No Agreement on Work Programme Even as Disarmament Chief Tells Commission ‘It Is Your Duty’ to Bridge Wide Chasm between Positions

6 April 2015
2015 Session, 344th & 345th Meetings (AM & PM)

No Agreement on Work Programme Even as Disarmament Chief Tells Commission ‘It Is Your Duty’ to Bridge Wide Chasm between Positions

Security ‘Either Global or Not at All’, Says Chair in Opening Remarks

With armed violence killing more than 740,000 people each year and the prospects of deeper nuclear arms cuts slim, the United Nations disarmament machinery must end its 15 year-long stalemate so it could tackle those twenty-first century security threats, the Disarmament Commission heard today, although it proved unable to agree on a work programme and begin its substantive debate.   

This year marked a new three-year cycle in the Commission’s work, said Angela Kane, High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, urging Member States as the session opened to summon the political will required to pull out of the current morass and produce tangible results capable of advancing the important issues.

“We are unfortunately witnessing a triumph of ritual over concrete results,” she said, expressing disappointment at what she called an annual procedural “box-checking exercise”.  She worried about a possible roll-back of the hard-won disarmament gains of the past 25 years and said she had “never seen a wider divide between nuclear haves and nuclear have-nots over the scale and pace of nuclear disarmament”.

In an ever-growing complicated international security environment, exacerbated by emerging cyberthreats and the evolving use of unmanned aerial vehicles, she urged the Commission to fulfil its potential.  “By adopting a new three-year cycle deliberative agenda,” she said, “the Commission can collectively cast its vote for multilateralism, for disarmament as an essential means to strengthen international peace and security and for the United Nations as an indispensable common forum for the pursuit of common interests.”

While some “bright spots” had indeed emerged from the “dark clouds” of the disarmament malaise, she said, pointing to the entry into force of the Arms Trade Treaty and Syria’s accession to the Chemical Weapons Convention, work remained on vital issues.  If at the peak of cold war tensions, between 1979 and 1999, the Commission had been able to adopt 16 guidelines, recommendations and declarations on critical issues, surely results could be achieved today. 

“While the chasm between positions can seem wide,” she said, “it is your duty to bridge it.  Make this your legacy”.

Agreeing, Commission Chair Fodé Seck (Senegal) said it was necessary to overcome the impasse and restore the body’s credibility.  “The stalemate must lead to major multilateral efforts to provide a collective response to the challenges humanity faces,” he said, adding that it was crucial to bear in mind that “security is either global or not at all.”

Over the next three weeks, he voiced hope that the Commission would be able to agree on a programme of work on the two main agenda items before it: nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation; and confidence-building measures in the field of conventional weapons.

Also during its opening meeting, the Commission elected by acclamation Marija Perišič (Serbia), Andrea Romussi (Italy), Manuel Frederico Pinheiro da Silva (Portugal) and Claudio Garrido (Chile)  as Vice-Chairs of the 2015 session, and Lachezara Stoeva (Bulgaria) as Rapporteur.

The Disarmament Commission is a subsidiary body of the General Assembly comprising all United Nations Member States.  It meets annually, with an agenda which, as of 2000, normally comprises two substantive items, which are then debated for three consecutive years.

The Commission will meet again at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 7 April.

For information media. Not an official record.