Record-Breaking Participation in Debates, Passage of 63 Drafts — Largest Number in Decade — Notes First Committee Chair as Session Draws to Close

GA/DIS/3517
4 November 2014
Sixty-ninth session, 24th Meeting (AM)

Record-Breaking Participation in Debates, Passage of 63 Drafts — Largest Number in Decade — Notes First Committee Chair as Session Draws to Close

Drafts Approved Today on International Court of Justice Advisory Opinion, Nuclear Disarmament, Women and Arms Control

As the First Committee’s session drew to a close, its Chair, Courtenay Rattray of Jamaica, commended the positive and constructive tone of discussions despite the persistence of divergent views, with delegations according priority attention to the world’s deadliest weapon of mass destruction and the most lethal and indiscriminate of all, nuclear weapons.

During the substantive session, which began on 7 October, he said, the Committee (Disarmament and International Security) heard a record-breaking 107 statements during the general debate and another record-breaking 70 speakers during the thematic debate on the nuclear weapons cluster.  The Committee also approved 63 drafts – 57 resolutions and 6 decisions — which was the largest number of texts over the last 10 years.

As momentum built towards renewed efforts to achieve the goal of a world free of nuclear weapons, Mr. Rattray said that many States had made strong calls for addressing the humanitarian impact of those weapons.  While discordant views on how best to move forward on the complex issue of nuclear disarmament had regrettably continued to stymie deliberations, he hoped those disagreements would not continue to prevent the consensus that was so urgently needed.

There was also no doubt that delegations took very seriously the threat that weapons of mass destruction could fall into the hands of non-State actors, in particular, terrorist organizations, he said.  Delegations had also highlighted the importance of the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention and the Chemical Weapons Convention, and reaffirmed their commitments to the goal of universalizing those instruments and achieving full compliance with their provisions.

Issues relating to conventional weapons were also well represented in discussions, he said, as well as other subjects that had profound implications for the common future such as the placement of weapons in outer space, the impact of information and communications technology on international security, the relationship between disarmament and development, regional cooperation, disarmament and non-proliferation education, and women and disarmament.  Delegates also drew attention to emerging issues such as fully autonomous weapons and the use of explosive weapons in populated areas.

The most urgent message that rang out “loud and clear” from the deliberations and drafts was the need to revitalize the United Nations disarmament machinery, he said, adding that the international community must do its upmost to make that happen.  That required “a fresh approach” to addressing the structural rigidities that hampered work in the Conference on Disarmament, while renewing commitment to achieving consensus in the Disarmament Commission.

Noting that this was also the first occasion on which the majority of the First Committee’s Bureau was comprised of women, he closed with a quote from former Secretary-General Kofi Annan: “For the United Nations, there is no goal more overriding, no commitment more compelling, no aspiration more profound than the prevention of armed conflict.  Ensuring human security, in the broadest sense, is the United Nations cardinal mission”.

During the course of today’s meeting, the Committee approved three draft resolutions, on follow-up to the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice on the legality of the threat or use of nuclear weapons; nuclear disarmament; and on women, disarmament, non-proliferation and arms control — all requiring recorded votes.

Delivering general statements and explanations of vote during the cluster on nuclear weapons were the representatives of Myanmar, Cuba, India, Japan, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Sweden, and Pakistan.

Making general statements and explanations of vote during the cluster on other disarmament measures and international security were the representatives of Trinidad and Tobago, Egypt (on behalf of the League of Arab States), India, Cuba, Iran, Indonesia, Morocco, Pakistan, Syria, Egypt (national capacity) and Armenia.

The Committee also approved its draft provisional programme of work and timetable for the 2015 session, as contained in document A/C.1/CRP.5.

Background

The First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) met this morning to continue its consideration of all draft resolutions and decisions before it, across the whole spectrum of its agenda items.  For further background, please see Press Release GA/DIS/3513 of 29 October.

General Statements on Cluster 1

YE GYAW MRA (Myanmar) introduced “L.31/Rev.1”, entitled Nuclear Disarmament, saying that the process had, for many, always been at the top of the disarmament agenda.  All States were obligated to pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament in all its aspects, under strict international control.  The draft resolution recalled the declaration on nuclear disarmament made at the seventeenth ministerial conference of the Non-Aligned Movement, held in Algeria in May, in which Ministers expressed their firm commitment to advance the goal of a safer world for all.  The draft called for actions to be taken by various players in order to achieve that aim, and he invited States to join those efforts by supporting the draft.

