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Disarmament Diplomacy No. 74, Cover design by Paul Aston

Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 74, December 2003

Reports and Analysis

"Troubled and Troubling Times":
The 2003 UN First Committee Considers Disarmament and Reform

Rebecca Johnson

Terrorism, reform, and frustration over inadequate progress in disarmament objectives were the major themes when the 58th UN General Assembly (GA) and its First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) meetings met in New York. As concerns ranged from weapons of mass destruction (WMD) to small arms, it was clear there were wide differences in perspectives on the priorities and approaches, however.

The First Committee (FC), ably chaired by Ambassador Jarmo Sareva of Finland, met from October 6 to November 7, 2003 and adopted 47 draft resolutions and 7 draft decisions, managing to achieve consensus on 29 of them. The GA voted on the resolutions on December 8. Though the GA voting figures are provided where available, this report and appendix focus in the main on the discussions of the First Committee, including details of how key states voted and, where relevant, their explanations of vote (EOV).

The increasing isolation of the Bush administration in many areas was exposed by the votes on several key resolutions. The US was alone in voting against the CTBT resolution UNGA 58/71 (L.52), yet again underscoring the administration's ideological hostility to this important multilateral test ban treaty, which GA states supported by an overwhelming 173 votes. To the shock of many, the US also refused to join the anticipated FC consensus on the resolution on small arms and light weapons (SALW. L.1/Rev.1)). Action was delayed to the last moment as its sponsors frantically tried to avoid a vote, but the US insisted, and then voted against, citing "fiduciary discipline". With 162 FC votes in favour, no-one else either opposed or abstained. Sceptical of the given objection, some viewed the US vote as indicative of the unhealthily close relationship between the Bush administration and the US gun lobby, as well as yet another sign of the neo-conservative leadership's negative attitude towards multilateral endeavours in arms control. South Africa, speaking on behalf of co-sponsors Colombia and Japan, called the US blocking of consensus "very distressing", saying they had consulted widely on the draft, including the programme budget implications and had hoped that the savings identified would be sufficient. Continuing to emphasise that its opposition was not to the substantive SALW resolution, but because zero-real growth in the UN budget was an important principle for the administration and Congress, the US has undertaken further consultations with a view to resolving the difficulties and joining GA consensus. Unresolved by December 8, the GA vote on this resolution has been delayed, to enable the budgetary questions to be worked out in the Fifth Committee.

Though the resolution (UNGA 58/36) on Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space (PAROS, L.44) received support from 174 states, its highest vote in years, the US maintained its abstention, together with only Israel and the tiny US satellites of Micronesia and the Marshall Islands. The United States again found itself with only Israel and Micronesia in voting against resolution UNGA 58/37, which called for a further panel of governmental experts to discuss "the issue of missiles, in all its aspects" (L.4). Although no others voted against, there were 57 abstentions, and a good deal of scepticism about the Iranian-sponsored resolution, which failed to acknowledge the work of the Hague Code of Conduct on missile proliferation (HCoC), while seeking UN financing for a further governmental study. Irreconcilable political differences of approach had prevented the previous UN Panel of Governmental Experts, which met from 2001-02, from agreeing on recommendations, though it had managed to provide an excellent overview, and a number of countries question what would be achieved by a further study at this time.

Having abstained in past years on a NAM resolution promoting the observance of environmental norms in arms control and disarmament (UNGA 58/45; L.27), this year the US cast the only vote against; 173 states supported, while four (Britain, France, Israel and Micronesia) abstained. On a NAM-sponsored decision acknowledging the relationship between disarmament and development (UNGA 58/520 L.29) that received 177 votes in favour, the United States voted against, while Israel and France abstained.

The US joined consensus on the fissban resolution UNGA 58/57 (L.49), as in previous years, but its delegation surprised many by confirming corridor rumours that Washington was reviewing elements and policy related to a fissile materials cut off treaty (FMCT). China's compromise and expected acceptance of the CD "Five Ambassadors"' proposal has reinvigorated efforts to enable the CD to start work in 2004, putting the spotlight on Washington. As a consequence, the US interagency process has been intensively considering the implications of a fissban, in effect assessing whether it would advance US security interests to agree a CD work programme and get fissban negotiations underway. Concerns have reportedly arisen over verification, notably naval propulsion fuel and intrusive monitoring.

In terms of future work, the First Committee has agreed to establish two expert studies - on global information and telecommunications and on missiles - and an open-ended working group to negotiate an international instrument to enable states to identify and trace illicit small arms and light weapons. It is assumed that these will come under the auspices of the UN Department for Disarmament Affairs (DDA).

Multilateralism, Terrorism and Reform

Referring to a crisis of confidence in multilateralism and the rule of law in international relations, Sareva acknowledged that the Committee was meeting in "troubled and troubling times". In setting out his concerns on the opening day, the Chair clearly spoke for the majority: "many countries continue to divert, to military uses, scarce resources that could otherwise meet basic human needs. Some continue to view deadly conventional weaponry as just another commercial commodity. Some are even alleged to be helping others to acquire weapons of mass destruction, while others may be seeking to acquire such weapons, or are failing to eliminate their own stockpiles. And some are developing new weapons that are not yet covered by any treaty regime or that fall into the gaps of existing legal constraints - this applies to missiles and space or anti-satellite weapons, for example."

In his first address to the GA's First Committee since being appointed Under-Secretary General for Disarmament Affairs in May, Nobuyasu Abe remarked that "while WMD continued to pose the gravest dangers - recognising the consequences of the use of even a single atomic weapon - major conventional weapons systems, small arms, light weapons, and landmines, continue to account for untold civilian casualties each year." Abe reiterated the UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's injunction to the General Assembly "not to shy away from questions about the adequacy, and effectiveness, of the rules and instruments at our disposal." In this regard, Abe identified the core importance of legitimacy, compliance and accountability, and enforcement.

Many UN members indicated agreement with these sober introductions, but it was also clear that the underlying subtext of the 58th General Assembly was the unfinished war in Iraq. Among opponents of the war, the code word appeared to be 'multilateralism'. Jacques Chirac, President of France, devoted several paragraphs to multilateralism at the beginning of his speech to the GA: "Multilateralism is the key... a guarantee of legitimacy and democracy...a concept for our time, for it alone allows us to apprehend contemporary problems globally and in all their complexity...a means to settle the conflicts that threaten international peace and security... It is up to the United Nations to give legitimacy..."

France nevertheless joined with much of the European Union (EU) in abstaining on a NAM sponsored resolution on the "Promotion of Multilateralism in the Area of Disarmament and Non-Proliferation" (UNGA 58/44; L.26/Rev.1), sharing the criticisms of Canada, Australia and others that the NAM's approach was too rigid and restrictive and could harm constructive efforts to revive and promote multilateralism. The GA vote showed 118 NAM states in favour; the 12 opposed were the US, UK, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Israel, Latvia, Poland, Albania, Bulgaria, Marshall Islands and Micronesia; 46 others abstained.

Support for US policy on Iraq was signalled with repeated references to the war on terrorism. Most of President George W. Bush's statement focussed on terrorism and weapons of mass destruction (WMD), and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan: "The deadly combination of outlaw regimes and terror networks and weapons of mass murder is a peril that cannot be ignored or wished away." While few would disagree about the seriousness of the peril, Bush's trademark oversimplified dichotomies contributed little to finding politically appropriate solutions. For him, terrorism "set before us the clearest of divides: between those who seek order, and those who spread chaos; between those who work for peaceful change, and those who adopt the methods of gangsters; between those who honour the rights of man, and those who deliberately take the lives of men and women and children without mercy or shame." Identifying the proliferation of WMD as the second challenge Bush again targeted not the existing weapons and their materials or precursors, but the bad guys that might seek them: "Outlaw regimes that possess nuclear, chemical and biological weapons - and the means to deliver them - would be able to use blackmail and create chaos in entire regions."

Catching this mood, a resolution introduced by India, entitled 'Measures to Prevent Terrorists from Acquiring Weapons of Mass Destruction' (UNGA 58/48; L.35) was adopted without a vote. Building on a similar resolution first tabled in 2002, the resolution calls on states to undertake and strengthen national measures to prevent terrorists from acquiring WMD, their means of delivery and materials and technologies related to their manufacture, though mention is made of supporting international efforts as well. Though there was corridor scepticism that India's chief motivation was to draw attention to Pakistan's alleged support for Kashmir-related terrorism, India was notably commended by the United States, Russia and Israel for its initiative.

Following the September 2002 report of the Secretary-General on UN reform, greater emphasis and arguments were put forward during the GA debate of September 23 to October 3, 2003. Applying to the First Committee Annan's injunction to consider ways to rethink and improve the effectiveness of the GA and its committees, Sareva convened a thematic debate on reform on October 16-17. Regrettably this debate was closed to civil society, an unusual and unnecessary breaking with the First Committee's traditions of openness and transparency. In addition to the US-sponsored resolution (UNGA 58/41; L.15/Rev.1) that was adopted by consensus in the final week, informal papers from the United States, EU, Norway and Sierra Leone helped to kick off the discussion, in which over 20 states reportedly participated actively. Although the non-papers overlapped and agreed in several respects, it is worth summarising their main points in detail, to tease out the differences of nuance and approach. Significantly, while the discussion papers - and indeed, views expressed in the debate - differed on specific proposals, there was widespread concurrence on the need to focus better on priorities and utilise time and resources more effectively by clustering resolutions according to substance and avoiding annual repetitions that added nothing to previous years. At the same time, concerns were raised that the right of states to put forward their positions should not be inhibited.

Mention was made of the role the first UN Special Session on Disarmament (UNSSOD I) in establishing the agenda and disarmament machinery from 1978 onwards. While a few might consider this still to be an adequate basis, many made the connection that a further (fourth) special session could be the means of debating and agreeing the updating of the disarmament agenda and machinery; others considered that updates could be agreed on the basis of consensus or at least with broad cross-regional support. A NAM-sponsored resolution supporting UNSSOD IV was replaced with a decision (UNGA 58/521; L.61) to keep the issue on the agenda after it became clear that consensus would not be possible. An unmissable indication of what they were up against came when Stephen Rademaker, US Assistant Secretary of State for Arms Control, referred to UNSSOD I with the sole purpose of castigating states for continuing to rely on its agreements "with no consideration of how to adapt this machinery to address new and emerging threats".

In its formal remarks, the EU called for the First Committee to have "a balanced agenda" and said that its working methods "could be streamlined". Two discussion papers were circulated. One, entitled 'Rationalisation of the work of the First Committee' argued that the First Committee should enable questions of terrorism and WMD to be addressed as germane to the field of disarmament and security, and listed various measures to enable the Committee to manage its agenda, time and debates more efficiently. In particular, the EU recommended: putting the Chair and Bureau in place earlier to prepare and consult with states well before the GA; limiting speeches but increasing "interactivity of discussions in general debate as well as the thematic discussions"; reviewing and streamlining the clustering of issues; reducing the number of resolutions by making use of biennial and triennial submission; and avoiding an automatic expectation of appearing on future agendas.

A longer discussion paper from the UK on "WMD Proliferation: Fostering the Role of the Security Council" was also circulated in connection with the debate on reform, though it focussed on the Security Council rather than First Committee. The UK argued for a "new anti-proliferation resolution", criminalising the proliferation of WMD, and suggested the establishment of a committee of the Security Council to address counterproliferation issues, modelled along the lines of the Counter-Terrorism Committee, which would question member states on their activities and actions in relation to WMD, and "put governments on the spot".

Norway stressed that the First Committee "should be a central arena" for dealing with the new threats, and argued that it was presently "overloaded" and had "little impact on current global security challenges". Norway proposed several practical steps: shorten the First Committee and practise more efficient time management; shorten the general debate and make it more focused and interactive, on the basis of priorities introduced by the UNSG; integrate the thematic debates; drastically reduce the number of resolutions and decisions, exercise restraint, especially on tabling new resolutions, and consider others on a biennial or triennial basis rather than every year; cluster administrative resolutions and decisions "into one general set of conclusions", and cluster substantive issues around a few topics such as WMD, conventional weapons and "cross-sectoral issues"; select the First Committee Chair and/or Bureau a year in advance to allow them to play a more active role in substantive preparations.

Sierra Leone asserted that "in the current international environment disarmament is no longer a choice but an absolute necessity", and said that reform needed to encompass both revitalisation of disarmament machinery and implementation of GA resolutions and decisions. Pressing for more time to be allocated to in-depth thematic developments and informal consultations among states on their drafts, Sierra Leone's discussion paper put forward a detailed proposal for revising the work programme and time table with the aim of more effective time management.

Stating that the United States "does not believe in multilateralism for its own sake", and that multilateral arms control was at "a crossroads", Rademaker encouraged the First Committee that it "can and must reshape itself into an effective multilateral body... that is relevant to the security threats of today". Supporting the streamlining of committee reports by "rotating its consideration of groups of agenda items on a biennial or triennial basis", Rademaker reminded that the US had not resubmitted its previous year's consensus resolution on compliance despite the importance it attaches to the issue. Some individual resolutions, however "merit yearly affirmation". Acknowledging its inclusion of ideas from other governments, the US put forward a number of specific proposals for streamlining and modernising the First Committee, some of which overlapped or appeared to conflict with others: limit the number of draft resolutions and decisions tabled each year and rotate consideration of most resolutions or agenda items on a biennial or triennial basis; combine related resolutions and/or agenda items; retain the existing mix of resolution and agenda items but "apply them only to one geographic region in each year"; if draft resolutions offer only technical updates to previous resolutions they should appear as decisions instead of resolutions; remove subjects from the agenda if no resolution has been introduced over 3 consecutive years; resolutions adopted without a vote or draft resolutions substantially the same as in previous years "should not be reintroduced for a period of X years"; periodically review UN activities generated by the First Committee, with automatic "sunset" provisions; limit the number of commissioned experts studies to no more than one per year; authorise the Secretariat to merge reports where appropriate. The US also wanted the FC Chair to convene consultations to discuss "one specific item on the committee's agenda" and to designate specific days for thematic debates on specific agenda items.

Declaring that the First Committee had "a lot of untapped potential in contributing to the maintenance of international peace and security" Sareva said that while he intended to issue his assessment on the debate, the four main proposals that he favoured were: early elections of Chair and Bureau; shortening the general debate to one week; extending and transforming the thematic debate to be a more "interactive and consultations-oriented phase of our work"; and reorganising and reducing the agenda "to ten clustered items, identical to the current thematic clusters, with the various resolutions now adopted under each cluster constituting the sub-items on a reorganised agenda".

