humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons” (document A/C.1/72/L.5), by which the Assembly would stress that the immense and uncontrollable destructive capability and indiscriminate nature of nuclear weapons caused unacceptable humanitarian consequences.  It would also, by the text, call upon all States, in their shared responsibility, to prevent the use of nuclear weapons, to prevent their vertical and horizontal proliferation and to achieve nuclear disarmament.

It then approved the draft text by a vote of 134 in favour to 15 against, with 25 abstentions.

The Committee took up the draft resolution “Taking forward multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations” (document A/C.1/72/L.6), which would have the Assembly welcome the adoption of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons by the United Nations conference to negotiate a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination, and call upon all States that had not yet done so to sign and thereafter ratify, accept or approve the instrument.

The Committee approved the draft, as orally revised, by a vote of 118 in favour to 38 against, with 11 abstentions.

The Committee then took action on the draft resolution “Conclusion of effective international arrangements to assure non‑nuclear‑weapon States against the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons” (document A/C.1/72/L.10/Rev.1).  By the text, the Assembly would appeal to all States, especially the nuclear‑weapon States, to work actively towards an early agreement on a common approach and, in particular, on a common formula that could be included in an international instrument of a legally binding character.

The Committee then approved the draft, as orally revised, by a vote of 118 in favour to none against, with 59 abstentions.

Following that action, it turned to the draft resolution “Ethical imperatives for a nuclear‑weapon‑free world” (document A/C.1/72/L.17), by which the Assembly would call upon all States to acknowledge the catastrophic humanitarian consequences and risks posed by a nuclear weapon detonation, whether by accident, miscalculation or design.  It would also note that all responsible States had a solemn duty to take decisions that served to protect their people and each other from the ravages of a nuclear weapon detonation.

Prior to approving that draft as a whole, the Committee held a separate recorded vote to retain preambular paragraph 11, which would have the Assembly welcome the adoption of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

By a vote of 118 in favour to 37 against, with 11 abstentions, the Committee approved the retention of preambular paragraph 11.

The Committee then approved the draft as a whole, by a vote of 122 in favour to 36 against, with 14 abstentions.

It then took action on the draft resolution “Towards a nuclear‑weapon‑free world: accelerating the implementation of nuclear disarmament commitments” (document A/C.1/72/L.19), by which the Assembly would call upon nuclear‑weapon States to fulfil their commitment to undertaking further efforts to reduce and ultimately eliminate all types of such arms, deployed and non‑deployed, including through unilateral, bilateral, regional and multilateral measures.

Prior to approving that text as a whole, the Committee held separate recorded votes to retain preambular paragraph 10, and operative paragraphs 14 and 22.

By a vote of 118 in favour to 37 against, with 10 abstentions, the Committee approved the retention of preambular paragraph 10, which would have the Assembly welcome the adoption of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

By a vote of 157 in favour to 4 against (India, Israel, Pakistan, United States), with 6 abstentions (Albania, Bhutan, France, Germany, Hungary, United Kingdom), the Committee approved the retention of operative paragraph 14, which would have the Assembly call upon all States parties to spare no effort to achieve the universality of the Non‑Proliferation Treaty.  By the text, the Assembly would also urge India, Israel and Pakistan to accede to the instrument as non‑nuclear‑weapon States.

By a vote of 121 in favour to 37 against, with 10 abstentions, the Committee approved the retention of operative paragraph 22, which would have the Assembly call upon Member States to continue to support efforts to identify, elaborate, negotiate and implement further effective legally binding measures for nuclear disarmament.

The Committee then approved the draft as a whole, by a vote of 127 in favour to 32 against, with 14 abstentions.

It then took action on the draft resolution “Reducing nuclear danger” (document A/C.1/72/L.22).  By the text, the Assembly would call for a review of nuclear doctrines and, in that context, for immediate and urgent steps to reduce the risks of the unintentional and accidental use of nuclear weapons, including through de‑alerting nuclear weapons.

The Committee then approved the draft by a vote of 116 in favour to 49 against, with 10 abstentions.

The Committee then considered the draft resolution “Nuclear‑weapon‑free southern hemisphere and adjacent areas” (document A/C.1/72/L.28), which would have the Assembly welcome the steps taken to conclude further nuclear‑weapon‑free zone treaties and call upon all States to consider all relevant proposals, including those on the establishment of such a zone in the Middle East.

Prior to voting on that text as a whole, the Committee held a separate recorded vote to retain preambular paragraph 6, approving it by a vote of 121 in favour to 35 against, with 11 abstentions.  By its terms, the Assembly would welcome the adoption of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and reaffirm that the establishment of nuclear‑weapon‑free zones enhanced global and regional peace and security, strengthened the nuclear non‑proliferation regime and contributed towards realizing the objective of nuclear disarmament.

The Committee then approved the draft as a whole, by a vote of 142 in favour to 4 against (France, Russian Federation, United Kingdom, United States), with 29 abstentions.

It then turned to the draft resolution “United action with renewed determination towards the total elimination of nuclear weapons” (document A/C.1/72/L.35).  By the text, the Assembly would call upon all States to take further practical steps and effective measures towards the total elimination of nuclear weapons, based on the principle of undiminished and increased security for all.

