New York, 30 September

The First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) began its general debate on Monday, 30 September amid concern over stalled global disarmament efforts and heightened fears of terrorist use of nuclear, chemical or biological weapons, prompted by the 11 September 2001 attack on the United States.

The Committee, which runs through 1 November, was opened by Ambassador Matia Mulumba Semakula Kiwanuka.

“We are here not to carry on an empty ritual,” said the Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs Jayantha Dhanapala in his remarks at the first meeting, “but to sustain a process of strengthening international peace and security through measures that include the total elimination of weapons of mass destruction and effective controls over other types of deadly weaponry. Many of these issues—especially those dealing with nuclear weapons—will also shape the conditions of international peace and security of generations to come.”

Progress toward these goals, however,” he continued. “is contingent, not inevitable. Speaking before the states parties attending the 2000 NPT Review Conference, the Secretary-General warned of the accumulation of “rust” in the multilateral disarmament machinery. In an ominous response to this warning, the United Nations Disarmament Commission failed to meet this year, the year it was to have commemorated its 50th anniversary.”

The Under-Secretary-General also reviewed some of the progress in the field of disarmament. He pointed to the recent agreement in Samarkand on the text of a treaty to establish a nuclear weapon free zone in Central Asia. On the positive side, he noted, was the recent arms control agreement concluded between the United States and the Russian Federation to reduce their deployments of strategic nuclear weapons.