United Nations General Assembly
United Nations General Assembly
The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) is a representative international body tasked to consider disarmament and international security issues.
- Permanent Observer State
Under Article 11 of the UN Charter, the General Assembly (UNGA) considers general principles of cooperation in the maintenance of international peace and security, including the principles governing disarmament and the regulation of armaments, and makes recommendations to UN Member States or to the Security Council. The UNGA is the only truly representative body discussing disarmament and international security issues, and its decisions have led to significant developments.
The UNGA has two subsidiary bodies dedicated to disarmament issues: the Disarmament and International Security Committee (First Committee) and the United Nations Disarmament Commission (UNDC). While not subsidiary to the UNGA, the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR) and the Advisory Board on Disarmament Matters are also discussed in this section. Additionally, the UNGA receives input through numerous Reporting Mechanisms and Groups of Government Experts. Comprehensive updates on all of these bodies and organs can be found below.
Some major achievements of the UNGA in the field of arms control, nonproliferation, and disarmament include the endorsements of the NPT (1968), Convention on the Prohibition of Bacteriological and Toxin Weapons (BTWC, 1972) and Convention on the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (CWC, 1992). Additional achievements include the adoption of the Final Document of the First Special Session on Disarmament (1978), the Program of Action agreed at the Conference on the Illicit Trafficking of Small Arms and Light Weapons (SAWL, 2001), the CTBT (1996), and the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT, 2013). The General Assembly has held three special sessions on disarmament — in 1978 (resulting in adoption of a consensus report), 1982, and 1988. A fourth special session has been under consideration since 1994, but States have so far been unable to agree on a final agenda for the meeting. Whether or not the total elimination of nuclear weapons, set as a priority at the 1978 special session, should remain the priority goal has repeatedly led to disagreement. (Resolutions/decisions calling for the “Convening of the fourth special session of the General Assembly devoted to disarmament”: 49/75I, 50/70F, 51/45C, 52/38F, 53/77AA, 54/54U, 55/33M, 56/24D, 57/61, decision 58/521, 59/71, decision 60/518, 61/60, 62/29, and decision 63/519).
Under the Relationship Agreement between the United Nations and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and under the IAEA Statute, the IAEA annually submits reports to the UN, which are considered at the UNGA plenary meetings.
On an annual basis, the UNGA adopts resolutions and decisions related to nonproliferation, disarmament, arms control, and international security upon recommendation by its First Committee.
UN Disarmament Commission (UNDC)
Originally established in 1952, the UNDC was later re-established and strengthened in 1978. It is a specialized deliberative body of universal membership mandated to submit concrete recommendations on specific disarmament issues and to follow up on the decisions of the UNGA’s special sessions on disarmament.
Verification and Compliance
While the decisions of the UNGA have no legally binding force for governments, they carry the weight of world opinion on major international issues, as well as the moral authority of the world community. The Security Council may recommend the suspension from exercising rights and privileges of General Assembly Membership when the Council is repetitively taking preventive or enforcement action for conflicts. Though all nations are treated as equals within the UNGA structure, the body can, with the advice of the credentials committee, agree to suspend the voting rights of a member nation’s representative. The UNGA can expel a member state, with the council’s recommendation, for repeatedly violating the principles of the United Nations Charter. A number of countries have had their voting rights temporarily suspended for falling too far behind in their dues.
Points of Contact
Mr. Movses Abelian
Under-Secretary-General for General Assembly
and Conference Management
2 United Nations Plz
New York, NY 10017, USA
Phone: 1 (212) 963-8362/8196
Soo-Hyun Kim, Secretary of the Board
United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs
DN 2510405 East 42nd Street
New York, NY 10017, USA
Director: Theresa Hitchens
Palais des Nations, CH-1211, Geneva 10 Switzerland
Tel: (41 22) 917 31 86
FAX: (41 22) 917 01 76
E-mail: [email protected]
Beginning September 21, the 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly is held in hybrid format, with some representatives participating virtually through pre-recorded statements and some gathering in New York to speak from the podium. The theme of the General Debate is “Building resilience through hope – to recover from COVID-19, rebuild sustainably, respond to the needs of the planet, respect the rights of people, and revitalize the United Nations.” UN General Assembly President Abdulla Shahid of the Maldives leads the session. The climate crisis emerges as a principal focus of the 76th General Assembly.
On September 21, President Biden presents remarks before the General Assembly emphasizing the progress and need for cooperation on issues like COVID-19 and climate change. Additionally, he points to a shift in U.S. foreign policy away from military action and toward “relentless diplomacy”.
On October 14, the General Assembly authorizes the convention of the second session of the Conference on the Establishment of a Middle East Zone Free of Nuclear Weapons and Other Weapons of Mass Destruction from November 29 to December 3.
A high-level meeting is held on September 22 on the topic of “Reparations, racial justice and equality for people of African descent” in commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the adoption of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action (DDPA).
The first ever UN Food Systems Summit is held on September 23 during the General Assembly. Numerous initiatives are proposed by civil society, farmers, women, youth and indigenous groups to accelerate progress to achieve all 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) by 2030. The Summit emphasizes the role of food systems in numerous global issues such as hunger, climate change, poverty and inequality.
UN Secretary General António Guterres hosts a High-Level Dialogue on Energy on September 24. The dialogue produced a global roadmap containing recommendations and timelines for States to follow to achieve sustainability goals.
The 76th session of the UNGA First Committee on Disarmament and International Security is scheduled for October 4 to November 4. Civil society members remain excluded from attending due to COVID-19 regulations. The First Committee unanimously endorses an Iranian resolution that urges implementation of nonproliferation commitments made in 1995, 2000, and 2010 by nuclear weapons states under the Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT).
As Covid-19 continued to wreak havoc across the globe, the 75th session of the General Assembly was held largely online from September 22. Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly Reem Abaza confirmed in a July 23 press release that the General Debate will commence with pre-recorded video statements from state officials and the European Union played in the General Assembly Hall. Representatives of each member state was present in the General Assembly Hall. Similar procedures were followed for the high-level meeting to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the United Nations, the Summit on Bio-Diversity and the high-level meeting on Beijing +25 and the high-level meeting to commemorate and promote the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons.
Side Events are unlikely to occur following from General Assembly President Tijjani Muhammad-Bande’s June suggestion that they be moved online.
In the face of Covid-19 the General Assembly has introduced a ‘Silence Procedure’ for the consideration of draft resolutions. Under this procedure, the President of the General Assembly must circulate a draft resolution, providing at least 72 hours for states to raise any objections. Absent any objections, the President of the General Assembly must then circulate a letter confirming the adoption of the resolution.
During the UNGA General Debate on 22 September, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani condemned sanctions placed upon the Islamic Republic of Iran, describing American snap back sanctions as being “imposed in blatant violation of the charter of the United Nations, international agreements and Security Council Resolution 2231.” Highlighting the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action as one of the biggest accomplishments in the history of diplomacy, Rouhani noted Iran’s compliance with the agreement in the face of “persistent” US violations. Over the course of the following days, France and Belgium, expressed continued support, and the continued support of the European Union, for the implementation of the JCPOA, encouraging measures to actively seek to preserve the agreement.
A high-level plenary meeting was held on 2 October to commemorate and promote the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons as part of the 76th session of the General Debate. Ninety member states took the floor during the plenary meeting with pre-recorded and in-person statements. A further 13 member states, five observer states and agencies, and two civil society organizations submitted comments online.
On 6 October, the First Committee opened its seventy-fifth session and adopted a program of work, a timetable, and set plans for virtual meetings to comply with COVID-19 related restrictions in place at the UN Headquarters in New York.
In January, the Disarmament Commission held informal, consultative meetings on nuclear disarmament and the prevention of an arms race in outer space.
On 2 April, the organizational meeting of the Disarmament Commission was postponed after the Russian Federation raised concerns that the United States had prevented the arrival of the head of the Russian delegation. Later that month, on 25 April, the Nigerian delegation, on behalf of the African Group, submitted a working paper in accordance with the recommendations of the Group of Governmental Experts on Transparency and Confidence-Building Measures in Outer Space. The paper decried the continued development of nuclear weapons as well as ABM systems as threats to the stability of the international, peaceful exploration of outer space.
