UN First Committee Seeks FMCT Progress
Taylor, Marcus, Arms Control Today
Following the failure of the Conference on Disarmament (CD) to agree on a program of work necessary to make substantive progress toward a fissile material cutofftreaty (FMCT) and other issues, the UN General Assembly First Committee passed three resolutions that try to break the gridlock in the CD through the creation of other, complementary bodies.
The statements and resolutions tabled by several UN member states made clear their wavering confidence in the CD and its ability to fulfill its mandate.
The CD concluded its third and final session of the year in September without reaching consensus on a program of work. As it has in the past, Pakistan blocked the start of negotiations on an FMCT, citing the need to address existing fissile stockpiles as well as new production.
In his report to the First Committee, CD Secretary-General Kassym-Jomart Tokayev of Kazakhstan said that nothing can "mask the stagnation in what should serve the international community as its single standing multilateral disarmament negotiating forum."
Group of Governmental Experts
In response, the First Committee approved a resolution (A/C.1/67/L.41/ Rev/1) put forward by Canada on an FMCT. The resolution, which was approved by a vote of 148-1 with 20 abstentions, requests that the UN secretary-general produce a report in 2013 on how to move forward on FMCT negotiations based on input from member states. It also calls on the secretary-general to establish a group of governmental experts, comprising 25 member states, to discuss how to advance negotiations on an FMCT.
These meetings would occur for two weeks each in 2014 and 2015 and would end immediately in the event that the CD is able to pass a comprehensive program of work. The experts group is to submit a final report with a list of recommendations on how to advance FMCT negotiations and what technical aspects to include in the treaty.
Some member states, including China and Iran, expressed concern that the experts group would tarnish the legitimacy of the CD as the only recognized international forum for disarmament negotiations. Pakistan, the only state to vote against the resolution, said in its Nov. 5 explanation of its vote that the group "adds no value to the substance of the envisaged treaty" and would "undermine the CD, the sole multilateral negotiating forum."
Several of the 20 countries that abstained voiced the same concern. Some states also expressed concern about moving the discussions from the 65-member CD to a forum of only 25 states.
Open-Ended Working Group
By a vote of 134-4 with 34 abstentions, the First Committee approved another resolution (A/C.1/67/L.46) that would attempt to foster progress on an FMCT by drafting a report with proposals on how the CD can break its deadlock. That resolution calls for the creation of an open-ended working group to convene in Geneva in 2013. According to a Nov. 1 statement by Mexico, one of the resolution's three sponsors, the group will "develop proposals" on how to move disarmament negotiations forward. …