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IN THIS ISSUE

First Committee concludes 64th session
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Security Council Summit on Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament chaired by President Barack Obama
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Sixth Conference on Facilitating the Entry into Force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT)
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62nd Annual Conference for Non-Governmental Organizations on the theme “For Peace and Development: Disarm Now” in Mexico City, Mexico
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27th Annual United Nations’ International Day of Peace 2009
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United Nations Disarmament Conference in Niigata, Japan, 26-28 August:
“From Niigata to the World: Renewed Determination and Action Toward a Nuclear Weapon-Free World” 

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UN Workshop on Implementing Security Council Resolution 1540 (2004), San José, Costa Rica, 8 – 10 September 2009
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Capacity-building workshop in Prague for West African experts to help identify and trace illicit small arms

First Committee concludes 64th session

DSC_0012_1 by Mary Wareham.

Photo courtesy of Mary Wareham
of Human Rights Watch

The First Committee of the United Nations General Assembly, which deals with disarmament and international security, held its annual four-week session in New York from 1 October to 2 November, submitting 54 resolutions and decisions to the General Assembly for consideration.

The Committee debated a range of disarmament and non-proliferation themes, amid the growing attention to those issues, prompted in part by the new negotiations between the Russian Federation and the United States aimed at further reductions in their nuclear arsenals, the recent Security Council summit on nuclear disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation and the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) Article XIV Conference, which had been attended by the United States for the first time.  While some in the First Committee’s debate greeted the apparent new momentum with cautious optimism, others held that the world was witnessing an important positive shift in the area of disarmament.

During the thematic debate, the Committee heard briefings from the High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, the President of the Conference on Disarmament (CD), the Chairman of the UN Disarmament Commission (UNDC) and representatives of international intergovernmental organizations in the disarmament field (OPCW, CTBTO-Preparatory Commission), from the Chairperson of groups of governmental experts (on the continuing operation and further development of the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms), the Chair of the Open-ended Working Group on an arms trade Treaty and of the Secretary-General’s Advisory Board on Disarmament Matters as well as the Director of the United Nation Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR).

This year the Committee adopted 33 drafts by consensus, showing an increase compared to previous years in the number of texts on which no recorded vote was requested. Among the session’s highlights, was the resolution on the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, which, for the first time, had garnered the support and co-sponsorship of the five nuclear-weapon States.  A resolution urging the Conference on Disarmament to agree early in 2010 on a programme of work that includes the immediate commencement on a treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons was adopted without a vote.  Many delegations expressed the view that these and other developments in the nuclear area augured well for the 2010 Review Conference of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT).  The resolution on an arms trade treaty had been another sign of progress in that UN Member States agreed that a United Nations Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty will be held in 2012 to elaborate a legally binding instrument on the highest possible common international standards for the transfer of conventional arms.

The Committee also continued its practice begun four years ago of devoting time during the thematic debate to hearing the views of civil society groups. This session heard from Reaching Critical Will, Program on Science and Global Security at Princeton University, Human Rights Watch, the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, Cluster Munition Coalition, Women as Partners for Peace, Philippines Action Network on Small Arms, International Action on Small Arms, World Forum on the Future of Sport Shooting Activities, Defense Small Arms Advisory Council, Nonviolence International and the mother of a soldier killed in Iraq by a cluster munition.  The issues covered this year included nuclear weapons, landmines, cluster munitions, progress towards an arms trade treaty and small arms and light weapons.

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See also:First Committee website | High Representative speech to First Committee
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Security Council Summit on Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament chaired by President Barack Obama

Workshop participants

Ban Ki-moon addressing the heads of states during the Security Council Summit on Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament (UN Photo/Mark Garten)

On 24 September, United States President Barack Obama, the first US President to preside over a Security Council session, chaired the Security Council Summit on nuclear non-proliferation and nuclear disarmament in New York.  The meeting marked only the fifth head-of-state summit in United Nations history, and President Obama's presence  signaled the importance of the issue for his administration.