Pursuant to the UNGA decision A/73/546 in 2018, from 18-22 November the Conference on the Establishment of a Middle East Free of Nuclear Weapons and Other Weapons of Mass Destruction held its first annual session at the UN headquarters in New York. Ambassador Sima Bahous of Jordan served as President of the Conference, and participants included almost all States of the Middle East and North African regions with the exception of Israel. The five Nuclear-Weapons States also declined to attend. In his opening remarks, Secretary-Antonio Guterres expressed the hope that this Conference could be an inclusive forum for all “States of the region to engage in direct dialogue on arrangements that could address their security requirements.” The Conference produced a final report as well as a political declaration, which declared a “solemn commitment” to pursue a legally binding NWFZ in the Middle East and welcomed all initiatives toward its establishment.
In Kassym-Jomart Tokayev’s speech to the UNGA on 24 September, the President of Kazakhstan urged the international community to recommit to the stability and security of a world free of nuclear weapons, citing the dangers associated with reliance on WMD in nuclear security doctrines and the risks of another arms race.
During the UNGA General Debate on 25 September, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani warned that further foreign interference in the Gulf region would lead to its collapse, and stated that Iran would not conduct negotiations on its nuclear program as long as Western sanctions were still in place. He also invited UNGA countries to join Iran in a Hormuz Peace Endeavor, which would, among other things, promote the collective supply of energy security and provide “various venues of cooperation” between States of the region. Over the next several days, representatives from several European countries including Belgium and Austria pointed to the JCPOA as “a useful instrument of the non-proliferation regime” and urged resumption of discussions between all involved parties regarding Iran’s ballistic missile program.
On 26 September, the UNGA held a high-level event to commemorate the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons as part of the 74th session of the General Debate.
The Disarmament Commission held its session at United Nations Headquarters from 2 to 21 April. This marked the beginning of a new 3-year cycle. In the opening remarks, Director to the High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, Thomas Markram, declared advances in disarmament and arms control as imperative, since global concerns about nuclear weapons have increased to Cold War levels.
On 23 April, the United Nations General Assembly released the annual report by the Disarmament Commission.
On 27 April, the Secretary-General Antonio Guterres released a press statement in which he congratulated the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) and the Republic of Korea (South Korea) for making progress toward denuclearization.
On 8 May, the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres released a press statement in which he expressed concern regarding the U.S. decision to withdraw from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
On 24 May, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres released the new UN disarmament agenda, entitled Securing our Common Future. A top priority of the agenda is the disarmament of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons.
On 7 July, the Secretary-General recognized the one-year anniversary of the adoption by 122 UN member states of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), a multilateral treaty that bans the development, testing, manufacturing, and stockpiling of nuclear weapons.
On 29 August, UN Secretary-General delivered a statement about the importance of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) becoming part of international law. He urged the holdout Annex II states to ratify the treaty and bring it into force.
On 26 September, the UNGA held a plenary meeting in honor of the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons to increase public awareness of nuclear weapons and encourage their total elimination.
On 26 September, President Moon Jae-in of the Republic of Korea delivered a speech to the General Assembly about advancements in denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. He was optimistic about the outcome of the summit between the U.S. and North Korea, and acknowledged North Korea’s process of dismantling its nuclear test site in Punggye-ri.
On 27 September, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivered a speech warning the UN General Assembly accusing Iran of harboring a secret nuclear weapons program in 2003, based on documents allegedly seized by Israeli intelligence. The UN and IAEA have not corroborated the allegations.
On 24 January, Secretary General Antonio Guterres pledged to pursue the abolition of all weapons of mass destruction in a statement to the Conference on Disarmament (CD) at its opening session for 2017.
On 13 February, the Disarmament Commission elected the Chair and Vice-Chairs of the 2017 substantive session and reviewed the provisional agenda. The substantive session will run from 3-21 April.
On 16 February, the United Nations Conference to Negotiate a Ban on Nuclear Weapons held its first organizational meeting. It elected Elayne White Gomez as Conference President and adopted an agenda and timetable for the 2017 substantive sessions.
The Disarmament Commission held its 2017 session from 3 to 21 April. It reached consensus on a draft report to be submitted to the General Assembly. Kim Won-soo, High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, praised the Commission for breaking 17 years of deadlock by reaching consensus.
On May 31, the United Nations General Assembly elected Miroslav Lajčák, Slovakia’s Foreign Minister, as president for its 72nd session.
On 15 June, the General Assembly released a preliminary agenda for the 72nd regular session.
On 12 September, the 72nd regular session on the United Nations General Assembly formally convened. The General Debate was held from 19-25 September.
On 19 September, U.S. President Donald Trump gave his first speech to the United Nations General Assembly. In his address, President Trump issued stern warnings to both the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) and the Islamic Republic of Iran for their nuclear activities. He lambasted the DPRK for its recent missile and nuclear tests and threatened to “totally destroy North Korea” if the isolated nation attacked the U.S. or its allies. The President also called the U.S.-Iranian Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action “the worst deal that the United States had ever entered into.”
On 10 November, IAEA Director Yukiya Amano delivered a briefing to the General Assembly, stating that nuclear energy is key to meeting the sustainable development goals in energy, food and agriculture, industry, water management and health.
On 15 December, Secretary General Antonio Guterres expressed his concern over the risk of military confrontation on the Korean Peninsula, “including as a result of miscalculation.”
On 6 January, all levels of the United Nations condemned the testing of a hydrogen bomb by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) with Secretary General Ban Ki-moon saying the action was “deeply troubling.”
On 7 February, following a missile launch by the DPRK, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called on the country’s government “to halt its provocative actions and return to compliance with its international obligations.”
On 12 April, General Assembly President Mogens Lykketoft opened up informal dialogues with the candidates who are seeking to become the next Secretary General of the United Nations. Mogens Lykketoft called these dialogues the beginning of a “new and transparent process” in the selection of the United Nations Secretary General.
On 13 October, the UNGA appointed a new Secretary-General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres of Portugal. He will succeed Ban Ki-moon when he steps down on 31 December.
On 27 October, the UNGA First Committee voted on resolution L.41, which seeks to establish multilateral negotiations for a legally binding measure to prohibit nuclear weapons.
On 5 December, the UNGA adopted 68 draft resolutions prepared by the First Committee. It deferred action on resolutions: “Treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons and other nuclear explosive devices” (L.65/Rev.1) and L.41. The conference on negotiating a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons will take place in New York from 27-31 March and 15 June to 7 July.
On 12 December, Director General of the IAEA Yukiya Amano briefed the UNGA on the IAEA’s draft annual report. Member States took the opportunity to underline the importance of the IAEA in ensuring nuclear safety and security.
On 22 December, the UNGA adopted a draft resolution on enhancing cooperation between the UN and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons(OPCW) (A/71/L.46). The UNGA stated that it would welcome the creation of an open-ended working group on the future priorities of the OPCW.
On 19 January, the Disarmament Commission elected the Chair for its 2015 session and adopted its provisional agenda. The UNDC convened from 6-24 April in New York, but failed to agree on a consensus document.
On 15 September, the 70th Session of the UNGA opened and adopted an Agenda during its 2nd plenary meeting.
The Disarmament Commission met from 7-25 April to finalize recommendations on disarmament, non-proliferation, and confidence-building measures, but failed to reach consensus on any of the issues. Commission Chair Vladimir Drobnjak of Croatia stated that the Commission “now stands at risk that its relevance is eroded.” High Representative for Disarmament Affairs Angela Kane reproved the Commission for missing “a good opportunity to build on the positive development witnessed during the past year.” However, she recognized the productive potential of the Commission’s “shared interests and ideals,” and called for continued advancement of the disarmament agenda.
On 16 June, the Fifth Biennial Meeting of States on Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons started its 2014 session. During the weeklong meeting, the delegates discussed the implementation of the Program of Action at the national, regional and global levels. They also addressed recent technology developments in small arms and light weapons, international cooperation and assistance in technology transfer and capacity building, strengths and weaknesses of the United Nations small arms action plan, and other issues and topics relevant to the implementation of the Program of Action. On 20 June, the participants adopted the draft report highlighting the commitment to preventing, reducing and eradicating the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons.
On 25 September, the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) reached 50 ratifications. The treaty will enter into force on 24 December.
On 7 October, the 69th session of the United Nations General Assembly First Committee opened under the leadership of Courtenay Rattray, Permanent Representative of Jamaica to the United Nations. General Debate was held from 7-15 October. On 16 October, the Committee turned to thematic debate on disarmament machinery, conventional arms control, global and regional disarmament, weapons of mass destruction, as well as nuclear threats and security. The Committee finished the thematic debate on 28 October with a focus on cyber warfare.
