Following Two-Day Deliberation, Disarmament Commission Begins General Debate for Current Session without Agreement on Substantive Aspects of Agenda
2012 Substantive Session
320th & 321st Meetings (AM & PM)
Following Two-Day Deliberation, Disarmament Commission Begins General Debate
for Current Session without Agreement on Substantive Aspects of Agenda
Agenda Proposed by Chair Includes Items on Nuclear Disarmament, Conventional
Weapons for Three Year Cycle of Work; Hears from 5 Speakers in Debate’s First Day
Eager to begin its work in earnest today, the United Nations Disarmament Commission opened its general debate segment without agreement on the substantive aspects of its agenda, following two days of intensive discussion aimed at bridging positions and organizing priorities on a formulation acceptable to all.
The session began yesterday, and following a message by the Secretary-General and opening remarks by the High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, the General Assembly President and the Commission Chair, members were asked to consider a proposal of the Chair to launch a new three-year cycle of work on an agenda mandated to include issues of nuclear disarmament and conventional weapons.
On nuclear disarmament, Commission Chair Enrique Román-Morey (Peru) proposed language this morning, which, he said, mirrored that of the previous cycle, with a change in wording, to read: “Recommendations for nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation measures to achieve the objective of a nuclear-weapon-free world”. This afternoon, the Chair revised his proposal to read “Recommendations for achieving the objective of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation of nuclear weapons: Towards a world without nuclear weapons”.
Following consultations throughout the morning and much of the afternoon, delegates aired their positions in plenary, with the representatives of Mexico, Norway, United Kingdom, United States and the Russian Federation expressing support for the latest version, while the representatives of Indonesia, on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, and Iran said they could not do so.
Indonesia’s speaker said he felt “like a broken radio” with only one channel, saying the same thing. Why? he asked. Because the Movement’s position was being received “very, very unconstructively”. Rather than try to find a specific formulation acceptable to all and draft a new proposal, he wished to use language on which everyone could agree. That formulation, he said, was the text from last year. “[The Movement’s] package was put forward this morning,” he added.
The Chair then proposed that delegations adopt the agenda (document A/CN.10/L.67) “without the substantive items” and proceed to the general debate. “In the meantime, maybe a miracle will take place and we’ll be able to adopt the [substantive] agenda,” he said.
Prior to the start of the general debate, however, Mexico’s speaker put forward a slightly revised proposal for the nuclear item, which was tweaked further by the delegate from the United Kingdom. By the end of the day, the following version was on the table: “Recommendations for achieving the objective of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation for a world without nuclear weapons”.
As for the language for the item on conventional weapons, the Chair yesterday had proposed using the same language as last year: “Practical confidence-building measures in the field of conventional weapons”. It was not discussed today in plenary.
When the general debate got under way, with less than an hour left to the meeting, delegates affirmed the validity of multilateral diplomacy in the field of disarmament and non-proliferation, as well as the centrality of the Commission in providing in-depth deliberation on specific disarmament issues culminating in the submission of concrete recommendations. However, lack of agreement on an agenda and the body’s recent unproductive past were worrying.
The representative of Japan, for example, said that “a lack of political will cannot be an excuse for a continuing stalemate in the [Commission]”, given its role as a deliberative body to bridge the diverging views of Member States in negotiations. With universal representation, the Commission had an important role as a venue where United Nations Member States could hold candid discussions on specific ideas in the field of disarmament and non-proliferation.
It was important to adhere to the consensus rule, said Algeria’s representative, stressing also the need to “breathe new life” into the Commission by demonstrating true cooperation and mutual understanding. As a unique, specialized deliberative body in the United Nations multilateral architecture, the Commission should adopt a new agenda in a frank and constructive manner and contribute to reinvigorating disarmament. The blockage was due, in large part, to a lack of political will and the security concerns of certain States, he said.
In other business today, two Vice-Chairpersons were elected to the Bureau: from the Group of African States, Djamel Moktefi of Algeria, and from the Group of Latin American and Caribbean States, Rodrigo Pintado of Mexico. The Chair announced that consultations among the Group of Asia and Pacific States for election of a Vice-Chair and Rapporteur were continuing.