Prior to approving that text as a whole, the Committee held separate recorded votes to retain preambular paragraphs 19 and 20, as well as operative paragraphs 2, 5, 8, 20, 21 and 28.

By a vote of 147 in favour to 1 against (South Africa), with 19 abstentions, the Committee approved the retention of preambular paragraph 19, which would have the Assembly express deep concern at the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons use, and reaffirm the need for all States to comply at all times with applicable international law, including international humanitarian law.

By a vote of 155 in favour to 2 against (Russian Federation, South Africa), with 10 abstentions, the Committee approved the retention of preambular paragraph 20, which would have the Assembly recognize that the catastrophic humanitarian consequences that would result from the use of nuclear weapons should be fully understood by all.

By a vote of 128 in favour to 7 against (Austria, Ecuador, Liechtenstein, Myanmar, New Zealand, South Africa, Switzerland), with 27 abstentions, the Committee approved the retention of operative paragraph 2, which would have the Assembly reaffirm the unequivocal undertaking of the nuclear‑weapon States to fully implement the Non‑Proliferation Treaty, towards a safer world for all and a peaceful and secure world free of nuclear weapons.

By a vote of 161 in favour to 4 against (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, India, Israel, Pakistan), with 3 abstentions (Angola, Bhutan, Venezuela), the Committee approved the retention of operative paragraph 5, which would have the Assembly call upon all States that had not yet done so to accede to the Non‑Proliferation Treaty as non‑nuclear‑weapon States promptly and without any conditions to achieve its universality.

By a vote of 149 in favour to 2 against (Russian Federation, South Africa), with 16 abstentions, the Committee approved the retention of operative paragraph 8, which would have the Assembly emphasize that deep concerns about the humanitarian consequences of the use of nuclear weapons continued to be a key factor that underpinned efforts by all States towards a world free of nuclear weapons.

By a vote of 155 in favour to 4 against (China, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Myanmar, Pakistan), with 11 abstentions, the Committee approved the retention of operative paragraph 20, which would have the Assembly stress the vital importance and urgency for all States who had not done so to declare and maintain moratoriums on the production of fissile material for use in nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices, pending commencement and early conclusion of negotiations on a treaty banning its production for those arms, as called for in document CD/1299 and the mandate contained therein.

By a vote of 143 in favour to 4 against (Austria, Liechtenstein, Myanmar, Pakistan), with 22 abstentions, the Committee approved the retention of operative paragraph 21, which would have the Assembly acknowledge the widespread call for the early entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear‑Test‑Ban Treaty and the immediate commencement of negotiations on a treaty banning the production of fissile material.

By a vote of 155 in favour to 2 against (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Myanmar) with 9 abstentions (Angola, Brazil, Egypt, India, Israel, Liberia, Pakistan, Venezuela, Zimbabwe), the Committee approved the retention of operative paragraph 28, which would have the Assembly stress the fundamental role of IAEA safeguards and the importance of the universalization of the comprehensive safeguards agreements.

The Committee then approved the draft as a whole, by a vote of 144 in favour to 4 against (China, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Russia Federation, Syria), with 27 abstentions, as orally revised.

It then took action on the draft resolution “International Day against Nuclear Tests” (document A/C.1/72/L.36).  By the text, the Assembly would invite Member States, the United Nations system, civil society, academia, the mass media and individuals to commemorate that international day.

The Committee then approved the draft without a vote.

The Committee then took up the draft resolution “African Nuclear‑Weapon‑Free Zone Treaty” (document A/C.1/72/L.37), by which the Assembly would call upon African States that had not yet done so to sign and ratify it as soon as possible.

The Committee then approved the draft without a vote.

The Committee then took action on the draft resolution “Prohibition of the dumping of radioactive wastes” (document A/C.1/72/L.38).  By the text, the Assembly would call upon all States to take appropriate measures with a view to preventing such activities.

The Committee then approved the draft without a vote.

It then had before it the draft resolution “Comprehensive Nuclear‑Test‑Ban Treaty” (document A/C.1/72/L.42), by which the Assembly would stress the vital importance and urgency of signature and ratification, without delay and without conditions, in order to achieve its earliest entry into force.  The Assembly would also urge all States to remain seized of the issue at the highest political level and, where in a position to do so, to promote adherence to the instrument through bilateral and joint outreach, seminars and other means.

Prior to approving that resolution as a whole, the Committee held a separate recorded vote to retain preambular paragraphs 4 and 7.

By a vote of 164 in favour to none against, with 11 abstentions, the Committee approved the retention of preambular paragraph 4, which would have the Assembly stress the vital importance and urgency of achieving the entry into force of the Test‑Ban Treaty.

By a vote of 167 in favour to none against, with 7 abstentions (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, India, Israel, Mauritius, Pakistan, Syria, United States), the Committee approved the retention of preambular paragraph 7, which would have the Assembly recall the adoption by consensus of the conclusions and recommendations of the 2010 Review Conference of the Non‑Proliferation Treaty.