The Summit, with 14 Heads of State participating, unanimously adopted resolution 1887, which calls for the nuclear weapons states, and those who have not ratified yet, to ratify a ban on nuclear testing and negotiate a new treaty to stop the production of fissile material.  It also calls for them to join the disarmament process being led by the United States and Russian Federation, who possess more than 90% of the world's nuclear weapons between them.  The document also endorses a string of measures intended to strengthen the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), ahead of a major review conference next May and the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) role in addressing nuclear threats and measures to address non-compliance with nuclear treaties. 

President Obama said the next twelve months would be "absolutely critical" in ensuring whether the resolution would succeed in reversing the spread of nuclear weapons and setting the world along the path of multilateral disarmament.  He said he had no illusions about the difficulties ahead, but he added "there will also be days like today" when the world came together for the common goal of disarmament and countering proliferation.

In calling for a world free of nuclear weapons, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon welcomed the adoption of the resolution.  “This summit was an historic event that has opened a new chapter in the Council's efforts to address nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation. Global nuclear non-proliferation stands at a critical juncture.  Despite some progress, much remains to be done to achieve a world free of nuclear weapons. Against this backdrop, this summit was especially timely.  I hope that the international community seizes and builds on this momentum towards advancing nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament, in general, and achieving success at the 2010 NPT Review Conference, in particular.  I will spare no effort to promote nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation and achieve success for the sake of global peace and security,” he said.

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See also:Security Council resolution 1887 | Secretary-General's statement | Security Council Summit on Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament - summary
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Sixth Conference on Facilitating the Entry into Force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT)

Hillary Clinton

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton during the Sixth Conference on Facilitating the Entry into Force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty CTBT) in New York (CTBTO Photo/ Sophie Paris)

On 24 and 25 September, the Sixth Conference on Facilitating the Entry into Force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) was held in New York, intended to promote the entry into force of the CTBT, which bans all nuclear weapons tests worldwide, a measure that would contribute to nuclear disarmament.  Opening the meeting, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon paid tribute to the United States’ leadership in deciding to participate. "The participation of the United States led by Secretary of State Clinton for the first time demonstrates the commitment of the United States to work towards its ratification of the Treaty", he said. 

On the first day of the conference a declaration, calling for the early entry into force of the CTBT, was signed by the 150 countries that have already signed and ratified the Treaty.  "We the ratifiers, together with the States signatories, met in New York to promote the entry into force of the CTBT at the earliest possible date", the declaration said.  The CTBT has been signed by 181 countries, of which 150 have ratified.  Of the 44 "Annex 2" countries whose ratification of the Treaty is required for the Treaty to enter into force, nine States have still to do so: China, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), Egypt, India, Indonesia, Islamic Republic of Iran, Israel, Pakistan and the United States.

In her statement United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton emphasized that a global nuclear test ban would increase the United States’ security because “as long as we are confronted with the prospect of nuclear testing by others, we will face the potential threat of newer, more powerful, and more sophisticated weapons that could cause damage beyond our imagination,” Clinton said. "The CTBT is an integral part of our non-proliferation and arms control agenda, and we will work in the months ahead both to seek the advice and consent of the United States Senate to ratify the treaty and to secure ratification by others so that the treaty can enter into force." Clinton added.

 Michael Douglas

Michael Douglas, actor and UN Messenger of Peace, at the Sixth Conference on Facilitating the Entry into Force of  the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (UN Photo/Sophie Paris)

As a United Nations Messenger of Peace, specially committed to disarmament issues including nuclear non-proliferation, actor and director Mr. Michael Douglas attended the conference and pointed out the importance of the treaty: “The CTBT's existing monitoring system physically represents the kind of cooperative security architecture required for a sustainable future.  It is effective, global, and helpful to all, a common good.  The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, when fully brought into force, will be a pillar in a safer world.” he said.

