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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 10, November 1996

First Committee Report
By Rebecca Johnson

Disarmament Intelligence Review

The 1996 Session of the United Nations First Committee on Disarmament and International Security

Forty four draft resolutions and two draft decisions were debated and adopted by the First Committee (C1) on Disarmament and International Security of the United Nations Fifty First General Assembly (UNGA 51) in New York. Some merely sought UN resources for ongoing research or programmes in confidence building. Others updated information and expressed support for nuclear-weapon-free zones or regional initiatives.

Among the many resolutions only a handful stand out as significant or with the potential to break new ground: the Malaysian resolution, which welcomed the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons and called for negotiations leading to a nuclear weapon convention; the call by the US and 112 others for a complete ban on anti-personnel landmines; the near consensus backing for a fourth special session on disarmament (UNSSOD IV) in 1999, proposed by the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM); the concept of a nuclear-weapon-free Southern Hemisphere piloted jointly by Brazil and New Zealand.

Although First Committee resolutions tend to be weighted down with ritual and rhetoric, they also contain messages that have to be taken seriously. Laying the first foundation stone for the concept of a nuclear weapon convention, the Malaysian resolution did surprisingly well. No-one imagines that this call will result in negotiations next year, but the resolution begins the process of embedding the idea that a nuclear weapon convention is something reasonable to aspire to, and achievable with sufficient political will, just as the CWC or BWC have been.

Likewise the call for a total ban on anti-personnel landmines was a powerful reflection of international pressure, from grassroots campaigners both in afflicted countries and the west and from major organisations such as the Red Cross, UNICEF and UNHCR. Russia was encouraged by name to ratify START II. Russia and the US were exhorted to ratify the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) before it enters into force on 29 April. There was not enough political will even to propose a Fissban resolution with any chance of getting consensus. These are the significant messages from this year's First Committee.

The UN First Committee dynamics and votes can often provide a useful barometer of international attitudes to nuclear and conventional disarmament questions. Contrary to the expectations of many delegates, still smarting from the disputes in the Geneva-based Conference on Disarmament (CD) and the hard push to get the comprehensive test ban treaty (CTBT) finished and signed, the 1996 First Committee was quiet. Instead of acrimony, debate was rather subdued.

Some ambassadors regarded this as a good sign, enabling the Committee to get on with its work. Others were less sanguine. A senior Mexican official commented that positions were so polarised that there was no tension connecting the opposing sides. Some had clearly expected India to cause problems, but India is more subtle than to engage in such a defensive and obvious reaction, which would have been counterproductive to its interests. While clearly prepared to vote in isolation on certain issues, India also sought wherever possible to co-sponsor resolutions and played a noteworthy role in negotiations with Iran and others to achieve a single resolution on the CWC capable of attracting consensus support.

The lack of tension and political argument may also be symptoms of a loss of direction and purpose among disarmament negotiators. All the resolutions that were proposed were passed, but that is not the point. Of greater significance is who co-sponsored, whether a resolution did better or worse than in the previous year(s) and the balance of power on the vote.

Political dynamics

Many resolutions are annual updates. The usual debate over a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East focused this year on whether the peace process could be regarded as 'ongoing'. Egypt called on Israel to accede to the 1968 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and said it would not join the CWC until Israel had done so. Israel promptly called on all States in the region to sign and ratify the CWC.

Pakistan needled India with resolutions on confidence building and regional initiatives in South Asia. Both non-NPT parties pushed the nuclear-weapon States on their nuclear deterrence and use doctrines: India again called for a convention prohibiting the use of nuclear weapons, while Pakistan tugged the other handle on negative security assurances, which are not offered to those which are neither members of the NPT nor of a comparable regional non-proliferation agreement. On preventing an arms race in outer space (PAROS), introduced by Egypt, the vote was similar to that in previous years, with NATO and OSCE States minus Russia abstaining, while China, Russia, and the NAM, together with Japan, Australia and New Zealand voted in favour. The US argued that there was no arms race in outer space and provided the single vote against two paragraphs supporting re-establishment of the PAROS committee in the CD.

On the competing resolutions over 'science and technology', which represent alternative views of export control regimes for dual-use technology, the European Union managed to unite its position. The 15 countries all voted against the resolution spearheaded by India (on which some Europeans usually abstain), which opposed the existing NPT-based control regime which relies on lists and decisions among a group of nuclear suppliers; and they all voted for the resolution from Brazil and Canada, despite reservations among countries such as Britain and France, who would otherwise have joined the US and Japan in abstaining on grounds that the present system works adequately and further international instruments do not necessarily need to be developed. For the most part, however, the European Union was divided on the major resolutions relating to nuclear weapons, with Ireland and Sweden and often Austria voting for nuclear disarmament measures such as the nuclear weapon convention and nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Southern Hemisphere, while many EU members abstained and Britain and France voted against.

The US also tried to pull out the NATO vote on a range of measures, with variable success. The former Soviet bloc States which seek NATO membership were most likely to go along with the US, Britain and France. Countries with a strong domestic lobby against nuclear weapons such as Japan, Norway, Canada and Australia were sometimes squeezed between solidarity under the US nuclear umbrella and the expectations of public opinion, causing fissures which may grow wider in time. However, Canada and Australia were slower than in the recent past to carry the flame for nuclear disarmament positions, as illustrated in their votes on the Malaysian resolution, for example, or when Canada gave the single non-nuclear-weapon State 'no' (with the US, Britain and France) against the nuclear free Southern Hemisphere resolution. Australia's recently elected conservative administration had earlier refused to co-sponsor, although in the end it supported.

Although the 113-member NAM is still able to pull out substantial majorities to back its positions, it too is revealing shifts, especially in the balance of power. Colombia, the present coordinator, is less swayed by the 'radical edge' than its predecessor, Indonesia. Many of the countries which held the radical edge on nuclear disarmament for so many years, such as Nigeria, Myanmar, Iran and Indonesia, have diminished influence with their colleagues, in part because of international criticism over their domestic and military policies, especially concerning democracy and human rights.

India has clearly lost credibility and ground over its stand on the comprehensive test ban treaty (CTBT), and often seemed isolated in the far field. Pakistan took every advantage of this, occupying the virtuous high ground and playing up its cooperative spirit in a manner designed to compound India's distance from the mainstream. South Africa is exercising growing influence. Its recent political credibility and determination to curb proliferation and bring about nuclear disarmament combines with its nuclear know-how and the fact of its developed nuclear infrastructure and role as a uranium producer, giving South Africa's approach a hard edged pragmatism. This alternately annoys the more radical NAM and also the nuclear-weapon States, who both regard the new democracy as somewhat of an upstart.

South Africa is not the only NAM member to move beyond rhetoric and seek practical ways to make more effective progress. Significant NAM States, including Colombia, Chile, Brazil, Sri Lanka, Egypt, even Indonesia, Mexico and Malaysia are picking their ground more carefully. While reflex 'team' voting is still clearly visible and the process of transition only in the early stages, there appears to be more willingness to strategise and form alliances with moderate States from other groups. This was particularly noticeable in the negotiations between the NAM and the EU States which resulted in near consensus on holding UNSSOD IV, leaving the US practically isolated.

Fissban withdrawn

One significant failure was the withdrawal of a resolution on a proposed fissile materials ban, for the second year running. Canada had early on circulated a simple draft on 'prohibition of the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.' This recalled the consensus resolution from UNGA 48 in December 1993, welcomed the decision by the CD and the mandate it had adopted in March 1995, and called for the CD to 'obtain the immediate commencement and early conclusion' of fissban negotiations.

This failure to get agreement on even submitting a draft confirms the growing view that the CD will not be able to convene a Fissban Committee early in 1997. It is now clear that the international community needs urgently to reconsider the options for getting a fissban or 'cut-off' with a view, if necessary, to abandoning the CD mandate and seeking a more viable route towards controlling production and reducing the proliferation threat from fissile materials.

The main problems remain whether and how to address stocks and the relationship of a fissban to nuclear disarmament. India, which together with the P-5 and Israel, had argued against inclusion of stocks in the proposed basic cut-off is now saying that stocks can be considered as long as the fissban is placed firmly in the context of further measures to achieve nuclear disarmament. At the very least India is insisting on an ad hoc committee to begin overall negotiations on nuclear disarmament alongside any fissban negotiations in the CD. As argued by South African Ambassador J.S. Selebi, this would be a recipe for blocked progress 'on all fronts'.

