23 April 2004


Press Release

Disarmament Commission                                     

2004 Substantive Session                                   

265th Meeting (AM)



No one wanted to see the United Nations Disarmament Commission follow in the footsteps of the Conference on Disarmament, Commission members were told today as they concluded their substantive session with the adoption of a draft report, as orally amended, following protracted lack of agreement on a substantive agenda during three weeks of deliberations.

The draft report, which will be forwarded to the General Assembly, recommended that the next substantive session be held for the usual period of three weeks, in March-April 2005, and that an organizational session be convened in November-December 2004.  In that connection, the Bureau was requested to present to the fifty-ninth session of the Assembly a resolution proposing the above dates.

Under an amendment by the European Union, the following line would be added to the end of paragraph 10 of the report:  “There was no consensus in the Commission on the proposal to adjourn the session”.  Annexed to the report were the contents of the proposals submitted by the following during the course of the session, which began on 5 April:  States Members of the United Nations that are members of the Non-Aligned Movement of countries (original and alternative proposals); European Union; United States (original and alternative proposals); and the Chairman’s proposal.  (For details of the proposals, see the Commission’s draft report (document A/CN.10/2004/CRP.2).)

The Commission, a subsidiary body of the General Assembly established in 1952, generally considers two items each year, including one nuclear-related topic, for a three-year cycle.  Last year, it was 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.  A new cycle was to have begun this year.

Before adoption of the report, India’s representative recalled that the Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs, Nobuyasu Abe, had cautioned in his opening remarks that to deal with the so-called crisis in the multilateral system of disarmament, the correct response would not be to discard it, but to strengthen it.  He had implicitly warned that no institution working in that area, including the Disarmament Commission, could be complacent.  Indeed, the erosion of multilateral institutions would only create space for an exclusive approach, hastening the pace towards atrophying those bodies.

He said that the Commission had a unique role as one of the triads of the global disarmament machinery; the only body with universal membership that could engage in deliberations on relevant disarmament issues.  India believed it had continuing relevance and could contribute further to the disarmament process.  It had achieved significant results in the past, including guidelines on arms transfers and verification.  The first Special Session of the General Assembly devoted to disarmament (SSOD I) had, by consensus, laid the basis for an international disarmament strategy, in which the Disarmament Commission had been given a clear role.

During the session, proposals had been tabled by the delegations of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) of countries, the European Union, and the United States.  Speaking on behalf of NAM after adoption of the draft report, the Indonesian representative thanked the Chairman for chairing one of the most difficult sessions of the Commission.  He underlined that NAM remained committed to the Commission’s work and believed in its importance in the disarmament machinery.  The gap in differences on the substantive agenda, however, had been “just too wide to breach”.

Ireland’s representative, on behalf of the European Union, said the Union was deeply disappointed that the Commission had been unable to reach agreement on substantive agenda items for the current cycle.  The Union had been among the first to table proposals and had, throughout the talks, indicated its willingness to compromise in search of a consensus outcome.  Failure to reach consensus this year had rendered a disservice to the Commission and, indeed, had been a setback.  She hoped for early agreement on agenda items and early appointments of chairs to the working groups.

“We had it within reach and I regret we were not able to agree on such agenda items”, the United States’ speaker said.  A good faith effort had been made by all, but, unfortunately, it had not been possible to develop a consensus agenda.  Failure to do so underscored the wisdom of his proposal, namely that the Commission set aside one annual session to consider why it had failed to achieve positive agreed results for some time, he believed, since 2000.  He also drew attention to the low level of country participation in the substantive session, which might reflect a lack of interest, perhaps because of the lack of any substantive discussion.  He hoped that could be remedied in the future.

Several other delegations also expressed regret at the lack of consensus.  Among them, Egypt’s representative said that lack of agreement had reflected a deeper difference among members of the international community concerning the nature of the present security challenges, on the one hand, and the role of multilateralism, on the other.  The NAM position had been that nuclear disarmament was one of the most important security challenges of the present age and multilateral international endeavours were the only legitimate means for collective proposals in that field.  Divergent views in that regard had been evident during the 2003 substantive session of the Commission.  To preserve that body’s credibility, the 2005 session should not be used to reach agreement -- that should be done beforehand.

China’s representative emphasized the importance his country attached to the Commission, which had once played a useful role in deliberations on relevant disarmament issues.  Under current circumstances, it remained relevant.  He hoped that all sides would continue with their efforts to promote early agreement on the substantive agenda so that substantive work could proceed and following the path of the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva could be avoided.

Closing remarks were made by the Commission Chairman Revaz Adamia (Georgia).  The Vice-Chairs were:  Alisher Vohidov (Uzbekistan); Lew Kwang-chul (Republic of Korea); Hugo Flores (Peru); Frederick Bijou (Costa Rica); Saad Maandi (Algeria); Noel-Emmanuel Ahipeaud Guebo (Côte d’Ivoire); and Amela Sudzuka (Bosnia and Herzegovina); and Philomena Murnhaghan (Ireland).  The Rapporteur was Meir Itzchaki (Israel).

Representatives of the following delegations also spoke:  Cuba; Republic of Korea; Morocco; Viet Nam, on behalf of the Asian Group; and Serbia and Montenegro, on behalf of the Eastern European Group.  Points of clarification or corrections to the draft report were made by the representatives of Belarus; Switzerland; Peru; Ireland, on behalf of the European Union; Egypt; and the United States.

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For information media. Not an official record.