Civilian safety emphasized in the conclusion of the First Committee general debate

The statue outside of The International Disarmament Institute, on Pace University’s NY Campus. The statue outside of The International Disarmament Institute, on Pace University’s NY Campus. National Today / Accessed from

14 October 2022

In the final days of general debate, urgent requests to address the direct impacts of nuclear weapons and armed conflicts dominated the discussion.

The imminent threat of nuclear warfare has steered the past two weeks of discussion among the UN’s First Committee. As the general debate portion concluded on October 12th, member states expressed deeper frustration with the ongoing Russian conflict and delivered stronger, more direct statements of condemnation leading into the thematic discussion on nuclear power. Lithuania was one of the multiple nations that provided an ultimatum regarding this conflict and its nuclear threat: “The only sustainable solution for nuclear safety is the unconditional withdrawal of all Russian armed forces and military equipment from the entire territory of Ukraine.” 

Russia’s position as a permanent member of the Security Council was also questioned. Lithuania argued that Russia’s actions “directly contradicted” this role while Romania labeled the aggression as “incomprehensible” considering the level of responsibility required by permanent members. The representative from Romania continued, declaring that the ongoing threats had “triggered an unprecedented nuclear rhetoric.” 

Nuclear-weapon states were called upon to reevaluate their security methods and join the majority of UN members in strengthening nuclear safety. Mexico’s representative spoke for his fellow 183 non-nuclear-weapon states, “[We fulfill] international non-proliferation and disarmament commitments, day after day, without getting anything in return, except a vision of potential annihilation.” Despite the majority of nations vowing against the use of nuclear weapons, the entire world is still subject to their wrath. Australia’s representative pleaded that Russia’s actions must not be normalized or minimized—rather we must emphasize the consequences that nuclear warfare has on “humanity, the environment, and civilization as a whole.” 

Ms. Theofili, representing Greece, drew a connection between the conflict in Ukraine and ongoing efforts to strengthen protections against explosive weapons in populated areas (EWIPA). She explained how the ongoing war places a spotlight on this issue, as civilians are at the center of these attacks and mass devastation has been seen when public, populated spaces are targeted. Mr. Gisel, the observer for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), who held a unique role in this debate, also brought attention to the use of conventional weapons in urban spaces, where civilians make up the majority of victims. 

Representatives from Myanmar and the Democratic Republic of Congo pointed to ongoing conflicts in their states to demonstrate the impacts of small arms, light weapons, explosive devices, and conventional weapons. The representative for Congo spoke about her nation’s first-hand experiences, describing the terrifying reality of living through armed conflict— “Civilians living in conflict-ravaged areas were the first victims of the “devices of death” abandoned by armed groups.” 

From this second week of the First Committee’s discussion, it is clear that civilian safety is being centered in conversations, whether the topic is nuclear warfare, EWIPA, or conventional weapons. The dedication from many nations to uphold accountability for nuclear-weapon states has shone through during the past two weeks of debate. There is widespread consensus about upholding non-proliferation and disarmament commitments, however, the nations posing these nuclear threats have demonstrated equivalent dedication to their goals.

To read more, please visit:

by Nicole Piusienski

Leave a comment

Make sure you enter all the required information, indicated by an asterisk (*). HTML code is not allowed.