The General Assembly met on 3 November to consider the note by the Secretary-General, which transmitted the 58th report of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) for the calendar year 2013. In the discussion, the delegates addressed the IAEA’s support and contribution in nuclear nonproliferation, peaceful use of nuclear energy, and nuclear medical services. The representative of Egypt expressed concerns about the lack of progress in the establishment of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East and urged all member states to agree to comprehensive safeguards. At the end of this meeting, the Assembly adopted a draft resolution without a vote.
On 2 December, following First Committee’s recommendation, the General Assembly adopted 63 drafts focusing on nuclear disarmament and other related issues.
From 8-28 March, the Final UN Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty was held. Small changes were made to the previous draft of the Treaty; however, the final draft failed to be adopted by the necessary consensus. The three states who voted against the final draft were Iran, North Korea, and Syria.
On 2 April the General Assembly adopted the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), which needed 97 votes to pass, by a vote of 156-3-22.
On 3 June, the ATT opened for signature. Sixty-seven Member-States signed the treaty on this day, and as of 11 June, there are 72 signatories to the ATT. The ATT will enter into force 90 days after it has received 50 ratifications. Final thoughts on the ATT were widely positive, with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon noting that the passage of the ATT signaled, “the world has decided to finally put an end to the “free-for-all” nature of international weapons transfers.” The Treaty covers a wide range of conventional weapons, and is designed to curb the flow of weaponry to non-state actors and conflict-ridden regions.
The 68th Session of the United Nations General Assembly First Committee opened on 7 October 2013 under the chairmanship of Ambassador Ibrahim O.A. Dabbashi of Libya. General Debate was held from 7- 16 October. Thematic debate started on 17 October with nuclear weapons, other weapons of mass destruction, and outer space, followed by conventional weapons.
High Representative for Disarmament Affairs Angela Kane made a statement to the Committee highlighting the new initiatives and achievements in the past year as well as the work of the Office of Disarmament Affairs. She also underscored the Security Council’s adoption in September of its first ever resolution devoted to the question of small arms and light weapons. Furthermore, she cited the conclusion of the work of three groups of governmental experts: cyber security, outer space and the arms register. During the week and a half of debate on nuclear weapons, the humanitarian aspect was highly stressed. New Zealand gave a joint statement on humanitarian consequences in conjunction with 125 countries. The statement outlined the past work in Oslo as well as the next round of conferences to be hosted by Mexico in 13-14 February 2014.
Australia also presented a joint statement on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons use. Like the New Zealand statement, the Australian statement encouraged all states to participate actively in all relevant fora to reinforce the goals of disarmament and nonproliferation. It was also noted that while Russia and the United States cooperated to establish an agreement for the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons, neither country has met the deadline for the destruction for its own chemical arsenals.
In addition, a number of countries made statements regarding the newly negotiated Arms Trade Treaty. Both Switzerland and Trinidad and Tobago have offered to host the ATT secretariat.
On 5 April, the Disarmament Commission reached agreement on its agenda, breaking a 3-day stalemate. The provisional agenda for the current three-year work cycle will include two main substantive items, instead of the Commission’s usual three: “Recommendations for achieving the objectives of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation of nuclear weapons,” and “Practical confidence-building measures in the field of conventional weapons.” One working group will be devoted to each item. The 67th session of the General Assembly opened on 18 September 2012 under the presidency of Ambassador Vuk Jeremic of Serbia. The general debate was held from 25 September to 1 October.
On 7 November, the General Assembly adopted 53 resolutions and 6 decisions on the recommendation of its First Committee (Disarmament and International Security).
The 66th Session of the United Nations General Assembly opened on 21 September 2011 under the presidency of Ambassador Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser of Qatar. General Debate was held from 21-24 and 26-27 September 2011.
In his opening remarks, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stressed the importance of lessons learned from the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant disaster, called for strong international safety standards to prevent future disasters, and urged leaders to “keep pushing” on disarmament and non-proliferation.
Among the key areas for action, he cited the need to address global nuclear safety and security and called for nations to begin drafting a universal declaration on a “nuclear-weapon-free world.” Furthermore, he cited that the threat of nuclear terrorism was perhaps the greatest threat of all. Ban Ki-moon stressed the importance of international cooperation to prevent nuclear terrorism, afforded following the first Nuclear Security Summit in Washington last year, and the second Nuclear Summit, which will be held in Seoul next March.
He called again for reduced tensions on the Korean Peninsula and called upon the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) to return to the Six-Party Talks. He also urged the Iranian government to engage with the international community and comply fully with Security Council resolutions. He stressed that if both the DPRK and Iran continue “going down the path outside international law, their actions must be met with strong stance by the international community.”
He commended Ukraine as an example to the rest of the international community. “I urge leaders of other States to consciously follow the example of Ukraine and its real actions to promote disarmament and non-proliferation,” stated the Secretary-General. He recalled that Ukraine had voluntarily abandoned its nuclear weapons and stockpiles of enriched uranium. Furthermore, he stressed that Ukraine, in order to raise awareness of nuclear safety, convened the Kyiv Summit, and has consistently insisted on legally binding security assurances for the non-nuclear and non-aligned States.
Acting President Ambassador Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser of Qatar stressed in his remarks that the “logic of joint consolidated action” should prevail in matters of security and the elimination of surplus nuclear weapons worldwide, pointing to the signing of New START by the United States of America and the Russian Federation. He stressed to the sheer size of the United Nations sometimes serves as an impediment to disarmament and stressed that countries should join together for collective action, similar to that of the United States and Russia, for further decision-making and coordination. Al-Nasser called on all States with nuclear weapons capability to join that collective effort.
Al-Nasser also called for the universalization of the Treaty on Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, the strengthening of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards, and the entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, adding that an early resolution on the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Democratic People’s Republic of Iran would contribute to the strengthening of the non-proliferation regime.
The 65th session of the General Assembly opened on 23 September 2010 under the presidency of Ambassador Joseph Deiss of Switzerland. The general debate was held from 23 September to 1 October 2010.
In his opening remarks, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stressed the importance of reducing tensions on the Korean Peninsula and called on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) to return to the Six-Party Talks. In addition, he urged the Iranian government to engage constructively with the international community and comply fully with Security Council resolutions.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon noted the “new momentum” toward nuclear disarmament signified by the New START treaty, the Nuclear Security Summit, and the successful NPT Review Conference. At the same time, he emphasized the UN’s crucial role in finding a path to bringing the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty into force and to realizing agreements on fissile materials and securing nuclear materials and facilities.
In his opening remarks, acting President Deiss stressed the importance of multilateralism and the need for “genuine global partnership.” In addition, the Assembly agreed on the importance of the promotion of multilateralism in the area of disarmament and non-proliferation as a key agenda item, in the effort toward general and complete disarmament.
On 24 September 2010, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon convened and chaired the High-Level Meeting on Revitalizing the Work of the Conference on Disarmament (CD) and Taking Forward Multilateral Disarmament Negotiations. During this event, representatives from 68 states discussed ways to improve current multilateral disarmament machinery. Issues within the CD that were addressed included state participation, failure of implementation of the 2009 programme of work (CD/1864), the necessity of addressing procedural matters by consensus, and the decreasing relevancy of the CD due to lack of progress on disarmament issues. The Secretary-General suggested that at its first plenary meeting in 2011, the CD adopt the 2009 programme of work or any similar proposal submitted during the 2010 session. A number of delegates proposed convening a fourth special session of the General Assembly specifically devoted to revitalizing the work of the CD and reviewing the larger makeup of the disarmament machinery. In addition, it was proposed that the General Assembly include in the agenda of its sixty-sixth session an item entitled “Follow-up to the high-level meeting held on 24 September 2010; revitalizing the work of the CD and taking forward multilateral disarmament negotiations,” to be considered directly in the plenary and the First Committee.
On 2 December, the General Assembly adopted 52 resolutions and 6 decisions on the recommendation of its First Committee (Disarmament and International Security).
The 64th session of the General Assembly opened for session on 15 September. On 18 September the UNGA adopted the work program and agenda, which contained more than 160 items. Dr. Ali Abdussalam Treki was elected as President for the 64th session. The general debate was held at the UN Headquarters in New York from 23-26 and 28-30 September.