Mr. Tibor Toth, Executive Secretary of the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO), stressed that the CTBT is a uniting force in the multilateral system.  For those that had signed and ratified the Treaty the question was not “if”, but rather “when” the Treaty would enter into force the message was simple - as an all inclusive, democratic non-discriminatory legal instrument, the international communities belief in this unique political and scientific arrangement was overwhelming.

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62nd Annual Conference for Non-Governmental Organizations on the theme “For Peace and Development: Disarm Now” in Mexico City, Mexico

ASSN, OIF and UNREC logos
United Nations Photo

This year’s 62nd Annual Conference for Non-Governmental Organizations on the theme “For Peace and Development: Disarm Now” was organized by a partnership between the Department of Public Information Non-Governmental Organization (DPI/NGO) Executive Committee, the Government of Mexico, and the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs. From 9 to 11 September participants discussed how they can contribute to reducing arms while advancing peace. For only the second time in its six-decade history, the Conference was held outside the United Nations New York Headquarters, this time in Mexico City. Over 1,300 representatives from NGOs and experts from 55 countries took part in the three-day gathering.

The aim of the conference was to highlight effective ways in which civil society can contribute to the advancement of disarmament, peace and development at the international, regional, national and local levels, as well as the generation of greater global awareness of disarmament issues and a strengthening of commitments to address them among diverse stakeholders worldwide.  The conference included four roundtable discussions and breakout sessions, interactive dialogues, as well as regional workshops, daily caucuses, exhibits and many other activities.

SG at DPI/NGO Conference on Disarmament
United Nations Photo - UN Secretary-General [centre] at the close of the opening ceremony of the 62nd DPI/NGO Conference in Mexico City
The conference was opened by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon who called for ridding the world of nuclear weapons, exhorting civil society groups in particular to continue to speak out against them.  Mr. Ban noted that more weapons continue to be produced and are flooding markets around the world. “They are destabilizing societies. They feed the flames of civil wars and terror,” he stated. “Here in Latin America, gun violence is the number one cause of civilian casualties.” The Secretary-General noted, however, that, thanks in large measure to the unrelenting advocacy of NGOs, there is a new moment of opportunity. “Disarmament is back on the global agenda.” However, this is just the beginning, he added. “Our final destination is a world free of nuclear weapons.” He urged civil society to continue speaking out that nuclear weapons are immoral and should not be accorded any military value.  “The mightiest force for change is the power of people.  That is the spirit that infuses your movement.  That is the passion that produces real change.” Mr. Ban said.

Youth activities held before, during and after the Conference were an integral part of its proceedings.  The DPI/NGO Intergenerational and Youth Subcommittees in New York and Mexico City were pleased to present a host of events for youth and young adults that gave them the opportunity to learn about interesting and contemporary issues in the interrelated fields of disarmament, development and peace. Events such as the Youth Career Fair and Networking Lunch, a Student Journalism Project and an International Photo Contest were initiated to inspire the participants to create actionable projects once they return to their hometowns and universities.The conference concluded with the adoption of the “Disarming for Peace and Development” Declaration, calling for strict government regulation over the sale, trade, possession and use of small arms, as well as strong support for an effective arms trade treaty for all types of conventional weapons. “The purpose of this declaration is simple” said the NGOs. “Its aim is to save lives and to reduce injuries, and in the case of nuclear weapons, to prevent the destruction of civilization. The benefits of peace and security far outweigh whatever short-term benefits the trade in arms may promise.”

