First Committee Approves Series of Drafts on Which Diverse Positions Converge before Tackling Raft of More Contentious Texts Next Week

2 November 2012
GA/DIS/3468

First Committee Approves Series of Drafts on Which Diverse Positions Converge before Tackling Raft of More Contentious Texts Next Week

2 November 2012
General Assembly
GA/DIS/3468
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-seventh General Assembly

First Committee

18th Meeting (PM)

First Committee Approves Series of Drafts on Which Diverse Positions Converge

before Tackling Raft of More Contentious Texts Next Week

 

Thematic Debate Concludes on Disarmament Machinery

Acting without a vote in a meeting streamlined to accommodate time lost due to Hurricane Sandy, the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) today forwarded to the General Assembly seven draft texts spanning a range of its agenda items, from nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction to efforts to strengthen the United Nations disarmament machinery.

Deeply concerned by the growing risk of linkages between terrorism and weapons of mass destruction, and mindful of the urgent need for addressing that threat to humanity, a draft resolution, sponsored by India, on preventing terrorists from acquiring mass destruction weapons would have the Assembly urge Member States to take and strengthen national measures to accomplish that task.

Speaking after action, the representative of Pakistan said that he shared the concerns that terrorists and non-State actors could use weapons of mass destruction.  As long as the pace of disarmament was slow, the possibility of those weapons falling into terrorist hands was greater.  Thus, he had supported the resolution, but felt that the language could have shown a more objective reality. 

While States had enacted control measures to prevent weapons of mass destruction technology from falling in the hands of terrorists, he said, greater legitimacy could be lent to those measures by eliminating stocks of chemical and biological weapons.  Revitalizing the Biological Weapons Convention process would help, as terrorist organizations were more likely to use chemical and biological weapons material and capabilities than nuclear weapons. 

The Committee also approved a draft aimed at bolstering assistance to States for curbing the illicit traffic in small arms and light weapons and collecting them.  According to the text, sponsored by Mali on behalf of Member States of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the Assembly would express deep concern by the magnitude of human casualty and suffering, especially among children, caused by the illicit proliferation and use of such weapons, and also by the negative impact on the efforts of States in the Sahelo-Saharan subregion in the areas of poverty eradication, sustainable development and the maintenance of peace, security and stability. 

In that context, it would encourage the countries of that subregion to facilitate the effective functioning of national commissions to combat the illicit proliferation of small arms and light weapons, and call on the international community to provide technical and financial support to strengthen the capacity of civil society organizations to help combat that illicit trade.

By another text on the relationship between disarmament and development, sponsored by Indonesia on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, the Assembly would stress the importance of the symbiotic relationship between disarmament and development and the important role of security in that connection.  Expressing concern at increasing global military expenditure, which could otherwise be spent on development needs, tt would urge the international community to devote part of the resources made available by the implementation of disarmament and arms limitation agreements to economic and social development.

Explaining her position before the vote, the representative of the United Kingdom, speaking also on behalf of the delegation from France, said they had joined the consensus.  However, wishing to clarify the notion of a “symbiotic relationship” between disarmament and development, she said that the conditions conducive to disarmament were not dependent on development only. 

That was a complex issue that the resolution did not accurately capture, she said, adding that the idea according to which military expenditure was diverted from development needed to be considered in a more nuanced fashion.

Among the remaining draft texts approved today was a resolution on the establishment of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the region of the Middle East, and a draft decision on the maintenance of international security – “good neighbourliness, stability and development in South-Eastern Europe”.

The Committee approved two texts from its cluster on Disarmament Machinery, on the report of the Disarmament Commission and on United Nations regional centres for peace and disarmament, respectively.

During the remaining thematic debate on that cluster, which wrapped up today, delegations delivered abbreviated statements, many of which called for a strengthening of the United Nations disarmament machinery and suggested ways to break the persisting deadlock.

The representative from the Russian Federation stressed that the Conference on Disarmament could not be substituted, and he called for efforts to overcome its stagnation.  India’s representative stressed that the impasse was not due to a “design flaw” as some suggested, but rather it was up to Member States to “make things work”.

Pakistan’s representative was adamant that the only way to unblock the Conference on Disarmament and make progress was to ensure the security concerns of all States.

Canada’s representative said that while his delegation believed in the potential of the Conference and the United Nations disarmament machinery as a whole, that belief did not translate into unconditional support.  If the deadlock persisted, then other options needed to be put forward.  Those who extolled the virtue of the disarmament machinery but balked at the prospect of reform were only contributing to the machinery’s decline.

Also during the thematic debate, delegations introduced a number of draft texts.  The representative of Nepal introduced a draft resolution entitled “United Nations Regional Centre on Peace and Disarmament in Asia and the Pacific” (document A/C.1/67/L.32).  Nigeria’s representative introduced a draft resolution entitled “United Nations disarmament fellowship, training and advisory services” (document A/C.1/67/L.56). 

