6/11/2001
Press Release
GA/DIS/3219



Fifty-sixth General Assembly

First Committee

24th Meeting (PM)


DISARMAMENT PROGRESS NEEDED AS PART OF ANTI-TERRORISM EFFORT,


BY TERMS OF DRAFT RESOLUTION APPROVED IN FIRST COMMITTEE


Committee Concludes Session, Recommending 51 Texts for Assembly Action


With the consensus approval today of a revised draft resolution emphasizing the need for progress in disarmament and non-proliferation to help maintain international peace and security and contribute to global efforts against terrorism, the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) concluded its work for the 2001 current session.  The Committee approved 51 draft texts for action by the General Assembly.


By the terms of the draft -- submitted and then revised by the Committee Chairman -- the General Assembly would reaffirm multilateralism as a core principle in disarmament and non-proliferation negotiations and call on Member States to renew and fulfil their individual and collective commitments to multilateral cooperation as an important means of pursuing and achieving their common objectives in the area of disarmament and non-proliferation.


In closing remarks, Committee Chairman, André Erdös (Hungary), thanked the members for approving the text without a vote.  In the eyes of the outside world, that should be construed as the manifestation of an international consensus that the new challenges faced by the community of nations at the beginning of the century needed a common response, and that global threats could be addressed through multilateral efforts. 


In the aftermath of the “horrible” terrorist attacks in the United States, he said, Committee members had to respond with seriousness and urgency to the present requirements and redouble their efforts so that in that “messy world”, real and substantive disarmament and non-proliferation measures would be undertaken.  Indeed, members went through all of their work in high gear.


“All is well that ends well”, the representative of Sudan, on behalf of the African Group, told the Committee just prior to action on the draft.  The Group had requested a postponement on a decision late Monday to bring on board those members of the Group who still had some difficulties with the revised text, he explained.  He thanked the Chairman for proposing the text and seeking a “common denominator” in that complex issue of non-proliferation. 


The representative of Jordan, on behalf of the Arab Group, said that it was necessary and timely to reinforce international cooperation in the field of


disarmament and non-proliferation and strengthen global action against terrorism. He had joined consensus, despite several reservations to the content of the text and its submission on a “take it or leave it” basis.  The key concern had centred on the lack of inclusion in the operative portion of the need for total adherence by States to all disarmament and non-proliferation treaties. 


The Committee took action on 51 draft texts, 26 of them without a vote.  The majority of texts addressed nuclear weapons and related issues, among them:  the Treaty on the Limitation of Anti-Ballistic Missile Systems (ABM Treaty); missiles; nuclear weapons convention; a path to the total elimination of nuclear weapons; reducing nuclear danger; nuclear disarmament and assurances to non-nuclear-weapon States against the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons. 


The Committee also recommended a text on preventing an arms race in outer space.  Addressing other weapons of mass destruction, it approved texts on the chemical and biological weapons Conventions and banning the dumping of radioactive wastes.


In the conventional weapons sphere, it approved four draft resolutions on: the landmines Convention; the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons; assistance to States for curbing the illicit traffic in small arms and collecting them; and the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons.  The latter text calls for the convening of a follow-up small arms conference in 2006.


Two draft resolutions were approved in the category of regional disarmament and security, including one on conventional arms control at the regional and subregional levels.  Under "confidence-building measures, including transparency in armaments", four more texts were approved:  security questions in Central Africa; verification; transparency in armaments; and objective information on military matters.  Several more drafts were recommended in the areas of international security, related matters of disarmament and security, and international security and disarmament machinery.


Explanations of vote were also made today by the representatives of Cuba, Belgium (on behalf of the European Union), and Venezuela.


The following representatives expressed their appreciation to the Chairman and the United Nations Secretariat for the smooth handling of the Committee’s work:  South Africa, on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement of countries; Lebanon, on behalf of the Arab Group; Belgium, on behalf of the European Union; Sudan, on behalf of the African Group; and Chile, on behalf of the Rio Group.


Background


The First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) met this afternoon to conclude its third phase of work, namely decisions on all security- and disarmament-related items.


