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Joint Nordic Statement at the First Committee - 75th General debate

Nordic statement delivered by H.E. Jörundur Valtýsson

Permanent Representative of Iceland

9 October 2020

First Committee – General debate



Mr Chair,


It is an honour to address this Committee on the behalf of the Nordic countries, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden and my own country, Iceland.


The Nordic countries have always been strong proponents of multilateral cooperation as the most efficient means to deal with global security challenges. 


Currently the international community is being put to the test by the COVID-19 pandemic.  This experience should be a strong reminder of the importance of seeking global solutions to our common threats.


The subject matter of this Committee, disarmament, arms control and non-proliferation, is an integral part of the global security environment. We need to redouble our efforts to preserve and further strengthen the existing architecture and its individual institutions, processes, and mechanisms.


With our long standing and strong commitment to disarmament and arms control the Nordic countries stand ready to contribute actively in order to re-energize the work on the whole disarmament agenda.


Renewed impetus is of particular significance when it comes to nuclear disarmament. This year 75 years have passed since Hiroshima and Nagasaki were victims of nuclear weapons.  This tragic reminder should inspire us all to make extra strides towards nuclear disarmament.  This year also marks the 50th anniversary of the entry into force of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty - the instrument that is the foundation to advance nuclear disarmament. 


The forced delay of the NPT Review Conference should not diminish the pride that State Parties can take in the success of the Treaty.  Nonetheless, we still have to fulfil our duty to take the Treaty and our commitments forward to full implementation, in particular article VI on nuclear disarmament, clearly by taking the necessary next steps. 


The Nordic states have supported, initiated, and developed important and concrete actions for the furtherance of the implementation of the NPT Treaty. We attach high hopes to various initiatives, especially the Stockholm Initiative on Nuclear Disarmament and CEND. 


Nuclear disarmament verification is another area that is crucial to progress nuclear disarmament and arms control.  The Nordic countries have been instrumental in advancing the work through initiatives like the Quad Partnership, IPNDV and through the UN.  This year, a decision on nuclear disarmament verification has been tabled to keep up this important work on the Committee´s agenda. We hope for universal support for the decision. 


The Nordic countries pledge their full and continued support for the work of International Atomic Energy Agency in its crucial role underpinning the implementation of the NPT Treaty through its safeguard agreements and additional protocols - whereby peaceful use of nuclear energy can be verified and ultimately promoted.  The efforts for universalising the IAEA safeguards system and the additional protocol are of utmost importance.


The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty is an integral part of the nuclear disarmament architecture.  We strongly urge states outside the Treaty, in particular the remaining Annex II states, to sign and ratify the Treaty - thereby guaranteeing universal moratorium in nuclear testing. We also reaffirm our support for early negotiation and conclusion of a Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty.


Apart from challenges to the existing institutional framework for nuclear disarmament there are other developments that create risks and challenges in the nuclear field.


The demise of the INF, triggered by the non-compliance of Russia, marked another step towards the erosion of the international arms control architecture.  We are presently witnessing an unclear situation regarding the last bilateral arms reduction treaty, the New START.  The Nordic countries welcome the on-going strategic stability dialogue between the United States and Russia and reaffirm our call for the extension of the New START.


Further, the Nordic countries encourage China to join substantive talks on nuclear arms control.  We also support the inclusion of non-strategic weapons in such discussions since the distinction between strategic and non-strategic weapons is increasingly blurred. Milestone treaties should not be abandoned - particularly in light of development of new and modernised nuclear capabilities and growing rivalry. 


The Democratic People´s Republic of Korea continues to pose a major threat to global security. Its illegal nuclear weapon and missile programmes continue to remain in violation of numerous UN Security Council resolutions. We note the lack of progress in the dialogue between the US and the DPRK - thereby requiring continued strict implementation of the sanctions against the latter. 


The Nordic countries reiterate their call on the Democratic People´s Republic of Korea to make good on its commitments, including signing and ratifying the CTBT. The complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearisation of North Korea is the only way to sustainable peace and security on the Korean Peninsula.


The Nordic countries continue to fully support the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. Its coming into being remains a landmark of multilateral diplomacy.  We urge the Iranian authorities to return to full compliance with the agreement and we expect Iran´s full cooperation with the IAEA on all its safeguards obligations. 


Mr. Chair,


The erosion of norms against the use of weapons of mass destruction is currently affecting the Chemical Weapons Convention. The re-emergence of chemical weapons is one of the most urgent threats to international peace and security and has to be dealt with firmly and collectively.


In recent years we have witnessed use of chemical weapons in Syria, Iraq and Malaysia and the UK, and most recently in the attempted murder of a Russian citizen in his own country. 


The Nordic countries reaffirm their absolute condemnation of the most recent use of chemical weapon - the assassination attempt on Alexei Navalny, who was poisoned in Russia by a military chemical nerve agent of the “Novichok” group.  We reiterate our call on Russia, as a matter of urgency, to be fully transparent and bring those responsible to justice - bearing in mind Russia´s commitments under the Chemical Weapons Convention.


