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The 60th General Assembly heard much talk of old and new dangers facing the world — especially the proliferation of nuclear weapons and the possibility of terrorist use of weapons of mass destruction — but States remained divided on what to do on key issues. Of the 55 resolutions that emerged from Assembly’s First Committee (Disarmament and International Security), 29 had to be voted upon. See this page for votes of members of the Conference on Disarmament. As in past years, nuclear issues proved the most controversial, accounting for nearly a third of the voted resolutions. Also in keeping with tradition, not a single resolution dealt with the arms industry which profits from global instability and conflict.

From: Disarmament Times, 2005/4 pages 1-5

View the voting record for all members of the Conference on Disarmament

Reaching Critical Will explanation of the resolutions and voting


While everyone agreed on the dangers posed by nuclear weapons and their proliferation, committee debates made clear there was little agreement on how to deal with them. Most States saw the problems of proliferation and disarmament as interdependent aspects of one problem, but all five NPT Nuclear- Weapon States (Britain, China, France, Russian Federation, United States) tended to ignore or fudge that linkage. In noting the failures of the 2005 NPT Review Conference and of the General Assembly summit of 14-16 September — the former had no outcome document at all, and the latter could not agree to say anything on arms issues — each NWS pointed to what it considered positive elements in the international scene. The United States went so far as to say it did not “share the oft-expressed view that those meetings were failures.”

The difference in the basic approach of the United States and that of the Non- Aligned States emerged with some clarity.

The United States saw Cold War strategies of deterrence and arms control treaties as being of little value in a period when “rogue states,” dishonoring treaty commitments, could help non- State actors get and use weapons of mass destruction (WMD). To deal with that situation, flexible, non-treaty-based efforts were necessary to strengthen collective capacity to act rapidly. The US was working to strengthen export controls through the Nuclear Suppliers Group, and to build cooperative capacity to interdict supplies through the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI), arrangements that had no formal treaty or organizational structure, but which had in a number of cases, stopped the shipment of missile-related material and equipment bound for “countries of concern, including Iran.”

In sharp contrast, the Non-Aligned countries saw the normative, non-discriminatory approach to international security as essential. Powerful States could not put their own welfare above those of others. In the equity and order of international law the Non-Aligned saw the only hope of security for weak States.

The United States encapsulated its approach in a radical redraft of a resolution that has for decades been adopted by consensus, on “Compliance with non-proliferation, arms limitation and disarmament agreements.” It called on “all Member States to take concerted action to ensure that all States comply with their existing arms limitation, non-proliferation and disarmament agreements and hold those not in compliance with such agreements accountable for their non-compliance.” The draft did not mention international law or the United Nations Charter.

The great majority of States, including four of the five NWS, were uneasy with that language, and the resolution in its final form was significantly changed. It “calls upon all member states to take concerted action in a manner consistent with relevant international law to encourage, through bilateral and multilateral means, the compliance by all states with their respective non-proliferation, arms limitation and disarmament agreements and other agreed obligations and to hold those not in compliance with such agreements accountable for their noncompliance in a manner consistent with the Charter of the UN.” Against the background of events in Iraq, Iran and North Korea, even that language caused heartburn; among those abstaining in the final vote were the Russian Federation, Egypt and South Africa.

Egypt had earlier decried the “desperate efforts” of NWS and their allies to “expand the obligations” of Non- Nuclear Weapon States (NNWS) by applying “politicized and multiple standards” while they themselves ignored the multilateral frameworks within which issues could be best addressed. China, which was absent in the committee vote, noted during the thematic debate that security is best maintained through dialogue and “an integrated approach … to address both the symptoms and the root causes” of proliferation.

The three States that remain outside the NPT, India, Israel and Pakistan, spoke against proliferation, but with interesting contrasts. India said that disarmament and non-proliferation were “interlinked and mutually reinforcing;” the “growing threat of proliferation had to be dealt with in a manner that would facilitate and reinforce the process towards the complete elimination of nuclear weapons.” It noted the comprehensive new legislation covering proliferation.

Israel said that “the conceptual and traditional association between progress in the fields of disarmament and nonproliferation has become irrelevant.” About its own nuclear capabilities, Israel maintained its traditional silence.

Pakistan emphasized that disarmament and non-proliferation were “two sides of the same coin.” Demands that it join the NPT as a non-nuclear-weapon State were “unrealistic” it said; unless the global non-proliferation regime was reconciled with “nuclear reality” and its “institutional deficit” addressed, there was growing risk of a “cascade of proliferation.”