Also, the representative of Peru, on behalf of the members of the Bureau of the Disarmament Commission, also introduced a draft resolution entitled “Report of the Disarmament Commission” (document A/C.1/67/L.5).  Switzerland’s representative introduced a draft decision entitled “Revitalizing the work of the Conference on Disarmament and taking forward multilateral disarmament negotiations” (document A/C.1/67/L.31).

During the thematic debate on the disarmament machinery cluster, the following representatives delivered brief remarks, with some noting that the full text of their statements would be posted on “QuickFirst”:  Czech Republic, Switzerland, France, Lithuania, Algeria, Estonia, Cuba, Spain, the Netherlands, Germany, Slovakia, New Zealand, Chile, Serbia, Nepal, Iran, Ireland, Nigeria, Peru and Morocco.

The First Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. on Monday, 5 November to continue taking action on its draft texts.

Background

The First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) met this afternoon to continue thematic debate on its disarmament machinery cluster and to begin its consideration of all draft resolutions and decisions before it, across the whole spectrum of its agenda items.

Cluster 7:  Disarmament Machinery

The Committee concluded its thematic debate on the disarmament machinery cluster, under the so-called “ Sandy formula”, following which it turned its attention to consideration of the draft texts before it.

Cluster 1:  Nuclear Weapons

Acting without a vote, the Committee approved the draft resolution, sponsored by Egypt, on the establishment of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East (document A/C.1/76/L.1).

By its terms, the General Assembly would urge all parties directly concerned to consider taking practical and urgent steps required to implement the proposal to establish such a zone. 

To promote that objective, the Assembly would invite the parties to adhere to the Nuclear-Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and call on all countries of the region, pending the zone’s establishment, to place all their nuclear activities under International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards. 

In a related provision, countries of the proposed zone would be invited not to develop, produce, test or otherwise acquire nuclear weapons or permit the stationing on their territories, or territories under their control, of nuclear weapons or nuclear explosive devices.  It would also take note of the report of the Secretary-General on the matter (document A/67/139, Part 1 and Add.1).

Speaking after the vote, the representative of Israel said that his country remained committed to a Middle East developing eventually into a zone free from chemical, biological and nuclear weapons, as well as ballistic missiles.  However, his delegation had always maintained that those issues could be realistically addressed only within the regional context.

At present, he said, no regional dialogue existed in the Middle East, nor was there a forum to defuse tensions, unlike in the early 1990s, when there were“regional arms security talks” meant to address the challenges.  Such a mechanism was lacking today, which left the Middle East with no channel for discussion.  A vision of what could be done between inspiration and reality began with the establishment of confidence-building measures among the region’s neighbours.  

The representative of Iran, also explaining his position after the vote, said that the establishment of such a zone had been proposed by his country in 1974, and since then, the General Assembly had regularly adopted resolutions endorsing that proposal.  Such a zone would greatly enhance international peace and security.  Pending its establishment, the States of the region should solemnly declare that they would refrain from producing, acquiring or in any other way possessing nuclear explosive devices, or from allowing the stationing of those weapons on their territory, and they must agree to place all arsenals under International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards.

However, he continued, the Zionist regime was the only obstacle to establishing that zone in the Middle East and, at the 2012 conference, there should be strong pressure on that regime to eliminate all its “nuclear secret weapons”.  That regime should also accede to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty as a non-nuclear-weapon State party.

Cluster 2:  Other Weapons of Mass Destruction

Also acting without a vote, the Committee approved the draft resolution, sponsored by India, entitled Measures to prevent terrorists from acquiring weapons of mass destruction (document A/C.1/67/L.26).

Deeply concerned by the growing risk of linkages between terrorism and weapons of mass destruction, and mindful of the urgent need for addressing that threat to humanity, this draft resolution would have the Assembly call upon all Member States to support international efforts to prevent terrorists from acquiring weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery.

It would also urge all Member States to take and strengthen national measures to prevent terrorists from acquiring weapons of mass destruction, their means of delivery and materials and technologies related to their manufacture, and request the Secretary-General to compile a report on measures already taken by international organizations on issues relating to the linkage between the fight against terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

Speaking after the vote, the representative of Iran said that, as a victim of terrorist attacks, his country had always supported measures to combat terrorism and had supported the draft resolution since its introduction.  However, the draft proposed this year contained a reference to so-called “nuclear summits”, which his delegation believed had taken a closed approach.  There was also no single reference to nuclear disarmament and the total elimination of nuclear weapons, which was the only guarantee of eliminating the nuclear weapons threat.  Iran, therefore, disassociated itself with the reference to the so-called nuclear summits.

The representative of Pakistan, also speaking after the vote, said that his delegation shared the concerns that terrorists and non-state actors could use weapons of mass destruction, so it had supported the resolution, despite believing that the language could have shown a more objective reality.  Terrorist organizations were more likely to use chemical and biological weapons material and capabilities.  The use of nuclear weapons by non-State actors was much less likely.  The international community should not lower its guard regarding the use of “dirty bombs”.  States had enacted control measures to prevent weapons of mass destruction technology from falling in the hands of terrorists.