On 2 November, the General Assembly adopted the report of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) without a vote. The resolution (64/8) expresses gratitude for Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei’s 12 years of service and appeals to Member States to continue their support of the Agency’s activities. This marks the third year the States were able to reach a consensus and adopt the resolution without a vote.
On 2 December, the General Assembly adopted 50 resolutions and 4 decisions on the recommendation of its First Committee (Disarmament and International Security).
On 27 October, the General Assembly adopted the report of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) without a vote. The resolution (63/65) appealed to member states to support the activities of the Agency. This was the second year in a row that States had reached consensus and were able to adopt the resolution without a vote.
On 3 November, the General Assembly heard presentations from Tibor Tóth, Executive Secretary of the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) and Rogelio Pfirter, Director-General of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) on the work of their respective organizations. Resolution (63/13) was adopted by a vote of 64-1-0 (United States against) which placed “Cooperation between the United Nations and the Preparatory Commission for the CTBTO” on the provisional agenda of the 65th session of the UN General Assembly.
On 2 December, the General Assembly adopted 53 resolutions and 4 decisions on the recommendation of its First Committee (Disarmament and International Security).
On 29 October, the General Assembly adopted the report of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) without a vote. The resolution (62/2) appealed to Member States to support the activities of the agency. Similar resolutions had required votes in each of the previous three years.
On 5 December, the General Assembly adopted 49 resolutions and 3 decisions on the recommendation of its First Committee.
On 27 April, the secretary-general released his report, “Uniting against terrorism: recommendations for a global counter-terrorism strategy.” The report is a follow-up document to the outcome of the Millennium Summit, which calls for member states to reach a universal agreement on a counter-terrorism strategy. The report contains recommendations for building the global counter-terrorism strategy, with an emphasis on specific proposals for strengthening the capacity of the United Nations to combat terrorism.
The recommendations for a strategy seek to both guide and unite member states by emphasizing five operational elements:
- Dissuading groups from resorting to terrorism or supporting it: The first element emphasizes the important principle that terrorism is unacceptable and recognizes the need to address conditions conducive to exploitation by terrorist are essential foundations for building an effective strategy.
- Denying terrorists the means to carry out an attack: This element includes several important measures such as denying financial support; denying access to weapons, including weapons of mass destruction; denying access to recruits and communication lines by countering terrorist use of the Internet; denying terrorist access to travel; denying terrorist access to targets and the desired impact of their targets.
- Deterring states from supporting terrorists groups: In its third element, the report calls on all member states to become parties to and implement the 13 universal instruments related to the prevention and suppression of international terrorism and advises states to fully implement Security Council resolutions on counter-terrorism, in particular resolution 1267 (1999) and its successor resolutions, resolution 1373 (2001) and 1540 (2004).
- Developing a state capacity to prevent terrorism: The fourth element identifies several priority areas on which to focus such as promoting the rule of law, respect for human rights, and effective criminal justice systems, promoting quality education and religious and cultural tolerance, countering the financing of terrorism, ensuring transport security, strengthening state capacity to prevent terrorists from acquiring nuclear, biological, chemical, or radiological materials, ensuring better preparedness for an attack with such materials, and institutionalizing the Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force. It also praises the work of the Counter-Terrorism Committee and the creation of the Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate that reinforces the committee’s efforts towards more effective collaboration and state capacity building. It also emphasizes providing the proper resources to counter terrorism and urges the promotion of a United Nations system-wide coherence in countering terrorism. Member states asked to conclude, as soon as possible, a comprehensive convention on international terrorism, intended to send a strong signal of international unity and strengthen the moral authority of the United Nations.
- Defending human rights in the context of terrorism and counter-terrorism: The final element stresses the importance of upholding and defending human rights, not only of those suspected of terrorism, but also of those victimized by terrorism and those affected by the consequences of terrorism as essential to all components of an effective counter-terrorism strategy.
On 13 April, the General Assembly unanimously approved the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism, the first anti-terrorism treaty adopted since the September 11th attacks. The treaty, which places no new restrictions on the use of nuclear weapons by states, will become effective after it is ratified by 22 states.
The secretary-general pressed UN members to adopt another convention during the 60th General Assembly that would provide a simple, universal definition of terrorism and outlaw all forms of terrorism against civilians. That treaty should define a wide range of acts of nuclear terrorism, against a broad set of targets, and require those who plan, threaten, or commit such crimes to be extradited or prosecuted. As yet no agreement exists on the scope or content of such a treaty.
The Ad Hoc Committee established by General Assembly resolution 51/210 of 17 December 1996, entitled “Measures to eliminate international terrorism” completed seven years’ drafting work by adopting the draft convention, by consensus, without amendment. The committee, chaired by the Russian Federation, requested the secretary-general to open the convention for signature at UN headquarters from 14 September 2005 to 31 December 2006. Distinct from prior years, the political will and momentum to conclude the draft texts of the convention was, in part, due to the impetus of the December 2004 High Level Panel Report on Threats, Challenges and Change and the secretary-general’s March 2005 report, In Larger Freedom. An agreement on the text was struck after it was assured that the treaty would not be used to impose a generic definition on terrorism, a highly controversial issue.
The nuclear terrorism convention will join the 12 existing universal anti-terrorism conventions, strengthening the international legal framework in connection with terrorist acts and further promoting the rule of law.
Key provisions of the convention include:
- A wider definition (than the Convention on the Protection of Nuclear Materials) on materials and facilities covering both military and peaceful applications
- The criminalization of those planning, threatening, or carrying out acts of nuclear terrorism; it also requires states to criminalize these offenses via national legislation and to establish penalties in line with the gravity of such crimes
- Conditions under which states may establish jurisdiction for offenses
- Guidelines for extradition and other measures of punishment
- The requirement for states to take all practicable measures to prevent and counter preparations for offenses to take place inside or outside of their territories
- The distinction that the convention does not cover the activities of armed forces during an armed conflict or military exercise
From 14-16 September, under the presidency of H.E. Mr. Jan Eliasson of Sweden, world leaders met in New York for the World Summit 2005—a special High-Level Plenary Meeting of the UNGA. The summit aimed to review progress toward the Millennium Development Goals that governments agreed to in 2000, as well as find consensus toward a shared vision of collective security within the context of the current international peace and security landscape.
Despite intense negotiations, the Peace and Security section of the Summit’s Final Outcome Document made no mention of disarmament or the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
The preamble to the section recognized “that many threats are interlinked, that development, peace, security and human rights are mutually reinforcing, that no State can best protect itself by acting entirely alone and that all States need an effective and efficient collective security system pursuant to the purposes and principles of the Charter.”
Upon conclusion of the 2005 World Summit, the 60th UNGA began its regular general debate led by President Jan Eliasson of Sweden on 17 September. In his opening remarks to the debate, Secretary-General Kofi Annan urged the international community to begin to remedy “distressing failures” on nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament. During the plenary, states parties made repeated references to arms control, disarmament, multilateralism, nuclear energy, nuclear weapon free zones, proliferation, and terrorism.
On 6 October, the 75th session of the United Nations General Assembly First Committee opened with Agustin Santos Maraver of Spain serving as chair. A program of work and a timetable for the session were established. Due to COVID-19 related restrictions in place at the UN Headquarters in New York, the First Committee will not hold a full-fledged session. To maintain continuity and deliver results to the general assembly, the work of the First Committee will be conducted through a series of virtual meetings.
On 13 February, the Disarmament Commission elected the Chair and Vice-Chairs of the 2017 substantive session and reviewed the provisional agenda.
The Disarmament Commission held its 2017 session from 3 to 21 April. It reached consensus on a draft report to be submitted to the General Assembly. Kim Won-soo, High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, praised the Commission for breaking 17 years of deadlock by reaching consensus. Working Group 1, on the disarmament and non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, was unable to reach consensus on its subsidiary body draft report.
On 19 January, the Disarmament Commission elected Odo Tevi of Vanuatu as Chair for its 2016 session. It also reviewed and adopted the provisional agenda.
The 2016 UNDC session was held from 4-21 April. It opened the session by adopting its agenda and opening up general debate. Kim Won-soo, Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, addressed the UNDC and stated his hope that Member States would engage in constructive dialogue towards realizing a nuclear-weapon-free world during the session.
At the final meeting of the 2016 session, the Chairman and the High Representative for Disarmament Affairs both commended Member States for engaging in positive discussions, despite their many conflicting demands.
