MEDITERRANEAN SECURITY, ARMS TRANSPARENCY, REGIONAL DISARMAMENT CENTRES ADDRESSED BY FIVE DRAFT TEXTS INTRODUCED IN FIRST COMMITTEE

29 October 2001
GA/DIS/3211

MEDITERRANEAN SECURITY, ARMS TRANSPARENCY, REGIONAL DISARMAMENT CENTRES ADDRESSED BY FIVE DRAFT TEXTS INTRODUCED IN FIRST COMMITTEE

29/10/2001
Press ReleaseGA/DIS/3211

Fifty-sixth General Assembly

First Committee

16th Meeting (PM)

MEDITERRANEAN SECURITY, ARMS TRANSPARENCY, REGIONAL DISARMAMENT CENTRES

ADDRESSED BY FIVE DRAFT TEXTS INTRODUCED IN FIRST COMMITTEE

The General Assembly would encourage the countries of the Mediterranean region to strengthen their cooperation in combating all forms of terrorism, which seriously threatened regional peace and the improvement of the current political and economic situation, according to one of five draft texts introduced this afternoon in the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security).

Introducing that draft resolution, which would reaffirm that security in the Mediterranean was closely linked to European security, as well as to international peace and security, the representative of Algeria said that the routine introduction of the text demonstrated the commitment of the countries of the Mediterranean basin and Europe to turn the region into a haven of peace, security and cooperation.

Two draft resolutions were introduced today on the two global arms transparency instruments maintained by the United Nations.  A draft on the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms, introduced by the representative of the Netherlands, and co-sponsored by 116 Member States, would have the Assembly reaffirm its determination to ensure the Register's effective operation and decide, with a view to its further development, to keep its scope and participation under review.

The second text on the Standardized Instrument for Reporting Military Expenditures, introduced by the representative of Germany, would have the Assembly call upon States to report annually, by 30 April, to the Secretary-General their military expenditures for the latest fiscal year for which data were available.  It would request him to undertake certain activities to strengthen the reporting system.

According to a draft resolution introduced by the representative of the Sudan, on behalf of the African Group, on the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Africa would have the Assembly appeal to the Centre and related organizations to take steps to promote the consistent implementation of the Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects.

A draft resolution submitted by Haiti, on behalf of the Group of Latin American and Caribbean States, on the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace, Disarmament and Development in Latin America and the Caribbean would have the

Assembly reiterate its strong support for the role of the Centre in the promotion of United Nations activities at the regional level to strengthen peace, stability, security and development.

Following the introduction of draft resolutions and comments, several representatives requested that action scheduled for Tuesday afternoon on a number of nuclear-weapon-related drafts be deferred to a later date.  That was agreed, and the Chairman read out the texts on which action was expected tomorrow. Procedural matters related to the approval of drafts were also discussed.

Statements were made by the representatives of Uruguay, on behalf of the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR), Gabon, Romania and Peru.

The Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. Tuesday, 30 October, to conclude the second stage of its work.

Background

The First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) met this afternoon to continue its second phase of work, namely thematic discussions on all disarmament and security items and the introduction and consideration of related draft resolutions and decisions. 

Introductions of draft texts on the following topics were expected: Mediterranean security; the Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Africa; transparency in armaments; objective information on military expenditures; and the Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Under a text sponsored by Algeria on strengthening security and cooperation in the Mediterranean region (document A/C.1/56/L.37), the Assembly would reaffirm that security in the Mediterranean was closely linked to European security, as well as to international peace and security.  It would call on all States of the region to adhere to all the multilaterally negotiated legal instruments related to disarmament and non-proliferation, thus creating the necessary conditions for strengthening peace and cooperation in the region

The Assembly would encourage all States of the region to participate in the United Nations system for the standardized reporting of military expenditures and by providing accurate data and information to the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms.

It would also encourage those countries to strengthen their cooperation in combating all forms of terrorism, which seriously threatened regional peace, security and stability and the improvement of the current political, economic and social situation.  That also jeopardized friendly relations among States, hindered the development of international cooperation and resulted in the destruction of human rights, fundamental freedoms and the democratic basis of pluralistic society.

