2 November 2007
General Assembly
GA/DIS/3358

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-second General Assembly

First Committee

25th Meeting (PM)


CONCLUDING WORK, DISARMAMENT COMMITTEE WOULD HAVE GENERAL ASSEMBLY URGE STATES


TO SECURE NUCLEAR PLANTS TO PREVENT TERRORISTS’ USE OF RADIOACTIVE MATERIALS


Members Addressed ‘Weighty’ Issues of Nuclear, Biological, Chemical Weapons,

Conventional Arms, Possible Treaties on Arms Trade, Trafficking, in 52 Draft Texts


Deeply concerned by the threat of terrorism and the risk that terrorists might acquire, traffic in or use radioactive materials, the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) recommended that the General Assembly call on Member States to support international efforts to prevent the acquisition and use of such materials by terrorists, according to one of three draft resolutions it approved today as it concluded its work for the current session.


Mindful that responsibility for nuclear security within a State rested entirely with that State, and mindful also of the urgent need for addressing that rising concern of terrorist acquisition or use of radioactive materials, within the United Nations framework and through international cooperation, the Assembly would urge Member States to take and strengthen national measures to prevent that occurrence, as well as terrorist attacks on nuclear plants and facilities, which would results in radioactive releases, and, if necessary, suppress such acts, by taking effective measures to secure and physically protect such materials.


The Committee approved that draft resolution without a vote.  Prior to taking action on it, the representative of Barbados, speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), announced that he had withdrawn amendments to the draft, which had reflected the CARICOM’s concerns about the shipment of nuclear and hazardous materials through Caribbean waters.


After the draft was approved, Barbados took the floor again and explained that, although the small island States had no nuclear capacity, the prospect of transport of nuclear and hazardous materials by ship through the region posed a grave threat.  It would have been logical to include those concerns in the resolution, but that language had been rejected by the text’s co-sponsors.


No country or area was exempt from acts of terrorism, and while the Caribbean was a peaceful area, it was not immune to that threat, he said, adding that his region had been done an “injustice” through the rejection of that amendment.  The CARICOM was confident, however, that, had the amendment been included and voted on, it would have been approved by a significant majority.


Also today, the Committee approved a draft resolution on the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Africa.  It would have the Assembly express deep concern that voluntary contributions for the Centre continued to decline and remained insufficient for the Centre to fulfil its mandate effectively and efficiently.  The Assembly would urge all States, governmental and non-governmental organizations, to make voluntary contributions to strengthen the Centre’s programmes and activities (document A/C.1/62/L.24/Rev.1).


The draft was approved by a recorded vote of 164 in favour to 1 against ( United States), with 5 abstentions ( Australia, Canada, Israel, Japan, United Kingdom).  Those who had opposed the draft or abstained in the vote shared a similar view:  they supported the Centre, but felt that questions of a budgetary nature were the purview of the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) and not of the First Committee.  (For details of the vote, see annex).


In other action, the Committee recommended for adoption without a vote a draft resolution entitled “Regional confidence-building measures:  activities of the United Nations Standing Advisory Committee on Security Questions in Central Africa” (document A/C.1/62/L.52/Rev.1).  By its terms, the Assembly would reaffirm its support for efforts aimed at promoting confidence-building measures at the regional and subregional levels in order to ease tensions and conflicts in Central Africa and to further peace, stability and sustainable development in the subregion.


Further, the Assembly would reaffirm the importance of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programmes and encourage the United Nations Peacebuilding Commission to support efforts for the political stabilization and reconstruction of post-conflict countries.


General statements were made by the representatives of Indonesia, Barbados, Cameroon, Nigeria (on behalf of the African Group) and France.


The following additional representatives spoke in explanation of vote:  Cuba, India, Venezuela, Nigeria, Indonesia, Japan, Canada, Australia, United Kingdom, Germany, United States and the Niger.


Closing statements were made by the Committee Chairman, as well as by the representatives of Syria, Indonesia, Morocco, Nigeria (on behalf of the African Group) and Portugal (on behalf of the European Union).


Background


The First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) met this afternoon to continue its consideration of all draft resolutions and decisions before it.


Action on Drafts


The representative of Indonesia noted that the draft resolution the South-East Asia Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty (Treaty of Bangkok) (document A/C.1/62/L.19/Rev.1) had been introduced by his delegation on behalf of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN), and had not been simply introduced by Indonesia, as the Committee Secretary had stated yesterday.


