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Statement at the General Debate of the First Committee by Ambassador Jörundur Valtýsson, Permanent Representative of Iceland to the UN

Statement by H.E. Jörundur Valtýsson,

Permanent Representative of Iceland to the United Nations

General Assembly 75th session, 9 October 2020

First Committee – General debate



Mr Chairman,


Let me join others in congratulating you and the members of the Bureau on your election and wish you every success during this session. Having delivered a statement on behalf of the Nordic countries, I would briefly like to highlight few key issues from a national perspective.


Mr Chair,


The current COVID-19 crisis is a stark reminder that global challenges call for a global response, openness, and transparency. Hopefully, this experience will guide our co-operation to counter the growing tensions, distrust, and non-compliance that increasingly define the global arms control, disarmament, and non-proliferation agenda. 


In the nuclear domain, we need to safeguard some of the key multilateral and bilateral agreements that brought us out of the wasteful arms race of the Cold War, not least the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), that are both up for review. 


Having postponed the NPT-review conference, we should make use of the time to better prepare and build bridges. The NPT treaty continues to be effective in preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons while safeguarding the benefits of nuclear technology for civilian use. We need to move forward and strengthen the third pillar of the Treaty on nuclear disarmament. It is incumbent upon all of us to make an extra effort to deliver on the implementation of Article VI.


The New START plays a crucial role for international stability, limiting the number of strategic nuclear weapons and, consequently, providing confidence-building measures for the benefit of all. We look forward to positive outcome of the US – Russia dialogue on strategic balance, including the extension of the New START. Furthermore, we encourage China to engage with Russia and the United States on nuclear arms control and disarmament.   


Other mechanisms and agreements should be fully utilised, including the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, that provides a verification system fostering trust and transparency and is widely supported by the UN membership. All states, not already members, should sign and ratify the treaty, in particular those states belonging to Annex II of the CTBT. Iceland reaffirms it strong support for commencing negotiations on a Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty, to further cement existing non- proliferation arrangements.


Mr Chair,


It is regrettable to note the continued threat that the Democratic People´s Republic of Korea poses to global security with its illegal nuclear program in violation of UN Security Council resolutions. The DPRK needs to revert to responsible actions and join the CTBT and return to the NPT.


Iceland supports the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action and we urge Iran to fully comply with the agreement and fulfil their commitments in full cooperation with the IAEA.


As we commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings, we should work together towards a world without the existential threat of nuclear weapons, pursuing nuclear disarmament based on a mutual, balanced, verifiable, and irreversible step by step approach.


Mr Chair,


The Chemical Weapons Convention is currently being tested due to the re-emergence of the use of chemical weapons.  Today, we have an on-going case with a Russian citizen poisoned in his own country - a tragic event that must be thoroughly investigated without any delay.  The use of chemical weapons is utterly unacceptable by anyone anywhere.  All such incidents need to be thoroughly investigated, and the perpetrators of such heinous crimes held accountable. In that regard, Iceland firmly commends the role of the OPCW and its ongoing investigative efforts, which are guided by strong integrity, impartiality, and outstanding expertise. 


When discussing the weapons of mass destruction, we must reaffirm our commitment to the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention, which will come under review next year. The need to review its implementation is becoming increasingly urgent in the light of rapid biotechnical advances and the current pandemic situation.


Mr. Chair,


The urgency of arms control, disarmament, and non-proliferation when it comes to weapons of mass destruction is undisputable.  However, that must not be to the detriment of the work in field of conventional disarmament and fast emerging weapons technology. The importance of preserving, universalising, and developing treaties and initiatives in conventional weapons sphere is no less critical for the global security and sustainable development.


The illicit trade in small arms and light weapons continues to undermine peace, development, and human rights. Effective implementation of the Arms Trade Treaty and the Programme of Action on small arms is key to reversing this negative trend that significantly affects sustainable development. Iceland also welcomes the significant role these arm control instruments play in preventing gender-based violence in conflict situations.


Iceland welcomes the successful results of the 20th Anniversary Conference of the Anti-Personnel Landmine Treaty, held in Oslo last year, where the goal of land-mine free world in 2025 was reinforced with solid implementation. Another important stride in the right direction is the attempt to address explosive weapons in populated areas (EWIPA), which Iceland strongly supports.


Recent months, with most societies in lockdown, have left no one in doubt about the vital significance of information technology and cyber stability for individuals and states alike. The weaknesses in our systems also make us more vulnerable to irresponsible behaviour, surveillance, and attacks by state and non-state actors. 


We need to streamline and bring together different UN workstreams on cyber security and stability, building on existing international frameworks and norms. Furthermore, we should explore how we can best build capacity and safeguard human rights and fundamental freedoms in the cyber domain.


New challenges and frontiers in the field of disarmament, including increasing activities in outer space and lethal autonomous weapons, need to be coherently addressed, drawing on existing international law, norms, and conventions. Any translation of the growing interest in activities in outer space into arms race or, for that matter, weaponization of space is unacceptable.


We are encouraged by the work of the GGE on the lethal autonomous weapons, in particular its consensus on the 11 Guiding Principles.  We hope for concrete results based on these principles in time for the CCW Review Conference in late 2021.


Mr. Chair,


It is of deep concern that many of the treaties forming the complex rules-based global disarmament architecture are under serious financial strain.  We urge all states to fulfil their financial commitments under the relevant treaties.  Investment in disarmament, arms control and non-proliferation cannot fail under the present conditions of uncertainty when it comes to global security.  


The 75th anniversary of the United Nations should be used as an opportunity to reinvigorate the UN disarmament agenda. We clearly need more resources, creative thinking, and inclusivity, not least making sure that women have an active and equal role in arms control and disarmament in line with UNSCR 1325. 


Let me end by wishing us all a productive and constructive session.


Thank you.


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