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Prevention, Development Must be Central in All Efforts Tackling Emerging Complex Threats to International Peace, Secretary‑General Tells Security Council

Prevention and development must be at the centre of all efforts to address both the quantitative and qualitative changes that were emerging in threats around the world, the Secretary‑General of the United Nations told the Security Council today, as some 60 Member States participated in an all‑day debate tackling complex contemporary challenges to international peace and security.

António Guterres said the perils of nuclear weapons were once again front and centre, with tensions higher than those during the Cold War.  Climate change was a threat multiplier and technology advances had made it easier for extremists to communicate.  Conflicts were longer, with some lasting 20 years on average, and were more complex, with armed and extremist groups linked with each other and with the worldwide threat of terrorism.  Transnational drug smugglers and human traffickers were perpetuating the chaos and preying on refugees and migrants.

The changing nature of conflict meant rethinking approaches that included integrated action, he said, stressing that prevention must be at the centre of all efforts.  Development was one of the best instruments of prevention.  The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development would help build peaceful societies.  Respect for human rights was also essential and there was a need to invest in social cohesion so that all felt they had a stake in society. 

He also emphasized that women’s participation was crucial to success, from conflict prevention to peacemaking and sustaining peace.  Where women were in power, societies flourished, he pointed out.  Sexual violence against women, therefore, must be addressed and justice pursued for perpetrators. 

Prevention also included preventive diplomacy, he said, noting that the newly established High-level Advisory Board on Mediation had met for the first time.  The concept of human security was a useful frame of reference for that work, as it was people‑centred and holistic and emphasized the need to act early and prioritize the most vulnerable.

“Let us work together to enhance the Council’s focus on emerging situations, expand the toolbox, increase resources for prevention, and be more systematic in avoiding conflict and sustaining peace,” he said, emphasizing the need for Council unity.  Without it, he said, the parties to conflict might take more inflexible and intransigent positions, and the drivers of conflict might push situations to the point of no return.

Japan’s representative, Council President for December, spoke in his national capacity, noting that in the 25 years since the end of the Cold War, there had been a rise in complex contemporary challenges to international peace and security.  That included the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, the expansion of terrorism, and non‑traditional challenges such as non‑State actors and inter‑State criminal organizations. 

While the Council had been tackling those challenges, in most cases through a country or region‑specific context, he stressed that a human security approach was highly relevant when addressing complex contemporary challenges to international peace and security.  Such an approach placed the individual at the centre, based on a cross‑sectoral understanding of insecurities.  It also entailed a broadened understanding of threats and challenges. 

In the ensuing debate, speakers emphasized the need to adjust to the changing challenges to international peace and security and welcomed the Secretary General’s reform of the Organization’s security pillar and other initiatives.  Many stressed the need to address root causes of instability and conflict, including climate change, non‑State armed groups, extremism and terrorism, as well as poverty and underdevelopment. 

Calling for creativity in the Council’s efforts, they underlined the importance of prevention, and stressed the responsibility of the 15‑member organ to address threats to international peace and security at an early stage.  Delegations also called for strengthen cooperation and coordination with other United Nations bodies and with regional and subregional organizations.  Ending impunity for serious international crimes was equally crucial, with some delegates stressing the importance of effective cooperation with the International Criminal Court.

Other speakers took issue with the way the Security Council was functioning, with Turkey’s representative pointing out that the Council had failed many times to show timely and adequate responses to emerging crises, often as the result of the use, or the threat, of veto, which disabled the Council’s effectiveness. 

India’s delegate said a non‑representative Council, designed long ago to maintain a balance of power between rival States, was unable to handle challenges which had changed beyond recognition over the decades.  “An instrument that is no longer considered legitimate and has lost its credibility cannot be our hope for salvation,” he said, adding that “speech acts”, such as the current open debate, would have little impact.

The Russian Federation’s representative said it would be useful for the General Assembly, the Economic and Social Council and other organs of the United Nations to consider the links between peace and security and socioeconomic and environmental issues.  Integrating all factors should not come under the work of the Council, which did not have the capacity in those other areas and for which the basic responsibilities in peace and security must remain the focus. 

China’s representative stressed the importance of firmly upholding the principles of the Charter of the United Nations, saying that the Council must respect sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence of States as well as their right to choose their own social structures.  The major organs of the United Nations should stick to their mandates while coordinating their efforts. 

Some Member States addressed specific challenges to peace and security.  The representative of Tuvalu, speaking for the Pacific small island developing States, underscored that climate change was not going away and was the most pressing contemporary security challenge.  The Secretary‑General should appoint a special representative on climate and security who could produce a report, in cooperation with scientific bodies, that identified and analysed potentially dangerous tipping points at the nexus of climate and security, he said. 

Slovenia’s delegate drew attention to water scarcity as a threat to stability, recalling the work of the Global High‑level Panel on Water and Peace chaired by the former President of her country.  Regional cooperation was vital in preventing water from becoming a cause of conflict or an amplifying risk, she stressed, citing successful practices in the Western Balkans region, as seen in the Sava River basin, which could serve as a model for water‑related cooperation.

Addressing cyber threats, Lithuania’s representative, also speaking for Latvia and Estonia, said hybrid threats and cybersecurity were priority issues for the Baltic States, noting that concerns regarding the Russian Federation’s interference in national election processes were not limited to European countries.  Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania had faced a politically motivated series of cyberattacks.  To cope with the strikes, the public and private sectors, as well as civil society, must cooperate. 

The Deputy Foreign Minister for Ukraine also spoke, as did representatives of Sweden, Egypt, Bolivia, United Kingdom, France, Kazakhstan, Uruguay, Senegal, United States, Ethiopia, Italy, Colombia, Liechtenstein, Pakistan, Hungary, Switzerland, Norway (for the Nordic countries), South Africa, Germany, Belgium, Indonesia, Peru, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, Ecuador, Kyrgyzstan, Qatar, Azerbaijan, Kuwait, Viet Nam, Mexico, Slovakia, Ghana, Chile, Guatemala, Botswana, Netherlands, Greece, Armenia, Australia, Morocco, Lebanon, Nepal, Maldives, Portugal and Bangladesh, as well as the European Union delegation.

Representatives of the Russian Federation and Ukraine took the floor for a second and third time.

The meeting began at 10:02 a.m. and ended at 4:20 p.m.

Opening Remarks

ANTÓNIO GUTERRES, Secretary‑General of the United Nations, said there had not only been a quantitative but also a qualitative change in threats to international peace and security.  The perils of nuclear weapons were once again front and centre, with tensions higher than those during the Cold War.  Climate change was a threat multiplier.  Inequality and exclusion fed frustration and marginalization.  Threats to cybersecurity were escalating and technology advances had made it easier for extremists to communicate. 

While the number of armed conflicts had declined over the long‑term, they had surged in the Middle East and Africa, he continued, with many lasting on average more than 20 years.  Conflicts were also more complex as armed groups competed for control over State institutions, natural resources and territory.  Extremist groups left little room for diplomacy.  There was also an increased regionalization and internationalization of conflicts.  Clashes were more linked with each other and with the worldwide threat of terrorism.  Transnational drug smugglers and human traffickers perpetuated the chaos and preyed on refugees and migrants.

The changing nature of conflict meant rethinking approaches which must include integrated action, he underlined.  Such efforts must be coherent, coordinated and context‑specific, working across pillars.  Towards that aim, he had initiated three inter‑linked reform efforts focused at repositioning the United Nations development system, streamlining internal management and strengthening the Secretariat’s peace and security architecture.  He had also sought to forge closer links with regional partners. 

He stressed that prevention must be at the centre of everything, as it would avoid human suffering and even save money.  Prevention was a sound investment that brought ample and visible dividends, and development was one of the best instruments of prevention.  The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development would help build peaceful societies.  Respect for human rights was also essential in prevention.  There was a need to invest in social cohesion so that all felt they had a stake in society. 

As well, gender equality was closely linked with resilience, he said, stressing that women’s participation was crucial to success, from conflict prevention to peacemaking and sustaining peace.  Where women were in power, societies flourished, he pointed out.  Therefore, it was critical that sexual violence against women be addressed and justice pursued for perpetrators.

Prevention also included preventive diplomacy, he said, noting that the newly established High‑level Advisory Board on Mediation had met for the first time.  The concept of human security was a useful frame of reference for that work.  Human security was people‑centred and holistic; it stressed the need to act early and prioritize the most vulnerable.

“Let us work together to enhance the Council’s focus on emerging situations, expand the toolbox, increase resources for prevention, and be more systematic in avoiding conflict and sustaining peace,” he said, emphasizing the need for unity in the 15‑member organ.  Without that unity, the parties to conflict might take more inflexible and intransigent positions, and the drivers of conflict might push situations to the point of no return.  “But with unity, we can advance security and well‑being for all,” he underscored.

Statements

KORO BESSHO (Japan), Council President for December, spoke in his national capacity, noting that in the 25 years since the end of the Cold War, some parts of the world had been enjoying the benefits of improvements in science and technology, from groundbreaking medicines to new frontiers in outer space.  However, during the same period, there had been a rise in complex contemporary challenges to international peace and security, including the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and the expansion of terrorism.  Peace operations were also facing non‑traditional challenges such as non‑State actors and inter‑State criminal organizations.

The Security Council had been tackling those challenges, in most cases through a country or region‑specific context, he said.  It was important for the Council to discuss those complex contemporary challenges to international peace and security in a holistic and methodological manner.  However, it needed to increase its focus on effectiveness throughout the whole conflict cycle.  At the same time, close attention must be paid to the fact that peace and security, development and human rights were closely interlinked.  It was vital for the Council to enhance cooperation with other organs, both within the United Nations system and beyond.

A human security approach was highly relevant when addressing complex contemporary challenges to international peace and security, he continued, adding that such an approach placed the individual at the centre, based on a cross‑sectoral understanding of insecurities.  It also entailed a broadened understanding of threats and challenges.  Japan had consistently provided human‑centred and comprehensive assistance through cross‑sectoral efforts with a range of partners.  As for the Secretary‑General’s ongoing initiative for the reform of the United Nations, he said that the resolution on the restructuring of the Organization’s peace and security pillar was being tabled for adoption at the General Assembly.  Although the scope of that resolution did not include Security Council reform, no reform would be complete without the reform of that 15‑member organ.

SERGIY KYSLYTSYA, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs for Ukraine, associating himself with the statement to be made by the European Union, said that while criticism of the Council’s work was mostly justified, there was currently no alternative entity to safeguard international peace and security.  The Council had achieved some positive results in recent years, including its role in implementing an agreement between the Government of Colombia and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC‑EP).  With the adoption of resolution 2349 (2017), the Council demonstrated an openness to addressing some of the underlying causes in the complex crisis in the Lake Chad Basin region.  It had also been active in addressing the threat of terrorism, engaging in a number of discussions and taking landmark decisions.  Because threats to international peace and security could not effectively be addressed in isolation, he welcomed the expansion of the Council’s agenda to include challenges such as human rights, development and climate change, to name a few.  Nonetheless, among the Council’s shortcomings or even outright failures were unresolved challenges in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and tragic events in the Middle East, as well as blatant violations of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on Their Destruction that continued with impunity.  Further, he expressed regret at the erosion of the rule of law, which was most obviously manifested in the aggressive policy of the Russian Federation towards its neighbours.

OLOF SKOOG (Sweden), aligning himself with the statements to be made by the European Union and the Nordic countries, said that international peace and security was increasingly hampered by the negative impacts of multidimensional poverty, climate change, transnational organized crime, food insecurity, weak governance, human rights violations and growing inequality.  The Council’s preventive role was now more important than ever before.  However, prevention was not possible without a comprehensive and holistic strategy to address the root causes and the conflict amplifiers.  While ongoing reform efforts would better position the United Nations system to enhance its joint analysis and integrated strategic planning capacities, it was also crucial to consistently integrate a gender perspective into long‑terms strategies.

AMR ABDELLATIF ABOULATTA (Egypt) said that an innovative approach, coordinated through the United Nations and focused on root causes, was needed to meet current interrelated, complex challenges to international peace and security.  In its analysis of conflicts and potential conflicts, the Secretariat must take into account the nature of each situation on a case‑by‑case basis.  The effectiveness of the Peacebuilding Commission must also be strengthened so that it could work with the Council to lay the foundation for stability in countries at risk.  Transnational challenges must be met through close coordination with regional organizations.  National ownership must be ensured in all efforts with the support of the international community, so that institutions capable of confronting all current challenges could be built.  He stressed that each organ of the United Nations must respect the mandate of the others, so that they could each adequately take on their respective responsibilities and not duplicate efforts.

PEDRO LUIS INCHAUSTE JORDÁN (Bolivia) said that the Council efforts were constantly endangered both by insufficient implementation of established mechanisms and the lack of coordination to prevent duplication of efforts.  Mediation, prevention and use of good offices, as well as use of Chapters VI and VIII of the Charter of the United Nations should be better used for peaceful settlement of disputes, with Chapter VII tools only used after other strategies had been well applied.  Unilateral actions were also imperilling the Council’s efforts to maintain peace and security.  Such action often resulted in negative consequences for entire regions by creating vacuums of authority, in which terrorist fighters could fill the void.  Robust actions must be taken to meet the terrorist threat.  Prohibition of nuclear weapons, in addition, was an important goal to meet to reduce the threat of devastating conflict.  As a pacifist country, his country would continue to advocate for the peaceful settlement of conflict to avoid the scourge of war and all its consequences, he said.

Matthew John Rycroft (United Kingdom) said that not only emerging threats but also conventional threats had been fuelled by developing transnational challenges, from internet incitement to enslavement of migrants.  All such factors must be confronted at home, in partnership, and multilaterally.  For example, at home, his country was tackling illicit financial flows that funded armed groups, terrorists and corruption, through new legislative acts.  The United Kingdom was also assisting 13 countries in meeting climate threats to reduce their vulnerability.  Multilaterally, it was supporting action of the Security Council, the General Assembly and the Human Rights Council to address the complex and diverse challenges.  For those organs to play their full role, the reforms proposed by the Secretary‑General must be supported.  That would enable the Organization to more effectively sustain peace, meet the Sustainable Development Goals and build respect for human rights.  He pointed out that, during the current open debate, millions of people were experiencing displacement, hunger and conflict as a single reality.  Those ills should all be addressed at the same time to achieve a safer world for all.

FRANÇOIS DELATTRE (France) affirmed that Council debates in 2017 had illustrated that the complex challenges facing international peace and security must, in the context of globalization, be met by a global response.  The United Nations must use all its tools to assist States in an integrated manner that addresses deep‑rooted causes.  Terrorism must be faced by addressing all factors — economic, political, cultural and social — along with multilateral security responses and regional arrangements supported by the international community such as the Group of Five for the Sahel (G5 Sahel) joint force.  Those responses must be accompanied by long‑term support for development.  Climate change, often exacerbating crises, must be met by technological and financial means, starting with the immediate implementation of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.  The Council should also be in close communication with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and other mechanisms so that it could react quickly to grave violations.  All challenges, along with ever‑present threats such as nuclear proliferation and inter‑State tensions, must be addressed by every State collectively, along with the mechanisms of the United Nations.  Therefore, he voiced his country’s full support for the Secretary‑General’s efforts to increase the effectiveness of the Organization.

KAIRAT UMAROV (Kazakhstan), expressing full support for the Secretary‑General’s reform proposals to make the United Nations more effective, called for a comprehensive, integrated strategy in which the priority of sustaining peace ran through all efforts.  His country had seen the importance of that approach since its independence and for that reason had been at the forefront of conflict prevention, including the establishment of the United Nations Regional Centre for Preventive Diplomacy for Central Asia, among other efforts.  Reducing the threat of military confrontation was a priority for Kazakhstan, as shown by its hosting of conferences on Syria that had helped de‑escalate areas and promote political progress.  Peacekeeping operations had to become more viable and accountable, with adequate staff and equipment.  The Organization must comprehensively adopt a threefold strategy that addressed the peace and development nexus through a regional approach that involved the entire United Nations system working as one.  His country would continue to be fully engaged in strengthening international peace and security throughout its Council membership and beyond, he pledged.

LUIS HOMERO BERMÚDEZ ÁLVAREZ (Uruguay) said that the Council should consider all aspects that could worsen conflicts, such as proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, legal and illegal trade in other weapons, terrorism, cyberattacks, and climate change.  The international community must show greater solidarity and global governance must be strengthened.  There was not only a need for prevention but also for creativity in which greater coordination between the organs of the United Nations was indispensable.  The nexus between security, development, human rights and the humanitarian spheres was clear, but factors such as climate change, pandemics and transnational organized crime could exacerbate crises in conflict or post‑conflict situations.  In such situations there was a need to strengthen the rule of law and promote sustainable economic growth, national reconciliation, access to justice, accountability, democracy, gender equality and protection of human rights.  The use or threat of use of nuclear weapons was a violation of international law. 

GORGUI CISS (Senegal) said over the last years, the international community had increased initiatives to address threats to peace, including through the reform of the Organization’s peace architecture and the adoption of the 2030 Agenda, among others.  Such factors as the circulation of small arms, sexual violence, recruitment of children, and illegal exploitation of natural resources required a holistic response.  Terrorism had suffered defeats but remained a threat as illustrated in numerous attacks.  Mandates of peacekeeping missions should be better adapted to the situation on the ground, he said, noting that African countries had used their troops to combat non‑State actors.  He welcomed the initiative to reinforce the security pillar.  Senegal’s water, peace and security initiative was aiming to facilitate access to transborder sources of water.

SHEN BO (China) said that, in the desire for peace and development, it was necessary to firmly uphold the principles of the United Nations Charter.  Although new challenges kept emerging, the Charter’s principles remained valid.  Maintaining peace and security was the primary responsibility of the Council and its authority should be defended by all Member States.  The United Nations and the Council should be subjective and impartial.  The 15‑member organ must also respect sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence of States and their right to choose their own social structures.  Noting that root causes of conflict such as poverty and under‑development had not been solved and that threats such as climate change were constantly expanding, he urged for the full implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the Paris Agreement.  The major organs of the United Nations should follow the provisions of the Charter and stick to their mandates while coordinating their efforts. 

MICHELE J. SISON (United States) said the Council had a responsibility to respond to crises too large for one nation to deal with.  One of the Council’s most effective tools — peacekeeping operations — was a powerful mechanism, she said, noting that the United Nations deployed over 100,000 troops and police all over the world.  The missions, however, must adapt to the reality of the situation on the ground.  The quality of troops deployed should also be analysed.  Giving examples of successful peacebuilding, including in Liberia, where the United Nations had devised a peacebuilding plan in coordination with the Government and participation of civil society, she said the Council had mostly used missions after conflict had broken out.  There was a need to look at underlying challenges, such as failure to develop or lack of protection of human rights, as those factors could directly lead to instability.  In Yemen, 22 million out of 29 million were in need of humanitarian assistance and there was a risk of famine.  Famine conditions had been caused by conflict and parties more interested in personal gain.  The United Nations had the power to develop solutions to transnational problems, she said, encouraging the Secretary‑General to raise issues early on to the Council.

TEKEDA ALEMU (Ethiopia) said that a new way of thinking, along with innovative tools, were needed to meet emerging, complex challenges in international peace and security through a comprehensive and holistic approach.  Strengthened partnerships were needed between United Nations bodies and regional organizations for that purpose.  The Secretary‑General’s vision could allow the creation of integrated capabilities with improved planning and budgeting to support operations on the ground and longer‑term efforts.  While a cross‑pillar approach was critical to address driving factors of conflicts that did not mean that the mandates of existing operations should be changed.  The Security Council should not impinge on the responsibilities of other bodies.  The Council had many responsibilities of its own to deal with, for example, principles of international law governing inter‑State relations, which were not at this point being adequately addressed.

PETR V. ILIICHEV (Russian Federation) stressed that a context‑specific approach must be highlighted, with all the particularities taken into account, and an over‑broad use of Chapter VII, as well as outside intervention, be avoided.  In that context, he rejected the blasphemous statement by the representative of Ukraine in relationship to international law, given that that representative’s Government had come into power illegitimately.  He called for full implementation of the Minsk agreements.  Factors, such as foreign intervention and economic compulsion, must be added to the list of drivers of current conflict that were being discussed.  In terms of an integrated strategy to international peace and security, it would be useful for the General Assembly, the Economic and Social Council and other organs to consider the links between peace and security and socioeconomic and environmental issues.  However, each must focus on its own responsibilities.  Integrating all factors should not come under the work of the Council, which did not have the capacity in those other areas and for which the basic responsibilities in peace and security must remain the focus. 

SEBASTIANO CARDI (Italy), aligning with the statement to be delivered by the European Union, said that during its presidency, his country had begun to address challenges in an integrated way, including a focus on migration and the nexus that phenomenon was connected to.  Protection and empowerment of people was key to building resilient societies.  The Secretary‑General should provide early‑warning information to the Council.  In order to address all problems in a comprehensive manner, United Nations effectiveness must be improved through building synergy between all actors.  In peace and security, capacity should be built to fully realize the concept of a peace continuum, as well as the building of inclusive political processes and resilient institutions.  His country would continue to fully support reform to strengthen the Organization across the three pillars.  In the Council, the interventions today showed that members had sufficient common interest to be able to reach consensus.

The representative of Ukraine, taking the floor a second time, said that it had been reconfirmed just recently that the Russian Federation was an occupying Power and a party to the conflict in the east of Ukraine.  For that reason, the country could not discuss the conflict as an impartial actor.  It must, instead, withdraw from Crimea and Donbass and make reparations for the damage it had caused in his country.

The representative of the Russian Federation, responding to his counterpart, encouraged the representative of the Ukraine to respect the Council and common sense.  The conflict in the Ukraine was a consequence of the seizure of power that was not accepted by people in the east of Ukraine, and while there was no proof of intervention on the part of his country, there was proof of malfeasance by Ukraine, including bombardment of schools and hospitals that threatened a large-scale humanitarian disaster.  He called for the implementation of the road map that was written into the Minsk agreements to resolve the situation.

The representative of Ukraine cited the Secretary‑General who voiced his concern over Russian arms flowing into eastern Ukraine, as well as actions in Crimea.  That was adequate proof of Russian aggression against his country.

The representative of the Russian Federation said that the Monitoring Mission of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which regularly visited areas not controlled by the Government, had not noted massive troop movement in the areas under discussion.  In addition, he pointed out that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) had been notified that all facilities in Crimea were working in compliance with the Agency’s regulations.