The representative of Cameroon amended the draft resolution on regional confidence-building measures:  activities of the United Nations Standing Advisory Committee on Security Question in Central Africa (document A/C.1/62/L.52/Rev.1).  Operative paragraph 10, which notes with satisfaction the progress made by the Standing Advisory Committee in implementing its programme of work, would update the period from 2005-2006 to 2006-2007.


On behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), the representative of Barbados said he had withdrawn draft resolution “L.53”, which had contained modifications to draft “L.46/Rev.1”, on preventing the risk of radiological terrorism.


The representative of France, speaking on “L.46/Rev.1”, recalled that that draft resolution was a follow-up to General Assembly resolution 60/73.  The text had been updated, and particularly called on States to reinforce their national capacities and to secure unprotected or “orphan” sources of radioactive material.  Regarding “L.53”, he thanked CARICOM for its “constructive” attitude, and said that concerns expressed in that draft had indeed been “taken on board”.  He hoped that “L.46/Rev.1” would be adopted by consensus.


The representative of Cuba, in explanation of vote before the vote on “L.46/Rev.1”, said that his country shared the legitimate concerns about terrorists acquiring radioactive materials, and it supported all legitimate international efforts to combat that threat.  However, any resolution on that matter needed to be very cautiously prepared in order to preserve consensus.


He said that the consultations on the present text had been extensive and difficult.  The final text had only been agreed a few hours earlier.  That process could have been less difficult and more expedient if the sponsors had taken into account the concerns expressed by many delegations, including Cuba.  Amendments that had been made by the sponsors, however, had made it possible for Cuba to join in supporting that resolution.  It would not have been able to accept the proposals put forward earlier by the sponsors, which were contrary to international law and to the United Nations Charter.


Cuba reiterated its support for strategies to prevent acquisition of radioactive materials by terrorists, but those must be based on multilateral approach and in compliance with international law, he said.


Acting without a vote, the Committee approved the draft resolution on preventing the acquisition by terrorists of radioactive materials and sources (document A/C.1/62/L.46/Rev.1).  By its terms, the Assembly would call upon Member States to support international efforts to prevent the acquisition and use by terrorists of radioactive materials and sources, and, if necessary, suppress such acts, in accordance with their national legal authorities and legislation and consistent with international law.


The Assembly would further urge Member States to take and strengthen national measures, as appropriate, to prevent the acquisition and use by terrorists of radioactive materials and sources, as well as terrorist attacks on nuclear plants and facilities, which would result in radioactive releases, and, if necessary, suppress such acts, in particular by taking effective measures to account for, secure and physically protect such materials and sources in accordance with their international obligations.


The Assembly would also encourage Member States to enhance their national capacities with appropriate means of detection and related architecture or systems, including through international cooperation and assistance in conformity with international law and regulations, with a view to reflecting and preventing the illicit trafficking of radioactive materials and sources.


In addition, the Assembly would welcome the entry into force on 7 July 2007 of the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism and invite all Member States that have not yet done so to sign and ratify it as soon as possible, while also inviting Member States, in particular those producing and distributing radioactive sources, to support and endorse the efforts of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)to enhance the safety and security of radioactive sources.


Explaining his vote after the vote, the representative of India said that, aware of the threat posed by terrorists using weapons of mass destruction and radiological materials, the Member States had supported the draft.  He had joined the consensus since it complemented India’s resolution on preventing terrorists from acquiring mass destruction weapons.


The representative of Barbados, on behalf of CARICOM, said that combating terrorism was extremely important.  Although the small island States had no nuclear capacity, the prospect of transport of nuclear and hazardous materials by ship through the region posed a grave threat.  He had thought it would be logical to include those concerns in the resolution; however, that language had been rejected by the co-sponsors.  He was confident that, had he sought to include the amendment through a vote, the language would have achieved a significant majority.


He stressed that CARICOM remained extremely concerned about the shipment of nuclear or hazardous waste through its waters.  No country or area was exempt from acts of terrorism, and while the Caribbean was a peaceful area, it was not immune to that threat.  His region had been done an “injustice” through the rejection of that amendment.


The representative of Venezuela said she had supported the consensus on “L.46/Rev.1”.  Her country attached great importance to efforts to safeguard radioactive materials.  However, the best means of preventing terrorists from acquiring such materials was through the complete destruction of weapons of mass destruction.  Nuclear-weapon States held primary responsibility for the elimination of such materials, and strict adherence to the commitments made under the various international instruments would prevent terrorists from acquiring materials used in making weapons of mass destruction.


