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As 2009 session opens Secretary-General presses Conference on Disarmament to act on his five point plan for nuclear disarmament
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Security Council holds thematic debate on strengthening collective security through general regulation and reduction of armaments
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Cluster Munitions Convention Opens for Signature
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Workshop in Brazil on Implementing Security Council Resolution 1540
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Seminars to promote the universality of the Inhumane Weapons Convention
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Iraq joins Chemical Weapons Convention
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Seventh UN-Republic of Korea Joint Conference on Disarmament

As 2009 session opens Secretary-General presses Conference on Disarmament to act on his five point plan for nuclear disarmament

Palais des Nations, Geneva
Palais des Nations, Geneva

The Conference on Disarmament (CD) opened its 2009 session on 20 January. In a message to the meeting delivered by Sergei Ordzhonikidze, Director-General of the UN Office at Geneva and Secretary-General of the Conference on Disarmament, the Secretary-General said that one of his personal priorities since his first day in office had been to revitalize the international disarmament agenda and strengthen the effectiveness of the UN in this area. He attached great importance to the CD’s work and stressed that the immediate task before the Conference was to convert discussions on procedure into practical negotiations that will lead to real disarmament.

The Secretary-General noted that last October, he had issued a five-point proposal to revitalize the international disarmament agenda. Included in that proposal were several specific contributions that could be made by the CD with respect to nuclear disarmament and fissile materials. He urged the Conference once again to overcome its deadlock and reach a consensus on an agenda that will permit the resumption of substantive work. The CD was a unique multilateral negotiating forum, and must be able to play its proper role. For his part, he remained strongly committed to global disarmament and would continue to support the CD’s efforts to build a better, more prosperous and more peaceful world for all.

Speakers at the first session generally said that they attached great importance to the role of the Conference on Disarmament and hoped that it would be able to move beyond its stalemate in 2009.

Ambassador Le Hoai Trung of Viet Nam, President of the Conference, said that Viet Nam was very honoured to assume the presidency of the Conference on Disarmament and took the task seriously. It was the consistent policy of Viet Nam to strive for peace, prevention of war and promotion of disarmament and international security.

The Conference on Disarmament (CD), established in 1979 as the single multilateral disarmament negotiating forum of the international community, was a result of the first Special Session on Disarmament of the United Nations General Assembly held in 1978. The CD and its predecessors have negotiated such major multilateral arms limitation and disarmament agreements as the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, the Biological Weapons Convention, the Chemical Weapons Convention and the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty. However, recently there has been little progress on the items on its agenda. [Top>>]

See also: CD | SG message
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Security Council holds thematic debate on strengthening collective security through general regulation and reduction of armaments

On 19 November 2008, the Security Council held an open thematic debate on strengthening collective security through general regulation and reduction of armaments. Opening the meeting, chairman President Oscar Arias Sánchez of Costa Rica said that his country had convened the debate in order to examine Article 26 of the United Nations Carter, which gave the Council the duty to promote peace and security with the least diversion of resources for armaments. The time had come to recognize the link between the waste of resources devoted to arms and the need for resources for development. Alternatives to excessive military spending must be found that did not damage security. One of those alternatives was to strengthen multilateralism. “As long as nations do not feel protected by strong regional organizations with real powers to act, they will continue to arm themselves at the expense of their peoples’ development - particularly in the poorest countries - and at the expense of international security.”

President Oscar Arias SanchezSergio Duarte

In a message to the meeting (delivered in his absence by Sergio Duarte UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs) the Secretary-General noted that achieving a sense of collective security was a vital step towards preventing conflict. As was know all too well, organizations tend to be better equipped for reacting to developments than for anticipating them. The world could not be passive in the face of threats to international peace and security. That was why conflict prevention was very high on his agenda, and why the international community must strengthen its ability to minimize the potential for conflict.

In addition to all Council members, the representatives of Chile, Mexico, Brazil, Nigeria, Ecuador, Australia, Switzerland, Argentina, Guatemala, Spain, Pakistan, Colombia, Austria, Morocco, Canada, Armenia, United Republic of Tanzania, Qatar, Benin, Algeria and Japan also made statements, as did the Permanent Observer of the Holy See.