CARLOS ARTURO MORALES LÓPEZ (Colombia) said the maintenance of international peace and security was the fundamental mandate of the Council, which had the responsibility to ensure that decisions were coherent in light of changing needs.  An integrated approach required focus on the main causes and multipliers of conflict.  Nuclear proliferation, climate change, water scarcity and cyberspace attacks required flexible diplomacy.  Prevention and peacebuilding should be the Council’s priority in the maintenance of peace.  Expeditious and bold solutions were required to ensure that the Organization could prevent conflicts.  Reform of the peace and security pillar would make it possible to adapt the United Nations to present day crises.  The Organization’s activities in Colombia were a clear example of building peace, and the success of the peace process in his country was based on a comprehensive approach, including gender equality. 

GEORG HELMUT ERNST SPARBER (Liechtenstein) said that a comprehensive approach to peace and security included rule of law, fundamental rights and freedoms as well as sustainable development.  Implementation gaps in development commitments and disregard of human rights obligations were important early warning signals, he said, adding that contemporary security challenges tended to be complex, requiring tailor‑made, context‑specific solutions.  Stressing the importance of accountability in ensuring lasting peace, he added that transitional justice contributed to deterrence and allowed traumatized communities to come back together and move forward.  Noting the Council’s “half‑hearted engagement” with the International Criminal Court, he welcomed the Court’s announcement of investigations into various crimes in Libya.

MALEEHA LODHI (Pakistan) said that conflicts continued to rage around the world and the longstanding internationally recognized disputes regarding Palestine, as well as Jammu and Kashmir, continued to fester.  The Palestinian and Kashmiri people continued to suffer horrific human rights violations at the hands of occupying forces, while the world continued to watch without responding to those egregious situations.  The drivers of such challenges, including political and economic injustice and terrorism and violent extremism, must be addressed.  What was needed was a shift from a culture of reaction to a culture of prevention.  There was obviously no one‑size‑fits‑all solution to conflict prevention and mitigation.  Moving a country towards durable peace began with a clear understanding of the sources and nature of conflicts, she said.

KATALIN ANNAMÁRIA BOGYAY (Hungary) said that “comprehensive”, “integrated” and “holistic” were not just buzzwords, but real calls for action and anchors for the work of the United Nations.  The only way to achieve and preserve peace was through dialogue, she said, expressing appreciation for the Secretary‑General’s dedication to start a surge in diplomacy.  Preventive processes should include intercultural and interreligious dialogue and reconciliation, hand in hand with moderate religious and community leaders and faith‑based organizations.  Further, there was no sustainable peace without respecting human rights and international humanitarian law.

JÜRG LAUBER (Switzerland) said the United Nations framework for conflict prevention was in the DNA of the 2030 Agenda and in resolutions on sustaining peace adopted by the Council and the General Assembly.  It was also anchored in the Secretary‑General’s reform agenda.  Further, the implementation of the Paris Agreement was a significant preventative step as it acknowledged the strong links between climate change and peace and security.  As respect for human rights was also key to conflict prevention, his country had launched the “Appeal of June 13” to enhance systematic cooperation within the United Nations system on human rights issues.  The appeal specifically called for intensified cooperation between the Council and human rights organs of the United Nations with a view to strengthen conflict prevention.  He also highlighted that many grievances started around issues of perceived or real exclusion and injustice; they deserved greater attention.

FERIDUN HADI SINIRLIOĞLU (Turkey) said all pillars of the United Nations were facing tremendous challenges.   No single State possessed the capacity to take on the challenges alone.  The United Nations was in acute need of substantial reform to confront the challenges faced.  A primary objective was to increase the effectiveness of peacekeeping operations while prioritizing political solutions.  Crisis prevention was essential, as well as preventing the relapse of crises in post‑conflict situations.  The Secretary‑General’s “surge in peace diplomacy” initiative and his reform of the prevention pillar had underscored their importance, he said, noting that his country was a co‑chair of the Group of Friends of Mediation.  The Council had failed many times to show timely and adequate responses to emerging crises.  Often, inaction was the result of the use, or the threat, of veto.  That disabled the Council’s effectiveness.  He underlined the importance of more Council interaction with non‑Council members and other United Nations bodies.  More attention must be payed to tackling the root causes of the multiplier factors of conflicts, including terrorism, climate change, water, and human and drug trafficking. 

NIDA JAKUBONĖ (Lithuania), also speaking for Latvia and Estonia and associating herself with the statement to be made by the European Union, said that the rise in military conflicts was outstripping the international community’s ability to cope.  Hybrid threats and cybersecurity were priority issues for the Baltic States, she emphasized, noting that concerns regarding the Russian Federation’s interference in national election processes were not limited to European countries alone.  Increased societal awareness, resilience building and media and information literacy could help tackle hybrid threats.  In 2007, Estonia had faced a series of cyberattacks, and Latvia and Lithuania had also experienced such politically motivated assaults.  To cope with the strikes, the public and private sectors, as well as civil society, must cooperate; regional and subregional cooperation was key to strengthening cybersecurity in critical infrastructure.  As hybrid and cyberthreats were here to stay, conventional security was not enough, she said, urging Member States to share best practices and lessons learned in tackling them.

TORE HATTREM (Norway), speaking on behalf of the Nordic countries, said conflicts were increasingly being caused by environmental degradation due to climate change, adding that the international community must cooperate to implement major environmental agreements.  Backing the strengthened United Nations‑World Bank partnership, he added that the Nordic countries were supporters of the Green Climate Fund and initiatives focusing on African and small island developing States.  The Nordic countries promoted the women, peace and security agenda, he said, and inclusivity started with women.  The international community must make better use of the positive contributions of young people, however.  For every dollar invested in prevention, 17 dollars were saved in post‑conflict assistance, he said, urging States to place prevention at the core of the United Nations agenda.  Security Council reform should include seats for Africa; it was also crucial to ensure small States had the opportunity to serve as elected members.

STEPHEN MAHLABADISHAGO NTSOANE (South Africa) highlighted that the nature of conflict was not the one envisaged by the creators of the United Nations.  Indeed, present‑day conflicts largely centred on the internal strife of Member States and transnational threats.  Unfortunately, while the world had changed, the Council had largely remained the same.  Contemporary challenges had brought divisions within the Council to the forefront, especially among its permanent members.  At times, such paralysis had cost human lives, he said, citing the lack of meaningful action on the situation between Israel and Palestine, as well as divisions on Syria.  While incremental improvements had been made to the Council’s working methods, such advancements did not obviate the need for comprehensive reform.  A more representative Council would allow it to be more effective in dealing with complex, contemporary challenges.  He called for a Council with a stronger voice for those closest to crises, one marked by non‑discriminatory decision‑making and collective, rather than narrow, national security interests.

CHRISTOPH HEUSGEN (Germany) said that, in anticipating threats to international peace and security, the Council must have the security implications of climate change on its radar and firmly on its agenda.  In addition, it should also include a host of factors, such as the growing interconnectedness in the cyberworld.  Lasting peace in such a complex world could not be achieved through military means alone, but in combination with development policy and a strong focus on prevention.  For that purpose, resilience of societies must be strengthened; that often started with respect and promotion of human rights.  Given abhorrent violations, such as sexual violence used as a tactic of war, the Security Council must do more to integrate human rights into its deliberations.   Supporting the Secretary‑General’s reform to make the United Nations work better across institutional boundaries, he called for full use of existing arrangements, such as the advisory role of the Peacebuilding Commission.  Describing multisectoral assistance for integrated Sahel initiatives provided by his country, he stressed that in all areas, comprehensive action was needed to respond to current security challenges.  His country stood ready to assume its responsibilities in that regard, he pledged.

JEROEN STEFAN G. COOREMAN (Belgium) said that the challenges for international peace and security had to be looked at through an integrated approach.  A focus on environmental security should be an integral part of a global approach to security.  Environmental challenges had led to migratory pressures and had provoked conflicts.  For that reason, climate change and ecosystem change should be analysed within the context of security.  He voiced his support for the appointing of a special representative for environmental security.  Such a person could become part of the broader reform of the peace and security pillar.  Belgium would continue to actively participate in the discussion and would anchor the global approach in its national policies.  It had accorded priority to funding the general budget of the United Nations agencies so that they could pursue a global approach.  His country had also funded a number of humanitarian funds to help in cases of natural disasters, such as the hurricanes that recently hit the Caribbean region.

DIAN TRIANSYAH DJANI (Indonesia) pointed out that conflicts had increased threefold in recent years with an unprecedented number of people forcibly displaced.  In that regard, he strongly supported the Secretary‑General’s call for a surge in political diplomacy and conflict prevention.  Because an inability to tackle the root causes of disputes could cause and sustain conflict, it was encouraging that the United Nations was increasingly examining conflicts in a comprehensive manner.  It was vital that the Secretary‑General’s proposals to restructure the Organization’s peace and security pillar succeed so that its engagement with the peace continuum was more effective and nimble.  Furthermore, the Council must fully uphold the principles of international law, human rights law and humanitarian law.  It must be judicious and not dictated by any particular national perspectives.  That commitment was tested by the question of Palestine.  The Council’s inaction had had devastating consequences on the ground, making solutions more complex.  Moreover, the Council could not solve international peace and security challenges singlehandedly.  Better cooperation was needed with troop‑ and police‑contributing countries in that regard.

SYED AKBARUDDIN (India) said that a basic reordering of perspectives was needed, emphasizing the need to address sustainable development for all and reduce gross disparities.  The Council must put a greater focus on the globalization of terror networks.  Even on an issue as serious as designating terrorist individuals and entities, Council‑mandated sanctions committees had failed to make concrete progress.  A non‑representative Council, designed long ago to maintain a balance of power between rival States, was unable to handle challenges which had changed beyond recognition over the decades.  “An instrument that is no longer considered legitimate and has lost its credibility cannot be our hope for salvation,” he said, adding that “speech acts”, such as the current open debate, would have little impact on billions of people striving to live in peace, safety and security.

FRANCISCO TENYA (Peru), stressing the importance of the reform drive at the United Nations, said that the traditional threats to international peace and security had been compounded by new complex global challenges.  Foremost among the latter was the impact of climate change.  Migration, food and security could be affected by that, in turn breeding more transnational crimes and illicit trade.  Strengthening the international community’s commitment to multilateralism was key and broad consensus was necessary on sustaining peace through rule of law.  Instead of “burying our head in sand”, the international community must tackle the problems through a multidimensional and inclusive approach.  Expressing support for the reforms of the Secretary‑General, he said that those reforms would shape the United Nations into a coordinated and flexible body.

JOANNE ADAMSON, European Union delegation, expressed support for the Secretary‑General’s reform efforts and underscored the need to engage other stakeholders, including the private sector, in peacebuilding and sustainable development.  To break the conflict cycle, increasingly complex challenges required changing approaches.  That was not only a moral obligation, but a pragmatic imperative with huge economic advantages.  Last year, the European Union adopted a global strategy reiterating its commitment to a global order based on international law, which translated into an aspiration to address the root causes of conflict.  While addressing conflict early was necessary, staying the course was an even bigger challenge, she said, as relapsing back into conflict was common. 

Meanwhile, the Council should not shy away from examining new and emerging challenges to peace and security, including climate change, she said.  The Council must also use its unique role within the United Nations system to prevent climate change‑induced unrest.  Overall, she said its working methods must evolve.  By addressing situations earlier and in a more integrated manner, Member States could transform their approach to conflict and further empower the Council in fulfilling its core mandate.

ALEX GIACOMELLI DA SILVA (Brazil) said that the interlinkage between security and development was complex and nuanced.  Poverty and inequality might exacerbate tensions in some scenarios, but did not necessarily endanger international peace and security.  Geopolitical rivalries, militaristic approaches and the unilateral use of force were more serious sources of regional and global insecurity.  While discussing the complex dynamics that affect contemporary conflicts, care should be taken to avoid misinterpretations and generalizations.  Successful peacekeeping operations demonstrated the potential for a constructive relationship between security and development.  The recent experience of the United Nations in Haiti was a positive example, where, for thirteen years, the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) contributed to a more secure and stable environment and assisted in the implementation of hundreds of initiatives that fostered peace and development at the local level.

MANAL HASSAN RADWAN (Saudi Arabia) said that contemporary challenges were complicated and interlinked.  Israel’s continued occupation of Palestinian land and the violence perpetrated by the terrorist settlers were clear violations of international law and one of the main reasons for the armed conflicts in that region.  The international community must work tirelessly to help the Palestinian people regain their rights.  As well, approximately twenty‑four hours ago, the capital of her country, Riyadh, had become a victim of an attempted attack by a ballistic missile randomly fired from Yemeni territory.  What the rebel militias were doing with the backing of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps was a blatant violation of the United Nations Charter.  Rivers of blood were flowing in Yemen, she said, and the Council must take deterrent measures to resolve the threat posed to peace and security by the militia and Iran.

HELENA DEL CARMEN YÁNEZ LOZA (Ecuador), recalling that the United Nations was established to prevent the scourge of war, said that its founding document emphasized the glaringly obvious relationship between disarmament and development.  The 2030 Agenda had served to further highlight that link.  Calling on all relevant stakeholders to work together in a coordinated way, she said that there were a myriad of factors affecting peace and security, including climate change.  Also stressing the imperative need for the Council to refrain from mandate creep, she recalled that Article 99 of the Charter conferred on the Secretary‑General the role of alerting the Council to any threats to international peace and security.  The Secretary‑General must make use of the powers under that Article, she said, adding that gender‑mainstreaming had multiple benefits in peacebuilding.

MIRGUL MOLDOISAEVA (Kyrgyzstan), highlighting the Council’s important role in peacekeeping and humanitarian action, said increasing its effectiveness was only possible if members were unanimous in responding to emerging threats.  Also expressing support for the Secretary‑General’s reform initiatives, she added that those reforms would strengthen the international community’s ability to prevent and resolve conflicts.  It was necessary to improve the effectiveness of the United Nations and its bodies in order to confront the challenges to development, peace and security.

ALYA AHMED SAIF AL-THANI (Qatar) said that her country had adopted a global approach to international peace and security.  Challenges to peace and security required a positive approach, with dialogue not confrontation.  There was a need to strengthen a collective prevention of conflicts to achieve international peace and security.  Qatar had always participated in resolving conflicts peacefully, she said, welcoming the Secretary‑General’s aim to make conflict prevention into a priority.  She also welcomed regional consultations in sustaining peace in the Middle East.  The major complex challenges in that region represented a threat to international peace and security, and cooperation between countries in the Middle East and the international community was needed to eradicate those challenges.

TOFIG MUSAYEV (Azerbaijan) said that the objective of ensuring a peaceful and prosperous world was hardly achievable if universally recognized fundamental values, norms, and principles were overtly disregarded or misinterpreted.  At a time of brutal armed conflicts and high levels of forced displacement, more concerted action was required at all levels to end conflicts and direct greater attention to preventing future conflicts.  Welcoming the General Assembly’s adoption of a resolution on restructuring the United Nations peace and security architecture, he said that States must comply with their international obligations, particularly those relating to respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of States and the inviolability of their borders.

MANSOUR AYYAD SH. A. ALOTAIBI (Kuwait) renewed his country’s deep conviction that development and human rights were linked to peace and security, and noted the vision of the Secretary‑General to work towards enhancing the main pillars of security, human rights and development.  Peace required complete harmony and a coordinated effort, and there was a need to enhance the relationships between the United Nations and regional organizations.  The problems faced were extremely complex, and the cooperation of others was needed to help solve them.  Underscoring the importance to hold regional dialogues in order to exchange expertise, he said that would lead to the continued involvement of regional organizations in the peaceful settlements of conflicts.

NGUYEN PHOUNG NGA (Viet Nam) said a human‑centred and whole‑pillar approach was urgently needed to implement a comprehensive and long‑term strategy on conflict prevention and sustaining peace.  Full use must be made of existing preventative diplomacy and mediation tools, and the United Nations should coordinate enhanced partnership with regional and subregional organizations.  Peacekeeping must be coupled with peacebuilding, she continued, emphasizing the need for Security Council unity in taking decisions and collective action.  As for the situation in the East Sea, or South China Sea, she called on all parties concerned to exercise self‑restraint and settle disputes peacefully in line with international law.

JUAN SANDOVAL MENDIOLEA (Mexico) said the world was at a critical crossroad in the maintenance of peace and security.  Praising the priority the United Nations was giving to conflict prevention, he said it was necessary to find political solutions to disputes.  To do so, it was necessary to fix the fragmentation in the United Nations and enable it to wield its tools more effectively.  Supporting the Secretary‑General’s initiatives in that regard, he said the Organization must invest in peace and security “for every person in every country”.  Peacekeeping should be pursued in harmony with the other agendas of the United Nations, including the ones enshrined in “the holy triumvirate of peace and security, development and human rights”.  The threat or use of force was even more serious when it accompanied the dangers of weapons of mass destruction, such as nuclear weapons, he said, calling for a robust system of global governance.

MICHAL MLYNÁR (Slovakia), associating himself with the European Union, said the Security Council should, in a more systematic and targeted manner, deal with challenges in the areas of non‑traditional and cross‑border threats, including those concerning public health, exploitation of natural resources, climate change, poverty and forced displacement.  Both the Council and the General Assembly should take greater advantage of the work of the Peacebuilding Commission.  Preventing conflict was one of the Council’s most significant responsibilities; it should enhance its preventive and mitigating role.  Security sector reform, a priority area for Slovakia, should focus on genuine national ownership and effective partnerships, among other targets.

MARTHA AMA AKYAA POBEE (Ghana), emphasizing the need to work across the United Nations system and noting efforts to reform the Organization’s peace and security architecture, said the Council’s capacity to play a preventative and mitigating role would be enhanced by a structured dialogue on the security implications of development‑related issues.  Much could also be gained through increased collaboration between the Council and regional and subregional organizations, such as the African Union and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).  Noting that peacebuilding and sustaining peace went hand in hand with Sustainable Development Goal 16 [promoting just, peaceful and inclusive societies], she said effective strategies across the United Nations system to support that objective would ultimately lead to the effective maintenance of global peace and security.

BELEN SAPAG MUÑOZ DE LA PEÑA (Chile) said a multidimensional approach was necessary to respond to threats, including non‑State and non‑military ones.  Recalling that in January 2015, her country had convened an open debate in the Council on inclusive development, she said there was widespread agreement that security and development were mutually reinforcing.  Underscoring the importance of inclusion, she noted that the design of the transition from MINUSTAH had contained a strong element of national ownership.  Further, it was important to raise awareness regarding the Arria Formula meetings and integrate subsidiary bodies and groups of experts in the work of the Council when designing missions and transitions.  The Council must also improve interaction with regional and subregional bodies.

OMAR CASTAÑEDA SOLARES (Guatemala) said that the United Nations had striven to resolve conflict since its founding through a series of measures, including the maintenance of peace and peacebuilding, as well as promoting recovery and rebuilding.  In all of the aforementioned activities, the Council had played a critical role whenever called upon to respond to various conflicts.  His country had experienced that directly through the United Nations Verification Mission in Guatemala.  The exit of peacekeeping or special political missions did not mean an end to the peace process.  In response to various collective appeals for an urgent change in the way in which peace instruments available to the United Nations were used, Guatemala was optimistic about the Secretary‑General’s plan to conduct an overhaul and review of those tools.  He remained convinced that prevention and mediation should be at the forefront of the Organization’s efforts on peace and security.

CHARLES T. NTWAAGAE (Botswana) said the Council must deploy all the tools at its disposal to effectively deal with emerging threats, and the Organization must act as a whole, coordinated entity.  However, the burden for maintaining international peace and security could not be solely placed on the United Nations; regional bodies should play a critical role.  Because of their presence on the ground, such bodies were better placed to appreciate and address security challenges.  He welcomed the development of partnerships, including African Union‑European Union and African Union‑United Nations joint efforts.  He also highlighted the role of subregional entities, citing Botswana’s experience with the Southern African Development Community (SADC), which included structures tasked with addressing peace and security challenges and played a key role in preventive diplomacy and conflict resolution and management, among others.  He also noted States’ collective accountability for effective border management, which could help to reduce crime and insecurity.

LISE HUBERTA JOHANNA GREGOIRE VAN HAAREN (Netherlands), stressing the importance of an integrated approach and early action, said that the challenges of the twenty‑first century transcended borders.  Her country had learned, sometimes the hard way, of the connection between root causes and ensuing conflict.  However, it was not enough to formulate an integrated response to conflict; the Council should also devote attention to preventing conflicts.  While the Council’s involvement with the situation in Gambia earlier in 2017 had proved timely and successful, a clear focal point was still lacking on the issue of climate and security.  Given the growing risk of climate change increasing tensions within and between nations, he underscored that it was important that there be an institutional home for the issue.

ONDINA BLOKAR DROBIČ (Slovenia) said the Council must better integrate peacekeeping with development and humanitarian efforts.  The United Nations and its Member States, regional organizations, non‑governmental organizations (NGOs), and civil society must all support fragile countries, especially by enhancing their societal resilience and security architecture.  Ending impunity for serious international crimes was equally crucial, she said, stressing the importance of effective cooperation with the International Criminal Court and calling upon States that had not yet done so to ratify the Rome Statute.  Turning to water scarcity, she recalled the work of the Global High‑level Panel on Water and Peace chaired by the former President of Slovenia.  Regional cooperation was also vital to avoid water becoming a cause of conflict or amplifying risk, she pointed out, citing successful practices in the Western Balkans region, for example, in the Sava River basin, which could serve as a model for water‑related cooperation.

MARIA THEOFILI (Greece) said that a priority in tackling growing global insecurity should be taking a holistic approach to address the drivers of conflict and to focus on both prevention and long‑term stability.  Greece, considering itself a pillar of stability in a region that bordered on the Middle East and North Africa, had hosted international conferences that had aimed at promoting tolerance, pluralism and dialogue among civilizations.  It also engaged in bilateral programmes that utilized country synergies and joint activities in culture and other constructive areas, such as trade and research.  Greece had also established mechanisms of cooperation with countries in the Balkans.  As it was on the front line of migration issues, it advocated for the streamlining of migration governance that made use of existing forums and promoting global partnership.  Affirming the importance of addressing climate change as well, she pledged her country’s support to the Organization’s efforts to address all factors involved with international peace and security to shape a more peaceful world for the future.

ZOHRAB MNATSAKANYAN (Armenia) said that terrorism should not be associated with any religion, nationality or civilization, but at the same time, called for the acknowledgement of evidence of extremists and terrorists targeting specific communities based on religion or ethnicity.  He called for addressing the suffering of Yazidis, Christians and other minorities, and the indiscriminate attacks and forced displacement of ethnic Armenians from certain Syrian cities.  Armenia had been providing humanitarian aid to the Syrian population, sheltering approximately 22,000 refugees and implementing policies to facilitate housing, education, health care and other integration measures.  Turning to regional issues, he said the OSCE Minsk group co‑chair countries had in October reiterated a commitment to mediating a peaceful settlement of the Nagorno‑Karabakh conflict.  They had also welcomed the resumption of high‑level dialogue between the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan in Geneva on 16 October and a meeting of their foreign ministers on 6 December.  Armenia remained fully committed to negotiations in that regard.