Consensus on the CWC

At one point it looked possible that the First Committee would not be able to adopt by consensus a resolution on the 1992 Chemical Weapons Convention. This was averted, after intense consultations between the four co-sponsors of the main resolution - Poland, India, Canada and Mexico - and Iran, which wanted tougher language criticising the US and Russia for their failure so far to ratify the CWC. In the end, Iran agreed to withdraw its proposal and co-sponsor a revised version of the CWC resolution. This noted that 160 have to date signed the CWC and that since 65 States have now ratified, the Convention is due to enter into force on 29 April 1997. It then stressed that 'all possessors of chemical weapons, chemical weapons production facilities or chemical weapons development facilities should be among the original parties to the Convention, and in this context, the importance of the United States of America and the Russian Federation, having declared possession of chemical weapons being among the original States Parties to the Convention.' It also urged the CWC PrepCom to intensify efforts to complete its remaining work. The compromise resolution, L.48, was then adopted by consensus.

Nuclear Arms Control and Disarmament

Several resolutions addressed nuclear arms control and disarmament from widely differing perspectives. As in previous years the NAM and the western powers put alternative resolutions on bilateral arms control and on nuclear disarmament. The NAM resolutions, introduced by Colombia and Myanmar respectively, were more critical of progress on arms reductions to date and called for the 'elimination of nuclear weapons within a time-bound framework', as backed by the Cartagena Conference of NAM Heads of State or Government in October 1995. The western-backed resolutions placed greater emphasis on existing progress, strongly encouraged Russia to ratify START II, and backed the NPT regime and enhanced review process as a basis for further advances towards eliminating nuclear arms.

Call for a nuclear weapons convention

A new resolution proposed by Malaysia proved to be the most controversial. This built on the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice (ICJ), delivered on 8 July 1996 in response to a request by the United Nations (in resolution 49/75K), by calling for negotiations towards a nuclear weapon convention. Underlining the unanimous conclusion of the Court that 'there exists an obligation to pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament in all its aspects under strict and effective international control' (operative paragraph (OP) 3), the resolution 'calls upon all States to fulfil that obligation immediately by commencing multilateral negotiations in 1997 leading to an early conclusion of a nuclear weapons convention prohibiting the development, production, testing, deployment, stockpiling, transfer, threat or use of nuclear weapons and providing for their elimination' (OP4).

In introducing the resolution, Ambassador Hasmy Bin Agam of Malaysia backed bilateral progress such as the START processes and called the views of the Canberra Commission 'particularly pertinent'. However, he said, the existence of 'tens of thousands of nuclear weapons in the arsenals of the nuclear-weapon States, 28 years after the signing of the NPT, is a sobering reminder that the negotiations on nuclear disarmament...have been carried out neither "in good faith" nor "in earnest."' Exhorting that the present window of opportunity must not be lost, he said that beginning negotiations leading to the conclusion of a nuclear weapon convention was now 'necessary'.

Four of the nuclear powers led the opposition, objecting that the resolution 'selectively quoted' from the NPT's Article VI, and was partial, incomplete or inaccurate. In particular the US complained that the resolution omitted the commitment to complete and general disarmament and 'distorting the meaning' while Russia protested that it was silent on the question of the use of nuclear weapons, about which the judges had been unable to agree. Belgium (on behalf of itself, Netherlands and Luxembourg), Iceland, Greece, Argentina and Norway echoed these concerns.

Chile argued that this was to misunderstand the resolution's scope and the ICJ's opinion. OP3 was a verbatim quote from the part of the advisory opinion about which the judges had been unanimous, and was therefore the most appropriate for the UNGA to underline. The ICJ was divided over other judgements, over the question of use for example, which were also hedged with caveats and potential ambiguity. In this unanimous judgement the ICJ clearly did not intend merely to repeat Article VI of the NPT, but rather to provide an interpretation of the legal situation, informed by the NPT and by other relevant treaties and international legal instruments and understandings. The full ICJ opinion was provided to UN members in A/51/218 (15 October 1996).

France rather ingeniously (if questionably) used the absence of more detail in the resolution on the ICJ's split opinion on the use and threat of use of nuclear weapons to argue that the Court's decision was 'clearly consistent with France's doctrine of deterrence', which was based solely on 'self defence' and provided an 'element of stability that contributed to international security'.

Stressing the importance of the ICJ opinion, Iceland feared that the resolution would 'subordinate bilateral nuclear arms negotiations to the work of the Conference on Disarmament'. Britain and the US argued that the resolution was not really about the ICJ at all, but repeated calls made in other NAM drafts 'for immediate multilateral negotiations on a nuclear weapons convention.' In fact, the Malaysian resolution puts the demand for a nuclear weapon convention into the international arena for the first time, although this year Myanmar's traditional 'step-by-step' resolution (L.39) also mentions such a convention as the end product of a phased programme of nuclear disarmament. At the request of New Zealand and others, which voted for the resolution, the draft of L.37 called for commencement of negotiations leading to a nuclear weapons convention, which does not necessarily mean that the convention itself should now be negotiated.

The breakdown of votes on the Malaysian resolution was interesting, with the NAM generally solidly in support and cracks showing among European, NATO and allied countries. There was considerable switching in the three votes covering two operative paragraphs and the whole resolution, with some US allies voting for while others were resolutely opposed. Russia abstained on both paragraphs but voted against the resolution as a whole. The US, UK and France voted 'no' throughout, while China voted 'yes' on all parts.

Canada had requested a vote on OP3, so that it and other western countries would be seen to endorse the unanimous opinion of the ICJ on the legal obligation to bring nuclear disarmament negotiations to conclusion. The vote, with 115 for, 7 against (France, UK, US, Monaco, Romania, Turkey, Latvia) and 19 abstentions clearly reflected the influence of public opinion on these issues. In addition to the NAM and China, Austria, Belgium, Germany, Finland, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Sweden, Ukraine, Canada, Australia, Norway, New Zealand, and Japan voted in favour. Russia, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, and various East European countries abstained, including Belarus and Kazakstan. On OP4, which called for a nuclear weapons convention, only 87 States voted in favour, including New Zealand. The 27 votes against comprised NATO and would-be NATO countries. The 27 abstentions included Australia, Austria, Sweden, and Ireland.

The overall resolution was endorsed by 94 States, including China. There is some evidence indicating that had the date 1997 been omitted from the call to commence multilateral negotiations leading to a nuclear weapons convention, the vote on Malaysia's ICJ resolution could have been even more favourable. As it was, the EU was divided, Sweden and Ireland voting in favour. Spain, Germany, Greece, and the Benelux countries joined the western nuclear powers and Russia in voting against, while Austria, Finland and Denmark joined Israel, Japan, Norway and several Eastern European countries in abstaining.

Bilateral arms control

Colombia's resolution (L.21), on behalf of the NAM, noted the 'significant nuclear arsenals' remaining and argued that the responsibility for nuclear disarmament lies primarily with the nuclear-weapon States with the largest arsenals. Referring to the 1995 commitment in the NPT parties' unanimous Principles and Objectives decision on 'systematic and progressive efforts to reduce nuclear weapons globally, with the ultimate goal of the elimination of those weapons' it contended that this 'should be carried out within a timebound framework'. The US argued that parts of the resolution were 'patently untrue' and that others were 'rewritten and distorted'. Russia also voted against saying that the resolution represented wishful thinking: 'the desires of the co-sponsors are put forward as reality.'

While some of the NAM countries said that rather than vote for two imperfect resolutions they would prefer next year to give unanimous support to a single resolution on which all could agree, India pointed out that both resolutions, tabled together, show 'different perception of pace, scope and progress' on bilateral arms control and nuclear disarmament.

The US-introduced resolution was co-sponsored by the Russian Federation, France and Britain and welcomed 'significant reductions' in the nuclear arsenals. It focused on the START process, explicitly expressing the hope that Russia will soon ratify START II. With Russian co-sponsorship, this departure from the usual rule against singling out particular States is clearly intended to encourage the Duma to ratify START II. Ratification is currently held up for four ostensible reasons: funding for dismantlement; a perceived imbalance in favour of the US; the continuing sabre rattling by the US over NATO expansion and the 1972 ABM Treaty; and internecine conflict and disarray in the Duma, compounded by lack of effective leadership on this from the Kremlin.

