Disarmament Commission Chair, Concluding Session, Says Trust Rebuilt, Stage Set for Success as Positions on Nuclear, Conventional Weapons Items Inch Closer

19 April 2013

Disarmament Commission Chair, Concluding Session, Says Trust Rebuilt, Stage Set for Success as Positions on Nuclear, Conventional Weapons Items Inch Closer

19 April 2013
General Assembly
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Disarmament Commission

2013 Substantive Session

334th & 335th Meetings (AM)

Disarmament Commission Chair, Concluding Session, Says Trust Rebuilt, Stage Set

for Success as Positions on Nuclear, Conventional Weapons Items Inch Closer


A frank and open exchange of views during the Disarmament Commission’s three-week session had helped to rebuild trust between delegations and set the stage to bridge longstanding differences of position and bring much-needed legitimacy to the United Nations disarmament machinery, speakers said today, as the body’s 2013 session drew to a close.

As they completed the second year of the Commission’s 2012-2014 triennial cycle, delegates adopted, as orally revised, the Commission’s draft report to the General Assembly, as well as the reports of its two working groups on, respectively, “Recommendations for achieving the objective of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation of nuclear weapons” and “Practical confidence-building measures in the field of conventional weapons”.

In closing remarks, Commission Chair Christopher Grima of Malta recalled that, in his opening statement on 1 April, he had called on delegates to move away from “maximalist national positions” and identify middle ground in specific areas in which progress could be achieved.  “Today I am pleased to report that, to an extent, the Commission has responded to that call,” he said, adding that they had also heeded his call to use the session to rebuild trust and restore a common sense of purpose.  While views continued to differ on some of the more sensitive areas, all parties had benefited from the recent deliberations, and positions had “moved closer” under both the nuclear and conventional weapons items.

He pointed out that the Commission would benefit from some adjustments in the way it conducted its business, not least through a more focused agenda and better ways in which to record even limited progress.  “Over these three weeks, I have at times asked myself whether the difficulties this Commission has come up against in recent years are of a more organizational nature or something deeper,” he said in that regard. 

As with other disarmament forums, the Commission might wish to reflect on whether the difficulty in moving forward stemmed from the lack of political will or in fact was the result of the lack of a common objective.  He also felt that some reflection was needed on the extent to which the Commission applied the principle of consensus, relative to both procedural aspects and substantive work.

Continuing, he said that despite the Commission’s inability for several years to deliver on its solemn mandate to submit recommendations to the General Assembly, it had continued to provide a useful vehicle through which delegations could better understand each other’s positions and, in the process, contribute to building trust and confidence among Member States. 

As for progress made during this session, he said that the Commission, for the first time since 2006, had agreed to forward to the third and final year of the cycle a conference room paper containing comments and proposals by delegations and working papers by the three Chairs as a basis for further work next year.  While it was clear that the papers remained the responsibility of the working group Chairs and in no way prejudiced or prejudged the positions of delegations, they put the Commission on course for a positive outcome in 2014.

Essentially, the Commission had done what it should do in the second year of its three-year cycle, he said, namely setting the stage for the final year.  His hope was that delegations “will together succeed in crossing the finishing line at next year’s session”.  The Commission this year had made a small contribution towards that objective and towards its credibility and relevance. 

Following that statement, a number of delegations made closing remarks, among them, the representative of Lebanon, who, speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, expressed regret at the lack of consensus.  Nevertheless, the working groups had shown “tangible progress” this year, which would prepare the ground for success in future sessions.  The Arab Group reaffirmed that a multilateral solution, in line with the United Nations Charter, was the only sustainable means to address issues of disarmament and international security, and urged all Member States to renew their cooperation in that regard.

Regarding the paragraphs of the report of Working Group I relating to the convening of a conference in 2012 on establishment of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East, she said that the “unilateral” report of the conference’s organizers showed that they had neglected their responsibilities.  They must be held accountable for the delay in setting up such a zone.  She stressed the need to convene that conference as soon as possible — in 2013 — noting that failure to do so was a violation of the outcome of the 2010 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference.

The representative of Ireland, speaking on behalf of the delegation of the European Union, said she had witnessed open exchanges of views during the current session and looked forward to next session’s work towards making recommendations to the General Assembly.

The delegate of Indonesia, speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, reiterated the absolute validity of multilateralism in international peace and security and disarmament, and the centrality of the Commission within the multilateral disarmament machinery.  He hoped that the Commission would be able to make recommendations to the General Assembly.  The Movement remained ready to continue its constructive engagement to ensure a successful outcome in 2014. To that end, he called for a greater political will, flexibility and cooperation. 

Nigeria’s speaker, representing the African Group, said that debate in both working groups had been encouraging and also stressed the importance of multilateralism.  Noting the Commission’s role as a deliberative body in the disarmament machinery, he said he hoped for greater progress next year.

Introducing the report of the Commission (document A/CN.10/2013.CRP2) was Rapporteur Charlene Roopnarine ( Trinidad and Tobago).

The representative of Saudi Arabia, having chaired Working Group I, introduced its report (document A/CN.10/2013/CRP.3), and the Chair of Working Group II introduced that body’s report (document A/CN.10/2013/CRP.4).

Prior to the start of the Commission’s plenary meeting this morning, the Commission reviewed the reports of the working groups.  A discussion ensued on the language used in paragraph 9 of the report of Working Group I, regarding circulation by its Chair of papers on recommendations and/or guidelines on non-proliferation and nuclear disarmament.  Among the concerns expressed was that the phrase “should not set a precedent” could deter submission of such papers in the future.  The delegations of Algeria, Mexico, Morocco and Iran, as well as those of the United States, China, Austria and France, took part in the exchange.

Following that discussion, the Commission orally amended the paragraph and decided to retain it in the Working Group’s report. 

When the Commission reviewed its main report, the representative of the United States questioned the wording of paragraph 14, which contained a reference to the word “considered” in connection with a working paper submitted by Egypt on 17 April.  The representative of Egypt disagreed with those concerns, but nonetheless proposed an oral amendment as a compromise solution, which was then approved by the Commission.  The representatives of the United States, Nigeria, Morocco, Algeria and Iran also participated in those discussions.

* *** *

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