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27th Annual United Nations’ International Day of Peace 2009

Seminar participants
UN Photo/Mark Garten

This year’s ceremonies of the 27th Annual United Nations International Day of Peace at Headquarters in New York on 18 September was dedicated to the “We Must Disarm” campaign promoting the Secretary-Generals vision of a world free of nuclear weapons. It featured presentations by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and other UN dignitaries, UN Messengers of Peace Michael Douglas, Jane Goodall and Princess Haya of Jordan, as well as performances by a choir from Japan and musicians from the Vermont Peace Academy. All this was followed by a presentation of Pledges for Peace, the Minute of Silence, the Ringing of the Peace Bell, and a Flags of the World Ceremony by the World Peace Prayer Society.For those who could not attend the ceremonies in New York a 24-hour World Peace Celebration and Global Internet Broadcast Commemorating the International Day of Peace was available on the 21 September.

It featured Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Message for the UN International Day of Peace; as well as interviews with present and former high level UN officials including Sergio Duarte, UN High Representative for Disarmament and many more. In his speech after the Ringing of the Peace Bell Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said why disarmament is so important to him: “because the world is overarmed and peace is underfunded; because disarmament contributes to development; and because nukes threaten humankind. Let’s get rid of them for good.”
He also said that he hopes “that someday, your children will have trouble imagining what it was like to live in a world that could be annihilated at any moment by nuclear weapons. On this International Day of Peace, let’s pledge to keep pushing, together, for a nuclear-weapon-free world.  And I count on your commitment and your leadership as future leaders of this world.”

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See also:International Day of Peace | Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon’s remarks at Peace Bell ceremony | Facebook

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United Nations Disarmament Conference in Niigata, Japan, 26-28 August:
“From Niigata to the World: Renewed Determination and Action Toward a Nuclear Weapon-Free World” 

Workshop participants
UNODA photo

The 21st United Nations Conference on Disarmament Issues took place in Niigata, Japan, to discuss issues concerning nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation.  During the three-day meeting, more than 100 delegates, including from the United States, China, France and Japan, addressed topics ranging from the Korean Peninsula denuclearization, the outlook for next year's Review Conference of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, as well as the role of media and civil society in disarmament. The gathering urged nations of the world to take major steps towards creating a world without nuclear weapons and to identify ways to "translate the vision of a nuclear-weapon-free world into concrete actions".

The annual conference, which has been hosted by Japan and organized by the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs and its Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Asia and the Pacific, since 1989, is recognized as an important forum for frank dialogue and exchange of views on pressing security and disarmament-related issues facing the international community.  It also addresses the particular disarmament and non-proliferation concerns of countries in the Asia-Pacific region.

Niigata 2009 21 st UN Conference
UNODA photo
"The dangers posed by existing nuclear weapons and the risks of the proliferation of such weapons or their acquisition by non-state actors collectively pose the gravest challenges to international peace and security," said Hannelore Hoppe, Director and Deputy to the United Nations High Representative for Disarmament Affairs who opened the meeting. "The conference will explore ways and means to translate the vision of a nuclear weapon-free world into concrete actions," Hoppe said.  She elaborated that these include some preliminary steps aimed at significantly reducing nuclear arsenals, enhancing efforts to bring the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty into force, and negotiating a fissile materials treaty.

The Conference not only offered an important platform for dialogue for experts in the field of disarmament and non-proliferation, but also extended this platform to the broader community. Citizens from Niigata and its vicinity, including university students observed the proceedings and had a chance to exchange their thoughts and views with conference participants in a round-table discussion during the conference.

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UN Workshop on Implementing Security Council Resolution 1540 (2004), San José, Costa Rica, 8 – 10 September 2009

weapons
UNODA Photo

A United Nations Workshop on Implementing United Nations Security Council Resolution 1540 (2004) was held from 8 to 10 September in San José, Costa Rica. The Workshop was hosted by the Government of Costa Rica and organized by the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA) with financial support from the European Union and the Governments of Norway and the United States. Officials from Belize, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, Nicaragua and Panama as well as representatives of a number of international, regional and sub-regional organizations participated. Consistent with the objectives of resolution 1540 (2004), the workshop aimed at enhancing national capacities for the management of export-control processes at a practical level, and improving information- and experience-sharing between participating countries.