The draft resolution is sponsored by Algeria, Andorra, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Jordan, Lebanon, Luxembourg, Malta, Mauritania, Monaco, Morocco, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, San Marino, Slovenia, Spain, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Tunisia, Turkey and Yugoslavia.

According to a draft text, sponsored by the Sudan on behalf of the African Group, on the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Africa (document A/C.1/56/L.29), the Assembly would commend the activities of the Regional Centre being carried out with the support of efforts made by the African States in the areas of peace and security.

The Assembly would appeal in particular to the Regional Centre, in cooperation with the Organization of African Unity, regional and subregional organizations and the African States, to take steps to promote the consistent implementation of the Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects.

It would appeal, once again, to all States, as well as to international governmental and non-governmental organizations and the foundations, to make voluntary contributions in order to strengthen the programmes and activities of the Regional Centre and facilitate their implementation.

By the terms of a resolution on transparency in armaments (document A/C.1/56/L.40), the Assembly would reaffirm its determination to ensure the effective operation of the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms.  It would call upon Member States, with a view towards achieving universal participation, to provide the Secretary-General by 31 May annually with the requested data and information for the Register, including nil reports if appropriate, on the continuing operation of the Register and its further development.

The Assembly would reaffirm its decision, with a view to further development of the Register, to keep the scope of and participation in the Register under review and, to that end, recall its request to Member States to provide the Secretary-General with their views on, among others, transparency measures related to weapons of mass destruction.  It would request the Secretary-General, with the assistance of a group of governmental experts to be convened in 2003, to prepare a report on the Register's continuing operation.

The draft resolution is sponsored by Andorra, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bhutan, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Cameroon, Canada, Chile, Congo, Costa Rica, Côte d’Ivoire, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Fiji, Finland, France, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Guatemala, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Guyana, Haiti, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Lesotho, Liberia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Malaysia, Malta, Mongolia, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Norway, Panama, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Russian Federation, San Marino, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Slovenia, Solomon Islands, South Africa, Spain, Suriname,  Sweden, Thailand, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Togo, Turkey, Tuvalu, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United Republic of Tanzania, United States and Yugoslavia.

By the terms of a draft resolution on objective information on military matters, including transparency of military expenditures (document A/C.1/56/L.42), the Assembly would call upon States to report annually, by 30 April, to the Secretary-General their military expenditures for the latest fiscal year for which data were available. 

It would recommend the guidelines and recommendations for objective information on military matters to all Member States for implementation, fully taking into account specific political, military and other regional conditions, on the basis of initiatives and with the agreement of the States of the region concerned. 

In a number of related provisions, the Assembly would request the Secretary-General to undertake certain activities to strengthen the reporting system, among them, to continue consultations with relevant international bodies with a view to ascertaining requirements for adjusting the present instrument.

The draft resolution is sponsored by Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Côte d’Ivoire, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Fiji, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Haiti, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Lesotho, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Malta, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Russian Federation, Sierra Leone, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Turkey, Ukraine and the United States.

A draft resolution submitted by Haiti, on behalf of the Group of Latin American and Caribbean States, on the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace, Disarmament and Development in Latin America and the Caribbean (document A/C.1/56/L.46) would have the Assembly reiterate its strong support for the role of the Centre in the promotion of United Nations activities at the regional level to strengthen peace, stability, security and development among its member States.

The Assembly would appeal to Member States, in particular the States of Latin America and Caribbean region, and to international governmental and non-governmental organizations and to foundations, to make voluntary contributions to strengthen the Regional Centre, its programme of activities and the implementation thereof.  It would request the Secretary-General to provide the Centre with all necessary support within existing resources, so that it may carry out its programme of activities and its implementation in accordance with its mandate.

Statements

SUSANA RIVERO (Uruguay) commented for the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR) countries, Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, as well as Bolivia and Chile, on regional disarmament.  She said the declaration of a zone of peace in the territories of the MERCOSUR countries reflected the friendly relations among countries in the region and described a forward-looking programme to strengthen those ties.  Those countries had created bilateral consultative mechanisms and intended to implement those measures at the regional and hemispheric levels to promote stability, peace and democracy.