DAVID GREGORY YARDLEY (Australia) said addressing increasingly complex contemporary challenges to international peace and security required a change of approach.  Of particular importance was conflict prevention, sustainable peace, women’s participation in peacebuilding and United Nations reform.  All staff within the Organization must show leadership in embedding prevention approaches across all operations and programmes.  Furthermore, efforts to support peaceful societies must be inclusive, he said, citing evidence that meaningful participation of women in peace processes led to more durable outcomes.  In that regard, he acknowledged the practical steps taken in 2017 by the Department of Political Affairs, Department of Peacekeeping Operations and the Peacebuilding Support Office.  Expressing strong support for the Secretary‑General’s ambitious reform efforts, he called for the Organization to prioritize prevention and inclusive peacebuilding.

OMAR HILALE (Morocco) said the growing number of conflicts and the resulting fallout required a review of the Organization’s response.  Indeed, the international community had not made great use of mediation and conflict tools, which were needed to achieve lasting peace.  He welcomed the Secretary‑General’s reform agenda, which he hoped would result in a more transparent and cooperative approach.  For its part, Morocco was active in addressing the impact of climate change on peace, and the world was already witnessing its effects, including migration and the erosion of coasts.  Concerning the threat of terrorism to international peace and security, he said peacekeepers could not react robustly to threats if they remained “shackled” in their current mandates.  In that vein, he expressed support for the G5 Sahel joint force and called for its full logistical and financial support, noting that multidimensional missions often lacked needed resources to support their mandate.  At the same time, resolving conflict required partnership, he said, calling for the United Nations to take the lead in coordinating efforts.

HASSAN ABBAS (Lebanon) said the notion that conflicts had become more complex should not distract from addressing root causes, including foreign occupation and aggression.  Lebanon faced many challenges, including almost daily Israeli violations of its sovereignty and the presence of more than 1.2 million refugees from Syria.  Such challenges had contributed to a significant decrease in gross domestic product (GDP) growth, higher unemployment and poverty levels and an overstretched infrastructure.  The pioneering United Nations strategic framework, signed by the United Nations system and the Government in October 2016, recognized Lebanon’s multidimensional challenges, he said, emphasizing that the United Nations must follow a “whole of Lebanon” approach which leveraged and integrated the Organization’s diverse expertise, capacities and resources while supporting Lebanon along the path to sustainable development, as per the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

NIRMAL RAJ KAFLE (Nepal) said that studies had established the hazardous consequences of climate change on people as well as on the existence of small islands.  The security and economic implications of climate change could not be ignored.  That and other natural disasters would increase the number of environmental migrants in the coming decades.  It was the common responsibility of the United Nations membership to ensure secure futures for island‑dwellers and environmental migrants.  In Nepal, snowcaps were increasingly receding in the Himalayas.  As well, his country was experiencing pressure on food security and witnessing the extinction of some rare flora and fauna.  The Council could play an important role in addressing climate change simply by sending a message of its collective commitment.  The Council members that were also major contributors to greenhouse gas emissions must lead others by example, he said.

ALI NASEER MOHAMED (Maldives) recalled that, with resolution 2349 (2017), the Council had recognized that climate change had an adverse impact on security.  Now, the Council and the General Assembly must clearly articulate practical measures the Organization could take in response to climate change and other non‑traditional security threats.  Measures could include the Secretary‑General preparing regular periodic assessment reports to serve as an early warning mechanism.  Moreover, the Council and Assembly could also consider examining the feasibility of establishing a regular coordination mechanism through which all of the Organization’s principal bodies and relevant agencies could contribute to designing conflict prevention, peacemaking and peacekeeping operations.  Small States were the most vulnerable to non‑traditional and emerging security threats and it was necessary that small island developing States in particular had a seat at the Council.  However, over 72 years, only eight such States had served in that body, he recalled, expressing hope that his country would be elected for the 2019‑2020 term in order to represent those States and contribute to shaping decisions affecting the smallest members of the international system.

SAMUELU LALONIU (Tuvalu), on behalf of the Pacific small island developing States, said that climate change was the most important security challenge facing the world today, as affirmed in a seminal report by the previous Secretary‑General.  The growing attention paid to the issue in this chamber gave hope, but dangerous impacts were already occurring, with the most vulnerable bearing the largest burdens.  On the small islands, there were record‑breaking droughts and storms and extreme heat and floods had displaced more people than many conflicts.

Climate change was not going away and the situation would continue to deteriorate even if the goals of the Paris Agreement were met, he said.  The changes could be abrupt and could severely affect many systems that were currently relied on for modern life.  For those reasons, the Secretary‑General should appoint a special representative on climate and security, who could produce a report, in cooperation with scientific bodies, that identified and analysed potentially dangerous tipping points at the nexus of climate and security and address concerns that the securitization of climate change would lead to more militarization.

JOSÉ ATAÍDE AMARAL (Portugal) said addressing both the new and old threats to global peace and security required, more than ever before, a multilateral approach that also involved tackling the root causes of conflict.  Complex contemporary challenges required continuous adaptation of mechanisms, better coordination and early action to address threats at all levels.  Affirming the importance of conflict prevention, he supported the Secretary‑General’s reform proposals in that context.  The integration of a gender‑balance perspective was also a priority, as was an ever‑strengthening relationship between the General Assembly, Security Council and the rest of the United Nations system, including through the Peacebuilding Commission.  Early Council consultations on situations of imminent risk and collective action were important to break the conflict cycle.  Portugal stood ready to fully contribute to those efforts.

MASUD BIN MOMEN (Bangladesh) said emerging challenges had the potential to further exacerbate protracted conflicts and create multiplier effects across borders.  Conflict prevention was, first and foremost, a national responsibility and the active participation of all segments of society was fundamental to mitigating the potential drivers of conflict.  Meanwhile, the United Nations had a critical role in facilitating and monitoring the implementation of internationally agreed commitments to support Member States.  However, the range of tools at its disposal needed to be deployed with sensitivity to the realities on the ground and in consultation with relevant national, civil society and humanitarian actors.  The failure to do so was evident in the “textbook case of ethnic cleansing” witnessed in Myanmar’s Rakhine state in August, he said.  Furthermore, while the Council did not need to remain confined to a strict definition of its mandate, it should find ways to enhance its interface with other principal organs.

News

Access to Quality Health Care, Education Vital for Improving Children’s Well-Being, Speakers Stress as Third Committee Concludes Debate

Governments around the world were focused on improving access to quality education and health care for children and adolescents to ensure they reached their full potential, speakers told the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) as they concluded discussion on children’s rights.

Indeed, children’s fundamental freedoms could be best protected by ensuring their education and health care needs were met, said Bangladesh’s delegate, who noted that children at all educational levels in his country were provided free textbooks on New Year’s Day, the world’s largest such distribution that had seen 360 million textbooks handed out this year.  The education system also had been enhanced by the introduction of information and communications technology in school curricula.

Similarly, Bhutan’s delegate said children were provided free education up to the tenth grade, while in Ukraine, a law on inclusive education ensured all Ukrainian children had access to high-quality education, said that country’s representative.

Efforts to boost education had borne fruit, several said, with South Africa’s delegate noting that 98 per cent of girls were enrolled in school.  Rwanda’s delegate said primary school enrolment had risen to 95.4 per cent, with girls’ 96.5 per cent rate higher than the 94.2 per cent rate for boys.  Overall, primary school completion in Rwanda was 76 per cent.  In Indonesia, said that country’s delegate, a Child Labour Reduction Program focused on education and vocational training had led to 49 children returning to school.

In terms of child health, there had also been gains.  El Salvador’s representative said a comprehensive child health care policy had fostered a 42 per cent decrease in chronic malnutrition and reduced parent-to-child transmission of HIV and AIDS.  In Thailand, meanwhile, particular attention had been paid to achieving universal health coverage, said that country’s delegate, with a grant introduced to help poor families with new-born children.  Libya’s representative likewise stressed that, despite instability, his country was determined to provide children with free education and healthcare services, including vaccinations.

Speakers also underscored that education and health care policies must be inclusive to meet children’s varying needs.  The Dominican Republic’s delegate highlighted the establishment of a centre for children with conditions such as autism and Down’s Syndrome.  “We know that investing in the rights of children means investing in our future,” he said.  Echoing this sentiment, Tonga’s delegate added that every child, including those with disabilities, had the right to education. 

Children also deserved access to social services regardless of their nationality, speakers noted.  The representative of the United Arab Emirates said immunizations were offered to Yemeni children who had been affected by conflict.  Spain’s delegate added that child migrants were accorded the same rights as Spanish citizens.

However, the Republic of Korea’s delegate pointed out, girls often lacked access to healthcare and education.  Adolescent girls left school much earlier than their male counterparts.  Girls also suffered disproportionate violence, and lacked access to health care and nutrition.  It was well documented that societies which empowered girls through education achieved better results in every area of development, she observed.

Also speaking were representatives of Botswana, Qatar, Sri Lanka, Iceland, Kazakhstan, China, Georgia, Kuwait, Turkey, Nigeria, Maldives, Pakistan, Zimbabwe, Tunisia, Panama, Burundi, Malawi, Morocco, Costa Rica, Jamaica, Armenia, Andorra, Burkina Faso, Guatemala, Ethiopia, Bulgaria, Sudan, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Azerbaijan, the Russian Federation, Bahrain, Congo, Myanmar, Djibouti, Algeria and Togo, as well as of the Holy See, State of Palestine, Sovereign Order of Malta, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and International Labour Organization (ILO).

The Third Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 12 October, to consider the rights of indigenous peoples.

Background

The Third Committee met today to continue its debate on the promotion and protection of the rights of children.  (For more information, please see Press Release GA/SHC/4200).

Statements

EDGAR SISA (Botswana), associating himself with the African Group and the Southern African Development Community (SADC), reiterated his commitment to international and regional mechanisms for children’s rights.  Having amended its Children’s Act, Botswana had strengthened its promotion and protection of children’s rights.  Programmes were in place to address growing alcohol and substance abuse among young people, while others for child protection were grounded in providing equitable and quality education.  Botswana endorsed the Safe Schools Declaration and had almost achieved universal access to education.  Among the challenges was the declining quality of junior secondary education, he said, stressing that revision of curricula and increased teacher training had been identified as tools to bridge the education gap.

Ms. AL EMADI (Qatar) said achievements in protecting children’s rights included the widespread ratification of Convention on the Rights of the Child.  However, millions of children still faced the brunt of climate change and conflict.  She called for intensified international efforts to protect children wherever they were.  Legislative efforts in Qatar were aligned with development strategies and aimed to foster international cooperation to create an environment conducive to meeting children’s educational and health needs.  Yet, efforts had been hampered by “illegal international measures” imposed on Qatar that had forced families to separate.  Despite those obstacles, she underscored Qatar’s commitment to protect all children.

MARCOS MONTILLA (Dominican Republic), associating himself with the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), said the national strategy to protect the rights of children and adolescents included the provision of medical services, which had led to a decrease in chronic malnutrition, and support for single women to resume their studies.  The Government also had focused on improving education and increasing public spending on schools.  A centre for children with conditions such as autism and Down’s Syndrome had been established, and to address the issue of violence, a bill was being developed to promote children’s positive upbringing and avoid violence in child rearing.  Ultimately, he said, the country aimed to ensure that its social policies were consistent on the Convention.  “We know that investing in the rights of children means investing in our future,” he added.

MAYRA LISSETH SORTO ROSALES (El Salvador), associating herself with CELAC, said promoting children’s and adolescent’s rights was a priority.  El Salvador had made strides in improving education and health services for children, and had introduced laws to better protect their rights.  Girls and boys, for example, had access to comprehensive healthcare, which had fostered a 42 per cent decrease in chronic malnutrition and a reduction in parent-to-child transmission of HIV and AIDS.  A paradigm shift also had been made in the legislature to focus on rights protection and ensure that laws aligned with the Convention.  She also urged Member States to promote the human rights of all migrants, particularly children.

MADHUKA WICKRAMARACHCHI (Sri Lanka), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, said his country had successfully incorporated the principles of the Convention on the Rights of the Child into its legal system.  Legislation protected the rights of children to nationality, non-discrimination and to have their best interests safeguarded.  National child protection policies had been adopted to bring Sri Lanka’s standards up to international standard and action plans were in place to end sexual abuse and violence against children.  Turning to the problem of bullying, he said Sri Lanka was one of five countries to have laws prohibiting the act in schools.  He noted the vital role played by parents and teachers in mitigating bullying, also calling for greater cooperation with religious leaders to ensure children get the protection they need.

HELEN INGA S. VON ERNST (Iceland) said free and universal education was crucial to social equality and long-term prosperity as it reduced poverty, boosted economic growth and increased income.  But gender was a discriminating factor, and the international community must focus on girls’ empowerment and participation in education.  Turning to the issue of armed conflict, she said children were often the first to suffer when societies faced conflict, poverty or famine.  With millions of children displaced from among other countries Syria, Afghanistan, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Myanmar, urgent action was needed.  Governments had an obligation to ensure children’s rights were respected, protected and fulfilled.

MOHAMMAD DAVID ARSLAN (Indonesia) associating himself with the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN), said his country was committed to combating violence against children and protecting them from being exploited.  Indonesia had launched a Child Labour Reduction Program focusing on education and vocational training which had successfully withdrawn nearly 49 children engaged in labour and returned them to school.  In addition, Child Labour-Free Zones had been established throughout industrial areas, and measures had been taken to improve both family welfare and economic resilience with a twelve-year free and compulsory education program.  Children’s forums, family learning centres and children’s creative spaces had been established in all 34 provinces.

TSOKI CHODEN (Bhutan) firmly endorsed investment in the rights of children as a fundamental building block for prosperity and sustainable development.  Sound legal frameworks in Bhutan provided protections, including free access to education up to the tenth grade.  Protections against all forms of abuse and exploitation of children had also been put into force.  Such measures had benefited from an expanded definition of violence against children and harsher punishment for perpetrators.  A five-year-plan sought to mainstream child protection issues, with child focal points appointed to all relevant Government offices, she said, adding that measures were also in place to promote the political inclusion of children.

AZAT SHAKIROV (Kazakhstan) said the security and safety of children were prerequisites for the achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, especially in conflict zones.  Regions where strife and conflict prevailed required investment in sectors that promoted the socioeconomic needs of young people.  He called for the implementation of action plans to reintegrate child soldiers, with special focus on girls, measures which called for greater United Nations cooperation.  Turning to mass refugee flows, he said all countries involved in the migration cycle must be held accountable for their actions.  He said it was imperative to implement relevant Security Council resolutions to protect children in armed conflict, including the maintenance of schools as safe spaces.

SHAO WU (China) said that her Government had worked relentlessly to put into practice the principle of “children first” by drafting and implementing three successive National Plans of Action for Child Development.  In addition to legislation to tackle domestic violence, the Government had also enacted measures to improve nutrition of children in poverty.  Civil society had a key role to play in the protection of the rights of children, she stressed, adding that developed countries must honour their commitment by increasing substantive assistance to the developing countries in terms of finance and technology to create a better environment for children globally.

TEVITA SUKA MANGISI (Tonga) said that while his country criminalized all forms of child abuse, progress towards protecting children rested in the proper implementation of such laws.  Tonga’s policy targeted the education sector, with every child, including those with disabilities, having the right to education.  Efforts were also improving the quality of teachers and incorporating climate change awareness into curricula.  Monitoring progress called for quality data collection, he noted, adding that Tonga was the second country ever to establish a sound monitoring system and undertake a country-wide census of child development.  He closed by reaffirming that children’s rights were integral to the Government’s work.

EKA KIPIANI (Georgia) said that in the past year, her country had adopted legislative measures and new laws as part of its commitment to protect and promote the rights of children.  Those measures included a new code for juvenile justice.  Georgia had also complied with reporting obligations under the treaty system, and hosted a visit of the Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography in April 2016.  But the humanitarian and human rights situation in the occupied regions of Georgia were deteriorating, and children there were deprived of basic human rights, including that to an education in their native language.  The Sustainable Development Goals must be fully implemented everywhere, including in conflict-affected areas.

Mr. MOHAMMAD (Kuwait) expressed concern about children experiencing hardship caused by armed conflict and natural disasters.  In Kuwait, the family was seen as the core provider of care and protection for children, while the State offered support for their spiritual and physical needs.  Noting that Kuwait’s policies had met the requirements of the Convention, he said a family court had also been established to address family conflicts, and in turn, reduce violence against children.  The country had also organized conferences to raise awareness of the risks posed to young people by digital technology and the suffering of Palestinian children.

MURAT UĞURLUOĞLU (Turkey) said his country had taken various initiatives to protect children, including through the adoption of a national plan that aimed to improve their living standards.  The focus had been on health, education and social inclusion, he added.  Party to the Convention, Turkey had also ratified the Council of Europe Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse.  Turkey attached great importance to the rights of the girl child, and to ensuring education opportunities for both boys and girls.  In conflicts and crises, children were vulnerable to mass abductions, torture and sexual violence, he said, underscoring that there were 835,000 school-age Syrian children in Turkey, and that their education was crucial for rebuilding Syria.

ABIODUN RICHARDS ADEJOLA (Nigeria) associating himself with the African Group and the Non-Aligned Movement, described a campaign to end violence against children which had fed into Nigeria’s internally displaced persons camps where alleged sexual exploitation had been reported.  In addition, a survey had helped the Government initiate awareness-raising campaigns for parents, families and communities on the need to protect children from all forms of violence, abuse and exploitation.  He also highlighted the “End Child Marriage Campaign”; drop-in-centres for child victims of terrorism that targeted re-enrolment in school; the Home Grown School Feeding Program, which aimed to feed children in schools across the country; and the Safe School Initiative as a way to prevent Boko Haram from recruiting children through security measures for their protection.

ZEENA MOHAMED DIDI (Maldives) said children were being used as slaves, weapons and even commodities to trade.  The Maldives had focused on training parents and professionals working with abused children, she added, emphasizing that the number of cases reported to protective services had increased in recent years.  A mobile reporting application and a 24-hour toll free call centre had been launched where reports could be made anonymously.  To reach every island in a timely manner, community social groups were being rolled out across the Maldives.  Domestic abuse and violence against children could be countered in large part by empowering women.  The recently passed Domestic Violence Prevention Act and the Anti-Human Trafficking Act had strengthened protection mechanisms.  She also underscored the importance of education in the advancement of children.

Mr. ALI (Pakistan) underscored that half a billion children — one out of every four — lived in countries affected by conflict, natural disasters or epidemics.  “This is a humanitarian crisis of epic proportions,” he stressed, emphasizing that protecting and promoting children’s rights was both smart economics and a moral obligation.  Among the earliest signatories of the Convention on Rights of the Child, Pakistan had since ratified several international instruments, including one on child labour.  The National Commission for Child Welfare and Development and a comprehensive child protection bill provided the necessary national legal basis to protect children from abuse and exploitation.  Pakistan was committed to reducing infant and maternal mortality and increasing literacy to 90 per cent of the population within the next eight years.

PORNRAWE POENATEETAI (Thailand), associating herself with ASEAN, said international attention should be focused on children living in poverty, rural children and migrant children.  Thailand had been working to implement the Sustainable Development Goals, paying particular attention to achieving universal health coverage, under which it had introduced a grant programme providing financial assistance to poor families with newborn children.  All children, including migrant children, received free, quality education in Thailand.  The emerging role of media and technology obliged the international community to minimize the risks of exploitation or abuse through such channels, she said, adding that her country had a national strategy to prevent such online abuse, including cyberbullying.

VUSUMUZI NTONGA (Zimbabwe) said his country had acceded to both the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.  The Children’s Act, Education Act and Domestic Violence Act were all in place, as were programmes to implement their provisions, such as the National Victim Friendly System which responded to cases of violence and sexual abuse of children.  While police offered victim-friendly lines, there were also child friendly courts and clinics which facilitated child-sensitive court sessions for abuse cases.  Limited resources, low institutional capacity and prevailing social, cultural and political norms were among the challenges to enforcing those reforms.  Police received reports of nearly 100 girls being exposed to sexual abuse every day, he said, in part because they were in early and forced marriages, a practice that had been outlawed since 2016.

Ms. ELMANSOURI (Tunisia), associating herself with the African Group, said the protection of children was a priority, and as such, Tunisia had implemented legislation emphasizing their vulnerability to all forms of violence and exploitation.  Laws protecting women’s rights also recognized children as vulnerable to sexual abuse.  Education was the central pillar of the country’s child protection agenda, with notable investment made to improve school and health infrastructure.  Those efforts had expanded students’ access to food and targeted drop-out rates.  Young people must be given a political voice, she said, adding that Tunisian children had been consulted in the drafting of the latest five-year plan.

LAURA ELENA FLORES HERRERA (Panama), associating herself with CELAC, called children the most valuable social capital of any country.  Considerations for their well-being must recognize them as fully fledged persons with the right to be heard.  Panama was focused on their interests through a national secretariat office and campaigns to combat sexual abuse against children.  Plans were in place to eradicate child labour, with the Office of the First Lady and the Ministry of Labour implementing campaigns.  The list of hazardous work for children also had been updated.  She called attention to alarming rates of violence against children, saying that such acts took an immense toll on the international community.

Mr. KAYINAMURA (Rwanda) said the national policy on orphans and vulnerable children outlined objectives and proposed strategies to care for those young people, while a related children’s plan was guided by principles, such as meeting the needs of every child and prioritizing children in all policies.  The ultimate goal of Rwanda’s policy on children was to protect their rights and ensure they developed by improving services, institutions and systems.  The Government had made strides in protecting their rights, transforming orphanages and providing orphans with home-based care.  In addition, primary school enrolment had risen to 95.4 per cent, with girls’ enrolment at 96.5 per cent — higher than the 94.2 per cent rate for boys.  Overall, primary school completion was at 76 per cent.

SHAMEEM AHSAN (Bangladesh) said children’s rights could be best protected by ensuring their education and healthcare.  Since 2010, children at all educational levels had been provided free textbooks on New Year’s Day, the world’s largest such distribution effort that had seen 360 million textbooks handed out this year.  With schools funded through the Government budget, the education system had been enhanced by the introduction of information and communications technology in school curricula.  In terms of child health, mobile phone and web portals provided health services, complementing the work of 16,438 community and local health clinics for children.  Regarding displaced Myanmar nationals who had sought refuge in Bangladesh, he said his country was trying to extend as much help as possible to the children, who comprised 60 per cent of the refugees.  He urged the international community to ensure those children were protected from violence and aggression, and to help them return to their families in Myanmar.

