Developments and trends, 2003
In his second annual report to the General Assembly on progress achieved towards implementing the United Nations Millennium Declaration,1
the Secretary-General addressed the issues of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and small arms and light weapons (SALW). Regarding WMD, he stated that ridding the world of all nuclear, chemical and biological weapons was a long standing aim of the United Nations. In recent years, however, the proliferation of such weapons, especially nuclear ones, has been of increasing concern. In addition, there is a growing fear that non-state actors may acquire and use chemical, biological or even nuclear weapons. At present, there are no multilateral measures in place to deal with the threat posed by non-state actors seeking to wield nuclear or other WMD, the fear of which has been growing since the early 1990s. A major weakness of all weapons of mass destruction regimes - nuclear, chemical and biological - is their weak enforcement provisions, which essentially leave the penalties for non-compliance unspecified. This matter deserves review and possible action, some of which should be undertaken within the framework of the United Nations, including the Security Council. Nuclear-weapons States have, for their part, done too little to diminish the symbolic importance of these weapons and too little to fulfil their commitments to undertake good faith efforts at moving towards significant nuclear arms reductions and ultimate disarmament.
On the issue of SALW, the report stated that while considering the major threats posed by weapons of mass destruction, we should not forget the very real dangers emanating from the use of more conventional weapons. It is small arms that continue to kill millions of people and are readily available at very low cost even in the most remote corners of the world. The difficulties we confront in trying to curb the illicit traffic of these weapons should not be underestimated. However, with the cooperation of all countries, it should be possible to tighten export controls and facilitate the identification of the sources of illicit weapons through the use of markings.
In the context of continued deliberation in the General Assembly on the rationalization of its work, discussion took place in the First Committee on the need to rationalize its work. The Chairman, Jarmo Sareva of Finland convened an informal meeting on the topic. The United States, the European Union, Norway, and Sierra Leone circulated specific reform proposals, and the Chairman made his own proposals in statements before the Committee. Ideas put forward included:
- shortening the duration of the Committee by more efficient time management;
- limiting topics to be addressed during each session;
- increasing interactivity of discussion in the general debate and thematic discussions;
- reducing and limiting the number of resolutions for each session by making use of biennial and triennial submissions;
- limiting the reporting requirements in resolutions;
- creating new clusters, such as WMD, conventional weapons, etc. to cover a range of issues before the Committee;
- strengthening the chairperson's role to work before each session in preparation for the session; and
- limiting the number of studies commissioned by the Committee for the Secretariat or other UN bodies to conduct.
It was decided to continue these discussions during the remainder of the 58th session in 2004, as well as during the 59th session of the General Assembly.
A new draft resolution entitled, "Improving the effectiveness of the methods of work of the First Committee", introduced by the United States, was adopted. The resolution aimed at compiling and organizing the views of Member States on the topic for further discussion at the General Assembly's 59th session.
A/58/323, 2 September 2003.