Taking up the draft as a whole, the Committee approved it by a vote of 174 in favour to 1 against (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea), with 4 abstentions (India, Mauritius, Syria, United States).

The Committee then had before it the draft resolution “Convention on the Prohibition of the Use of Nuclear Weapons” (document A/C.1/72/L.47), by which the Assembly would reiterate its request to the Conference on Disarmament to commence negotiations in order to reach an agreement on an international convention prohibiting the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons under any circumstances.  The Assembly would also, by the terms of the text, request the Conference on Disarmament to report to it on the results of those negotiations.

The Committee then approved the draft by a vote of 115 in favour to 50 against, with 11 abstentions.

The Committee took up draft decision “Treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices” (document A/C.1/72/L.50), which would have the General Assembly welcome the commencement of the work of the high‑level fissile material cut‑off treaty expert preparatory group tasked with making recommendations on substantial elements of a future non‑discriminatory, multilateral and internationally and effectively verifiable treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices, on the basis of document CD/1299 and the mandate contained therein.

The Committee then approved the draft by a vote of 174 in favour to 1 against (Pakistan), with 4 abstentions (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Iran, Israel, Syria).

The Committee took up a draft decision “Nuclear disarmament verification” (document A/C.1/72/L.55), which would have the General Assembly include an eponymous sub‑item in the provisional agenda of its seventy‑third session, under the item “General and complete disarmament”.

The Committee then approved the draft without a vote.

The representative of Pakistan presented his delegation’s position on several drafts.  On “L.19”, he expressed dismay at the unrealistic call on Pakistan to accede to the Non‑Proliferation Treaty.  On “L.28”, his delegation had abstained from voting on the preamble paragraph 6 because it had referred to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.  He had abstained from voting on “L.35” because Pakistan was not a party to the Non‑Proliferation Treaty and was not bound by its provisions and review conferences outcome documents.  Having voted against “L.50”, he said that the position endorsed by the draft text would “freeze the status quo”.  On “L.55”, he said his delegation had joined the consensus.  Still, the most relevant forum to discuss nuclear disarmament was the Conference on Disarmament.

The representative of the United States said his delegation had joined consensus on “L.1”, supporting its important goals and the consensus‑based spirit.  Speaking on behalf of France and the United Kingdom with regards to “L.2”, he noted that establishing a nuclear‑weapon‑free zone in the Middle East should be consensual.  Instead, the real goal appeared to be a nuclear‑weapon‑free zone covering the high seas.  Highlighting that no nuclear‑weapon State had participated in the negotiation of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear weapons, he said for that reason, the United States had voted against texts referring to it.

The representative of Ecuador expressed support for “L.42” and the early entry into force of the Test‑Ban Treaty.  Its entry into force would be realized once all Annex 2 States would sign and ratify it, including members of the Security Council that had already adopted resolution 2310 (2016).  His delegation had voted in favour of “L.47” because it supported the sincere endeavours to pursue the elimination of nuclear weapons.  He recalled that the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons was a universal legally binding instrument.

The representative of Sweden, speaking also for Switzerland, said that with regards to “L.6”, they had participated in negotiations on the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and would conduct thorough assessments of the possible future signature and accession to it.  While conducting national evaluations, they would follow closely the impact of the new instrument and the consideration of “L.6”, as well other draft resolutions referring to it.

The representative of Chile said his delegation had voted in favour of “L.35” and shared concerns and condemnation of the missile programme of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.  Those actions were a serious threat to international peace and security.  Chile had also voted in favour of “L.47” because it shared the view that the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons was a legitimate and relevant instrument.

The representative of India said “L.2” should limit its focus to the region which intends to address.  India was not part of the Non‑Proliferation Treaty and therefore it had voted against that draft resolution.  His delegation had abstained from voting on “L.4”, he said, emphasizing that India would not join the Non‑Proliferation Treaty as a non‑nuclear‑weapon State.  On “L.6”, he said India had not participated in negotiations of the new Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and would not join it, nor be bound to any obligations arising from it.  While India agreed on several provisions in “L.17”, he said the global elimination of nuclear weapons required progressive steps and a universal commitment to a global multilateral disarmament framework.  His delegation had also voted against “L.19”, as the draft resolution had negated the rules of customary international law.  On “L.35”, he said Japan was the only country that had suffered from nuclear weapon attacks, and in a substantive manner the text had fallen short in several instances.  On “L.37”, he said India supported Africa’s security and it would respect the status of Africa as a region free of nuclear weapons.

The representative of Australia, speaking on behalf of a number of countries, said that as long‑standing co‑sponsors of “L.28” in previous years, the current draft had welcomed the new Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.  The group of countries did not support that instrument and expressed deep regrets that the sponsors of it had not accepted their recommendations.  Speaking on “L.5” and “L.17”, she said those draft resolutions were unbalanced and did not consider the international security environment.  Security and humanitarian principles coexisted, and those draft resolutions did not reflect those realities and imperatives.

