Thank you Madam President.
Last year the UK published its Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Foreign and Development Policy. He described the deteriorating security environment, pointing to the risks posed by new disruptive technologies, as well as long-standing concerns about the proliferation of activities by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and Iran. But he also pointed to the growing challenge of major nuclear-weapon states willing to flout international norms of behavior.
Russia’s recent unprovoked and gruesome attack on Ukraine casts a dark shadow over the work of this conference. Because the security environment sets the context for what can be achieved in disarmament.
As I told the UN General Assembly last week, the UK is steadfast in its support for Ukraine’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity. Together, we must all unequivocally condemn this aggression, which is a violation of international law and the Charter of the United Nations.
As the British Foreign Secretary indicated in her speech in Ukraine on 17 February, to achieve a safer world it is now vital that the international community comes together to renew its commitment to arms control.
In doing so, we must strengthen our existing security frameworks and renew our thinking in order to be ready to meet the challenges and opportunities of the 21st century.
Strengthen the NPT
Strengthening the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons as a cornerstone of the international nuclear architecture is an important starting point.
This year, we look forward to the long-awaited Tenth NPT Review Conference, which provides an opportunity to reflect on the successes of the Treaty and its central role in the security of our world over the past 52 years.
Although the world has changed significantly since 1970, the UK’s commitment to the NPT and our fulfillment of our obligations under the three pillars of the Treaty remain unchanged.
We believe that the NPT continues to play a central role in promoting long-term stability, peace and security.
The UK therefore wishes to work with all States Parties in the months ahead to build the momentum needed for a successful Review Conference.
In October, we published our national report outlining the steps the UK has taken to implement its commitments in the three pillars of the NPT since 2015.
The report outlines the UK’s progress on disarmament, including our leadership role in verifying nuclear disarmament, promoting transparency and promoting risk reduction.
We have also urged that important steps be taken towards multilateral disarmament, including the entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty and the opening of negotiations on a Nuclear Production Cut-Off Treaty. fissile materials.
Progress in the P5
The UK also recognizes its responsibility to work closely with the other NPT nuclear-weapon States to make progress on disarmament and risk reduction. This work is vital, and even more important in times of heightened international tension.
The Leaders’ Joint Statement on Preventing Nuclear War in January was an important signal of our collective commitment, affirming that nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought, and that nuclear weapons – as long as ‘they will continue to exist – should serve defensive purposes, deter aggression and prevent war.
We want to build on this historic statement, deepening our work within the P5 process on reducing the risk of nuclear conflict through misinterpretations and miscalculations, and building mutual trust and security.
Building this foundation will be an important step in achieving our common long-term goal of a world without nuclear weapons.
2022 as a year of opportunity
In addition to opportunities to collectively strengthen the NPT, 2022 is a year of broader opportunities and challenges for the multilateral disarmament architecture.
The prevention of an arms race in outer space is as important today as it was in the early 1980s when it first became an agenda item of this Conference.
But the nature of the challenge has evolved significantly over this period, and we must ensure that discussions and negotiations keep pace with these developments.
The UK is delighted to see the progress we have all made through the UN General Assembly in addressing threats in, from and across space.
There was overwhelming support for the creation of an open-ended working group to examine responsible space behavior in support of our overarching goal of preventing an arms race in space.
We all rely on space systems for our prosperity and security, and we must protect them from state threats.
The UK promotes responsible spatial behavior to reduce the risk of misunderstanding and escalation that could lead to conflict.
We are pleased to see planned discussions on preventing an arms race in outer space at this conference.
We welcome calls to ban testing of direct-ascent anti-satellite missiles, which create long-lived debris. This conference can play an important role in negotiating how this will work.
But we must not forget that many of the threats we face are not as visible as missiles. There are other ways to degrade and damage space systems, such as lasers and jammers, and we will include them in our work.
We are also in favor of greater openness and communication between States.
In a spirit of openness, the UK will present its new defense space strategy at this conference in the coming weeks.
We encourage all states to publish their own military space strategies, so that we can better understand each other.
2022 is also a year of challenges for the control of chemical and biological weapons, where the dangers have not dissipated. But there are also opportunities
Syria continues to challenge its refusal to meet its chemical weapons obligations.
In April, the international community underscored its abhorrence of Syria’s use of chemical weapons by suspending Syria’s voting rights and privileges in the OPCW, as provided for in the Chemical Weapons Convention.
We must stick to our fundamental principles, uphold the integrity of the Chemical Weapons Convention and the OPCW, and hold accountable those who use chemical weapons.
The Russian Federation has continued not to respond to questions from the international community regarding the poisoning of Alexey Navalny with a Novichok nerve agent.
Russia has the opportunity to explain what happened, to stop disinformation and to declare any chemical weapons program.
The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us the damage that the disease can cause to our societies.
We must seize the opportunity of the upcoming Biological Weapons Convention Review Conference and strengthen provisions to ensure that current and future life sciences are used only for peaceful purposes.
Full implementation of the commitments made under the Convention will keep us all safe, as will measures to make the Convention more effective, visible and relevant.
The UK recognizes the extraordinary potential of technology for global prosperity. But we also recognize the potential for abuse.
We strive to ensure that existing counter-proliferation regimes remain effective in light of technological development.
We are also committed to working with our international partners to develop standards and principles for the deployment of critical technologies.
Together, we must inject new energy into the work of the Group of Governmental Experts on Lethal Autonomous Weapon Systems. We should aim to make tangible progress this year. The UK will outline a clear path to achieve this at the next meeting in March.
In addition to this work, the UK’s commitment to the humanitarian goals of disarmament remains unwavering.
Under our chairmanship of the Convention on Cluster Munitions, we are intensifying our efforts to achieve universal ratification of this important treaty.
In coordination with our Nigerian and Swiss partners, we will organize a regional Universalization Ratification Workshop in Abuja later this month to exchange ideas and best practices and build support for the Convention.
Since 2018, the UK has invested around £146 million to save lives, limbs and livelihoods from the scourge of landmines, cluster munitions and explosive remnants of war.
This work includes clearing and freeing land for productive use, as well as raising awareness of the risks for communities still living with the deadly legacy of conflict.
We will continue this work with the next phase of our Global Mine Action Programme.
But even with the significant investment the UK and other donors have made over the years, the scale of the challenge dwarfs the funds available from these sources.
That’s why, alongside our direct contribution, the UK has funded research into innovative financing options for mine action.
We will continue to explore this, including hosting a conference in March, with the aim of testing an alternative funding model in due course.
Madam President, to conclude, 2022 presents us with significant challenges but also new opportunities to find creative solutions to make our world safer and more prosperous.
This Conference has a key role to play as the only global forum for multilateral disarmament negotiations.
The United Kingdom welcomes our collective decision to establish subsidiary bodies to allow for in-depth review of progress on issues central to the Conference agenda.
Allow me to pay tribute to the work done by the Chinese Presidency in preparing the ground for this important step.
It is up to all of us to make this mechanism productive and to approach the important issues we face with an open and constructive attitude.
The UK delegation will endeavor to support the five coordinators responsible for this task in any way possible.