On 19 January, the Disarmament Commission elected the Chair for its 2015 session and adopted its provisional agenda.
The UNDC session for 2015 was held from 6-24 April in New York. On 7 April, the Commission approved a revised provisional agenda for the current three-year cycle, which includes recommendations for nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation and practical confidence building measures in the field of conventional weapons.
Despite three weeks of debate and exchange of views, no consensus documents were reached by the end of the UNDC session. The Commission submitted its report and reports of its two working groups to the Assembly.
The UNDC session for 2014 was held from 7-25 April in New York. The session was chaired by Vladimir Drobnjak of Croatia and vice-chaired by representatives from Austria, Brazil, Ecuador, Iran, Romania, and Republic of Korea. There were two working groups during the session. Working Group I, headed once again by Naif bin Bandar Al-Sudairy of Saudi Arabia, readdressed the issue of “Recommendations for achieving the objective of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation of nuclear weapons.” Working Group II, led again by Norwegian delegate Knut Langeland, discussed “Practical confidence-building measures in the field of conventional weapons.”
Despite three weeks of debate, no consensus was reached by the end of the UNDC session. The Commission could not adopt concrete recommendations, as ordered in its mandate, but reports from both working groups as well as a draft report to send to the General Assembly.
The UNDC session for 2013 met from 1-19 April in New York. The session was chaired by Christopher Grima of Malta and vice-chaired by representatives from Austria, Cote d’Ivoire, Croatia, Cyprus, Egypt, Indonesia, Jamaica, and Lithuania. There were two working groups for the 2013 session, with Working Group I addressing “Recommendations for achieving the objective of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation of nuclear weapons” and Working Group II discussing “Practical confidence-building measures in the field of conventional weapons.”
Working Group I was chaired by Naif bin Bandar Al-Sudairy of Saudi Arabia. During the session, the Working Group was presented with one working paper submitted by the United States and two submitted by the Chair. On 17 April, the Working Group adopted its report on agenda item 4 by consensus during its 11th meeting.
Working Group II was chaired by Knut Langeland of Norway. During the session, a working paper was submitted by the delegation of Ireland on behalf of the European Union, and a non-paper submitted by the Chair was circulated and underwent three revisions. The Chair expressed his goal of turning the non-paper into a working paper in the future. The Working Group adopted its report on agenda item 5 by consensus on 17 April 2013 in its 11th meeting.
The UNDC Session for 2012 was held from 2 to 20 April in New York. Elected as Vice-Chairs were Bouchaib El Oumni (Morocco) from the Group of African States and Naif Bin Bandar Al Sudairy (Saudi Arabia) from the Asia and Pacific States. Fikry Cassidy (Indonesia) served as a Rapporteur. The UNDC reached an agreement on a provisional agenda, ending the three-day stalemate. Agenda included two main working groups, instead of the usual three. Two groups addressed “Recommendations for achieving the objectives of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation of nuclear weapons” and “practical confidence-building measures in the field of conventional weapons.”
The UNDC Session for 2011, the last in the three-year cycle, was held from 4 to 22 April in New York. Ambassador Hamid Al-Bayati (Iraq) was the chairman, while Gheorghe Leucă (Republic of Moldova) and Miloš Nikolić (Montenegro) served as vice-chairs. The first two days of meetings were open, but then closed sessions were held until April 22.
Continuing from last year, the program of work included three agenda items: recommendations for achieving the objective of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, elements of a draft declaration of the 2010s as the fourth disarmament decade, and practical confidence-building measures in the field of conventional weapons. The first two items were taken up by Working Groups I and II. To address practical confidence-building measures in conventional arms, the Commission decided to create a third working group to convene at the end of the substantive session.
Debate during the first two plenary sessions covered all three topics, though most comments focused on nuclear related issues. Subjects discussed included strengthening the NPT, negotiation of a fissile material cut off treaty, negative security assurances, and the entry into force of the CTBT. Conventional weapons were also mentioned, particularly statements in support of an arms trade treaty and the full implementation of the UN Program of Action on Small Arms and Light Weapons.
Working Group II was chaired by Kayode Laro (Nigeria) and addressed “elements of the draft declaration of the 2010s as the fourth disarmament decade.” It was the only group able to meet at the end of the first week, as the other vice-chairs had not been elected. On 7 April the chair circulated a non-paper containing proposed elements of a draft declaration based on the discussions and proposals of the 2009 and 2010 sessions. From 7 to 13 April, delegates worked on finalizing the wording of a draft declaration. They also considered new proposals, additions and amendments to the draft text, However, significant substantive differences emerged over specific references to nuclear disarmament and a world free nuclear weapons in the context of commitments under the NPT. The group was unable to approve the text of the declaration, and the revised draft was not issued as a chair’s paper. At its last meeting on 14 April, the Working Group adopted a draft procedural report by consensus.
Working Group I discussed “recommendations for achieving the objective of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation of nuclear weapons”. Knut Langeland (Norway) was elected chair on 7 April. An open ended discussion of issues related to nuclear disarmament took place on 7 and 8 April, but member states could not achieve consensus. Deliberations continued on 11-13 April and resulted in the adoption of a draft procedural report on 14 April.
Working Group III focused on “practical confidence-building measures in the field of conventional arms.” On 15 April, Liseth Ancidey (Venezuela) was elected to chair Working Group III, which met from 15 to 20 April. On 18 April the chair circulated a non-paper presenting possible subjects of discussion. Delegates debated the non-paper and proposed revisions that were included in a subsequent version of the non-paper. On April 20 the Working Group adopted a draft report.
The Plenary session took place on 21 April, where the Commission adopted by consensus its draft report. The report was purely procedural, however, as the delegates were unable to come to a consensus on substantive issues for the twelfth year in a row.
The UNDC 2010 Session took place from 29 March-16 April in New York. Ambassador Jean-Francis Regis Zinsou (Benin) served as the chairperson, Lachezara Stoeva (Bulgaria) served as rapporteur, and Attila Zimonyl (Hungary), Raphael Hermoso (Philippines), Youn Jong Kwon (Republic of Korea), Hassan Hamid Hassan (Sudan), Juan Ignacio Morro (Spain), and Penny Douti (Greece) served as vice-chairs.
The Committee delegated work for the second year of its current three-year cycle to the two working groups that had been formed in 2009. The items tasked to working groups I and II, respectively, consisted of “Recommendations for achieving the objective of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation” and “Elements of a draft declaration of the 2010s as the fourth disarmament decade.” Working Group I continued with Paolo Cuculi of Italy as chair, and Working Group II with Johan Paschalis of South Africa.
It was agreed that the third agenda item, “Practical confidence-building measures in the field of conventional weapons,” would be taken up upon the conclusion of the preparation of the elements of a draft declaration of the 2010s as the fourth disarmament decade, preferably by the end of 2011.
The Disarmament Commission held its annual session in New York 13 April – 1 May. The meeting was chaired by Ambassador Andrzej Towpik of Poland and produced routine documents for consideration and revision at the 2010 meeting.
After overcoming substantial difficulties related to the order of the agenda topics, the Commission established two working groups. Working Group I considered “Recommendations for achieving the objective of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation of nuclear weapons,” although no recommendations were agreed upon. After a few days of difficulty in selecting a chair for the working group, Paolo Cuculi of Italy was elected to the chairmanship. Due to limited time, the working group focused on thematic debates, leaving substantive discussions and recommendations for next year.
Working Group II discussed “Elements of a draft declaration of the 2010s as the fourth disarmament decade,” and the chair, Johan Paschalis of South Africa, submitted a draft non-paper, which will require further revisions at next year’s meeting.
The reports for Working Group I and Working Group II, as well as the report of the Commission, were adopted at the final plenary meeting. The Commission considered the inclusion of an amendment but ultimately rejected the idea after Pakistan declared it thought it would confuse the agenda for the following year and India suggested its removal. The amendment consisted of a paragraph that stated the UNDC consider the elements presented in the draft declaration in the 2010 substantive session.
The 2008 UNDC Session held from 7 – 25 April, failed to adopt recommendations in both of its working groups: nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation and practical confidence-building measures in conventional weapons, though these topics have been on the UNDC agenda for the previous eight years.