After very intensive lobbying and consultations, the revised US resolution on reform, the title of which was changed in response to objections, from 'Enhancing the Contribution of the First Committee to the Maintenance of International Peace and Security' to 'Improving the effectiveness of the methods of work of the First Committee', requests the Secretary-General to seek the views of member states on the issue "of improving the effectiveness of the methods of work of the First Committee, to prepare a report compiling and organising the views... on appropriate options". The EU and associated states, which co-sponsored the revised resolution, emphasised the importance of keeping First Committee work "constantly under review" in order to rationalise it and "keep abreast of the security challenges that need to be addressed". Others, particularly NAM countries, joined consensus, but raised reservations about the US approach. In particular, a number were unhappy with how the US had framed its approach in terms of terrorism and the September 11, 2001 attacks on the US. Pakistan, for example, said there were other important threats for the First Committee to address, such as the "growing corrosion" of the concept of multilateralism, the "insidious concept" of pre-emptive military strikes, and the "occupation of foreign lands". Pakistan, like several other NAM speakers, also questioned how reform would further the cause of nuclear disarmament. Prepared to welcome the resolution as a "platform" for much-needed discussion and for furthering the Committee's work, India cautioned against hanging "all our problems, difficulties, or frustrations" on the issue of reform.


Verification, characterised by Canada as "a critical element of the security cooperation equation, as part of a robust and meaningful multilateralism", was considered sufficiently important for a thematic debate, which provided useful information and raised several important questions. Among these, Canada, which traditionally sponsors the biennial verification resolution but decided to remit the issue to next year, offered several proposals for strengthening verification and compliance measures, including: making maximum use of existing machinery; ensuring the verification keeps abreast of technological developments; and reviewing the roles of the UN Security Council, Secretary-General and Secretariat.

Of particular note in this regard, in the GA this year, President Chirac proposed the creation of a "permanent corps of inspectors" under the authority of the Security Council. In and around the First Committee, including NGO-sponsored meetings, discussion has focused on extending or expanding UNMOVIC, expected soon to be discontinued in its present form. Many consider that some way should be found to conserve UNMOVIC's centralised expertise, technological and institutional resources for the UN, either under the auspices of the Security Council or DDA. The next issue of Disarmament Diplomacy plans to publish further discussion on this topic, particularly as it relates to enhancing biological weapons monitoring and BWC enforcement, where the collapse of the verification protocol has left a serious gap.

Nuclear Disarmament

Among several resolutions devoted to nuclear disarmament, Japan's resolution (UNGA 58/59; L.53) "A path to the total elimination of nuclear weapons" was viewed as the most moderate. It achieved the highest support, with 164 votes in favour and only two - the US and India - against. Such is the virulence of Bush neo-conservatives' opposition to the CTBT that they once again slapped down the rather modest endeavours of one of the US' staunchest allies because of its endorsement of the CTBT. India's objections, unsurprisingly, were to the fundamental context of the NPT that imbued Japan's resolution. France joined Britain in voting in favour but complained that the resolution's new exhortation "that every effort should be made to avoid nuclear devastation" was a distortion of the NPT's preamble, which had put devastation in the context of nuclear war.

A notable clubbing together of nuclear weapon possessors against the prevailing majority of non-nuclear states was even more in evidence on the other nuclear disarmament resolutions, viewed as more radical or impractical (depending on standpoint) than Japan's. The omnibus resolution, UNGA 58/51 (L.40/Rev.1), sponsored by the New Agenda Coalition (NAC), received 133 votes in favour, including Canada. The sole 6 votes against were cast by the US, UK, France, Israel, India, and Pakistan; some 38 states, including Russia, Japan, NATO aspirants and most of its members abstained. On the NAC's resolution on non-strategic nuclear weapons (NSNW), encompassing tactical or battlefield weapons, including mini-nukes (UNGA 58/50; L.39/Rev.1), 128 states voted in favour; only the US, UK, France and Russia voted against, while the NATO bloc (including Canada this time) abstained. On the resolution promoting the Indian Ocean as a zone of peace (UNGA 58/29; L.24) , Britain, France and the United States were again the sole votes against; 130 supported the resolution, while 42 - mainly EU/NATO allies - abstained.

Malaysia's resolution (UNGA 58/46; L.31), linking the July 1996 advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) with calls for a nuclear weapon convention, garnered 124 votes in support, with most of the Group of Western Europeans and Others (WEOG) and former Eastern states voting against or abstaining. Of particular significance, however, 165 states endorsed OP1, which spelled out the ICJ's unanimous conclusion 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"; only four (the US, Russia, Israel and France) voted against, while the United Kingdom, Georgia and Portugal abstained. It should be noted that France changed its FC abstention to a GA vote against. The annual nuclear disarmament resolution sponsored by Myanmar (Burma) received its traditional vote, split largely on group lines, indicating more about ritual loyalties than about genuine support for or opposition to nuclear disarmament.

There are too many nuclear disarmament resolutions with too few differences between them now. At the very least, Myanmar (Burma) should be persuaded now to drop its resolution, which is full of high-sounding rhetoric but adds nothing useful to the debate; moreover a country with such an appalling human rights record should not be supported by others in parading itself as a disarmament standard-bearer.

I watched with dismay a repetition of the games and rivalries that have weakened both the Japanese and NAC resolutions in recent years. Both build on the 2000 NPT Review Conference agreements, though there were also some significant differences between the two, not least over non-strategic nuclear weapons and missile defence/space weaponisation. These should not be subsumed under some false compromise; but the debate about the placement of the 'unequivocal undertaking to eliminate nuclear arsenals' has become theological and unedifying. As each abstained on the other's resolution, I was reminded of mediaeval priests denouncing each other because of disagreements over how many angels could dance on the head of a pin. The unequivocal undertaking was indeed undertaken in 2000, which also delinked the achievement of nuclear disarmament from general and complete disarmament (which even France now appears to accept); if the 13 steps are to be listed for action in the operative part of a resolution, it would be odd not to include the unequivocal undertaking among them. Given the parlous progress on implementing the 13 steps, Japan and the New Agenda countries should devote their energies to working more effectively on their mutual objectives rather than wasting time quibbling or trying to score points against each other. If it is not possible to merge the resolutions without losing key substantive objectives, they should at least be mutually reinforcing, with both Japan and the NAC supporting each other to increase pressure on all who endorsed the NPT Final Document in May 2000 - including NATO and other US allies - to support both.

Though Iran made a spirited introduction to its resolution on missiles (UNGA 58/37), noting that they were "part and parcel of nuclear weapons, as a means of their delivery", and extending the concerns about ballistic missiles to include cruise missiles, increasingly used for delivering a devastating conventional strike, there was considerable scepticism about convening a further experts group on the issue. This relative reluctance was only obliquely reflected in the vote, in the large number of abstentions (57) rather than in votes against. Positions on this resolution tended to reflect participation in or attitudes towards the HCoC, adopted last year. The abstainers complained that the resolution ignored the HCoC and argued that another UN panel study would add nothing new to the debate, while supporters, including Russia, tended towards the view that a UN panel could help to develop a more representative and universal legal regime to prevent missile proliferation. In this regard, Russia drew attention to the potential for further development of a more equitable approach in its proposals for a 'Global Control System' (GCS), first put forward in February 2001.

Bringing up the rear in this cluster, the usual tired resolutions on security assurances, a convention prohibiting nuclear use, and "reducing nuclear dangers" (code, in this case, for de-alerting and no first use) received group-based votes that have little to do with the importance of the issues. With regard to negative security assurances, subject of a customary Pakistan-sponsored resolution, it appears from a statement made to the First Committee on October 15, that India has refined its former no-first-use doctrine, stating instead a commitment to avoid the use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapon states "except in the event of major WMD attack".

Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zones

The resolutions supporting established nuclear-weapon-free zones (NWFZ) were all adopted without a vote, though Spain initially tabled an amendment to the resolution on the Treaty of Pelindaba (UNGA 58/30; L.11), as it objected to being castigated for refusing to undertake new obligations in respect of the Canary Islands. Spain complained that the Canary Islands - "part of Spanish territory" - should not be included in the zone of the African NWFZ, and though some of the EU were less than supportive of its position, they reluctantly backed that Spain had "legitimate concerns", and called for the issue to be resolved before the First Committee considered any further resolutions on the Treaty of Pelindaba. Instead of a resolution on the Central Asian NWFZ, the FC gave consensus to a draft decision to keep the issue on the UN agenda. Despite its completion being heralded last year, the NWFZ for Central Asia continues to be bedevilled by problems, necessitating further negotiations with the nuclear weapon states.

The annual resolution on establishing a NWFZ in the Middle East (UNGA 58/34; L.22) achieved consensus, as in past years. Though this was deliberately couched in moderate language, enabling it to be adopted without a vote, Egypt also led sponsorship of a resolution on nuclear proliferation in the Middle East (UNGA 58/68; L.23) that hit harder and more explicitly against Israel, while avoiding mention of other potential proliferators, such as Iran. To no-one's surprise, Israel and the United States (joined, yet again, by Micronesia and the Marshall Islands) opposed the resolution, citing its lack of balance. Ten states abstained, including Canada and Australia. The EU, notably, voted en bloc for the resolution, which received 162 votes in favour.

A NWFZ-related African resolution on nuclear dumping (UNGA 58/40; L.12) also received a desultory consensus, without there being any indication that anyone intended to take this important issue forward in practical ways. There was division and controversy as usual on the resolution calling for a nuclear weapon free Southern Hemisphere (UNGA 58/49; L.38), which received 168 votes in favour but was opposed by Britain, France and the United States, with 8 abstentions. The lead co-sponsors, Brazil and New Zealand, again emphasised that the draft did not conflict with the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea UNCLOS) or other norms and international laws relating to navigation, as acknowledged in the preamble, but the three NWS continued to oppose the resolution, fearing that "the real goal of this resolution is the establishment of a nuclear weapon free zone that covers the high seas". Mexico was reluctantly forced to withdraw its resolution calling for a conference of NWFZ signatories and parties before the 2005 NPT Review Conference. Although a number of states expressed interest in the concept, with the hope improving dialogue and cooperation, Mexico met with considerable resistance from those who considered it would detract from rather than support the NPT.

Other Weapons of Mass Destruction

The resolutions supporting the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC, UNGA 58/52; L.41) and Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BWC, UNGA 58/72; L.37) achieved consensus, as expected. There was particular relief that a more substantive BWC resolution was able to be adopted without a vote this year, since disagreements had obstructed this resolution in 2002. Following the CWC's first review conference at the Hague this year, and with the experts' meetings proving to be useful and the next meeting of BWC States Parties due to be held November 10-14, the real work and political manoeuvring on these weapons and treaties were elsewhere, so the First Committee votes were primarily useful as indicators of high international support. The CWC resolution reflected developments in operative paragraphs covering universality, international cooperation and implementation. The rather desultory thematic debate reflected current concerns around the acquisition of chemical and biological weapons by non-state actors and states in regions of instability such as the Korean peninsula and Middle East.

Arms Race in Outer Space

As already noted, the traditional resolution on preventing an arms race in outer space, UNGA 58/36, garnered 174 votes in favour, with no votes against, and four abstentions (US, Israel, Micronesia and the Marshall Islands). The resolution itself appeals to the blandest common denominator and shies away from contemporaneous challenges to space security arising from the pursuit of missile defence and the growing risk of the deployment of weapons in and from outer space. Saying that it would be "the greatest folly of the human race to allow outer space to become the next arena for an arms race", Sri Lanka explained that though the sponsors had received several suggestions for strengthening the text, they had decided that it was more likely to gain wide support if they just reproduced the standard text with only technical updates.

In the thematic debate on PAROS, China related its desire to consolidate the peaceful uses of space with its increased interest in space exploration, as evinced by its first manned space flight the previous week. China and Russia both emphasised their working paper on PAROS in the CD, entitled "Possible elements for a future international legal agreement on the prevention of the deployment of weapons in outer space, the threat or use of force against outer space objects" and underlined the importance of pursuing work on this in the CD. China's ambassador to the CD, Hu Xiaodi, welcomed Russia's announcement that it would not be the first country to deploy offensive strike weapons in space. Russia outlined the benefits of the peaceful uses of space for international cooperation in environmental monitoring, navigation, telecommunications, television and radio entertainment and coverage, and counteracting natural disasters. Noting that existing laws did not adequately protect against the stationing of weapons in space, Anton Vassiliev called for confidence-building measures, transparency for space launches and related activities, which would contribute to building the political will to prevent the weaponisation of space. To that end, Russia supported a moratorium on deploying weapons in outer space and had begun publicising its planned launches of space vehicles on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website. Though the CD is unlikely to be in a position to address PAROS issues in a meaningful way for some years, Russia was at pains to highlight its support for the resolution's emphasis on the CD's "primary role" in addressing this issue. Other interventions, including Indonesia and China, concurred.

Canada took a strong but nuanced approach. Calling space security "an important priority", Canada viewed outer space as "a promising area for preventive diplomacy", and noted a "growing need to negotiate a multilateral convention on the Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space". Aware that an arms race in outer space could involve "asymmetric technologies and unpredictable results", Canada sought to build an integrated understanding of space security, encompassing work by multilateral bodies such as the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) and the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS), as well as the CD, and addressing questions such as equitable access and coordination of radio frequencies and orbital slots, as well as developing agreement on the protection of orbital assets for "for non-offensive military and civilian purposes" and also on an instrument prohibiting orbital weapons. In addition, the Fourth Committee on Special Political and Decolonisation Affairs discussed the importance of space technology and the need for transparency and wider access to technologies for communications, meteorology, disaster prevention and management, and so on. Noting the importance of the First Committee's resolution on PAROS, participants in the Fourth Committee underlined the importance of keeping space for peaceful purposes.

Conventional Weapons and Transparency

Many of the resolutions relating to conventional weapons, especially regional approaches on SALW, achieved consensus. The inclusion of explosive remnants of war (ERW) and the development of a mandate to negotiate post-conflict remedial measures, were positive developments in the CCW regime (Convention on Certain Weapons deemed to be excessively injurious or to have indiscriminate effects), applauded by many states. ERW is a broad term covering weapons or explosive remnants that remain alive and dangerous on the ground after hostilities have ceased. The term is understood to encompass, but not be limited to, unexploded munitions and submunitions, such as landmines and cluster bombs, as well as abandoned ordnance.

Support for the Mine Ban Treaty (UNGA 58/53; L.43) has continued to climb, from 138 in 2001 to 143 in 2002, up to 153 this year. Abstentions, however, remain fairly constant, at 23.

As noted above, one of the biggest surprises (and disappointments) of the First Committee was the failure to obtain consensus for the principal resolution on small arms and light weapons (L.1/Rev.1), supporting the Programme of Action agreed in 2001. As noted above, the US forced a vote, despite the assiduous attempts by its co-sponsors, notably Japan, South Africa and Colombia. Complaining that there was insufficient time to come to a mutually acceptable solution, the US challenged the cost of some $1.9 million for activities that would include a working group to negotiate an international agreement to facilitate the more effective identification and tracing of SALW, which the US said was "not previously budgeted". Although the US voted against the FC resolution, it has now said it supports the working group and has promised to work with supporters to find a budgetary solution that would permit the resolution to be adopted without a vote by the GA.

Though regional efforts, especially in Africa, were lauded, there was some debate over a new resolution, sponsored by France and the Netherlands, which appeared to single out the efforts of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) as a benchmark for best practice. Despite some scepticism from NAM states, and concerns about the OSCE's own handling of SALW collections in Central Asia, the Committee adopted the revised resolution without a vote.