BERNARDITO AUZA, Permanent Observer of the Holy See, drew attention to unaccompanied refugee and migrant children, the number of whom had reached a record high globally.  Children were the most defenceless group among refugees and migrants.  The Convention on the Rights of the Child had established legal obligations for States Parties that could not arbitrarily and unilaterally be curtailed, he said, including proper identification and registration, and the right to education.  Violations against the rights of children in armed conflict had increased in intensity and scale, with children used as soldiers, suicide bombers, sex slaves and disposable intelligence-gatherers in the most dangerous military operations.  The protection and integration of children must be a primordial concern for all.

NOKULUNGA ZANDILE BHENGU (South Africa), associating herself with the African Group and SADC, said that while the global North had done well to advance children’s rights, progress in the global South fluctuated from country to country.  Still, South Africa had made strides towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, with 98 per cent enrolment of girls in school and increased budgetary allocations for education.  The social security safety net for children was being expanded to better serve the most vulnerable children, with grants reaching 70 per cent of households.  Substance abuse among young people had taken a heavy toll on South Africa, she said, calling for future reports on child protection to provide guidance on how to address that issue. 

ALBERT SHINGIRO (Burundi), associating himself with the African Group, said prevention of violence against children was at the heart of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the 2030 Agenda.  Burundi was deploying considerable efforts to protect children and taking measures to strengthen legislation on the matter.  A series of committees had been established to promote children’s well-being and safety, while legal tools had been developed to protect children from violence, with a unit in the justice ministry dealing exclusively with children’s issues.  The greatest challenge in Burundi was creating safe environments that mitigated high mortality among children, he said, pledging to put into effect all international mechanisms to protect children.

Ms. AL JABRI (United Arab Emirates) said her country had enhanced its judiciary and legislative system to meet requirements set out in the Convention and its Optional Protocols.  In addition, a strategic plan had been introduced to foster the rights of children with disabilities.  The Government also provided humanitarian assistance to Yemenis in the United Arab Emirates who had been affected by conflict, including immunization for Yemeni children.  Protecting children from radicalism and terrorism was also a focus, and to that end, the country had introduced measures to protect women and children from hate speech.

Mr. BASTIDA (Spain), associating himself with the European Union, said his country had introduced legislative reforms to protect the rights of children and adolescents.  Protecting the rights of children on the move was an issue of concern for Spain, given its location along a historical crossroad.  Child migrants were accorded the same rights as Spanish citizens from a belief that all children should have equal rights regardless of nationality.  Spain also ensured that children from poor families were provided access to basic social services.

LOT DZONZI (Malawi), associating himself with the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, the African Group and SADC, said his country had taken special note of the annual report of the Special Representative on Violence against Children.  Malawi had worked to include commitments made under international treaties into its domestic legal framework, including by amending its Constitution to raise the marriage age from 15 years to 18 years.  Poverty was among the factors driving trafficking, and to prevent it, Malawi had made birth registration mandatory.  HIV and AIDS was an ongoing challenge, which Malawi was working to mitigate through a national strategic plan which had reduced HIV infections among children in some age groups by 84 per cent.

Ms. HAIDOUR (Morocco) said her Government had a clear vision to protect the rights of the child.  Constitutional progress had been made to prioritize international mechanisms on the matter.  Efforts prioritized education and took a human-rights-approach to assisting children.  As a result, the rate of children in school had increased from 50 per cent to 80 per cent in recent years.  As part of its national action plan for children and other national mechanisms, Morocco had put in place measures to protect children in armed conflict, allowing them access to the legal system.

YOOSIL HWANG (Republic of Korea) said it was important to educate children in universal values such as human dignity, tolerance, respect for diversity and human rights.  She expressed concern that fewer girls attended school than boys, and that adolescent girls left school much sooner than their male counterparts.  Girls also suffered disproportionate amounts of violence, and lacked access to adequate healthcare and nutrition.  Empowering girls was not merely protecting individuals; it fostered gender equality, she said, stressing that it was well-documented that societies which empowered girls and young women achieved better results in every area of development.  The Republic of Korea would continue to promote global programmes supporting girls’ health, education and vocational training.

JUAN CARLOS MENDOZA-GARCÍA (Costa Rica) said the country had launched a national action plan to address early childhood needs before birth and up to age 10 years.  It offered universal healthcare for children and universal preschool education.  Many young believed that better education could help them overcome family problems, drugs or bullying.  More education would also lead to young people delaying marriage and avoiding unwanted pregnancies, he said, citing a law to prohibit child marriage and penalize those who had sex with people younger than 15 years old.

E. COURTENAY RATTRAY (Jamaica), associating himself with CELAC and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said his country was determined to place children at the heart of development efforts, notably through its long-term, holistic approach to helping children and bringing perpetrators to justice.  All forms of violence, including bullying, must be targeted, he said, noting that more than one billion children around the world were subjected to violence by care-givers.  Alternative discipline strategies had been devised and corporal punishment prohibited in schools.  Noting the transformational impact of education on girls, he reaffirmed the importance of reintegrating school-aged-mothers into the education system.  There was also a need to share international best practices, he said, and Jamaica would continue to work with all relevant stakeholders.

Mr. ABDELWAHED (Libya), associating himself with the African Group, said his country insisted on protecting children, especially those under 16 years, including the foetus in the womb.  Libya had granted children the rights to education, potable water, nutrition and protection from all forms of violence.  The continuing crisis in Libya meant that special attention was given to displaced children.  To ensure well-being, violence and terrorism must be brought to an end.  Referring to children as the basic pillar of sustainable development, he said social services for them must be expanded.  Despite instability, Libya was determined to provide children with free education and healthcare services, including vaccinations.

LILIT GRIGORYAN (Armenia), associating herself with the European Union, said the protection and promotion of children’s rights was a priority.  Strengthened national laws and evidence-based policies were the way to eliminate all violence against children.  For its part, Armenia had approved a national strategy on human rights which allowed children to bring complaints directly to the Committee on the Rights of the Child.  National efforts included collaboration with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) for the development of childcare policies with integrated health, social protection and inclusive education reform.  Armenia condemned violations of international human rights and humanitarian law, in particular when they concerned the rights and the lives of children.

SAHAR ABUSHAWESH (State of Palestine) said Palestinian children had been traumatized by decades of human rights violations by Israel, particularly in the Gaza Strip, where children continued to be tormented by its policies.  Palestinian children had been killed and injured by Israeli occupying forces and illegal settlers, she said, calling for all perpetrators of crimes against them to be brought to justice.  The occupying Power also had demolished homes and confiscated educational facilities, and she pressed the international community to compel Israel to end that practice.  Expressing concern that Palestinian children continued to be illegally held and subject to ill-treatment in Israeli prisons, she called for greater collective efforts to protect and provide Palestinian children with rehabilitation.

JOAN JOSEP LÓPEZ LAVADO (Andorra) said his country in 2014 had made corporal punishment a criminal offense, joining just 53 States worldwide that had enacted such legislation, which was crucial for the protection of the rights of the child.  Turning to the issue of bullying, he said his country had experienced an increase in children affected by that, which had worsened with the introduction of new technologies and social networks.  In response, his Government had launched a plan to mitigate the problem, and in 2018 it would present a new law to reinforce existing measures and further promote the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.  Andorra had endorsed the Safe Schools Declaration, and more than 40 per cent of the country’s official development assistance (ODA) went to programmes for children.

Mr. KOUDOUGOU (Burkina Faso), associating himself with African Group, said the country had introduced a charter to ensure children’s well-being and enhanced laws to protect children in armed conflict.  The Government also had introduced an inclusive education act, and put in place an institutional framework to fight all forms of violence and harmful practices, such as female genital mutilation.  Those measures were in line with Burkina Faso’s economic and social plan which made healthcare, education and social protection priority areas.  However, the country faced major challenges such as the spread of infectious diseases and prevalence of children in gold mining areas who did not attend school.  The country also grappled with the exploitation of children by terrorist groups.  He called on the international community to support efforts to fight terrorism in the Sahel.

JORGE SKINNER-KLÉE (Guatemala), associating himself with CELAC, recognized the 2030 Agenda as a transformative, human-centred understanding that renewed common efforts to prevent violence against children.  National legislation in Guatemala had created a space for children to enjoy their full rights, he said, noting that measures were in place to undertake a national census that would better guide child-centred programmes and measure children’s level of inclusion.  Guatemala was vulnerable to the activities of trafficking networks seeking to exploit children, he said, adding that persistent abuse of children in armed conflict was an attack on all humans.  He called for the sharing of best practices to bring perpetrators to justice.

LILA DESTA (Ethiopia) associating herself with the Group of 77 and China, said the proper implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, the Addis Ababa Action Agenda and the Paris Agreement on climate change would help address obstacles preventing the full realization of children’s rights.  Ethiopia had created a growth and transformation plan that recognized the crucial nature of investing in children.  A national action plan included a focus on protecting children from harmful traditional practices.  Ethiopia had also established a system for registering births.  Given the enormity of the challenges, more cooperation and partnerships were needed at the bilateral, regional and multilateral levels.  

HANNA HALCHENKO (Ukraine) associating herself with the European Union, said every child must have the opportunity to become a productive member of society, and the right to speak up and be heard.  Ukraine was committed to implementation of the 2030 Agenda, having for instance adopted a law on inclusive education, which ensured all Ukrainian children’s access to high-quality education.  Since the beginning of Russian aggression against her country, 90 boys and 47 girls had lost their lives, she said, adding that the proportion of families with children in difficult situations had significantly increased.  There were 1.7 million internally displaced persons in Ukraine, 232,000 of whom were children.  Ukraine was grateful to UNICEF for its financial and technical assistance to the country.

GEORGI PANAYOTOV (Bulgaria) said all child policies in his country followed a human rights-based approach that took into account the “best interest of the child” principle enshrined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child.  Fruitful partnerships had been established with civil society, social partners, the private sector and the media in Bulgaria to advocate for child protection and to raise awareness about child rights, he said.  As President of the Conference of States Parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Bulgaria was making every effort to ensure that the rights of children with disabilities were protected and upheld.

Ms. MUKHTAR (Sudan) said cooperation efforts with the United Nations were in place to fulfil national and international obligations related to the protection of children.  A national council for children had been established and child protection units were being deployed by the police.  Sudan had put forth a comprehensive legal system, with a special prosecutor to oversee child-related cases, including those of children in armed conflict.  A joint action plan had been launched with the United Nations to protect children in armed conflict and provide care in conflict areas.  Such efforts sought to eliminate the recruitment of child soldiers by armed groups.

JA SONG NAM (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) said his country had creditably fulfilled its duty as a protector of children’s rights, through providing in its Constitution child protection, as well as by adopting a number of national and social welfare policies.  The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography, he said, expressing great pride in having an advanced system to protect children’s rights.  Happy children gave the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea optimism about the future, he said.

LALA MEHDIYEVA (Azerbaijan) said that amid progress, there were indications of an alarming level of violence against children, as each year, at least one billion children experienced emotional, physical or sexual violence.  She condemned strongly all violations committed against children in armed conflict situations, drawing attention to the fact that Armenia’s occupation of Azerbaijan and continued attacks had caused casualties among children and damaged schools.  She went on to describe national measures that had improved the situation of children in Azerbaijan, including a rule on the “State Supervision over the Implementation of Children’s Rights” and adoption of a law on combating domestic violence.

Ms. LIKINA (Russian Federation) said her country was committed to strict observance of international legal commitments.  As safeguarding children’s rights was a focus of Russian leadership, the national children’s action strategy set forth the goals of national policies for children and key mechanisms thereto.  The well-being of children was an absolute value for all, and particular attention should be paid to strengthening the traditional family.  She called on all concerned to be more actively involved in advancing traditional family values internationally.  Ukraine’s delegation had launched an inappropriate discussion, she added.

Mr. AL-TERAIFI (Bahrain), describing accomplishments, cited unified family laws, a child care law and a special fund for children.  In Bahrain, all forms of mistreatment were prohibited, and laws had been enacted to protect children from exploitation.  Since acceding to the Convention, Bahrain had provided all sorts of care services for children, as well as established a national centre for the protection of the child.  Bahrain had submitted periodic reports on the Convention’s implementation, he said, noting that his country would spare no effort in caring for its children.

LAURIA NGUELE MAKOUELET (Congo), associating herself with the African Group, said the well-being of children was at the heart of her country’s policy.  Laws had established equality for all children and banned child marriage, she said, noting that a strong legal architecture was also in place.  Mechanisms to coordinate the protection of children included all relevant stakeholders.  Noting that Congo’s commitment to children went beyond its borders, she said regional partnerships sought to combat trafficking, while investments in health and education had raised school enrolment, including among girls.  Programmes were also in place to combat HIV/AIDS and malaria and an organization had been established to monitor sexual violence.  Thanks to those measures infant mortality was declining, she said.

KYAW MOE TUN (Myanmar) aligning himself with ASEAN, said children were the future of his country, adding that education was the key to their development.  Myanmar had increased public spending on education, and a new system waived school fees for all high school students.  All primary school students were provided with school uniforms.  Having faced internal armed conflicts for more than six decades, Myanmar sought to build a peaceful and harmonious society.  The Government welcomed the “Children, Not Soldiers” programme of the Special Representative on Violence against Children, and was working closely with the United Nations Country Task Force on Monitoring and Reporting to prevent underage recruitment into the military.  A new child rights law had been enacted with wide-ranging consultation with civil society.

Mr. MOUSSA (Djibouti) associating himself with the African Group, said children were both exceptional and fragile beings who deserved education, health, and an appropriate environment.  Djibouti condemned all violence against children, adding that the devastating nature of violence against children led to illnesses and other serious consequences.  A child endangered was a dangerous child, and entire segments of society were being lost.  Starting in 2000, the Government had provided free education for all children, and there was no difference in attendance between girls and boys.  Djibouti would continue to promote schooling for girls, he said.

NORA IMANE BELLOUT (Algeria) said her Government had identified access to education as central to peace and security in all countries.  As a result, the education budget in Algeria had increased tenfold over the past 15 years.  Some eight million children now received free education across the country, she noted, adding that those benefits extended to refugees and pursued gender parity.  Programmes that took an inclusive approach were being implemented in cooperation with civil society, she said, noting that national child protection efforts had succeeded in improving knowledge about children’s fundamental rights.

Mr. DOUTI (Togo) encouraged more specific action to ensure better quality of life for children.  Having ratified most relevant international mechanisms, Togo had strengthened its legal system by adopting laws which allowed for increased protection of vulnerable children.  Anti-trafficking laws also had achieved positive results in assisting victims and bringing perpetrators to justice.  With the support of several partners, Togo was pursuing increased school enrolment, and a national hotline was created to enable the reporting of child abuse cases. Substantial efforts were also being made to improve the quality of education by investing in infrastructure and training teachers and staff.

MICHAEL ESPIRITU, Sovereign Military Order of Malta, said the Order was active in 120 countries providing medical, humanitarian and social assistance, underscoring that children’s welfare was a foremost concern.  The Order fed hungry children in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where it worked with the World Food Programme (WFP) to provide aid for displaced and malnourished children.  It was also active in Namibia, Uganda, Togo and Benin, where nutrition nurses travelled to villages treating undernourished children where they lived.  Having served the vulnerable for nine centuries, the Order would continue dedicating itself to serving children.

DANIELLE LARRABEE, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), said the organization had a long history of working to protect children, including those on the move.  The focus now was on establishing new partnerships, joining various international initiatives and ensuring that young people and children had a voice in identifying risks and providing solutions.  For example, in Bangladesh, the Red Crescent Society had held regular discussions with displaced children to learn about their experiences.  Working with its national societies and its 17 million volunteers, IFRC was conducting country evaluations of its work with children on the move in Ecuador, Guatemala, Benin, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe and Indonesia.  Despite enormous needs and challenges, she was encouraged to see children’s rights garner international attention, particularly welcoming the pledge in the New York Declaration to protect children on the move.

KEVIN CASSIDY, International Labour Organization (ILO), said ILO’s two main international conventions covering children in the world of work had nearly universal ratification.  Yet, ratification of those Conventions — on the minimum age for work and the elimination of the worst forms of child labour — was insufficient in eliminating child labour.  The standards enumerated in the Conventions should be translated into national laws, he said, adding that estimates showed a total of 152 million children in labour globally.  ILO was working to eliminate child labour in complex and multi-tiered global supply chains through a “Child Labour Guidance Tool” which aimed to serve as a resource for companies seeking to meet due diligence requirements.  Effective common standards that were monitored and enforced were needed to help protect children’s rights.

Right of Reply

The representative of Saudi Arabia, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said Syria had spread fabricated information to draw attention away from its “heinous” crimes.  The Syrian regime was committing crimes that had claimed thousands of lives and turned a blind eye to the suffering of displaced people.  He reiterated his Government’s commitment to provide aid to countries undergoing humanitarian crises.

The representative of Myanmar, responding to statements made by her counterpart from Bangladesh, said authorities in her country and Bangladesh had agreed on cooperation to address issues along the shared border.  Security forces were well aware of the Geneva Convention and the “law of the land”, and were not harming civilians.  She said Myanmar would work in a neighbourly fashion to address the issue of displaced persons.

The representative of Armenia, responding to statements made by her counterpart from Azerbaijan, said the Government had been addressing refugee issues for more than 25 years as a result of Azerbaijani actions in Nagorno-Karabakh.  Armenia had provided the only viable solution to the issue, yet Azerbaijani aggression persisted.  She said the death of any child was a tragedy and expressed regret that Azerbaijan did not share that view.

The representative of Azerbaijan said Armenia’s delegation had distorted the essence of the conflict.  Armenia had committed war crimes and crimes against humanity.  International law was on Azerbaijan’s side, and demanded the withdrawal of Armenian forces from occupied territories.  Armenia should engage in substantive talks, rather than resorting to provocations.  If Armenia was interested in the political settlement of the conflict, it should withdraw its forces.

The representative of Armenia, taking the floor a second time, said Nagorno-Karabakh was under the control of the Nagorno-Karabakh defence army.  Azerbaijan’s delegate had not denied allegations regarding killings of children; atrocities had been well-documented by Azerbaijanis themselves.  

The representative of Azerbaijan said Armenia’s delegate had disagreed with what the President of Armenia had said, and asked what Armenian soldiers were doing in a certain city.  Secondly, regarding the killing of children in July, he said a two-year old Azerbaijani girl had been killed, and that ordinary people via social media had said that more Azerbaijani people should be killed.  Concerning the April war, Azerbaijan had undertaken appropriate measures to ensure the safety of its citizens.

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States Must Step Up Efforts to Check Spread of Deadly Weapons as Non-State Actors Exploit Rapid Technological Advances, Speakers Tell Security Council

In tackling drones, 3D printing, the dark web and other emerging threats hindering non-proliferation efforts, States must bolster their efforts as well as technological advances in order to combat the spread of weapons of mass destruction and keep them out of the hands of terrorists and other non-State actors, delegates told the Security Council today.

Briefing the Council on those and other new concerns and responses, Izumi Nakamitsu, High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, said many of the technologies, goods and raw materials required to produce weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems were available through legitimate producers.  She also emphasized the importance of international cooperation and dialogue with the private sector in eradicating illicit trafficking routes.

Despite the gains of the last decade, much still remained to be done, she continued.  Joint non-proliferation efforts must identify actions by which to grapple with threats arising from globalization, which had facilitated the exploitation and use of weapons of mass destruction, she said, noting that terrorists groups had evolved into cyberspace and, alongside other non-State actors, exploited loopholes to access the technology they needed.  The international community must prosecute all those responsible for supporting terrorist actions, she said, stressing that overcoming such challenges hinged upon cooperation among security agencies, including the sharing of information.

Agreeing, Joseph Ballard, Senior Officer for the Office of Strategy and Policy at the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), said the rising threat posed by non-State actors, the pace of economic development and the evolution of science and technology were all shaping the future of the global disarmament and non-proliferation regimes.  Moreover, the use of chemical weapons by non-State actors was no longer a threat, but a chilling reality.

The focus must shift to preventing the re-emergence of chemical weapons and to adjusting programmes and resources as needs arose.  Preventing non-State actors from acquiring dual-use materials, equipment and technologies was of critical importance to maintaining the global norm against the use of chemical weapons and in favour of international peace and security, he said.  Outlining recent efforts, he said OPCW had tested a mechanism designed to respond to a chemical terrorist attack.  “OPCW is committed to playing our part, in close cooperation with this Council and with the range of stakeholders that are so critical to our collective goals,” he added.

When the floor opened, many speakers highlighted the continuing relevance of Council resolution 1540 (2004) in calling for actions to prevent non-State actors from acquiring weapons of mass destruction.  Many underlined the urgent need to shift strategies in order to effectively address new and emerging dangers, as some recalled that Council resolution 2325 (2016) called for strengthening efforts to implement 1540 (2004).

Such efforts were more relevant now than ever before, speakers emphasized.  Panama’s representative said his country’s national efforts included halting the financing of terrorism, regulating dual-use materials and participating in a World Customs Organization programme to monitor the use of shipping containers for illicit trafficking.

Yet, States must be able to meet non-proliferation obligations without jeopardizing the development of commercial, industry and technology markets.  Mexico, home to one of the world’s largest chemical industries, enforced strict export-control standards that dovetailed with national non-proliferation responsibilities, that country’s representative said.

The re-emergence of chemical weapons was another pressing issue as many speakers expressed alarm over reports that they had been used in Iraq and Syria.  More must be done to hold perpetrators accountable and to eliminate chemical those weapons permanently, delegates stressed.

The representative of the United States underlined the need for greater controls over chemical materials, saying that exchanging expertise was important in that regard.  Additionally, the global nuclear security architecture required strengthening, and there was need to address critical gaps in the smuggling of radioactive and other nuclear materials.  Underlining the binding nature of resolution 1540 (2004), she said the use of chemical weapons by the Government of Syria was “troubling”, urging all States to increase pressure to make President Bashar al-Assad stop.

Syria’s representative said that the worst violations of resolution 1540 (2004) were the assistance, support and training provided to terrorist groups by some Western States.  Condemning the use of all weapons of mass destruction, he pointed out that Syria had ratified the Chemical Weapons Convention, ended its chemical weapons programme in record time and had cooperated fully with inquiries carried out since 2014.  Rejecting allegations that its military forces had used chemical weapons, he said Syria had constantly warned the Security Council about the danger of terrorist groups acquiring weapons of mass destruction and had clearly identified the countries supplying them.

Some speakers noted that combating current threats required more than existing tools could handle, with the Russian Federation’s representative describing resolution 1540 (2004) as “insufficient” in light of today’s global threats.  As for the inquiries in Syria, he vowed that his country would continue to conduct impartial investigations into the allegations of chemical weapons use.  Given the ever greater threat posed by chemical or biological warfare, especially in the hands of Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) and other such groups, the Russian Federation’s proposed initiative to develop an international convention to combat chemical and biological terrorism would set out provisions criminalizing activities under its purview and implement the principle of “extradite or prosecute”, he said.