In the past year progress had been made both by strengthening cooperation mechanisms in security and defence and by promoting more effective cooperation, she said.  The regional framework was characterized by a number of steps taken by States to build confidence throughout the area.  For example, cooperative machinery to register the buyers and sellers of small arms, and initiatives to ensure cooperation in demining, had been set up.  The MERCOSUR countries had also set up a group to study the harmonization of legislation dealing with firearms and ammunition.

She reiterated her support for the further development and fine-tuning of all mechanisms for the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction.  At the NPT Review Conference, the MERCOSUR countries had reaffirmed their support for the use of nuclear energy only for peaceful purposes and had taken steps at the regional level to guarantee that.  The region’s dedication to the non-proliferation of chemical or biological weapons had been stated several times and the States of the region had taken steps to sign on to the relevant international conventions. 

Countries of the region continued to take steps to free themselves completely of landmines and had taken a major step towards implementing article IV of the Ottawa Convention by hosting a seminar on mine destruction in the past year, she said.  The countries remained committed to expanding and systematizing the information they provided to the United Nations Register on Conventional Arms.  The countries of MERCOSUR would continue to work towards the achievement of the objectives contained in MERCOSUR’s Declaration of a zone of peace.

TARIG ALI BAKHIT (Sudan), speaking on behalf of the African Group, introduced the draft resolution on the United Nations Regional Centre in Africa (document A/C.1/56/L.29).  In cooperation with the Organization of African Unity (OAU), the Centre had the mission of providing African countries support for their initiatives aimed at the promotion of peace, arms limitation and regional disarmament.  It coordinated regional activities, under the framework of the United Nations training programme for disarmament.  The process of its revitalization, begun in 1998, had included a number of diversified activities that took into account the new challenges. 

He said that despite the growing importance of those activities, the Regional Centre had been experiencing "serious" financial difficulties.  The voluntary contributions had been insufficient to cover its operating expenses.  In that context, the draft resolution was somewhat different from the resolution adopted on the subject last year.  Among its other provisions, it reaffirmed the United Nations' strong support of the Centre and emphasized the need to provide it with the resources needed to implement its programmes.  In that regard, it requested all States and intergovernmental organizations and foundations to make voluntary contributions in order to strengthen the Centre's programmes and facilitate their implementation.

ALFRED MOUNGARA-MOUSSOTSI (Gabon) commented on the draft resolution on the Standing Advisory Committee on Security Questions in Central Africa (document A/C.1/56/L.2).  He thanked the representative of the Democratic Republic of the Congo for presenting that resolution and the emphasis on the importance of confidence-building measures.

Confidence-building measures made it possible to reduce tensions and suspicions, he said.  The region benefited from the existence of a non-aggression pact and the leaders of the subregion had created a number of mechanisms for military and political cooperation, such as the mechanism for early warning. Threats, such as gangsterism and the traffic in small arms, were combated through the early warning mechanism and the regular meetings of military leaders in the region.  Those arrangements showed the vision of the leaders and the United Nations, especially the Department for Disarmament Affairs.  He appealed to Member States to contribute to the Trust Fund for the Advisory Committee, so that it might continue its important work.  Supporting the draft resolution would be a good first step.

CHRIS SANDERS (Netherlands) introduced the 116-Power draft resolution entitled transparency in armaments. (document A/C.1/56/L.40).  He said that transparency was one of the major confidence-building principles among States, enabling the international community to be better informed about military matters and developments.  Thus, transparency diminished misperceptions and helped avoid distorted information.  To increase transparency in conventional weapons, however, only instruments with limited scope of application were available.  Some were limited to certain very specific types of conventional weapons and others applied only to certain regions.

He said such regional initiatives and arrangements underpinned the important contribution that regional organizations could make to transparency in armaments.  Two important instruments complemented regional initiatives at the global level, namely the United Nations Register on Conventional Arms, which reported on national arms transfers and holdings on a voluntary basis, and the United Nations Standardized Instrument for Reporting Military Expenditures.  Both instruments had developed steadily over the years. 