The US could do more to alleviate the first three concerns, but with both START II and CWC ratification now held up by the Duma, democrats in Russia will need to take greater initiative and responsibility to pilot these important measures through the ratification process. While most of the NATO and OSCE countries voted against or abstained on the NAM resolution (83:36:21), most of the NAM voted for the US-Russian resolution, which gained 129 in favour with just 12 abstentions.

Nuclear disarmament

Japan's traditional resolution on nuclear disarmament (L.17) focused primarily on the NPT commitments and programme of action adopted in May 1995, calling for 'best efforts for a smooth start of the strengthened review process'. Though watered down sufficiently to ensure backing by the nuclear-weapon States, it also puts some pr ssure on them. India forced a vote on the preambular paragraphs welcoming the CTBT and urging accession to the NPT, voting against both, before the resolution was overwhelmingly endorsed. This had the overwhplming backing of 132 States, with no votes against and 11 abstentions (Algeria, Brazil, China, Cuba, DPRK, India, Iran, Israel, Mauritius, Myanmar, Nigeria).

As in previous years, Myanmar introduced the NAM-sponsored resolution on nuclear disarmament (L.39),which merely noted adoption of the CTBT and argued that this and any proposed fissban must 'constitute disarmament measures and not only non-proliferation measures'. Stressing the 'complementarity' of bilateral and multilateral negotiations on nuclear disarmament and appreciating the unilateral measures undertaken by some of the nuclear weapon States, Myanmar's resolution referred to the ICJ judgement and the Cartagena recommendations. It urged the nuclear-weapon States to 'stop immediately the qualitative improvement, development, production and stockpiling of nuclear warheads and their delivery systems' and to undertake a 'step by step reduction of the nuclear threat and a phased programme of progressive and balanced deep reductions of nuclear weapons...' The resolution calls on the CD to establish a nuclear disarmament committee and commence negotiations in 1997, taking into account the programme of action proposed by twenty-eight members of the G-21 (non-aligned members of the CD).

The vote was 87 for, 38 against and 20 abstentions. China and most of the NAM voted for while there was a bloc NATO/EU vote against. South Africa and Chile (which had opposed the linkage between specific disarmament measures in the G-21 programme) abstained, together with Russia, Japan and New Zealand. Brazil said it had voted for, but had reservations about the grudging language on the CTBT.

Nuclear Free Southern Hemisphere

The annual resolutions on a convention prohibiting the use of nuclear weapons (India), security assurances (Pakistan) and supporting nuclear weapon free zones in various regions were also adopted, with varying majorities (see appendix). One additional new resolution, introduced by Brazil and New Zealand, caused anxiety among the western nuclear powers by calling for a nuclear-weapon-free Southern Hemisphere. It aimed to build on the existing treaties of Tlatelolco, Rarotonga, Bangkok and Pelindaba, which cover Latin America and the Caribbean, the South Pacific, South-East Asia and Africa respectively. The US and Britain reportedly put pressure on NATO and would-be NATO countries to oppose, but with the exception of Canada most abstained, saying that they were concerned that the resolution threatened rights of passage through the proposed zone.

Its co-sponsors argued that the concept of a nuclear free Southern Hemisphere was consistent with the law of the sea, as demonstrated by the explicit recognitions in preambular paragraph (PP) 5. This was disputed by the British Ambassador who queried: 'if the new zone does not cover the high seas, what does it add to existing NWFZs?' As a non-signatory of the NPT whose commitment to non-proliferation was implemented by accession to the Treaty of Tlatelolco, Brazil clearly wants to add credibility to the role of nuclear-weapon-free zones and to make a point about the denuclearised Southern Hemisphere.

With 80 co-sponsors, the resolution was adopted by 111 to 4 with 36 abstentions. Britain, France, the US and - to the surprise of many - Canada voted against. India, Japan, Russia and Mauritius joined NATO States in abstaining, while the vast majority of Southern Hemisphere States voted in favour.

Conventional arms control and disarmament

Four resolutions dealt with conventional weapons. Two of these covered what was termed the 'illicit' transfer or traffic. One (L.16), introduced by Afghanistan supported measures to deal with illicit weapons supplied to mercenaries, terrorists and child soldiers. The second (L.35), introduced by Mali, focused mainly on the Saharo-Sahelian subregion and called for assistance to help Mali deal with the illicit traffic in small arms. Both passed without a vote, but the emphasis on 'illicit' begs some central questions on the arms trade, transfer and use of such weapons in general, particularly when L.16 was co-sponsored by Afghanistan, Cambodia, Nicaragua, South Africa, Haiti, Indonesia, Zimbabwe and Sri Lanka.

Banning Landmines

Two resolutions dealt with the scourge of landmines. Sweden introduced the usual resolution on the Convention on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons which may be deemed to be Excessively Injurious or to have Indiscriminate Effects (CCW). The resolution (L.40), which was adopted without a vote, supported work already underway on tightening up the CCW, commending the amended Protocol II and the new Protocol IV on blinding laser weapons, as agreed by the 1996 review conference. Of particular significance, however, was a new resolution calling for 'an effective, legally-binding, international agreement to ban the use, stockpiling, production and transfer of anti-personnel landmines' (L.46).

The US introduced the resolution to ban landmines, with at least 112 co-sponsors. Since it did not specify the form of negotiations or venue, the resolution steered clear of the controversy over the recent Ottawa initiative, whereby Canada proposed a separate conference to adopt a landmines ban in 1997. The preferred option of the US, Australia and some others is for the CD to negotiate the landmines ban, thereby including all the relevant States, while recognising that this would almost certainly delay or water down the final agreement. Mexico spoke in support of the resolution but said 'any other forum but not the CD!'

Russia and China spoke against, arguing that the CCW was the appropriate forum in which to continue such discussions. China said that it supported 'reasonable restrictions' but that

landmines were a legitimate means of military defence, and arms control measures should not 'diminish the security of countries'. Russian Ambassador Grigori Berdennikov said that the CD might be a suitable forum in the future, but was vehemently opposed to a special meeting of concerned countries, as that 'could lead anywhere'. However, such a ban was 'premature'. Since amendments proposed by his country had not been incorporated, Russia voted against.

Cuba had proposed an amendment (L.50) reaffirming the right of States under the UN Charter to self defence. The US as chief sponsor of L.46 called for 'no action' on the Cuban amendment on grounds that: it was unnecessary, since the UN Charter takes precedence in any case; it upset the balance of the resolution, suggesting that military considerations took precedence over humanitarian concerns; and it would detract from the main thrust of the resolution. The US argued that it was not necessary to restate principles, since outlawing a particular weapon did not conflict per se with the inherent right to self defence. Indonesia supported Cuba's amendments, as did Pakistan, arguing that it would not support the resolution as a whole although it would have backed further consideration in the CD. China supported the Cuban proposal, contending that while some countries might have decided they don't need landmines anymore, that was not true of others.

Several countries spoke against the 'no action' decision, viewing it as a mechanism to block the democratic process. For others it was a way to vote the amendment down without being put in the position of opposing its substance. The motion to take no action on the Cuban amendment was passed 95:26:14. The co-sponsors failed in their bid to have the resolution adopted by consensus, but the final vote gave overwhelming support, with 140 in favour and only ten abstentions.

UN Special Session on Disarmament

Following the 1995 NPT extension conference where a number of NAM countries had felt they'd been out-manoeuvred, the Fiftieth General Assembly witnessed calls for the United Nations to hold a fourth special session on disarmament (UNSSOD IV) in 1997. Although this was passed by 98 votes, a bloc of 46 EU and associated States abstained. The demand came up again this year, calling for UNSSOD IV to be convened in 1999.

The US continued to oppose, arguing that there was no clear purpose or agenda and that this could clash with the NPT review process due to have its sixth review conference in the year 2000. Some EU countries apparently agreed, but others felt that there were stronger arguments to support holding the meeting before the year 2000. Intensive negotiations among all parties resulted in a crucial revision which enabled the EU bloc to vote in favour. Accordingly, OP1 of L.11/Rev2 decides 'subject to the emergence of a consensus on its objectives and agenda' to convene UNSSOD IV in 1999.

This still did not satisfy the US, which (as in the previous year) voted against, with Israel. The US objected that the session was intended to address only nuclear disarmament and would just be used as a forum for beating up on the nuclear-weapon States. This was denied by members of the NAM, a view reinforced by Ireland when speaking on behalf of the EU bloc, saying that the conference should deal with all issues relevant to disarmament, conventional and confidence-building as well as nuclear.

