Top 10 speeches from UN First Committee 2013

Written by Anna Macdonald, Oxfam


I’ve been coming to First Committee since 2006, and just finished sitting through my eighth. Here are my highlights from States interventions. What are yours?

1. Denmark’s “Borgen” moment

Denmark took the floor to “focus on one issue alone, gender and disarmament” and delivered an impassioned speech on the importance of gender issues, finishing with a flourish: “anyone who does not think this must be living on Mars”.

2. United States gets positive on ATT

The US, the world’s biggest exporter of arms, declared they were “proud to have signed the ATT” in September and encouraged others to do the same.

3. China seriously considers signing the ATT

China said they had no problems with the content of the ATT and are “seriously considering signing it”–A big shift for the world’s 5th largest exporter that abstained in the treaty adoption vote on April 2.

4. Norway speed-reads through Conventional Weapons…

By the time the Conventional Weapons debate started the Chair was running seriously behind schedule, so he started imposing a strict 4-minute rule, ruthlessly cutting off speakers who went over time. Norway was determined to get through his speech and spoke at a record pace. Well done the translators!

5. …While Russia keeps on talking

The Chair’s strict cut-off time left many delegations unhappy about being unable to complete planned interventions before the gavel fell and their mics were turned off. Russia dealt with this by simply carrying on talking, with a booming voice that filled the room even without the microphone.

6. Mexico reminds the world there is always room for improvement

While the majority of states welcomed the ATT as a landmark achievement, Mexico reminded all of the need for continuing to strengthen treaty over time.

7. New Zealand gets applause before even getting to content

NZ read out a statement on behalf of 124 states on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons, and had the room applauding after all the names were read out at the start.

8. The President of the General Assembly draws link between arms and poverty

In a passionate speech, he highlighted the “clear and present danger” of small arms proliferation in particular and their terrible impact on development. 

9. Nigeria leads the way for Africa

Nigeria (who signed and ratified the ATT at the same time) gave a detailed speech on what African states need to be able to ratify and effectively implement the ATT.

10. Lithuania calls for transparency

And welcomed Control Arms initiative for a civil society monitoring mechanism for the ATT and calls for all reporting to be public.

Anna Macdonald is Head of Arms Control at Oxfam, and co-chair of the global Control Arms Coalition. She has worked on the Arms Trade Treaty since 2002. Follow her on Twitter @annamac33.

All posts to the Control Arms Blog are the work of the individual contributor and may not necessarily be reflect the views of the Control Arms Coalition, its individual members, or the Control Arms Secretariat.