'Limited Progress' Noted in Disarmament Commission

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'Limited progress' noted in Disarmament Commission

The 159-member Disarmament Commission achieved only "limited progress" in its 1989 session (New York, 8-31 May), according to its Chairman, Bagbeni Adeito Nzengeya of Zaire. Unlike last year, when the body had been able to adopt consensus texts on two major items--verification and confidence-building measures--this year it did not achieve consensus on draft texts on the nuclear arms race and nuclear disarmament, conventional disarmament, the nuclear capability of South Africa, and the role of the UN in disarmament.

Completion of a set of principles to help govern the freezing and reduction of military budgets of nations was among the most promising goals for the Commission in 1989. However, consensus was not reached on those principles and, instead, a text identical to its 1988 report was transmitted to the General Assembly.

The Commission also did not complete its work on the only new item on its 1989 agenda, "The Declaration of the 1990s as the Third Disarmament Decade". The General Assembly was asked to consider further action on that matter.

Consultations on naval arms and disarmament, however, turned out to be "most productive", the Chairman said, resulting in a number of substantive findings and recommendations which could serve as a basis for further deliberations in the future.

Against the backdrop of an improved international situation, the results of the session were considered particularly disappointing by many delegates. Several wanted the work of the Commission analysed so that it would be made more effective in the future and so that existing differences could be overcome.

Proposals included: streamlining the agenda to concentrate on a few topical items each year; rotating the chairmanship of working groups, and shortening the session's duration. The Commission decided to establish a working group during the Assembly later in 1989 to explore organizational and substantive possibilities to enhance the role of the Commission and take up the various proposals.

The present Commission, a successor to an earlier Disarmament Commission (1952-1965), was mandated by the first special session of the General Assembly on disarmament, held in 1978, to provide a deliberative forum for all Member States to consider disarmament issues when the Assembly is not in session. …

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