13 April 2009


13 April 2009
General Assembly
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Disarmament Commission

2009 Substantive Session

291st & 292nd Meetings (AM PM)

As United Nations disarmament commission opens 2009 substantive session,

consensus on agreed agenda remains elusive


The United Nations Disarmament Commission today opened its 2009 substantive session without an agreed agenda following a spate of informal consultations that began last year and hinged on finding formulations for the items to be discussed during the three-year cycle beginning this year.

“It is, of course, no secret that the Commission has encountered its share of difficulties in recent years,” said Sergio Duarte, High Representative of the Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs.  The issueswere complex and the process of reaching consensus was never easy, but such matters were before the Commission precisely because they were difficult.

The Commission, a specialized, deliberative body within the United Nations multilateral disarmament machinery, provides a forum for focused deliberation of two or three specific items ‑‑ one on nuclear weapons and one on conventional arms ‑‑ with the goal of achieving consensus to strengthen or create disarmament norms through the submission of concrete recommendations to the General Assembly.

That special ability was the Commission’s added value to the United Nations disarmament machinery said Mr. Duarte, noting, however, that the body had not been able to adopt new guidelines for a full decade.  Some had questioned its usefulness, but today’s atmosphere was quite different.  The cold war was over and there had been a cascade of disarmament initiatives, notably proposals from nuclear-weapon States, former senior statesmen and civil society groups, in addition to the Secretary-General’s five-point nuclear disarmament proposal.

The Commission worked on the basis of consensus, without which it could not produce a formal output.  The previous three-year cycle, which ended in April 2008, had not resulted in a formal document, either on nuclear or convention arms,  given the absence of consensus on both agenda items.  Consensus remained elusive today when, after several suspensions for additional informal consultations, delegations were unable to produce an agreed agenda ‑‑ a blueprint for their new cycle of work.

On that point, Commission Chairman Andrzej Towpik ( Poland) recalled a “crystal-clear” directive for the Commission’s work in 2009 from the General Assembly.  By resolution 61/67, it had requested the Commission to submit in 2009 the elements of a draft declaration on the 2010s as the fourth disarmament decade.  [The resolution was adopted on 6 December 2006 by a recorded vote of 123 in favour to 1 against ( United States), with 52 abstentions.]

Drawing attention to the Commission’s recent poor record, the Chairman said the utmost should be done to restore the body’s credibility and political goodwill.  “UN disarmament machinery does not exist in a political and diplomatic vacuum”, but the Commission was still expected to stimulate discussion and seek new approaches, and to eliminate obstacles to effective disarmament deliberations.

Conditions for the deliberations were much more favourable and expectations higher than in the last period, he continued.  Among the growing number of disarmament initiatives, especially in the nuclear field, had been the announced intention by Russian Federation President Dmitry Medvedev and United States President Barack Obama to start talks on strategic arms reductions.  There was also widespread support for reducing and abolishing nuclear arms from leading political figures, including from the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy and Poland.

He said Member States could draw on the Commission’s previous achievements ‑‑ namely, the Sixteen Steps on Verification, agreed in 1996, and the guidelines for establishing nuclear-weapon-free zones, adopted in 1999.  Inspiration could also be drawn from the 2008 report and recommendations of the Secretary-General’s Advisory Board on Disarmament Matters.

In other business, the Commission elected Maria del Carmen Castellon ( Bolivia) and Liseth Ancidey ( Venezuela) as Vice-Chairpersons.

The Commission will meet again at 10 a.m. tomorrow, 14 April, to continue its work.

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