Multilateralism and disarmament
In order to better tackle the challenges in the fields of disarmament and non-proliferation, including the prevention of the possible acquisition and use of WMD by terrorists, the United Nations and its Member States, underlined once again, in various disarmament fora, the urgency and importance of reaffirming and strengthening the multilateral disarmament framework. In his 2003 report on the Work of the Organization, the Secretary-General stressed that, given the heightened concern of the world community that weapons of mass destruction might be used by State or non-State actors, universal adherence to, and full and effective compliance with, negotiated multilateral agreements were powerful tools in the battle against the use and proliferation of such weapons. At the same time, he acknowledged a disturbing gradual erosion of the established international norms on weapons of mass destruction and rising military expenditures.1
He noted that the prevailing view among Member States was that an urgent need existed to preserve and consolidate existing multilateral norms through adherence to treaties and fulfillment of legal obligations.
Responding to the call for renewed dedication to the multilateral approach to disarmament, the General Assembly, acting on the recommendation of its First Committee, adopted a resolution for the second consecutive year on the promotion of multilateralism in the area of disarmament and non-proliferation.2
Convinced that, in this era, arms regulation, non-proliferation and disarmament problems were, more than ever, the concern of all countries, the resolution reaffirmed multilateralism as the core principle in negotiations in the area of disarmament and non-proliferation, with a view to maintaining and strengthening universal norms and enlarging their scope. It also reaffirmed multilateralism as the core principle in resolving disarmament and non-proliferation concerns. There was another view that it was also necessary to acknowledge the legitimate role that plurilateral, regional, and national efforts played in disarmament and non-proliferation negotiations, and that multilateralism should not be subject to overly rigid and restrictive interpretation.
General Assembly, 2003
Promotion of multilateralism in the area of disarmament and non-proliferation
. The draft resolution was introduced by Malaysia, on behalf of States members of the United Nations that are members of the Non-Aligned Movement, on 23 October. It was adopted, as orally amended, by the First Committee on 5 November (104-10-44) and by the General Assembly on 8 December (118-12-46). For the text of the resolution and the voting, see pages click here
and click here
In addition to the reaffirmation that multilateralism was the core principle in both negotiations and in resolving disarmament and non-proliferation concerns, the resolution urged the participation of all interested States in multilateral negotiations on arms regulation, non-proliferation and disarmament in a non-discriminatory and transparent manner. It also took note of the Secretary-General's report containing the replies of Member States on the promotion of multilateralism in the area of disarmament and non-proliferation, submitted pursuant to resolution 57/63.
Four States - Italy, speaking on behalf of the European Union and a group of Western, Central and Eastern European States who aligned themselves with the statement,3
Switzerland, Canada and Australia explained their positions after the vote. While committed to multilateralism in disarmament and non-proliferation efforts, they felt that the draft was unbalanced because it omitted unilateral, bilateral, plurilateral, regional and national approaches that complemented multilateral measures.
Italy cast a negative vote because the draft resolution did not give sufficient credit to the Final Document of the 2000 NPT Review Conference.
Of the States that abstained, Switzerland had difficulty with the request in operative 6 for States to refrain from directing unverified non-compliance accusations against each other when resolving their concerns. It held that verification was the essential means for determining if accusations were justified and that each State, in principle, should be able to express its doubts concerning non-compliance with international law. Canada thought the tone in parts of the draft resolution offered a rigid, restricted and harmful interpretation that could lessen the options available to and required by the global community to address its security challenges. Australia did not see a continuous erosion of multilateralism in the field of arms regulation, non-proliferation and disarmament, as stated in preambular paragraph 12.
Cuba, which supported the draft resolution, reaffirmed that multilateralism was the basic principle for negotiations and for resolving disarmament and non-proliferation issues. It believed that the use of unilateral measures by Member States to resolve security issues would jeopardize international peace and security and undermine confidence in the international security system as well as the foundations of the United Nations itself.
See Press release SG/SM/8598 for the Secretary-General's statement of 6 February 2003 to the Advisory Board on Disarmament Matters.
A/RES/58/44, 8 December 2003.
Italy spoke on behalf of the European Union, the acceding countries of Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia; the associated countries of Bulgaria, Romania and Turkey; and the European Free Trade Association countries, members of the European Economic Area, Iceland and Norway.