Within the working group on disarmament and nonproliferation, participants were unable to reach agreement on the chair’s working paper pertaining to the establishment of a NWFZ in the Middle East and negative security assurances. However, the majority of working group participants declared their support for the entry into force of the CTBT, negotiations for a ban on fissile material, and the irreversible elimination of nuclear weapons. Additionally, the full implementation of the NPT was also discussed by participants. Representing the Non-Aligned Movement, Dr. R.M. Marty M. Natalegawa of Indonesia suggested an international conference to establish a “phased program for the complete abolition of nuclear weapons within a time-bound framework.”
Within the working group, delegations also expressed concerns regarding Iran’s nuclear energy program. The representative of the EU, Ambassador Sanja Štiglic of Slovenia remarked that, “Iran’s nuclear programme poses a major challenge to the non-proliferation regime.” In response, the delegation from Iran noted its country’s extensive cooperation with the IAEA.
In the working group on confidence-building measures (CBMs), participants reached consensus on several points on the chair’s paper though they were not able to make any recommendations. The United States, Russia, and China were also able to agree on language pertaining to outer space. However, participants were not able to support the Mine Ban Treaty, the Arms Trade Treaty, and though participants agreed to language on negotiations for a cluster munitions ban, it was extremely weak.
Throughout the session, participants also stressed the utility of CBMs, but also noted that CBMs, due to their voluntary nature, should not replace actual disarmament measures.
Finally, many participants stressed the importance of military spending transparency. In particular, the delegations from the Republic of South Korea and Japan noted the success of the UN Register of Conventional Arms in achieving transparency. Furthermore, numerous delegations voiced their support for a general reduction in military spending.
Though the final plenary meeting of the 2008 session was cancelled, delegations had the opportunity to state their closing remarks in an earlier session. Most delegations noted the stagnation of the disarmament and nonproliferation regimes and were particularly frustrated by the lack of representation at the UNDC Session, including a lack of participation by disarmament experts. In response, the UNDC Chair, Ambassador Piet de Klerk of the Netherlands suggested that one of the plenary meetings or a new plenary meeting be reserved for presentations and panel discussions by experts in order to facilitate discussion and momentum. However, this suggestion was met with hesitation by a number of states that maintained that experts would not be able to bridge states’ policy differences.
The Disarmament Commission held its annual session from 9 – 27 April and adopted its draft report, as well as those of two subsidiary bodies. The commission addressed two substantive issues: nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation and confidence-building measures in the field of conventional weapons.
Chairman Elbio Rosselli of Uruguay noted that 29 April marked the tenth anniversary of the entry into force of the Chemical Weapons Convention and that the convention had been the first disarmament agreement negotiated within a multilateral framework.
The commission heard closing remarks from the Russian and Cuban delegations. The Cuban representative expressed regret over the lack of political will towards drafting concrete recommendations on nuclear disarmament. The representative of the Russian Federation noted that violations of the Treaty on Conventional Use of Armed Forces and the pursuit of anti-ballistic missile defense in Europe had impacted the commission’s work.
As the Disarmament Commission opened for its annual session in New York in April, Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs Nobuaki Tanaka addressed the commission calling for urgent, new momentum, especially with regard to nuclear arms. Despite heightened global concern over the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and the risk of acquisition by terrorists, there has been virtual stagnation on the disarmament front. Tanaka reminded the commission that in 2003, the session concluded without reaching consensus on concrete proposals to advance nuclear disarmament or confidence-building measures in the field of conventional arms, and no consensus was achieved on agenda items for its 2004 and 2005 sessions with no substantive meetings held in 2005. He urged the body to strive to do better and provide fresh momentum on the disarmament front.
The Disarmament Commission did not hold any substantive meetings in 2005.
In June and July, the commission, led by the chair-designate for the 2005 substantive session, held five informal meetings. Chair Vohidov of Uzbekistan proposed the following two items on nuclear and conventional disarmament for inclusion in the provisional agenda of its substantive session:
- “Recommendations for nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation of nuclear weapons in all its aspects, in particular for achieving the objective of nuclear disarmament”
- “Practical confidence building measures, including verification mechanisms, in the field of conventional weapons.”
On 20 July, the commission agreed, ad referendum, to include the following text in its report: “the issue of measures for improving the effectiveness of the methods of work of the Disarmament Commission will be considered in plenary meetings at its 2006 substantive session, with equitable time allocated to it.”
On 19 and 22 July, the commission agreed, ad referendum, to the inclusion of the two items above on the provisional agenda of its substantive session. The second item, “Practical confidence building measures, including verification mechanisms, in the field of conventional weapons” was amended to “Practical confidence-building measures in the field of conventional weapons.”
On 22 July, one delegation proposed an oral amendment to the item on nuclear disarmament, halting further talks for the time being, and leaving the commission without an agreed agenda for its 2006 substantive session.
On 26 July, the commission decided to close its 2005 organizational session and meet at its organizational session for 2006 in November-December 2005. The commission also decided to hold the 2006 substantive session during a period of three weeks in April 2006.
On Monday, 5 April, the United Nations Disarmament Commission convened in New York, as scheduled. Yet despite months of diplomatic wrangling over the substantive agenda items, the major players – the US, the UK, and the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) – remained deadlocked and the session was postponed. In his opening statement as Chair, Georgia’s Ambassador Revaz Adamia urged Members to “seek inspiration” from past achievements of the Commission, such as Nuclear Weapon Free Zones and conventional arms control measures. He stressed the need for revitalized efforts in the face of new challenges to the international disarmament regime, including “new concepts of deadly weaponry,” threats of terrorism, and “the readiness or willingness of some Member States to comply” with existing obligations.
Under-Secretary-General Nobuyasu Abe, too, delivered a short intervention, in which he reminded States that, “the work of this Commission has been shaped by the political will of its members” and called for “increased joint efforts to strengthen the multilateral system of international peace and security.”
For the 2004 session, the NAM States wished to continue deliberations on the issues of nuclear disarmament and confidence building measures (CBMs). The United States, which drafted a 2003 GA resolution (58/126) on the issue of First committee reform, wished for the Commission to deliberate the non-substantive issue of UNDC reform. Finally, the United Kingdom proposed an agenda that would cover nuclear verification and best practices in SALW. The informal consultations on the agenda continued immediately after the Chair suspended the session on 5 April and continued throughout the next three weeks of the 2004 annual session.
On 22 December, the first part of the organizational meeting was held to consider questions related to the organization of work and substantive agenda items for the 2005 substantive session in accordance with the adopted “Ways and means to enhance the functioning of the Disarmament Commission” (A/CN.l0/137) and in the light of General Assembly resolution 59/105. The commission appointed Vice-Chair Alisher Vohidov of Uzbekistan as acting chair of the commission to perform duties of the chair until such time when the commission completed its consultation on the composition of the Bureau for 2005.
On 31 March – 17 April, the Disarmament Commission met for the third year of deliberations on two items: ways and means to achieve nuclear disarmament, and practical confidence-building measures in the field of conventional arms. Chaired by Mario Maiolini of Italy, the commission assembled amid a troubled international environment as well as persisting concerns over the future of multilateral disarmament efforts. The commission was, however, unable to adopt concrete proposals to advance either nuclear disarmament or confidence-building in the field of conventional arms, mainly due to the lack of political will by some Members states, the delay in disarmament tactics and the broadness of the disarmament issue. The commission did adopt a procedural report that included the factual reports by both working groups.
The first item, “Ways and means to achieve nuclear disarmament” was considered by Working Group I chaired by Mr. Alaa Isaa (Egypt). One of the main reasons why agreement could not be reached on this topic was India’s objection to the Nuclear Non- Proliferation Treaty (NPT) being referenced in the Chairman’s draft report. The United States also raised concerns over the inclusion of a number of principles on possible ways to advance nuclear disarmament.
Working group II, chaired by Mr. Santiago Irzabal Mourao (Brazil) considered “Practical confidence-building measures in the field of conventional arms.” Although most States were supportive of the draft text introduced by the chairman at the start of the Commission’s session, agreement was at the end impossible due to the failure of confidence-building measures necessary to reduce tension and prevent conflict over disarmament matters Strong disagreement existed over matters such as the use of force in international relations, military expenditures, the inclusion of pre-emptive strikes in nuclear deterrence policies, the total elimination of nuclear weapons, and the deadlocked state of the Conference on Disarmament.