China’s representative said it was critical to seek a system of common global security based on fairness while also working to eliminate the driving forces of terrorism, but emphasized that “unilateralism, double standards and discriminatory practices” were contrary to such efforts.  All States were entitled to enjoy the fruits of nuclear technology, he said, warning that confrontation and the emphasis on sanctions could further exacerbate the risk of proliferation.

Delegates raised other looming threats alongside suggestions about how to deal with them, as many speakers recalled today’s newspaper headlines about a massive cyberattack in Ukraine, the United Kingdom and other countries.  Sweden’s representative pointed out the risks associated with intangible transfers of technology, whereby sensitive know-how could be transferred through research, industry or social media.

Senegal’s delegate, meanwhile, said that cybersecurity threats could be serious if targeted at nuclear power stations or other relevant infrastructure.  To quash such dire threats, Senegal recommended a prevention-oriented strategy to prevent weapons of mass destruction from falling into the wrong hands.

Egypt’s representative recommended the creation of a new mechanism to coordinate United Nations counter-terrorism strategies.

Kazakhstan’s delegate suggested that the United Nations establish a tracking mechanism on sensitive technologies.

Many speakers expressed support for the work of the Group of Friends of Resolution 1540 (2004), with some calling for more robust action.  Encapsulating a common thread heard throughout the day-long meeting, the United Kingdom’s representative said the cost of weapons of mass destruction falling into the hands of terrorists would be too high to bear.

Also delivering statements were representative of Bolivia, Ukraine, Uruguay, France, Italy, Ethiopia, Japan, Montenegro, Chile, Peru, Israel, Pakistan, Estonia, Poland, Norway (for the Nordic countries), Brazil, Turkey, Belgium, Morocco, South Africa, Austria, Guatemala, Republic of Korea, Viet Nam, Bangladesh, Botswana, Venezuela (for the Non-Aligned Movement), Netherlands, Colombia, Indonesia, Paraguay, Germany, Spain, Cuba, Argentina, India, Armenia, Canada, Greece, Namibia, Nigeria, Slovenia, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Malaysia and Iran, as well as the Holy See, European Union and the International Criminal Police Organization.

Taking the floor a second time was Turkey’s delegate, who spoke in response to a statement by the representative of Syria.

The meeting began at 10:05 a.m., was suspended at 1:07 p.m., reconvened at 2:08 p.m. and ended at 5:08 p.m.

Briefings

IZUMI NAKAMITSU, High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, said that despite substantial progress in minimizing risks involving terrorism and the use of weapons of mass destruction, emerging threats were a great concern.  Joint efforts to prevent their proliferation must identify actions by which to grapple with threats arising from globalization, which had eased the exploitation and use of such weapons, she said, noting that terrorists groups had evolved into cyberspace and, alongside other non-State actors, exploited loopholes to access the technology they needed.

Emerging new areas of concern included the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs or “drones”), 3D printing and the dark web, she continued, emphasizing that many of the technologies, goods and raw materials required to produce weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems were available through legitimate producers.  She underlined the importance of international cooperation and dialogue with the private sector in tackling illicit trafficking routes so as to prevent terrorist actions.

She went on to underscore the critical importance of ensuring accountability, saying the international community must prosecute all those responsible for supporting such actions.  Cooperation among security agencies, including the sharing of information, was vital to overcoming those challenges, she said, pointing out that, despite the gains made over the last decade, much still remained to be done.  She encouraged the Council to use today’s debate as an opportunity to be proactive and to devise effective solutions to the existing and related challenges.

JOSEPH BALLARD, Senior Officer, Office of Strategy and Policy, Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OCPW), said the rising threat posed by non-State actors, the pace of economic development and the evolution of science and technology were all shaping the future of the global disarmament and non-proliferation regimes.  Moreover, the use of chemical weapons by non-State actors was no longer a threat, but a chilling reality.  The focus must shift to preventing the re-emergence of chemical weapons and to adjusting programmes and resources as needs arose, he said.  Preventing non-State actors from acquiring dual-use materials, equipment and technologies was of critical importance to maintaining the global norm against the use of chemical weapons and in favour of international peace and security.  To that end, OPCW dedicated considerable resources to helping States parties fulfil their obligations under the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on Their Destruction.  That was not an easy task, as recognized by the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 1540 (2004), he said.

The OPCW also worked with States parties through its open-ended working group on terrorism to coordinate the sharing of best practices in terms of national implementation, which tied into Council resolution 2325 (2016).  That text encouraged Member States to review their implementation of resolution 1540 (2004) in light of new and evolving security risks, he noted.  Among other OPCW activities, a recent review of resolution 1540 (2004) had identified transboundary movements of dual-use materials and technologies as a key area.  The agency had therefore signed a memorandum of understanding with the World Customs Organization with the aim of reinforcing its efforts and enhancing the security of the global supply chain, he said, emphasizing that working with the global chemical industry was now more important than ever before.  As for the improving coordination within the United Nations system, he cited the activities of the Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force (CTITF) and various other inter-agencies, saying that a mechanism designed to respond to a chemical terrorist attack had recently been tested and would be enhanced by the newly established OPCW Rapid Response and Assistance Mission.  “OPCW is committed to play our part, in close cooperation with this Council and with the range of stakeholders that are so critical to our collective goals,” he added.

Statements

SACHA SERGIO LLORENTTY SOLÍZ (Bolivia), Council President for June, spoke in his national capacity, saying that the focus of today’s discussion should be the responsibility of all States to implement resolution 1540 (2004) in order to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction to non-State actors.  The range of legislation and enforcement provisions was broad and must also cover any parties acting in any way as accomplices.  The key to successful implementation was international collaboration, including bilateral and regional cooperation, he said, stressing the need for constant vigilance, particularly in light of rapid advances in technology and commerce.  He underlined, in addition, that resolution 2325 (2016) called for greater attention to the financing of proliferation, and to accounting for and securing related materials, national export and transhipment controls as well as the need for stronger enforcement of all existing measures.

VOLODYMYR LESCHENKO (Ukraine), associating himself with the statement to be delivered by the European Union delegation, noted that despite measures by Member States to reduce proliferation risks, challenges in that area were growing more sophisticated.  Several cases of chemical weapons use had been confirmed, particularly in Syria, Iraq and Malaysia, he noted, condemning the use of any weapon of mass destruction as a war crime and a crime against humanity.  It was crucial to find practical ways to ensure that international legal non-proliferation norms did not remain only on paper, but were properly enforced and fully respected.  As such, it was an important and urgent task to intensify effective interactions among States and to build synergies among all stakeholders involved.  In that regard, Ukraine commended Spain’s contribution to strengthening the role of resolution 1540 (2004) and to establishing the resolution’s Group of Friends in 2016, he said, adding that his country attached particular importance to the Global Partnership Initiative as a proper format for strengthening capacities for resisting proliferation threats and challenges.

OLOF SKOOG (Sweden), associating himself with the Group of Friends of Resolution 1540 (2004) and with the statement to be delivered on behalf of the Nordic countries, emphasized the need to be alert to the threat of non-State actors seeking to procure and use weapons of mass destruction.  Sweden remained strongly committed to strengthening multilateral disarmament and non-proliferation regimes, including nuclear disarmament, and resolution 1540 (2004) was an important complement, he said.  The country had recently made a special contribution of $60,000 to the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs to bolster implementation of the resolution.  In addition, Sweden was contributing to global efforts supporting the resolution’s objectives through the Swedish Radiation Safety Agency’s nuclear security cooperation programme as well as engagement with the Group of Seven Global Partnership Programme.  He said it was also important to highlight risks associated with intangible transfers of technology, whereby sensitive know-how may be transferred through research, industry or social media.

ISIDOR MARCEL SENE (Senegal) called today’s news headlines a “grim reminder” of the ever-present risk of non-State actors gaining access to weapons of mass destruction, also drawing attention to cybersecurity threats that could be serious if targeted at nuclear power stations or other relevant infrastructure.  Urging all States to fulfil the commitments enshrined in resolution 1540 (2004) “to the letter”, he emphasized the need for an accurate tally of all the world’s nuclear weapons in order to ensure their destruction and strengthen cooperation on border controls, financial flows and legal assistance.  Crafting a prevention-oriented strategy to prevent weapons of mass destruction from falling into the wrong hands could also include the following measures:  implementing a five-year voluntary action plan for resolution 1540 (2004); boosting cooperation among relevant domestic offices; and rolling out a system covering the entire life-cycle of nuclear materials.  He concluded by drawing attention to the African Union’s efforts to implement resolution 1540 (2004), emphasizing that international assistance — including through match-making between States requesting assistance and those able to provide it — also remained critical.

ELIZABETH LEE (United States), associating herself with the statement to be delivered by the Group of Friends of Resolution 1540 (2004), said her delegation was concerned about significant gaps in the current implementation of the resolution, particularly with regard to chemical and biological security, and to control over delivery systems.  Emphasizing the need to “work smarter” in the future, she recalled the recent horror of chemical weapons use in the Middle East and the use of the deadly nerve agent VX in Malaysia.  There was need for greater controls over such materials, she said, stressing that the exchange of expertise was important in that regard.  Underlining that resolution 1540 (2004) was binding on Member States, she described the use of chemical weapons by the Government of Syria as “troubling” and urged all States to increase pressure on President Bashar al-Assad to end such actions.  The global nuclear security architecture also needed strengthening, including by addressing critical gaps in the smuggling of radioactive and other nuclear materials, she said, recalling that the United States had provided training and technical assistance to border officials around the world.

ELBIO ROSSELLI (Uruguay), associating himself with the Group of Friends of Resolution 1540 (2004), said his country was firmly committed to complete global nuclear disarmament and was therefore in favour of developing a legally binding global instrument to that end.  Expressing concern that “devastating consequences for all humanity” would result from non-State actors gaining access to weapons of mass destruction, he said the recent use of chemical weapons in the Middle East and Asia had revealed the pressing nature of that threat.  Voicing support for the efforts by the OPCW Fact Finding Mechanism in Syria and the Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM) to bring the perpetrators of the use of such weapons in Khan Shaykoun to justice, he urged similar investigations in Iraq.  Resolution 1540 (2004) required the ongoing support of all States, which must take appropriate national steps to bolster import and export controls over materials that could be used to develop nuclear weapons, he said, calling also for measures to prevent their acquisition by non-State groups.

BORIS S. LUKSHIN  (Russian Federation) said full implementation of resolution 1540 (2004) was a pressing global challenge, noting that the text remained the sole international document joining all countries in the development of national systems to keep nuclear weapons out of the hands of non-State actors.  Warning that terrorist groups participating in today’s many conflicts had access to the technology needed to use such weapons, he said the threat of chemical and biological warfare — especially at the hands of Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) militants or similar groups — was becoming ever greater.  The Russian Federation supported strengthening the counter-terrorism component of resolution 1540 (2004), he said, calling for objective, professional, unpoliticized and impartial investigations into all allegations of chemical and biological agent use.  It was also wholly unacceptable to help any non-State actors to gain access to weapons of mass destruction or related materials or components, he emphasized.

Expressing concern that the machinery of resolution 1540 (2004) was “insufficient” in light of today’s global threats, he drew attention to the Russian Federation’s proposed initiative to develop an international convention to combat acts of chemical and biological terrorism.  Such an instrument would, among other things, set out provisions criminalizing activities falling under its purview and implement the principle of “extradite or prosecute”.  Emphasizing the need to strengthen the national and regional components of resolution 1540 (2004)’s implementation, he cited several summits organized by his country to that end, and welcomed China’s plan to organize a similar meeting in August.

In response to the United States statement, he stressed that there was no threat to specialists from that country investigating incidents in Syria, and vowed that the Russian Federation would continue to conduct impartial investigations into the allegations of chemical weapons use.

AMR ABDELLATIF ABOULATTA (Egypt) said emerging threats posed new challenges, as with ISIL/Da’esh in the Middle East.  A new mechanism must be established to coordinate United Nations counter-terrorism strategies, he said, adding that regional and subregional organizations must bolster cooperation.  Campaigns to raise awareness must bring to light issues such as transparency, and closer coordination was also needed between the relevant organizations and the 1540 Committee’s Panel of Experts.  Egypt had submitted four reports on its implementation of resolution 1540 (2004), he noted, expressing support for the creation of a zone free of all weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear bombs, in the Middle East.

MATTHEW RYCROFT (United Kingdom), emphasizing the need to transform resolution 1540 (2004) into reality, said the 1540 Committee must improve technical assistance to States, and the Council must make every effort to encourage the submission of national reports.  The challenges at hand were far too great for the 15 Council members alone, he said, adding that every country had a role to play and that the Council must embrace their help.  Condemning all use of chemical weapons, he expressed great concern about recent allegations, saying he looked forward to seeing the results of the OPCW-JIM’s inquiries on the use of chemical weapons in Syria.  Action was needed because the cost of such weapons falling into the hands of terrorists would be too high to bear, he warned.

KAIRAT UMAROV (Kazakhstan) said his country was taking steps to monitor and address concerns about weapons of mass destruction and sensitive technologies, adding that its efforts extended throughout the region.  Resolutions 1540 (2004) and 2325 (2016) showed the way, he said, expressing confidence that outreach and funding drives could help States to implement those important measures.  Because evolving threats called for new approaches, the United Nations could establish a tracking mechanism on sensitive technologies, he said.

FRANÇOIS DELATTRE (France) described resolution 1540 (2004) as a pillar of non-proliferation efforts, while warning that developments in Asia, including a chemical weapon attack in Malaysia and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s expanded nuclear programme, constituted a growing concerns, alongside the use of toxic weapons in Syria.  Preventing their spread must entail mobilizing joint actions, he said, adding that States must intensify efforts to implement resolution 1540 (2004), including by securing sensitive goods.  France had modernized its legal framework, including by criminalizing activities linked to non-State actors and their access to weapons of mass destruction, he said, adding that a bill had been submitted with the aim of funding those and other efforts.  Because the sum of individual actions was not enough, States must further cement cooperation with each other, he said, emphasizing that ongoing challenges must also be overcome through cooperation with IAEA and other such organizations, among other efforts.

INIGO LAMBERTINI (Italy) associated himself with the statements to be delivered by the European Union delegation and on behalf of the Group of Friends of Resolution 1540 (2004).  Noting that rapid advances in science and technology were making it harder for States to control dangerous materials, he called for increased attention to the “intangible transfer of technology” — reflected in both resolution 1540 (2004) and 2325 (2016) — urging Member States to implement the provisions of both texts while also enhancing border controls and improving coordination with the 1540 Committee.  The delivery of technical assistance remained the key element in strengthening national implementation efforts, he said, commending the 1540 Committee’s efforts to help States “that need it most”.  Pointing out that 2016 had seen significant steps forward in efforts to prevent non-State actors from acquiring weapons of mass destruction, he said “now we must build on that momentum”.

MAHLET HAILU GUADEY (Ethiopia), associating herself with the statement to be delivered on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, noted with concern the continued risk of proliferating weapons of mass destruction, including recent reports of their use by non-State actors in the Middle East.  Since addressing that risk would require a complete ban on nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, Ethiopia favoured developing a legally binding instrument that would ban the development, transfer and use of nuclear weapons, she said.  Preventing non-State actors from gaining access to weapons of mass destruction would require a range of national legislation as well as coordinated domestic measures on the part of Member States.  Regional measures could complement such efforts, she said, calling for enhanced cooperation between the 1540 Committee and regional and subregional organizations such as the African Union.  In particular, the 1540 Committee should enhance cooperation efforts within the framework of the Common African Defence and Security Policy, she said, emphasizing also the crucial need to enhance the exchange of information as well as best practices.

KORO BESSHO (Japan), associating himself with the Group of Friends of Resolution 1540 (2004), echoed the need to remain vigilant against the menace of proliferation.  The threat posed by the activities of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s activities had reached a new level, presenting a clear challenge to the global non-proliferation regime, he noted, strongly urging that country to refrain from developing weapons of mass destruction and to comply faithfully with all relevant international commitments.  The threat was also evident in Syria, where such weapons had actually been used, he said, underlining the responsibility of all States to protect themselves and their peoples.  Proliferation activities must be prevented “whenever and wherever they are attempted”, and special vigilance was needed to prevent people from unwittingly becoming involved in such activities.  State capacity-building was also critical, he said, cautioning that proliferation could occur “through the weakest link”.

LIU JIEYI (China) said it was critical to seek a system of common global security based on fairness while also working to eliminate the driving forces of terrorism.  However, “unilateralism, double standards and discriminatory practices” were contrary to such efforts, he emphasized.  All States were entitled to enjoy the fruits of nuclear technology, he said, warning that confrontation and the emphasis on sanctions could further exacerbate the risk of proliferation.  In that regard, it was important to seek political and diplomatic solutions to global “hotspot” issues and to address the root causes of global insecurity.  Calling upon States to abandon “cold war mentality”, he underlined that national Governments bore primary responsibility for non-proliferation, and that all capacity-building, information-exchange and mutual learning initiatives must ensure respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of States.  China called for a multipronged approach to the comprehensive and effective implementation of resolution 1540 (2004), and urged the 1540 Committee to abide strictly by its mandate.

SRDJAN DARMANOVIC (Montenegro), associating himself with the statements to be delivered by the European Union delegation and on behalf of the Group of Friends of Resolution 1540 (2004), condemned the repeated violations of Council resolutions by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.  Allegations of the presence and use of chemical weapons increased the risk of weapons of mass destruction falling into the hands of terrorist groups, he warned, voicing support for immediate action to ensure the implementation of a global agenda set out in relevant Council resolutions.  Montenegro had adopted an early strategy for that purpose, with a focus on effective enforcement of laws, and established domestic controls that took into account matters requiring particular vigilance, such as intangible technology transfers.  Affirming that small States without nuclear capacities were an important part of the security architecture, he said his country stood ready to cooperate with partners at all levels in what must be a universal effort.

LAURA ELENA FLORES HERRERA (Panama) described the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and resolution 1540 (2004) as unique legally binding multilateral instruments.  Advocating for security for all, she said it was imperative to combat the threat of weapons of mass destruction.  Half a century after the Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean (Treaty of Tlatelolco), Panama hoped ongoing negotiations for a ban on nuclear weapons would be successful.  Aware of developing trends of new technologies, Panama was tackling those and related challenges through such efforts as halting the financing of terrorism, regulating dual-use materials and participating in a World Customs Organization programme to monitor the use of shipping containers for illicit trafficking.  Condemning the production of nuclear weapons by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, she described their humanitarian impact as unacceptable and unquantifiable.  Nuclear disarmament should be a global imperative, she said, pointing out that reaching that goal would free up funding for development-related challenges.

ALFREDO LABBE (Chile) said today’s debate was timely given the current important discussions on a legally binding treaty to prohibit nuclear weapons.  Describing strategic controls as the key to preventing sensitive technologies from falling into the hands of non-State actors, who often attacked the weaknesses of commercial distribution chains, she said that strengthening national capacities through cooperation was particularly important in that effort.  Chile had recently co-organized training for contact points in the region, he said, expressing hope that recent efforts by the OPCW would deter those who intended to use chemical weapons in the future.

JUAN JOSÉ GÓMEZ CAMACHO (Mexico) said a balance must be struck between States meeting their non-proliferation obligations and avoiding obstacles that would advance commercial, technology and industry achievements.  Hosting some of the world’s largest chemical industries, Mexico had established a national export control regime for dual-use materials that ensured its non-proliferation obligations.  Yet, such efforts would be in vain if national capacities lacked real-time knowledge-sharing and cooperation with other States.  Resolution 1540 (2004) and its recent review had underlined the need to expand efforts, he said, noting that industry leaders had taken their own initiatives towards those objectives.

GUSTAVO MEZA-CUADRA (Peru) emphasized that there was a real threat of non-State actors acquiring such arms.  Resolutions 1540 (2004) and 2325 (2106) required full implementation, including by rolling out national legislation on trade in related materials and weapons.  Peru had aligned its legislation with such principles in air and maritime fields.  In addition, regional and subregional cooperation was also essential, he said, noting that Peru had participated in a regional industry conference.  The Security Council must take accurate and coherent action and civil society must be involved in the implementation of resolution 1540 (2004).

DAVID YITSHAK ROET (Israel), aligning himself with the Friends of Resolution 1540, said that prevention of proliferation was a priority for his country.  Israel’s citizens lived under constant threat that had increased in the context of failing States, the recklessness of others and the actual use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime and Da’esh.  Iran’s development of ballistic missiles also increased the threat, particularly to Israel, which it had named as a target.  Such a direct threat by one Member State to another could not be tolerated, he stressed, adding that information had recently come to light that last December Iran had tested a nuclear-capable missile targeted at a bullseye shaped like the Star of David.  He called on the international community to take clear action to counter State-sponsored proliferation, along with all availability of dangerous weapons to terrorists.

MALEEHA LODHI (Pakistan) noted that some States were neither willing to give up their large inventories of nuclear weapons nor their modernization programmes, and were pursuing non-proliferation with “messianic zeal” while ignoring the fact that disarmament and non-proliferation were organically linked.  The granting of discriminatory waivers to some was another challenge to long-held non-proliferation norms and rules.  Such special arrangements carried obvious proliferation risks and opened up the possibility of diverting material intended for peaceful uses to military purposes.  Her Government had been a consistent supporter of resolution 1540 (2004) objectives and had submitted five national implementation reports.  In particular, the last report submitted in May had noted its readiness to offer assistance to interested States for capacity-building, technical assistance and training in areas such as regulatory infrastructure in export controls, among others.  She called for the Nuclear Suppliers Group to establish and adhere to more transparent, objective and non-discriminatory criteria to ensure the equal treatment of non-Nuclear Proliferation Treaty applicants for the Group’s membership.

BERNARDITO CLEOPAS AUZA, Permanent Observer of the Holy See, said that despite the Council’s adoption of texts on the non-proliferation of dangerous weapons, the situation had not changed.  The arms trade continued, including sales of weapons to countries involved in conflict.  He reiterated Pope Francis’ plea to end that trade, to eliminate weapons of mass destruction and to reduce the world’s reliance on armed force in the conduct of international affairs.  Meanwhile, assistance to States and cooperation among them must increase to combat proliferation.  The establishment of zones free of the worst weapons would be a big step in the right direction.  Non-proliferation, arms control and disarmament were critical to achieve both peace and development goals.  In addition, political solutions were needed to halt the involvement of non-State actors in conflicts.