In other interesting developments relating to conventional weapons and transparency, many spoke in support of the Group of Governmental Experts' (GGE) recommendation for lowering the threshold on the calibre of artillery systems to make the UN Register on Conventional Arms more applicable to Africa. As approved in the annual 'Transparency in Armaments' (TIA) resolution (UNGA 58/54; L.45), introduced as usual by the Netherlands, this would expand the Register's seven main categories, which currently comprise: large calibre artillery systems, battle tanks, armoured combat vehicles, combat aircraft, attack helicopters, warships and missiles or missile systems. To make it more relevant to terrorism, states also supported expanding the category on missiles to include MANPADs (man-portable air defence systems, i.e. shoulder launched missiles, such as the one fired at an Israeli passenger plane taking off in Kenya). The GGE had failed to agree on expanding the Register's scope to include national holdings and procurement and technical adjustments to reflect recent weapon-related developments. A strong supporter of the Register, Japan noted, apparently without irony, that the increased level of reporting "owes not a little to the United States which exports about half of such arms and regularly reports to the Register about such trade". South Africa put in a plea for more resources and better financial support to strengthen the DDA to fulfil its responsibilities with regard to the Register. As in past years, the TIA resolution had to undergo several separate paragraph votes, detailed in the appendix, after which the Arab states and a few other NAM members abstained, principally on the familiar argument that the Register should cover weapons of mass destruction, particularly nuclear weapons. Though 27 states abstained, 150 voted in favour of the whole resolution. Also worth noting, a further Netherlands-led resolution on National legislation on transfer of arms, military equipment, and dual use goods & technology (UNGA 58/42; L.16/Rev.1) was adopted without a vote. In its second year, this resolution is aimed at establishing and embedding global norms.

Other Issues Raised

Several of the resolutions in the clusters entitled 'Regional Disarmament and Security' and 'Confidence-Building Measures, Including Transparency in Armaments' were sponsored by countries pursuing regional agendas and rivalries. In particular, Pakistan is perceived to use UN resolutions promoting regional approaches and CBMs as a way to counteract or undermine the international context and approach that India favours. This widespread concern was spelled out by the United States in response to a new resolution on 'Confidence-building Measures in the Regional and Sub-regional context' (UNGA 58/43; L.18/Rev.1). Carefully insisting that its vote should not be construed as opposing CBMs or choosing sides in a regional dispute, the US representative, Sherwood McGinnis, said that it was necessary to vote no because "if the First Committee adopts this resolution it will vote onto our annual agenda another resolution whose underlying motive is to bring a bilateral dispute into the Committee." In voting on this resolution, the combined votes of opposers (48) and abstainers (46) outweighed the votes in favour (73). This meant that the resolution was adopted, despite considerable unease.

Though the resolutions supporting the UN Regional Centres for Latin America, Africa and Asia and the Pacific were all adopted without a vote, there is a subtext of frustration that some of these Centres are not achieving their potential in furthering disarmament work in their regions.

Conclusion with Proposal on First Committee Reform

Because it is dealing with concrete resolutions and states have to decide how they will vote, the First Committee provides a useful gauge for pressures (and temperatures). Pressures are high. Temperatures are still rather low, as evinced by the way some delegations seem still to be sleepwalking their way through or slipstreaming behind others instead of taking responsibility for determining their own roles in enhancing international and regional security. Nevertheless, though on the surface the 2003 First Committee might still look as if it is going through ritualistic motions, more states are getting to grips with the challenges of necessary change. While some grumbled in the corridors that all this talk about reform served only as a distraction from substance, the fact is reform is long overdue; if the machinery is cracked, rusty and inefficient, the best and most important substance in the world can get stuck in it and paralysed.

Despite the importance of the issues they purport to address, many First Committee resolutions do not appear to be capable of taking those difficult questions forward, either because of structural impediments or because of a lack of political will. Group loyalties can also get in the way, and votes may also be distorted by scepticism regarding the motives of the sponsoring states. The world needs and deserves a First Committee that is better structured and able to address security and disarmament challenges more constructively and imaginatively.

As Sareva noted in his final statement as Chair of the First Committee, there was growing convergence around some aspects of reform: rationalising the resolutions into more logical clusters, and spending time on focused, interactive 'thematic' debates in preference to stodgy general debate statements, that could better be issued in writing; considering routine resolutions or issues that progress little over time every two or three years instead of annually (and even - this is a scary thought for some delegations - removing dead resolutions and moving on!); and putting the Chair and Bureau in place early. These are all good ideas; but since civil society was excluded from the debate, here is my suggestion for how to integrate them more rationally (and save time and money overall).


Get rid of the UN Disarmament Commission. Instead, hold the first part of the First Committee session in April/May for one week (or, if necessary, two). Hold early consultations on the First Committee Chair and Bureau in order to be able to appoint them at the beginning of this meeting. The aim of this First Committee Part I would be to consider the international security environment and identify the priorities for the year. During this time (and related to the priorities discussions, which can be held in general or themed debates), states can begin to hold consultations on which issues should be addressed in resolutions or decisions at the autumn session, and which can be remitted to a further year or dealt with in some other way (or by a different forum, if other machinery has been made to function more effectively as well). The autumn session of the First Committee would be held after the GA, as at present, and would probably take 4 weeks. As suggested by others, the emphasis should be on focused interactive debates on issues directly relevant to the resolutions being submitted, with a shorter general debate (which should be viewed as following on from the earlier debates in spring), followed by the votes and explanations of vote.


The UNDC is an anachronism that has increasingly become a waste of time and resources, as evinced by the disappointment expressed by several delegations. Its chief merit is that all states are represented. But that is equally true of the First Committee. Since nothing very significant has come out of the UNDC in a long time, there is little incentive for states to engage seriously, and that shows. By contrast, though sometimes the First Committee debates can appear to be insubstantial, the requirement to decide whether to sponsor, support or oppose resolutions or decisions provides more relevance and focus not just to the debates but (more importantly, perhaps) to informal interactions and the time-honoured practice of diplomatic arm-wrestling.

At present, few states start thinking seriously about the resolutions - including their own - until late summer. At least one reason for repeat resolutions and repetitive wording is that sponsors have left it too late for more substantive consultations about changes that would more relevantly address that year's political environment, and so it's easier to fall back on the previous years' language than to undertake hurried negotiations to persuade colleagues of the merits of new language.

Holding the first part of the First Committee in Spring would focus capitals and delegations on First Committee business at an earlier stage than at present, giving several months over summer for negotiations on resolutions. In addition, having presided over the spring session, the Chair and Bureau would be much better placed to conduct consultations with states on the wider conduct and issues pertaining to the First Committee.


Summary, Analysis and Explanations


Nuclear Weapons

Nuclear Weapon Free Zones

Other Weapons of Mass Destruction

Outer Space (Disarmament Aspects)

Conventional Weapons

Regional Disarmament and Security

Confidence-building Measures including Transparency in Armaments

Disarmament Machinery

Other Disarmament Measures

Related Matters of Disarmament and International Security

International Security

Note on Layout

Voting is given as for: against: abstention.

'Consensus' denotes that a resolution was adopted without a vote. Some countries state that they have not participated in the consensus, while others prefer to be counted absent by not voting. A draft decision may be requested instead of a resolution, either when there is too much controversy to enable a resolution to go forward or to ensure the issue is on the UNGA agenda for a future year.

The First Committee votes are shown first, followed by the votes in the UN General Assembly on December 8. Comments following the votes refer to debate in the First Committee only. The resolutions have been grouped according to subject, resembling but not exactly corresponding to the clusters used by the UN. 'Rev' denotes an agreed revision incorporated before action was taken. Where possible we identify the introducer, which has normally taken the lead in negotiating with others on the text, but for a list of all co-sponsors, check the UN documents. Our aim is to highlight interventions of political significance and give greater space to controversial resolutions than to routine, procedural or symbolic ones.

Some resolutions were taken in parts. In this case, PP refers to preambular paragraph and OP refers to operative paragraph. The preambular paragraphs normally provide background and context, while the operative paragraphs underline obligations that have not yet been met or contain future requests or instructions.

Numbers given here are from the immediate official records. With regard to General Assembly votes, states that are in serious arrears with their payments to the UN are recorded as absent, whether or not they voted, which explains why even the co-sponsors of some resolutions are not able to record their votes. There may also be discrepancies in voting figures due to requests by delegations for their votes to be recorded after missing or making mistakes during the electronic voting procedure. For full details of UNGA action on the texts, see the UN website, http://www.un.org, including UN Press Release GA/10217 December 8, 2003 and Situation Reports of the First Committee on agenda items 62 to 80 (A/C.1/58/INF/3/Rev.1), December 11, 2003.

Nuclear Weapons

UNGA 58/71 (L.52)
Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty

Introduced by Australia, in accordance with tradition on behalf also of Mexico and New Zealand, with overwhelming, cross-group co-sponsorship and endorsement.

Updating the resolutions of 2000 and 2002, this resolution welcomes the Final Declaration of the September 2003 CTBT Special Conference in Vienna and underlines the continuing urgency of the treaty and its entry into force. It notes that 32 of the 44 ratifications needed for entry into force have been obtained and urges the rest to sign and/or ratify as soon as possible. The resolution urges all states to maintain their existing moratoria and to refrain from doing anything that would defeat the CTBT's object and purpose in the meanwhile (such as conducting a nuclear explosion).

First Committee, October 27: 151-1-4

UNGA: 173-1-4

First Committee comments: In his statement to the First Committee, CTBTO Executive Secretary Wolfgang Hoffmann noted that the CTBT had been signed by 169 states and ratified by 105. As noted by New Zealand, in sponsoring the resolution, a statement by 18 foreign ministers in September 2002 that any violation of the norm against testing would jeopardise the nonproliferation regime and endanger international peace and security, had now been endorsed by 50 governments. Under such circumstances it would have been more usual for the resolution to be adopted without a vote, but the United States, insisted there must be a vote so that it could underscore its opposition to the treaty by voting against. India, Colombia, Mauritius and Syria abstained, as they did in 2002.

Before the vote, Italy on behalf of the EU and a long list of aligned countries, called on all states, especially the 12 still required for entry into force, to sign and ratify, and in the meantime to give full support for the rapid establishment of the verification regime in all its elements. After the vote, the US reiterated the opening statement by Stephen Rademaker, that "the US does not support the CTBT and will not become a party to that treaty". Dismissing concerns raised by many states regarding Bush administration debates about resuming nuclear testing and developing new nuclear weapons, the US promised to maintain the moratorium it has had in place since 1992, and urged all other states to maintain existing moratoria on nuclear testing. Israel, which has signed but not ratified, explained that it voted in favour because it is committed to the CTBT's objectives, but argued that completion of the verification regime was a "prerequisite" to entry into force. Israel raised concerns about regional difficulties, including lack of cooperation by some Middle East states to complete and test the IMS, and attempts "to block or bypass the functioning of the Middle East and South Asia (MESA) group". Syria said it abstained because the CTBT did not enshrine security assurances against the use or threat of nuclear weapons to non-nuclear weapon states and complained about the inclusion of Israel as part of the MESA group defined in the treaty. Explaining its abstention, Colombia referred to a "constitutional difficulty" with regard to ratifying the CTBT and hoped further discussions with the CTBTO and others would remove this impediment. It is understood that Colombia's national laws preclude its payment for a treaty until it ratifies; since September 1996, in accordance with the UN resolution adopting the CTBT, states have been paying towards the establishment of the CTBTO. Colombia is concerned that when it deposits its ratification it will be hit with a large bill for backdated contributions which it is not permitted to pay, according to its domestic law.

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UNGA 58/57 (L.49)
The Conference on Disarmament decision (CD/1547) of 11 August 1998 to establish, under item 1 of its Agenda Entitled "Cessation of the Nuclear Arms Race and Nuclear Disarmament", an ad hoc committee to negotiate, on the basis of the report of the Special Coordinator (CD/1299) and the mandate contained therein, a non-discriminatory, multilateral and international and effectively verifiable treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices [Fissban]

Introduced by Canada with co-sponsorship of a wide cross-group of states

Identical to the resolution adopted by consensus in 2002, this emphasises the value of a treaty banning the production of fissile material in contributing to nuclear disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation. Recalls the decision of the CD to establish an ad hoc committee to negotiate such a treaty and urges it to establish a programme of work to enable fissban negotiations to commence.

First Committee, October 27: consensus

UNGA: consensus

First Committee comments: Many states, especially from the WEOG bloc, have emphasised the importance of negotiating a fissban, bringing this into the thematic discussions on nuclear disarmament and on the CD. Particularly in view of China's acceptance of the CD "Five Ambassadors"' proposal, which has reinvigorated efforts to enable the CD to start work in 2004, consensus was no surprise. However, the US astonished some by giving credibility to corridor rumours, stating that Washington was reviewing elements and policy related to the FMCT. The US said it joined consensus because it supported a FMCT that would advance US security interests, but emphasised that joining consensus was "without prejudice" to its current internal review. China's compromise has put the spotlight on the US and it is understood that the US interagency process is now going through the implications of a cut-off treaty with a fine toothcomb to decide whether the US should now agree the proposed work programme and get fissban negotiations underway. Israel, which had its arm twisted by the US to accept fissban negotiations in 1998, explained that though it had joined consensus, it believed the FMCT could not be done in isolation from the peace process in the Middle East and mentioned also its other considerations regarding the Middle East NWFZ concept, including "the overall effort to reduce tension, curb proliferation and limit armaments" in the region.

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UNGA 58/51 (L.40/Rev.1)
Towards a Nuclear-Weapon-Free World: the Need for a New Agenda

Introduced by Brazil on behalf of the New Agenda Coalition

This detailed resolution, with 30 operative paragraphs, takes further the New Agenda's concerns regarding the current "limited progress" in implementing the "blueprint" of steps on nuclear disarmament agreed by consensus at the 2000 NPT Review Conference. It underlines that the context for nuclear disarmament was the unequivocal undertaking given by the NWS to eliminate nuclear weapons. The resolution cites the opinion of the ICJ regarding the legality and use of nuclear weapons, and describes a range of measures that need to be pursued. Differences from earlier years include preambular reference that the retention of nuclear weapons [by the NWS] "carries the inherent risk of contributing to proliferation and falling into the hands of non-state actors" (PP3); and that "collective engagement" is needed to enhance international peace and security (PP5). The resolution highlights the tasks and principles required for implementing the thirteen steps, devoting, for example three OPs to the CTBT and nuclear testing (OP5, OP6, OP7), and deep concerns about the possible development of new nuclear weapons and rationalisations for use (PP21), calling on all states to refrain from actions that could lead to a new arms race or impact negatively on nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation (OP2). Tacitly acknowledging that the NPT-endorsed reference to the ABM Treaty has been superseded, the NAC resolution, in one of its more controversial paragraphs, reiterates concerns first put forward in 2002, that missile defences could lead to the weaponisation of space as well as risking a new arms race on earth (PP20). OP14 calls for the CD to update its mandate to work on prevention of an arms race in outer space (PAROS). OP10 on non-strategic nuclear weapons reproduces key elements of the NAC resolution on NSNW in 9 sub-paras. A very specific call is also made for NPT parties to make time available at the 2004 PrepCom to "thoroughly consider the matter of security assurances" and make recommendations to the 2005 Review Conference (OP19).