IVIAN DEL SOL DOMINGUEZ (Cuba) said her country had co-sponsored “L.31/Rev.1” and “L.23”.  The first dealt most comprehensively with nuclear disarmament.  That year, the text was updated and welcomed the holding of the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons, as well as the historic proclamation of Latin America and the Caribbean as a zone of peace.  Regarding “L.23”, she said there was an obligation to conclude negotiations for nuclear disarmament in all its aspects.  She hoped that both resolutions would have a favourable vote from the “immense majority” of delegations, as had been the case in previous years.

Action on Cluster 1 Texts on Nuclear Weapons

The Committee then took action on a resolution entitled Follow-up to the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice on the legality of the threat or use of nuclear weapons (document A/C.1/69/L.23).  That resolution would have the General Assembly underline the court’s unanimous conclusion that there existed an obligation to bring about nuclear disarmament under strict and effective international control.  It would call on all States to immediately commence multilateral negations on a nuclear weapons convention prohibiting the development, production, testing, deployment, stockpiling, transfer, threat or use of those weapons and providing for their elimination. 

That text was approved by a recorded vote of 109 in favour to 24 against, with 18 abstentions.

Next, the Committee took action on a resolution on Nuclear disarmament (document A/C.1/69/L.31/Rev.1), by which the Assembly would urge the nuclear-weapon States to immediately stop the qualitative improvement, development, production and stockpiling of nuclear warheads and their delivery systems.  It would also urge those States to de-alert and immediately deactivate their nuclear weapons as an interim measure, and to take other steps to further reduce the operational status of those weapons systems.

Prior to action on that text as a whole, the Committee retained operative paragraph 16 by a recorded vote of 146 in favour to 1 against (Pakistan), with 4 abstentions (France, Israel, South Africa, and United Kingdom).  That provision would have the Assembly call for the immediate commencement of negotiations in the Conference on Disarmament on a non-discriminatory, multilateral and internationally and effectively verifiable treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.

The text was then approved as a whole by a recorded vote of 102 in favour to 41 against, with 17 abstentions.

The representative of India said that his delegation had abstained on draft resolution “L.31/Rev.1”.  While India attached the highest priority to nuclear disarmament, it had been constrained to abstain on the draft because of references to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), on which its position was well known.  However, he did not want his vote to be seen as an opposition to other provisions.  He complimented the resolution’s sponsor, the delegation of Myanmar, for maintaining vital, principled positions that earned the support of the vast majority of Member States.

The representative of Japan said that his delegation had abstained on both “L.31/Rev.1” and “L.23”.  On the latter text, the conditions, he said, had not yet ripened to ask States to engage in multilateral discussions towards a nuclear weapons convention.  On “L.31/Rev.1”, he said that, while his delegation attached great importance to united action, there remained a difference between his country’s view and that set forth in the draft resolution.

The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea said that his delegation had voted in favour of “L.31/Rev.1” as it associated with the position of the Non-Aligned Movement on nuclear disarmament.  It felt, however, that the process should precede that of curbing nuclear proliferation.  His country was worried about continued requests to adhere to both the NPT and the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), but nonetheless voted “yes” on the draft.

The representative of Sweden, speaking on “L.23”, said his vote in favour reflected his Government’s commitment to a world free of nuclear weapons.  However, Sweden did not envisage multilateral negotiations on a nuclear weapons convention.  Nonetheless, Sweden looked forward to participating in the Vienna Conference on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons and the 2015 NPT Review Conference.

The representative of Pakistan, speaking on “L.31 rev.1”, said that his country supported nuclear disarmament and the total elimination of nuclear weapons.  However, it had abstained from the vote as it could not agree to the calls to implement the action plan of the 2015 NPT Review Conference, given his country’s known position on the NPT.  Pakistan voted against operative paragraph 16 due to his country’s well-known position on a fissile material cut-off treaty.  On “L.23”, he said there were many elements with which his delegation agreed, and had, therefore, voted in favour. However, as Pakistan was not a party to the NPT, it believed that the references to the action points of the NPT Review Conference in the preambular portion of the resolution were unwarranted. 

