New Chairman, Bureau Members Elected as Disarmament Commission Remains Deadlocked in Impasse over Agenda for Upcoming Substantive Session

19 January 2012

New Chairman, Bureau Members Elected as Disarmament Commission Remains Deadlocked in Impasse over Agenda for Upcoming Substantive Session

19 January 2012
General Assembly
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Disarmament Commission

2012 Organizational Session

318th Meeting (AM)

New Chairman, Bureau Members Elected as Disarmament Commission Remains Deadlocked

in Impasse over Agenda for Upcoming Substantive Session


The United Nations Disarmament Commission, in an organizational meeting today, elected Enrique Roman-Morey of Peru as Chairman of its upcoming three-week substantive session — slated to run from 2 to 20 April — as consensus on its provisional agenda remained elusive.

Also elected were Danijela Čubrilo ( Serbia) and Łukasz Zieliński ( Poland), as Vice-Chairs representing the Group of Eastern European States; and Niclas Kvarnström ( Sweden) and Knut Langeland ( Norway), as Vice-Chairs from the Group of Western European and other States.

The Commission, a deliberative body mandated to make recommendations on two or three specific issues related to disarmament, was set to begin a new three-year cycle of work in 2012.  With consultations on the vacant Vice-Chair and Rapporteur posts ongoing within the Group of African States and the Group of Latin American and Caribbean States, the Chairman appealed to those regional groups to expedite nominations so that the Commission could proceed with its substantive work as scheduled.

Taking the floor for the first time at the Commission’s helm, he noted the continued absence of agreement in referring to the relevant General Assembly resolution, adopted in December.  Recalling that the text asked the Commission to “intensify consultations with a view to reaching agreement on the items on its agenda […] before the start of its substantive session”, he said the Commission “suffered from incomprehensible stagnation” that would have to be addressed if any progress was to be made in the field of disarmament.  With everyone’s support and cooperation, however, the Commission would find a way to “get around the impasse” and fulfil its mandate, arriving at solutions that would benefit the international community as a whole.  But that would depend “on us to ensure the political willingness to achieve agreements in the important field that we are dealing with”, he said.

In the ensuing discussion, delegations around the room expressed regret that the Commission had been unable to fulfil its mandate in more than a decade.  Many representatives said the agenda for the upcoming session should include an “introspective look” at the Commission and its role within the broader disarmament machinery.

Denmark’s representative, speaking for the European Union, stressed that disarmament, non-proliferation and arms control remained highly significant matters, adding that each of those fronts faced numerous remaining challenges.  He called for “more focused deliberations” during the upcoming three-year cycle, and asked the Commission to direct its attention to specific subjects while avoiding generic and repetitive discussions.

“Now is the time for change,” Sweden’s representative said.  “Let’s be self-critical, but also creative,” he added, calling on members of the Commission to find a more constructive way to do business.  Austria’s representative agreed, emphasizing that the agenda must be carefully and accurately crafted.  “I think we can do better than the last 12 years,” he said, deploring the absence of progress in that time, and stressing that after such a long lapse, it was necessary to hold a frank discussion on how to restore the Commission’s relevance.

Other delegates supported that sentiment, calling for the inclusion of an agenda item dealing specifically with the Commission’s working methods.  Others, however, opposed the idea of an agenda item devoted solely to reform.  Indonesia’s representative, speaking for the Non-Aligned Movement, called for the agenda to focus instead on complete nuclear disarmament and on reaching agreement on the elements of a draft declaration for the 2010s as the fourth disarmament decade was also a priority.

Many subsequent speakers agreed, with Venezuela’s representative emphasizing that the “stagnation” recognized by so many delegations was, in fact, a result of the lack of political will rather than a consequence of problems with the Commission’s working methods.  Algeria’s representative, meanwhile, noting that the impasse was the shared responsibility of all Member States, also cautioned against devoting an agenda item to working methods, saying that such a debate — in which members would only reiterate their own positions — would “probably achieve no results”.

Some delegates also worried about the Commission’s increasingly “selective approach” to its work, which was based on national interests.  Pakistan’s representative stressed the need to abandon that approach, adding that such narrow thinking lay at the heart of the stalemate.  Instead, a comprehensive approach, including the convening of a special session on disarmament, as the Non-Aligned Movement had previously proposed, would be a productive way forward, he added.

For his part, the representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea also agreed that there would be no progress on any agenda item without political will “from all regional groups and political camps” while stressing that nuclear disarmament was the number one priority of his country’s foreign policy.

Following the discussion, the Chairman assured Commission members that all the views expressed today would be duly reflected as the provisional agenda was revised.  Revisions would be done following consultations with regional groups, and the agenda would be formally adopted on a date to be decided.

Hamid Al-Bayati ( Iraq), the outgoing Chairman, also addressed the Commission.

Also speaking today were representatives of Poland, Italy, Switzerland, Bulgaria, Japan, Norway, Cuba, Mexico, Spain, Myanmar, Germany, Egypt and Syria.

The Commission will reconvene in substantive session at 10 a.m. on Monday, 2 April.

* *** *

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