The Disarmament Commission elected the Chair for its 2016 substantive session today, and reviewed the provisional agenda for the second year of its three-year cycle, to be held from 4 to 21 April.
During an organizational meeting this morning, the Commission elected Odo Tevi (Vanuatu) as Chair by acclamation. Upon assuming that duty, he thanked outgoing Chair Fodé Seck (Senegal) for his excellent guidance and leadership, as well as members and delegations for their constructive spirit and cooperation in 2015. He said that, in light of ongoing consultations within regional groups to determine the Vice-Chair and Rapporteur candidates, the Commission could address that issue at a later stage.
He then turned to General Assembly resolution 70/68, “report of the Disarmament Commission”, adopted on 7 December 2015, which had a specific bearing on the Commission’s work. By that text, the Assembly welcomed the Commission’s adoption of the provisional agenda for its 2015 substantive session on the understanding that consultations would continue on ways and means to implement resolution 69/77, and its decision that the agenda for its 2015 substantive session should serve for the period 2015-2017.
Further by the text, the Assembly recommended that the Commission continue, in its 2016 substantive session, to consider 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. It requested that the Commission meet for three weeks and submit a substantive report to the Assembly’s seventy-first session, stressing that it should contain a Chair’s summary of the proceedings to reflect different views or positions if no agreement could be reached on any specific agenda item.
The representative of the Russian Federation called for activating the Commission as an “active” part of the disarmament “triad” because its objectives and functions included reaching agreement on armament control, disarmament and non-proliferation — all of which were required “as never before”. Indeed, the Commission should be used effectively, he said, adding that his delegation had serious concerns about State actions that sought to establish parallel structures, such as working groups, which only doubled the Commission’s work. Rather, the Commission’s unrealized potential should be activated since it was aware of the problems impeding its work — lack of political will to identify priorities.
For its part, the Russian Federation was ready to examine ideas to “kick-start” the Commission’s activities, he continued, cautioning against “correcting” rules of procedure as they were the basis of any decision. The Russian Federation was confident that the Commission could provide a high-quality product based on Assembly decisions taken with a view to improving its working methods. The 2015 provisional agenda was also timely for 2016, he said, requesting information on the status of an “additional third subject” and “outcomes of consultations with States”, which were meant to have been included in the intersessional period. He said he wished to consolidate work by including the issue of weapons in outer space on the agenda.
Morocco’s representative said political will was crucial to any agreement, and the Commission should continue to work on the basis of consensus. By improving its working methods, it could facilitate efforts to reach any agreement by consensus, including by implementing the resolution, especially operative paragraph 2 and others, which encouraged revitalization of the Commission in its current triennial cycle. The text also covered continuing efforts towards an agenda that would favour more focused discussions.
Kazakhstan’s representative said it was critical to hold discussions between now and April so that no precious time would be taken away from the substantive meeting once it started. There was general agreement on the broad objectives of disarmament, he said, noting that “the devil lies in detail” — namely the approaches — over which there were “radical differences” among different groupings, especially Working Group 1. He suggested that forthcoming meetings be structured in a way that would allow the Working Groups to revert to the practice prevailing since 2013. He said that, as Chair of Working Group 1, he intended to hold intensive consultations with as many key players, experts and regional groups as possible between now and April.
He went on to say that, while many delegations wished to see a third item on the agenda, such a decision would depend on the pace of each Working Group and on a spirit of cooperation. While additional items could be envisaged, only in April could there be a realistic appraisal of whether to include them. States could take inspiration from the 2015 Sustainable Development Summit, or the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference, where States had surmounted vast differences to achieve common goals in critical times, he noted. Likewise, there was no option but to take a unified stand against the threat of terrorism by State and non-State actors.
In other business, the Commission took note of the provisional agenda for the 2016 substantive session (document A/CN.10/L.76).
It also adopted the provisional agenda for the organizational session (document A/CN.10/L.75), as orally revised, following comments by Morocco’s representative. It was expected to complete its Bureau by April, filling outstanding vacancies for one Vice-Chair and Rapporteur from the Group of African States and two Vice-Chairs from each of the following regional groups: Asia-Pacific States, Eastern European States, Latin American and Caribbean States, and the Western European and Other States.
The Disarmament Commission will reconvene at a time and date to be announced.