SVEN JÜRGENSON (Estonia), aligning himself with the European Union, affirmed the severity of the threat posed by the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their availability to non-State actors.  Prevention efforts needed to be redoubled at the national, regional and global levels.  The key was universal implementation of multilateral disarmament and non-proliferation agreements, as well as the strengthening of existing instruments and regimes.  In addition, he welcomed immediate commencement and early conclusion of negotiation of a treating banning the production of fissile material.  Noting his country’s contributions to a number of global and regional non-proliferation initiatives, he reaffirmed Estonia’s commitment to continue to implement resolution 1540 (2004) in an effective manner, which entailed legal enforcement and export controls.

JOÃO PEDRO VALE DE ALMEIDA, Head of the European Union delegation, stressed that the international community must continue addressing the root causes of instability as well as strengthen and uphold multilateral disarmament and non-proliferation treaties and agreements.  He also called for the full support of multilateral institutions, especially those dealing with verification and compliance.  Export control lists and regimes also played an important role in stemming proliferation.  In line with its Global Strategy, issued in 2016, the European Union would use every means at its disposal to assist in resolving proliferation crises, as it had successfully done on the Iranian nuclear programme. 

Resolution 1540 (2004) remained a central pillar of international non-proliferation architecture, he stated, noting that the 2016 Comprehensive Review had reaffirmed its centrality, importance and authority.  In May, as a follow-up to the adoption and comprehensive review of resolution 2325 (2016), the European Union Council had adopted a decision supporting implementation of the resolution.  The new decision was an ambitious funding scheme designed to help implement the outcome of the comprehensive review.  It would ask the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs to perform the role of implementing partner for the project extending over a three-year period and worth more than €2.6 million.  By that decision, the European Union would support cooperation and capacity-building, paying special attention to the role of industry, supporting relevant initiatives. 

BOGUSŁAW WINID (Poland), associating himself with the Group of Friends of resolution 1540 (2004), observed that although OPCW was not an anti-terrorist organization, it had the potential to counter the threat of the misuse of toxic chemicals by non-State actors.  The full implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention provisions by its States parties could strengthen that posture against terrorism.  Recalling the Council’s unanimous adoption of resolution 2325 (2016), which Poland had co-sponsored, he stressed that States must pay attention to enforcement measures, particularly those relating to biological, chemical and nuclear weapons as well as national export and trans-shipment controls.  He encouraged the remaining 16 States to submit their initial resolution 1540 (2004) implementation reports, and called on States who had not yet done so to accede to the International Convention on the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism.

GEIR O. PEDERSEN (Norway), speaking for the Nordic countries including Denmark, Finland, Iceland and Sweden, said that the rapid pace of technological development must be taken into account; technological advances could assist implementation efforts but might also lead to new threats.  States with necessary legislation and enforcement measures in place were better placed to benefit from such ongoing advances.  The resolution’s full implementation would therefore also contribute to social and economic progress.  The 2016 comprehensive review had shown considerable progress in both outreach and implementation.  Member States’ initial reporting had clearly improved but progress was uneven, he noted, calling for adequate enforcement measures and domestic legislation to address challenges. 

Since its adoption, he added, the resolution had become more firmly anchored within the United Nations system and was complemented by work under relevant multilateral treaties.  Over the last decade, a broader international architecture of initiatives and partnerships had emerged to fight terrorism related to weapons of mass destruction.  It was of great importance that all such efforts be mutually supportive.  The Nordic countries were active in that broader partnership, contributing financially to the Secretariat’s work on the resolution.  At the 2016 Nuclear Security Summit, the individual Nordic countries had made national pledges, such as working towards minimizing the use of highly enriched uranium in the civilian sector and enhancing the nuclear detection architecture.  Other examples of relevant cooperation projects included training chemists from developing countries and assisting States in building capacity to prevent and counter biological threats.

MAURO VIEIRA (Brazil) said resolution 1540 (2004)’s implementation required ongoing efforts at the national, regional and international levels and called on countries in a position to do so to assist those with implementation needs.  In spite of the resolution’s importance, international bans on chemical and biological weapons were insufficient.  Indeed, nuclear disarmament was a critical part of any reasonable system designed to prevent weapons of mass destruction from falling into the hands of non-State actors.  An international conference — open to all States — was currently under way with a General Assembly mandate to draft a treaty prohibiting all nuclear weapons.  The international community had frequently faced the rationale that security and stability concerns stood in the way of complete nuclear disarmament.  However, that was a “false dichotomy”.  The risk posed by non-State actors was just one example of the threat posed by nuclear weapons.  “There are no right hands for wrong weapons,” he stressed, quoting former Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, and voicing hope that the international community would finally make progress towards a world free of all nuclear weapons.

MAKBULE BAŞAK YALÇIN (Turkey), associating herself with the European Union and the Group of Friends of Resolution 1540 (2004), said Turkey’s updated national matrix showed its meticulous implementation of that resolution, including an “all-encompassing national legislation” and the country’s membership in international legal instruments on non-proliferation and counter-terrorism.  While noting that her Government was working to reinforce its transit inspections as a priority, she said it was unfair to levy the burden of such control on transit countries alone; a genuine, fair responsibility sharing arrangement with source countries was needed.  As a country that had never pursued weapons of mass destruction, Turkey firmly opposed the development, production, stockpiling and use of such weapons by States and non-State actors alike.  The repeated use of chemical weapons in Syria could not be considered in isolation as it was fully consistent with the regime’s chemical weapons programmes.  Recalling that the use of toxic chemicals, most recently in Khan Shaykoun in April, was a “brutal reminder” that such attacks would continue unless the perpetrators were held accountable, she called on the Council to take measures in accordance with its relevant resolutions.

PASCAL BUFFIN (Belgium), associating himself with the European Union delegation, said there was no doubt terrorists were actively trying to acquire weapons of mass destruction.  The vigilance and cooperation of the entire international community was needed to stop them.  Recalling the use of gas on his country’s territory during the First World War, he emphasized the importance of OPCW’s efforts, particularly in ending the use of chemical weapons by Syria and Da’esh.  He also welcomed the peer review approach to preventing the proliferation of biological agents.  In all areas, he added, multilateral initiatives must be supported, best practices disseminated and all sectors of society brought into efforts to prevent proliferation.

ABDERRAZZAK LAASSEL (Morocco) said there was an “endless spiral” of terrorist attacks by groups that were constantly taking advantage of the latest technology and strategies.  Prevention efforts must stay a step ahead of them to keep them from obtaining weapons of mass destruction.  The implementation of resolution 1540 (2004), however, was a challenge for many countries, particularly those in Africa, he said.  It was also difficult to monitor the effectiveness of measures undertaken as reports represented them, he said, suggesting that the 1540 Committee help countries to assess their state of implementation, noting that Morocco would be hosting an event to help African countries enhance the evaluation of their implementation measures.

DOCTOR MASHABANE (South Africa), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said progress towards a world free of nuclear weapons continued to lag behind the prohibition of chemical and biological weapons.  South Africa joined the vast majority of the international community in advocating for efforts to ensure that nuclear weapons were never used again under any circumstances, he said.  In that context, the Conference to negotiate a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons was a “bold and positive step” that would help to stigmatize and delegitimize such weapons on a global scale.  While echoing concerns about the threat posed by non-State actors, he nevertheless underlined that efforts to deal with such challenges must avoid imposing unwarranted restrictions on the inalienable right of Member States — and developing countries in particular — to use nuclear materials, equipment and technology for peaceful purposes.  He also drew attention to South Africa’s efforts to implement global control regimes, including by strengthening national legislation and through cooperation with international organizations, regional actors, civil society groups and the private sector.

PHILIPP CHARWATH (Austria) said his country considered export controls an important tool for preventing proliferation and was an active participant in the Zangger Committee, the Nuclear Suppliers Group, the Australia Group and the Missile Technology Control Regime.  On the national level, Austria had legislation in place to implement its international non-proliferation commitments effectively.  Urging the redoubling of efforts to prevent the occurrence of a nuclear terrorist attack, he also called for reinforcement of existing nuclear non-proliferation regimes.  A major obstacle was the continued existence of nuclear weapons, he said, emphasizing that as long as a number of States possessed such weapons, others would be tempted to develop or otherwise obtain them as well.  Real progress on nuclear disarmament was therefore crucial in the context of today’s discussion, he said.

JORGE SKINNER-KLÉE (Guatemala), associating himself with the Group of Friends of Resolution 1540 (2004) and the Non-Aligned Movement, noted that the face and methods of terrorism had changed in recent years.  The preventive and cooperative nature of resolution 1540 (2004) meant that it aimed to strengthen commitment to non-proliferation without affecting peaceful uses of nuclear energy, he said.  As such, it provided a platform for cooperation, but would be counter-productive if its implementation turned into a coercive imposition of sanctions.  Implementation, therefore, must be adapted to the reality of the threats it aimed to prevent.  The recent review process and the adoption of resolution 2325 (2016) had achieved that delicate balance, he said, emphasizing that balanced implementation would only be possible if all States had the resources to play a role.

LOUAY FALOUH (Syria) said the worst violations of resolution 1540 (2004) were the assistance, support and training of terrorist groups to the point of giving them toxic chemicals to use against military personnel as well as civilians.  Certain countries had raised topics outside today’s agenda in order to impede the Council’s efforts and prevent it from holding a true and serious debate on the resolution.  The same countries opposed efforts to make the Middle East a nuclear-weapon-free zone in order to protect Israel, he said, describing that country as an occupying Power that continued to support terrorist groups — Al Nusrah Front in particular — and possessed a biological and chemical weapons arsenal.  Syria had constantly warned of the danger posed by terrorist groups — including Al Nusrah, ISIL/Da’esh and Al-Qaida — acquiring weapons of mass destruction by sending messages to various Security Council subsidiary bodies, he said, adding that the documented information pointed out countries providing chemical weapons to terrorist groups.

He went on to recall intelligence reports to the effect that Turkey had provided such chemicals to groups in Syria and facilitated their distribution, which constituted serious violations of resolution 1540 (2004).  Syria was still waiting for that information to be reflected in reports on chemical weapons and their use by terrorist groups, he said.  Today’s accusations against Syria were part of a “political blackmail war” that systematically accompanied every success of the Syrian army and its allies in the war against terrorism.  Syria condemned the use of chemical weapons and any use of weapons of mass destruction, having ratified the Chemical Weapons Convention and ended its chemical weapons programme “in record time”, he emphasized.  Damascus had always rejected allegations by certain Western Administrations that its military forces had used chemical and toxic weapons, he said.  However, Syria had cooperated with inquiries carried out since 2014 and had provided any and all information needed to ensure the impartiality of those investigations.

CHO TAE-YUL (Republic of Korea), associating himself with the Group of Friends of Resolution 1540 (2004), said chemical attacks on civilians in Syria and Iraq underlined the urgent threat of non-State actors using weapons of mass destruction.  In order to meet emerging challenges, a multi-layered prevention mechanism that was as tech-savvy and capable of crossing borders as the non-State actors would be needed, he said, emphasizing also that national, regional and global export-control regimes must include the sharing of information on dual-use items and new proliferation techniques.  Public and private sector focal points must be mobilized more actively, as had been done during the Republic of Korea’s hosting of the Pacific regional Wiesbaden conference on industry outreach.  In addition, national capacity must be built through “tailor-made matchmaking” of partners.  He concluded nu underlining the importance of implementing all measures to stem the threat posed by the proliferation activities of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

NGUYEN PHUONG NGA (Viet Nam), associating herself with the statement to be delivered on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, said the risk of non-State actors acquiring dangerous weapons demanded a concerted international response.  Viet Nam was in full compliance with its obligations under numerous international non-proliferation instruments thanks to appropriate legislation and effective action, he said.  At the same time, progress must be made on international disarmament, including a ban on nuclear weapons and the creation of nuclear-weapon-free zones.  In addition, developing countries must be helped to implement international instruments, she said, underlining the need for large-scale cooperation by all States to ensure complete fulfilment of the non-proliferation and disarmament agendas.

MASUD BIN MOMEN (Bangladesh), associating himself with the statement to be delivered on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, said that, given the severity of the threat posed by non-State actors acquiring weapons of mass destruction, there was a need for greater sharing of best practices in order to build upon implementation of resolution 1540 (2004).  Noting the rapid advances in modern technology, he called for enhancing the knowledge base relating to emerging risks and for making that information available to Member States.

CHARLES NTWAAGA (Botswana), associating himself with the statement to be delivered on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, said that growing international terrorism and the rising willingness of terrorist group to use weapons of mass destruction should challenge the international community to ensure that such groups do not gain access to those devastating weapons.  Further implementation of resolution 1540 (2004) required deepening international cooperation strengthening international mechanisms, he said, expressing support, in that light, for negotiations towards a ban on nuclear weapons.  While outlining Botswana’s anti-terrorism measures and efforts to prevent sensitive materials from reaching non-State actors, he underlined the inherent right of sovereign States to the peaceful use of nuclear and other dual-use technologies.

RAFAEL DARÍO RAMÍREZ CARREÑO (Venezuela), speaking for the Non-Aligned Movement, noted that at the Movement’s recent Summit on Margarita Island, its member States had reiterated their ongoing concern about the complicated disarmament and security situation.  They had called for efforts to be stepped up in resolving the current stalemate in nuclear non-proliferation.  They had also underscored the importance of carrying out parallel efforts towards non-proliferation and disarmament.  Member countries which were parties to the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on Their Destruction (Biological Weapons Convention) acknowledged that its lack of verification systems continued to pose a challenge to its effectiveness.

He went on to note that the most effective way to prevent terrorists’ procuring weapons of mass destruction was the total elimination of such weapons.  That question was of particular concern since terrorists had used chemical weapons in the past, including in member countries of the Movement.  He urged countries to  adopt national measures when appropriate to prevent terrorists from procuring such weapons and their delivery systems.  The adoption of resolution 1540 (2004) and others underscored that no action by the Council should undermine the Charter, existing multilateral treaties established in those areas or the role of the General Assembly.  He cautioned against the Council’s recurring practice of defining legislation requirements to implement its decisions.  It was important that the question of non-State actors acquiring weapons be considered inclusively, taking into account the perspectives of all Member States.

KAREL JAN GUSTAAF VAN OOSTEROM (Netherlands), associating himself with the Group of Friends of Resolution 1540 (2004), stressed that reaching full, worldwide implementation of the resolution by 2021 required tremendous work by Member States, international and regional organizations, and industry.  Considerable coordination was needed to ensure efficient and effective implementation and prevent overlap or competition.  National action plans were a great instrument to help Member States approach implementation in a comprehensive manner, helping them improve the effectiveness and efficiency of technical assistance.  In addition, nuclear security was critical, he noted, stressing that the work of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) was indispensable and deserved the international community’s full support.

EMMANUEL ROUX, International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL), said that in 2010, the agency had launched a strategy in support of its 190 member countries that included the collection and sharing of intelligence, analysing data and building capacity, all entailing training courses in a wide range of areas.  INTERPOL could also provide investigative and operational support to member countries on request, in the form of teams that would respond to terrorist incidents and initiatives that would support the international law-enforcement community.  Given the need for a multidisciplinary, inter-agency approach to preventing the proliferation of dangerous weapons, INTERPOL worked globally to connect its worldwide network of member countries and maintain close partnerships with multiple other international agencies, he said.

CARLOS ARTURO MORALES LÓPEZ (Colombia) said national efforts to implement resolution 1540 (2004) were of critical importance, but emphasized that they must be accompanied by international cooperation in strengthening security measures at all levels of the creation and transfer of dangerous materials, and have strong controls with which all stakeholders would comply.  Enforcing border controls, as well as identifying and tracking the final users, was particularly necessary, he added.  Modern standards stipulated by the World Customs Organization must be instituted universally, he said, stressing that his country was moving forward in all relevant areas of strategic trade.

DIAN TRIANSYAH DJANI (Indonesia), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said that his country had instituted comprehensive measures to counter the development, acquisition, manufacture, possession, transport, transfer or use of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and their delivery systems.  Underlining the 1540 Committee’s role in “match-making” and extending extra support to those countries that lacked capacity, he pointed out that 13 of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals had direct relevance to nuclear science and technology.  It was therefore crucial that the discourse of weapons of mass destruction did not impinge on States’ inalienable right to the peaceful use of nuclear energy.  Additionally, action to avert the acquisition of such weapons by non-State groups must flow from multilaterally-negotiated instruments and the Council must be “principled and clear” as it tackled threats to global peace.  “Let us be on the right side of history” in protecting humankind from the threat of nuclear explosions, he stressed, urging reluctant States to heed the calls for a ban on — and total elimination of — all nuclear weapons.

JULIO CÉSAR ARRIOLA RAMÍREZ (Paraguay), recounting the visit by the 1540 Committee to Paraguay, said that the Committee had observed his country’s efforts to adapt to international standards in the fight against terrorism and prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction by non-State actors, particularly in border areas.  A new follow-up mission had been planned to hold meetings with legislative and judicial branches of the Government.  Stressing that the fight against terrorism must contribute to maintaining international peace and stability within the framework of rule of law and respecting fundamental individual freedoms, he called upon Member States to transfer resources currently allocated to the modernization of their arsenals into the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, in particular the Goal to curb illicit arms flows.

THOMAS SCHIEB (Germany), associating himself with the European Union and the Group of Friends of Resolution 1540 (2004), underscored the repeated use of chemical weapons in Syria by both the Syrian regime and ISIL — as well as the latter’s use of such weapons in Iraq.  Holding the perpetrators of those heinous acts accountable remained a major challenge.  As preventing non-State actors from accessing such weapons or their precursors was the most effective way to avert their use, his country had offered a specialized facility to assist international efforts to remove and destroy the remaining stock of chemical weapons precursors in Libya.  It also played an active role in the Group of Seven efforts to strengthen the Biological and Toxic Weapons Convention.  In addition, Germany was pushing for a treaty to end fissile material production and had initiated the Wiesbaden Process, which sought to increase private sector engagement in the context of resolution 1540 (2004).

ROMÁN OYARZUN MARCHESI (Spain), speaking for the Group of Friends of Resolution 1540, pledged the efforts of all 51 members of the Group to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction in all its forms.  In that context, he condemned in the strongest terms the development of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.  Furthermore, the use of chemical weapons in Syria, Iraq and Malaysia undermined the hard-won taboo against those atrocious weapons.  He strongly condemned the use of the weapons by ISIL and Malaysia and urged Syria to fully cooperate with OPCW. 

He voiced support for the full implementation of resolution 1540 (2004) as set out in resolution 2325 (2016).  Prioritization of activities was essential.  The chemical and biological sectors required more attention, particularly in relation to securing materials.  It was also critical for States to criminalize all forms of financing of proliferation activities, even those that occurred through negligence.  Best practices in legislation, enforcement and domestic controls should be shared, and reporting should be increased and augmented.  He stressed the importance of assistance in capacity-building to implement the resolution and welcomed increased cooperation between the United Nations and other relevant international and regional organizations.

ANA SILVIA RODRÍGUEZ ABASCAL (Cuba), associating herself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said the only effective way to prevent the acquisition of weapons of mass destruction, including by terrorists, was their total elimination in a transparent and verifiable manner.  Her country neither possessed nor planned to acquire nuclear weapons.  Furthermore, it had participated actively in negotiations under way in the General Assembly on a convention to prohibit nuclear weapons with a view to their total elimination.  With regards to the Biological Weapons Convention, she called for the resumption without delay of negotiations for a legally binding protocol on verification.  The fight against terrorism must be based on the effective implementation of the United Nations global strategy and the Charter.  Actions taken by the Council must not undermine existing multilateral treaties on weapons of mass destruction nor the role of the General Assembly.

MARÍA PAULA MAC LOUGHLIN (Argentina) noted that the use of weapons of mass destruction by non-State actors had highlighted the need for Member States to step up disarmament efforts.  Since the adoption of resolution 1540 (2004), Argentina had tackled implementation by balancing disarmament efforts with the peaceful use of technology.  Since presenting its first national report, as well as successive updates, her country had shown unwavering commitment to the resolution, becoming a member of the Proliferation Security Initiative.  Argentina had also provided assistance within the resolution’s framework, including training activities and with African countries in the area of South-South cooperation.  It was crucial to guarantee that dual-use materials were protected and beyond the hands of terrorists.

TANMAYA LAL (India), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, expressed concern over the possibility of “collusion” in assisting terror networks and non-State actors in accessing weapons of mass destruction.  Fully conscious of India’s responsibilities as a country with advanced nuclear technologies, he outlined its participation in the many international nuclear summits and agreements, including the Missile Technology Control Regime.  As well, his Government planned to host an international workshop in cooperation with the United Nations Office of Disarmament Affairs and the 1540 Committee.  Clandestine proliferation networks that had been unmasked revealed non-State actors could exploit weak links in global supply chains and export controls and undermine international security.  All States must therefore assume their responsibly to combat the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction by non-State actors.

ZOHRAB MNATSAKANYAN (Armenia) said capacity-building and the strengthening of international setup at the national level were the necessary prerequisites to address the existing and emerging threats associated with the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and the risks of their falling in to the hands of terrorists and non-State actors.  Describing a broad range of national legislation to those ends, he encouraged the 1540 Committee to continue its cooperation with relevant international and regional organizations based on comparative advantages and best practices developed on the ground.  He also pointed to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the Global Initiative to Combat Acts of Nuclear Terrorism, in particular, as important platforms for the promotion of relevant cooperation.

MICHAEL BONSER (Canada), associating himself with the Group of Friends of Resolution 1540 (2004), announced funding for the Stimson Center to implement a 1540 Assistance Support Initiative.  Among other things, the initiative would create a new website with a comprehensive list of assistance providers.  His country was also providing new funding for several other projects related to the resolution, including continued support for the Caribbean Community’s (CARICOM) regional 1540 coordinator.  Domestically, Canada was strengthening its counter-proliferation capabilities by increasing funding and amending legislation to better control brokering activities and exports related to weapons of mass destruction.  Internationally, under Canada’s chairmanship, the Nuclear Security Contact Group was working to identify and address new and emerging challenges to nuclear security.  In addition, Canada would chair the High-Level Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty Expert Preparatory Group to prepare the way to negotiate a treaty to end fissile material production for nuclear weapons.

DIONYSIOS KALAMVERZOS (Greece), associating himself with the European Union, said the world was confronted with a multitude of challenges, from economic development issues to the spread of weapons of mass destruction.  Technological advances and instability had only worsened that landscape.  Addressing root causes of instability, supporting multilateral agreements and institutions and the full implementation of Council resolutions were part of the solution to tackling those challenges.

NEVILLE MELVIN GERTZE (Namibia), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, welcomed deeper cooperation among Member States to build capacity that would prevent the acquisition of weapons of mass destruction by terrorists and other illegal armed groups.  He reaffirmed, however, the sovereign right of Member States to the development of advanced technologies in the nuclear, chemical, biological and pharmaceutical sectors to achieve industrial development.  In the area of weaponry, his country continued to participate in disarmament activities with a view to achieving a world free of weapons of mass destruction and the complete prohibition of their acquisition, development, stockpiling, transferring and modernization.