Other resolutions

Germany introduced the concept of peacebuilding for the first time in a consensus resolution (L.38) that sought to raise the profile of practical disarmament measures, including regional confidence building and more coordinated measures to control the transfer and disposal of small arms and light weapons.

Transparency in armaments (TIA) again failed to get consensus, with China heading opposition to further work by the UN or CD on this.

Environmental issues were raised in resolutions from Nigeria concerning radiological warfare and the dumping of radioactive waste in developing countries (L.24), and from the NAM, which called for environmental norms to be observed when dealing with arms control and disarmament (L.14).

The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia introduced a resolution on preventing the violent disintegration of States (L.42/Rev1).

Resolutions supporting further implementation of the Biological Weapons Convention, the 1925 Geneva Protocol on asphyxiating gases and bacteriological warfare, on preventing new types of weapons of mass destruction, on disarmament and development and on transparency and military budgets all gained consensus, although certain States recorded their reservations.

Conclusion

What are the implications of the 1996 First Committee for further work on disarmament? There were clear messages to the US and Russia to ratify the CWC before April and to both countries to pursue deeper nuclear arms reduction, emphasising the need for Russia to ratify START II and for START III talks to proceed.

The continued impasse over the fissban carries implications for both the CD and the first PrepCom of the NPT's enhanced review process. In the programme of action agreed by NPT parties in 1995, a fissile cut-off negotiated multilaterally by the CD was identified as the follow-up measure after conclusion of the CTBT, which was achieved in 1996 as pledged. Some, such as the US and Britain, are using this fact to argue that the NPT process would lose credibility if the CD did not immediately commence negotiations on the fissile cut-off as agreed in the mandate piloted through the CD in March 1995 by Ambassador Shannon of Canada. This takes too rigid and deterministic an attitude towards the Principles and Objectives.

From the very beginning South Africa argued that the Principles were intended to provide clearer goals to maintain pressure for full implementation of the NPT. They were envisaged as dynamic and flexible, able to be updated as necessary. This surely did not mean only that when a measure was achieved it would be deleted or replaced. The CD fissban mandate was the product of a particular moment in history, when concern about proliferation and an overabundance of fissile material stocks, as weapons were being dismantled, led some of the nuclear-weapon States to decide it would be best to halt production altogether.

An objective of multilateral arms control for 50 years, a fissile cut-off was also seen as a sweetener to offer before the NPT Extension conference and as a mechanism for pulling the rest of the declared and the undeclared nuclear weapon States into a verified halt. Economics has largely accomplished what political pressure over 40 years failed to do: production specifically for weapons purposes is no longer where the real proliferation threats from plutonium and highly enriched uranium now lie.

Given its timing and the political pressures on NPT parties in May 1995, it is unsurprising that the Principles and Objectives repeated the Shannon compromise. That does not set it in stone as the only way to achieve control over fissile material production. The withdrawal of a fissban resolution at the 1996 First Committee does not mean that there is lack of support for the objective of safeguarding fissile materials. Rather it reflects the deep-seated disagreements over how to do this in the most effective and relevant way. The task for the CD should be to debate the fissban issue seriously and intensively during the first part of its 1997 session with a view to coming to a clear decision over how to proceed, requiring at minimum that the fudge over stocks be resolved.

That issue is fundamental and should determine the decision on venue and nature of the negotiations (whether multilaterally in the CD or among the States most directly concerned). Over the past year many States and analysts argued for negotiations at least to begin, hoping that once underway they would find constructive ways of addressing the stocks question. In light of the recent CD experiences, that assumption has now to be re-examined. At all events, the CD should focus on this issue as a matter of priority and with a view to coming to a decision by 28 March. This would enable the NPT parties at the first review PrepCom to assess whether to keep or revise the reference to a fissile cut-off in the Principles. They will also need to discuss further measures, now that the CTBT has been concluded.

In the First Committee there were split votes on TIA, PAROS, nuclear disarmament and security assurances, with key CD members among those voting against establishing committees on these in Geneva. While there was considerable support for a landmines ban, the resolution deliberately left open the question of whether this should be negotiated in the CD or in a special conference, as proposed by Canada. With Russia and China prominent among those regarding such a ban as premature, the choice comes down to this.

A special conference among concerned States could negotiate and agree a ban in less than a year, thereby establishing an international basis for a regime prohibiting anti-personnel landmines. Against this is the concern that such a conference, by excluding some of the biggest producers, such as Russia and China, would simply become a 'club for the virtuous', with neither political nor moral impact on the widespread problem. Negotiations in the CD would involve all the players, but with the drawback that talks could be prolonged and may be unsuccessful, thereby delaying actual progress on the issue.

Advocates of the Ottawa approach argue that once a norm has been established, international pressure will be more effectively brought to bear on landmine producers. They contend that, all things considered, this would be a speedier and surer way to get Russia, China and others on board than through lengthy multilateral negotiations in the CD, which some regard as the kiss of death. This is a matter of political analysis and judgment, and there are no easy or certain answers. Given the large vote in favour of a ban, the issue deserves, at the very least,

some multilateral consultations among CD members and other relevant States to discuss the most effective way forward.

According to the final revision of the resolution calling for UNSSOD IV to be held in 1999, the UN Disarmament Commission meeting in April/May in New York will have to try to get agreement on the objectives and agenda. The US has already put in a bid for 2001 or later. The major argument being advanced in favour of this date is that there will be no NPT PrepCom that year. The NPT PrepCom is held for 10 working days in each of three years leading up to the quinquennial four week review conferences. The proposers of this strengthened review process can never have intended that what was meant to become a mechanism for greater pressure against proliferation is mutually exclusive or now takes precedence over all other international mechanisms or meetings on disarmament.

The US appears to be anxious that a 1999 UNSSOD IV would be used to squeeze the nuclear-weapon States. There is another way of looking at it. The last UNSSOD was held in 1988. There has been no new international evaluation of security and disarmament questions since the disintegration of the Soviet bloc and the end of the cold war. Without overdoing the 'millennium' importance, since this is only relevant to certain cultures and religions, there is clearly the need for an 'Agenda 21' on security and disarmament to take the world into the 21st century. Internationally and nationally, the balance of power, perceived threats and security assessments are undergoing transformation. If prepared well and engaged in positively and honestly, UNSSOD can codify new thinking and contribute to constructive solutions on these issues.

The CD needs time to re-evaluate its role and decide what further negotiations it should undertake - but not too much time or it could stagnate. The prospect of UNSSOD IV in 1999 could be seen as setting a two year time limit, giving the CD some space, while recognising that if it is unable to agree its next tasks and agenda, the international community as a whole will give its opinion on this.

International public opinion is speaking out more and more about landmines and conventional weapons, especially small arms and light weapons. The 1996 First Committee has voted overwhelmingly for a landmines ban, but did not decide where and how it should be negotiated. Given the urgency of this issue, this will be an important matter for UNSSOD IV to address. By 1999 it will already be clear whether this initiative is being fulfilled or what more needs to be done to make a ban on mines more universal and to widen controls on the weapons used in regional and subnational conflicts to such devastating effect on the local populations.

Back in 1986 the leader of one of the nuclear superpowers, Mikhail Gorbachev, called for a nuclear-weapon-free world by the year 2000. That is not now on the cards, but an international understanding of how to bring about nuclear disarmament and a clear and unequivocal commitment to do so from the nuclear-weapon States by the year 2000 could well be. Making use of the considerable scholarship developing on practical ways to reduce and eventually eliminate the nuclear threat, UNSSOD IV could underline and give authority to this objective. The first two PrepComs of the NPT's enhanced review process will have given some sense to NPT parties of how effectively the new system works. This can feed into UNSSOD in 1999, which in turn could feed into the Sixth Review Conference of the NPT in 2000.

This could give better leverage to the 175 plus non-nuclear-weapon State Parties to the NPT than if UNSSOD IV were held in 2001, with another four years before the next NPT review conference. Perhaps this is the reason underlying the US reluctance to accept 1999, but if so, it is unworthy of a country which agreed in good faith to pursue negotiations on nuclear disarmament and which gladly accepted the good faith bargain in 1995 which delivered indefinite extension of the Treaty and a strengthened implementation process.

