Terrorism must be confronted with prevention, not reaction

New York, 30 January - 2 February  2002

Reflecting the degree to which terrorism has been taking center stage in the international security arena, the issue figured prominently in the discussions of the experts participating in the first session of 2002 Advisory Board on Disarmament Matters.

“The implications of the terrorist acts of 11 September for multilateral disarmament efforts are profound. Those tragic events should be moving the international community towards a culture of prevention, instead of a culture of reaction,” the Board relayed to the Secretary General, echoing a theme that emerged strongly during the 56th session of the General Assembly. “In order to seriously address the threat of terrorism and the danger that terrorists might actually use weapons of mass destruction against military or civilian targets,” it continued, “the importance of strengthening and further developing a multilateral legal framework, including that of disarmament and arms control…cannot be overemphasized”.

The Advisory Board, composed of 23 individuals selected for their expertise in the field, met in New York from 30 January to 1 February 2002 and deliberated on three issues: biological weapons and the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC); weapons of mass destruction and terrorism; and the implementation of the Programme of Action adopted at the 2001 United Nations Conference on the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects.

A panel discussion held during the session gave the Board and the public an opportunity to hear the views of Tibor Toth, Ambassador of Hungary, who presided over the work of the Review Conference of the States Parties to the Biological Weapons Convention (which was suspended along with the Expert Group). In the midst of a biological weapons outbreak on the East coast of the United States, he outlined the disturbing implications of the nexus between biological weapons and terrorism. He also presented his ideas for the next steps to strengthen the Convention.

The Board will continue its discussions in July and submit a report to the Secretary-General with specific recommendations for UN action. The Board also functions as the Board of Trustees of the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research, an autonomous institute that publishes extensively on disarmament and international security issues.

The Advisory Board on Disarmament Matters was established in 1978 pursuant to paragraph 124 of the Final Document of the Tenth Special Session of the General Assembly, and received its current mandate pursuant to General Assembly decision 54/418 of 1 December 1999. To learn more about the Advisory Board and UNIDIR, visit the ODA website at http://www.un.org/disarmament/HomePage/AdvisoryBoard/AdvisoryBoard.shtml.