Approaching the One-Trillion-Dollar Mark

UN Chronicle, June 1988 | Go to article overview

Approaching the One-Trillion-Dollar Mark


Approaching the one-trillion-dollar mark...

Forty-three years ago, the United Nations was established to save "succeeding generations from the scourge of war" and to promote international peace and security "with the least diversion for armaments of the world's human and economic resources". Over the years, no subject has received more continuous or serious attention at the United Nations than disarmament.

The General Assembly this year is to hold a third special session on disarmament, scheduled from 31 May to 25 June in New York. Experts feel there are several reasons it has every chance to become a milestone in the disarmament process.

The current relaxation of international tension and improved East-West relations has created a favourable political environment for the session. The 1987 Soviet-American treaty on intermediate-and shorter-range missiles, regarded by many as the world's first major nuclear disarmament measure, could give new impetus to the disarmament process. Ongoing negotiations between the two super-Powers in Geneva, it is hoped, may result in drastic cuts in their strategic nuclear arsenals.

Great strides have been made in the Conference on Disarmament towards a global ban on the production, stockpiling and use of chemical weapons. The Final Document of the 1987 International Conference on the Relationship between Disarmament and Development--adopted by consensus--set forth ideas which received near-universal support.

However, despite all these positive signs, concern over the arms race grows. Numerous efficient deadly weapons are still being produced. The warheads of a single modern nuclear submarine have more explosive power than all the munitions used in the Second World War. Between 1960 and 1980, world expenditures for military purposes almost doubled in real terms--today estimated at in excess of $900 billion a year. If present trends continue, the astounding figure may well reach $1 trillion a year.

To check alarming trends...

The third special session will review and appraise the present international situation, especially in light of the vital objective of terminating the arms race and the pressing need to achieve substantial progress in the field of disarmament.

It will also: . assess the implementation of the decisions and recommendations adopted at the first and second special sessions of the General Assembly on disarmament, held in 1978 and 1982; . consider a comprehensive programme of disarmament; . assess developments and trends, including qualitative and quantitative aspects, relevant to the disarmament process to elaborate appropriate concrete and practical measures and, if necessary, additional principles, taking into account the principles and priorities established in the 1978 Final Document of the first special session; . consider the role of the United Nations in the field of disarmament and of the effectiveness of the disarmament machinery; and . review United Nations information and educational activities in the field of disarmament, including measures to mobilize world public opinion in favour of disarmament.

Steps to the session

In 1983, the General Assembly took the decision to convene a third special session on disarmament not later than 1988. An open-ended preparatory committee, created in 1986, has drawn up a provisional agenda for the session and studied all pertinent matters relating to it.

Chaired by Ambassador Mansur Ahmad of Pakistan, the Committee held three sessions: in December 1986, May-June 1987 and January-February 1988. It was recommended that Member States be represented at the special General Assembly at the highest possible political level. Non-governmental organizations concerned with disarmament and peace and disarmament research institutions were to be accorded the same facilities as those which they had received at the first and second special sessions.

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