The CTBT was signed in September 1996, and at the time of writing had 134 signatoiries. If India, Pakistan and DPRK have still not signed by 1999, the CTBT signatories have the right to hold a conference to discuss how to enable the Treaty to take effect. US representatives have, among other things, expressed concern that UNSSOD IV would be used by India and others as a platform. That may be so, but it could also be used by the rest of the international community to put pressure on any hold-out States to accede to the test ban treaty. This might be considerably more effective than leaving such debates to the NPT process, from which India is excluded.

Last but not least, while no predictions are infallible, the administrations in some of the key countries, including the US and Britain in 1999, may be more stable and positive towards disarmament questions than in 2001.

All in all, the First Committee has transmitted a mixed set of signals, with some positive indicators but little leadership. It is to be hoped that the CD, the UNDC and the member States themselves now take up the challenge and move the debates on disarmament and security forward.

some multilateral consultations among CD members and other relevant States to discuss the most effective way forward.

According to the final revision of the resolution calling for UNSSOD IV to be held in 1999, the UN Disarmament Commission meeting in April/May in New York will have to try to get agreement on the objectives and agenda. The US has already put in a bid for 2001 or later. The major argument being advanced in favour of this date is that there will be no NPT PrepCom that year. The NPT PrepCom is held for 10 working days in each of three years leading up to the quinquennial four week review conferences. The proposers of this strengthened review process can never have intended that what was meant to become a mechanism for greater pressure against proliferation is mutually exclusive or now takes precedence over all other international mechanisms or meetings on disarmament.

The US appears to be anxious that a 1999 UNSSOD IV would be used to squeeze the nuclear-weapon States. There is another way of looking at it. The last UNSSOD was held in 1988. There has been no new international evaluation of security and disarmament questions since the disintegration of the Soviet bloc and the end of the cold war. Without overdoing the 'millennium' importance, since this is only relevant to certain cultures and religions, there is clearly the need for an 'Agenda 21' on security and disarmament to take the world into the 21st century. Internationally and nationally, the balance of power, perceived threats and security assessments are undergoing transformation. If prepared well and engaged in positively and honestly, UNSSOD can codify new thinking and contribute to constructive solutions on these issues.

The CD needs time to re-evaluate its role and decide what further negotiations it should undertake - but not too much time or it could stagnate. The prospect of UNSSOD IV in 1999 could be seen as setting a two year time limit, giving the CD some space, while recognising that if it is unable to agree its next tasks and agenda, the international community as a whole will give its opinion on this.

International public opinion is speaking out more and more about landmines and conventional weapons, especially small arms and light weapons. The 1996 First Committee has voted overwhelmingly for a landmines ban, but did not decide where and how it should be negotiated. Given the urgency of this issue, this will be an important matter for UNSSOD IV to address. By 1999 it will already be clear whether this initiative is being fulfilled or what more needs to be done to make a ban on mines more universal and to widen controls on the weapons used in regional and subnational conflicts to such devastating effect on the local populations.

Back in 1986 the leader of one of the nuclear superpowers, Mikhail Gorbachev, called for a nuclear-weapon-free world by the year 2000. That is not now on the cards, but an international understanding of how to bring about nuclear disarmament and a clear and unequivocal commitment to do so from the nuclear-weapon States by the year 2000 could well be. Making use of the considerable scholarship developing on practical ways to reduce and eventually eliminate the nuclear threat, UNSSOD IV could underline and give authority to this objective. The first two PrepComs of the NPT's enhanced review process will have given some sense to NPT parties of how effectively the new system works. This can feed into UNSSOD in 1999, which in turn could feed into the Sixth Review Conference of the NPT in 2000.

This could give better leverage to the 175 plus non-nuclear-weapon State Parties to the NPT than if UNSSOD IV were held in 2001, with another four years before the next NPT review conference. Perhaps this is the reason underlying the US reluctance to accept 1999, but if so, it is unworthy of a country which agreed in good faith to pursue negotiations on nuclear disarmament and which gladly accepted the good faith bargain in 1995 which delivered indefinite extension of the Treaty and a strengthened implementation process.

The CTBT was signed in September 1996, and at the time of writing had 134 signatoiries. If India, Pakistan and DPRK have still not signed by 1999, the CTBT signatories have the right to hold a conference to discuss how to enable the Treaty to take effect. US representatives have, among other things, expressed concern that UNSSOD IV would be used by India and others as a platform. That may be so, but it could also be used by the rest of the international community to put pressure on any hold-out States to accede to the test ban treaty. This might be considerably more effective than leaving such debates to the NPT process, from which India is excluded.

Last but not least, while no predictions are infallible, the administrations in some of the key countries, including the US and Britain in 1999, may be more stable and positive towards disarmament questions than in 2001.

All in all, the First Committee has transmitted a mixed set of signals, with some positive indicators but little leadership. It is to be hoped that the CD, the UNDC and the member States themselves now take up the challenge and move the debates on disarmament and security forward.

Whole resolution vote: 111:4:36.

US, UK, France and Canada voted against. Abstainers included India, most of the EU/OSCE, Russia, and Japan. Proponents included most NAM and China, as well as Australia (which had wavered), Austria, Ireland and Sweden.

Despite PP5, which explicitly cited the applicable principles and rules of international law relating to rights of passage through maritime space, many of those who expressed reservations did so on these grounds. Australia and Sweden, in voting yes, emphasised their view that it did not contradict rights of passage, transit etc. according to the law of the sea nor extend territory beyond boundaries of existing NWFZs.

The UK, on behalf also of the US and France, voted no, objecting to the concept of the entire southern hemisphere becoming a NWFZ since the only new areas of such a zone are oceanic: 'if the new zone does not cover the high seas, what does it add to existing NWFZs?'; and if it does, the UK averred, it is 'inconsistent' with the law of the sea. Canada, whose negative vote caused much surprise, provided no public explanation. Pressured by its NATO membership, its objections were reportedly based on international law, not on the concept itself.

L.5/Rev 1: UN Disarmament Commission (UNDC)

Introduced by: Germany

General and procedural resolution on the UNDC.

CONSENSUS

L.6: Support for a NWFZ in South Asia

Introduced by: Pakistan, supported by the P-5

Welcomes proposals for a bilateral or regional nuclear test ban agreement in South Asia and urges the States of South Asia to establish a NWFZ and refrain from any action contrary to this objective.

Vote: 130:3:8.

India, Bhutan and Mauritius voted against, with Myanmar, Viet Nam, Algeria, Indonesia, Cuba, Cyprus, Afghanistan and Laos abstaining.

L.7: Draft decision on Non-Proliferation

Introduced by: Mexico

A holding motion asking for the UNGA to place on its 52nd agenda the item entitled 'non proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and of vehicles for their delivery in all its aspects.'

Vote: 92:0:53

The voting represented a fairly straight split between the NAM and the OSCE/NATO leaners. China voted for: while Russia, US, UK, France, Japan abstained.

L.8: UN Disarmament Information Programme

Introduced by: Mexico, worried about funding cuts.

CONSENSUS

L.9: Treaty of Tlatelolco (Latin America NWFZ)

Introduced by: Mexico

Supports the treaty, recognising that it now fully applies to 31 of the 33 States in the region, and that the remaining two have signed.

CONSENSUS

L.10: The Asia Pacific Regional Programme

Introduced by: Mongolia

Supports the Kathmandu Process for confidence building and communication and appeals for more money from relevant States.

CONSENSUS

L.11/Rev.2: UN Special Session on Disarmament (UNSSOD)

Introduced by: Colombia on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM)

Calls for a fourth special session on disarmament to be held in 1999. Following two revisions, this was made conditional on 'the emergence of a consensus on its objectives and agenda'.

Vote: 137:2:1

The US and Israel voted against. Ambassador Ledogar said that the US voted no because the co-sponsors had insisted on specifying a date before there was any consensus on the purpose and context of the proposed special session. He said there was no point in holding a special session for the sake of it and that they did not want to repeat the failures of UNSSOD 2 and 3. Stressing that there must be a willingness to address all disarmament issues, across the board, Ledogar said that 'the US hears from others that it would just be a special session for nuclear disarmament'. He cited various resolutions from this First Committee (Malaysia on ICJ, Myanmar on nuclear disarmament, the NAM resolution on bilateral arms control etc.) as 'confirmation' of this, adding that 'these actions speak louder than any words' about the imbalance intended.