To lend greater legitimacy to those measures, he said, it was best to eliminate stocks of chemical and biological weapons.  As long as disarmament was slow, the possibility of those weapons falling into terrorist hands was greater.  Biological weapons were a bigger threat, so the Biological Weapons Convention, including its protocol, should be strengthened.  Revitalization of that process would help, and a comprehensive strategy should include assistance from private organizations, the strengthening of multilateral regimes, negotiating universal treaties regarding gaps, augmenting State capacities regarding obligations, and addressing root causes of problems, such as injustice and deprivation.

Cluster 4:  Conventional Weapons

The Committee next proceeded to take action on a draft resolution introduced by Mali, entitled Assistance to States for curbing the illicit traffic in small arms and light weapons and collecting them (document A/C.1/67/L.21), approving it without a vote. 

According to the text, the General Assembly would express deep concern by the magnitude of human casualty and suffering, especially among children, caused by the illicit proliferation and use of such weapons, and also by the negative impact on the efforts of States in the Sahelo-Saharan subregion in the areas of poverty eradication, sustainable development and the maintenance of peace, security and stability. 

In that context, it would encourage the countries of that subregion to facilitate the effective functioning of national commissions to combat the illicit proliferation of small arms and light weapons, and it would invite the international community to lend its support wherever possible, and call on it to provide technical and financial support to strengthen the capacity of civil society organizations to help combat that illicit trade.

Cluster 5:  Other Disarmament Measures and International Security

The Committee then turned to the draft resolution, sponsored by Mali on behalf of the States Member of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), entitled Relationship between disarmament and development (document A/C.1/67/L.20), approving it without a vote.

The text would have the Assembly stress the importance of the symbiotic relationship between disarmament and development and the important role of security in that connection, and, expressing concern at increasing global military expenditure, which could otherwise be spent on development needs, would urge the international community to devote part of the resources made available by the implementation of disarmament and arms limitation agreements to economic and social development.  That would be done with a view to reducing the ever-widening gap between developed and developing countries.

By further terms of the draft, the Assembly would stress the central role of the United Nations in the disarmament-development relationship, and request the Secretary-General to strengthen further the role of the Organization in that field, in particular, the high-level Steering Group on Disarmament and Development.

The draft would also have the Assembly encourage the relevant regional and subregional organizations and institutions, non-governmental organizations and research institutes to incorporate issues related to the relationship between disarmament and development into their agendas.

Explaining her position before the vote, the representative of the United Kingdom, speaking also on behalf of France, said they would join consensus on that draft resolution.  She supported the mainstreaming of disarmament issues, especially regarding small arms and light weapons, disarmament mobilization and reintegration.  However, wishing to clarify the notion of a “symbiotic relationship” between disarmament and development, she said that the conditions conducive to disarmament were not dependent on development only.  That was a complex issue that the resolution did not accurately capture.  The idea according to which military expenditure was diverted from development needed to be considered in a more nuanced fashion.

Also speaking in explanation of vote before the vote, the representative of the United States said her delegation would not participate in the Committee’s action on L.20.  Her delegation believed that disarmament and development were very important, but distinct issues.  Further, the United States was not bound by the 1987 Final Document of the International Conference on the Relationship between Disarmament and Development.

Cluster 6:  Regional Disarmament and Security

The Committee acted without a vote when it approved a draft decision, entitled maintenance of international security - good-neighbourliness, stability and development in South-Eastern Europe (document A/C.1/67/L.10).

According to the text, sponsored by the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, the Assembly would decide to include the items in the provisional agenda of its sixty-ninth session.

Cluster 7:  Disarmament Machinery

The Committee next approved, without a vote, a draft resolution, entitled Report of the Disarmament Commission (document A/C.1/67/L.5).

The text, sponsored by Peru on behalf of the members of the Bureau of the Disarmament Commission, would have the Assembly reaffirm the mandate of the Commission as the specialized, deliberative body within the United Nations multilateral disarmament machinery that allowed for in-depth deliberations on specific issues, leading to concrete recommendations.

By further provisions of that draft, the Assembly would recommend that the Commission continue consideration of the following items at its substantive session in 2013:  recommendations for achieving the objective of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, and practical confidence-building measures in the field of conventional weapons.  It would request the Commission to meet for a period not exceeding three weeks next year, namely from 1 to 19 April, and to submit a substantive report to it at its sixty-eighth session.

The Committee next approved without a vote the draft resolution, sponsored by Indonesia on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, entitled United Nations regional centres for peace and disarmament (document A/C.1/67/L.14).

That text would have the Assembly reiterate the importance of United Nations activities at the regional level to advance disarmament and to increase the stability and security of its Member States, which could be promoted in a substantive manner by the maintenance and revitalization of the three regional centres.  It would reaffirm the usefulness of the three centres in carrying out dissemination and educational programmes that promote regional peace and security.

The Assembly would also appeal to Member States in each region that are able to do so, as well as to international governmental and non-governmental organizations and foundations, to make voluntary contributions to the centres in their respective regions in order to strengthen their activities and initiatives.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.