NEW YORK: Speakers from about 50 countries took part in an open debate on the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi at the United Nations Security Council today.
The debate on "Challenges in addressing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery, related materials, equipment and technology to non-state actors" is part of Malaysia's efforts to rally international commitment to curb the spread of WMDs.
Malaysia is a non-permanent member of the UNSC from Jan 1 last year until the end of this year, and is holding the rotating presidency of the highest decision-making body of the UN for this month.
With a bang of the gavel, Zahid called proceedings to order about 10am here (10pm Malaysian time).
The first speaker to take the floor was UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon.
Ban in his speech said it is disappointing that discredited arguments that were used 30 years ago to justify nuclear weapons were resurfacing.
He described WMDs as an existential threat and called on the international community to eradicate these weapons.
Ban called on the security council to strengthen UN Security Council Resolution UNSCR 1540, to prevent non-state actors from acquiring WMDs.
The resolution, passed in 2004, requires all states to adopt legislation to prevent the proliferation of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, and their means of delivery, and prevent their illicit trafficking.
It also obliges member countries to refrain from supporting non-state actors from obtaining or developing WMDs and their methods of delivery.
In his speech later, Zahid said the international community should strengthen global efforts in light of the emerging threats and challenges posed by terrorist groups, in particular in the field of science and technology, ICT and international commerce.
"As such, we call on the 1540 Committee to regularly review the scientific, technological and international commerce advancements on related controls under UNSCR 1540. This would ensure synergy in merging implementation of states’ obligations, taking into account the exponential risk of misuse of these advancements."
Zahid said Malaysia believed that states, in accordance with their international obligations, should strengthen their laws and enforcement efforts, in particular by enacting export and trans-shipment controls that should include proliferation financing.
"Due to the fact that many states have different national priorities and capacities, not all states have been able to enact such laws, resulting in the lack of universal control concerning WMD proliferation to non-state actors.
"In addition, some states remain constrained by a severe lack of technical expertise and resources in ensuring effective fulfilment of their obligations."
He said the UN and other regional and international initiatives should avoid duplication and work together to help all member states.
"I believe that such an expedient approach would optimise the limited resources of states as well as the institutions concerned," he said.
Zahid said the international community had designated terrorist groups as the No. 1 enemy, but there was no coordinated mechanism to tackle the threat.
"Pending the formation of a central, universal coordination mechanism, states will have to continue addressing the increasingly complex challenges posed by non-state actors through various measures, peculiar to their national or regional interests and imperatives.
"In this regard, my delegation supports the proposal for the United Nations to develop a structured track of dialogue at all levels, including parliamentarians, industry, academics and the civil society, aimed at raising greater awareness, with a view to generating the necessary impetus for a solid global movement against WMD proliferation to non-State actors."
The deputy prime minister said it was unfortunate that geopolitical considerations had thwarted preventive or remedial efforts by the international community at large in addressing the challenges posed by WMD proliferation and their use by non-state actors.
"There have been instances where states were allegedly complicit in this regard, in blatant disregard to the sacrosanct purposes and principles of the United Nations. States are duty bound to avoid complicity in the commission of such heinous acts."
Present at the debate was Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman and Malaysia's permanent representative to the UN Datuk Ramlan Ibrahim.
On Monday, Ramlan said the role of non-state actors, especially militant groups like Islamic State and Boko Haram, were of concern in the proliferation of WMDs, as the technology and information to acquire such weapons were becoming more widespread.
He had said the there were reports of chemical attacks in the Syrian conflict.
Zahid is due to hold bilateral meetings with high-ranking officials from other countries on the sidelines of the debate later in the day.