At the end of the meeting the President of the Council issued a Presidential Statement on behalf of all Council members which, inter alia, noted that the Security Council remained convinced of the necessity to strengthen international peace and security through, inter alia, disarmament, non-proliferation and arms control. It considered that the regulation and reduction of armaments and armed forces, as appropriate, constituted one of the most important measures to promote international peace and security with the least diversion of the world’s human and economic resources. [Top>>]

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Cluster Munitions Convention Opens for Signature

A Signing Conference was held in Oslo, Norway on 3 and 4 December 2008 for the Convention on Cluster Munitions. It was the culmination of the “Oslo Process” whereby a group of like minded States had met in Oslo in February 2007 to push for a convention. Several follow-up meetings were held and in May 2008 the text of the Convention was agreed at a Diplomatic Conference in Dublin, Ireland. The Convention prohibits all use, stockpiling, production or transfer of cluster munitions. Separate articles in the Convention concern assistance to victims, clearance of contaminated areas and destruction of stockpiles. The Convention was signed by 94 and ratified by 4 States during the Signing Conference.

In a message to the Conference delivered by the High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, the Secretary-General of the UN noted that the conclusion of this Convention indicated a significant and fundamental change in the position of many governments that, until recently, regarded cluster munitions as essential to their security policies and military doctrines. The importance of this shift could not be overemphasized. A great number of governments present in Oslo, some with considerable defense and peacekeeping responsibilities, had concluded that their policies were not in full concurrence with their international obligations and could jeopardize recovery and development efforts.

Signing Conference Signing Conference Signing Conference
Photos courtesy of Cluster Munitions Coalition

The Secretary-General of the United Nations is the depositary of the Convention and in May 2008 following agreement on the text of the Treaty his Spokesperson said “The United Nations will provide its full support and is ready to assist in the implementation of the responsibilities under this Convention,…and the Secretary General urges all States to sign and ratify without delay, and he looks forward to its rapid entry into force”.

Cluster Munitions consist of a container or dispenser from which many sub-munitions or bomblets are scattered over wide areas. Many are unreliable and fail to explode with a potential humanitarian impact on civilian populations both during conflict as well as long after with communities unable to farm land or use paths and roads believed to be littered with these weapons. Victims are often children because they are drawn to the unexploded bomblets, which are often small and shiny. Used for more than six decades, they have contaminated countries such as Laos, Viet Nam and Cambodia for over 30 years, while more recently they have been used in Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq and in southern Lebanon. [Top>>]

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Workshop in Brazil on Implementing Security Council Resolution 1540

Flags at the United Nations Headquarters, NY

A United Nations Regional Workshop on Implementing United Nations Security Council Resolution 1540 (2004) was held from 24 to 28 November 2008 in São Paulo, Brazil. The Workshop, with the participation of MERCOSUR States, was organized by the Office for Disarmament Affairs in cooperation with the Government of Brazil with funding by the European Union and the Governments of Norway and the United States.

Over 50 officials and experts from Member States, as well as international, regional and subregional organizations participated. The workshop aimed to enhance national capacities for the management of border and export control processes at a practical level, as well as improve information and experience-sharing between national export control and enforcement authorities on the regional level. The workshop also facilitated assistance and cooperation related to the implementation of resolution 1540 (2004). The workshop served as a platform to enhance, as appropriate, cooperation with international regional and subregional organizations in provision of such assistance.

UN Security Council resolution 1540 was adopted in April 2004, and obliges all States to refrain from supporting by any means non-State actors from developing, acquiring, manufacturing, possessing, transporting, transferring or using nuclear, chemical or biological weapons and their delivery systems. It also requires all States to establish domestic controls to prevent the proliferation of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and their means of delivery, including by establishing appropriate controls over related materials. For these purposes, the resolution specifically calls upon all States to establish and develop appropriate effective border and export controls.

The 1540 Committee was established pursuant to the resolution and States were called upon to report to it on steps they had taken, or intended to take, to implement the resolution. On 25 April 2008, by its resolution 1810 (2008), the Security Council extended the mandate of the 1540 Committee for three years until 25 April 2011 and emphasized the importance for all States to implement fully resolution 1540 (2004). The Council, inter alia, requested the 1540 Committee to continue to organize and participate in outreach events at the regional and subregional level promoting States’ implementation of resolution 1540 (2004). The workshop in Sao Paulo was the first one in a series of regional workshops on implementing the 1540 resolution to be organized by ODA involving Member States in such regions as Africa, Asia and Central America. [Top>>]

See also: 1540 Website

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Seminars to promote the universality of the Inhumane Weapons Convention

The United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA) has continued its efforts to promote the universality of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) and its annexed Protocols by holding two more regional seminars. On 19 and 20 November 2008, UNODA organized a regional seminar in Rabat, Morocco for States from the Middle East and the Mediterranean region. The Morocco seminar was opened by Mr. Youssef Amrani, Secretary-General, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of the Kingdom of Morocco. Another regional seminar was held in Kathmandu, Nepal on 17 and 18 December for States of South Asia, South-East Asia and the Pacific. The Kathmandu seminar was opened by H.E. Mr. Upendra Yadav, Foreign Minister of Nepal.