We condemn the Syrian Arab Republic´s continued violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention, as most recently concluded by the first report of the OPCW Investigation and Identification Team.  Perpetrators of chemical attacks in Syria must be identified and held accountable.  We look forward to the next report of the ITT. 


Any use of chemical weapons, under any circumstances, is a clear breach of international law and the Chemical Weapons Convention, which prohibits the use of all chemical weapons, and can amount to the most serious crimes of international concern – war crimes and crimes against humanity. 


Impunity for the breaches of the global norms against chemical weapons must not be tolerated.  Those responsible must be held to account.  This will be facilitated by the ability of the OPCW to identify perpetrators of such heinous crimes. As strong supporters of the OPCW, we underline our full and unequivocal confidence in the objectivity, impartiality, independence, and technical expertise of the OPCW Technical Secretariat.


Mr. Chair,


The Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention is a vital pillar of the disarmament regime. With a view to the upcoming review conference next year and the global pandemic, it is timely to recommit to this important treaty and constructively attend to its implementation.


Mr. Chair,


Although weapons of mass destruction are dominating the disarmament dialogue in general and that for valid reasons. There are many other important disarmament and arms control issues on the agenda in this distinguished committee - issues that require our full attention, whether they fall under the umbrella of conventional weapons or new initiatives on other kind of weapons.


The Nordic countries note the successful outcome of the 20th Anniversary Conference of the Anti-Personnel Landmine Treaty held in Oslo last November. The strong and ambitious action plan and the road map that was agreed at the Conference needs to be implemented with strong determination in order to achieve a mine free world by 2025.  We urge other participating states to join us in that effort and hope that more states sign up to this successful treaty that contributes so much to the humanitarian cause.


The Annual Conference of the State Parties to the Arms Trade Treaty took place in August under difficult conditions due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In the work ahead, the Nordic countries underline the importance of full implementation of the treaty. Transparency and information sharing are of utmost importance in reducing the risk of diversion. Continued attention to the risks of serious acts of gender-based violence is essential.  


The Nordic countries support the work of the GGE on Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems (LAWS), in particular the 11 guiding principles adopted by consensus last year and consequently highlighted in the statement of the Alliance for Multilateralism.  It will be important to advance work on these principles, especially regarding human – machine interaction, in the GGE´s work leading up to the CCW review conference next year.


The Nordic countries are firmly committed to the prevention of an arms race in outer space.  In light of the rapid developments and growing interest by many states we want to contribute to breaking the impasse on the discussions regarding this issue. Strengthened multilateral cooperation is needed to preserve and enhance the safety, security, and sustainability in outer space activities. To this end we welcome and support the draft resolution „Reducing Space Threats Through Responsible Behaviour “.


The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored how dependent the world has become on information and communications technology (ICT). A globally accessible, free, open, and secure cyberspace is now, more than ever, fundamental to how the world operates. Unfortunately, the increase in malicious cyber activity witnessed during the last decade has not slowed with COVID-19.


In fact, the year 2020 has revealed that malicious state and non-state actors will take advantage of any opportunity in cyber space - even a global pandemic. The Nordic countries welcome efforts to merge the current parallel tracks on international cybersecurity within the UN to a single Programme of Action. The establishment of such a programme would create a permanent, long-term home for these issues under the aegis of the United Nations. The progress achieved so far within the Open-Ended Working Group and the Group of Governmental Experts provides an important point of departure for further discussions. We need to further our understanding of the applicability of international law and ensure that already agreed norms are implemented to ensure the stability of cyberspace.


Let me just briefly mention the initiative to address explosive weapons in populated areas (EWIPA).  The Nordic countries are keen to support the current efforts to develop a political declaration, which addresses the protection of the civilian population that suffer from indiscriminate use of explosive weapons within urban areas. This is a humanitarian challenge that must be addressed urgently considering the growing number and intensity of conflicts affecting populated areas. 


Mr. Chair,


Last but certainly not least let me turn to an issue that should be weaved into the very fabric of our work, procedures, and substance, and that is gender. Gender equality and the empowerment of women, and a gendered approach to our substantive work, should be the order of the day. The Nordic countries accept nothing less.


Mr. Chair,


At the outset, the Nordic countries emphasised the importance of reinvigorated multilateralism in addressing the challenges facing the international rules-based disarmament regime.  The individual pieces of this complicated architecture that disarmament, arms control and non-proliferation instruments form, all need their special attention and new measures must be developed.  This is, in essence, the work ahead for this Committee. Stakes are high, and we should be guided by the aim of preserving and strengthening global peace and security.


The Nordic countries will make every effort to contribute constructively to the important work of the First Committee and beyond. In that endeavour they will be guided by the time-tested spirit of Nordic cooperation and compassion.


I thank you.


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