2004 Substantive Session
259th Meeting (PM)
United States Tables Proposals for Agenda in Disarmament Commission
The Disarmament Commission, with consensus still eluding delegations on the agenda items for its substantive session, held a formal “exchange of proposals” and considered the way ahead, now three days into its three-week session. Delegations were then invited to participate in consultations aimed at “finding the way out”.
The Commission, whose membership is universal, was created in 1952 as a deliberative body mandated to make recommendations in the field of disarmament. It considers two items each year, including one related to nuclear disarmament. Last year, it had been unable to agree on concrete proposals to advance either nuclear disarmament or confidence-building in the field of conventional arms, departing from its usual practice of completing consideration of two items in three years, with the consensus adoption of guidelines and recommendations.
Tabling his latest proposals, the United States’ representative said he hoped they would be met with, if not with general approval, then at least a positive reaction. The new proposal for the nuclear-related agenda item addressed modern threats to existing nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation objectives. The new conventional topic tried to be clear in focus, thereby maximizing the opportunity for a successful outcome. The third proposal attempted to initiate a broad discussion of the United Nations disarmament machinery. That useful and healthy exercise was long overdue. He urged delegations to give careful consideration to his proposals, as time for discussion here was fleeting.
(The paper distributed in the room was dated 6 April 2004 and entitled “U.S. Proposals for UNDC Agenda”, and read as follows: a) Strategies for dealing with illicit activities that undermine nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation objectives; b) Problems in compliance with existing conventional disarmament measures, to which Member States are parties, and approaches to improving compliance; and c) Measures for improving the effectiveness of the UN disarmament machinery.)
Indonesia’s representative, speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement of countries, which submitted its proposal before the opening of the session, thanked the United States representative for introducing a new proposal, but said that the Non-Aligned Movement countries needed time to study them and receive instructions from their capitals. With regard to the proposed agenda item a), however, that was “far from the objective of our proposal and does not serve the Movement’s principled position on nuclear disarmament”. With regard to the proposed agenda item b), that was still not clear, especially with reference to the use of the word of “measures”. The Movement was open-minded about the third proposal, but felt that any discussion of the UN disarmament machinery should be
done in the context of the fourth special session of the General Assembly on disarmament.
(According to the paper circulated yesterday during a formal meeting, the Movement’s proposals were: a) Guidelines for nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation of nuclear weapons in all its aspects; and b) Verification mechanisms and instruments of international treaties and agreements, to which Member States are parties, in the field of disarmament.)
On behalf of the European Union, whose proposals were also circulated yesterday during a plenary meeting, Ireland’s representative thanked the United States for its additional new proposals and said now that a range of options were on the table, it was time to start working towards a consensus. Still, she understood that all delegations might not have an opportunity to study the text or get instructions from their capitals and might require a bit more time. Nevertheless, it was now time to get down to serious business.
(The European Union proposed that the Commission consider: a) Enhancing verification mechanisms and instruments of the international system of treaties and agreements against the spread of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery; and b) Best practices and regional approaches to illicit trafficking of small arms and light weapons.)
Several other speakers took the floor, mainly from the Non-Aligned Movement, in search of clarification from the United States’ delegation on its proposal, or to react to one of the other proposals. Stressing that the Movement and many others had been serious from the beginning about having a substantive session this year, the representative of Egypt said that the first agenda item was supposed to deal with nuclear disarmament, yet the United States’ approach in that first item had been “a bit general and ambiguous”, dealing only with “illicit” activities that undermined nuclear disarmament. Obligations existed for States in the area of nuclear disarmament, which went beyond a focus only on illicit activities. Also, putting nuclear disarmament on the same footing as the non-proliferation objective in the same item undermined the importance of the objectives of nuclear disarmament, for which enough time and concentration should be provided.
Like other delegations, he expressed concern about the use of the word “measures” instead of “treaties” in the second proposed agenda item. Although he shared the importance of discussing ways of improving the effectiveness of the UN disarmament machinery, he and several other speakers agreed with the Indonesian representative that that should be discussed within the context and framework of the fourth special session of the General Assembly on disarmament and not in the Disarmament Commission.
Reiterating his delegation’s priorities, the representative of the Russian Federation emphasized the need to strengthen the existing system of international disarmament and arms control treaties, as well as the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and the prevention of an arms race in outer space. As a compromise, he proposed agreement on three issues, instead of two, reminding members that the General Assembly had built in that kind of leeway. There was some basis for “cautious optimism”, as there had been some changes in the right direction, from the Movement, for example, and the latest United States’ proposal had been an attempt to attain consensus.
Responding to a question raised by some delegations about the United States’ proposal mirroring the draft resolution being considered by the Security Council on the non-proliferation of mass destruction weapons, the United States’ representative said he would look at the questions carefully and ask his authorities, especially the one concerning the Security Council’s draft, which was being considered at “the high level”. He, therefore, would not like to try to interpret what was being said in the Council with regard to what was being said in the Commission.
The speaker from the United Kingdom said that the Council’s resolution was about non-State actors and focused on very specific points. That United States’ proposal before the Commission did not seem to have the same focus as the Council’s resolution.
The oral proposal of the Chairman, Revaz Adamia (Georgia), that the meeting adjourn and proceed to “informal informals” with the coordinators of the three groups that had submitted proposals -– the United States, the European Union, and the Non-Aligned movement –- the Bureau and any other delegation wishing to participate, was accepted.
In the course of the meeting, the Secretariat announced, in response to questions posed during consultations this week, that, as of now and owing to scheduling, it was not possible to meet for two consecutive weeks sometime later in the calendar, before the start of the General Assembly. One week at a time had been offered, which had proved unacceptable to members. At present, unless a scheduled activity was cancelled, there was nothing available through July.
Taking the floor to address the Commission on the 10-year commemoration of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, the representative of Côte d’Ivoire asserted that “no weapon is a light weapon”. Any tool created by human intelligence to destroy humankind was a weapon of mass destruction. The international community had Rwanda on its record. Now, the Disarmament Commission should come up with an agenda worthy of its name, namely, the elimination of nuclear weapons. He urged the Commission to build a world of peace based on trust among civilizations, and a world free from nuclear dangers. It must put an end to the monotony that had characterized its work for the past eight years.
At the invitation of the Chairman, members stood for a minute of silence in memory of the victims in Rwanda.
Statements during the discussion were made by Argentina, Iran, Cuba, South Africa and Syria.
The Disarmament Commission will meet again at a date and time to be announced.
* *** *