Russia abstained because it was 'profoundly convinced' that convening of an SSOD should only be on the basis of consensus, without which it could not be successful. Apart from that it said it could support it if it commanded general support. Rather oddly, since this was the last resolution to be considered, at 5.50 pm on the final day designated for the First Committee votes, Ambassador Berdennikov regretted that consensus had not been obtained and complained that 'the draft was hastily put to a vote.'

Ireland on behalf of the EU bloc 'deeply regretted' the lack of consensus, emphasised that the special session should look at all disarmament issues, conventional and confidence building as well as nuclear, and called on UN member States to work at getting agreement on the agenda.

L.12: Disarmament and Development

Introduced by: Colombia on behalf of the NAM

Stresses 'the growing importance of the symbiotic relationship between disarmament and development in current international relations.'

Adopted without a vote, with the understanding that the US had not participated in the consensus because it 'does not accept the relationship asserted between disarmament and development' and is not bound by any provisions of the 1987 Conference on this, referred to in the resolution.

CONSENSUS

L.13: Declaring the Indian Ocean a zone of peace

Introduced by: Sri Lanka on behalf of the NAM

Urges participation by all the P-5 in the work of the ad hoc committee on the Indian Ocean.

Vote: 106:3:35

US, UK, France voted against. Russia and China plus NAM for. Abstainers were mostly NATO/OSCE.

L.14: Environmental norms

Introduced by: Colombia for the NAM

Building on Cuba's resolution from 1995, specifically covering 'observance of environmental norms in the drafting and implementation of agreements on disarmament and arms control', the resolution refers to the 'detrimental environmental effects of the use of nuclear weapons' and the hazards of radioactive wastes, and calls for environmental impact to be taken into account in negotiations on arms control and disarmament.

Vote: 116:4:26.

US voted against, calling the resolution 'unhelpful and unwelcome', fearing it could divert attention from arms control. Also against were France, Israel and the UK. Abstainers were mostly NATO/OSCE. However, Austria, Norway, Sweden and Ireland all voted for, together with the NAM, China and Russia.

L.15: Regional confidence building, focusing on Central Africa

Proposed by: the Congo

Takes note of various regional and UN developments and appeals for support for the UN

Standing Advisory Committee on Security Questions in Central Africa.

CONSENSUS

L.16: Curbing the illicit transfer and use of conventional arms

Proposed by: Afghanistan

Refers to mercenaries, terrorists and child soldiers supplied with weapons acquired from illicit transfers and calls for adoption of the 'Guidelines for international arms transfers' as in UNGA resolution 46/36H (1991) and for national legislation to be enacted to control arms transfers and prevent 'illicit' arms transfers.

CONSENSUS

L.17: Nuclear disarmament with a view to the ultimate elimination of nuclear weapons

Introduced by: Japan

Welcomes US/Russian efforts in arms reduction and evokes commitments in the NPT, especially the programme of action in the principles and objectives adopted in May 1995. It urges States to accede to the NPT, calls for 'determined pursuit' by the Nuclear-Weapon States of 'systematic and progressive efforts to reduce nuclear weapons globally, with the ultimate goal of eliminating those weapons, and by all States of general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control', and invites them 'to keep States members of the United Nations duly informed of the progress and efforts made.' It also calls on NPT parties to do their best for 'a smooth start of the strengthened review process' of the NPT, the first PrepCom of which is due in April 1997 and review conference in 2000.

India forced a vote on two paragraphs, which were nevertheless passed. PP 7, which welcomed the adoption of the CTBT: vote: 133:1:6. India voted against. Cuba, Lebanon, Libya, Syria, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe abstained, although Zimbabwe said it meant to vote for. OP 1, which urged accession to the NPT: vote: 138:2:2 India and Israel voted against. Cuba and Brazil abstained.

Whole resolution vote: 132:0:11

US, UK, Russia, and France voted for L.17, together with the whole of the OSCE/western bloc and most of the non-aligned.

China, Cuba, India, Israel, Brazil, Myanmar, Nigeria, Algeria, Mauritius, DPRK (North Korea) and Viet Nam abstained.

Pakistan expressed reservations, arguing that the resolution related more to non proliferation than nuclear disarmament, but nevertheless voted for. Some of the non-aligned who voted against argued that this was because Japan's resolution contradicted the NAM resolution (L.39) on the same subject. Egypt said that it voted for, despite disliking anything that welcomed indefinite extension of the NPT, because it hoped for constructive progress on NPT implementation in the future.

L.18: Transparency in armaments

Introduced by: The Netherlands, with 96 co-sponsors

Reaffirms the importance of the UN Register of Conventional Arms and calls upon UN member States to provide the requested information, supports further development of the register, and requests UN resources to be made available.

China requested a vote on OP3b, which requested the UN Secretary General to prepare a report on the register taking into account the work of the United Nations Disarmament Commission (UNDC) and the CD, and on OP5 which invited the CD to consider continuing its work on TIA.

OP3b: vote 124:0:11 (abstentions by China, Cuba, DPRK, India, Indonesia, Iran, Lebanon, Mexico, Myanmar, Saudi Arabia, Syria)

OP5: vote 125:0:14 (abstentions by China, Cuba, DPRK, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Iran, Lebanon, Mexico, Myanmar, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka, Syria)

Whole resolution vote: 133:0:15

Abstentions: Cuba, DPRK, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Iran, Lebanon, Libya, Mexico, Myanmar, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka, Syria, United Arab Emirates.

China therefore voted in favour of L.18 as a whole, after abstaining on the two paragraphs referring to TIA in the CD. DPRK questioned whether the purpose of the register was 'to check arms transfer or to promote it', said it did not promote disarmament, and (in a clear reference to US bases in South Korea) said that weapons deployed in other countries should be dealt with, as well as those transferred to them.

Standing Advisory Committee on Security Questions in Central Africa.

CONSENSUS

L.16: Curbing the illicit transfer and use of conventional arms

Proposed by: Afghanistan

Refers to mercenaries, terrorists and child soldiers supplied with weapons acquired from illicit transfers and calls for adoption of the 'Guidelines for international arms transfers' as in UNGA resolution 46/36H (1991) and for national legislation to be enacted to control arms transfers and prevent 'illicit' arms transfers.

CONSENSUS

L.17: Nuclear disarmament with a view to the ultimate elimination of nuclear weapons

Introduced by: Japan

Welcomes US/Russian efforts in arms reduction and evokes commitments in the NPT, especially the programme of action in the principles and objectives adopted in May 1995. It urges States to accede to the NPT, calls for 'determined pursuit' by the Nuclear-Weapon States of 'systematic and progressive efforts to reduce nuclear weapons globally, with the ultimate goal of eliminating those weapons, and by all States of general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control', and invites them 'to keep States members of the United Nations duly informed of the progress and efforts made.' It also calls on NPT parties to do their best for 'a smooth start of the strengthened review process' of the NPT, the first PrepCom of which is due in April 1997 and review conference in 2000.

India forced a vote on two paragraphs, which were nevertheless passed. PP 7, which welcomed the adoption of the CTBT: vote: 133:1:6. India voted against. Cuba, Lebanon, Libya, Syria, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe abstained, although Zimbabwe said it meant to vote for. OP 1, which urged accession to the NPT: vote: 138:2:2 India and Israel voted against. Cuba and Brazil abstained.

Whole resolution vote: 132:0:11

US, UK, Russia, and France voted for L.17, together with the whole of the OSCE/western bloc and most of the non-aligned.

China, Cuba, India, Israel, Brazil, Myanmar, Nigeria, Algeria, Mauritius, DPRK (North Korea) and Viet Nam abstained.

Pakistan expressed reservations, arguing that the resolution related more to non proliferation than nuclear disarmament, but nevertheless voted for. Some of the non-aligned who voted against argued that this was because Japan's resolution contradicted the NAM resolution (L.39) on the same subject. Egypt said that it voted for, despite disliking anything that welcomed indefinite extension of the NPT, because it hoped for constructive progress on NPT implementation in the future.

L.18: Transparency in armaments

Introduced by: The Netherlands, with 96 co-sponsors

Reaffirms the importance of the UN Register of Conventional Arms and calls upon UN member States to provide the requested information, supports further development of the register, and requests UN resources to be made available.

China requested a vote on OP3b, which requested the UN Secretary General to prepare a report on the register taking into account the work of the United Nations Disarmament Commission (UNDC) and the CD, and on OP5 which invited the CD to consider continuing its work on TIA.