First Committee, November 4:

PP20 (BMD): 117-6-39

Whole resolution: 121-6-38


PP20 (BMD): 128-6-41

Whole resolution: 133-6-38

First Committee comments: China and most of the NAM voted in favour, while Russia and most of NATO and NATO-aspirant states abstained. The US, UK, France, Israel, India, and Pakistan were the sole votes against.

Canada requested a vote on PP20, which expressed concern that missile defences "could impact negatively on nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation and lead to a new arms race on earth and in outer space..." Canada abstained on this, saying that it disagreed that missile defences would definitely impact negatively on nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, since if they were carried out cooperatively, missile defence "could complement non-proliferation efforts". After registering this abstention, Canada was the only NATO member to vote in favour of the whole resolution. Japan and Australia surprised many by joining the US, UK, Israel, and Micronesia in voting against PP20, underlining their growing cooperation with the US on missile defences. Japan and Australia both abstained on the whole resolution.

Germany said it was deeply disappointed to have to abstain on the NAC resolution, having conducted intensive negotiations with a view to voting in favour. Despite its drafting suggestions, characterised as relatively minor, Germany complained that the NAC sponsors had "refused to go the extra few yards". Germany said it was committed to "an incremental approach that gradually and inexorably leads to the complete elimination of nuclear weapons". One of Germany's major difficulties is understood to have been PP2, which equates nuclear weapons to "a threat to the survival of humanity"; Germany reportedly wanted the reference to 'threat' downgraded to 'risk'. Japan, which sponsored a very similar resolution, said it had a fervent desire to prevent nuclear devastation and shared the goal of the NAC resolution, elements of which it considered "useful and agreeable"; but Japan objected to the resolution's depiction of missile defence, and believed the steps needed to be "realistic and practical and take into account different circumstances". Australia said much the same. The UK, on behalf of France and the US, explained that these P-3 voted against the NAC resolution because it went beyond the agreements of 1995 and 2000 and did not take into account progress since 2000, including the Moscow Treaty. China voted in favour, but said it had reservations on the NSNW parts of the resolution, and reiterated that there should be a requirement not to use nuclear weapons first (no-first-use). Pakistan voted no "with a degree of diffidence" because it "fully shares the objectives of preventing acquisition of nuclear weapons by non-state actors" and believes that the best assurance is to eliminate the weapons through total nuclear disarmament. But despite this, Pakistan voted against the resolution because it disagreed with PP18, OP20, OP22, and OP23 (which referred to South Asia or called on India, Pakistan and Israel to join the NPT). In Pakistan's view, such paragraphs did not reflect the reality for South Asia or Pakistan's "reasons for acquiring nuclear weapons", which were "for self defence and strategic balance". Like Pakistan, India objected to PP18, OP20, OP22 and OP23, saying they were "prescriptive" and did not reflect the "ground realities". India argued that the only relevant document or agenda for the international community was that of UNSSOD I agreed in 1978, which contained a programme of action that has only been partially implemented. India therefore questioned whether there was a need for a new agenda and said "a new agenda cannot succeed in the framework of the NPT, which is flawed and discriminatory". Colombia gave its familiar reservation about its political-constitutional difficulty over CTBT ratification.

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UNGA 58/50 (L.39/Rev.1)
Reductions of Non-Strategic Nuclear Weapons

Introduced by Brazil on behalf of the New Agenda Coalition

First introduced by the NAC in 2002, this resolution focuses on the need to reduce and eliminate non-strategic nuclear weapons. It raises explicit concerns about the threat posed by NSNW "due to their portability, proximity to areas of conflict and probability of pre-delegation in case of military conflict" and "the risk of proliferation and of early, preemptive, unauthorised or accidental use", as well as changing security strategies and the "possible development of new types of low-yield" NSNW. With 10 OPs, in contrast with 8 in 2002, it calls for the reduction and elimination of NSNW weapons in a transparent and verifiable manner, in the context of commitments in the final document of the 2000 NPT Review Conference, including the NWS' unequivocal undertaking to eliminate nuclear weapons, agreed by consensus at the 2000 NPT Review Conference. In addition to calling upon the US and Russia to formalise their 1991 and 1992 Presidential Initiatives, the resolution addresses more recent concerns about US plans to develop so-called "mini-nukes", deep penetrating "bunker busters" or other kinds of new nuclear weapons by stressing the need for the NWS to undertake not to develop new types of NSNW or rationalisations for their use, nor to increase the number or types of such weapons in their arsenal. It calls for additional concrete measures to further reduce the operational status of NSNW and enhance security and physical protection, so as to reduce the risk that nuclear weapons would be used.

First Committee, November 4: 118-4-41

UNGA: 128-4-43

First Committee comments: The US, UK, France and Russia voted against. China did not vote at all. Abstentions included Australia, Japan, South Korea NATO members and NATO hopefuls, as well as India, Pakistan and Israel. The US spoke on behalf of the UK and France, though it noted that the two lesser NWS no longer had NSNW in their arsenals. The US said it had completed its pledges under the 1991-2 Presidential Initiatives without a formal treaty and was working bilaterally for increased transparency, and said that such approaches would be more effective than the resolution, which risked complicated existing arrangements and would create obstacles of definition, verification, etc. Russia, which had abstained in 2002, voted no this year, saying said that the resolution was still insufficiently precise and concerns Russia expressed about it last year had not been addressed. Russia said it was faithful to its commitments and that reductions of NSNW were being conducted systematically, but complained that the draft proposed "new and specific" commitments that went beyond agreements undertaken in 1991-2 and in 2000, and, in Russia's view, added new problems. China said it chose not to vote because the resolution's definitions of NSNW were not clear. Referring to its own paper on this subject in the NPT meetings, Germany said that though NSNW were of especial interest, it had abstained because their elimination must be "irreversible and controlled" and "could not be achieved in one leap".

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UNGA 58/59 (L.53)
A Path to the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons

Introduced by Japan, together with Australia, and a number of others

This omnibus resolution, which Japan has sponsored since 1994, focuses on the NPT and has grown noticeably stronger since 2000. In paragraphs highlighted by Japan as new elements, it stresses the need for full compliance with the NPT, described as the cornerstone of the nuclear non-proliferation regime, expresses concern about challenges to the regime (PP6, which was orally amended to cover all challenges, not only 'recent' ones), with reference also to terrorism, and calls for a successful review conference in 2005. Most substantively, it lists (at times paraphrased and updated) the 'thirteen steps' on nuclear disarmament agreed in the Final Document of the 2000 NPT Review Conference, including (OP3e) the unequivocal undertaking by the NWS to eliminate their nuclear arsenals. Containing new preambular paragraphs about nuclear devastation (PP4) and expressing deep concern about the dangers posed by the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (PP3), the resolution also gave strong endorsement to the CTBT's entry into force "without delay and without conditions", and moratoria on testing (OP3a) and fissile materials production (OP3b), as well as endorsement of the IAEA resolutions regarding strengthened safeguards (OP11). The resolution also calls for the CD to establish a programme of work in 2004, and for a fissban to be concluded within five years. It stresses the need for, and importance of, a successful outcome of the 2005 NPT Review Conference and calls upon all states to maintain standards of physical protection of nuclear materials and technology.

First Committee, October 30: 146-2-16

UNGA: 164-2-14

First Committee comments: While aiming for - and obtaining - the broadest level of support of all the nuclear disarmament resolution, Japan no longer pursues the lowest common denominator in order to obtain agreement from all sides, including the nuclear weapon possessors. This stronger stand has increased the pertinence of the resolution's message about nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation.

Causing disappointment but little surprise, the United States and India voted against: the US because of the endorsement of the CTBT, and India because of the fundamental context of the NPT imbuing this resolution. Complaining that the resolution stressed the urgent necessity for CTBT signatures, ratifications and entry into force, the United States repeated its explanation for voting against the CTBT resolution a few days earlier: the US "does not support the CTBT and will not become a party to it". Giving its familiar assurances about its unfailing commitment to nuclear disarmament and opposition to "the discriminatory framework of the NPT" India said it voted against the resolution because it follows the NPT's "flawed premises and approach".

Most of the EU, including Britain and France, supported, but (as they had done in 2002) the New Agenda Coalition abstained. On their behalf, Brazil explained that though the NAC recognised that Japan was committed to nuclear disarmament, they considered that the resolution "misinterpreted" the adoption by the 2000 NPT Review Conference of the unequivocal undertaking by the NWS to accomplish the complete elimination of their nuclear arsenals. Although the importance of this undertaking was especially emphasised by Japan when it introduced the resolution, the NAC were concerned that its placement in a sub-para of OP3 might imply that the unequivocal undertaking was a step still to be taken. They also feared that it created a contextual linkage with general and complete disarmament, as Japan had done in earlier resolutions. The NAC underlined that the NPT 2000 agreements had clearly delinked the necessity for nuclear disarmament from general disarmament as a whole. Japan and others disagreed with this interpretation, pointing out that the purpose of paragraph 3 was to emphasise and list the practical steps that had been agreed in 2000 and urge that they be implemented. From a different standpoint, Germany complained that the resolution was open to misinterpretation because it did not reflect the practical steps in their entirety. Having registered its objection to this "selective quoting", however, Germany voted in favour, citing its commitment to nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation and the full implementation of the 2000 agreements and outcome.

China abstained, complaining obliquely that the resolution failed to mention "some fundamental principles" and that some of its paragraphs were "not realistic or feasible in the current situation". China is known to oppose the exhortation to declare and adhere to a moratorium on the production of fissile materials. France, after some agonised deliberation (the ambassador said), voted in favour but complained that PP4, which called for every effort to be made to avoid nuclear devastation, was a distortion of the NPT's preamble, which had put devastation in the context of nuclear war. Reiterating, that France considered its security underpinned by nuclear deterrence (presuming that this will avoid rather than create the conditions for nuclear devastation), France accepted the text as a gesture of friendship towards Japan and this should not be taken as a precedent in any future debates or in other fora. Pakistan abstained because of the NPT references. Colombia abstained because of its constitutional difficulties regarding CTBT ratification, discussed earlier in regard to the CTBT resolution. Malaysia voted in favour, as it supports all efforts to obtain a nuclear weapon free world, but expressed frustration at the lack of progress. Austria said it voted in favour because of its shared commitment to nuclear disarmament, but complained that OP11, which addressed IAEA safeguards was weak and inadequate. Austria would have preferred a stronger connection to the resolution adopted by the IAEA General Conference, September 17, 2003.

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UNGA 58/46 (L.31)
Follow-up to the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice on the Legality of the Threat or Use of Nuclear Weapons

Introduced by Malaysia with co-sponsorship from over 50 NAM states

First tabled after the ICJ advisory opinion of July 1996 on the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons, this resolution underlines the ICJ's major unanimous conclusion 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" (OP1) and links it with a call for immediate negotiations on a nuclear weapon convention (OP2). It recalls many international obligations, including the principles and objectives adopted at the 1995 NPT Review Conference, the 2000 Review Conference thirteen steps, the various nuclear-weapons-free zones, and traditional NAM positions, such as a timebound framework for nuclear disarmament. In this regard, it stresses that the CD should "commence negotiations on a phased programme for the complete elimination of nuclear weapons with a specified framework of time" (PP12).

First Committee, October 28

OP1: 140-4-5

Whole resolution: 104-29-20

UNGA: 124-29-22

OP1: 165-4-3

First Committee comments: China, most NAM states and the New Agenda Coalition supported the resolution. NATO and Western-aligned states either opposed or abstained. A separate vote was requested for OP1, which endorsed the unanimous ICJ conclusion about the legal obligation to pursue and bring nuclear disarmament to a conclusion. This enabled some of the states intending to oppose or abstain on the whole resolution to register their endorsement of this important ICJ conclusion. Only the US, Russia, Israel and the Democratic Republic of Congo voted against OP1, while Belarus, Britain, France, Georgia and Portugal abstained. As expressed by Japan and Luxembourg on behalf of the Benelux countries (Belgium and Netherlands), the main arguments employed by countries supporting OP1 but not the resolution as a whole centred on complaints that the ICJ opinion should not have been quoted "selectively" or that it was premature to call on states to negotiate a nuclear weapon convention. The criticism of selectivity appears disingenuous, since instead of getting bogged down in the equivocal or indeterminate parts of the opinion, the resolution's purpose is to draw attention to the most relevant, unanimous conclusion: the judges, whatever their provenance, found themselves united on the obligation to negotiate nuclear disarmament. In the absence of any specific legal prohibition against the possession or use of nuclear weapons at the time, the ICJ considered that use would generally be contrary to the principles and rules of humanitarian law. However, looking at the body of law as a whole, they were divided over whether there might possibly be circumstances under which nuclear weapon use would not be unlawful, and if so, what these extreme circumstances might be.

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UNGA 58/56 (L.47)
Nuclear disarmament

Introduced by Myanmar (Burma) with co-sponsorship from many NAM states, but notably not New Agenda states or Chile, nor India or Pakistan.

This traditional omnibus resolution on nuclear disarmament evokes past NAM declarations and recommendations, UN Special Sessions on Disarmament and the Millennium Declaration, and the NPT agreements (stressing the importance of the NPT 2000 thirteen steps). Carrying 22 OPs, it is more rhetorical and less practically oriented than the resolutions sponsored by the New Agenda or Japan, though it touches many of the same bases. More specifically, it urges the NWS to de-alert and deactivate their nuclear weapons (OP6). This demand had more resonance before the architects of the Moscow Treaty, which this resolution notes with appreciation, came up with the ingenious device of using de-alerting in place of irreversible reductions and elimination. Surprisingly, the traditional NAM call for a timetable or timebound framework for nuclear disarmament no longer appears, but the resolution calls for conclusion of an "international legal instrument or instruments" on "adequate" security assurances to NNWS (OP16), and an international conference on nuclear disarmament to "identify and deal with concrete measures of nuclear disarmament" (OP20). Stressing "the complementarity of bilateral, plurilateral and multilateral negotiations on nuclear disarmament and that bilateral negotiations can never replace multilateral negotiations in this respect" (PP13), the resolution also urges the NWS "to commence plurilateral negotiations" on further deep reductions in nuclear weapons (OP9).

First Committee, November 3: 101-43-18

UNGA: 112-45-20

First Committee comments: The vote on this traditional nuclear disarmament resolution splits unchallengingly along group lines; it is backed by most of the NAM, and opposed by NATO and its aligned states. While most of the NAC voted in favour, Sweden and Ireland abstained. Russia abstained. China was the only NWS to support, though it explained that it had some reservations, and considered that it was premature to pursue some of the steps outlined in the resolution, which in any case needed to "follow the principle of strategic stability and undiminished security". India and Pakistan abstained because of references to the NPT. Japan said that it came to the "difficult decision" to abstain, but favoured a step by step approach rather than the time-bound framework (which is no longer explicit in the resolution).