The representative of Canada said his delegation had abstained from voting on “L.19” for several years, as the draft text’s modified language had drawn efforts further away from the Non‑Proliferation Treaty.  The language also diminished the importance of the 2010 Review Conference.  Canada supported “L.28”, but had serious reservations regarding the recently negotiated Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which did not have the support of any nuclear‑weapon State.

The representation of Norway said achieving the total elimination of nuclear weapons would require persistence, realism and patience.  For that reason, Norway did not believe that the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons would bring the international community closer to a world without nuclear weapons.  For that reason, it had voted against any draft text that had made reference to that instrument.  He particularly regretted that his delegation could not support “L.28”, which it had supported in past sessions.

The representative of Brazil said it had abstained from voting on “L.47” although it had supported it in previous years.  The adoption of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons had eliminated the need for another instrument to negotiate a ban on atomic bombs.  Negotiating a less ambitious instrument would distract from the ultimate goal.  For the same reason, Brazil would abstain from voting on “L.10”.  However, it had voted in favour of “L.42” in light of continuing support of the integrity of the early entry in force of the Test‑Ban Treaty.  However, it regretted certain references in preambular paragraph 4 and as such would abstain from voting on that part of the draft resolution.

Right of Reply

The representative of the United States, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said the problems on the Korean Peninsula were between the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and the international community.  He said the representative of the Russian Federation should not distort history.   To his counterpart from Iran, he said the language in the 2015 Review Conference outcome document was biased and imposed conditions on only one regional State, which was why the United States had not supported the document.

The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea said the root cause of the situation on the Korean Peninsula was the United States and if that country really wanted peace, it would dismantle its nuclear weapons and join the Non‑Proliferation Treaty as a non‑nuclear State.

The delegate of the Russian Federation said that the claim that his country was violating the Non‑Proliferation Treaty was not serious.  The Russian Federation understood the difficulties Ukraine faced after the bloody coup d’etat, which had been supported by the United States and the European Union.

The delegate of Iran agreed with his counterpart from the United States that history should not be distorted.  Such a notion applied also to the outcome document of the 2015 Review Conference, which was acceptable to all Non‑Proliferation Treaty State parties in the Middle East.  Saying now that it was not acceptable to countries of the Middle East was a clear distortion of history and thus unacceptable.  Israel was the only State rejecting the outcome documents.

The representative of the United States said the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had violated countless Security Council resolutions.  Responding to the delegate of Iran, he said while the United States was a big supporter of nuclear‑weapon‑free zones, it would not happen in the Middle East until all States in the region participated.

The representative of Ukraine said the Russian Federation had invaded her country and started the war.  Despite comments made by the representative of the Russian Federation, that did not change the truth and everyone in the Committee room understood that.

The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea said it rejected the comments made by the delegate of United States, the country that had first produced and detonated a nuclear weapon that had killed hundreds of thousands of civilians.  Pyongyang’s nuclear deterrence was to protect itself against threats made by the United States regime.  He called on the United States to dismantle its nuclear weapon arsenal and enter the Non‑Proliferation Treaty as a non‑nuclear‑weapon State.

The representative of the Russian Federation said events happening in Ukraine represented an open wound for his country and was a painful subject.  Gradually, the whole world would understand what was happening in Ukraine.

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Secretary-General Calls for Strategic Vision, New Model of Governance to Save World’s Seas, as United Nations Ocean Conference Opens

The inaugural United Nations Ocean Conference opened today with a call for urgent action to improve the health of the world’s seas, now in peril after decades of pollution, overfishing and the unattended effects of climate change that were decimating marine life, and in turn, livelihoods.

The Conference, which runs through 9 June, will explore how to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 14:  conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.

Opening the event, Secretary-General António Guterres told world leaders that unless they could overcome the territorial and resource interests that had blocked progress, the state of the oceans would continue to deteriorate.  “We need a new strategic vision,” he said, a new model of ocean governance.  The first step was to end the artificial dichotomy between economic demands and the health of our seas.

Concrete steps were needed, he said, from expanding marine protected areas and managing fisheries, to reducing pollution and cleaning up plastic waste, the latter of which, if left unchecked, would outweigh fish in the sea by 2050.  The political will which had led to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Paris Agreement on climate change and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda must now be translated into funding commitments.  Better data must be gathered and best practices shared.

“Improving the health of our oceans is a test for multilateralism,” he said. “We created these problems.  With decisive, coordinated global action, we can solve them.”

Peter Thomson (Fiji), President of the General Assembly, said the time had come to correct wrongful ways.  It was inexcusable that humanity tipped the equivalent of a garbage truck of plastic into the ocean every minute of every day.  Illegal fishing and harmful fisheries subsidies were driving fish stocks to collapse, he said, while greenhouse gases were causing sea levels to rise.

The task was to ensure that Goal 14 received the support necessary to meet its targets, he said.  “We are here on behalf of humanity to restore sustainability, balance and respect to our relationship with our primal mother, the source of life, the ocean.”

Co-President of the Conference Isabella Lövin, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for International Development Cooperation and Climate of Sweden, said the ocean was 30 per cent more acidic than in pre-industrial times.  Big predatory fish stocks had declined by 70 to 90 per cent, and in some areas, there were more microplastics than plankton.  Without a healthy planet, people would not prosper.  She called on Member States, business, civil society, academia and other stakeholders to start making a real difference.

Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama, Prime Minister of Fiji and Conference Co-President, said oceans were being treated as rubbish dumps.  The rich marine bounty that generations had relied on for sustenance was being destroyed.  He urged participants to act in concert to protect marine resources, stressing that no one country or Government could afford to ignore the magnitude of the threat.  Goal 14 must rocket to the top of the global agenda.

Stressing that oceans had a direct impact on poverty education, health, economic growth, food security and job creation, Frederick Musiiwa Makamure Shava (Zimbabwe), President of the Economic and Social Council, added that solutions must be put into place to ensure that oceans remained a source of life and human well-being for generations.

Wu Hongbo, Secretary-General of the Ocean Conference and Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, said special attention should be paid to the means of implementation for Goal 14, including capacity-building and enhanced financing, which was critical for small island developing States, least developed countries and developing nations alike.

The afternoon featured a partnership dialogue on marine pollution, during which world leaders, along with senior officials from Government, the private sector, scientific community and civil society, explored challenges relating to particular pollutants, such as microplastics, and broader trends, such as the rapid growth of coastal cities, which would require more scientific research, knowledge sharing and governance arrangements.

The Conference — officially titled the United Nations Conference to Support the Implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 14: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development — opened with a traditional Fijian welcome ceremony, featuring three calls of a ceremonial conch shell, a Kava drinking ceremony and cultural dance.

In other business, delegates elected Mr. Bainimarama and Ms. Lövin as the Presidents of the Conference.

The Conference also adopted, without a vote, its rules of procedure (document A/CONF.230/2) and agenda (document A/CONF.230/1), as well as a Secretariat note on organizational and procedural matters (document A/CONF.230/3).  Twelve Vice-Presidents were elected by acclamation:  Algeria, Croatia, Estonia, Guatemala, Indonesia, Ireland, Kenya, Morocco, New Zealand, Poland, Trinidad and Tobago, and Venezuela.  Arthur Amaya Andambi (Kenya) was elected Rapporteur-General.

The nine members of the General Assembly Credentials Committee — Cameroon, China, Malawi, Netherlands, Paraguay, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, Saint Lucia and the United States — were meanwhile appointed members of the Conference Credentials Committee without a vote.

The Ocean Conference will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 6 June.

Opening Statements

ISABELLA LÖVIN, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for International Development Cooperation and Climate of Sweden, and Co-President of the Conference, described the global ocean conveyer belt as a sort of ocean bloodstream that connected everybody.  The ocean accounted for 97 per cent of the living biosphere, contained 1.3 billion cubic kilometres of water and provided 50 per cent of the planet’s oxygen.  Mankind always believed it was endless, infinite and impossible for humans to affect in any significant way, she said, but today it was 30 per cent more acidic than in pre-industrial times, big predatory fish stocks had declined by 70 to 90 per cent and surface waters were getting warmer.  In some areas, there were more microplastics than plankton.

She recalled an interview a few years ago with an Australian yachtsman who, while crossing the Pacific Ocean, saw rubbish floating everywhere, including toys, car tires and telegraph poles.  More recently, researchers on uninhabited Henderson Island, a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Site, found 38 million plastic items on its shore.  “By now we know one thing for certain — the ocean is not endless, not infinite,” she said.  “But it has no borders.  It knows nothing about nations.  It is just one united ecosystem and we are part of it.”

Environmental protection and economic development were inseparable, she said, adding that without a healthy planet, people would not prosper.  Sweden was committed to maintaining the political momentum created by the Paris Agreement on climate change and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and called on all Member States, business, civil society, academia and other stakeholders, to start working towards making a real difference.  “We know what needs to be done.  We know the ocean is broken.  We now need to sit together and make the long to-do list we all need to be ticking off together in order to fix it,” she said, adding that a better moment to do so would never come.

JOSAIA VOREQE BAINIMARAMA, Prime Minister of Fiji and Co-President of the Ocean Conference, said climate change and the state of the world’s oceans could not be separated.  Rising sea levels and ocean acidity had a direct impact on people’s lives and countries’ prosperity.  “We come from opposite sides of the Earth but we are united in our determination to meet the challenges head-on,” he said, appealing to young people in particular to become agents for change, whether by collecting bottles from a beach or banding together to clean up coastal areas.  “Our waterways are choking,” he said, and oceans were being treated as rubbish dumps.  Turtles, dolphins and sharks were being caught in nets, and whales had stomachs full of rubbish.  The rich marine bounty that generations had relied on for sustenance was being destroyed.

He said the degradation must stop, appealing to the world’s people to act in concert to protect marine resources.  “That effort starts now,” he said, pressing to participants to send a message that time was running out to save our seas and oceans.  No one country or Government could afford to ignore the magnitude of the threat.  As a Fijian, he had the Pacific Ocean “running through my blood,” and it said it pained him to see the deterioration of that precious resource.  Where there once had been an abundance of fish, boat hulls were now increasingly sparse or non-existent.  Greedy nations and commercial interests were robbing countries like Fiji of food and livelihoods through over-fishing.  Noting that small island developing States lacked the means to police their economic zones, he said Goal 14 must rocket to the top of the global agenda and he encouraged all participants to make the Ocean Conference a success.