As the commission normally completes its consideration of two items in three years, with the consensus adoption of guidelines and recommendations, member states will have to identify and agree on two new items prior to the commission’s next session in 2004. In this regard, the 52nd General Assembly session decided (52/492) that as of the 2000 substantive session, the substantive agenda of the commission should normally comprise two agenda items per year from the whole range of disarmament issues, including one on nuclear disarmament, and that the possibility of a third agenda item would be retained if there was a consensus to adopt such an item.
The 2002 session of the UNDC was cancelled. As a result of postponements and changes to the UN calendar, caused by the disruption of activities in September 2001, participants at UNDC organizational meetings were unable to decide upon an appropriate date for the 2002 substantive session. This decision was taken with the understanding that it would be without prejudice to the future work of the UNDC.
The Disarmament Commission held its 2001 substantive session from 9-27 April 2001, under the chairmanship of Diane Quarless (Jamaica). The commission adopted by consensus reports of its two working groups and conclusions and recommendations contained therein on ways to achieve nuclear disarmament and practical CBMs in the field of conventional arms. While the UNDC Working Groups convened to consider these issues, no consensus was reached regarding how to treat these issues. The commission adopted these reports, which were presented to the General Assembly at its 56th session.
The 2000 substantive session, held from 26 June-7 July, was chaired by Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Javad Zarif. The Disarmament Commission adopted by consensus a draft report, as well as the draft reports of its two working groups on nuclear disarmament and on practical CBMs in the field of conventional arms. While the UNDC Working Groups convened to consider these issues, no consensus was reached regarding how to treat these issues. All three reports were submitted to the General Assembly at its 55th session.
The 1999 substantive session of the UNDC was held from 12-30 April in New York, and was chaired by Maged Abdelaziz (Egypt). The Disarmament Commission concluded its deliberations in the three working groups, reaching agreement on guidelines for the establishment of NWFZs and conventional arms control for the consolidation of peace in post-conflict situations. The commission could not, however, reach consensus on the objectives and agenda for the UNGA’s Fourth Special Session on Disarmament (SSOD IV).
The guidelines for the establishment of NWFZs stipulate that the initiative to establish a NWFZ must emanate exclusively from States within the region concerned and be pursued by all the States in that region. The NWS and any other States responsible for territory within the zone should be consulted during negotiations.
The guidelines on conventional arms control/limitation and disarmament with particular emphasis on consolidation of peace in the context of UNGA Resolution 51/45N, apply to the consolidation of peace in post-conflict situations and call for transparency in armaments and confidence building to stem the increasing flow and accumulation of conventional weapons.
The paper presented by the Chairman on the fourth special session of the UNGA devoted to disarmament highlighted possible agenda items that had been identified by the 1998 substantive session of the UNDC. No consensus was reached on this matter.
The 1998 substantive session of the UNDC was held from 6-28 April in New York. The commission, chaired by Sergey Martynov (Belarus), addressed and established three working groups for the following disarmament areas: the establishment of NWFZs, the development of guidelines on conventional arms control, limitation and disarmament, and the preparations for the SSOD IV.
The commission concluded its third and last year’s work on the SSOD IV having failed to reach an agreement on its objectives and agenda. However, a resolution (A/RES/53/77AA) was passed in the 53rd session of the UNGA that recommended that the item be included in the 1999 session of the Committee for an unprecedented fourth year in order to “promote agreement on the agenda and timing of the special session.” Thus, work on all three items continued in 1999.
UNIDIR is an autonomous institution within the framework of the United Nations. It was established by the General Assembly for the purpose of undertaking independent research on disarmament and related problems, particularly international security issues. UNIDIR was established in October 1980 on the basis of UNGA Resolution 37/99K. The Statute of UNIDIR was approved by the UNGA in 1984 (Resolution 39/148H). The Director of UNIDIR reports annually to the UNGA on the activities of the Institute. The UN Secretary-General’s Advisory Board on Disarmament Matters functions as UNIDIR’s Board of Trustees.
The work of the Institute aims to:
- provide the international community with more diversified and complete data on problems relating to international security, the armaments race, and disarmament in all fields;
- promote informed participation by all States in disarmament efforts;
- assist ongoing negotiations on disarmament and continuing efforts to ensure greater international security at progressively lower levels of armaments by means of objective and factual studies and analyses; and
- carry out more in-depth, forward-looking, and long-term research on disarmament so as to provide general insight into the problems involved and to stimulate new initiatives for new negotiations.
UNIDIR cooperates with research institutes, develops and maintains a computerized information and documentation database service, publishes research papers, reports, and a quarterly journal, Disarmament Forum, and organizes regional conferences. It also has a fellowship program to enable scholars from both developed and developing countries to conduct research at the Institute.
The Institute’s activities are grouped into three areas:
- Global Security and Disarmament – covers international arms control agreements and their implementation as well as questions on international security, missiles and weapons of mass destruction
- Regional Security and Disarmament – develops themes linked to conflict concentrated in specific areas of the globe, such as promoting civil society participation in West African disarmament dialogues
- Human Security and Disarmament – explores the complex interrelations between disarmament, human rights, and development; anti-personnel mines, small arms, and peace-building issues feature prominently in this area
The Institute’s budget is financed mainly by voluntary contributions from governments and public or private organizations. A contribution to the costs of the Director and staff may be provided from the UN regular budget.
Point of Contact
The Advisory Board on Disarmament Matters was established in 1978 pursuant to paragraph 124 of the Final Document of the Tenth Special Session of the General Assembly, and received its current mandate pursuant to General Assembly Decision 54/418 of 1 December, 1999. The Advisory Board on Disarmament Matters has the following functions:
- to advise the Secretary-General on matters within the area of arms limitation and disarmament, including on studies and research under the auspices of the United Nations or institutions within the United Nations system;
- to serve as the Board of Trustees of the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR); and
- to advise the Secretary-General on the implementation of the United Nations Disarmament Information Program.
The Secretary-General chooses the members of the Board from all regions of the world for their knowledge and experience in the field of disarmament and international security. Members serve an initial two-year term. There were 15 members in 2010. The Director of UNIDIR is an ex officio member.
The Advisory Board holds two sessions a year, alternating between New York and Geneva. The Board adopts its agenda based on requests from the Secretary-General for advice on specific disarmament issues and upon its own recommendations of items to be considered. The chairman of the Board rotates by region on a yearly basis, and is responsible for submission of a private report on the session to the Secretary-General. The Secretary-General reports annually to the General Assembly on the activities of the Advisory Board.
In its role as Board of Trustees of UNIDIR, the Advisory Board reviews reports of the work of the Institute, including completed and on going projects, personnel and financial matters, and future plans.
The Board held its 65th session from 27-29 January in Geneva, Switzerland. Issues discussed included challenges facing the NPT and its review process, particularly the Middle East. Additionally, the Board discussed the relationship between sustainable development, security, and arms control, and the emerging nexus between CBRN, cyber security, and terrorism.
The Board held ids 66th session from 29 June to 1 July in New York. It continued discussion on the topics of the 65th session.
The Board held its 63rd session from 28-30 January in Geneva. Fifteen members discussed “the role of arms control in managing conflicts,” “new challenges to disarmament and the increasing role of non-state actors,” as well as “the humanitarian consequences of nuclear use.”
The Board held its 64th session from 20 June to 1 July. Participants continued discussion on “the role of arms control in managing conflicts,” “new challenges to disarmament and the increasing role of non-state actors,” as well as “the humanitarian consequences of nuclear use.”
The Board held its 61st session from 2-7 March in New York. Members discussed the agenda items of “disarmament and security implications of emerging technologies,” as well as “verification, with a special focus on emerging technologies.”
The Board held its 62nd session form 2-4 July in Geneva. Members continued to discuss “disarmament and security implications of emerging technologies” and “verification, with a special focus on emerging technologies.”
The Board held its 59th Session from 27 February-1 March in New York. Members discussed the benefits of nuclear-weapon-free-zones to regional and global security. They also discussed “disarmament and security implications of emerging technologies.”
The Board held its 60th Session from 26-28 June in Geneva. Members continued their discussion on “the relations between the nuclear-weapon-free zones in advancing regional and global security” and “disarmament and security implications of emerging technologies.”
The Board held its 57th session from 22-24 February in New York. Members discussed methods to improve the work of the Board, as well as the future of conventional arms regulation within the United Nations.
The Board held its 58th session from 4-6 July in Geneva. Members continued their discussions on the future conventional arms regulation within the United Nations and conducted follow-up discussions on revitalizing the Conference on Disarmament.
