5 April 2004


Press Release

Disarmament Commission                                     

2004 Substantive Session                                   

257th Meeting (AM)

disarmament commission opens headquarters session; continues

consultations on substantive agenda items

With the general debate of the Disarmament Commission suspended today pending agreement on two substantive agenda items, the Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs told members that the world was waiting for them to come up with a good, relevant agenda for the session and provide answers “to the urgent questions we are facing” –- the continued presence of weapons of mass destruction arsenals and their possible acquisition by terrorists.

As the Commission opened its 2004 session this morning, Under-Secretary-General Nobuyasu Abe said he strongly hoped that the 52-year-old body, which makes recommendations on various disarmament concerns, would engage in meaningful and productive discussions.  There was frequent talk about a crisis facing the multilateral system of disarmament, arms control, and non-proliferation.  The correct response lay not in discarding the multilateral system or collective international efforts, but in increased joint efforts to strengthen the multilateral system of international peace and security, including the system for disarmament, arms control and non-proliferation.  No institution working in those fields could be complacent -- and the Disarmament Commission was no exception, he warned.

The Commission today, under the chairmanship of Revaz Adamia (Georgia), took note of the provisional agenda, which left blank the two items to be deliberated, including one on nuclear disarmament and one on conventional disarmament.  The Chairman said he would suspend the meeting and continue informal talks, with a view to reaching consensus on the substantive agenda sometime this week or next Monday at the latest.  If it proved impossible to reach early agreement on substantive agenda items, it would take a decision on a further course of action.

The Chairman added that, “if the world were in blissful harmony on disarmament matters, there would scarcely be a need for this Commission”.  He urged a “revitalized effort” precisely because those were difficult times for disarmament, in an environment marked by persisting national stockpiles of mass destruction weapons, ongoing efforts to acquire such weapons or to market their components, growing military expenditures, and even some erosion in the basic principle of the peaceful resolution of disputes.  As troubling as that might be, it was in such times that the Commission could make the most important contributions to the wider process of creating and strengthening global disarmament norms.

Similarly, urging the Commission to evolve and agenda and not “follow the demise” of the other disarmament bodies, namely, the Conference on Disarmament, the Indonesian representative, on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, said that the Commission remained the only universal forum in which to deliberate the increasing and serious questions facing disarmament, non-proliferation and arms control issues, as well as the increased threats of terrorism and the possible use of mass destruction weapons.  The Non-Aligned Movement had “gone the extra mile” to accommodate its counterparts; it was time for them to show the same flexibility, he said.

The representative of Japan proposed that the Commission move immediately into informal consultations, for which the meeting was suspended.

Also this morning, the Commission completed its Bureau, electing Philomena Murnhaghan (Ireland), as its final Vice-Chairperson, and Meir Itzchaki (Israel) as the Rapporteur.  The remaining Vice-Chairs are:  Alisher Vohidov (Uzbekistan); Lew Kwang-chul (Republic of Korea); Hugo Flores (Peru); Frederic Bijou (Costa Rica); Saad Maandi (Algeria); Noel-Emmanuel Ahipeaud Guebo (Côte d’Ivoire); and Amela Sudzuka (Bosnia and Herzegovina).

The Disarmament Commission will meet again at a date and time to be announced.

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For information media. Not an official record.