OP3b: vote 124:0:11 (abstentions by China, Cuba, DPRK, India, Indonesia, Iran, Lebanon, Mexico, Myanmar, Saudi Arabia, Syria)

OP5: vote 125:0:14 (abstentions by China, Cuba, DPRK, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Iran, Lebanon, Mexico, Myanmar, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka, Syria)

Whole resolution vote: 133:0:15

Abstentions: Cuba, DPRK, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Iran, Lebanon, Libya, Mexico, Myanmar, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka, Syria, United Arab Emirates.

China therefore voted in favour of L.18 as a whole, after abstaining on the two paragraphs referring to TIA in the CD. DPRK questioned whether the purpose of the register was 'to check arms transfer or to promote it', said it did not promote disarmament, and (in a clear reference to US bases in South Korea) said that weapons deployed in other countries should be dealt with, as well as those transferred to them.

Primarily concerns the dumping of nuclear and industrial wastes in Africa. Refers also to 'radiological warfare', requesting the CD to 'take into account, in the negotiations for a convention on the prohibition of radiological weapons, radioactive wastes as part of the scope of such a convention.'

The US said that although it was 'sympathetic to the main thrust' and 'legitimate concerns' of the resolution and had therefore joined consensus, the first committee was not an appropriate place for this resolution, which concerned the environment and not disarmament.

CONSENSUS

L.25: The Conference on Disarmament (CD)

Introduced by: Poland

The annual resolution, introduced by Poland as current President of the CD, was notable only because, in order to be adopted without a vote, a paragraph on the CTBT was dropped. This would have welcomed 'the conclusion of negotiations in the Conference on Disarmament on the draft comprehensive nuclear test ban treaty, which has reaffirmed the need for and the importance of the Conference as the single multilateral negotiating forum of the international community'. Another example of consensus as the lowest common denominator.

CONSENSUS

L.26/Rev1: the UN Regional Centre for peace and development in Africa.

Introduced by: Togo

Supports the work of the Centre.

CONSENSUS

L.27/Rev 2: Risk of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East

Introduced by: Egypt

Raises concerns about security in the region and calls on 'the only State in the region that is not yet party' to the NPT to accede without further delay.

Israel argued that the entire resolution was politically motivated, omitted the peace process and would not serve the cause of peace. Urging all to vote against the resolution, Israel insisted on a vote on PP 6 which evoked the decision in the NPT Principles and objectives adopted in May 1995 urging universal adherence to the NPT.

PP 6: vote: 118:2:10 (India and Israel against)

Whole resolution vote: 98:2:32

Israel and US against; China, Russia, France and UK for; odd mixture of abstentions, including Canada and India. Australia, which voted for, and Uruguay, which abstained, said they disagreed with singling out a particular State.

L.28/Rev2 (amended): Establishing a NWFZ in the Middle East

Calls for consideration of a NWFZ in the Middle East, invites all countries concerned to adhere to the NPT and to place their nuclear activities under IAEA safeguards, and invites all countries in the region, pending a NWFZ agreement, not to 'develop, produce, test or otherwise acquire' nuclear weapons.

An Israeli amendment referring to the 'ongoing' bilateral peace process, which Israel said was necessary or it would not go along with consensus, was carried by 61:28:33. Egypt had argued that the peace process was no longer 'ongoing'. Explaining the EU and associated States' vote for the Israeli amendment, Ireland said that this did not convey the view that the state of the peace process was satisfactory, acknowledging that it had deteriorated.

After the Israeli amendment had been accepted by a majority, the whole resolution was then adopted without a vote.

CONSENSUS

L.29: A NWFZ in Central Asia

Withdrawn by its sponsors, Mongolia and Kyrgyzstan, in part because of Russian objections to elements of the text and intention.

L.30: Negative Security Assurances (NSA)

Introduced by: Pakistan

Co-sponsored by 19 States, the resolution reaffirms 'the urgent need to reach early agreement on effective international arrangements to assure non-nuclear weapon States against the use or threat of

use of nuclear weapons' noting that in the CD there was 'no objection in principle' to the idea of such an international convention. It recommends that the CD should 'actively continue intensive negotiations' to do so.

Vote: 100:0:43

For was mainly NAM plus China, Australia, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand.

Abstentions included France, Russia, UK, US, and EU/NATO bloc.

L.31: Regional disarmament

Introduced by: Pakistan

Calls for agreements 'wherever possible for nuclear non-proliferation, disarmament and confidence building measures at the regional and sub-regional levels'.

India objected that the resolution was politically motivated and disingenuous.

Vote: 145:0:1 (India abstaining)

L.32: Support for UN disarmament fellowship programme

Introduced by: Nigeria

Emphasises the importance of the programme for training public officials, especially from developing countries.

CONSENSUS

L.33: Strengthening security and cooperation in the Mediterranean region

Introduced by Algeria: co-sponsored by bordering and European States (except Israel).

Encourages dialogue and cooperation in the region and calls on all States to adhere to multilateral agreements on disarmament.

CONSENSUS

L.34: Science and technology in the context of international security, disarmament and other related fields

Introduced by: Canada and Brazil

The counter-resolution to L.20/Rev1, this was co-sponsored by 28 countries and backed further development of international rules on transfers of high technology with military applications, as well as supporting the existing export control regimes.

Vote: 137:0:11

Abstainers were Iran, Gabon, DPRK, Burkina Faso, United States, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, India, Japan, Namibia, Uganda.

The EU had done a deal whereby all members would vote for this resolution and vote against L.20/Rev1, leaving the US and Japan as the sole representatives of Western opposition to further development of international rules, which they consider unnecessary in view of the existing regime of the Nuclear Suppliers Group, the Zangger Committee, etc.

L.35: Assistance to States for curbing the illicit traffic in small arms

Introduced by: Mali

Focuses mainly on the Saharo-Sahelian subregion, and encourages regional and UN initiatives to prevent the proliferation of small arms.

CONSENSUS

L.36: New types of weapons of mass destruction

Introduced by: Belarus

With over 33 co-sponsors from both the NAM and Europe, including Russia and Britain, the resolution reaffirms that effective measures should be taken to prevent the emergence of new types of weapons of mass destruction, and requests the CD to keep the matter under review.

CONSENSUS

L.37: Advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on the Legality of the Threat or Use of Nuclear Weapons

Introduced by: Malaysia with 50 co-sponsors

Expresses appreciation to the ICJ for responding to the General Assembly's request and notes its opinion. In particular, it underlines the unanimous

conclusion of the Court that 'there exists an obligation to pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament in all its aspects under strict and effective international control' and calls on all States to 'fulfil that obligation immediately by commencing multilateral negotiations' in 1997 on a nuclear weapons convention. It also requests the UN Secretary General to provide necessary assistance to support this and to include in the 52nd GA agenda an item entitled 'Follow up to the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice on the Legality of the Threat or Use of Nuclear Weapons.'

Separate votes were called for OP3, underlining the unanimous conclusion of the ICJ, and OP4 calling for negotiations on a Nuclear Weapons Convention (NWC).

On OP3: 115:7:19. Votes against were France, UK, US, Monaco, Romania, Turkey, Latvia. The EU was split, with Austria, Belgium, Germany, Finland, Ireland, Italy Luxembourg, Sweden voting for, as did China, Canada, Australia, Norway, NZ, Japan and most of the NAM. This separate vote enabled some NATO/western States to express a form of endorsement for the ICJ opinion, without entailing more direct commitment to action.

Russia, The Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, and several former Soviet satellites abstained.

Vote on OP4 (NWC): 87:27:27. This time more Western or EU countries voted against or abstained. On the 'for' side, China, New Zealand, mostly NAM.

Abstentions included Russia, Australia, Austria, Sweden, Ireland.

Nos were most of the EU, US, UK, France, Norway.

Whole resolution vote: 94:22:29

For included China, Ireland, Sweden, New Zealand, South Africa and most of the NAM.

Against were US, UK, France, Russia, Germany, Canada, Luxembourg, Belgium, Netherlands, Monaco, Portugal, Poland, Romania, Spain, Czech, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Slovakia, Slovenia, FYRO Macedonia, Turkey.

Japan, Australia, Austria, Norway, Israel, Iceland, Finland, Denmark, were among the abstainers.