TIJJANI MUHAMMAD BANDE (Nigeria), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, recalled that resolution 1540 (2004) had been the second Council resolution to invoke Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter outside a country-specific context.  That filled a gap in international law by addressing the unacceptable risk of non-State actors obtaining and using weapons of mass destruction.  The emergence of extremist groups had introduced a sense of urgency in the international community’s need to take stock of the implementation of resolution 1540 (2004).  No State was immune from the threat and consequences of weapons of mass destruction attack by such groups.  “This should serve as a clarion call for us to vigorously confront one of the key security challenges of our time,” he said, citing a “yawning compliance gap” on the part of many Member States with limited resources and technical capabilities.  Expressing concern about the slow pace of progress towards nuclear disarmament on the part of the nuclear-weapon States, he called on them to fulfil their relevant legal obligations and spotlighted multilateralism as the core platform for negotiations in the area of disarmament and non-proliferation.

ANDREJ LOGAR (Slovenia), aligning himself with the European Union and the Group of Friends of Resolution 1540, said that his country’s efforts to implement the resolution included the submission of four reports to the Committee, the development of regional counter-terrorism initiatives in the Western Balkans and participation in the IAEA Board of Governors.  His Government attached great importance to nuclear security and was working with other countries in that area.  As cyber terrorism was directly related to the matter at hand, Slovenia was also reviewing its national legislation and policies in that area.  The county, he pledged, would continue to implement the resolution as well as the recommendations of the comprehensive review and he called on all Member States to do the same.

KIM IN RYONG (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) condemned and rejected remarks by his counterparts from the United States, Japan, United Kingdom and France, saying they had called his country’s self-defensive deterrent measures into question.  Recalling that those “hostile forces” had spread a story about use of chemical weapons or weapons of mass destruction in order to create an atmosphere of international criticism against his country, he said that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, as a responsible nuclear-weapon State, would observe all its commitments to nuclear non-proliferation.  The root of the situation on the Korean Peninsula rested in the hostile United States policy and manoeuvres — including the military exercises conducted in March and April —intended to provoke war, he said.

Turning to recent discussions about sanctions imposing on his country, he said it was a fatal miscalculation if countries which had had a hand in the frame-up of the “sanctions resolution” would even think they could delay or hold in check the eye-opening development of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s nuclear forces even for a moment.  “No matter what others say, whatever sanctions, pressure and military attack may follow, we will not flinch from the road to build up nuclear forces which was chosen to defend the sovereignty of the country and the rights to national existence,” he stressed.  The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s self-reliant nuclear force served as a guarantee and an absolute strength for peace on the Korean Peninsula and the world.

KAHA IMNADZE (Georgia), associating himself with the European Union and the Group of Friends of Resolution 1540 (2004), said the threat posed by chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear weapons and materials, as well as technologies related to weapons of mass destruction, were of serious concern to the Government of Georgia, partly because the country’s neighbouring regions were at high risk for proliferation.  Several attempts to smuggle nuclear and other radioactive materials through Georgia’s occupied regions had been recorded in recent years, he noted.  However, in the absence of an international presence in those regions, it had become virtually impossible to conduct any kind of verification activities on the ground, which had raised the risk of proliferation.  The Government had formed a national chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear council which, in consultation with others, had elaborated a threat reduction strategy and national action plan for 2015-19.  A new legislative base for regulating Georgia’s strategic export control in full compliance with European standards had also been developed.  In addition, Georgia had formed, with Morocco and the Philippines, the United Nations Group of Friends of Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Risk Mitigation and Security Governance.

TOFIG MUSAYEV (Azerbaijan) said that countering dangerous proliferation of weapons was among the priority areas of his country’s bilateral relations and international cooperation.  It had long supported a world free from weapons of mass destruction, including by universalizing the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the establishment of zones free of weapons of mass destruction.  Border control was particularly important in countering proliferation, but despite strong efforts in that area, Azerbaijan was hobbled by continued military occupation of its territories, he said.  That had created conditions suitable to the cross-border activities of terrorists and other criminal groups.  Efforts to counter such activities must observe strict respect for international law, including the sovereignty and territorial integrity of States, he stressed.  Primary attention should also be given to countering the practices of States that instigated, supported and directed non-State actors who might seek to acquire dangerous weapons.

KENNEDY MAYONG ONON (Malaysia), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said his country continued to meet its international obligations by further enhancing the enforcement of effective measures to improve domestic controls and preventing the proliferation of nuclear, chemical or biological weapons and their means of delivery, including by establishing appropriate controls over related materials.  He also outlined recent amendments to national export, transhipment, transit and brokering procedures — including of arms and related materials — such as the Strategic Trade Act that levied severe penalties for the misuse of those items.

JAVAD SAFAEI (Iran), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, recalled that his country had suffered chemical attacks by Iraq, yet the Council had remained silent.  As for comments by Israel’s representative, he rejected them as unsubstantiated allegations aimed at advancing “an Iranophobic agenda” and at covering up and justifying its own aggressive and unlawful policies and practices against the entire region.  The Israeli regime continued to flout Council resolutions and international instruments governing weapons of mass destruction, while remaining the only obstacle blocking the establishment of a Middle East zone free from those armaments.  The regime’s possession of nuclear weapons made it the most serious threat to the security of all States in the region and to non-proliferation principles, he said, emphasizing that, as such, the Council had a responsibility to address that threat effectively.  In addition, evidence showed that Israeli agents had tended to Da’esh operatives active on the Syrian territory, he said.

Iran, situated in an unstable and volatile region, was entitled to build a credible conventional capability to deter and defend against any aggression, he affirmed.  “Iran won’t start a war,” he emphasized.  “We don’t intend to attack any country, but if we come under attack, it is our legitimate right, under the Charter of the United Nations, to be able to use our national conventional defence capabilities to counter any aggression against our national sovereignty and territorial integrity.”  He recalled that his country had always warned against the expansion of terrorism in the region while basing its policies on cooperation with regional countries and the international community in order to uproot terrorism in the region and around the world.

The representative of Turkey took the floor a second time, refuting allegations by his counterpart from Syria.  The use of chemical weapons flouted international law and perpetrators must be held accountable, he stressed.

News

Speakers Condemn Gender-Based Violence, Including Rape as ‘Weapon of War’, in Commission on Status of Women Discussion

Describing national policies aimed at boosting the status of women and protecting their human rights, speakers today condemned gender-based violence — including the use of rape as a weapon of war or tactic of terrorism — as the Commission on the Status of Women entered the second day of its sixtieth annual session.

“[Women] are at the eye of the storm of conflict and repression, their bodies the focus of social and cultural battles and the object of aggression and contempt”, said Caroline Dinenage, Minister for Women, Equalities and Family Justice of the United Kingdom.  Women had the right to live free of fear, she said, noting that her country had recently launched a new cross-Government Violence Against Women and Girls strategy which set out ambitious plans to prevent violence, support victims and take action against perpetrators.

Throughout the day, speakers echoed the importance of implementing national policies to combat gender-based violence and other human rights violations.  Among those was Maria Filomena Delgado, Minister for Family and the Promotion of Women of Angola, who cited progress in legally protecting women from sexual abuse, violence and early marriage in her country.  She noted that her country had in 2015 created a domestic violence hotline, as well as family counselling centres and shelters.

Tatau Godinho, Secretary of Policies for Women’s Work and Economic Autonomy of Brazil, described her country’s programme to fight gender-based violence, known as “Women:  living without violence”, which had set up 27 facilities to provide help for female victims of violence.  In addition, Brazil had recently passed a bill criminalizing femicide, which imposed harsher penalties for those who harmed or killed women or girls.

Aisha Jummai Al-Hassan, Minister for Women Affairs and Social Development of Nigeria, described gender-based violence as a great concern for her country.  The Government, civil society and other stakeholders would continue to work tirelessly towards its elimination, she said, noting that the country’s Violence against Persons Prohibition Act, enacted in May 2015, criminalized all forms of gender-based violence, harmful practices against women and girls, rape and economic and political marginalization.

Among the obstacles to ending gender-based violence was the persistence of traditional stereotypes of masculinity, said Åsa Regnér, Minister for Children, the Elderly and Gender Equality of Sweden.  She urged a focus on the root causes of violence, calling for more effective prosecution of perpetrators and greater emphasis on lowering the threshold for men to seek help to change their violent behaviour.  Investing in violence prevention in schools was also needed in order to change attitudes associated with destructive masculinity.

Laurence Rossignol, Minister for Families, Children and Women’s Rights of France, said human rights violations continued to occur due to religious extremism and under the guise of cultural relativism.  Women were raped as a weapon of war or were reduced to slavery by groups such as Da’esh.  However, such violations were not limited to war zones.  Domestic violence, forced marriages and female genital mutilation occurred around the world.

Similarly, Maxime Prévot, Minister for Public Works, Health and Social Action of Belgium, agreed that violence against women and girls constituted a violation of their human rights.  No custom, tradition or religion could justify an act of violence against a woman.  The international community must denounce and specifically condemn rape perpetrated as a weapon of war or tactic of terrorism, he stressed.

Also speaking today were ministers and other senior officials from Botswana (on behalf of Southern African Development Community (SADC)), Papua New Guinea (on behalf of the Pacific Islands Forum), Canada, Morocco, Slovenia, Luxembourg, Japan, Peru, Israel, Poland, Republic of Korea, Qatar, Iceland, Austria, Mozambique, South Africa, Bahrain, Côte d’Ivoire, Norway, Czech Republic, Cuba, Lithuania, Costa Rica, Madagascar, Paraguay, Mali, Latvia, Philippines, Indonesia, Tunisia, Trinidad and Tobago, Malawi, India, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Liberia, Ghana, Dominican Republic, Guinea, Mongolia, Honduras, Viet Nam, Estonia, United Arab Emirates, El Salvador, Kenya, Jordan, Afghanistan, Suriname, Liechtenstein, Zambia, Mauritius, Republic of Moldova, China, Sri Lanka, Mauritania, Uganda, South Sudan, Botswana, United Republic of Tanzania, Ethiopia, Cambodia, Pakistan, Mexico, Egypt, Argentina, Turkmenistan, Switzerland, Hungary, Bahamas, Chile, Russian Federation, Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ukraine, Portugal, Spain, Tonga and Solomon Islands.

Statements

EDWIN J. BATSHU, Minister for Labour and Home Affairs of Botswana, speaking for the Southern African Development Community (SADC), said women’s economic empowerment and strengthening the policy and legal frameworks to combat violence against women and children were priority areas for the Community’s gender and development programme.  In addition, the Community’s Protocol on Gender and Development had been aligned to the Sustainable Development Goals, the Beijing+20 Review and the African Union Agenda 2063, while since 1999, SADC had sponsored the resolution on women, the girl child and HIV/AIDS.  Expressing concern that the majority of new HIV infections occurred among adolescent girls and young women in eastern and Southern Africa, he said in sub-Saharan Africa, infection rates were twice as high among girls and young women as compared to boys and men.  Keeping girls in school and providing culturally sensitive and age appropriate sex education had a positive impact on sexual and reproductive health.

DELILAH GORE, Minister for Religion, Youth and Community Development of Papua New Guinea, speaking for the Pacific Islands Forum, said gender equality and poverty alleviation was the “unfinished business” of the Millennium Development Goals, and she supported accelerating commitments in those areas under the Sustainable Development Goals framework.  There was now gender parity in primary education in most Pacific countries and improved legislative frameworks to prevent and respond to violence against women.  Urging the Secretary-General to advance gender-sensitive implementation of the sustainable development agenda, she said the Forum was committed to addressing gender-based inequalities and violence, discrimination, poverty and a lack of economic opportunities, among other issues.  She advocated strengthening institutional capacities, such as gender-sensitive data collection; enhancing partnerships among Governments, civil society, the private sector and faith-based organizations; and supporting resource mobilization to advance gender equality.

PATRICIA HAJDU, Minister for the Status of Women of Canada, said her country would remain a world leader in the advancement of gender equality and realization of women’s human rights, as the former was not only a human rights issue but an essential part of social justice, peace, security and prosperity.  As gender-based violence was a reality for women and girls, she was engaging with experts, grass-roots organizations, and provincial and territorial governments to develop a comprehensive federal strategy to end such abuse, as well as improve services for survivors.  The disproportionate rate of such abuse against indigenous women was a major concern, and, as such, her State had launched an inquiry into the high number of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls, having met with survivors and loved ones.  In the coming months, it would announce the details of that study and its contribution to Canada’s commitment to reconciliation.

BASSIMA HAKKAOUI, Minister for Solidarity, Women and Social Development of Morocco, said the Government had spared no effort in empowering women and girls.  The 2011 Constitution enshrined principles of equality.  The 2012-2016 gender equality plan included 24 goals related to women’s empowerment.  A draft law aimed to establish a gender equality and anti-discrimination agency, she said, adding that the Council for Family and Childhood had been created.  During elections in September 2015, women had been elected to 12 per cent of the seats in Parliament and 22 per cent of those seats in municipal governments.  In 2011, a family solidarity forum had been created for divorced women with children, and a social cohesion support fund had also been created.  The Government was providing direct support to widowed mothers.  Despite progress in Morocco and elsewhere, more efforts were needed to enshrine women’s cultural, political and economic rights.  That required more cooperation worldwide.

MARIA FILOMENA DELGADO, Minister for Family and the Promotion of Women of Angola, pointed to her country’s national legal instruments for combating domestic violence, promoting gender equality, supporting rural women, providing basic education for children, reducing illiteracy, protecting domestic workers and supporting youth.  Women now occupied 38 per cent of parliamentary seats and 23 per cent of cabinet minister positions.  A quota system required 40 per cent women’s representation in decision-making bodies.  She cited progress in legally protecting women from sexual abuse, violence, HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases, and early marriage through a national youth development plan and campaign to end early marriage and pregnancy.  In 2015, the Government created a domestic violence hotline, family counselling centres and shelters.  

ANJA KOPAČ MRAK, Minister for Labour, Family, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities of Slovenia, pointed to the creation of a new advisory body in her Ministry comprising non-governmental, academic and Government administration experts to mainstream gender policy across all sectors and ministries, and to the adoption last year of the 2015-2020 national gender equality policy.  Thanks to mandatory gender quotas, women now occupied 35.6 per cent of parliamentary seats and half of Cabinet seats.  The Government was preparing legislation aimed at increasing women’s participation in corporate boards.  Slovenia was committed to ensuring universal access to sexual and reproductive health care, including for family planning.  Combating violence against women and girls was also high on the national political agenda.  Slovenia had ratified the Council or Europe’s Istanbul Convention.  Stalking and forced marriage had been legally declared offences.  Special attention was given to women asylum seekers and refugee women and girls, who were at high risk for sexual violence and early and forced marriage.  

LYDIA MUTSCH, Minister for Gender Equality of Luxembourg, advocated a stand-alone goal on gender equality and women’s empowerment, underscoring women’s important role in the attainment of all Sustainable Development Goals in all areas.  She urged eliminating discrimination and promoting true equality by working for a better balance in sharing domestic, political and social responsibilities.  “We must be proactive to achieve tangible progress in equality and decision-making,” she said, by implementing a broad array of binding measures, including legislative and awareness-raising aimed at dismantling stereotypes and questioning the traditional responsibilities between men and women.  The strength of the 2030 Agenda was in its universal nature.  Luxembourg’s priorities included the establishment of quotas for political decision-making, as well as voluntary quotas for economic decision-making, and combating gender stereotypes.  It would ratify the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, also called the Istanbul Convention.

YOJI MUTO, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs of Japan, welcomed that gender parity had been included in the 2030 Agenda, a common recognition that it was necessary for achieving Sustainable Development Goals.  A society where “all women shine” was a priority for the Cabinet, based on the idea that women’s empowerment was essential for achieving sustainable growth.  In December 2015, it had drafted the Fourth Basic Plan for Gender Equality, covering the next five years.  Women and girls today suffered from violent extremism and displacement by regional conflicts, an issue that must be addressed.  Women also must be given the opportunity to exercise their abilities to the fullest extent, he said, stressing the importance of securing high quality education for girls.  Japan sought to enhance its partnerships, including with UN-Women.

MARCELA HUAITA, Minister for Women and Vulnerable Populations of Peru, reaffirmed the commitments made in Vienna, Cairo and Beijing and their respective reviews, stressing that the gender equality goals, found across all Sustainable Development Goals, were reflected in her State’s efforts to empower women.  “My country wants gender equality to be cross-cutting,” she said, noting that women were their own agents of development, as well as for their families and communities.  Citing examples, she said the “Juntos” programme focused on access to education and health, covering more than 1 million women.  Another programme provided food to 2 million children.  Peru was also the first country in South America to develop an action plan for gender and climate change.  On the economic front, intersectoral policies promoted women’s empowerment in trade and tourism, among other areas.

GILA GAMLIEL, Minister for Social Equality of Israel, said that today women in her country held leading positions in Government, business and academia.  Despite living in a region where women were often excluded from positions of power, Israel had had a female Prime Minster.  Currently, her country had a female Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, fighter pilots and an Arab woman was Chairperson of the Committee for the Advancement of Women in the Knesset.  Committed to full gender equality, she had created a plan for every Government office to submit a gender budget.  More than 25 per cent of parliamentarians were women, including two Arab Israeli lawmakers.  The Cabinet recently approved a landmark billion-dollar budget aimed at reducing the social gaps and improving living conditions for Arab citizens and other minority groups.  Millions of women were affected by conflict and were often the first victims of war.  Women had to be afforded the opportunity to take part in conflict resolution.  They were powerful agents of moderation, particularly in the face of extremism.   Especially in the Middle East, women were an untapped potential for more peaceful societies.

WOJCIECH KACZMARCZYK, Minister for Equal Treatment and Civil Society of Poland, pointed to his Government’s active involvement in initiatives to promote and protect women’s rights within the United Nations system, European Union, Council of Europe and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).  Women in Poland were becoming more visible and active in all areas of public life, including in politics and the economy.  The principle of equal treatment was enshrined in the Constitution.  Government programmes aimed to improve women’s status and opportunities in the labour market and erase gender stereotypes.  To ensure work-life balance, the Government guaranteed parental leave for six months.  Efforts were under way to reduce the gender wage gap.  The concept of family mainstreaming was being promoted widely within social, political, education and health-care policies.

KANG EUN-HEE, Minister for Gender Equality and Family of the Republic of Korea, stressed her Government’s focus on women’s empowerment and economic participation.  She pointed to skills’ enhancement and entrepreneurship programmes offered at university career development centres.  Such facilities also provided support for women start-up companies and provided training for women in occupations traditionally dominated by men.  Companies were required to publicly disclose hiring policies to protect women from discrimination.  Women’s economic participation could only be strengthened when home and work life was balanced.  Towards that end, the Government had strengthened maternity leave and required that all public institutions had family friendly policies by 2017.  Women’s empowerment must be in accordance with the Sustainable Development Goals.   The Korean Government planned to give $200 million in the next five years to improve the lives of girls in developing nations.  The Government supported women with disabilities.  It was working with UN-Women to build safe cities for girls.

ISSA BIN SAAD AL JAFALI AL NUAIMI, Minister for Administrative Development, Labour and Social Affairs of Qatar, said gender equality was enshrined in national legislation, which was aligned with international instruments to which his country was party.  Women had taken a lead role in devising national strategies and development plans, raising their status, while Qatar’s “Vision 2030” strategy highlighted women’s role in policymaking and participation in all facets of life.  Government agencies and civil society worked to support women’s rights.  Qatar’s success in implementing plans to empower women had been seen in the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) report, which had ranked the country first among Arab States in that regard, and thirty-first internationally in human development.  He drew attention to the difficult conditions of Palestinian women, particularly in the Gaza Strip.

EYGLÓ HARÐARDÓTTIR, Minister for Social Affairs and Housing of Iceland, said the Commission must focus on how to implement the Sustainable Development Goals in a gender-responsive manner, and called on States to ratify or accede to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.  She said that women were “not going to wait for 117 years for gender equality”, which, according to the World Economic Forum, was the amount of time it would take if we continued at the current speed.  For its part, Iceland aimed to better protect women from domestic violence by removing the perpetrator from the home and making restraining orders more effective.  It also had made the purchase of sexual services and profiting from prostitution illegal, while not penalizing prostitutes.  It planned to ratify the Istanbul Convention this spring.

GABRIELE HEINISCH-HOSEK, Federal Minister for Education and Women’s Affairs of Austria, associating herself with the European Union, said the empowerment of women and girls was both a determinant for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and a main goal of that plan.  Her country would continue to advance towards gender equality in all areas of life.  Tackling gender stereotypes in order to diversify women and girls’ education and career choices was a priority.  Austria would continue to work towards eliminating women’s disadvantages in the labour market by increasing women’s participation and wages.  Comprehensive actions would be taken to promote gender-sensitive health and improve the health literacy of female migrants.  Protecting women and girls from violence was among her central concerns, and an important amendment to the criminal law had entered into force at the start of 2016, defining cyberbullying as a new form of violence punishable under that law.

CIDÁLIA MANUEL CHAÚQUE OLIVEIRA, Minister for Gender, Child and Social Action of Mozambique, pointed to efforts to promote girls’ education in order to achieve gender parity and women’s access to health services, with a focus on prenatal care and the creation of waiting rooms for pregnant women.  Mozambique had had a female Prime Minister, and today women held the position of Speaker of Parliament and Attorney General.  She pointed to provisions in laws on the family, human trafficking, domestic violence and land ownership to better protect women.  Mozambique had a multisectoral mechanism to assist women victims of violence.  The Government had adopted gender-responsive budgeting to empower women in various sectors.  Mozambique’s Agrarian Development Fund gave preferential terms to women entrepreneurs.  Maternal mortality was being reduced thanks to better access to health care, including sexual reproductive health, family planning and disease prevention.  A national strategy aimed to end early marriage and other harmful social practices.

SUSAN SHABANGU, Minister for Women of South Africa, associating herself with the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, the African Group and SADC, said her Government had consistently empowered women and promoted gender equality.  The 2010-2030 national development plan was aligned with the 2030 Agenda.  A commitment to women’s empowerment and addressing gender oppression and racism through gender mainstreaming was as at the heart of South Africa’s democracy.  This year marked the Year of Women’s Empowerment and Development towards Africa’s Agenda 2063 and the continent’s Year of Human Rights.  Her Government was committed to ending violence against women and girls and had hosted a visit by the Special Rapporteur on the subject in December.  She supported the call for United Nations reform, particularly in appointing a woman Secretary-General.

