Security Council Open Debate on “Challenges in addressing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, their means of delivery and related materials” (23 August 2016)
Few issues are as relevant as the one chosen for this debate, as the risk of the use of WMD challenges global security and human existence itself. Unfortunately, far from being a threat from the past, the proliferation of WMD has not decreased, as proven by the actions of the Democratic and Popular Republic of Korea, or the use of chemical weapons in Syria and Iraq.
Mr. President, Spain fully endorses the statement to be delivered by the EU, and would like to make the following considerations in its national capacity.
(I. THE WORLD IN 2004.)
In 2004, the report entitled “A more secure world: our shared responsibility” (document A/59/565) noted that the United Nations was created to avoid war, but recognised that the greatest threats would result, among other factors, from the proliferation and possible use of nuclear, radiological, chemical and biological weapons, as well as terrorism, and stated that the threats would come both from State and Non-State actors. It also highlighted that the technological revolution offered unique opportunities for cooperation, as well as unprecedented scope for destruction.
The analysis conducted in 2004 allowed, among other things, the adoption of resolution 1540 (2004), which marked a turning point in the non-proliferation architecture. The analysis was backed up by facts, such as the existence of a smuggling network of nuclear weapons technology, or evidence about the intentions of terrorist organisations to obtain WMD.
(II. The world in 2016)
Twelve years later, that analysis is valid, although science and technology have evolved at a faster pace than we can assimilate, and the globalisation of commercial, logistic and economic transactions makes it harder for States to control proliferation activities, and may enable terrorists to take advantage of transnational criminal networks to have access to WMD. We are not exaggerating when we say that the link between terrorism and WMD is the main threat.
(1. Science, technology and globalisation)
The risks and challenges brought about by advances in science and technology (in the context of the so-called “Fourth Industrial Revolution”) develop at a quicker pace than Governments’ ability to respond. So it is necessary to take action as soon as possible. In this regard, the SC plays a key role. International conventions and the adoption of “standards” by the concerned institutions are relevant tools too.
The previous statements have highlighted some of the risks we face. As way of example, genetic engineering can create new diseases that can be spread with drones; 3D printing enables the production of ADM components; and the use of the Internet (through the “Deep” and “Dark” webs) may ease illicit intangible transfers of technologies, terrorist communication and propaganda, the funding of proliferation (through the use of Bitcoins or online payments), and even serve as a vector to carry out “cyberattacks” against key facilities (one of the biggest threats presently).
The use of drones as a means of delivery of WMD entails a special challenge, especially if they are used to carry chemical and biological agents. An additional problem is that the export control regimes such as the MTCR do not cover them. This is something that we have to reflect upon.
On a different note, the specialized reports (such as those by the IAEA, INTERPOL or the “Nuclear Threat Initiative”) show that there has been a sustained increase in nuclear and chemical incidents, whilst they have been more sporadic in the biological field. Nonetheless, the variety of agents that have been used, as well as the rapid scientific and technological developments in this field are worrisome. Certainly, the biological sector needs more attention, especially because of the absence of a relevant organisation.
In this regard, one of the problems we face is the absence of a unified database on incidents, and if we want to prevent we first need to know what we are trying to prevent. My delegation would like to propose that the SC considers elaborating such a database. Such tool is plausible using the current United Nations structures in coordination with relevant organizations.
(2.Terrorism and WMD)
On the other hand, terrorism has intensified: terrorists are more determined than ever to get hold of WMD, chemical weapons have been used in Syria and Iraq, and there are reports warning about the real possibility of WMD attacks.
Furthermore, we note that internal instability and situations of conflict are a breeding ground for proliferation by terrorist groups, as has been recognised, among others, by the Libyan and the Iraqi authorities. In this regard, I must acknowledge the swift response by the Council, through resolution 2298 (2016), to the Libyan request to have its chemical weapons destroyed, or the active role of the 1540 Committee in assisting Iraq in the implementation of resolution 1540, a key instrument to prevent the proliferation of WMD.
(III. Now is the time to act)
I believe that what has been said so far in this debate proves the magnitude of the challenges we face. However, it is not late. Now is the time to act.
Initiatives such as the Nuclear Security Summits process, the IAEA Nuclear Security Conference, or the VIII Review Conference of the BWC (Biological Weapons Convention) contribute to the strengthening of the international non-proliferation order. In such a process, the Security Council plays a primary role as the main guarantor of international peace and security.
In this regard, I would like to mention two areas.
Firstly, the conclusions reached by the Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM, which will be available tomorrow), should feed our analysis on ways to reinforce the non-proliferation system. I believe that the work of the JIM has highlighted the deterrent power that the attribution of responsibilities for the use of WMD can have; the need for States to account for and protect their chemical and biological materials; and the need for the Security Council to be proactive vis a vis situations of crisis where sensitive materials could be used unduly.
Moreover, we believe it would be worth reflecting on how to incorporate the investigative powers regarding WMD incidents to the current efforts to strengthen the non-proliferation architecture. We esteem that we could analyse how to develop a greater interaction between the preventive role of resolution 1540, on the one hand, and investigation and attribution of responsibilities as a preventive and deterrent mechanism, on the other.
Secondly, the process of the Comprehensive Review of resolution 1540 should facilitate an update of the framework set up by the resolution, with the ultimate aim of preventing non-State actors from using WMD and related materials as risks and threats have not decreased.
Ultimately, this process should allow us to:
• reinforce the capacity of the United Nations to prevent the proliferation of WMD and achieve greater coordination among the components of the non-proliferation system;
• to have a more focussed approach (for instance, we know that the biological and chemical sectors, export controls and the financing of proliferation need more attention);
• to promote a more proactive approach to avoid major crises;
• to improve the assistance to States;
• and, finally, to achieve more transparency in the fight against proliferation, actively involving civil society.
I thank you.-