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UN Role

Since the birth of the United Nations, disarmament has been central to its efforts to maintain peace and security. The UN has given its highest priority to halting the spread of arms, reducing and eventually eliminating all weapons of mass destruction. The UN Charter gives the General Assembly the chief responsibility for considering disarmament issues. It has two subsidiary bodies that focus on disarmament, the First Committee which meets during the Assembly's regular session, adopting resolutions and decisions on a wide range of disarmament, arms control and non-proliferation issues, and the Disarmament Commission, a full membership body that focuses on specific items on the Assembly's agenda and develops general principles and guidelines in the field. It meets for three weeks every year. The UN also provides an ongoing forum for disarmament negotiations, making recommendations and initiating studies. It supports The Conference on Disarmament (established in 1979) is an autonomous conference of reduced membership whose purpose is to negotiate multilateral disarmament and arms control agreements. It meets on UN premises in Geneva. And in the Secretariat, the Office for Disarmament Affairs implements decisions made by the General Assembly on disarmament matters.

Other UN agencies dealing with disarmament issues:

In The Hague, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons collects information on chemical facilities worldwide and conducts routine inspections to ensure adherence to the chemical weapons convention.

The United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR) does independent research on disarmament and related issues, particularly international security issues.

The Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency ensures that nuclear materials and equipment intended for peaceful uses are not diverted for military purposes.

The United Nations Mine Action Service acts as the focal point for mine action and coordinates all mine-related activities for the UN system.

Important disarmament agreements:

Multilateral negotiations have produced such agreements as the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (1968), the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (1996), treaties establishing nuclear-free zones, treaties that prohibit the development, production and stockpiling of chemical weapons (1992) and bacteriological weapons (1972), and treaties that ban nuclear weapons from the seabed and ocean floor (1971) and outer space (1967). Currently, there are 155 countries that have ratified the 1997 Ottawa Convention outlawing landmines and are bound by obligations. The UN encourages all nations to adhere to this and other treaties banning destructive weapons of war. The UN is also supporting efforts to prevent, combat and eradicate the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons - the weapons of choice in the vast majority of conflicts worldwide. The UN Register of Conventional Arms and the system for standardized reporting of military expenditures help promote greater transparency in military matters.