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UNGA 58/37 (L.4)

Introduced by Iran, together with Egypt and Indonesia

In its fifth year, this resolution is calling now for a second panel of governmental experts to explore further "the issue of missiles, in all its aspects", to be established in 2004 on the basis on equitable geographical distribution. Earlier resolutions were successful in establishing a UN Panel of Governmental Experts in 2001-2, under the auspices of the Department for Disarmament Affairs.

First Committee, October 27: 90-3-59

UNGA: 113-3-56

First Committee comments: The previous Panel on missiles reported back in 2002, but although it provided an excellent overview, irreconcilable differences of approach among the panellists and the states they represented meant that the panel could not agree on recommendations. The UN provided an oral statement that funding could be found for 3 sessions in New York over 2004-5.

The resolution was opposed by the United States, Israel and Micronesia. The EU and numerous aligned states explained their abstention on grounds that the resolution failed to welcome the International Code of Conduct (ICoC), adopted in the Hague in November 2002, which European countries believe is the most comprehensive way to address missile proliferation, and the EU did not consider that another UN panel of experts to be an effective way to proceed. Japan and the Republic of Korea, which participated in the 2001-2 UN Panel, and Australia also abstained, while emphasising the grave concern they attached to the proliferation of missiles capable of delivering WMD. Japan and Australia complained that the resolution made no acknowledgement of ongoing efforts including the HCoC, and South Korea said it favoured a "step by step" approach and was "sceptical" of the value of another study based on an "unfocussed mandate".

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UNGA 58/47 (L.34)
Reducing Nuclear Danger

Introduced by India with co-sponsorship from several NAM states

Now in its sixth year, this resolution focuses on de-alerting and the adoption of measures to prevent accidents arising from computer or other technical malfunctions, as well as nuclear postures based on "hair-trigger alert". In addition to general exhortations for all member states to work to prevent nuclear proliferation and promote nuclear disarmament, it calls for a review of nuclear doctrines (OP1), specifically by the five NWS (OP2), and calls for implementation of the seven recommendations in the report of the Secretary-General's Advisory Board on Disarmament Matters and the Millennium Declaration related to reducing nuclear dangers and the risks of nuclear war.

First Committee, October 27: 99-46-14

UNGA: 114-47-17

First Committee comments: First tabled by India in 1998, the same year as it conducted nuclear tests and declared its admission to the nuclear 'club' as a NWS, this is an odd, hybrid resolution, understood by most to be aimed mainly at promoting de-alerting. Though many agree that more must be done to reduce nuclear danger, the vote splits along NAM-Western lines, with China, Japan, South Korea and a few Eastern European/Central Asian states abstaining. The high number of negative votes from NATO-EU aligned states reflects their deep scepticism about India's underlying motive for this resolution. The references to preventing nuclear accidents are taken by some to relate to the controversial question of whether India and Pakistan should receive assistance or technologies, such as permissive action links (PALs), developed by some of the NWS in this regard. Furthermore, de-alerting, which was promoted as an interim step by the Canberra Commission and others during the 1990s, is less popular with disarmament advocates since the Moscow Treaty effectively presented the withdrawal of weapons from deployment as a substitute for irreversible, transparent and verifiable nuclear disarmament.

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UNGA 58/35 (L.8)
Conclusion of Effective International Arrangements to Assure Non-Nuclear-Weapon States Against the Use or Threat of Use of Nuclear Weapons [NSA]

Introduced by Pakistan with co-sponsorship from a handful of NAM states

Pakistan's traditional resolution on security assurances, tabled since 1990, is carried forward with few changes over the years, despite Pakistan's own nuclear tests and assertion of nuclear weapon possession and status. It evokes numerous past UN and NAM meetings and declarations, asserts the need to safeguard the "independence, territorial integrity and sovereignty" of non-nuclear weapon states against the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons, and argues that, until nuclear disarmament has been achieved universally, a common approach on security assurances needs to be negotiated. Among the six OPs, three refer to the CD, which is called on to "actively continue intensive negotiations" on effective international arrangements.

First Committee, October 27: 98-0-59

UNGA: 119-0-58

First Committee comments: While most of the NAM voted in favour, NATO and European states abstained en bloc. Though none voted against, because the concept of security assurances is one that even its opponents feel the need to pay lip service to, the lack of enthusiasm reflects the tired language and view that this resolution is widely regarded as having outlived its usefulness, at least in this form. Although some may be dissatisfied with the security assurances contained in UNSC 984 (1995), many view this issue as more appropriately dealt with in the context of the NPT, rather than the CD. The United States made clear that it abstained in this resolution because it "continues to oppose any proposal for a negative security assurances treaty or global, legally binding security assurances regime".

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UNGA 58/64 (L.36)
Convention on the Prohibition of the Use of Nuclear Weapons

Introduced by India with the co-sponsorship of thirty NAM states

This rival resolution (dating back many years), for which India, despite its own nuclear testing and weapons capabilities, continues to take the lead in sponsoring, evokes the July 1996 ICJ opinion and various past UN resolutions, and argues that a multilateral, universal and binding agreement prohibiting the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons would contribute to the total elimination of nuclear threats. Despite regretting the CD's inability to undertake negotiations, the two OPs request the CD to commence negotiations on an international convention "prohibiting the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons under any circumstances" and to report the results to the General Assembly.

First Committee, October 27: 102-46-10

UNGA: 118-46-13

First Committee comments: This is a further example of an important issue being given short shrift because of its provenance. The vote divided along traditional lines, with most NAM states and China voting in favour, and the EU/NATO aligned bloc, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan voting against. Russia was among the handful that abstained.

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UNGA 58/517 (L.2, DECISION)
United Nations Conference to Identify Ways of Eliminating Nuclear Dangers in the Context of Nuclear Disarmament

Introduced by Mexico

This decision puts the item entitled "United Nations conference to identify ways of eliminating nuclear dangers in the context of nuclear disarmament" onto the agenda of the 59th session of the General Assembly.

First Committee, October 27: 104-7-40

UNGA: 133-6-38

First Committee comments: Mexico has long been trying to get this conference off the ground, and putting forward this decision again indicates the triumph of hope over optimism. The US, UK, France, together with Israel, Poland, Monaco, and Germany voted against, while most other European countries abstained. The New Agenda states voted in favour, as did most of the NAM. As it did in 2002, Germany expressed sympathy with Mexico's concerns and sense of urgency, but raised concerns that the establishment of such a conference was not appropriate at this juncture as it could undermine the CD and the ongoing NPT process.

Nuclear Weapon Free Zones

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UNGA 58/31 (L.6)
Consolidation of the regime established by the Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean (Treaty of Tlatelolco)

Introduced by Mexico on behalf of all the states in the region

This resolution welcomes that the Tlatelolco Treaty is now in force for all states in the region, as will be officially underscored at OPANAL's meeting in Havana, November 5-6, 2003.

First Committee, October 27: consensus

UNGA: consensus

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UNGA 58/30 (L.11)
African Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty (Treaty of Pelindaba)

Introduced by Nigeria on behalf of the Group of African States

This resolution, which goes back to 1996, when the Pelindaba Treaty was signed in Cairo, supports the establishment of the African NWFZ, calls on the relevant states that have not yet done so to sign and ratify the Pelindaba Treaty so that it can enter into force without delay (OP1), and also to conclude comprehensive safeguards agreements with the IAEA, as required (OP4). It expresses its appreciation to the NWS that have signed the Protocols that concern them and calls on those that have not yet ratified the Protocols concerning them to do so as soon as possible (OP2). Because the Canary Islands, which are legally part of Spain, lie within the zone mapped out by the Treaty, Spain put in an amendment (L.58) which would have slightly amended OP2 and deleted OP3. OP3 calls upon states "contemplated in Protocol III....to take all necessary measures to ensure the speedy application of the Treaty to territories for which they are, de jure or de facto, internationally responsible and that lie within the limits of the geographical zone established in the Treaty."

First Committee, November 4: consensus

UNGA: consensus

First Committee comments: Although the cosponsors did not revise their resolution, Spain withdrew its amendment just before the vote, thereby allowing consensus. Spain warned, however, that unless the anomalous situation was resolved, it would refuse to join consensus in 2005. In a long and detailed statement Spain said that it withdrew its amendment as a gesture of goodwill to allow consensus because it supports the general objectives of the Pelindaba Treaty, but that the Canary Islands - "part of Spanish territory" - should not be included in the zone of the African NWFZ. Instead of this problem being addressed in accordance with NWFZ guidelines established by the UNDC, including the necessity that they be a "well defined geographical region" by agreement freely arrived at by the states concerned, Spain complained that OP3 singled it out unacceptably. Therefore, Spain would not regard itself as bound by consensus on OP3. The United States, and Italy on behalf of the EU, made statements agreeing that Spain had "legitimate concerns". They supported the view that Spain should not have been singled out in the resolution and called for the problem to be resolved before the issue comes before the First Committee again.

Spain stressed that all Spanish territory had been denuclearised in 1976, by agreement with the US, but that it had decided it was not appropriate for it to join Protocol III because it "would lead to redundant safeguards over Spanish territory already subject to comprehensive safeguards", since Spain already adheres to Euratom and the NPT-related IAEA safeguards, including the Additional Protocol. Spain referred also to its membership of NATO (which, in view of NATO's nuclear doctrine, appears to be part of the problem), and mentioned other relevant agreements, including the INF and CFE treaties, underlining that all its nuclear facilities were exclusively for peaceful purposes, and that Spain already abided by obligations "that go well beyond Pelindaba". Despite the EU's statement of support for Spain, some EU delegations appeared less than sympathetic with its position on this.

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UNGA 58/518 (L.14, DECISION)
Establishment of a Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone in Central Asia

Introduced by Uzbekistan, on behalf of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan

Since the Central Asian states were still in the midst of consultations, they proposed a draft decision to keep the issue on the UN agenda.

First Committee, October 27: consensus

UNGA: consensus

First Committee comments: Introducing the decision, Uzbekistan declared that a draft treaty had already been established but that negotiations were still underway with the nuclear weapon powers to make the zone a reality. There has been considerable support for the states of the region to conclude a treaty establishing a Central Asian NWFZ, but though it was widely expected last year, it continues to be bedevilled by problems; hence the decision rather than a more substantive resolution.

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UNGA 58/34 (L.22)
Establishment of a Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone in the Region of the Middle East

Introduced by Egypt on behalf of the League of Arab States

This traditional resolution, which goes back to 1974, cites the need for the establishment of a nuclear-weapons-free zone in the Middle East, while at the same time reaffirming the right of states to develop and acquire nuclear energy for so-called peaceful purposes. It invites all countries of the region to declare their support for establishing such a zone.

First Committee, October 27: consensus

UNGA: consensus

First Committee comments: The language of this resolution is deliberately kept moderate to enable it to be adopted without a vote. Israel explained that it had joined consensus "notwithstanding substantive and important reservations regarding certain elements in the resolution". Repeating the mantra that a NWFZ must be based on "arrangements freely arrived at among all the states in the region concerned", Israel argued that the nuclear issue, and all regional security issues, should be dealt with in the context of the peace process. In particular, Israel favoured a step by step approach, beginning with "modest CBMs, followed by the establishment of peaceful relations and reaching reconciliation..." Characterising a NWFZ in the Middle East as a "more ambitious goal", Israel said it could not be established "in situations where some of the states maintain they are in a state of war with each other, refuse in principle to maintain peaceful relations with Israel or even recognise its right to exist".

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UNGA 58/68 (L.23)
The Risk of Nuclear Proliferation in the Middle East

Introduced by Egypt on behalf of the League of Arab States

This annual resolution is the less consensual sibling of the previous, and names Israel, while stressing the need for universality of the NPT. PP6, on which there was a separate vote, emphasises the resolution on the Middle East adopted by the 1995 NPT Review and Extension Conference, while OP1 welcomes the conclusions on the Middle East adopted by NPT parties in 2000. Noting that Israel is now the only state in the region that remains outside the NPT it calls upon that state "to accede... without further delay and not to develop, produce, test or otherwise acquire nuclear weapons, and to renounce possession of nuclear weapons, and to place all its unsafeguarded nuclear facilities under fullscope" IAEA safeguards. In addressing nuclear proliferation in the Middle East, the resolution does not mention the IAEA additional protocol or raise concerns about the activities of any states other than Israel.

First Committee, November 3:

PP6: 142-2-11

Whole resolution: 146-3-10


PP6: 162-2-10

Whole resolution: 162-4-10

First Committee comments: Calling this resolution "blatantly one-sided, contentious and divisive", Israel contrasted it unfavourably with the previous one on a NWFZ in the Middle East, in which it had been able to join consensus. In particular, Israel objected that it focused on only one country "that has never threatened its neighbours", and does not address other states in the region who "abuse arms control" to develop technologies for hostile uses. Israel said this "biased resolution" discredited the General Assembly and undermined efforts to build peace and security in the region. The United States and Micronesia joined Israel in opposing the resolution. India joined Israel voting against PP6, which endorsed the 1995 NPT agreements, and then abstained on the whole, citing not only its opposition to PP6 but additional reservations over other references to the NPT, including PP5. The US, Pakistan and an odd group of small countries, including Bhutan, Vanuatu, Micronesia, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Costa Rica, Trinidad and Tobago, abstained on PP6. Noting its reservations over PP6, Pakistan joined those in favour of the resolution as a whole. Though the EU voted in favour, Canada and Australia joined those who abstained. Canada said it supported the universalisation of the NPT but was concerned that this resolution was unbalanced and did not address compliance, an oblique reference to problems with other states in the region.

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UNGA 58/49 (L.38)
Nuclear-Weapon-Free Southern Hemisphere and Adjacent Areas

Introduced by Brazil, together with New Zealand, with the co-sponsorship of a wide cross-group of states in the southern hemisphere

As in past years, this resolution, which has been led by Brazil and New Zealand since 1996, caused anxiety for Britain, France and the United States, which regularly transport nuclear weapons or materials through the oceans of the Southern Hemisphere, and offended India and Pakistan, because it refers to a NWFZ in South Asia. Slightly longer than in past years, the resolution places its calls for the ratification of all nuclear-weapon-free-zone treaties and their protocols, as relevant, in the context of the determined pursuit of "the total elimination of nuclear weapons" and "the important role of NWFZ in strengthening the nuclear non-proliferation regime." As it did in 2002, the resolution recalls "the applicable principles and rules of international law relating to the freedom of the high seas and the rights of passage through maritime space", including UNCLOS, but as the votes reflect, this paragraph has failed to bring the sceptical NWS on board. Using the traditional language associated with NWFZs, OP5 "welcomes the steps taken to conclude further nuclear-weapon-free-zone treaties on the basis of arrangements freely arrived at among the states of the region concerned, and calls upon all states to consider all relevant proposals, including those reflected in its resolutions on the establishment of nuclear-weapon-free-zones in the Middle East and South Asia".

First Committee, October 27: India insisted on separate votes on OP5, and the last three words of OP5 (..."and South Asia.")