Statements in the debate were also made by the representatives of Chile (on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States), Poland and the Republic of Korea.
The Disarmament Commission will meet again at 10 a.m. Wednesday, 4 April, to continue its general debate.
The United Nations Disarmament Commission met today to continue its work for the substantive session, due to conclude 20 April. For further information, please see Press Release DC/3336.
OCTAVIO ERRÁZURIZ (Chile), on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), emphasized that the total elimination of nuclear weapons was the only way to guarantee against their use or threat of their use. “The group therefore reaffirms the importance of the complete, transparent, verifiable and irreversible nuclear disarmament as the highest priority, and also reiterates the priority attached to nuclear non-proliferation,” he said.
He confirmed that the region was the first densely populated area in the world to be declared a nuclear-weapon-free zone through the Tlatelolco Treaty, urging the nuclear powers to withdraw all reservations to the pact’s protocols. The bloc also called on States that had not yet acceded to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) to do so as non-nuclear-weapon States. The group urged some States to accelerate the process of ratifying the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, as their ratifications were essential to the Treaty’s entry into force. He also welcomed the ratifications by Ghana, Guinea, Indonesia, Guatemala and Trinidad and Tobago, saying “each ratification gets us closer to the fulfilment of the Treaty”.
KAZUO KODAMA (Japan) said that “a lack of political will cannot be an excuse for a continuing stalemate in the [Commission]”, given its role as a deliberative body to bridge the diverging views of Member States in negotiations. In light of its universal representation, the Disarmament Commission had an important role as a venue where United Nations Member States could hold candid discussions on specific ideas in the field of disarmament and non-proliferation. Japan strongly supported the Chairman’s leadership to revitalize the body, and in order to assist those efforts and to facilitate the discussion among Member States, Japan intended to submit a working paper shortly. It hoped that would assist Member States not only to reach a consensus on the agenda items, but to engage on substantive issues, even during the current session.
The success of the 2010 NPT Review Conference had built momentum for nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation. However, once again this year, the Conference on Disarmament had failed to adopt a programme of work, and there were still no prospects for the commencement of negotiations on a fissile material cut-off treaty. No efforts should be spared to build momentum for nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation within the Disarmament Commission. Member States must examine what kind of substantive input would be of greatest benefit over the next three-year cycle with respect to the Commission’s relationship with other forums, he said. In that regard, Japan strongly looked forward to specific ideas presented by Poland in its working paper, which gave clear guidance as to how the Commission could produce tangible results.
The positive momentum of the 2010 NPT Review Conference and the recent Seoul Nuclear Security Summit stood in clear contrast to the continuing proliferation of nuclear materials and nuclear technology, and great threats posed by them. Although sanctions based on Security Council resolutions had been implemented, various instances of violations continued to be reported. Efforts were needed not only towards disarmament, but also towards non-proliferation. In light of the Chairman’s significant expertise in those areas, elements such as regional cooperation, which included the concept of nuclear-weapons-free-zone treaties, warranted due consideration. In addition, he said, Japan believed that the current session should engage in a broader discussion, which encompassed the strengthening of its functioning as a deliberative body on disarmament and non-proliferation.
MOURAD BENMEHIDI (Algeria), associating himself with the statement of the Non-Aligned Movement, said it was important to adhere to the consensus rule and take the opportunity to “breathe new life” into the Commission’s work by demonstrating true cooperation and mutual understanding. As a unique, specialized deliberative body in the United Nations multilateral architecture, the Commission should adopt a new agenda in a frank and constructive manner and contribute to reinvigorating disarmament. The blockage was due, in large part, to a lack of political will and the security concerns of certain States. A balanced agenda should take into account the concerns and priorities of all Member States. The international situation was ripe for dialogue and the implementation of some disarmament measures. He deplored any attempt to re-launch the arms race, which would lead to the development of new types of weapons and increasing military budgets. Those resources could be used for humanitarian purposes and to assist in meeting the challenges of poverty, disease and climate change.
