Mulitilateralism, disarmament and terrorism
New York, 2001
The First (Disarmament and International Security) Committee of the 56th session of the General Assembly met in October and November 2001 and recommended 44 draft resolutions and six decisions to the Assembly for adoption. The atmosphere (the level of confrontation over language in the resolutions, for instance) in conference room 4 remained subdued for the entire session, as minds and private conversations were fixed on the consequences of the September 11th terrorist attacks on the United States, the circulation of anthrax-laced letters in the eastern part of the United States and the war against the Al Qaeda terrorist network. Security measures in New York City and around the United Nations complex remained on high alert.
The events in the United States in September were highly relevant to the disarmament debate on weapons of mass destruction and to the future of multilateral disarmament in general. The international community would have been remiss if it failed to recognize this fact and tended to business as usual.
As a first response, the Chairman of the First Committee, Ambassador André Erdös of Hungary, put forward a resolution which was adopted without a vote, reasserting the core principle of multilateralism in disarmament negotiations and reaffirming that disarmament would contribute to the global fight against terrorism.
The Department of Disarmament Affairs, for its part, organized a symposium with recognized experts in the area of disarmament and terrorism, with all speakers asserting the prime importance of multilateral action in this domain. (See separate announcement.)
The seven Member States (Brazil, Egypt, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, South Africa and Sweden) that form the New Agenda Initiative have been pressing over the last several years for a new approach or agenda for nuclear disarmament. They decided to take a new approach to First Committee procedures. Instead of repeating the resolutions of former years, the group submitted a procedural two-line decision to keep the item on the agenda of the next Assembly. In this way, they sent a message to the nuclear-weapon States that the agenda that would lead to nuclear disarmament was the agreement reached at the 2000 Review Conference of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Among the commitments made to that goal were thirteen significant steps, including an “unequivocal undertaking” by the nuclear powers to the total elimination of their nuclear arsenals.
Progress made on those steps will be assessed rigorously at the upcoming first session of the committee preparing the Seventh Review Conference of the NPT in 2005 (New York, 8–19 April 2002).
International battle against
the spread of small arms
and light weapons
A major event in the multilateral disarmament calendar for the year 2001 was the United Nations Conference on Illicit Trafficking in Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW) in all their Aspects which took place in July. Addressing a problem that many feel has crisis proportions, the world community agreed on a “programme of action” to combat illegal trafficking. The programme includes measures at the international, regional and national levels that, if implemented, would go a long way to reducing the scourge (incitement to violence and war and terrorist activity, for example) of the uncontrolled spread of SALW.
The General Assembly strongly backed the resolution dealing with the UN Conference and decided to strengthen the United Nations secretariat mechanism to assist States in implementing the programme, nationally and regionally.
Marking and Tracing Firearms
A study to examine the feasibility of developing an international instrument to enable States to identify and trace in a timely manner illicit SALW will be carried out by a group of governmental experts over the next two years. The study will be ready in time for submission to the 58th session of the Assembly in 2004.