OP5 (last three words of): 142-2-11

OP5: 145-1-11

Resolution as a whole: 146-3-9


OP5 (last three words of): 159-3-9

OP5: 163-2-9

Resolution as a whole: 163-3-8

First Committee comments: Despite explicit assurances from Brazil and New Zealand that the resolution did not violate norms and laws of the sea or create new legal obligations, Britain, France and the United States voted against, as in previous years; Russia, Israel, India, and Pakistan abstained. Bhutan, Georgia, Spain, the Marshall Islands and Albania also abstained, while China joined the majority of NNWS voting in favour. The specific mention of the need for a NWFZ in South Asia was objected to by India and Pakistan (who voted against the last three words of OP5, and when these were nevertheless adopted, voted against OP5 as a whole and then abstained on the whole resolution). India, practically duplicating its statement of previous years, declared that this aspect of the resolution ran counter to the established understanding that NWFZ must be freely arrived at by the states concerned, and queried why South Asia was singled out, when it was "no more relevant" than a NWFZ in Western Europe or East Asia. To explain the three NWS' negative vote the United Kingdom, speaking on behalf of the United States and France, said that, notwithstanding the preambular acknowledgement regarding the laws relating to freedom of the seas, they questioned "whether the real goal of this resolution is the establishment of a nuclear weapon free zone that covers the high seas". They took the view that "it seems contradictory to simultaneously propose an area that is comprised largely of high seas and effectively say it does not apply to the high seas."

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UNGA 58/40 (L.12)
Prohibition of the Dumping of Radioactive Wastes

Introduced by Nigeria on behalf of the Group of African States

This periodic resolution highlights the hazards of radioactive waste, particularly in the event of their use for radiological warfare, and calls on states to prevent "any dumping of nuclear or radioactive wastes that would infringe upon the sovereignty of states" (OP3). It reflects various agreements, including the IAEA code of practice of the international transboundary movement of radioactive waste and the Bamako Convention banning the import of hazardous wastes into Africa and controlling their transboundary movements within Africa. Most specifically, it requests the CD to "intensify efforts towards an early conclusion" of a convention on the prohibition of radiological weapons (a topic that remains part of the CD's Decalogue, but which has never got off the ground), and if and when it does so, to consider radioactive waste.

First Committee, October 27: consensus

UNGA: consensus

First Committee comments: In this case, consensus indicated not support so much as lack of engagement with this issue. Though no-one bestirred themselves to oppose, few if any of those joining consensus have any intention of working on this issue in the CD in the near future.

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Conference of States Parties and Signatories to Treaties by which Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zones have been Established

Introduced by Mexico

Mexico had hoped to win support for convening a conference of NWFZ signatories and parties before the 2005 NPT Review Conference, with the objective of improving dialogue and cooperation among states parties and signatories, the treaty agencies and other interested states, both to facilitate the more effective implementation of these treaties and to strengthen the nonproliferation regime. Although a number of states expressed interest in the concept, Mexico also met with resistance to the idea from those who considered it would cost too much and/or raised concerns about its purpose, fearing it would detract from rather than support the NPT. Failing to garner the kind of support necessary to take such an initiative to fruition, Mexico withdrew its resolution on November 3.

Other Weapons of Mass Destruction

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UNGA 58/72 (L.37)
Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on Their Destruction [BWC]

Introduced by Hungary with the support of BWC states parties.

Noting that the BWC has 150 states parties, the resolution emphasises the understanding that article I of the BWC effectively prohibits the use of bacteriological (biological) and toxin weapons and their development, production and stockpiling under all circumstances. The Fifth Review Conference's decision to hold annual expert meetings and meetings of states parties until the Sixth Review Conference is recalled, and the resolution calls for further signatures and ratification, increased information exchange and resources to implement the BWC states parties' decisions.

First Committee, October 27: consensus

UNGA: consensus

First Committee comments: After disagreements prevented a resolution in 2002, there was general satisfaction that a more substantive resolution was able to be adopted this year without a vote.

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UNGA 58/52 (L.41)
Implementation of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on Their Destruction [CWC]

Introduced by Poland on behalf of CWC states parties

This now-traditional resolution once again seeks to underline the importance of the CWC. Welcoming the growth in its membership over the past year and the cooperation between the UN and the OPCW, the resolution calls for the CWC's "full, universal and effective implementation" so as to exclude completely the possibility of any further use of chemical weapons. Noting "with appreciation" the outcome of the CWC meeting, the resolution underscores some of the key points in its Political Declaration, including urging universalisation, effective application of the verification system, fulfilment of financial obligations, and the fostering of peaceful international cooperation.

First Committee, October 27: consensus

UNGA: consensus

First Committee comments: Egypt said it had not wanted to disturb consensus, but was concerned about some of the language, especially with regard to the calls for universality. Egypt argued that universalisation of the CWC should be in parallel with universalisation of the NPT, a point made by other Arab states in various First Committee interventions, aimed, of course, at Israel.

Outer Space (Disarmament Aspects)

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UNGA 58/36 (L.44)
Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space (PAROS)

Introduced by Sri Lanka with traditional co-sponsorship by Egypt, as well as support from China and the Russian Federation and a host of non-aligned states.

Although this resolution still sticks closely to its traditional language, and was identical to the PAROS resolution of 2002, the politics surrounding it have sharpened in recent years. In 9 operative paragraphs, it focuses on the CD's role in addressing space security. Although recognising the "complementary nature of bilateral and multilateral agreements", the resolution invites the CD to establish an ad hoc PAROS committee. Asserting that the growing use of outer space has increased the need for greater transparency and information within the international community, the resolution makes note of the fact that the legal regime applicable to outer space does not, as it currently stands, guarantee the prevention of an arms race in outer space and thus needs to be reinforced and expanded. The resolution calls upon all states, particularly those with major space capabilities to contribute actively to the peaceful uses of space and to the prevention of an arms race in outer space, and to keep the CD informed of the progress of any bilateral and multilateral negotiations.

First Committee, October 27: 161-0-3

UNGA: 174-0-4

First Committee comments: This is the largest vote for PAROS in many years, with only the US, Israel and Micronesia abstaining. Moreover, for the first time in years, the First Committee held a short thematic debate on PAROS, in which Russia, China, Canada and a number of other states participated. Yet the PAROS resolution has still to be taken seriously, not least by its co-sponsors, who appear unwilling to make it stronger and more relevant to contemporaneous challenges arising from the pursuit of missile defence and the growing risk of the weaponisation of space. The ritual irrelevance of the current resolution was epitomised by Italy's explanation after the PAROS vote. On behalf of the EU and numerous aligned countries, Italy stated that they regarded the CD as the only appropriate multilateral negotiating body for addressing PAROS issues, which would have to have a mandate subject to agreement by all, but stressed that as far as the EU was concerned, the FMCT was the priority for work. This position, advanced by Britain for a number of years, has been adopted by the EU since 2002: in effect, the EU is prepared to make the gesture of voting in favour of the resolution, but views PAROS as a non-priority for the CD, while at the same time opposing any attempt to address the issue in any forum other than the CD.

Conventional Weapons

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UNGA vote postponed (L.1/Rev.1)
The Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All its Aspects [SALW]

Introduced by Japan with Colombia and South Africa and a wide cross-group co-sponsorship

This substantive and practical resolution expresses its support for the implementation of the 2001 Programme of Action and welcomes the consensus report of the first biennial meeting of states held in NY from July 7-11, 2003. Expressing support for initiatives to mobilise resources and expertise to further implementation of the Programme of Action, it decides to convene a two-week UN Conference to review progress on this some time in June/July 2006, in New York (OP1), as well as a two-week PrepCom in January 2006 and subsequent sessions if necessary (OP2). It also decides to convene a second biennial meeting of states in accordance with the Programme of Action in 2005 (OP3) and establish an open-ended working group to negotiate an international instrument to enable states "to identify and trace, in a timely and reliable manner, illicit small arms and light weapons", requesting assistance and services from the UN (OP8-10). The Secretary General is further requested to hold "broad-based consultations" with a wide variety of governmental and nongovernmental experts and agencies on "further steps to enhance international cooperation in preventing, combating, and eradicating illicit brokering in small arms and light weapons..."(OP11)

First Committee, November 6: 162-1-0

UNGA: vote postponed

First Committee comments: Despite the assiduous attempts by lead-sponsors Japan, South Africa, Colombia, and a number of major US allies to have this resolution adopted by consensus, the United States insisted on a vote and voted against, citing concerns about "fiduciary discipline". Complaining that there was insufficient time to come to a mutually acceptable solution, the US challenged the cost of some $1.9 million for activities "not previously budgeted", including the proposed working group to negotiate an international agreement to facilitate the more effective identification and tracing of SALW. The US vote caused deep dismay, not least among its allies. In unusually strong terms, Switzerland deplored that the US had blocked consensus, while South Africa spoke for the majority of states when it expressed its deep regret that consensus on implementing the SALW Programme of Action had been broken in this way. Its numerous cosponsors hoping (in vain, as it turned out) to achieve consensus, the resolution was also the subject of intensive consultations and significant revisions, which removed the specificity attached to the dates for the 2006 meetings in January and June-July and added a paragraph containing the decision to convene a further meeting of states in 2005.

Although there was much scepticism that funding was the real problem, the US stresses that its opposition was not to the substantive SALW resolution, but because zero-real growth in the UN budget was an important principle for the administration and Congress. The GA vote was delayed and the issue remitted to the Fifth Committee for further budgetary consultations in the hope that the US will join consensus on the resolution in the GA. Nevertheless, some states continue to blame the Bush Administration's unhealthily close financial and political relationship with prominent members of the US gun lobby, including the National Rifle Association, whose activities have hampered other agreements in recent international meetings on SALW.

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UNGA 58/42 (L.16/Rev.1)
National Legislation on Transfer of Arms, Military Equipment and Dual Use Goods and Technology

Introduced by the Netherlands

In its second year, this resolution, which builds on the Netherlands' traditional role in supporting the UN Conventional Arms Register, invites states to enact or improve their national legislation, regulations or procedures to control more effectively the transfer of arms, military equipment, dual use goods and technology, and encourages them to provide information on these to the UN on a voluntary basis.

First Committee, October 30: consensus

UNGA: consensus

First Committee comments: Supported for its important global norm-setting dimension, there were few who felt the need to explain their support. Cuba, however, stated that although it had joined consensus because it agreed that multilateral efforts needed to be complemented by national measures, it opposed selective export control groups, regarding these as an obstacle to developing a nondiscriminatory regime. Cuba held that strict international controls could be guaranteed only within the context of legally binding treaties, negotiated and applied multilaterally.

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UNGA 58/53 (L.43)
Implementation of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction [Mine Ban Treaty]

Introduced by Thailand with the co-sponsorship of a wide cross-group of over 100 states

Now in its fifth year, this resolution welcomes the entry intro force of the Mine Ban Treaty. The product of independent negotiations and government/civil-society partnership, the so-called 'Ottawa Process', this treaty now has 141 states parties. The resolution calls on all other states to accede without delay and undertake the full and effective implementation of the treaty. It renews its call for states and other relevant parties to work together to remove and destroy anti-personnel mines throughout the world, help mine victims in all necessary ways, and undertake mine risk education programmes. It invites and encourages "all interested states, the United Nations, other relevant international organisation or institutions, regional organisations the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and relevant non-governmental organizations" to participate in the programme of intersessional work established at the first meeting and developed at subsequent meetings. It requests UN assistance for the Convention's first review conference in Nairobi, to be held November 29 to December 3, 2004.

First Committee, October 30: 143-0-19

UNGA: 153-0-23

First Committee comments: Support for the Mine Ban Treaty has continued to climb, from 121 in 2001 to 128 in 2002, up to 143 this year. Abstentions, however, remain practically the same. In explaining their abstentions, several states argued that while they shared the resolution's concerns regarding APL, their "legitimate security needs" and long land borders prevented them from acceding to the Treaty. They then sought to push the issue off into other fora, such as the CD or the CCW. India, for example, said that it would support CD work on a ban on mine transfers, and offered a contradictory approach, with a nondiscriminatory, phased process that would reflect differentiated security interests. Cuba objected that the treaty and resolution did not recognise "legitimate self defence", but said it supported banning certain kinds of non-detectable mines, so as to protect civilians. The Republic of Korea referred to its long land-border and said the treaty was therefore inconsistent with its security needs but that it would support other APL-related initiatives and measures, including the CCW. Burma (Myanmar) wanted the CD to address the issue. Pakistan also said it supported the CCW initiatives, stressing that landmines were part of its "self-defence strategy", but that it was committed to responsible employment of APL and opposed their indiscriminate use. Likewise, Iran also made reference to its long land borders and complained that landmines had been used irresponsibly, but that the Ottawa treaty went "too far". Russia said it supported a step by step process but would be prepared to accede to the Mine Ban Treaty when conditions were provided for the actual implementation of all its provisions. Nepal and Singapore both said they had voted in favour of the resolution, but that their current situation precluded their acceding to the Mine Ban Treaty.

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UNGA 58/55 (L.46/Rev.1)
Promotion at the Regional Level in the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe of the United Nations Programme of Action on the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in all its Aspects

Introduced by France and the Netherlands with cross-group co-sponsorship

This new resolution provoked considerable debate and underwent a substantial revision as a result of intensive consultations. It emphasises the importance of regional and subregional efforts and measures to support and complement the multilateral Programme of Action adopted in July 2001 to "prevent, combat and eradicate the illicit trade of small arms and light weapons", with particular reference to the efforts of OSCE nations.

First Committee, November 3: consensus

UNGA: consensus

First Committee comments: Although the resolution achieved consensus, it also received some criticism. While the Europeans seemed to want endorsement for their approach, others, perhaps thinking of OSCE mistakes made in Central Asian countries such as Kyrgyzstan, questioned the rationale behind singling out the work of the OSCE in this way. One such sceptic, South Africa, said it supported the substance, namely recognition of the role of regional and subregional efforts to address SALW, but couldn't understand the point of elevating the work of the OSCE above others. Describing some of the national and regional initiatives it had been working on, including a legally binding instrument on firearms, South Africa argued that the "consensus based operational implementation" of the Programme of Action on SALW was the most appropriate framework for encompassing different activities such as these, without prejudice to particular approaches. Cuba, more bluntly, saw no need to elevate practices developed by the OSCE and suggested that the resolution "duplicates and detracts". Others, including Egypt and India, made a point of publicly commending the "energetic and flexible consultations" conducted by France and the Netherlands, the resolution's prime movers, whose willingness to meet their concerns (illustrated by the revisions recognising regional particularities) enabled them to join the consensus.

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UNGA 58/69 (L.50)
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]

Introduced by Sweden with wide cross-group sponsorship

This routine resolution supports the CCW and its Protocols, covering non-detectable fragments (protocol I), restrictions on the use of mines, booby traps and other devices (protocol II), prohibitions or restrictions on the use of incendiary weapons (protocol III), blinding laser weapons (protocol IV) etc, as well as the decision by the Second Review Conference in December 2001 to extend the scope of the CCW to include "armed conflicts of a non-international character", i.e. civil wars and intra-state uses. The resolution calls upon all states who remain outside the CCW to becomes parties as soon as possible and also to be bound by the Protocols of the Convention. It supports continued work by the working group on explosive remnants of war (ERW), with a mandate to negotiate an instrument on post-conflict remedial measures, and additional work on "mines other than anti-personnel mines". Also requests the Secretary-General to render any necessary assistance as may be required for the meeting of CCW states parties on November 27-28, 2003, and for follow-up work, as decided by the Second Review Conference.

