As is customary, this latest edition of the United Nations Disarmament Yearbook objectively charts and records not only arms control successes, but also failures and disappointments. For a number of years the latter category has been much in evidence. Indeed, despite continuing efforts, 2004 revealed no signs of a breakthrough in the continuing impasse that has prevented any chance of substantive progress in important United Nations fora - most notably, the Conference on Disarmament and the Disarmament Commission. By virtue of its very detailed nature, however, the Yearbook also bears eloquent testimony to the impressive level of effort and energy that the international community devotes to the task of disarmament and arms control. The commitment by Member States to that task does not waver and it is perhaps in the small, daily incremental steps that we need to see the true effectiveness of the global efforts in disarmament. The perhaps fragile seeds of future progress are therefore surely contained within these pages. It is our duty to identify and nurture them.
The year began in a mood of unexpected but very real optimism generated by Libya's decision, in December 2003, to dismantle its weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programmes. It immediately became the task of the OPCW and the IAEA to provide the long-term monitoring and assistance capability. By its example, Libya demonstrated that it is possible to undertake a transparent and cooperative process thereby restoring international trust and confidence with all the political and economic benefits that can then ensue.
During 2004, the threat of WMD proliferation was addressed with increasing attention and urgency, particularly in relation to the possibility of WMD and related materials falling into the hands of terrorists. These efforts received their most significant boost when, on 28 April, the Security Council adopted resolution 1540, an instruction to Member States that they must legislate nationally to introduce effective controls on nuclear, biological and chemical weapon's proliferation-sensitive items and their means of delivery. The resolution was adopted under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter, leaving open the potential use of enforcement measures by the Council against States failing to comply with this instruction.
The year also closed on a high note with the publication of the report of the Secretary-General's High-level Panel on Threat, Challenges and Change and its detailed prescriptions for enhancing international security.
Nevertheless, the long-standing argument among States regarding the balance between disarmament and non-proliferation continued to characterize - and hinder - progress in other areas. At the third session of the Preparatory Committee for the 2005 NPT Review Conference, States parties reaffirmed that the NPT remained the cornerstone of the global non-proliferation regime and the essential foundation for the pursuit of nuclear disarmament. However, the persistence of divergent views prevented the Committee from reaching agreement on substantive recommendations to the 2005 Review Conference - developments which obviously cast a shadow on prospects for a successful outcome.
The second Joint Ministerial Statement in support of the CTBT appealed to all States to maximize their efforts towards the early entry into force of the Treaty. While work continued on establishing the Treaty's verification system, little progress was registered in securing the ratifications by the 11 States still needed for its entry into force.
International pressure was maintained for the adoption of the IAEA Additional Protocol as a global standard of nuclear verification and met with a largely positive response. In addition, the pace and scope of the Agency's nuclear security-related activities, aimed at helping States prevent, detect and respond to terrorist or other malicious acts, continued to accelerate and expand.
The issue of WMD proliferation, in particular in the nuclear area, continued to figure prominently, with special concern expressed about the nuclear programmes of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, as well as the clandestine nuclear technology and information network of A.Q. Khan. Various initiatives by the international community sought to address these concerns, in particular the renewed interest in proposals for limiting civil uranium-enrichment and plutonium-reprocessing capabilities on a worldwide basis.
Elsewhere, the introduction of a new resolution on the Hague Code of Conduct manifested the increased concerns of the international community at the threat posed by the proliferation of missiles. For its part, the Australia Group stepped up its efforts in preventing chemical and biological weapons proliferation, including to non-State actors.
In 2004, multilateral efforts towards the total elimination of biological and chemical weapons were also maintained. There was a successful second Meeting of States Parties to the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention and further progress was also achieved in the implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention, particularly chemical weapons disarmament.
With the focus on the WMD threat, it can easily be forgotten that matters relating to the regulation and reduction of conventional arms and armed forces have been on the Organization's disarmament agenda since its inception. Despite the fact that much progress has been made by the international community to address the problem of illicit small arms and light weapons (SALW) following the adoption, in 2001, of the UN Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in SALW in All Its Aspects (PoA), the proliferation of small arms continues to pose a serious threat to peace and security in too many regions of the world. The year saw the start of multilateral negotiations on tracing illicit SALW as well as the beginning of consultations on curbing illicit brokering. Through the adoption of several resolutions, the General Assembly continued to recognize the indispensable role of regional and subregional initiatives in promoting confidence-building as well as disarmament measures to enhance regional security.
The First Review Conference of the Mine-Ban Convention took place in Nairobi. The meeting reviewed progress on implementation and adopted a detailed Action Plan addressing the challenges for the coming years. The pursuit of universal adherence remains a priority for the international community as part of its unwavering commitment to achieving a world free from anti-personnel mines in which such weapons will claim no new victims.
There were some very notable successes in 2004 which may have a lasting and beneficial impact. The `Libyan model' of disarmament offers proof that proliferation can be effectively and quickly reversed once a critical political decision has been made. The creation of the 1540 Committee within the United Nations presents an opportunity for the Organization to play a key part in implementing innovative measures to combat the possible terrorist use of WMD.
The challenge we presently face has never been greater, more varied or in many respects more dangerous. It will demand a shared level of commitment, innovative thinking and practical action on the part of all Member States if we are to prove ourselves equal to that challenge.