2 April 2012
General Assembly
DC/3336

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

Disarmament Commission

2012 Substantive Session

319th Meeting (AM & PM)


One Responsible Course for Disarmament Commission — Find ‘Common Ground’ to Address

 

Challenges Posed by Deadliest Weapons, Says Secretary-General, as Session Opens

 


New Disarmament Head Says Commission Must Be More than Platform for Voicing

National Policies; following Deadlock over Agenda, General Debate Postponed


Conjuring images of the potentially “monstrous” effects of global nuclear fallout, speakers at the opening of the 2012 substantive session of the United Nations Disarmament Commission stressed that, after a dozen fruitless consecutive sessions, the body could waste no more time remaining gripped by deadlock or mired in repeated iterations of national interests. 


Nonetheless, the meeting was suspended this morning following brief opening remarks as consensus remained elusive on a provisional agenda.  The start of the session marked the beginning of a new three-year work cycle for the Commission, which operates in both plenary meetings and working groups.  Referred to as a deliberative think tank on arms control, the Commission is a multilateral body mandated to make recommendations and evolve guidelines on specific issues concerning nuclear disarmament and conventional weapons.


“The Commission today has only one responsible course to follow:  it must focus its deliberations on finding a common ground for addressing current and emerging global challenges,” said Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon in a statement read this morning by High Representative for Disarmament Affairs Angela Kane.  Such challenges ranged from the elimination of the deadliest weapons of mass destruction, to the reduction and limitation of conventional arms, he noted.


As the Commission marked its sixtieth anniversary this year, Member States should recall that the existence of differences in policies and priorities was not a new challenge, he said.  The body had a lifelong history of overcoming such obstacles, even at times of great instability in international relations.  In that respect, further progress was now “vitally needed” towards breaking the stalemate in which the Commission was entrenched.  Far from being a singular issue, disarmament had the potential of benefitting all other goals of the United Nations, just as the failure of disarmament efforts would jeopardize the security and prosperity of all.


Ms. Kane, speaking in her capacity as the newly appointed High Representative, agreed that, while progress had been limited within the disarmament machinery over the years, the Commission had a history of overcoming disappointments.  “[That history] offers us something on which to build,” she said.  The body had met rarely in its first 18 years, she said; however, between 1979 and 1999, it had been able to adopt by consensus 16 guidelines, recommendations and declarations.  It was important not to forget that forward motion was possible, she stressed, adding that, “if such progress was possible during some of the darker days of the cold war, surely [it] should be possible today”.


Indeed, she said, despite today’s dynamic political environment, the greatest obstacles to progress in disarmament remained the lack of trust or confidence in proposed initiatives due to uncertainties or suspicion about true motivations.  The purely deliberative role of the Commission offered one way of breaking down such suspicions; moreover, in order for the Commission to fulfil its true potential, it must become more than a platform for articulating national policies.  “There is no chance that disarmament will cease to be a priority of an overwhelming majority of Member States and billions of people in civil society around the world,” she said, adding that “the Commission now has an opportunity to rise to those expectations”.


There was no doubt that the United Nations disarmament machinery was currently at a crucial juncture, echoed Nasser Abdulaziz al-Nasser, President of the General Assembly, as he addressed the Commission.  Serious challenges existed in the form of a lack of political will and a growing resistance to initiative and compromise, he said.  In the case of both the Commission and the Conference on Disarmament — the negotiating body of the United Nations disarmament machinery — that had led to the more-than-a-decade-long stalemate.  “This situation,” he stressed, “cannot, and indeed, should not, be sustained.”  It was the shared responsibility of the entire international community to bring that machinery, including the Commission, “back on track”.


For his part, Commission Chairman Enrique Román-Morey (Peru) highlighted the critical importance of the Commission’s work by evoking the chaos and destruction of a hypothetical nuclear explosion.  Among other things, he said, attacks on cities and military facilities would lead to hurricane-force winds affecting entire continents, and would release not only their own radiation, but that of reactors and nuclear weapons destroyed in the attacks.  Individuals would be killed by the explosion or wander through a “world of nightmares populated by the dead and the insane”.


In light of those horrors — whose prevention was at the heart of the issue of disarmament — “business as usual” was no longer acceptable.  The achievement of concrete results could not be postponed, he said, adding that his proposals to Member States could serve as an initial basis to build on those results.  He had made suggestions in such areas as nuclear disarmament, leading to the establishment of a framework to rid the world of nuclear weapons, he recalled; a second item, on nuclear-weapon-free zones, was of great importance, as the zones represented the political decision of States to reject nuclear tests, as well as the manufacturing, use, acquisition, reception, storage and possession of all nuclear weapons.  A third item would address conventional weapons, in the lead up to this year’s review conference on the action programme.


The Commission will meet again at 10 a.m., tomorrow, 3 April, to continue its work.


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For information media • not an official record