General Statements, Cluster 5, Other Disarmament Measures, International Security

EDEN CHARLES (Trinidad and Tobago) said his delegation wished to make oral revisions to “L.47” — women, disarmament, non-proliferation and arms control — introduced by his delegation.  In preambular paragraph 8, he wished to delete the phrase “or serious acts of violence against women and children”.  That provision should now read “noting the imminent entry into force of the Arms Trade Treaty and therefore encourages States parties to fully implement all the provision of the Treaty including the provisions on serious acts of gender-based violence”.  In operative paragraph 7, he wished to remove “gender-based violence”, as well as to replace “girls” with “children” at the end of the paragraph: “Also calls upon all States to develop appropriate and effective national risk assessment criteria, to facilitate the prevention of the use of arms to commit violence against women and children”.  Those amendments were agreed after several rounds of consultations.

AMR FATHI ALJOWAILY (Egypt), speaking on behalf of the Arab League, said those States believed in the important role carried out by women in disarmament.  It was vital for women to participate on equal footing with men in all disarmament-related fields.  In accordance with the oral amendment made by Trinidad and Tobago, the Arab Group confirmed that gender-based violence, included in “L.47”, was defined in accordance with internationally recognized principles: “violence directed against women because she is a woman, or that affects women disproportionately”.

Action on Texts

The Committee then turned to the draft resolution on Women, disarmament, non-proliferation and arms control (document A/C.1/69/L.47).  

By its terms, the Assembly would urge Member States, relevant subregional and regional organisations, the United Nations and specialized agencies to promote equal opportunities for the representation of women in all decision-making processes with regard to matters related to disarmament, non-proliferation and arms control, in particular, as it related to the prevention and reduction of armed violence and armed conflict.  That text would also urge Member States to support and strengthen the effective participation of women in disarmament-related organisations at the local, national, subregional and regional levels.

Prior to action on that text as a whole, the Committee retained preambular paragraph 8, as orally revised, by a recorded vote of 139 in favour to none against, with 24 abstentions.

That text as a whole was then approved by a recorded vote of 171 in favour to none against, with no abstentions.

The representative of India said that his delegation voted in favour of draft resolution “L.47” as it fully supported its objectives.  However, it had abstained on premabular paragraph 8 as it referred to the Arms Trade Treaty, and India was conducting an internal review of its position on that text.

The representative of Cuba welcomed “L.47” and fully shared its objectives.  The participation of women at all levels of decision-making must be strengthened.  In Cuba, there was a large presence of women in Government.  In fact, Cuba was the third country in the world with the highest presence of women in the legislative assembly.  However, on preambular paragraph 8, the mention of a single treaty in a broad resolution introduced an imbalance into the draft.  Furthermore, the mention of the Arms Trade Treaty did not have consensus.  For that reason, Cuba had abstained on preambular paragraph 8.

The representative of Iran said that his delegation had abstained on preambular paragraph 8, as it contained unacceptable language in reference to the Arms Trade Treaty.  The Treaty was “full of legal flaws and loopholes”.  Thus, that day’s draft could not be considered a consensual resolution in the General Assembly.  Iran had engaged in consultations with the sponsor to find a solution to that provision, and, in the spirit of flexibility, had put forth reasonable proposals, but they were not accommodated.  Nevertheless, Iran had voted in favour of the draft resolution as a whole out of support for its main goal.

The representative of Indonesia said that his delegation had abstained on preambular paragraph 8.  However, it had voted in favour of the resolution as a whole because of his country’s conviction that men and women had an equal role to play in international security and that the role of women needed to be further developed.  Indonesia remained steadfast in the promotion of the rights of women and children, but had substantive concerns in regard to the Arms Trade Treaty.  Any reference to it in preambular paragraph 8 was applicable solely to its implementation among States parties.

The representative of Morocco said that his country associated with Egypt on behalf of the League of Arab States on “L.47”.  Morocco had voted in favour of the resolution as it had no problem with any of its provisions.  He thanked the sponsors for taking into account his country’s proposals and allowing it to make a positive contribution to the text.

The representative of Pakistan said that his delegation had voted in favour of “L.47”.  He commended the sponsors for highlighting the role of women and said the resolution pointed out that full participation of both men and women was key to achieving sustainable international security.  He noted that a more inclusive approach could have been adopted and that the availability of required resources and national laws should be taken into account in future drafts.

