General Assembly Highlights Need for Nuclear Disarmament and Non-Proliferation

            Mindful of the upcoming 2005 NPT Review Conference, the New Agenda Coalition (Brazil, Egypt, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, South Africa and Sweden) sponsored a key nuclear disarmament resolution entitled “Accelerating the implementation of nuclear disarmament commitments.” Cast in the NPT framework, the resolution recalled commitments by the nuclear-weapon States under article VI of the Treaty to accomplish the total elimination of their nuclear arsenals, leading to nuclear disarmament. It would also have the Assembly call upon all NPT States parties to accelerate work on the 13 practical steps for systematic and progressive nuclear disarmament efforts agreed to at the 2000 NPT Review Conference.  

            In a shift of position, the United States cast a negative vote on this year’s resolution calling for the establishment of a fissile material cut-off treaty. At the Conference on Disarmament’s (CD) July-September session, while reaffirming its commitment to the negotiation of a legally binding treaty banning the production of fissile material in the CD, the US announced that one of the resolution’s key provisions – an effective verification mechanism - was not achievable.

           Several draft resolutions on conventional weapons enjoyed adoption by consensus. Among them, the new resolution by Australia on “Prevention of the Illicit Transfer and Unauthorized Access to and Use of Man-Portable Air Defence Systems” (MANPADS) stressed the importance of effective and comprehensive national controls on the production, stockpiling, transfer and brokering of those weapons.  Its consensus adoption was a victory for the sponsors who believed that MANPADS use represented a growing security threat, particularly given its potential use by terrorists against civil aviation. Last year, MANPADS was included in the UN Register of Conventional Arms resolution 46/36 L under the category of missiles and missile-launchers. The new resolution by Argentina on “Information on confidence-building measures in the field of conventional arms,” would have the Secretary-General establish an electronic database containing information from Member States on confidence-building measures and assist them in organizing seminars, courses and workshops to enhance their knowledge of new developments in this field.

            Growing concerns over regional and global security challenges caused by the ongoing proliferation of ballistic missiles capable of delivering weapons of mass destruction led to the adoption of a new resolution on the Hague Code of Conduct against Ballistic Missile Proliferation.  By its terms, the General Assembly would invite all States that had not yet done so, to subscribe to the Code.

            Two resolutions would request the Secretary-General to establish governmental expert groups on the basis of equitable geographical distribution – one on the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons (SALW); the other on verification.

             The resolution on “The Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects,” which emphasizes the importance of early and full implementation of the Programme of Action (PoA) to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in SALW, would have the Secretary-General establish a group of governmental experts (GGE) to consider further steps to enhance international cooperation in preventing, combating and eradicating illicit brokering in those weapons. As stated in the resolution, the GGE would be established after the 2006 review conference on the implementation of the PoA and no later than 2007, and after the conclusion of the work of the Open-ended Working Group on tracing.

              The resolution on “Verification in all its aspects, including the role of the United Nations in that field,” would request the Secretary-General, with the assistance of a panel of governmental experts to be established in 2006, to explore that issue.

             Under the chairmanship of Luis Alfonso de Alba of Mexico, the First Committee, (Disarmament and International Security), held 24 meetings and adopted 52 resolutions and 3 decisions. Compared to last year, more resolutions and decisions were adopted without a vote (33 to 29) and there were fewer recorded votes (22 to 24). Adoption by consensus is significant because it demonstrates the will of Member States to work towards a common goal on nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation issues. Resolutions and decisions of the General Assembly relating to disarmament and international security are available at http://disarmament.un.org/vote.nsf.