Disagreement Not Necessarily Negative If Progress Can Follow, Chair Stresses, as First Committee Concludes Session, Approving Programme of Work for 2022
The First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) concluded its seventy‑sixth session today, approving the programme of work for its 2022 session.
Omar Hilale (Morocco), Chair of the First Committee, highlighted its work in closing remarks, noting that 137 delegations made interventions during the general debate, including 33 women. He added that delegates voted more than 10 times during the action phase, approving 60 of 61 draft resolutions and draft decisions, 37 of them by recorded vote. The Committee also held 66 separate requested votes.
“The First Committee has shown us that over and above our differences, we face the same threats; our disagreements are the point of departure,” he said, adding that in spite of pandemic-related restrictions, it maintained its verve and pertinence in diagnosing situations relating to disarmament and international security. Despite the high number of votes on separate provisions, members showed tolerance, demonstrating that anything is possible when there is political will. Their efforts resulted in the consensus approval of a high number of in key areas such as cyberspace and outer space.
Among the issues that emerged during the session, he continued, was advancing nuclear disarmament using all relevant platforms, including the tenth Review Conference of the Treaty on the Non‑Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, as a priority, alongside the need for more dialogue and negotiations on dual-use issues, inclusiveness and the participation of civil society, youth and women.
The Committee also heard explanations of position relating to the voting on 3 November, when it approved the draft resolution “Follow-up to the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice on the legality of the threat or use of nuclear weapons” and rejected the new draft “Secretary‑General’s Mechanism for Investigation of Alleged Use of Chemical and Biological Weapons”. (For details, see Press Release GA/DIS/3678.)
Pakistan’s representative said his delegation voted in favour of the draft on the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice, but abstained on its preambular paragraph 17 and operative paragraph 2 due to their references to a divisive initiative. He added that Pakistan did not participate in the negotiations relating to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, noting that it does not contribute to customary international law in any manner and calling for the conclusion of an agreement in the Conference on Disarmament.
India’s representative, referring to the same draft, said hers was the only State possessing nuclear weapons to have co-sponsored the draft in the past, but that changes made to the text in 2017 were disappointing. The objective of the resolution in operative paragraph 2 is ambiguous, she said, and her delegation therefore abstained. Regarding the draft on the Secretary‑General’s Mechanism, she recognized its efforts to incorporate the views of Member States, while stating that it still falls short of expectations. Turning to the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and of Their Destruction (Chemical Weapons Convention), and the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on Their Destruction (Biological Weapons Convention), she called for negotiations on a comprehensive legally binding protocol to the latter. She also called for negotiations on a verification protocol to the Biological Weapons Convention, noting that her delegation abstained on that draft.
Mexico’s representative said her delegation also abstained on that draft, expressing regret that the scope of the proposal is unclear. She also questioned the need to change the guidelines of the Secretary‑General’s Mechanism this year. She went on to affirm Mexico’s commitment to strengthening the Biological Weapons Convention though a verification protocol.
Argentina’s representative said his delegation abstained, emphasizing that the Mechanism must proceed in accordance with the 1990 guidelines, which were updated in 2007. A new update is therefore not necessary, he added.
The Committee also took up its remaining two agenda items — revitalization of the work of the General Assembly, and programme planning.
Brazil’s representative, recalling that his delegation raised the issue of programme planning on 30 September, said the Secretariat has been left without governmental guidance for the third consecutive year. Whereas Brazil submitted draft decisions on programme planning in the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) and Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization), it did not table such a draft in the First Committee in hopes of maintaining consensus, he explained.
Mr. Hilale (Morocco), Committee Chair, said disagreement is not necessarily negative as long as progress can follow. Despite disagreement over programme planning, the statement by Brazil’s representative dovetails with the concept of moving forward, he added. Hopefully the Committee will be in a position to catch up and consider matters sent to it by the Committee for Programme and Coordination, he said. Noting the existence of cross-cutting issues that other committees must also deal with, he emphasized that the crucial thing is a consensus that desires progress.
In other business, the Committee approved its draft provisional programme of work and timetable for 2022 (document A/C.1/76/CRP.5), which proposes an organizational meeting on 29 September, to be followed by eight meetings for the general debate, 12 meetings for the thematic discussion segment and six meetings for the action phase.
Several delegations delivered closing statements.
Malaysia’s representative noted that delegations managed to engage formally and informally, virtually and in hallways, the kind of procedural work that must be preserved and enhanced. He went on to note the improvement in the quality of deliberations and applauded the Chair’s firm time management.
Mexico’s representative commended the Chair’s disciplined conduct of the proceedings, describing the session as a little more like pre‑COVID times. However, she expressed concern that delegations do not listen to one another enough, calling for improved interactions in future.
Indonesia’s representative, describing the session as productive, expressed hope that the Committee can return to pre-pandemic procedures in 2022.
Egypt’s delegate welcomed the efforts of the Chair and the delegation of Morocco, representing Arab and African States.