First Committee of the 75th session of the UN General Assembly - PR UN New York

First Committee of the 75th session of the UN General Assembly

Statement of the Netherlands delivered by H.E. Mark Zellenrath, Ambassador and Deputy Permanent Representative of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to the UN in New York at First Committee of the 75th session of the UN General Assembly General Debate.

New York, 9 October 2020


Allow me to congratulate you on your election as chair to the First Committee. The delegation of the Netherlands stands ready to support your work. In addition to the statement delivered by the EU, the Netherlands would like to make the following remarks in its national capacity.


[Setting the scene, Covid-19, multilateralism]

Today, we live in a world which is increasingly multipolar and where new and disruptive technologies continue to emerge. These developments can have disturbing ramifications for our international security environment, which is further being challenged by the far-reaching consequences of Covid-19. The international community and our institutions have risen to the challenge posed by the pandemic in a manner that we applaud.


At the same time, however, multilateralism, and non-proliferation and disarmament in particular, must not fall victim to Covid-19. It remains our responsibility to set new goals in order to address the current challenges. Last year, we witnessed the demise of the INF treaty. This year, the JCPOA with Iran is under immense pressure. The CWC is under strain as chemical weapons are being used by state and non-state actors, as recent as in the case of Navalny.

These and other challenges can only be successfully resolved if we use our most effective tool at hand: multilateral cooperation. The pandemic has made it even more clear that we can only do this together. As noted by our Prime Minister Mark Rutte in his remarks to the UNGA this year, and I quote: “All countries must take responsibility for the proper functioning of the multilateral system, take a constructive approach, honor the agreements you have made and respect international law.”



Firstly, I would like to elaborate on a number of issues in the field of Weapons of Mass Destruction.


The Netherlands continues to be strongly committed to the strengthening and implementation of the Non-Proliferation Treaty - the cornerstone of the global non-proliferation and disarmament regime. We will actively contribute to a successful outcome of the NPT Review Conference via our vice-presidency of the Conference and our chairmanship of Main Committee III. Furthermore, we continue to be involved with topics that give substance to our NPT-commitments. Think of the immediate start of negotiations on an FMCT, the signing and ratification of the CTBT, and the further development of concepts such as Nuclear Risk Reduction and Verification. We encourage the P5 to engage in a meaningful and constructive dialogue on these issues.

[Strategic stability, New START]

The Netherlands follows closely the strategic dialogue in Vienna and in Helsinki, between the US and Russia on the New START Treaty. We share the US vision that a more ambitious agreement is needed for future strategic stability. Extending New START is a first important step. We call upon all relevant parties, in particular Russia and China, to engage.


The UNSC-resolution 2231, which consolidates the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, is under increasing pressure today. Iran’s nuclear programme must remain under strict international control. We call upon all remaining parties to fully implement UNSC-resolution 2231.


We cannot accept a nuclear DPRK. Until the DPRK takes concrete steps towards complete, irreversible, and verifiable denuclearization, the international community must maintain pressure on the DPRK, including by full and effective implementation of sanctions by all UN member states, while continuing the dialogue.

[Chemical weapons]

We must uphold the global norm against the use of chemical weapons. The Netherlands condemns the recent attack on Alexei Navalny with a nerve agent. We share the conclusion of Germany and France that there is no other plausible explanation for mr Navalny’s poisoning than Russian involvement and responsibility. We condemn Syria for using chemical weapons and urge them to fully comply with the CWC. The Netherlands has full confidence in the professionalism, impartiality and objectivity of the Director General of the OPCW and the Technical Secretariat.

[Biological weapons]

The Covid-19 crisis has clearly shown us the grave dangers of biological threats. The Netherlands regrets the lack of contributions being paid to the BTWC. We are committed to the strengthening and implementation of the Convention through confidence-building measures and peer review, in order to improve worldwide biosecurity and biosafety.


[New technologies, chapeau]

Secondly, new technologies come with great opportunities. Cyberspace, artificial intelligence and technological developments in outer space come with many societal and economic benefits. However, these dual-use technologies can generate security challenges too.


We need collective engagement to address developments in cyber space. The Netherlands strongly believes that this can be done most effectively by implementation and adherence to the current normative framework. The Netherlands supports the multilateral efforts to tackle cyber security threats, in both the OEWG and the GGE. We need a pragmatic and inclusive approach, in such a way that the work of the OEWG and the work of the GGE will complement and reinforce each other. The recently proposed Programme of Action may provide a promising way forward for a permanent, flexible and inclusive process to build upon the outcomes of the OEWG and GGEs.

[Autonomous weapons systems]

The Netherlands also reiterates the essential role of multilateralism concerning Lethal Automatic Weapon Systems by pointing out that good progress has been made within the GGE on LAWS in 2019. In light of the Sixth Review Conference in 2021, discussions need to move forward so that we can continue to make progress on issues like ‘human-machine’ interaction.  

[Outer Space]

The Netherlands is deeply concerned about the increasing number of intentional threats that have come with new approaches towards the space domain, including ground-based systems such as jammers and Direct-Ascent Anti-Satellite Weapons, as well as intentional in-orbit manipulation and other proximity operations. International cooperation on the issue of space security is crucial and we must ensure that the inherent dual-use nature of any space activity does not lead to accidents, misunderstandings, miscommunications or miscalculations. We consider TCBMs in this domain an important first step to re-inforce the current normative and legal framework.


[Conventional arms, chapeau]

Thirdly, the vast number of casualties caused by conventional weapons should serve as a reminder for the need for collective action.

[CCW, incl. APII and Protocol V]
As chair of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, the Netherlands would like to highlight the 40th anniversary of the CCW and use this opportunity to call on those States not yet party to join this important instrument. The Netherlands deems it vital that we continue to share views and best practices despite the Covid-19 circumstances and continue to address urgent matters under the CCW, such as the cooperation on countering the threat of IEDs under Additional Protocol II and the clearance of explosive remnants of war under Protocol V. 


The increase in victims of anti-personnel mines, in particular those of an improvised nature, serve as a reminder that those weapons should never be used by any state or any non-state actor. The Netherlands fully supports the APMBC and will actively contribute towards its implementation, including the Oslo Action Plan. We look forward to Chairing this Convention, hosting the Meeting of States Parties in the Netherlands in 2021.


In light of this year’s Review Conference of the CCM, the Netherlands stresses the importance of the universalization and implementation of the Convention. Only through our work in this convention can we uphold the norm on non-use of cluster munitions.


We underline the importance of implementation and universalization of the ATT. We call on all UN member states, who have not yet done so, to join the ATT, as our only legally-binding international instrument to regulate trade of conventional arms. With regards to Small Arms and Light Weapons, the Netherlands calls on States to prevent, combat and eradicate the illicit trade in SALW.


[Disarmament machinery and finances]

Lastly, we should work on improving and modernising our disarmament machinery. It is a sad truth that the very Conference that produced vital multilateral disarmament treaties, is not able to start negotiations on, for example, a Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty.

It is our shared responsibility that the disarmament machinery functions effectively. The weak financial status of the disarmament conventions is of great concern to us, because ‘no money, no meetings and no implementation support’. We urge all states to meet their financial obligations to those instruments in full and on time.



The Netherlands strongly believes that multilateral cooperation is crucial in order to effectively tackle the challenges that lie ahead of us. We should not take our security for granted. In today’s world that translates to: reaching out to other countries for help, sharing information and knowledge multilaterally and keeping an open dialogue.

A longer version of this statement will be uploaded on Papersmart.

Thank you.