The Board held its 55th session from 23-25 February in New York. Members discussed the possible establishment of a panel of experts to focus on functioning of the Conference on Disarmament.
The 56th Session of the Board took place from 29 June – 1 July in Geneva. This session continued the discussions held during the 55th session earlier in the year.
The Board held its 53rd session from 24-26 February in New York. During the session, the two primary issues addressed included: “Conceptual issues leading up to the 2010 NPT Review Conference” and “Follow-up action on the 2002 United Nations Study on Disarmament and Non-Proliferation Education.”
The 54th Session of the Board took place from 7-9 July in Geneva. Issues discussed during this meeting were “Follow-up action on the 2002 United Nations Study on Disarmament and Non-Proliferation Education” and the “Exchange of views on the outcome of the 2010 NPT Review Conference.”
The three chief items on the Board’s agenda for this year were “cyberwarfare and its impact on international security,” “ways to strengthen the field of verification, including the role of the United Nations,” and “Conceptual issues leading up to the 2010 NPT Review Conference.” The Board held its 51st session on 18-20 February in New York. The Board’s 52nd session was held from 1-3 July in Geneva. On 12 August, the board issued a report to the UNGA during their 64th session. In its report, the Board recommended that the Secretary-General: raise the awareness of governments and the public regarding the emerging risks and threats of cyberwarfare; encourage Member States to provide feedback on verification studies so that a better understanding emerges that a “one-size-fits-all” approach is counterproductive in regard to verification; consider a role for regional organizations in verification matters; and encourage Member States to sign the IAEA additional protocol and implement confidence-building measures.
At its 49th and 50th sessions, the Board discussed issues of energy security and environment in the field of disarmament and nonproliferation as well as the ‘Hoover Plan’ for nuclear disarmament including multilateralism and the UN dimension. The Board further discussed emerging weapons technologies, including outer space aspects.
At its 48th session, the Board reviewed ways to advance the disarmament agenda as well as emerging weapons technologies including outer space aspects.
At its 47th session, the Board discussed the way ahead in building an international security system as well as the consolidation and further development of international norms on small arms and light weapons (SALW). At its 46th session, the Board reviewed the situation in the field of disarmament in light of the decisions taken at the summit held on the occasion of the 60th session of the UNGA. The Board also discussed measures to prevent the proliferation of weapon systems to non-state actors.
At its 45th session, the Board conducted a review of disarmament machinery and discussed challenges and opportunities at the regional level in the areas of WMD and conventional arms. At its 44th session held in February, the Board focused on the nuclear fuel cycle and the control of fissile materials. In addition, regional security and global norms issues concerning small arms and light weapons were also included in the session.
At its 43rd session, the board discussed export controls and evaluated its contribution to the work of the secretary-general’s panel on threats, challenges, and change. In its 42nd session held in February, terrorism and WMD capabilities concerning their delivery systems and disarmament and reconciliation in conflict resolution were discussed.
At its 41st session, the compliance, verification, and enforcement of multilateral treaties and rising military expenditures were among the issues concerning disarmament and human security that were discussed. At its 40th session, the items discussed were open source data for disarmament and the relationship between disarmament and development. A review of the functioning and effectiveness of the board in the context of it 25th anniversary of its establishment was also conducted.
At its 39th session, the board discussed, among other things, issues related to the preparedness of public health systems to deal with bio-terrorism, nuclear security and safety, the weaponization of outer space, rising military expenditure, disarmament and development, and disarmament education. The 38th session was composed of topics addressing biological weapons and the BWT Convention, small arms and light weapons, and WMD and terrorism.
The Advisory Board focused on “the revolution in military affairs,” the illicit trade in small arms, reduction of nuclear dangers, nonproliferation regimes, and NWFZs as useful instruments of disarmament. The members also agreed that there existed a “crisis of multilateral disarmament diplomacy” and that the UN had important roles in addressing the crisis, including through public education, especially with respect to nuclear disarmament.
Point of Contact
Reduction of Military Budgets: Instrument for Standardized International Reporting of Military Expenditures
Established by the UNGA Resolution 25/142B in 1980. In 1985, the UNGA reiterated its recommendation that all Member States should annually report by 30 April to the secretary-general their military expenditures for the latest fiscal year for which data are available, using the reporting instrument. The standardized reporting form invites aggregate and detailed data on expenditures incurred on personnel, operations and maintenance, procurement and construction, and research and development. The alternative simplified reporting form only seeks aggregate data on personnel, operations and procurement.
Thus far, more than 120 States have reported to this instrument at least once since it commenced operation in 1981. Annual participation registered significant increases in recent years over all previous years. The highest number of national submissions recorded so far was 82 in 2002, rising from 61 in 2001, while the average level of participation during the 1980s and 1990s was fewer than 30.
Established 1 January 1992, under UNGA Resolution 46/36L, “Transparency in Armaments,” of 6 December 1991. The purpose of the UN Register of Conventional Arms is to serve as a universal and non-discriminatory CBM designed to give early warning and prevent the excessive and de-stabilizing accumulation of arms.
Procedures approved by the UNGA call for the voluntary submission by Member States of data on all items exported or imported in seven major weapon categories: battle tanks, armored vehicles, large caliber artillery systems, combat aircraft, attack helicopters, warships, and missiles/missile launchers. Background information is also requested on each country’s military holdings, procurement through national production, and relevant policies. Submitted information is made available to the public.
All Member States are invited to participate by providing information for each calendar year by 30 April of the following year. A “nil” report indicates that the reporting country did neither import nor export any arms covered by the Register. A “substantive” report implies that the State did import or export such weapons.
2015: 47 reports
2014: 58 reports
2013: 58 reports
2012: 47 reports
2011: 64 reports
2010: 69 reports (30 nil, 39 substantive)
2009: 78 reports (30 nil, 48 substantive)
2008: 80 reports (31 nil, 51 substantive)
2007: 91 reports (39 nil, 52 substantive)
2006: 113 reports (61 nil, 49 substantive)
2005: 118 reports (58 nil, 59 substantive)
2004: 117 reports (64 nil, 51 substantive)
2003: 115 reports (66 nil, 49 substantive)
2002: 123 reports (76 nil, 46 substantive)
2001: 126 reports (77 nil, 49 substantive)
2000: 118 reports (64 nil, 54 substantive)
1999: 100 reports (42 nil, 56 substantive)
1998: 85 reports (30 nil, 54 substantive)
1997: 99 reports (44 nil, 54 substantive)
1996: 94 reports (41 nil, 51 substantive)
1995: 97 reports (42 nil, 54 substantive)
1994: 98 reports (45 nil, 53 substantive)
1993: 94 reports (45 nil, 49 substantive)
1992: 95 reports (39 nil, 56 substantive)
The UN secretary-general releases an annual report of the UN Register of Conventional Arms in July that covers all of the data for the previous year; subsequently a number of addenda and corrigenda are published after the release of the report.
Thus far, 173 States, including 3 non-member States have reported to the Register one or more times. The Register captures the great bulk of the global arms trade in the categories of conventional weapons covered by it.
UN Disarmament Information Program
(prior to 1992 — World Disarmament Campaign) Instituted in 1979, it is a global program to inform, educate, and generate public understanding of UN activities in the field of disarmament.
UN Disarmament Fellowship, Training and Advisory Services Program
The United Nations Program of Fellowships on Disarmament was launched by the General Assembly at its first special session devoted to disarmament in 1978. The program aims at the training and specialization of national officials in more Member States, particularly in developing countries. It enables them to participate more effectively in international deliberating and negotiating forums.
Participants are selected on the basis of nominations invited from all Member States of the United Nations (one nomination per Member State per year). The selection of candidates is the responsibility of the substantive department (UN Department for Disarmament Affairs) on the basis of the greater needs of developing countries in terms of training their young diplomats in the field of disarmament and security, and the overall geographical balance.
The program is structured in three segments. The first segment of the program is carried out in Geneva and is aimed primarily at exposing the Fellows to multilateral negotiations on disarmament undertaken by the Conference on Disarmament and other intergovernmental meetings held there. The second segment of the program comprises study visits to intergovernmental organizations of relevance in the field of disarmament, as well as to Member States, at their invitation. The third segment of the program, which is held at United Nations Headquarters in New York, consists of a second cycle of lectures by members of delegations to the First Committee and United Nations officials, on items on the agenda of the Committee, and regular attendance in meetings of the Committee.