The workshop was the fourth of its kind organized by UNODA focusing on export, border and customs controls and on technical assistance in the implementation of resolution 1540 (2004) after the adoption of resolution 1810 (2008). The three previous workshops were held in Brazil (November 2008), Qatar (March 2009) and Vanuatu (April-May 2009) for MERCOSUR, Arab and Pacific Island States, respectively.

The format of the workshop was customized to address regional specifics of Central America and to encourage active dialogue among participating States.  The nine participating countries sent officials with responsibilities and experience in the areas of customs, law enforcement and border controls which were relevant to the workshop agenda.  It is expected that capacity building assistance requests will be made to the 1540 Committee.  Interest was also expressed in improved cooperation and exchanges of experience and lessons learned both by States and regional organizations to increase national and regional security.

Resolution 1540 (2004) was unanimously adopted on 28 April 2004 obliging all States to refrain from providing any form of support to non-State actors that attempt to develop, acquire, manufacture, possess, transport, transfer or use nuclear, chemical or biological weapons and their means of delivery. Under resolution 1540 (2004), all States are to establish domestic controls to prevent the proliferation of these weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery, including by establishing appropriate controls over related materials. The resolution also affirms support for the multilateral treaties whose aim is to eliminate or prevent the proliferation of these weapons. The 1540 Committee, as a subsidiary body of the Security Council, was established pursuant to resolution 1540 (2004). 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 until 25 April 2011 and emphasized the importance for all States to implement fully resolution 1540 (2004).
The workshop significantly contributed to the Committee’s outreach activities and to strengthening its role in facilitating technical assistance in the implementation of resolution 1540 (2004).

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Capacity-building workshop in Prague for West African experts to help identify and trace illicit small arms

 
SALW Workshop in Prague 2009 

Small arms experts from West Africa, as well as experts from the Czech Government, ECOWAS Commission, INTERPOL and the UN attended the capacity-building workshop in Prague to help identify and trace illicit small arms

From left to right: 
Mr. Michel Batiga, Adjoint-chef de la division de l'armement et des munitions,
Ministere de la defense nationale, Guinea Bissau
Col. Lanre Muminu Bello, Assistant Director, Operations, Defence Headquarters, Nigeria
Cdt. Kdojo Amana, Chef Division budget et finances, Officer TAM, Ministere de la defense national, Togo
Col. Milan Komarek, Director, Police Presidium of the Czech Republic, Prague

From 14 to 18 September, small arms experts from West African nations gathered in Prague, the Czech Republic, to participate in a capacity-building workshop focusing on the implementation of the International Instrument to Enable States to Identify and Trace, in a Timely and Reliable Manner, Illicit Small Arms and Light Weapons.  This document, which is also known as the International Tracing Instrument or ITI, was adopted in 2005 by Member States of the United Nations, to serve as a tool to facilitate international cooperation in tracking illegal small arms found in conflict or crime situations. It also contains provisions for marking and record keeping.

The workshop was organized by the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs and the Czech Proof House of Firearms and Ammunition, in collaboration with INTERPOL and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).  The workshop included discussions on technical aspects of marking and tracing small arms and light weapons, exchanges of national experiences on the implementation of measures to curb illicit flows of those weapons, and field visits to weapons and ammunition factories in the Czech Republic.

Presiding over the opening of the workshop, the Czech Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ms. Helena Bambasová, highlighted that the proliferation of illicit small arms and light weapons can contribute to terrorism and organized crime and be a major factor in fuelling conflicts.  She also reiterated the Czech Republic’s commitment to support regional initiatives to combat trafficking in small arms and light weapons and related ammunition. 

The workshop was attended by representatives from Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal and Togo, as well as experts from the Czech Government, ECOWAS Commission, INTERPOL and the United Nations. The participants concluded that international technical and financial assistance is essential for the States of West Africa to be able to develop their capacity to trace and detect illicit small arms and light weapons.  

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