First Committee, October 28: consensus

UNGA: consensus

First Committee comments: The most important development mentioned by many states has been the inclusion of explosive remnants of war (ERW - encompassing cluster bombs and other unexploded munitions and submunitions, as well as landmines and abandoned ordnance) and the development of a mandate to negotiate post-conflict remedial measures.

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UNGA 58/58 (L.51)
Assistance to States for Curbing the Illicit Traffic in Small Arms and Collecting Them

Introduced by Mali and co-sponsored by African states and others

This now regular resolution emphasises the problems caused by small arms and light weapons (SALW) for security and development in Africa, most particularly in the Sahelo-Saharan subregion. It supports the ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States) moratorium on the importation, exportation and manufacture of SALW, encouraging the international community to support its implementation. It welcomes the progress made so far, including the 2000 Bamako Declaration on an African Position on the Illicit Proliferation, Circulation and Trafficking of Small Arms and Light Weapons, the 2001 UN Programme of Action on the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons, the conclusion of the African Conference on the implementation of the Programme of Action in March 2002. The resolution invites the Secretary-General and states and organisations to provide assistance in curbing the proliferation and trafficking in SALW and collecting them.

First Committee, October 28: consensus

UNGA: consensus

Regional Disarmament and Security

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UNGA 58/38 (L.9)
Regional Disarmament

Introduced by Pakistan with co-sponsorship from Bangladesh, Egypt, Jordan, Nepal, Nigeria, Peru, Sri Lanka and Sudan

This routine resolution takes note of recent proposals for disarmament at both the regional and subregional levels and maintains the need for efforts to promote regional disarmament to incorporate the specific characteristics and requirements of each region. Asserts that efforts towards disarmament must be taken both regionally and globally and welcomes initiatives already taken. Purports to support and encourage efforts aimed at promoting confidence-building measures at various levels as well as easing regional tensions.

First Committee, October 28: consensus

UNGA: consensus

First Committee comments: This resolution is one of several for which Pakistan acts as principal sponsor. It is routinely adopted without a vote, but far from this being a reflection of its importance, consensus is a reward for the text remaining inoffensively general and bland. Nevertheless, it is also viewed with scepticism as part of Pakistan's ongoing rivalry with India, in which Pakistan promotes regional approaches as a way to undermine the international context and approach that India favours.

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UNGA 58/39 (L.10)
Conventional Arms Control at the Regional and Sub-regional Levels

Introduced by Pakistan with co-sponsorship from Bangladesh, Belarus, Germany, Italy, Nepal, Peru, Spain, Ukraine, and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia

Another customary resolution from Pakistan, with similar cosponsors to 2002, this stresses the special responsibility of "militarily significant" states "with larger military capabilities" in promoting conventional arms control and regional peace and security. The resolution requests the CD to consider developing principles to serve as a framework for regional agreements, and requests the Secretary-General to seek the views of member states on the subject.

First Committee, October 28: 158-1-1

UNGA: 172-1-1

First Committee comments: Another routine resolution stemming from South Asian rivalries and concerns, this one was too specific for India to go along with consensus. India, arguing that the resolution was too restrictive to reflect its security concerns, voted against, while Bhutan, a satellite of India, abstained. India held that consensus guidelines for disarmament relating to global security have existed since 1993, and said it was neither convinced of the productive value of calling on the CD to act in this area, nor persuaded by the rationale for the development of principles for regional arrangements.

Confidence-Building Measures, Including Transparency in Armaments

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UNGA 58/43 (L.18/Rev.1)
Confidence-building Measures in the Regional and Sub-regional context

Introduced by Pakistan.

This new resolution from Pakistan, linking CBMs with regional concerns, builds on UN resolution 57/337 (July 3, 2003), entitled "Prevention of armed conflict", which calls for states to settle their disputes by peaceful means, including using the ICJ more effectively. It relates disarmament to development, commenting that resources released by disarmament could be devoted to economic and social development and the protection of the environment, and welcomes the peace processes "already initiated in regions to resolve their disputes through peaceful means bilaterally or through mediation by third parties, regional organisations or the UN", noting also that continuing regional disputes may endanger international peace and security and contribute to an arms race. In 9 OPs, the resolution calls for states to refrain from the use or threat of use of force in the settlement of disputes; it calls for dialogue, compliance with bilateral, regional and international arms control and disarmament agreements, and the promotion of bilateral and regional CBMs to avoid conflict and prevent the unintended and accidental outbreak of hostilities. Finally, the UN is requested to consult with states in the (unnamed) "regions concerned" to explore further CBM efforts in "regions of tension".

First Committee, November 4: 68-47-34

UNGA: 73-48-46

First Committee comments: Because this resolution was viewed by many as being more about regional rivalries in South Asia than about CBMs, the combined negative votes and abstentions outweighed the votes in favour. Nevertheless, it was adopted. India objected strongly to the resolution, arguing that CBMs were important but that this resolution used them as a "subterfuge" for other purposes and would "drag the UN Secretary General into an ambiguous role". Carefully insisting that its vote should not be construed as opposing CBMs or choosing sides in a regional dispute, the United States said it was necessary to vote no because "if the First Committee adopts this resolution it will vote onto our annual agenda another resolution whose underlying motive is to bring a bilateral dispute into the Committee." The US said the resolution was "deeply flawed", introduced concepts not relevant to CBMs and ran "contrary to the spirit of voluntary cooperation" that gave CBMs their power. Echoing the US, Italy on behalf of the EU and associated states, evoked the principles evolved by the UNDC in the last three years, and said the EU strongly supported CBMs, but voted no on this "unbalanced" resolution. Nigeria abstained because of OP5, which urged "the maintenance of military balance between states" in regions of tension. Brazil said it voted in favour because it supported the general objectives of the resolution, but noted that CBMs should not be imposed or monitored by actors other than those directly concerned. Kazakhstan abstained because of its regional situation but thanked Pakistan for its flexibility in consultations. Although India objected that this was a misuse of the rules "to score propaganda points", Pakistan's ambassador to the UN, Munir Akram, was allowed to take the floor after these explanations of vote to make a 'general statement', which was mainly a justification of its own resolution. Saying that he objected to some of the objections he had heard, Akram insisted that Pakistan had tabled the resolution with the best of intentions and with a desire to promote peace and security, and demanded that delegations should "look at the text and not at the sponsor". He then undermined his own assertion somewhat by relating many of the concepts in the resolution to Pakistan's concerns about India.

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UNGA 58/28 (L.32)
Objective Information on Military Matters, including Transparency of Military Expenditures

Introduced by Germany with a large group of cross-group co-sponsors, including France, Russia, UK and US.

This resolution, offered biannually in recent years, is aimed at strengthening and broadening participation in the UN system for standardised reporting on military expenditure, as first established in UNGA 35/142B (December 12, 1980) and reinforced in subsequent resolutions. In 7 OPs, it calls on states to report annually by April 30, on their military expenditures and requests the UN to continue with and augment various procedures and practices related to promoting standardised reporting on military expenditure.

First Committee, October 28: consensus

UNGA: consensus

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UNGA 58/54 (L.45)
Transparency in Armaments (TIA)

Introduced by the Netherlands with the wide co-sponsorship of a cross-group of over 100 states

This regular resolution emphasises the need for an enhanced level of transparency in armaments. In OP2, the subject of a vote, it endorses the UN Secretary-General's report on the UN Register on Conventional Arms and the recommendations in the consensus report of the 2003 Group of Governmental Experts, namely including MANPADS and adding lower calibre artillery systems to the current categories covered by the Register. In 10 OPs, it promotes universal participation and the provision of additional information on procurement from national production and military holdings. In OP3, also voted on separately, it agrees to adapt the scope of the Register in conformity with the recommendations in the UN Secretary-General's 2003 report; in OP4 it calls for universal participation, referring again to the UN Secretary-General's 2003 report, and in OP8 it requests the UN Secretary-General to implement the recommendations in the 2003 report.

First Committee, October 28: Separate votes were taken on all references to the 2003 Report.

OP2: 138-0-22

OP3 plus reference to the 2003 report in OP4 plus OP8: 138-0-22

OP4 as a whole: 137-0-22

Whole resolution: 140-0-23


OP2: 153-0-23

OP3 plus reference to the 2003 report in OP4 plus OP8: 152-0-22

OP4 as a whole: 152-0-22

Whole resolution: 150-0-27

First Committee comments: Traditionally opposed by Arab states on the grounds that this TIA resolution does not cover transparency for weapons of mass destruction, especially nuclear weapons, the votes were this year requested by Cuba, on the grounds that the GGE was too limited to be representative of member states. Instead of endorsing the 2003 report, Cuba complained that the sponsors had not accepted its suggestion that the resolution should merely take note of the report and call for further consultations on its recommendations. Moreover, Cuba, like several other abstainers, including Syria, speaking on behalf of the League of Arab States, Iran, Algeria and Burma (Myanmar) argued that the inclusion in the register of sophisticated conventional weapons, WMD and especially nuclear weapons, would have made the register "a better balanced and more comprehensive instrument". Egypt said it supported the principle of TIA and commended the Netherlands for its transparency and outreach, but abstained because, it said, the resolution addressed "peripheral, not core issues". Israel, which voted in favour, complained that the explanations of some abstainers had contained "baseless allegations against Israel's security policy and its alleged capabilities" by countries that were themselves "unwilling to subject their own arms transfers to any transparency measure". Israel especially welcomed the inclusion of MANPADs, which terrorists have attempted to use against its civilian aircraft, and argued that participating in the Register was "an important step in the right direction... only when regional transparency measures can be agreed upon between Middle Eastern countries will it be possible to improve and develop the global Register" in a substantial way.

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Verification in all its Aspects, including the Role of the United Nations in the Field of Verification

Introduced by Canada.

This draft decision placed the issue of verification onto the agenda of the 59th GA, for consideration in 2004.

First Committee, October 28: consensus

UNGA: consensus

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UNGA 58/65 (L.54/Rev.1)
Regional Confidence-building Measures: Activities of the United Nations Standing Advisory Committee on Security Questions in Central Africa

Introduced by the Central African Republic on behalf of the Central African states

This resolution supports the work of the Standing Advisory Committee and promotes CBMs at regional and subregional levels to ease tensions and conflicts and further peace, stability and sustainable development in Central Africa. It supports the establishment of a network of parliamentarians and the creation of a subregional parliament in Central Africa, and requests voluntary funding from governmental and nongovernmental organisations to provide assistance and implementation of the programme of work.

First Committee, November 4: consensus

UNGA: consensus

Disarmament Machinery

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UNGA 58/66 (L.5)
Report of the Conference on Disarmament

Introduced by Japan (as current President of the CD)

Rather more strongly worded than in past years, this resolution reaffirms the role of the CD as the "single multilateral disarmament negotiating forum of the international community" and takes note of "significant contributions" to promote substantive discussions. It supports the work of the current and incoming CD Presidents to find a way out of the long deadlock, and strongly urges the CD to commence substantive work in 2004.

First Committee, October 28: consensus

UNGA: consensus

First Committee comments: Though there had been some tough negotiations in the early stages of this resolution, particularly with Austria, which initially tabled a much more hard-hitting resolution urging CD members "to do their utmost to overcome outstanding differences", there were no comments when the resolution was adopted without a vote.

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UNGA 58/60 (L.7)
United Nations Regional Centre for Peace, Disarmament and Development in Latin American and the Caribbean

Introduced by Costa Rica on behalf of states in the region

This routine resolution once again expresses its support for the Regional Centre for Peace, Disarmament and Development in Lima, Peru and related developments and work.

First Committee, October 29: consensus

UNGA: consensus

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UNGA 58/61 (L.13)
United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Africa

Introduced by Nigeria on behalf of the Group of African states

This routine resolution makes note of the widespread support for the revitalisation of the African Regional Centre and appeals to states, international governmental organisations, NGOs and Foundations to make voluntary contributions in order to strengthen its programmes and activities. It calls for cooperation between the Regional Centre and the African Union, and emphasises the importance of its work in promoting the consistent implementation of the 2003 Programme of Action to prevent, combat and eradicate the illicit trade in SALW.

First Committee, October 28: consensus

UNGA: consensus

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UNGA 58/62 (L.21)
United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Asia and the Pacific

Introduced by Nepal on behalf of states in the region

This routine resolution again welcomes the report of the Secretary-General regarding the continuing validity of the Regional Centre's mandate and welcomes the idea of the possible creation of an educational and training programme for peace and disarmament in Asia and the Pacific, including locating its headquarters in Kathmandu, although that has still not been put into effect. The resolution underlines the importance of the Kathmandu process and, as in other resolutions dealing with Regional Centres, appeals to member states, international governmental and nongovernmental organisations and foundations, to make voluntary contributions to support the work of the Regional Centre. It also urges the Secretary-General to ensure "the physical operation of the Regional Centre from Kathmandu within six months of the date of signature of the host country agreement."

First Committee, October 29: consensus

UNGA: consensus

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UNGA 58/63 (L.28)
United Nations Regional Centres for Peace and Disarmament

Introduced by Malaysia on behalf of NAM

Recognises the importance of the regional context in progress towards peace and disarmament, in particular the role of education, and the need to revitalise the three Regional Centres in Nepal, Peru and Togo. Calls upon the support of member states as well as NGOs and the UN. Requests the Secretary-General to provide all necessary support - within existing resources - to these three centres.

First Committee, October 30: consensus

UNGA: consensus

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UNGA 58/67 (L.20)
Report of the Disarmament Commission

Introduced by Nepal

Despite the discussions on reform of disarmament machinery, this routine resolution remained little changed from past years and, as in past years, received consensus, though it was clear that a growing number of states are questioning its role and effectiveness. The resolution, as always, reaffirms the importance of the UN Disarmament Commission (UNDC) and its mandate, dating back more than 20 years. It also reaffirms the importance of "enhancing the dialogue and cooperation" among this body, the First Committee and the CD, and requests the UNDC to meet for not more than three weeks during 2004.

First Committee, October 29: consensus

UNGA: consensus

First Committee comments: In similar statements, the United States and Italy (on behalf of the EU and many aligned states) said they had joined consensus because of the potential contribution that could be made by the UNDC, but expressed disappointment that this year it had failed to reach agreement on its two important topics (nuclear disarmament and practical CBMs on conventional arms). They urged it to be more focused, constructive and cooperative and to identify relevant issues to address over its next 3 year cycle. Canada called for the UNDC's revitalisation, saying that "properly constituted, the UNDC could make a valuable contribution" such as elaboration of verification principles.

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UNGA 58/521 (L.61, DECISION)
Convening of the Fourth Special Session of the General Assembly Devoted to Disarmament [UNSSOD IV]

Introduced by Malaysia on behalf of the NAM

This decision takes note of the Report of the Open-ended Working Group in 2003 to consider the objectives and agenda, including the possible establishment of the preparatory committee, for the fourth special session of the General Assembly devoted to disarmament. It requests states to continue consultations on this and decides to include the issue on next year's agenda.

