UN official highlights impact of democracy and rule of law on advancing disarmament

Amb. Jarmo Viinanen of Finland

3 October 2011 – The twin forces of democracy and the rule of law can help advance progress on disarmament and positively impact the work of the United Nations committee that deals with the issue, a top United Nations official said today.

“Democracy and the rule of law are two powerful forces in the global environment that together can help strengthen the political will needed to move the disarmament agenda forward,” Sergio Duarte, the High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, told the General Assembly committee that deals with disarmament and international security issues, also known as the First Committee.

As the committee, chaired by Ambassador Jarmo Viinanen of Finland, began its general debate, Mr. Duarte noted that disarmament remains a goal shared by all Member States.

“What is most needed now is the political will to translate these goals into action. For this work to be undertaken on a global scale, there is no substitute for the UN disarmament machinery as a venue for multilateral cooperation,” he said. “It remains the world’s great ‘assembly line’ for the construction and maintenance of global disarmament norms.

“As the forces of democracy continue to grow, so too will the legitimacy of international rules in this field – and as the rule of law continues to come to disarmament, so too will the world welcome the additional stability, predictability and basic fairness that will arise as a result,” said the High Representative.

He pointed to the democratic revolution that is sweeping the world, and said that evidence that democracy is coming to disarmament is “indisputable” in light of the actions by mayors, grass-roots organizations and civil society groups in promoting progress in nuclear disarmament.

“It is apparent in the persisting and growing expectations voiced in the General Assembly for new progress in disarmament,” he stated. “And as the world’s largest democratic body, the General Assembly offers a forum for each State, large or small, to participate in the process of developing multilateral disarmament norms.

“And as democracy is coming to disarmament, so too is the rule of law,” Mr. Duarte added, saying that this is apparent in many ways, including the efforts to gain universal membership in the key multilateral treaties dealing with weapons of mass destruction, as well as in the growing interest in support of negotiating a nuclear weapons convention.

The forces of democracy and the rule of law also have the potential to help in achieving the goal of a reduction in military spending, Mr. Duarte stated. The world is reportedly spending over $1.6 trillion a year for military purposes, he noted, while progress in achieving the global anti-poverty targets known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) has fallen short of expectations given the lack of resources.

“In terms of the work of this committee, it is therefore quite clear that we should not close up shop and wait for the dawning of world peace as a precondition for disarmament, non-proliferation and arms control to succeed.

“To the contrary, our efforts in each of these fields make their own vital and independent contributions to strengthening international peace and security,” said Mr. Duarte. “And as disarmament advances, the world advances.”

During the current 66th session of the Assembly, the deliberations of the committee will cover a wide range of issues, including weapons of mass destruction, the regulation and limitation of conventional arms, the relationship between disarmament and development, disarmament education, and institutions in the UN disarmament machinery.

Its general debate will continue through 11 October.


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