The Committee then took up a draft resolution on regional confidence-building measures:  activities of the United Nations Standing Advisory Committee on Security Questions in Central Africa (document A/C.1/62/L.52/Rev.1), by which the Assembly would request the Secretary-General, pursuant to Security Council resolution 1197 (1998), to provide the States members of the Standing Advisory Committee with the necessary support for the smooth functioning of the Council for Peace and Security in Central Africa, and encourage the States members of the Economic Community of Central African States to pursue their efforts to render the early-warning mechanism for Central Africa fully operational as an instrument for analysing and monitoring the political situation in the subregion within the framework of the prevention of crises and armed conflicts, and request the Secretary-General to provide the necessary assistance for its smooth functioning.


The Assembly would emphasize the importance of providing the States members of the Standing Advisory Committee with the essential support they need to carry out the full programme of activities which they adopted at their ministerial meetings and request the Secretary-General and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to continue their assistance to the countries of Central Africa in tackling the problems of refugees and displaced persons in their territories.  Additionally, it would encourage the States members of the Standing Advisory Committee to implement Security Council resolution 1540 (2004), which deals with combating the use of and trafficking in nuclear, biological or chemical weapons and their means of delivery by non-State actors.


The draft resolution was approved without a vote, as orally revised.


The representative of Nigeria, making a general statement on behalf of the African Group, said that the Secretary-General’s report stressed that the United Nations Regional Centre located in Lomé, Togo, could not function in a sustainable way because it relied on voluntary donations or funds.  That fund was so small that the Centre’s activities had been adversely affected.  However, the Centre had proved extremely useful in disarmament efforts, specifically in reducing the excessive volume of small arms and light weapons in Africa, in general, and especially in the West Africa subregion.  It had also been active in post-conflict peacebuilding and sensitizing the people.  Merely taking note of that report would be tantamount to taking no action.  After the envisaged reform, the Centre would be more efficient and dynamic, and subsequently more relevant in the promotion of peace and sustainable development in its region of the world and beyond.


He announced that operative paragraphs 2 through 5 of the draft resolution on the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Africa (document A/C.1/62/L.24/Rev.1) had been revised in a more flexible language to accommodate all partners.  The sponsors had also tried to reduce the financial and budgetary implications of the draft to the barest minimum.  The budgetary implication was so small and practically insignificant, compared to the huge expenditures on armament.  Hopefully, the text would be approved by consensus.


The representative of Indonesia, on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, stressed the important role that Regional Centres could play in disarmament and sustainable development.  The Movement expressed its support for the efforts by African States on disarmament, and noted that the Secretary-General had stated that the Centre’s ability to fulfil its mandate remained hampered by the lack of funding.  The Movement, therefore, expressed its support for “L.24/Rev.1”.


The Committee then took up the draft resolution on the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Africa (document A/C.1/62/L.24/Rev.1), by which the Assembly would recommend that three posts (one Professional at the P-3 level and two General Service (Other level)) be established and added to the structure of the Centre, and funded from the regular budget, as recommended by the Consultative Mechanism for the Reorganization of the Centre.  It would also recommend that the operating costs of the Centre be funded from the regular budget and would urge all States, as well as international governmental and non-governmental organizations and foundations, to make voluntary contributions in order to strengthen the programmes and activities of the Regional Centre and facilitate their implementation.


Further, the Assembly would also request the Secretary-General to facilitate close cooperation between the Regional Centre and the African Union, in particular in the areas of peace, security and development, and to continue to provide assistance towards stabilizing the financial situation of the Centre.


The draft resolution was approved by a recorded vote of 164 in favour to 1 against ( United States), with 5 abstentions ( Australia, Canada, Israel, Japan, United Kingdom).  (For details of the vote, see annex.)


Explaining his position, the representative of the United States said her country supported the efforts of nations to work on regional problems; however, funding for such efforts should come from existing resolutions or from voluntary contributions.  The present resolution had asked for funds to come from the United Nations regular budget, but the needed funds were not in the United Nations budget for the next year.  Besides, the budget for next year already represented a 15 per cent increase over the previous year.  She had voted against the resolution because it was fiscally irresponsible.


The representative of Japan said he strongly recognized that poverty reduction and development were prerequisites for disarmament in Africa.  The Centre’s work would be hindered by cuts in voluntary contributions.  However, the “ever-increasing” budget of the United Nations was a serious problem.  Such issues needed to be resolved by the “scrap and build” formula.  Japan, therefore, had no choice but to abstain from the vote on that resolution.