ANTÓNIO GUTERRES, Secretary-General of the United Nations, said oceans and seas covered two thirds of the planet, providing food, energy, water, jobs and economic benefits to every country.  They were a crucial buffer against climate change and a massive resource for sustainable development.  Many nationalities, including his own, had a special relationship with the sea.  The truth was, the sea has a special relationship with all of us.  Yet pollution, over-fishing and the effects of climate change were severely damaging ocean health, he said, with one study finding that plastic in the seas could outweigh fish by 2050.

Indeed, oceans were becoming more acidic, he said, causing coral bleaching and reducing biodiversity, while fisheries in some places were collapsing.  Dead zones — underwater deserts where life could not survive due to a lack of oxygen — were growing rapidly.  Conflicting demands from industry, fishing, shipping, mining and tourism were stressing coastal systems.  While numerous reports, global commissions and scientific assessments had described the serious damage to the world’s most vital life support system, Governments were not making full use of the tools available, including the Convention on the Law of the Sea.

“We created these problems,” he said.  “With decisive, coordinated global action, we can solve them”.  The Sustainable Development Goals must be the road map.  The essential first step must be to end the artificial dichotomy between economic demands and ocean health.  Strong political leadership and new partnerships were needed, based on the existing legal framework, and he commended all who had signed the Call for Action, to be formally adopted this week.  From expanding marine protected areas and managing fisheries, to reducing pollution to cleaning up plastic waste, he called for a step change locally, nationally and globally.  The ongoing work to create a legal framework on conservation and the sustainable use of biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction was particularly important in that regard.

Further, the political will of the 2030 Agenda, the Paris Agreement on climate change and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda must be translated into funding commitments, he said, stressing that better data, information and analysis were also required, because “we can’t improve what we don’t measure”.  Finally, best practices and experiences must be shared.  For its part, the United Nations was committed to providing integrated, coordinated support for the implementation of all historic agreements of the past year.  He was personally determined to break down barriers to improve the Organization’s performance and accountability.

He said the United Nations was building partnerships with Governments, the private sector and civil society, as well as working with international financial institutions on innovative financing to release more funds.  It was harnessing big data to improve the basis for decision-making.  A new strategic vision was needed and he called on Member States to define a new model for ocean governance.  Unless the territorial and resource interests that had blocked progress for too long were overcome, the oceans would continue to deteriorate.  He urged participants to set aside short-term national gain to prevent long-term global catastrophe, stressing that “conserving our oceans and using them sustainably is preserving life itself.”

PETER THOMSON (Fiji), President of the General Assembly, stressed that the Conference offered the best opportunity to reverse the cycle of decline that human activity had brought upon the seas.  Sustainable Development Goal 14 — the ocean’s goal — was humanity’s only universally agreed measure to conserve and sustainably manage its resources.  The task ahead was to ensure that the Goal received the support necessary to meet its critical targets.  “To do that, we need to hear the truth about the state of the ocean,” he said. “We are here on behalf of humanity to restore sustainability, balance and respect to our relationship with our primal mother, the source of life, the ocean.”

Indeed, he said, the time had come to correct wrongful ways.  It was inexcusable that humanity tipped the equivalent of a garbage truck of plastic into the ocean every minute of every day.  “We have unleashed a plague of plastic upon the ocean,” he said, defiling nature in tragic ways.  Illegal and destructive fishing practices, along with harmful fisheries subsidies, were driving fish stocks to collapse, while greenhouse gasses were driving climate change and causing sea-level rise through ocean warming, threatening ocean life through acidification and deoxygenation.

The central conclusion was clear, he said:  To secure a future for our species, action must be taken now on the health of the ocean and on climate change.  With Goal 14 in place within the 2030 Agenda and the Paris Agreement ratified, it was time to demonstrate fidelity to those two life-saving agreements.  Describing the mantra of the Ocean Conference as “human-induced problems have human-devised solutions”, he pledged that participants would work to advance Goal 14 targets of 2020, 2025 and 2030.  They would follow-up with diligence on commitments made, “all along holding ourselves responsible to bequeath a conserved and sustainably managed ocean to the stewards of the future”, he declared.

FREDERICK MUSIIWA MAKAMURE SHAVA (Zimbabwe), President of the Economic and Social Council, said the collective focus this week would be on scaling up efforts to halt ocean degradation and reverse a cycle of decline.  Urgent action needed to be taken.  Noting that the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, among other agreements, had been in place for some time, he said what was now needed was implementation of the 2030 Agenda.

“The issue of conserving and sustainably using our oceans is very complex, as oceans have a direct impact on poverty eradication, health, sustained economic growth, food security and creation of sustainable livelihoods and decent work,” he said.  At the same time, biodiversity and the marine environment must be protected and the impact of climate change addressed.  Political guidance from the high-level political forum that would be held on 10-18 July under the auspices of the Economic and Social Council would be critical for promoting integrated consideration of the Sustainable Development Goals.

