First Committee: Disarmament and International Security; International Security Needs 'Collective Action'

Article excerpt

The First Committee at its sixtieth session was faced with some hard decisions and difficult choices in the areas of disarmament, nuclear proliferation and international security.

Chairman Choi Young-Jin of the Republic of Korea told the UN Chronicle that the Committee commenced its work on a "discouraging background", as the 2005 World Summit Outcome document failed to address its core issues. Moreover, the stalemate in disarmament mechanisms, such as the Conference on Disarmament and the Disarmament Commission, as well as the unsuccessful 2005 Review Conference of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), only brought down the mood in the Committee. "No disarmament mechanism was working, everything is closed, shutdown", Ambassador Choi said, adding that the Committee was the "only show in town".

The Committee was faced with many impediments as it opened its session. There was a "deadlock between conceptualists in the North (developed countries) and South (developing countries)", Mr. Choi said. The standstill created a huge barrier during deliberations and was especially prevalent over the disarmament and nonproliferation issues. Disarmament meant "reduce what you have now", he added. This ideology was directly contrasted with the idea of non-proliferation, which simply put is, "don't touch what we have now, and we will not allow any new weapons development", he added. The North wanted to largely centre its debate on non-proliferation, while the South wanted to focus on disarmament.

Yet, with the growing spectre of nuclear proliferation and the slow pace of nuclear disarmament, the Committee was able to roll out several new drafts and revise substantially some traditional ones. It had to deal with two draft texts with opposing viewpoints: one on the need for compliance with nuclear nonproliferation agreements, and the other urging pursuit of agreed nuclear disarmament obligations. The United States-led text on compliance with non-proliferation, arms limitation and disarmament agreements was adopted by 163 votes to none, with 10 abstentions, while the competing Iran-led text on the follow-up to nuclear disarmament obligations agreed to at the 1995 and 2000 NPT Review Conferences was adopted by 87 to 56, with 26 abstentions.

Iran's representative, explaining his abstention from the resolution on compliance, said that a subjective conclusion of non-compliance and the attempt to use that as a "political and foreign policy leverage" undermined the global disarmament and nonproliferation regime. Unlike the previous drafts on compliance, this text had contained drastic changes and had strengthened suspicions that the United States had no trust in such competent international organizations as the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), he said. The United States representative, speaking after the vote on the text on follow-up to disarmament obligations, said she had voted "no" on the draft as it shrouded proliferation and non-compliance under the false mantle of the pace of nuclear disarmament. All one needed to do was to look at the draft's sponsor, she said, which was none other than the State that the IAEA Board of Governors just over a month ago had found to be in non-compliance with its NPT obligations.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

In addition to the traditional resolution on "Prevention of an arms race in outer space", which was adopted by 180 to 2, a new Russian Federation text on "Transparency and confidence-building measures in outer space activities" was adopted by 178 to 1, with 1 abstention. Its representative, Anton Vasiliev, stressed that the weaponization of space was a credible and major threat, and any hopes to dominate space with the use of force were illusory. One would need to close the loopholes in current international space law and achieve a new and comprehensive international legal agreement, which would block opportunities to deploy any type of weapons in space, he said. …