6 October 2020
Seventy-fifth Session, 1st Meeting (PM)

Disarmament Committee Approves Work Programme, Plans for Virtual Meetings Tailored to Deliver Results amid COVID-19 Restrictions

Member States Reject Host Country’s ‘Abuse’ Regarding Issuance of Visas, Reiterating Right to Participate in United Nations Work

The First Committee (Disarmament and International Security), opening its seventy-fifth session today, adopted a programme of work, timetable and plans for virtual meetings, given current restrictions at Headquarters related to the COVID‑19 pandemic.

First Committee Chair Agustin Santos Maraver (Spain) said that while measures to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus will prevent holding a full-fledged session, the Bureau will ensure the continuity of work and fulfill its responsibility to deliver results to the General Assembly.

Unlike previous years, he said, the Committee will conduct its work in two phases, rather than three.  As part of efforts to streamline its work for this unique session, the traditional thematic discussions will not be held.  Instead, the first phase will be a general debate on all agenda items, to be held from 9 to 23 October.  In the absence of thematic discussions, the general debate segment will include three virtual informal meetings, with interactive dialogues on specific subjects.  The Committee will take action on all draft proposals from 27 October to 4 November, during the session’s second phase.

The representative of Iran, speaking on behalf of Cuba, Russian Federation, Syria and Venezuela, raised concerns about the host country’s issuance of visas.  Rejecting the United States amplified efforts to discriminatorily impose travel and movement restrictions on some Member States, he emphasized that all nations have a legitimate right to participate in United Nations work on equal footing.  “We reject the abuse of the United States of its status as host country; this practice is a deliberate attempt to disrupt the full discharge of our abilities at the United Nations,” he said, adding that such actions run afoul of the United Nations Charter.

The Committee today also agreed to proceed with its session in accordance with modalities related to the exercise of the right of reply and explanations of vote proposed due to the extraordinary circumstances imposed by the pandemic.

Speaking in his national capacity, Iran’s representative warned the Chair of concerns related to suggested modalities of work, including virtual consultations, that may negatively affect the Committee’s session.  Submitting statements and exercising the right of reply in written form may result in uncertainty among Member States, he said, urging that such measures not set a precedent for the body’s future sessions.

At the outset of the meeting, the Committee elected by acclamation Bassem Hassan (Egypt) as Vice-Chair.  Mr. Hassan will serve alongside Vice-Chairs Ariel R. Penaranda (Philippines) and Corina-Cristina Lefter (Romania), with Maria del Rosario Estrada Giron (Guatemala) serving as Rapporteur.

The First Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. on Friday, 9 October, to begin its general debate.

For information media. Not an official record.