5/11/2004
Press Release
GA/DIS/3292


Fifty-ninth General Assembly

First Committee

23rd Meeting (AM)


Disarmament Committee approves text on improving work methods,


as it concludes current session

 


The First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) today approved without a vote a draft resolution that would have the General Assembly invite Member States to take steps towards improving the effectiveness of the Committee’s methods of work, as it concluded its session.


Those steps would include:  submitting draft resolutions in a more concise, focused and action-oriented manner; considering the biennialization or triennialization of agenda items; continuing to hold interactive debates; and merging texts that were similar in substance.


That last step was especially relevant this morning, in light of the fact that there had originally been two draft resolutions before the Committee on improving its work methods -- one submitted by the United States, and one by Malaysia, on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM).  In keeping with the spirit of reform, both had been withdrawn, and the present text, tabled by Indonesia, was considered a consolidation of the two.


After approval of the draft, the representative of Japan said he was proud that the Committee was at the forefront of United Nations reform.  However, turning to the establishment of panels and groups of governmental experts, such as those that had been authorized by the drafts on missiles, verification, and small arms and light weapons, he said the United Nations should work within existing resources and avoid the uncontrolled expansion of its budget.


In closing remarks, Committee Chairman Luis Alfonso De Alba (Mexico) said delegations must approach their work with a readiness to commit themselves to attaining common gaols.  Declaring that challenges to international peace and security were indeed global, he said it was impossible for countries to succeed in protecting themselves if they worked alone.  He added that, whereas the Committee had made much progress in improving its working methods, such reform must not be seen as an end in itself.  After all, substantive issues also needed to be tackled.


Statements and explanations of vote were also made by the representatives of the United States, Malaysia (on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement), Indonesia and Cuba.


Thanking the Chairman and those who had worked to advance and facilitate the work of the Committee were the representatives of New Zealand (on behalf of the Group of Western European and other States) and Nicaragua (on behalf of the Latin American and CaribbeanStates).


Background


When the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) met this morning to conclude its third and final phase of work, namely, action on all draft resolutions and decisions, it had before it one text.


That text deals with improving the effectiveness of the Committee’s methods of work.  There were originally two draft resolutions on the topic and the present text is considered a consensus text.


Draft Summary


The draft resolution on improving the effectiveness of the methods of work of the First Committee (document A/C.1/59/L.60), sponsored by Indonesia, would have the Assembly invite Member States to consider the biennialization or triennialization of the agenda items discussed in the First Committee, on a voluntary basis, and particularly when no specific action was required to be taken for implementation.


It would also invite Member States to continue to hold interactive debates based on a programme and format elaborated through informal consultations between the Bureau and Member States in advance of each Committee session, and to submit draft resolutions in a more concise, focused and action-oriented manner and, where practical, to consider the possibility of submitting draft decisions.


By a further term, the Assembly would recommend that the respective sponsors of draft resolutions hold informal consultations, both before and during Committee meetings, with the participation of all interested Member States for furthering discussions on draft resolutions already submitted or yet to be submitted to the Committee.


Under a related provision, it would encourage Member States to introduce draft resolutions on related or complementary issues to find commonalities in the language and purpose of those draft resolutions, and invite Member States to consider pursuing mergers of such texts through consultations with all sponsors.


General Statements


ROBERT LUACES (United States) said that his country had withdrawn from deliberation by the Committee on the draft resolution on improving the effectiveness of the methods of work of the First Committee (document A/C.1/59/L.1), which it had sponsored.  The Committee should feel very proud of its work.  The work of the current session reflected what has been the common goal over the past two years to try to improve communication among delegations and to facilitate a means whereby improving the methods of work could allow for the dedication of more time to substantive issues.  His country took note of the leadership of the Committee Chairman and the support from the secretariat staff in churning out the documents for the Committee.  He hoped that delegations and governments would recognize how much the work of the Committee had not only facilitated the issues that came before the Committee, but had also made contributions through documents to the efforts to revitalize the General Assembly and, in effect, make the United Nations a more vital and effective international organisation.


KAZUYA OGAWA (Japan) said he attached great importance to the reform and revitalization of the Committee.  He thus appreciated the efforts made by the sponsors of the two draft resolutions on that topic, namely the United States and the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), to create a new consensus text.  Having participated vigorously in the consultations surrounding the new draft, along with the European Union, he said he could assure delegates that the present text was the fruit of much effort and reflected the concerns of all Member States.  Turning to the establishment of panels or groups of governmental experts, such as those that had been authorized by the drafts on missiles, verification, and small arms and light weapons, he said that the United Nations should work within existing resources and avoid the uncontrolled expansion of the United Nations budget.  In that regard, he said he was proud that the Committee was at the forefront of United Nations reform.


MOHAMED YUSOFF ZAIN (Malaysia), on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, said that NAM had presented a draft resolution on improving the effectiveness of the methods of work of the First Committee (document A/C.1/59/L.13) on 19 October while the United States had tabled another draft under the same title. Subsequently, NAM with the European Union, the United States and other delegations, engaged in consultations and, as a result, agreed on a consolidated text encapsulating the elements of the two drafts.  After the consultations, a new text had been formulated.  As a sponsor, NAM now wished to withdraw document A/C.1/59/L.13.