Algeria, he said, would spare no effort in contributing to the work of the Commission, which played an “irreplaceable” role as a body of reflection and recommendation. It should examine all disarmament issues, including nuclear disarmament. He reiterated his country’s position regarding the ultimate objective of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, namely the total elimination of nuclear weapons. He stressed the need to implement both the Treaty’s articles VI and IV, concerning, respectively, nuclear disarmament and the peaceful use of nuclear energy. Touching on several other issues, he advocated the entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty and called for legally binding negative security assurances for non-nuclear-weapon States, as well as the conclusion of a treaty banning fissile material for nuclear weapons. Additionally, he stressed the need for a Middle East zone free of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction, and pressed for a nuclear weapons convention.
WITOLD SOBKÓW (Poland) said his delegation was “deeply concerned with the state of the [Commission]”, which had been unable to make any substantive contribution since 1999. His delegation was determined to make a serious contribution to overcoming the persisting impasse in the disarmament machinery. It was also determined not to create a precedent that could compromise “the preferred way of decision-making” in disarmament and arms-control bodies, namely consensus. Taking into account the current stalemate in the Commission, Poland was of the view that recommendations adopting during recent sessions — which had considered means of enhancing the functioning of the Commission — should serve as a basis for the body’s work in years to come. For that purpose, Poland had submitted a working paper on the functioning of the Commission, which touched upon three issues that could help it move forward.
First, according to a decision taken at the 1990 substantive session, if no agreement could be reached on a specific agenda item, the report of the Commission should contain a joint statement or a Chairman’s summary to reflect positions of different delegations. Therefore, during the 2012-2014 cycle, that option should be taken seriously into account if no agreement could be reached on consensus-based recommendations. Moreover, the Chairman’s summary could be a part of the session’s outcome, regardless of its final result, which would allow for better reflection of the discussion and serve as a useful record keeper for future deliberations. Second, in accordance with a report from the 2006 substantive session, the Commission could invite, as appropriate, experts on disarmament, including those at the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research, for discussions at its plenary meetings. That would help maintain the “deliberative character” of the Commission. Third, the working paper recalled decisions encouraging States to elect officers to the Commission at the earliest possible stage, he said.
SHIN DONG IK (Republic of Korea) recalled that, at the 2011 substantive session of the Commission, his delegation had addressed the body “with high hopes”. Nevertheless, that meeting had once again failed to live up to such lofty expectations. During the current session, in order to avoid another three years of inertia, the Commission should engage in serious discussions on how it could revitalize the global agenda of disarmament and non-proliferation. Member States needed to have a clear idea and a shared understanding of the very rationale of the Commission and its working methods. Second, the Commission needed more focused topics for deliberation. As the next three-year cycle would be held during both the arms trade treaty process and the preparatory process for the ninth NPT Review Conference, a more focused topic on nuclear and conventional weapons should be framed. The Republic of Korea was open to any number of specific topics in those fields, with the caveat that discussion of nuclear non-proliferation be given equal weight with nuclear disarmament.
Third, the Commission should keep exerting efforts towards resolving current issues, such as normalization of the Conference on Disarmament and the early entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty. That was needed not only for nuclear non-proliferation, but also for nuclear disarmament, he said. In addition, his delegation believed that the monitoring and verification mechanisms of the Treaty needed to be even further strengthened through the universalization of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Additional Protocol.
Addressing the “North Korean nuclear issue”, which had long presented a serious challenge to the nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation regime, he said the Republic of Korea remained committed to realizing the denuclearization of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in a peaceful manner and in close cooperation with the international community. Unfortunately, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had recently veered again from moving in a positive direction by announcing on 16 March that it would launch a so-called “application satellite” between 12 and 16 April. That was a grave concern to many Member States, as it was a clear violation of Security Council resolution 1874 (2009). The Republic of Korea strongly urged the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to immediately stop such a provocative action and to comply with its international obligations.
Finally, he recalled that the Seoul Nuclear Security Summit had been held in his country last week. The Seoul communiqué translated the declarations of the Washington Summit into concrete actions and provided measures to prevent nuclear and radiological terrorism in a comprehensive way. In particular, participating States had agreed to, by the end of 2013, put forward voluntary specific actions to minimize the use of highly enriched uranium. His delegation hoped that the Summit would help to nurture transparency and confidence among countries, which was a vital element in generating further momentum in the disarmament and non-proliferation field.
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