Finding Common Ground; First Committee: Disarmament and International Security
As the world stands in the midst of dangers brought on by the nuclear proliferation of ballistic missiles capable of delivering weapons of mass destruction, terrorism, arising environmental concerns (see box on page 13) and thriving illicit small-arms businesses plaguing all corners of the world, the First Committee convened its session during the fifty-ninth General Assembly to seek out resolutions to the challenges in international security regime.
"The agenda that the First Committee is dealing with is a very rich one", Committee Chairman Luis Alfonso de Alba of Mexico told the UN Chronicle. "It is also an agenda that has not moved according to the means of our time." Referring to the inability of the Disarmament Commission in the last seven years to agree on a programme of work, Ambassador de Alba said that multilateralism was in a state of crisis, and it was important to identify specific practical methods to move forward and engage the international community in implementation of reforms.
During the session, reform of the Committee emerged as one of the most visible initiatives. The draft resolution, "Improving the effectiveness of the methods of work of the First Committee", was adopted without a vote. This entails Member States to approach texts in a more concise, focused and action-oriented manner, and also involves planning the agenda items for a two- to three-year period. "This will reduce the number of draft resolutions to be taken automatically each year", Desra Percaya of Indonesia told the Chronicle. "So each delegation will realize that some draft resolutions do not have to appear year by year and that there will be no reoccurrence of agenda items."
In addressing the Committee's working methods, texts that are similar in substance were merged. This initiative was especially relevant in light of the fact that there had been originally two draft resolutions on improving working methods: one submitted by the United States, and the other by Malaysia on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement. After weeks of negotiations, the two co-sponsors managed to unite their divergent draft texts, tabled by Indonesia, and present a single unified call for Committee reform. "It was one of the best compromises made between the Non-Aligned Movement countries and the United States", Mr. Percaya said. "There was no rivalry, just a consensual marriage", referring to the merger.
Allocating a lot of time to the decision-making process in the general debate, Mr. de Alba said that very little time was being given to "thematic discussions", which focus on common concerns. "This needed to be changed. And by improving the programme of work for next year, we will be consolidating what has been possible to achieve during this session without limiting the time given to any delegation to take part in the debate", he added.
During the session, the General Assembly adopted 52 draft resolutions, 31 of which were without a vote, 7 with less than five States against, and 12 received more than 10 votes cast against them. Some 14 resolutions pertaining to nuclear disarmament were passed.
The resolution, "A path to the total elimination of nuclear weapons", introduced by Japan, was adopted by a vote of 165 to 3 (India, Palau, United States), with 16 abstentions. In its explanation of vote, India maintained that the principles of non-proliferation, as enshrined in the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), were discriminatory. In addition, operative paragraph 1, which called on his country to join the NPT as a non-nuclear-weapon State, was "unrealistic and unacceptable". Sanjiv Ranjan of India told the Chronicle that "disarmament and nuclear proliferation must be controlled, but there are specific issues of concern that prevent countries, which are even willing to start and implement a process of disarmament, to do so".
The New Agenda Coalition (NAC), which includes Brazil, Egypt, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, South Africa and Sweden, introduced the resolution, "Accelerating the implementation of nuclear disarmament commitments", which was adopted by a vote of 151 to 6 (France, Israel, Latvia, Palau, United Kingdom, United States), with 24 abstentions. …