Increased participation in those instruments, he noted, had demonstrated growing confidence in the belief that transparency could help prevent the excessive accumulation of arms, encourage self-restraint in military production and arms transfer, ease tensions and strengthen regional and international peace and security.  The international community, therefore, should continue improving and further developing the Register, both in terms of participation and scope.  The Group of Experts to be reconvened in 2003 would provide that opportunity.

He said that growing confidence in the Register was evident from the upward trend in reporting -- 109 governments had submitted returns for 2000, with some late submissions still expected.  That was, by far, the highest level of participation recorded for any year since the Register was established in 1992.  Some countries had participated in the Register for the first time and, as a result of their submissions, the number of countries that had participated in the Register at least once now exceeded 155. 

Overall, he said, the Register had established a "de facto" norm of transparency in armaments and provided a significant amount of information officially reported by governments that would otherwise not have been available.  That information provided a legitimate basis for regional and interregional consultations between governments.  The Register also performed an important role in public information and promoted accountability of political and military leaderships.  It had also stimulated many governments to improve their national systems for monitoring and controlling arms transfers.  Finally, it had set an example for new regional initiatives, such as the Inter-American Convention on Transparency in Conventional Weapons Acquisitions.

Nevertheless, he continued, the Register was still far from universal.  The desirability for transparency applied as much to weapons of mass destruction, as it did to conventional weapons.  At the same time, multilateral treaties concerning weapons of mass destruction had provided their own mechanisms to ensure transparency.  His country continued to work with those countries not yet in a position to participate in the Register and who could not yet support the present draft resolution.  It also continued to work actively to promote greater transparency in weapons of mass destruction.

VOLKER HEINSBERG (Germany), speaking also on behalf of Romania, introduced the draft resolution on objective information on military matters, including transparency of military expenditures (document A/C.1/56/L.42).  The text had close links with the resolution just introduced by the representative of the Netherlands on the Register of Conventional Arms.  Significant progress had been recorded this year concerning the level of participation of governments in the two global arms transparency instruments maintained and operated by the United Nations Secretariat.  The number of new participants in the Register and the Standardized Instrument for Reporting Military Expenditures had continued to grow, representing a significant increase over the past two years.

This year, he said, the United Nations Secretariat had received submissions from 60 governments, up from only 34 last year.  So far, more than 90 governments had participated in the military expenditure instrument one or more times.  Those governments together represented some 80 per cent of global military expenditure.  Meanwhile, sustained effort was being made by the Secretariat to increase familiarity with the procedures of those instruments, with a view to encouraging greater and more consistent participation.  The text was "slightly reshaped" for better readability and now included a new preambular paragraph on the political importance of the text with regard to conflict prevention.  It also encouraged Member States to submit nil returns if they had no information to provide.

ALEXANDRU NICULESCU (Romania) commented on the draft text on objective information in military expenditures (document A/C.1/56/L.42).  He said that as a co-sponsor, Romania firmly believed that increasing transparency in military matters would build trust among Member States.  The confidence-building process had been shown to be a prerequisite for building regional and international peace and security, as demonstrated through the experiences of such regions as South-Eastern Europe.  A better flow of information on military matters could strengthen confidence and relieve tensions that might lead to misunderstandings and miscalculations.

Implementation of the United Nations standardized reporting system would reduce tensions at the regional and global levels, he continued, and he was pleased that an increasing number of States were providing information to that system.  Romania’s dedication to promoting transparency was also demonstrated by its

co-sponsorship of the draft text on transparency in armaments (document A/C.1/56/L.40)

BERTRAND FILS-AIMÉ (Haiti), on behalf of the Group of Latin American and Caribbean States, introduced the draft resolution on the United Nations Regional Centre in Latin America and the Caribbean (document A/C.1/56/L.46).  With the signing of the Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean (Treaty of Tlatelolco), his had become the first inhabited region to declare itself free of nuclear weapons.  In the current climate, he welcomed the active participation of its members in all forums and mechanisms aimed at complete nuclear disarmament, which was the necessary goal to save mankind.  The countries in the region also shared the concern of many about the lack of progress in general disarmament, in particular nuclear disarmament.

He said that the security problems faced by the countries of the region had their own characteristics.  They were still threatened by conflicts, which were often fueled by poverty and marginalization, and they were not isolated from global tensions.  In that context, his region, without ignoring the general nuclear disarmament priority, had attached great importance to negotiations aimed at curbing the illicit traffic in small arms and light weapons, which had intensified social and economic problems, as well as security concerns.