He described the Ocean Conference as a unique place to raise awareness and to underscore solutions that must be put into place to ensure that the world’s oceans and seas remained a source of life and human well-being for generations.  The Call to Action that would be adopted by the Conference must be a cooperative effort that ensured a pooling of financial and technical resources as well as technology sharing and capacity-building, he said.

WU HONGBO, Secretary-General of the Ocean Conference and Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, said that without oceans and seas, there would be no life on the planet.  Yet, oceans faced a variety of threats, including climate change, marine pollution, extraction of marine resources, and erosion and destruction of marine and coastal habitats.  Member States had committed to conserve and sustainably use oceans, seas and marine resources through Sustainable Development Goal 14.  The message of the Call for Action was clear.  “The time to act is now,” he said, noting that its 22 specific actions promised to galvanize global commitments and partnerships.

He said the number of voluntary commitments was growing daily, and, importantly, covered all targets of Goal 14.  The coming days were a great opportunity to rally support at all levels, as the Conference was a platform for Governments, United Nations agencies, major groups and others to identify the ways and means to support implementation of Goal 14, by building on existing partnerships and stimulating new ones.  Special attention should focus on the means of implementation, such as capacity-building and enhanced financing, which was critical for small island developing States, least developed countries and developing nations alike.  With broad support from all stakeholders, the Conference would bring about solutions for saving the ocean and advancing implementation of Goal 14.

Partnership Dialogue

In the afternoon, the Ocean Conference held a partnership dialogue on the topic “Addressing marine pollution”.  Moderated by Elliott Harris, Head of the New York Office of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and co-chaired by Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan, Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs of Indonesia, and Vidar Helgesen, Minister of Climate and Environment of Norway, it featured a panel discussion by Nancy Wallace, Director, Marine Debris Program, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, United States Department of Commerce; Kosi Latu, Director-General, Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme; Peter Kershaw, Chair of the Joint Group of Experts on the Scientific Aspects of Marine Environment; and Sybil Seitzinger, Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions, University of Victoria, Canada.

Mr. PANDJAITAN called plastic and microplastic debris a major threat to marine and coastal diversity.  Such debris resulted mostly from solid waste management.  Summarizing Indonesia’s recently launched ocean policy as well as research initiatives, he said the country had come up with a plan of action that incorporated, among other pillars, behavioural change and reducing waste leakage.  He emphasized that plastics manufacturers must be involved in fighting marine pollution.  “We can get rid of this problem because we care and we can,” he said, underscoring the need for action at the national, regional and global level.

Mr. HELGESEN said marine litter was possibly the fastest-growing environmental problem as well as a shared challenge.  Providing an example, he said 30 plastic bags and other pieces of plastic debris were found this past winter in the stomach of a beached whale in Norway.  It was both possible and necessary to act, he said, describing a programme in his country that included waste management as a key component in fighting marine litter.  He said his country was also considering extended producer responsibility, and emphasized the need for a higher level of political attention and united action.

Mr. HARRIS said it was a painful fact that oceans, seas, lakes and other waterways were being damaged — or slowly being strangled — by human activity.  Most ocean pollution originated on land, he said, adding that by some estimates there were more microplastics in the world’s oceans than stars in the galaxy.  Many countries were taking courageous action, he said, citing a Canadian ban on microplastics in personal care products, a French restriction on plastic cutlery and a prohibition on plastic bags in some African countries.  More, however, needed to be done.

Ms. WALLACE said the world’s oceans were overflowing with man-made items that did not belong there, including disposable plastic bags, cigarette butts, derelict fishing nets and abandoned vessels.  Lost and discarded items threated health, safety and wildlife.  Marine debris was a complex global problem that called for a wide array of solutions, she said, the ultimate solution being preventing such debris from getting into the oceans in the first place.  Waste management offered a myriad of solutions, but every country had unique challenges in that regard.  Programmes to increase the value of waste would encourage its collection, she said, underscoring the paramount importance of sharing information on challenges and solutions.

Mr. LATU said that countries in the Pacific region — an area that was 98 per cent water and 2 per cent land, with the world’s most important tuna fisheries — had adopted a Cleaner Pacific Strategy, which addressed all forms of waste, including marine plastics and oil leaking from World War II shipwrecks.  Poor waste disposal, mainly on land but also at sea, contributed to the problem.  Research on fishing vessels found that 37 per cent of the waste dumped overboard was comprised of plastics, he said, emphasizing the need to effectively implement relevant international conventions.  Other solutions would include awareness-raising, encouraging recycling and improved practices on vessels.

Mr. KERSHAW said marine litter was a global problem with regional differences.  Microplastics came in many forms, from those used in toothpaste and facial scrubs to plastic resin beads and the secondary fragments of larger plastic items.  A further challenge was that many durable plastics contained modifying chemicals with toxicological properties.  Some solutions were relatively easy, such as removing microplastics from personal products in which they were not needed, he said.  Others, such textile fibres and vehicle tire dust, were more problematic.  Once it was known how microplastics were leaking into the oceans, then solutions — including partnerships — could be sought.