HALA MOHAMMED JABER AL ANSARI, Secretary-General of the Supreme Council for Women of Bahrain, said gender mainstreaming was required of all State institutions and the Supreme Council for Women supported that process.  A national strategy was recently established to protect women from domestic violence.  To encourage women’s economic entrepreneurship and access to the labour market, the Supreme Council for Women had set up a centre offering consultancy services, a fund with initial capital of $5 million offering loans to microprojects and a $100 million fund that offered low-interest loans for small and medium-sized businesses.  Free legal aid, family counselling and divorce settlement services were offered to support family stability.  The Court of Cessation Law had been amended to allow for rulings of the Sharia Judiciary Court to be challenged.  The Procedures Law before Sharia Courts had been amended to reflect that is was now mandatory to refer family disputes to the Family Reconciliation Office before being brought to the Court.  Divorced, widowed and unmarried orphaned women were allowed to benefit from housing services.

EUPHRASIE KOUASSI YAO, Minister for the Promotion of Women, Family and for the Protection of Children of Côte d’Ivoire, associating herself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, cited gains in various sectors.  A 2012 law allowed married women with families to enjoy a reduction in income tax that was equal to men.  In 2015, an education law made education mandatory for all children aged 6 to 16.  The Government also had strengthened a 10 billion franc support fund to help women carry out income-generating activities.  New buildings for the national gendarmerie had taken women’s needs into account.  Côte d’Ivoire must still rise to several challenges, she said, citing gender discrimination, and pursuit of legal reforms to improve women’s representation in parliament and local government bodies.  Her country would not cower in the face of terrorism, and instead continued to work for women’s empowerment.

SOLVEIG HORNE, Minster for Children, Equality and Social Inclusion of Norway, said girls and women must have equal access to education, jobs and decision-making.  Empowerment was about education, the most important investment that could be made, and it was vital that girls started and completed their schooling.  Norway was doubling its financial contribution to education for development in the 2013-2017 period.  Empowerment was also about the absence of violence.  One in three women around the world had experienced physical or sexual violence in their lifetime, while more than 600 million women lived in countries where domestic violence was not punishable, she said, urging action against early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation.  Men had a crucial role to play in that regard.  Empowerment also meant that women must have control over their sexuality, and traditional values could not be used to deprive women of that right.

TATAU GODINHO, Secretary of Policies for Women’s Work and Economic Autonomy of Brazil, urged promotion and protection of human rights for all women and girls, stressing that the Regional Conference on Women in Latin America and the Caribbean in January had recognized the importance of women’s and feminist movements in advancing the sustainable development agenda.  For its part, Brazil had recently passed a bill criminalizing femicide.  The “Women:  living without violence” national programme had set up 27 facilities to provide help for women victims of violence.  Going forward, Brazil hoped to guarantee sexual and reproductive health and rights for all, implement a comprehensive sex education in schools and have equal pay for work of equal value.

JIRI DIENSTBIER, Minister for Human Rights, Equal Opportunities and Legislation of the Czech Republic, associating himself with the European Union, said the link between gender equality and sustainable development was clear.  Under-representation of women in decision-making, gender inequalities in the labour market, violence against women, persisting gender stereotypes or low engagement of men in care continued to hinder social development.  The active promotion of gender equality continued to be one of his Government’s priorities, having adopted, among other things, the Strategy for Equality of Women and Men in 2014.  Describing positive developments in the area of gender equality in the labour market, he went on to say that, in order to help reconcile work and private life, the Act on Children Groups had been adopted, guaranteeing pre-schoolers the right to a place in kindergarten from the age of four by 2017 and from the age of three by 2018.  Other progress included the adoption of a new Action Plan for the Prevention of Domestic and Gender-Based Violence for 2015-2018 and a recently adopted Strategy for Human Rights and Democracy Promotion. 

TERESA BOUÉ, Secretary-General for the Federation of Cuban Women and Member of the Council of State of Cuba, said her country had enacted laws to ensure equal rights, opportunities and responsibilities for men and women.  Women in Cuba could elect and be elected.  They decided and directed their own lives and had the capacity to meet their needs.  They received the same pay as men for work of equal value and were entitled to the same benefits.  However, despite results achieved, gender gaps remained.  In the political arena, the United States Government had acknowledged the failure and the severe damaged caused by its economic, commercial and financial blockade of Cuba.  While it had taken several recent positive steps, there was still no tangible progress, and the blockade continued to be an obstacle for the full development of the country and the advancement of women.  She therefore continued to demand its full lifting, and went on to call for compliance with all commitments regarding the transfer of resources and official development assistance (ODA). 

ALGIMANTA PABEDINSKIENE, Minister for Social Security and Labour of Lithuania, stressed the importance of effective national implementation of the 2030 Agenda, including the goal of reaching gender parity in spheres of life.  In Lithuania the main objectives of the 12 critical areas of the Beijing Platform for Action, as well as former recommendations of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), had already been incorporated into national legislation and policies.  Its National Programme on Equal Opportunities for Women and Men was based on a gender mainstreaming approach and was closely related to the 2030 Agenda.  Its main priorities included the promotion of equal opportunities for women and men in employment, the balancing of participation in decision-making, the promotion of gender mainstreaming and the strengthening of national institutions.  Such mechanisms, as well as their funding, were very important.  In her country, funds from the State budget were allocated annually for the implementation of the National Programme.

ALEJANDRA MORA MORA, Minister for Women’s Condition of Costa Rica, associating herself with the Group of 77, the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, the Central American Integration System and the Group of Friends of the Elderly, said her Government had prioritized socially responsible employment, rights protection, violence against women, political participation and strengthening the institutional framework for gender equality.  Sexual and reproductive rights remained a challenge and a cultural change was needed in that regard, to be achieved through training and awareness-raising.  As local elections had shown, it was not enough to have vertical gender parity.  Horizontal parity was needed to ensure that women were at the top of electoral lists, a point understood by the Constitutional Tribunal.  Costa Rica had a comprehensive platform to help victims of sexual harassment and trafficking.  She urged combating the normalization of sexual violence and the resulting pregnancies.

ONITIANA REALY, Minister for Population, Women and Social Protection of Madagascar, associating with the Group of 77 and the African Group, said her Ministry was drafting and soon would have a new gender equality policy that would encourage all institutions to assume shared responsibility to advance that goal. Those bodies would soon be invited to put forward measures in their respective fields of work, a critical comprehensive approach.  “Gender equality is not solely a concern for women; it largely depends on men”, she said, noting that the Beijing Declaration was explicit on that point.  An education fund for vulnerable women had been set up with other ministries, as it was necessary to grant women’s access, and the drafting of a gender equality law was ongoing.

ANA BAIARDI, Minister for Women of Paraguay, noting that women’s empowerment and sustainable development must be viewed comprehensively, urged an end to all forms of gender-based violence.  She advocated more resources and partnerships to strengthen gender equality entities.  For its part, Paraguay had focused on women’s empowerment, women’s access to resources and work, and participation of indigenous and rural women.  It had passed laws on paid domestic work and on maternity and breast feeding.  For two years, Paraguay had worked with women’s policy organizations, feminist and women’s groups, UN-Women and others to draft a law on democratic parity, which had been submitted to Congress.  An amendment to the criminal code last year had deemed domestic violence a crime.  A more comprehensive approach was needed and Paraguay was studying a draft law on violence against women, which took femicide into account.

SANGARE OUMOU BA, Minister for the Advancement of Women, Children and Family of Mali, associating herself with Group of 77 and the African Group, said the session was taking place on the heels of the launch of the 2030 Agenda, which had among its core goals the eradication of poverty, the end of inequality and the promotion of prosperity while protecting the environment.  The empowerment of women was closely linked to sustainable development.  Her country was gradually emerging from a multidimensional crisis in which women and children had played the heaviest price; in that regard, she reaffirmed her Government’s determination to implement the provisions of the peace agreement.  It had also firmly committed to implementing the Sustainable Development Goals, especially Goal 5 and those related to poverty, health and peace and security — each of which also took into account gender equality and women’s empowerment.  No sustainable development policy could yield results without women’s engagement in socioeconomic policies and political life.  Mali therefore sought to achieve greater participation of women in decision-making bodies. 

MAXIME PRÉVOT, Minister for Public Works, Health and Social Action of Belgium, aligning himself with the European Union, said sustainable development required the achievement of women’s rights, including sexual and reproductive rights.  “We can no longer have taboos” when it came to contraception and sexual and reproductive health and services.  The systematic mainstreaming of gender equality in all the Sustainable Development Goals was critical, as was the determination to achieve Goal 5.  The 2030 Agenda was a formidable opportunity to put forward women as drivers of sustainable development.  Gender mainstreaming was a priority for Belgium, which had been the first country in the world to adopt legislation in that regard.  Violence against women and girls constituted a violation of their human rights, he said, stressing that no custom, tradition or religion could justify an act of violence against a woman.  Furthermore, the international community must denounce and specifically condemn rape perpetrated as a weapon of war and terrorism; the crimes of the Da’esh group against women must be punished.

JĀNIS REIRS, Minister for Welfare of Latvia, associating himself with the European Union, said gender equality was smart economics.  In his country, the female employment rate was 70 per cent in 2015 and women made up 51 per cent of all employed persons.  One in three businesses in Latvia belonged to women.  However, gender segregation still existed in education and employment and that was reflected in the gender pay gap.  More efforts were being made to eliminate violence against women, with improvements to the legal framework in line with the Istanbul Convention and State-funded programmes being made available to victims and perpetrators alike.  Flexible child care enabled working parents to become economically independent.  Measures had been introduced to strengthen the role of fathers, as men and boys had a crucial role to play in gender equality.

ÅSA REGNÉR, Minister for Children, the Elderly and Gender Equality of Sweden, noting that her country had a feminist Government, said gender power relations and traditional stereotypes of masculinity associated with violence had hindered gender equality.  She urged a focus on the root causes of violence, calling for more effective prosecution of perpetrators and greater emphasis on lowering the threshold for men to seek help to change their violent behaviour.  Investing in violence prevention in schools was also needed in order to change attitudes associated with destructive masculinity.  Expressing deep concern that more than half a million women died annually in pregnancy and childbirth or from unsafe abortions, she said investments in those areas were investments in women’s empowerment, social justice and human rights.  Sweden had increased its contribution to women, peace and security issues, with a focus on promoting women’s participation in mediation and peace processes.

AISHA JUMMAI AL-HASSAN, Minister for Women Affairs and Social Development of Nigeria, said the national gender policy and its strategic implementation framework and plan focused on reproductive health, education, countering violence against women, and economic empowerment.  Further, the Government had created programmes that addressed specific social needs, such as skills acquisition for youth, meals for primary school students and financial support to 1 million female marketers and artisans.  Describing gender-based violence as a great concern for her country, she noted that the Government, civil society and other stakeholders would continue to work tirelessly towards its elimination.  In that regard, the Violence against Persons Prohibition Act enacted in May 2015 criminalized all forms of gender-based violence, harmful practices against women and girls, rape, and economic and political marginalization.

ROSALINDA DIMAPILIS-BALDOZ, Secretary of the Department of Labor and Employment of the Philippines, associating herself with the Group of 77 and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), recalled that the United Nations had recognized her country’s President as an Impact Head of State Champion for the “HeForShe” campaign.  Indeed, 43 per cent of leaders in her Government were women, while an increasing number of women were senior leaders in private companies.  For the first time, a woman led the judiciary and the Commission on Audit.  A new labour law compliance system, with decent work indicators, had shifted from a regulatory to a developmental approach, which had increased compliance with gender standards.  The country had ratified International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention 189 on domestic work and passed a law recognizing domestic helpers as workers with labour rights and benefits.

YOHANA SUSANA YEMBISE, Minister for Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection of Indonesia, associating herself with ASEAN and the Group of 77, said gender equality and women’s empowerment commitments were reflected in such strategies as gender responsive planning and budgeting, while the national action plan on human rights for 2015-2019 outlined policies to protect women from violence and discrimination.  Further, the rural development law enabled equal access to the benefits of rural development.  Gender parity at almost all levels had helped reduce child marriage and illiteracy among women.  Health reforms had improved women’s access to reproductive health services.  The Government had enacted national action plans to eliminate trafficking in persons and to promote and protect women and children in social conflict areas, working with national human rights bodies in their implementation.

SAMIRA MERAI FRIAA, Minister for Women, Family and Childhood of Tunisia, said that her country valued equality between men and women and, in that regard, it truly appreciated the fifth goal of the 2030 Agenda.  The 2030 Agenda had been integrated into Tunisia’s 2016-2020 development plans.  Economic empowerment of women had been made a fundamental priority with a view to improving opportunities for women in the labour market.  Special attention was being given to women in rural areas and in border areas threatened by terrorists.  A national strategy to combat violence against women and girls had been implemented, with necessary services being provided to victims.  Utmost priority was given to peace and security, particularly in light of the transformations now under way in the Arab world.

AYANNA WEBSTER-ROY, Minister for State in the Office of the Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, said equal rights of men and women were guaranteed under the 1976 Constitution.  Further, relevant laws and policies were guided by a number of international and regional instruments, including the Women’s Convention and the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence against Women.  Welcoming the adoption of the 2030 Agenda, she noted that it defined strategic policy goals to be prioritized for national action over the next 15 years.  The health and well-being of all citizens, and the promotion and protection of their rights, were central to national sustainable development efforts, including poverty eradication initiatives.  To reduce and prevent violence against women and girls, the Government had enacted, reviewed and amended legislation and partnered with civil society organizations to provide a range of services to victims and survivors, including shelters, hotlines and counselling, workshops and grants.

PATRICIA KALIATI, Minister for Gender, Children, Disability and Social Welfare and Member of Parliament of Malawi, said the sixtieth session of the Commission came at a time when a plethora of global challenges were impacting women.  She described gender-related progress that had been achieved in her country, which had been due, among other things, to education and gender mainstreaming.  In addition, legislation was currently being reviewed with an eye to gender parity.  Maternal mortality rates had declined, as had the rates of mother-to-child HIV transmission and new HIV infection.  All Government sector heads of planning had been trained in gender-sensitive budgeting.

MANEKA SANJAY GANDHI, Minister for Women and Child Development of India, associating herself with the Group of 77, said her country had achieved gender parity in primary education, while the disparity in secondary education was falling fast.  Remarkable progress had been made in reducing maternal death, while nearly half of all elected representatives to local governing bodies were women.  Various laws addressed all forms of violence against women and girls in a comprehensive manner.  Last year a multisectoral programme was launched to overcome deep-seated bias against the girl child.  One-stop centres provided medical help, police assistance, legal aid and psycho-social counselling under one roof, while efforts were being made to make the police more gender-responsive and sensitized.

DOREEN SIOKA, Minister for Gender Equality and Child Welfare of Namibia, said gender equality, human rights and empowerment of women and girls were national priorities that were enshrined in the Constitution of her country.  Notable achievements included better provision of health services and increased representation of women in Parliament.  Primary and secondary education was free, while legislation was being enacted to make it easier for women to access resources for economic development.  The aim was for men and women, boys and girls, to benefit equally from economic development.  The current session of Parliament was amending a number of gender-related laws, including one that dealt with human trafficking.

NYASHA EUNICE ANNE CHIKWINYA, Minister for Women Affairs, Gender and Community Development of Zimbabwe, associated herself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, saying her country’s Constitution explicitly provided for gender equality and women’s empowerment.  Although 29 per cent of women had acquired land, much remained to be done, given that 68 per cent of Zimbabwean women were farmers.  The Constitutional Court had banned child marriages after two young women who married before the age of 18 challenged the constitutionality of the Marriages Act.  The Government, through her Ministry, was pushing for a minimum prison sentence of 30 years for rapists, with life imprisonment for those who raped minors.  Climate change had a negative impact on rural women; it needed to be addressed with such measures as the introduction of drought-resistant crops and water conservation methods.

JULIA DUNCAN-CASSELL, Minister for Gender, Children and Social Protection of Liberia, associating herself with the Group of 77, said her Government had recently set in motion national processes aligned with its development agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals.  Liberia’s successes in the Millennium Development Goals were reflected in the reduction of maternal and child mortality, girls’ education and women’s empowerment.  Listing a number of other achievements related to gender quality and women’s empowerment — including the launch of the second phase of the national sexual and gender-based violence programme — she went on to say that the Domestic Violence Act submitted to the national legislature would strengthen the safety of women and forbid female genital mutilation.

NANA OYE LITHUR, Minister for Gender, Children and Social Protection of Ghana, said women’s empowerment was not just a call for the protection of women’s human rights but also made good sustainable development sense.  “The opportunity to achieve sustainable development will be missed if the concerns of women, who constitute more than half of the global population, are not addressed”, she said.  Africa had made substantial progress towards the achievement of universal primary education, a high primary enrolment rate, improved girls’ enrolment and gender parity.  The continent was leading the world in terms of women’s representation in national parliaments.  Describing development progress made in her country — including the halving of poverty before the target date of 2015 — she went on to note a number of successes related specifically to gender equality and women’s empowerment.

ALEJANDRINA GERMAN, Minister for Women of the Dominican Republic, associating with the Group of 77, the Council of Ministers of Women, the Group of Friends of the Elderly, and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, said the launch of the 2030 Agenda recognized women’s diversity, human rights and the need for development.  Her country had recently ratified the ILO Convention protecting the labour rights of women.  It had made progress on women’s economic empowerment, including training thousands of women in marketable technical skills.  Legal sanctions and other measures had been put in place to protect female victims of violence, and a hotline to support victims had been set up.  Furthermore, the Centre for Sexual and Reproductive Health was set up in 2015.  To help achieve women’s goals related to the Agenda 2030, the Dominican Republic had a range of public policy tools to help solve the main challenges facing women and girls, and funds had been specifically allocated to target women’s issues.

CAMARA SANABA KABA, Minister for Social Action and the Advancement of Women and Children of Guinea, said that she was grateful for the solidarity of the women of the world when her country was dealing with Ebola.  Women in particular had been hit hard by the consequences of that crisis.  Several investors had left the country, including mining companies that had been a major source of financing for the State.  A slowdown in domestic and cross-border trade had had an adverse impact, and the agricultural sector, largely steered by women, had deteriorated.  International support was still needed in order to stabilize the economy for the benefit of all citizens, and particularly for women.

ERDENE SODNOMZUNDUI, Minister for Population Development and Social Protection of Mongolia, said that, under revisions to the Criminal Code in 2015, domestic violence — for the first time — had been criminalized, with stiff penalties for intentional homicide or for serious injuries inflicted on victims of such violence.  Under a draft labour law, employers had to provide working conditions that were free of discrimination, sexual harassment and abuse.  Increasing women’s participation in decision-making, ensuring inclusive economic growth and targeted social welfare were still pressing challenges, but the country was committed to implementing the Sustainable Development Goals and to raising public awareness of gender issues.

ANA AMINTA MADRID, Minister for the National Institute for Women of Honduras, listed a number of successes her country had made in the areas of gender equality and empowerment.  Those included:  the adoption of a national programme for solidarity credit for rural women; the mainstreaming of a gender perspective into public policy; the adoption of a gender equity law and a law for women’s full employment; and affirmative action programmes.  The country had also taken actions aimed at increasing the employment of teenagers and supporting migrants and female-headed households.  In addition, a specialized unit dealing with femicide and a comprehensive care centre for survivors of gender-based violence had been established, and a campaign for the prevention of violence against women had been launched.

CAROLINE DINENAGE, Minister for Women, Equalities and Family Justice of the United Kingdom, said that, while progress had been made for women and girls around the world, “[women] are at the eye of the storm of conflict and repression, their bodies the focus of social and cultural battles and the object of aggression and contempt”.  Gender equality was at the heart of the Sustainable Development Goals.  The United Kingdom had more women in work and more women-led businesses than ever before and it had reduced the gender pay gap to the lowest level ever.  However, economic freedom must go hand in hand with social freedom, in particular the right to live free from fear.  Last week, the country had launched a new cross-Government violence against women and girls strategy, which set out ambitious plans to prevent violence, support victims and take action against perpetrators.  That included tackling challenges facing women in the age of modern technology and social media.

PHẠM THỊ HẲI CHUYỂN, Minister for Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs of Viet Nam, said that her country had, in its quest for gender equality, learned to be aware of the needs and aspirations of women in the development process and to promote women’s empowerment in all areas.  However, many challenges remained.  There had been no decline in violence against women in girls.  In rural, mountainous and remote areas, outmoded customs and traditions persisted.  Climate change was having a negative impact on both men and women, and a number of social policies stood in the way of women’s participation in management and leadership positions.  Mainstreaming gender equality in legal documents was also a challenge.

MARGUS TSAHKNA, Minister for Social Protection of Estonia, associating himself with the European Union, said his country was committed to reducing the gender pay gap, preventing violence against women, promoting women’s rights and gender equality, and opening opportunities for women in information and communications technologies, an area in which it already stood out.  Digitalization created better educational opportunities for children in remote areas and in conflict situations.  Women and girls with Internet access could participate in society on more equal terms with men and make their voices more widely heard.  In Afghanistan, Estonia had been supporting a project that gave local women six months of information technology training, contributing to their economic empowerment and benefiting the community as a whole.

NOURA BINT MOHAMMED AL KAABI, Minister for Federal National Council Affairs of the United Arab Emirates, said the international community must commit to accelerating the implementation of the 2030 Agenda, particularly Sustainable Development Goal 5.  Women made up close to one third of her country’s Cabinet, she said, adding that national partners with strong institutions were critical to achieving progress.  Effective monitoring of the implementation of progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals would be critical and provide an opportunity for States to share best practices.  Gender equality was critical to peaceful societies, she said, noting the rise of extremism and the related increase in violations of the human rights of women and girls.  Her State was committed to strengthening the capacity of countries worldwide in post-conflict development.

LAURENCE ROSSIGNOL, Minister for Families, Children and Women’s Rights of France, noting that more than 20 years had elapsed since the adoption of the Beijing Declaration, said that more remained to be done to promote and protect women’s human rights.  For example, violations continued to occur due to religious extremism and under the guise of cultural relativism.  Women were raped as a weapon of war or were reduced to slavery by groups such as Da’esh.  However, such violations were not limited to war zones.  Domestic violence, forced marriages and female genital mutilation occurred around the world.  All international agendas, including the Women, Peace and Security Agenda, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement, converged on the same goal:  upholding human rights.  There were an alarming number of unsafe abortions in places where the practice was banned, and States needed to eliminate legal barriers to safe abortions, especially in cases of rape or in the face of health threats such as the Zika virus.

YANIRA ARGUETA, Minister for Women of El Salvador, associating herself with the Central American Integration System and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), said it was worth reflecting on the achievements that had been made.  Doing so would enable progress.  In her country, women were recognized as peacebuilders and drivers of good governance.  A specialized justice mechanism for women was being built, and measures to address violence against women would soon be adopted.  UN-Women had an important role to play in ensuring the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.

SICILY KARIUKI, Cabinet Secretary for Public Service, Youth and Gender Affair