The representative of Syria said his delegation had voted in favour of “L.47” but had abstained on preambular paragraph 8, as it mentioned the Arms Trade Treaty, which was not a consensus text; it lacked balance and had numerous gaps on very important issues.  The fact that it did not mention foreign occupation and the right of people to self-determination “was one such gap”.

The representative of Egypt said his delegation had voted in favour of “L.47”, with due reference made to some of the terminology used, as he had explained on behalf of the Arab States.  Egypt had abstained from voting on preambular paragraph 8, due to elements already set out with regard to his delegation’s vote on “L.32/Rev.1” on the Arms Trade Treaty.  That was a “well-known position”, and he stressed that any reference to the entry into force of that Treaty was applicable solely to its implementation by States parties.

The representative of Armenia said his delegation supported “L.47”, but had abstained on preambular paragraph 8 due to the reference to the Arms Trade Treaty.  It was clear that Treaty was unbalanced and contained “many lacks and shortages”.

The Committee then approved its draft provisional programme of work and timetable of the 2015 session, as contained in document A/C.1/CRP.5.

Closing Remarks

COURTENAY RATTRAY (Jamaica), Committee Chair, commended the membership for the cordial, constructive and cooperative atmosphere in evidence during the past four weeks of intensive discussions.  In 2014, the Committee had completed its work with 24 meetings and a record-breaking 107 statements within the general debate segment, as well as a record-breaking 70 speakers during the thematic debate on the nuclear weapons cluster.  The Committee had approved 63 draft texts — 57 resolutions and six decisions — which was the largest number of texts over the last 10 years.

He said that, without exception, the year’s deliberations continued to accord priority attention to the world’s deadliest weapon of mass destruction and the most lethal and indiscriminate of all — nuclear weapons.  Member States continued to underscore the need to abide by and accelerate nuclear disarmament commitments and to strengthen the non-proliferation regime.  The Committee was particularly seized of the importance of a successful 2015 NPT Review Conference, with many States putting forward proposals that could contribute to such an outcome.  Regrettably, the divergence in views on how to move forward on the complex issue of nuclear disarmament continued to characterize and stymie thosedeliberations.  While recognizing the core national and international security concerns at the heart of the various positions on those matters, he hoped the discordant views would not prevent the consensus that was so urgently needed.

As momentum built towards renewed efforts to achieve the goal of a world free of nuclear weapons, he said many States had made strong calls for addressing the humanitarian impact of those weapons.  The Committee, once again, had recognized the important contribution of nuclear-weapon-free zones as the second front of nuclear disarmament and an important pillar in the promotion of regional security and stability.  The lack of progress surrounding the establishment of such a zone in the Middle East, however, was of serious concern during deliberations.  There was also no doubt that delegations took very seriously the threat that weapons of mass destruction could fall into the hands of non-State actors, in particular, terrorist organizations.  Delegations highlighted the importance of the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention and the Chemical Weapons Convention, and reaffirmed their commitments to the goal of universalizing those instruments and achieving full compliance with their provisions.

Issues relating to conventional weapons were well represented on the agenda and positively discussed, he said.  The Committee welcomed the fiftieth ratification of the historic Arms Trade Treaty, which allowed for its entry into force on 24 December.  Other subjects that had profound implications for the common future included the placement of weapons in outer space, the impact of information and communications technology on international security, the relationship between disarmament and development, disarmament and non-proliferation education, women and disarmament, and regional cooperation.  Delegates also drew attention to emerging issues such as fully autonomous weapons and the use of explosive weapons in populated areas.

The most urgent message that rang out “loud and clear” from the deliberations and drafts of the First Committee was the need to revitalize the United Nations disarmament machinery, he said.  The international community must do its upmost to make that happen by taking a fresh approach to addressing the structural rigidities that hampered work in the Conference on Disarmament, while renewing commitment to achieve consensus in the Disarmament Commission.

While divergence persisted within the Committee, particularly on questions relating to nuclear weapons, he said it was encouraging to note the positive and constructive tone of discussions.  It was also the first time that the majority of the Committee’s Bureau was comprised of women.  Closing with a quote from former Secretary-General Kofi Annan, he said “For the United Nations, there is no goal more overriding, no commitment more compelling, no aspiration more profound than the prevention of armed conflict.  Ensuring human security, in the broadest sense, is the United Nations cardinal mission”.

For information media. Not an official record.