Ms. SEITZINGER discussed the impact of excessive use of nutrients, including toxic algae blooms, hypoxic regions and coral reef degradation.  Fertilizer and manure were the leading source of inorganic nitrogen, but its impact varied between regions.  No single solution was possible because there were multiple sources related to food and energy production, she said, adding that sewage treatment facilities should be designed to capture nitrogen and phosphorous for reuse.  Noting that billions of dollars were spent on subsidies to encourage the use of fertilizers, particularly in China and India, she said that fewer subsidies could lead to reduced fertilizer use with little impact on grain production.  She went on to suggest that consideration be given to laboratory-grown meat, which would reduce land, water and fertilizer use and eliminate manure production.

In the ensuing interactive debate, ministers, other senior officials and representatives of Member States and international organizations discussed the effects of marine pollution in different parts of the world, as well as measures being taken to address the problem.

MARION HENRY, Secretary of Resource and Development for the Federated States of Micronesia, said that, on his walks along the beach in his country, he saw fewer almonds than he did in his childhood, but many plastics.  Perhaps the easiest solution to the problem would be to stop debris from entering the oceans in the first place.  Comparing ocean debris to dumping garbage over a fence onto a neighbour’s backyard, he said “the ocean is our backyard”, and requested that other States be good neighbours in that regard.

NICOS KOUYIALIS, Minister for Agriculture, Rural Development and Environment of Cyprus, said pollution problems were more profound in enclosed or semi-enclosed seas, such as the Mediterranean.  Another serious problem was eutrophication due to treated and untreated domestic sewage and other discharges from land-based sources, he said, noting that his country, in that regard, had since the early 1980s maintained a “no drop of water in the sea” sewage policy.

KAMINA JOHNSON SMITH, Minister for Foreign affairs and Foreign Trade of Jamaica, said marine pollution had severe consequences for her country.  Forging new partnerships and strengthening existing ones to protect and preserve the maritime space was a responsibility that Jamaica took seriously, she said, citing as an example its participation in the Global Ballast Water Management Project to address the transmission of potentially invasive species.

JOHN SILK, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Marshall Islands, said his country had recently banned the importation and use of single-use plastic bags, which had become more common than fish along its shores.  He added that the Pacific was also struggling with the legacy of events it did not cause, including naval shipwrecks, unexploded ordinance and radioactive contamination.

The representative of the Netherlands said his country’s positon was simple:  litter did not belong in the marine environment.  The Netherlands was committed to an integral approach that emphasized prevention, he said, noting that a ban on plastic bags at point of sale went into effect on 1 January 2016.

The representative of the Stiftelsen Stockholm International Water Institute emphasized the importance of engaging upstream sources of marine pollution.  Otherwise, she said, communities located well away from coastal areas might not feel motivated to take relevant action.

The representative of China said his country was taking a number of steps to address marine pollution, including improving urban sewage treatment systems and adhering to the principles of recycling.  At the international level, China advocated the sharing of successful experiences.  It was also striving to reduce fertilizer use while assessing what further measures would be required.

The representative of The Ocean Cleanup said his organization was developing advanced technology to collect existing marine debris through a system that involved natural ocean currents and a fleet of artificial coast lines.  Once deployed, it could clean up 50 per cent of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in 5 years, he said, adding that it would be easy later on to develop spin-off systems that could intercept plastic debris before it could reach the ocean.

His counterpart from World Animal Protection said the issue of abandoned and lost fishing gear, also known as ghost fishing gear, must feature near the top of the agenda.  It represented 10 per cent of all marine debris, but it was the deadliest to marine life, and after overfishing it was most responsible for declining fish stocks, she said, inviting participants to support the Global Ghost Gear Initiative.

Responding to the discussion, Ms. SEITZINGER said an opportunity existed to address the problem of nutrient pollution.  She added that the benefits of working together should always be present in people’s minds.

Mr. KERSHAW said it was encouraging to hear so many positive initiatives, adding however that better partnerships with industry were needed to deal with solid waste before it come become microplastics.

Mr. LATU said that, in devising solutions, it was important to remember that pollution knew no boundaries.  He added that while some countries seemed to have strong waste management policies, others needed to do more work in that regard.

Ms. WALLACE said she had never seen so much commitment and passion on the marine pollution issue.  The next step would be to turn plans into action.

Mr. PANDJAITAN said that, without action, there would be more plastic in the sea than fish.  No single country could work alone, he said, emphasizing the need to strengthen regional and international measures, with the international community acting at the United Nations level to a clear timeline.

Mr. HELGESEN said he took away from today’s meeting a number of important steps, including stronger enforcements of existing measures, the need to develop new and stronger international commitments to combat marine litter, a process to further harmonize measures to monitor marine debris and forging partnership along the entire plastics value chain to promote a circular economy.  Quoting the “famous philosopher” Elvis Presley, he appealed for a little less conversation and a little more action.

Also participating in the discussion were ministers, other senior officials and representatives of Estonia, Italy, Panama, Netherlands, Peru, Turkey, Indonesia, Algeria, Israel and Honduras, as well as the European Union.

Also taking the floor were representatives of the Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission, United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) and United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

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