If the length of time for explanations of vote are anything to go by, this was the most controversial resolution before the First Committee, not only for welcoming the ICJ opinion but for using this to launch the call for a nuclear weapon convention.

L.38/Rev 1: Peacebuilding

Introduced by: Germany

A new concept for the First Committee, the resolution covers 'consolidation of peace through practical disarmament measures'. It focuses especially on mines, light weapons and small arms, calling for 'collection, control and disposal' of such arms, restraint in the production, procurement and transfer of these weapons and for 'demobilization and reintegration of former combatants, demining and conversion' especially in areas that have suffered from conflict.

CONSENSUS

(Although China mentioned that it had some problems with the resolution).

L.39: Nuclear disarmament

Introduced by: Myanmar, with over 40 co-sponsors including, for the first time, India. (India stated for the record that this co-sponsorship of a resolution mentioning the NPT did not compromise its stand against the Treaty.)

Notes various developments in arms control, stating that the 'time is now opportune' for nuclear disarmament. Urges the NWS to 'stop immediately the qualitative improvement, development, production and stockpiling of nuclear warheads and their delivery systems' and calls for step by step reduction, a phased programme and elimination in a timebound framework. Calls on the CD to establish an ad hoc committee on nuclear disarmament early in 1997 'on a phased programme of nuclear disarmament and for the eventual elimination of nuclear weapons within a timebound framework through a nuclear weapons convention.'

Vote: 87:38:20

Against: Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Monaco, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Moldova, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, FYRO Macedonia, Turkey, UK, US (this was a rare unified vote by the EU and NATO on nuclear disarmament).

Abstainers included Chile, Russia, South Africa, Argentina, Japan, ROK, New Zealand.

L.40: The Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW)

Introduced by: Sweden

Supports work underway on tightening up the CCW, commending Protocol II on landmines and the protocol on blinding laser weapons (IV) agreed in the review conference.

CONSENSUS

L.41: 1925 Geneva Protocol

Introduced by: Colombia for the NAM

The resolution renews its call to all States to observe the principles and objectives of the 1925 Geneva Protocol for the prohibition of the use in war of asphyxiating, poisonous or other gasses and of bacteriological methods of warfare and reaffirms the vital necessity of upholding its provisions.

CONSENSUS

L.42/Rev1: Prevention of violent disintegration of States

Introduced by: Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, with about 30 co-sponsors

Calls for good neighbourliness, compliance with the principle of the inviolability of international borders among States, and measures in accordance with the UN Charter 'as appropriate to help prevent the violent disintegration of States'.

Mexico (which expressed problems with the requirement on territorial integrity of States) and China requested a vote.

Vote: 137:0:7

Abstentions were China, Costa Rica, Mexico, Pakistan, Tanzania, Algeria and Guatemala.

L.43: Prevention of an arms race in outer space (PAROS)

Introduced by: Egypt

Refers to the importance of preventing an arms race in outer space and development of the peaceful uses of outer space, and requests the CD to re-establish the ad hoc PAROS committee with a negotiating mandate early in 1997 in order to conclude a PAROS agreement.

Two paragraphs were voted on separately: PP17, which said that conclusion of such an international agreement was the 'fundamental task' of the CD's PAROS committee, vote: 85:1:39 (US against, mostly EU bloc abstaining, Russia and China in favour, together with NAM) OP6, which called for the CD to re-establish the PAROS committee with a negotiating mandate, vote: 87:1:39 (US against, Russia, China and NAM in favour, EU bloc abstaining)

Whole resolution vote: 98:0:40

For, Russia, China and NAM, including Australia, Japan, NZ; abstentions, US, EU bloc.

L.44/Rev1: Conventional arms control at the regional and subregional levels

Introduced by: Pakistan

Aimed at India, this resolution argues that since most threats to peace and security in the post cold war era arise among States in the same region or subregion, conventional arms control needs to be pursued primarily in these contexts, and calls for the CD to consider the issue, especially the formulation of principles as a framework for regional agreements.

Vote: 144:1:4

India against; Cuba, Libya, Brazil and Venezuela abstaining.

L.45: Bilateral nuclear arms negotiations and nuclear disarmament

Proposed by: the US and co-sponsored by about 50, including Russia, France and UK.

Appreciates the indefinite extension of the NPT, welcomes the steps already taken by Russia and the US and urges early action to complete the ratification of START II, noting that once this was ratified, they 'would proceed to deactivate all nuclear delivery systems to be reduced under the Treaty by removing their nuclear warheads or taking other steps to remove them from alert status.' A further operative paragraph again urges the parties to ratify so that START II can come into force and then in a third, even more explicit reference, the resolution expresses satisfaction at US ratification and 'expresses its hope that it will soon be possible for the Russian Federation to ratify that treaty also'. This triple emphasis (and singling out) is particularly noteworthy as Russia was itself a co-sponsor, and should therefore be understood as an attempt by Moscow to encourage START II ratification by the Duma.

Vote: 129:0:12

Abstentions were Burkino Faso, Cuba, DPRK, India, Indonesia, Iran, Lebanon, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Syria, Tanzania, Uganda.

In voting for, Pakistan said it had also voted for the NAM sponsored resolution L.21 on the same subject. Criticising this resolution for conveying the impression of satisfaction with progress on nuclear disarmament, which was far from the case, Pakistan stressed that this process must be encouraged. Other NAM countries also said they voted for both resolutions despite the imperfections in each in order to encourage further progress, and Thailand said it hoped next year there would be a single unanimous resolution on this.

India pointed out that the two bilateral arms reduction resolutions show a 'different perception of pace, scope and progress' on the issue and gave its view that bilateral reductions should be part of multilateral negotiations, so it supported L.21 and abstained on L.45. Iran abstained because L.45 contradicted some of L.21, made no reference to the ICJ and illegality of nuclear weapons, had a self-satisfactory tone and welcomed the indefinite extension of the NPT, an objection Syria echoed.

L.46: International agreement to ban anti-personnel landmines

Introduced by: US, with 112 co-sponsors

This resolution does not contradict L.40 on CCW but goes much further, calling for an 'effective, legally binding international agreement to ban the use, stockpiling, production and transfer of anti-personnel mines with a view to completing the negotiation as soon as possible.' It does not specify the venue or form for negotiations.

Cuba had proposed an amendment reaffirming the right of States under the UN Charter to self defence. A motion to take no action on the amendment was passed 95:26:14. The co-sponsors wanted the resolution to be adopted by consensus, but this was not agreed.

Vote on the whole resolution: 140:0:10

Abstainers were China, Russia, Cuba, Syria, Pakistan, Israel, ROK, Turkey, Belarus, DPRK .

L.47: Reduction of military budgets

Introduced by: Germany with East/West bloc support

Calls for objective information on military matters, including transparency of military expenditures, with annual reporting to the UN.

CONSENSUS

L.48/Rev 1: The Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC)

Introduced by: Poland

Notes that 160 States have to date signed the CWC and that since 65 States have now ratified, the Convention is due to enter into force on 29 April 1997. Stresses the importance to the CWC that 'all possessors of chemical weapons, chemical weapons production facilities or chemical weapons development facilities should be among the original parties to the Convention, and in this context, the importance of the United States of America and the Russian Federation, having declared possession of chemical weapons being among the original States Parties to the Convention.' Urges the CWC PrepCom to intensify efforts to complete its remaining work.

L.48 was originally sponsored only by Poland, India, Mexico and Canada, with Iran putting up an alternative resolution with the same name (L.49), bearing more heavily and specifically on the problems if the CWC were to enter into force without the US and Russia having ratified.

After much negotiation among the co-sponsors, Iran, Russia and the US, L.48 was revised to meet some of Iran's concerns, and Iran agreed to withdraw L.49 and co-sponsor L.48.

This paved the way for a consensus resolution. Egypt, however, while not demanding a vote, did not join the consensus. It expressed its reservations on OP4 which called on all States to sign and ratify the CWC without delay, saying that it would decline to sign the CWC until Israel joins the NPT.

Israel for its part, called on all States in the Middle East region to accede to the CWC. Pakistan said that it was committed to keeping its region free of chemical weapons but that its ratification would have to take into account decisions by other States (i.e. India, US and Russia) to ensure that the CWC became, as intended, a disarmament treaty and not merely an instrument for non-proliferation.

CONSENSUS

L.49: CWC

Withdrawn by Iran.

© 1999 The Acronym Institute.

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