The third phase of the work of the First Committee is divided into ten clusters: nuclear weapons; other weapons of mass destruction; outer space; conventional weapons; regional disarmament and security; confidence-building measures; disarmament machinery; other disarmament measures; related matters of disarmament and international security; and international security.


Action was expected today on one text, a resolution concerning multilateral efforts against terrorism in the area of disarmament and non-proliferation.


Under a new revised draft resolution submitted by the Committee Chairman, entitled "Multilateral cooperation in the area of disarmament and non-proliferation" (document A/C.1/56/L.49/Rev.1), the Assembly, determined to build a common response to global threats in the area of disarmament and non-proliferation, would emphasize that progress is urgently needed in the area of disarmament and non-proliferation in order to help maintain international peace and security and to contribute to global efforts against terrorism.


The Assembly would reaffirm multilateralism as a core principle in that regard, with a view to maintaining and strengthening universal norms and enlarging their scope.  It would call upon Member States to renew and fulfil their individual and collective commitments to multilateral cooperation as an important means of pursuing and achieving their common objectives in the area of disarmament and non-proliferation.


Statements


TARIG ALI BAKHIT (Sudan), spoke on behalf of the African Group on the draft resolution on multilateral cooperation in the area of disarmament and non-proliferation and global efforts against terrorism (document A/C.1/56/L.49/Rev.1).  He thanked the Chairman for proposing the text and for the efforts he had made to accommodate the divergent views and proposals.  That had not been an easy task, especially attempts to reach a “common denominator” in that complex issue of non-proliferation.  He had managed to succeed in merging global solidarity in countering terrorism in all its forms and manifestations.  He thanked him for incorporating some of the Group’s proposals in the revised text.


He noted that no draft resolution was cast in solid stone until it was adopted without a vote.  Oral revisions or amendments could be submitted until then.  The request for a delay might have surprised some, but that was certainly not unprecedented.  The Group was determined to ensure that the draft was adopted without a vote, which was exactly what the Chairman had wanted.  Moreover, the request was prompted at that late hour to bring on board those members of the Group who still had some difficulties with the revised text.  The intention was that action should be taken without any reservation by an African delegation, either before or after such action.  “All is well that ends well,” he said.


Action on Text


Speaking before the vote on that draft resolution, the representative of Jordan, on behalf of the Arab League countries, repeated his support for the text.  Presently, it was necessary to reiterate and reinforce international cooperation in the field of disarmament and non-proliferation and strengthen international action against terrorism.  Based on that very important view of Arab States, those countries would join consensus on the draft resolution, despite several reservations about the actual content of the draft and the way it had been submitted.  Any resolution submitted to the Committee should be the subject of negotiation and not put forth on a “take it or leave it” basis.


He said, however, that the reservations would be limited to the operative paragraph 1, which reaffirms multilateralism as a core principle in negotiations in the area of disarmament and non-proliferation, with a view to maintaining and strengthening universal norms and enlarging their scope.  That was the essence of the draft.  Mentioning the ambiguous principle in that paragraph, namely “maintaining and strengthening universal norms and enlarging their scope”, should have mentioned categorically the total endorsement of States, without discrimination, for all disarmament and non-proliferation treaties.


That proposal could be found in the amendment proposed by the African Group, he said.  Leaving out that expression would have some negative repercussions on the entire system of disarmament and non-proliferation.  The Arab States were joining consensus, but would like to express their reservations on operative paragraph 1.


The representative of Cuba said he supported the resolution, because it was the right time for the Committee to make a stand for multilateral cooperation against terrorism.  The resolution as revised was a step forward from the first draft, as it took into consideration the concerns of many delegations.  As the Chairman himself had pointed out, the resolution was not ideal.  He was happy some of the amendments made by Cuba had been included in the revised text.  He thanked the Chairman for including, at Cuba’s suggestion, a new preambular paragraph referring to principles of the United Nations Charter, and another reference to all General Assembly resolutions on terrorism.


Cuba would have preferred that the resolution explicitly make reference to the central role the General Assembly should play in reference to terrorism, he continued.  He would have liked it to stress the elimination of weapons of mass destruction, especially nuclear weapons.  While those weapons existed, they could fall into the hands of terrorists.  The fourth preambular paragraph referred to some specific resolutions, but that should not imply that some resolutions on terrorism were more important than others.  All resolutions relating to terrorism were complementary.  The fight against terrorism should be seen as a whole.  The adoption of the resolution would be seen as a very positive achievement and should be done without a vote.