First Committee, November 5: consensus

UNGA: consensus

First Committee comments: After trying hard (but in vain) to win consensus for a resolution on this subject (L.25), Malaysia, on behalf of the NAM, withdrew the resolution and submitted a draft decision on the final day. The withdrawn resolution, which had echoed its predecessors since 1994, had expressed the conviction that a special session of the General Assembly devoted to disarmament "would offer an opportunity to review, from a perspective more in tune with the current international situation, the most critical aspects of the process of disarmament and to mobilise the international community and public opinion in favour of the elimination of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction and of the control and reduction of conventional weapons."

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UNGA 58/41 (L.15/Rev.1)
Improving the effectiveness of the methods of work of the First Committee

Introduced by the United States

This new resolution is an attempt by the United States, with the support from the EU and others, to steer the debate over reform of the UN machinery, with application in this case to the First Committee. The first draft, introduced under a different title, was rather more blunt in framing the context within which reform was to be considered: "grave concern at the emergence of new threats to international peace and security in the post-September 11, 2001 period" (PP1); and it argued that a review "of the focus, priorities and mode of operation of the First Committee could enhance its ability to address these new threats more effectively".(PP3) Following intensive consultation, the title was changed and the resolution was revised to express grave concern "over both existing threats to international peace and security and new threats that have become manifest in the post-September 11, 2001 period"(rev PP1) and it argues that "the improvement of the methods of work of the First Committee would complement and facilitate the broader effort to revitalise the General Assembly".(rev PP3) To ensure that the debate on reform begun at this First Committee session does not fade away, the resolution requests the Secretary-General to seek the views of member states on the issue "of improving the effectiveness of the methods of work of the First Committee, to prepare a report compiling and organising the views... on appropriate options" and submit it for consideration in 2004. The first draft had actually called for the Secretary-General to recommend options, but some delegations were concerned that this would involve the Secretary General in a more active, policy role than generally accepted.

First Committee, November 5: consensus

UNGA: consensus

First Committee comments: Several states, notably Italy, on behalf of the EU and associated states, which co-sponsored the revised resolution, emphasised the importance of keeping First Committee work "constantly under review" in order to rationalise it and "keep abreast of the security challenges that need to be addressed". Others, particularly NAM countries, joined consensus, but raised reservations about the US approach. Iran, for example, said it joined consensus hoping the resolution would help revitalise the Committee, but reaffirmed NAM opposition to dealing with these issues piecemeal. Objecting to the characterisation of the major threats in terms of terrorism, Iran argued that vertical proliferation was one of the "most dangerous threats to international peace and security". Cuba was critical of the resolution's linking the need for reform to the date of a terrorist crime (September 11th). Cuba called for reforms that would enable the UN to implement the Millennium Declaration, including nuclear disarmament, and raised concerns about the role of nuclear weapons in policy, and the need to halt the deployment and development of new lethal conventional weapons and prevent the weaponisation of outer space. Pakistan also expressed scepticism about how the resolution had been framed, noting other grave threats, such as the "growing corrosion" of the concept of multilateralism, the "insidious concept" of pre-emptive military strikes, and the "occupation of foreign lands", and questioning how reform would further the cause of nuclear disarmament. Also reflecting NAM concerns that disarmament, and particularly nuclear disarmament, should not be ignored in the rush to reform, Gabon welcomed the US initiative but pointedly hoped it would "contribute to making strides in disarmament". Several, including Brazil, India and Côte d'Ivoire commended the US on its willingness to consult and listen, but stressed that enhancing First Committee efficiency should not be viewed in isolation. India warned against hanging "all our problems, difficulties, or frustrations" on the issue of reform and characterised the resolution as a "platform" for much-needed discussion and for furthering the Committee's work.

Other Disarmament Measures

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UNGA 58/32 (L.3)
Developments in the Field of Information and Telecommunications in the Context of International Security

Introduced by the Russian Federation

This resolution, first introduced in 1998, primarily to highlight concerns provoked by US plans for missile defence, notes that scientific and technological developments can have dual-use, civilian and military applications, and expresses concern regarding the abuse of information resources and technologies in ways that may "adversely affect the integrity of the infrastructure of states to the detriment of their security". Calling on member states to consider these threats, the resolution this year requests the establishment in 2004 of a study by governmental experts to examine "relevant international concepts aimed at strengthening the security of global information and telecommunications systems".

First Committee, October 29: consensus

UNGA: consensus

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UNGA 58/29 (L.24)
Implementation of the Declaration of the Indian Ocean as a Zone of Peace

Introduced by Malaysia on behalf of the NAM

This periodic resolution, last submitted in 2001, supports the work of the Ad Hoc Committee on the Indian Ocean and argues that the participation of all permanent members of the Security Council and the major maritime users of the Indian Ocean "would greatly facilitate the development of a mutually beneficial dialogue to advance peace, security and stability in the Indian Ocean region".

First Committee, October 29: 110-3-42

UNGA: 130-3-42

First Committee comments: The NAM voted in favour, the United States, Britain and France voted against, and the abstainers mainly comprised a bloc of NATO/EU aligned states.

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UNGA 58/45 (L.27)
Observance of Environmental Norms in the Drafting and Implementation of Agreements on Disarmament and Arms Control

Introduced by Malaysia on behalf of the NAM

In its ninth year, this resolution emphasises the need to observe environmental norms in both the negotiation and implementation of disarmament and arms control agreements. It explicitly refers to "the detrimental environmental effects of the use of nuclear weapons". It calls for unilateral, bilateral, regional or multilateral measures to ensure that environmental and sustainable development considerations are taken into account in relation to scientific and technological progress applied to international security, disarmament and related spheres, and invites states to inform the Secretary-General of measures they have adopted in this regard .

First Committee, November 3: 156-1-4

UNGA: 173-1-4

First Committee comments: The United States which has previously abstained on this resolution, this year voted against. Arguing that the US itself "operates under stringent domestic oversight", its negative vote was to underscore its belief that there was no direct relationship between environmental norms and disarmament and that environmental concerns should not be allowed to overload arms control negotiations. Britain, France, Israel and Micronesia abstained.

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UNGA 58/520 (L.29, DECISION)
Relationship between Disarmament and Development

Introduced by Malaysia on behalf on the NAM

Instead of the traditional resolution, this draft decision merely places the issue of the UN General Assembly's agenda in 2004.

First Committee, October 29: 157-1-2

UNGA: 177-1-2

First Committee comments: The United States voted against, while Israel and France abstained. The US reiterated its well-known belief that disarmament and development are two distinct issues. Since the US did not participate in the 1987 conference on Disarmament and Development, it did not regard itself as bound by any of its decisions.

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UNGA 58/33 (L.33)
Role of Science and Technology in the Context of International Security and Disarmament

Introduced by India with co-sponsorship of some thirty NAM states

This routine resolution highlights both the civilian and military potential of scientific and technological developments and stresses the importance of encouraging civilian applications. Though it acknowledges the role of dual-use items in the development and upgrading of weapons of mass destruction, the resolution mainly reflects the concerns of a number of NAM states regarding export control regimes with emphasis on a perceived threat by a self-selected cartel of developed states to the peaceful development rights of others. Declares that the benefits of advances in the civilian sphere should be available to all and urges member states to undertake multilateral negotiations towards this end, with the encouragement of the relevant UN bodies.

First Committee, October 29: 94-47-18

UNGA: 106-49-19

First Committee comments: As in previous years, most NAM states voted in favour, while states aligned with the Western caucus opposed, objecting that the resolution runs counter to the international system of export controls, in which many of them participate.

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UNGA 58/48 (L.35)
Measures to Prevent Terrorists from Acquiring Weapons of Mass Destruction

Introduced by India and co-sponsored by several NAM states and France

Building on a resolution entitled 'Terrorism and Weapons of Mass Destruction', first tabled in 2002, this resolution calls on all states to support international efforts and to undertake and strengthen national measures to prevent terrorists from acquiring WMD, their means of delivery and materials and technologies related to their manufacture. It also encourages cooperation among member states and relevant regional and international organisations to help strengthen national capacities. It urges states to inform the UN "on a voluntary basis" of measures taken, and requests the Secretary-General to compile a report on these and seek states' views of further measures for tackling the global threat posed by the acquisition by terrorists of WMD.

First Committee, October 29: consensus

UNGA: consensus

First Committee comments: This resolution was widely believed to have Kashmir-related terrorism as its principal target. Nevertheless, Pakistan said it joined consensus because it agreed that it was important to prevent terrorists acquiring WMD, but stressed that the nature and complexity of the threat required multilateral responses and that the surest way to prevent terrorist acquisition was through the complete elimination of these weapons, including nuclear weapons. Likewise, Brazil said that the resolution's adoption by consensus showed the importance and urgency of the problem, but made a pointed comment to India when it insisted that the best way to prevent terrorists acquiring WMD, especially nuclear weapons, was to ensure the total elimination of such weapons, noting that that was why Brazil and others devoted so much energy to promoting disarmament measures! Thinking of its own region, Israel referred to a growing awareness of this problem and congratulated India on its initiative and also welcomed initiatives by UNIDIR and some CD members to hold meetings on this subject in Geneva. Referring to "suicide terrorism" by those "opposed to peace and coexistence" as being "strategic", Israel said the link between terrorism and proliferation was very dangerous, and the danger was doubled when states supported terrorists. Quoting President Putin's remarks that the spread of WMD and their acquisition by terrorists was the most dangerous problem facing the world, Russia called for universalisation of the NPT regime and international instruments of verification, and said responsibility for dealing with these issues should rest with the UN Security Council as well as the UN General Assembly. The United States commended this resolution for sending a "positive sign" of the First Committee's willingness to deal constructively with the "urgent threat that WMD could fall into the hands of terrorists, the world's most dangerous people." In accordance with A/58/208 and its additions, the US urged states to share information on measures to combat terrorism and terrorist acquisition of WMD.

Related Matters of Disarmament and International Security

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UNGA 58/519 (L.17, DECISION)
Consolidation of Peace Through Practical Disarmament Measures

Introduced by Germany and others

To set an example for others not to table the same resolutions every year, Germany this year sponsored a draft decision to put this issue - which relates to the implementation of practical measures to disarm warmongers of small arms and light weapons - onto the First Committee's agenda next year and consider it biennially in the future.

First Committee, October 29: consensus

UNGA: consensus

International Security

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UNGA 58/44 (L.26/Rev.1)
Promotion of Multilateralism in the Area of Disarmament and Non-Proliferation

Introduced by Malaysia on behalf of the NAM

Following on from similar resolutions in 2001 and 2002, this resolution, though refraining from naming names, reflects serious international concerns about the Bush Administration's undermining of multilateral arms control, and emphasises the centrality of multilateralism in the area of disarmament and non-proliferation. While recognising "the complementarity of bilateral, plurilateral and multilateral negotiations on disarmament", it expresses concern at the "continuous erosion of multilateralism" in arms regulation, nonproliferation and disarmament, and characterises multilateralism as "the core principle" in disarmament and non-proliferation concerns, negotiations and norm-building. It underlines the importance of preserving existing agreements, calls on states to renew and fulfil their commitments to multilateral cooperation. In its most controversial paragraph, OP6, it requests the states parties to relevant instruments on WMD "to consult and cooperate among themselves in resolving their concerns with regard to cases of non-compliance as well as on implementation..." and "to refrain from resorting or threatening to resort to unilateral actions or directing unverified noncompliance against one another to resolve their concerns". It also requests the Secretary General to seek states views and report back next year.

First Committee, November 5: 104-10-44

UNGA: 118-12-46

First Committee comments: The NAM of course voted in favour of their resolution. The US, UK, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Israel, Latvia, Poland, Bulgaria and Micronesia opposed. Stressing its fervent support for multilateralism, Canada complained that the resolution offered "an overly rigid, restrictive and harmful interpretation" that would be counterproductive. Italy stressed the commitment of the EU and associated states to multilateralism in disarmament and non-proliferation, referring to the EU's approach to uphold multilateral treaties and agreements and support multilateral institutions. Both considered that multilateralism was a core principle but not the (only) core or fundamental principle in disarmament and nonproliferation, as suggested by the resolution. The position of those who could not support the resolution was neatly summed up by Canada: "shared security is the sum of many parts: multilateral, plurilateral, regional, bilateral and unilateral measures". Australia said it didn't agree there was an "erosion of multilateralism", while sharing with Switzerland and others the view that the resolution failed to acknowledge the legitimate role of other approaches.

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UNGA 58/516 (L.30, DECISION)
Review of the implementation of the Declaration on the Strengthening of International Security

Introduced by Malaysia on behalf of the NAM

This decision to put this issue on the agenda in 2005 was adopted by consensus, but amidst some confusion. The United States said it had earlier conveyed its desire for a vote to the Secretariat, and so was caught off guard and responded too slowly to prevent the gavel coming down on adopting the resolution without a vote.

First Committee, October 29: without a vote

UNGA: without a vote

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UNGA 58/70 (L.42)
Strengthening of Security and Cooperation in the Mediterranean region

Introduced by Algeria and co-sponsored by most of the states in the Mediterranean region and Europe

As in previous years, the resolution refers to the "indivisible character" of security in the Mediterranean and that the enhancement of cooperation among Mediterranean states created benefits in the form of economic and social development. It also asserts that the prospects for Euro-Mediterranean cooperation would be enhanced by positive developments in Europe, the Maghreb and the Middle East. In 9 OPs, it stresses continuing efforts by Mediterranean and European countries to eliminate causes of regional tension and adhere to all the multilateral legal instruments relating to disarmament and nonproliferation, promote genuine openness and transparency on all military matters, including participating in the UN Register of Conventional Arms and in standardised reporting of military expenditures. It encourages Mediterranean and European states to further strengthen their cooperation in combating terrorism, crime, illicit arms transfers and drug production, consumption and trafficking, and suchlike activities that pose a serious threat to peace, security and stability in the region. It also requests the Secretary-General to submit a report on the means to strengthen security and cooperation in the region.

First Committee, October 29: consensus

UNGA: consensus

First Committee comments: Though accepting consensus, certain key riparian states, including Israel, Syria and Libya, were conspicuous by their absence from the list of co-sponsors.

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This report and appendix were written by Rebecca Johnson, who attended most of the First Committee in New York. Where statements were not distributed or obtained, the comments attributed to delegates are taken from my contemporaneous notes or UN press releases, and I apologise if there are any errors. I would like to thank Rhianna Tyson of Reaching Critical Will for her hard work in coordinating NGO monitoring and reports during the First Committee, and especially for supplementing the inadequacies of the UN's informational systems by scanning and displaying many of the statements and documents on RCW's website at reachingcriticalwill.org. Grateful appreciation is also due to those delegations who helped by giving me their formal and informal statements, EOVs and comments on the discussions. Any mistakes or misinterpretations are, of course, my own.

For further information and documentation see: http://www.un.org/ga/58 and http://www.reachingcriticalwill.org

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© 2003 The Acronym Institute.