The activities of the Regional Centre had reflected those regional preoccupations, he said.  He welcomed the earlier decision of the General Assembly to revitalize the Centre.  Two years later, the Centre had restarted its activities and was working on a broad range of issues.  Given the consensus on that issue, he was pleased to submit the draft resolution.  The region would benefit enormously from its mandate.  The Centre's programmes would make it possible to create a common concept for regional security and a common position for problems of a global nature.

HUGO FLORES (Peru) commented on the draft text on the Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Latin America and the Caribbean (document A/C.1/56/L.46).  The Regional Centre, based in Lima, did its work in the first inhabited region that was free of nuclear weapons.  In less than three years, the Centre had brought together more than 500 diplomats from a number of backgrounds to help in the work of bringing stability and development to the region.

There were several examples of the Centre’s important work, he said.  By the end of the year, 140 police and customs officials will have gone through training provided by the Centre and 70 of those officials will have been trained in detecting small arms.  Training activities had also been conducted on the topics of landmines and nuclear weapons.  The Centre had also contributed to the ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) by a number of countries in the region.  The Centre’s examination of the roles that regional and subregional organizations could play in such issues as small arms had helped to avoid duplication of effort.  Representatives from around the region had actively participated in the formulation of the draft text, which should be adopted so the Centre could continue its work.

SAAD MAANDI (Algeria) introduced the draft resolution on strengthening security in the Mediterranean region (document A/C.1/56/L.37).  The routine introduction of the text had demonstrated the commitment of those countries of the Mediterranean basin and Europe in turning the region into a haven of peace, security and cooperation.  Convinced of their shared destiny and the immense reservoir of complementarity, those countries had committed themselves to a process of dialogue, reinforced by further joint initiatives, including some aimed at building a "Euro-Mediterranean" area, marked by stability and prosperity.  At the request of the draft's co-sponsors, the text did not differ from the resolution on the subject adopted last year.

In a discussion that followed, several representatives requested postponement of action on a number of drafts scheduled for tomorrow afternoon. 

The representative of the Russian Federation said that he would be presenting an amended version of a draft text on the preservation of the Treaty on the Limitation of Anti-Ballistic Missile Systems (ABM Treaty)(document A/C.1/56/L.1), which would need at least 24 hours for discussion before it could be voted on. 

According to the representative of Japan, a draft resolution on the total elimination of nuclear weapons (document A/C.1/56/L.35) would not be ready for action tomorrow, because a revised version was to be circulated tomorrow. 

Because consultations on a draft text on an African Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone (document A/C.1/56/L.9) would be continuing tomorrow, that text would not be ready for action tomorrow, said the representative of the Sudan

The representative of Egypt said that the draft text on nuclear proliferation in the Middle East (document A/C.1/56/L.25) would not be ready for action tomorrow. 

The representative of New Zealand said that because consultations were still ongoing, the draft decision on the CTBT (document A/C.1/56/L.10) would also not be available to be acted upon tomorrow.

The First Committee’s secretariat read out a list of texts on which action could be taken tomorrow.  Under Cluster One, nuclear weapons, texts on the following subjects would be ready for action:  a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East (document A/C.1/56/L.5); nuclear weapons convention (document A/C.1/56/L.12); the role of science and technology (document A/C.1/56/L.13); reducing nuclear danger (document A/C.1/56/L.14); Treaty of Tlatelolco (document A/C.1/56/L.17); negative security assurances (document A/C.1/56/L.26); the Conference on Disarmament decision (document A/C.1/56/L.31); International Court of Justice decision on the legality of nuclear weapons (document A/C.1/56/L.45); and a nuclear-weapon-free zone in Central Asia (document A/C.1/56/L.48).

Under Cluster Two, other weapons of mass destruction, texts on the following topics would be available for action:  prevention of an arms race in outer space (document A/C.1/56/L.7); dumping of nuclear wastes (document A/C.1/56/L.33); and the Chemical Weapons Convention (document A/C.1/56/L.32).

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For information media. Not an official record.