DESRA PERCAYA (Indonesia) then formally introduced the draft resolution on improving the working methods of the Committee (document A/C.1/59/L.60).  He said the text was the outcome of intensive, transparent and inclusive consultations and it had taken on board proposals from both of the previous drafts on the same topic.  As the facilitator for the present text, he thanked the Non-Aligned Movement, the European Union and the United States for their flexibility, and he hoped that the draft would enjoy consensus.


Responding to a question from the delegate from Sierra Leone, which had been posed during the informal consultations, on the status of the other two draft resolutions on the same topic, he said a marriage of those two drafts had taken place.  He also introduced an oral amendment to operative paragraph 6, saying the word “presented” should be “present”.  And “in achieving the objective” should be replaced by “to the achievement of the objective”.  Thus, the whole paragraph should read as follows:  “Encourages also Member States, in particular those that present any draft resolution, to follow up on the agreed resolution to contribute to the achievement of the objective of such resolution.”


Action on Texts


The Committee approved the draft resolution on improving the Committee’s work methods (document A/C.1/59/L.60), as orally amended, without a vote.


Speaking after the vote, the representative of Cuba said he had always been in favour of improving the work methods of all bodies of the United Nations, as long as States’ rights to uphold and promote their legitimate interests were not compromised.  He had, therefore, supported the draft, which had been developed under the skilful leadership of Indonesia and with active participation from many Member States.  He noted that the draft’s conciliatory language had allowed it to be approved by consensus.


Turning to operative paragraph 8, which would have the Assembly reiterate that the Secretary-General should keep all Committees informed of the costs associated with their approved draft texts, he said it did not establish new procedures or modify rule 154 of the General Assembly’s rules of procedures.  In short, information presented about the budget must not serve as an obstacle to the approval of any new legislative mandates by the General Assembly.  Additionally, it was up to the Fifth Committee to address administrative and budgetary issues and any future shifts in the established practices of rules 153 and 154.  Expressing hope that during its next session, the Committee would forcefully move forward with its substantive issues and priority items, he acknowledged that such progress would require much political will from all Member States.


The Committee then adopted the programme of work and timetable for its next session.  It also adopted a draft letter from the Committee Chairman to the President of the General Assembly, which highlighted action taken to revitalize the work of the Committee.


MOHAMED YUSOFF ZAIN (Malaysia), on behalf of the NAM, congratulated the Committee Chairman for “the highly admirable manner” in which he had steered the work of the Committee.  The completion of the work of the Committee was a testimony to his leadership.  The First Committee had gained greater significance in recent years.  That had become more apparent owing to the inability of other multilateral disarmament machinery to generate substantive results.  The reality was that 2004 had been a disappointing year in the field of multilateral disarmament.  Nevertheless, the NAM shared the positive outlook for the successful outcome of the Nairobi Summit on the Ottawa Convention at the end of this month and the Biological Weapons Convention Review Conference next month.  Similarly, it looked forward to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) Review Conference in May 2005 where it believed that all States parties should work together to advance common gaols.


Those meetings should provide the much-needed impetus necessary to move the global disarmament agenda forward and towards fashioning a much safer and peaceful world, he said.  He reaffirmed NAM’s commitment to promoting international peace and security primarily through disarmament measures.  The NAM also strongly reaffirmed that multilateralism and multilaterally agreed solutions, in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations, remained the only suitable way to address disarmament and international security issues.


TIM CAUGHLEY (New Zealand), on behalf of the Group of Western European and other States, said he welcomed the level of cooperation apparent in the Committee, and thanked the Chairman for his hard work.


MARIO CASTELLÓN DUARTE (Nicaragua), on behalf of the Latin American and Caribbean Group, also thanked the Chairman and the Secretariat for their work and support.  He added that all delegations present were doing their utmost to attain disarmament and achieve lasting peace in the world.


Committee Chairman LUIS ALFONSO DE ALBA (Mexico), in a concluding statement, commended the members of the Committee and said that they must approach their work with a frame of mind in which they were ready to commit themselves to attaining common gaols.  There was no possibility for any delegation or country to achieve success if it tried to pursue its objectives alone.  Current challenges in the area of international peace and security were indeed global.  In that regard, he expressed satisfaction at the outcome of the current session of the Committee, noting that progress had been made in dealing with its Committee’s agenda.


The Committee, however, still had major challenges pending, he continued.  The progress that had been achieved in agreeing to improve the working methods of the Committee needed to be seen as an obligation to zero in on substantive issues.  The revitalization of the working methods should not be viewed as an end in itself.  He thanked the members of the Bureau, the Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs, Nobuyasu Abe, and the supportive Secretariat staff.  Success in the Committee could be achieved only to the extent that each delegate came to the exercise with a mind that was open to negotiations.


* *** *