Disarmament Commission Reaches Agreement on Agenda, Ending Three-day Stalemate, Concludes General Debate

5 April 2012

Disarmament Commission Reaches Agreement on Agenda, Ending Three-day Stalemate, Concludes General Debate

5 April 2012
General Assembly
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Disarmament Commission

2012 Substantive Session

324th & 325th Meetings (AM & PM)

Disarmament Commission Reaches Agreement on Agenda, Ending Three-Day Stalemate,


Concludes General Debate


Two Working Groups Formed to Address:  Nuclear Disarmament,

Non-proliferation; Confidence-building Measures in Conventional Weapons

The United Nations Disarmament Commission reached an agreement on a provisional agenda for the work of its 2012 substantive session today, ending a three-day-long stalemate that some feared would jeopardize the body’s ability to continue its work.

The agenda, which drives the work of several working groups that house the Commission’s substantive deliberations, has long been the subject of disagreement among Member States and regional groups.  Despite yet another standoff on the wording of agenda items — namely, that relating to nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation objectives — delegations agreed this morning to support a previously used version of that agenda item’s wording, in an effort to move forward with their work.

The provisional agenda for the current three-year work cycle will include two main substantive items, instead of the Commission’s usual three:  “Recommendations for achieving the objectives of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation of nuclear weapons” and “practical confidence-building measures in the field of conventional weapons”.  One working group will be devoted to each item.  Other elements of the agenda package include informal meetings on the Fourth Disarmament Decade and on the Commission’s methods of work.

Agreeing to the proposal by the Non-Aligned Movement to reuse the 2011 wording of the item on nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, the representative of the United States said that his delegation did so with deep reluctance “because of the track record of working on an agenda item that had yielded no success”.  The week had seen “energetic and creative” efforts by the Commission’s Chair, he said, but those had been “virtually rejected out of hand” by some groups.  For its part, the United States was prepared to show maximum flexibility, yet again, so that the Commission can proceed with the work “the international community expects of us”.

Thanking other Member States that, in his view, had “split the difference and not played a zero-sum game in our deliberations”, he stressed that the Commission should try to remove all blockages to that flexibility.  On that score, it should move forward based on the “cross-cutting, multi-regional” flexibility that had been exhibited by many Governments.

The representative of Indonesia, speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement prior to the adoption, countered that the 2011 language on the nuclear agenda item already represented the “middle way” among all Member States.  That version of the language — which was well known to all — reflected great flexibility, which was why it had been used in past sessions.  Moreover, he stressed, no truer compromise could be reached.  The Movement could bend no further, because it could not agree to newly proposed language that had not yet been fully clarified.

Wrapping up the Commission’s general debate, which began on Monday even pending the adoption of an agenda, Eshagh Al Habib (Iran) urged the Commission to accord priority to the agenda item on nuclear disarmament as a “long-delayed part of its mandate”.  While there was no pretext to justify the position of nuclear weapons in the hands of any country, it was a source of grave concern that certain nuclear-weapon States still continued to allocate billions of dollars to develop new types of nuclear weapons, build nuclear weapons production facilities and replace such weapons.

In that vein, Iran supported the proposal of the Non-Aligned Movement on the adoption of a legal framework for the total elimination of nuclear weapons by 2025, he said.  It was important to start negotiations on a nuclear weapons convention and a universal and unconditionally binding instrument on negative security assurances to all non-nuclear-weapons States.  Meanwhile, despite the stated intentions by some nuclear-weapons States to reduce part of their nuclear-weapon stocks, limited bilateral and unilateral arms reductions were far below the expectations of the international community, and could never be a substitute for the obligations of those States to completely eliminate their nuclear weapons.

Turning to the horizontal and vertical proliferation of nuclear weapons, which constituted another serious challenge, he said the best way to guarantee the non-proliferation of weapons was the “full and non-selective” implementation of the Non-Proliferation Treaty.  Its universality must be assured, in particular in the Middle East, where the nuclear-weapon programme of the only non-party to the treaty — which had also been assisted by France — seriously threatened regional and international peace and security.

Zhang Juan’An (China) said that the international community should foster a peaceful, cooperative and stable security environment, so as to remove the root cause of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.  All parties should work together to consolidate the global nuclear non-proliferation regime and ensure the impartiality and non-discrimination of international efforts, adhering to resolving “non-proliferation hotspot issues” through political and diplomatic means.  China continued to call for the peaceful resolution of the Korean peninsula and Iranian nuclear issues; indeed, he said, the relevant diplomatic processes were “facing good opportunities nowadays”.

Additionally, a phased, long-term plan was needed towards a convention on the complete prohibition of nuclear weapons.  Countries with the largest nuclear arsenals bore “special and primary” responsibility for nuclear disarmament and should continue to make “drastic and substantive” reductions in their nuclear arsenals, he said.  The nuclear-weapon States should reduce the role of nuclear weapons in their national security policy, and all parties should make concerted efforts to advance the entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT).

In the conventional weapons field, China supported practical and feasible confidence-building measures, and it subscribed to international efforts to adopt proper measures to regulate the “relevant” arms trade and combat illicit arms trafficking.  On the premise of preserving the Disarmament Commission’s authority, all parties should explore ways and means to strengthen it.

“Nuclear disarmament is priority number one,” said José Eduardo Proaño (Ecuador).  For Ecuador, South America and Latin America, and most countries in the developing world, nuclear weapons were an unacceptable option and a total contradiction to the peace and development of all peoples across the planet.  However, despite the fact that the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty had clearly established the commitment of the parties to end the arms race, ensure nuclear disarmament and reach agreement on general and complete disarmament, the international community had yet to receive any indications to that effect.

In a similar vein, despite the ruling from the International Court of Justice on the use or threat of use of nuclear arms, and the obligation to hold and conclude those negotiations in good faith, non-nuclear-armed States had not received any “tangible” sign that things were moving in that direction.  Sadly, mankind had had to suffer atrocities and devastation from the use of nuclear weapons.  The question now, he stressed, was whether that history was enough to “allow us to stop playing with fire and to avoid the risk of tripping over the same stone twice”.

Also today, following a protracted discussion, the Commission adopted a revised programme of work that covered the period 9 April to 20 April.  Participating in that discussion were the representatives of Cuba, Morocco, Algeria, India, United States, Norway, Sweden, Poland, Spain, Italy, Egypt, United Kingdom, Indonesia, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Switzerland, Japan and Iran.

The Commission also elected Naif bin Al-Sudairy (Saudi Arabia), from the Group of Asia and Pacific States, to chair Working Group I on nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation.  Veronique Pépin-Hallé (Canada), from the Group of Western European and Other States, was elected to chair Working Group II on conventional weapons.  Lachezara S. Stoeva (Bulgaria) was appointed facilitator of the informal discussion on the Fourth Disarmament Decade, while Bouchaib El Oumni (Morocco) was appointed facilitator of the informal discussion on the Commission’s working methods.

Also taking part in this morning’s discussion on the provisional agenda were the representatives of France and Norway.

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