Iran and North Korea
Nuclear programs in the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea (DPRK) and Iran were a cause of concern to a number of States. The promise of a completely denuclearized Korean peninsula in the Joint Statement issued after the 19 September “6-Party” talks in Beijing (North and South Korea, Japan, China, Russian Federation and the United States) were widely hailed. The DPRK, for its part, contended that its nuclear weapons program had been entirely in response to the threat posed by the United States, and that the joint statement “clearly specifies the obligations of the United States and south Korea, the responsible parties for the denuclearization of the whole Korean peninsula.” Those obligations include providing the DPRK with a light-water reactor, removing nuclear threats and “hostile policies” against it, and “recognizing [its] rights to peaceful nuclear activities.”

Both the United States and the European Union called on Iran to live up to its obligations under the 2004 Paris Agreement to stop enrichment of nuclear fuel and give up its pursuit of nuclear weapons. Failure to do that had led the IAEA Board of Governors to find Iran in non-compliance with its nuclear safeguards agreement, and note that it had given rise to questions within the competence of the United Nations Security Council. Iran said it was in full compliance with its NPT obligations, and rejected demands that it give up any aspect of its peaceful nuclear program. It charged that the United States was in non-compliance with the NPT because it had concluded agreements to “transfer all kinds of nuclear technology” to NPT non- States Parties, especially Israel.

Vertical Proliferation
Vertical proliferation (the improvement of weapons design and effectiveness), was a cause of concern to a number of States. In that regard, speakers in the committee noted the weaponization of space, the continued qualitative improvements in nuclear weapons technology, and the technological cooperation of Nuclear Weapon States with non- States Parties to the NPT. South Africa, speaking for the New Agenda Coalition, said it was “disconcerting” that a NWS had “entered into a nuclear cooperation agreement with a State not Party to the NPT.” (In July 2005 the United States and India signed an agreement which would, after approval by the US Congress, lead to the removal of sanctions on the latter and accord it de facto status as an NPT Nuclear-Weapon-State.)

New Resolutions
There were several new resolutions in 2005:
# Belarus sponsored a text urging States to prohibit new types of weapons of mass destruction.
# Iran initiated a text on Follow-up to nuclear disarmament obligations agreed at the 1995 and 2000 NPT Review Conferences.
# France introduced a resolution on preventing “radiological terrorism.”
# France and Germany co-sponsored a resolution on the need for action to deal with the accumulation of surplus conventional ammunition stockpiles. While urging regional approaches to the problem, it left to national authorities the responsibility of determining if they had excess stockpiles and if they needed external assistance.
# The Netherlands introduced a “onetime only” resolution on the need for ad- equate humanitarian response to deal with the impact of small arms and light weapons.
# Russia sponsored a text on Measures to promote transparency and confidence- building in outer space. It invited all States to inform the Secretary- General of their views on further developing international outer space transparency and confidence-building measures.

Reworked Resolutions
Some of the older chestnuts among the resolutions were also reworked this year, but without significant substantive change. Japan reorganized and tightened the text of its annual resolution on nuclear disarmament and gave it a new title: Renewed Determination towards the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons. It remained focused almost entirely on non-proliferation measures.

The annual Non-Aligned resolution following up the 1996 advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on the legality of the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons, remained unchanged, except for a new preambular paragraph regretting the failure of the 2005 NPT Review Conference to produce a final document.

The New Agenda Coalition (Brazil, Egypt, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, South Africa and Sweden), which has submitted annual resolutions on nuclear disarmament since 1996, each one tailored to prevailing political considerations, put forward a short text this year stating the basic NAC view that disarmament and non-proliferation commitments are mutually reinforcing and need accelerated implementation.

The Russian Federation initiated a resolution calling on the Secretary-General to convene a group of experts to report on telecommunications and international security. But in view of budgetary constraints, the text does not call for action until 2009.

Disarmament Machinery
Much concern was expressed in the First Committee about the state of multilateral disarmament “machinery,” especially the nine-year paralysis of the 66-member Conference on Disarmament (CD) in Geneva, which has been unable to undertake any arms negotiations since 1997 because of disagreements over priorities. A bid to end that deadlock by having the General Assembly mandate ad hoc working groups on all priority areas, never got off the ground. The sponsors withdrew in the face of strong opposition to meddling with the CD’s well-established consensus procedures.

A number of speakers in the First Committee deplored the prolonged drought in the Disarmament Commission, the Assembly’s main body for focused multi-year deliberations on chosen topics. Some questioned the need for the Commission; others defended its record of achievement. The suspended animation of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) also came in for comment. The CTBTO has developed most of the sophisticated surveillance and verification apparatus necessary to implement the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, but the CTBT itself has yet to come into force because not all States with nuclear capability have signed and ratified it.

A resolution on the Chemical Weapons Convention introduced by Poland differed from all previous versions by reaffirming the importance of Article XI provisions on the economic and technological development of States parties.

Full, effective and non-discriminatory implementation of those provisions, the resolution said, would contribute to universal adherence to the Treaty.