The representative of Canada said he had also abstained on “L.24/Rev.l”; however, that should not be interpreted as a lack of support for the aims and purposes of the Centre.  Canada had abstained because of concern about operative paragraphs 4 and 5.  He would have preferred if the resolution had asked the Secretary-General to provide a budget proposal, taking into consideration the Centre’s existing resources.  It was inappropriate for the First Committee to have made recommendations on the allocation of resources and the creation of new positions.


The representative of Australia, also explaining his vote on “L.24/Rev.1”, said that his country supported the work of the Centre, but believed that budgetary matters should be left to the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary).  The draft resolution fell within the work programme of that Committee and, as such, he had been unable to support the present draft text.


The representative of the United Kingdom said that he had reluctantly abstained from the vote on “L.24/Rev.1”.  His country acknowledged the considerable effort made by the sponsors of the draft resolution to reach consensus and deeply regretted that consensus had not been reached.  The United Kingdom supported the valuable work of the Regional Centres, but its position stemmed from the fact that Centres were currently funded by voluntary contributions, and his country felt that now was not the time to change that policy.  Only the Fifth Committee had authority and competence to take a decision on budgetary matters.


Also explaining his vote on “L.24/Rev.1”, the representative of Germany said he had voted in favour of the resolution, because his country was a “staunch supporter” of regional efforts on disarmament.  However, his Government had “serious reservations” about operative paragraphs 4 and 5.  The establishment of new posts, and budgetary issues, should be undertaken by the Fifth Committee.


The representative of the Niger noted that her delegation had been absent during the vote on “L.41”, on transparency in outer space activities, but had she been present, she would have voted in favour of that resolution.


The Committee then approved its programme of work for the General Assembly’s sixty-third session (document A/C.1/62/CRP.5).  During that session, the Committee would meet for a period of four weeks and two days, but the total number of meetings during the three segments of the session would remain unchanged from the current session.  A final version of the work programme would be published before the Committee began its work for the next session.


Closing of Session


In closing remarks, Committee Chairman PAUL BADJI ( Senegal) praised the rigour and efficacy of the session of the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security).  Over the course of the meetings, 142 delegates had expressed themselves, and 52 draft texts had been approved.  A spirit of openness and collaboration had prevailed.  The Committee had addressed the weighty issues of weapons of mass destruction, biological and chemical weapons, and conventional weapons.  Members had also discussed, among other issues, possible future treaties on the arms trade and on the traffic in small arms and light weapons.


As for whether the Committee had, in fact, advanced the cause of disarmament and international security, differences persisted in the Committee, especially on issues related to nuclear weapons, but he had appreciated the “positive and constructive” tone of the deliberations, and hoped that that would advance future negotiations on questions of disarmament, in Geneva, in other meetings on disarmament, and here in New York, in weeks and months to come.


(annex follows)


ANNEX


Vote on Regional Centre in Africa


The draft resolution on the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Africa (document A/C.1/62/L.24/Rev.1) was adopted by a recorded vote of 164 in favour to 1 against, with 5 abstentions, as follows:


In favour:  Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Andorra, Angola, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belarus, Belgium, Belize, Benin, Bhutan, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Botswana, Brazil, Brunei Darussalam, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Chad, Chile, China, Colombia, Comoros, Congo, Costa Rica, Côte d’Ivoire, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Denmark, Djibouti, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Estonia, Ethiopia, Finland, France, Gabon, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Guatemala, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Ireland, Italy, Jamaica, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Latvia, Lebanon, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Malaysia, Maldives, Mali, Malta, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mexico, Micronesia (Federated States of), Moldova, Monaco, Mongolia, Montenegro, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Nauru, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Romania, Russian Federation, Saint Lucia, Samoa, San Marino, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Serbia, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Solomon Islands, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Suriname, Swaziland, Sweden, Switzerland, Syria, Tajikistan, Thailand, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Timor-Leste, Togo, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Turkey, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Republic of Tanzania, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, Viet Nam, Yemen, Zambia, Zimbabwe.


Against:  United States.


Abstain:  Australia, Canada, Israel, Japan, United Kingdom.


Absent:  Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Dominica, Fiji, Gambia, Grenada, Kiribati, Malawi, Marshall Islands, Palau, Rwanda, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Sao Tome and Principe, Seychelles, Somalia, Tonga, Turkmenistan, Tuvalu, Uganda, Vanuatu.


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For information media • not an official record