The representative of Belgium, speaking for the European Union, said that at the beginning of the session, the European Union felt that disarmament was needed more than ever before.  No draft could be perfect, but today there was a common denominator on the subject, which had been accurately reflected in the resolution.  For that reason, he supported the resolution.


The Committee adopted the resolution on multilateral cooperation in the area of disarmament and non-proliferation and global efforts against terrorism (document A/C.1/56/L.49/Rev.1) without a vote.


Speaking after the vote, the representative of Venezuela said he was pleased the resolution had received support, demonstrating the international community’s support for cooperative action.  In the areas covered by the resolution, the United Nations -- with its experience and legitimacy -- was the appropriate venue to assure peace and international security.


Closing remarks were made by the representative of South Africa, on behalf of the members of the Non-Aligned Movement, the representative of Lebanon, on behalf of the Arab Group, the representative of Belgium, on behalf of the European Union and associated countries, the representative of Sudan, on behalf of the African Group, and the representative of Chile, on behalf of the Rio Group.


The Chairman of the Committee, ANDRÉ ERDÖS, made a brief concluding statement.  He said that the Committee’s deliberations this year had taken place in the aftermath of the horrible terrorist attacks in the United States.  He recalled what the Secretary-General had said in his report on the tragedy in Srebenica -- “evil exists”.  The international community had become more conscious that all live in a world where evil exists, where conventional weapons and weapons of mass destruction could be used for evil purposes of as means of terrorist attacks against innocent civilians.


Such sentiments had been expressed during the General Assembly’s fifty-sixth session by practically everyone in various fora dealing with the issue of terrorism -- in the General Assembly, in the Security Council, in the Main Committees and elsewhere, he continued.  It had been clear from the Committee’s work that, based on its mandate, the Committee had to respond with seriousness and urgency to the requirements of the present time and redouble efforts, so that real and substantive disarmament and non-proliferation measures could be undertaken in a messy world.


The Committee had gone through all its agenda in high gear, he said.  The Committee had discussed and took action on issues related to nuclear weapons, other weapons of mass destruction, conventional weapons, regional disarmament, disarmament machinery and many other items related to disarmament and international security questions.  The statements heard and drafts submitted in the Committee represented the full range of issues that presently preoccupied the international community.  On the whole, it had been a thought-provoking and fruitful session of the Committee, which had taken place in a constructive, sometimes tense, sometimes funny atmosphere.  Forty-five resolutions and six decisions had been adopted -- 26 of them adopted without a vote.


He had no intention of summarizing or assessing the results of the deliberations, he continued.  That would be done by the delegates and their governments.  He was confident that the political will to do more in the field of disarmament and non-proliferation would be preserved in each delegation’s capital.  He expressed his special appreciation to all members of the First Committee for adopting, without a vote, a resolution on multilateral cooperation against terrorism, which in the eyes of the outside world should be construed as the manifestation of an international consensus that the new challenges faced by the community of nations at the beginning of this century needed a common response and

that global threats could be addressed through multilateral efforts.  That was the essence of the action undertaken, and he was deeply convinced that it served the interests of all.


It had been a privilege to work with people so knowledgeable in the field of disarmament affairs, he said.  He thanked members of the First Committee for the cooperation extended to him throughout the session, and for their cooperation in using the time and resources allocated to the Committee in the most effective manner, thereby saving United Nations resources badly needed for other activities.  That had allowed the Committee to finish its work four meetings earlier than expected.


He expressed his appreciation to the Vice Chairmen of the First Committee, Milos Alcalay (Venezuela), Stephane De Loecker (Belgium) and Lee Kie-cheon (Republic of Korea), and to the Rapporteur, Sylvester Ekundayo Rowe (Sierra Leone).  On behalf of the Committee and on his own behalf, he thanked Jayantha Dhanapala, Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs, and the Secretary for the Committee, Mohammad Sattar, for their indispensable assistance.  He also thanked the Committee Secretariat staff, interpreters, press officers, documents officers, sound engineers and all those who worked behind the scenes to bring the activities of the Committee to a successful conclusion.


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