Regional seminar in Kathmandu

The regional seminars were aimed at the universalization of the CCW and its Protocols through promoting accession to the Convention by States that are not yet parties and to encourage these states to initiate the necessary national processes. The seminars provided information and clarified the aims and functioning of the various CCW mechanisms and tools. More importantly, they served as a regional forum for governments to exchange ideas, experiences and lessons learned about the Convention, and to consider the benefits of becoming a party, as well as the challenges of its implementation. Several participants at the seminars mentioned that their countries' internal processes to accede to the CCW and its Protocols were underway, while others would start soon.

Regional seminar in Rabat

The Convention, the full title of which is the Convention on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons Which May Be Deemed to Be Excessively Injurious or to Have Indiscriminate Effects, was opened for signature at New York on 10 April 1981 and entered into force on 2 December 1983. It currently has 109 States Parties. The Secretary-General of the United Nations is the depositary of the Convention. The Convention seeks to protect civilians and combatants from the effects of certain weapons used in armed conflict. It consists of a framework instrument (the Convention) and five protocols, each of them regulating a specific category of weapons.

The Rabat and Kathmandu seminars were the last of six regional seminars organized by UNODA and financed by the European Union through its Joint Action (23 July 2007) in implementing the Convention’s Plan of Action on Promoting the Universality of the Convention and its annexed Protocols. Previous seminars were held in the Caribbean region, East and West Africa, Great Lakes, Horn of Africa and Southern Africa and Central Asia. [Top>>]

See also: CCW Geneva

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Iraq joins Chemical Weapons Convention

On 13 January 2009, Iraq’s Permanent Representative to the UN, Dr. Hamid al-Bayati, deposited his country’s instrument of accession to the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and On Their Destruction (The CWC).

A statement issued the same day by the Spokesperson of the Secretary-General noted that in his capacity as Depositary of the Convention the Secretary-General congratulated the Republic of Iraq on its decision as it demonstrated its commitment to disarmament and non-proliferation. The statement added that the Secretary-General firmly believes that reaching universality of the Chemical Weapons Convention will significantly promote international peace and security and urged the remaining States not party to take the necessary measures to accede to the Convention as early as possible.

A press release from the Iraqi Permanent Mission to the UN noted that Iraq’s action reflected its government’s will to cooperate with the international community in the field of disarmament, and the government’s determination to participate in maintaining international peace and security. It also noted that Iraq’s accession was a step towards the implementation of international obligations included in Security Council resolutions that call for the United Nations Member States to join all International Conventions that prohibit the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, including Resolution 1373 (2001) and Resolution 1762 (2007) which called on the Government of Iraq to make progress in abiding with all disarmament and non-proliferation conventions, especially the CWC.

gauge bombsrockets destructionverificationOPCW building

In The Hague the OPCW Director-General, Rogelio Pfirter, welcomed Iraq’s decision as a significant step to strengthen global and regional efforts to prevent the spread and use of chemical weapons. “Iraq’s accession draws us closer to the Convention’s goal of the universal ban on chemical weapons, and we call upon those nine States that have not yet adhered to the Convention to do so without delay,” Director-General Pfirter said.

The Convention entered into force for Iraq on 12 February, 30 days after the deposit of its instrument of accession, bringing the total number of States parties to 186. The Chemical Weapons Convention is the first multilateral treaty to ban with international verification - an entire category of weapons of mass destruction. [Top>>]

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Seventh UN-Republic of Korea Joint Conference on Disarmament

At the conference

The seventh United Nations-Republic of Korea Joint Conference on Disarmament and Non-proliferation Issues took place on Jeju Island, Republic of Korea, from 24 to 26 November 2008. The Conference, co-organized by the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA) and the Government of the Republic of Korea, was opened by Hannelore Hoppe, Director and Deputy to the High Representative for Disarmament Affairs. Mr. Joon Oh, Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade of the Republic of Korea made welcoming remarks. Approximately 40 representatives of Governments, international organizations, academic and research institutions, as well as civil society participated in the Conference.

This year’s Conference, with the overall theme of “Nuclear Renaissance and the NPT: Reinforcing the Three Pillars of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)” addressed several critical issues in the fields of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, such as revitalizing the NPT process, nuclear renaissance and multilateral assurance mechanism for nuclear fuel supply, challenges and responses to nuclear non-proliferation and nuclear disarmament, and non-proliferation challenges in North-East Asia.

The annual Conference, which has been hosted by Republic of Korea since 2002, is an important forum for dialogue and exchange of views on pressing security and disarmament-related issues facing the international community. It also addresses particular disarmament and non-proliferation concerns in the Asia-Pacific region. [Top>>]

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