United Nations Groups of Governmental Experts

The GGE on:

UN Register of Conventional Arms

Background

The United Nations Register of Conventional Arms is an annual reporting mechanism through which governments can share information on weapons they transferred the previous year. Member States reporting to it provide information on the build-up and volume of the conventional arsenals which it deems essential to maintain a credible defense and perform effective peacekeeping tasks.

Recent Developments

2016

The GGE held three sessions of work: two sessions in Geneva (4-8 April 2016 and 11-15 July 2016) and one in New York (16-20 May 2016). The Group reviewed and built upon past work of the Group and explored new areas in which to develop the register. Recommendations included Member States applying, on a trial basis; a seven plus one formula for reporting on transfers of small arms and light weapons; further expansion of the Register by broadening the scope of category V to include unmanned combat aerial vehicles; exploration of synergies between the Register and other existing transparency instruments; and increasing the stability of national reporting mechanisms.

2013

The GGE held three meetings during its 2013 session. The first meeting was from 8-12 April in Geneva, the second meeting was from 6-10 May in New York, and the third meeting was from 24-28 June in New York. All sessions reviewed the continuing operation of the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms.

2012

The GGE was held on 15-16 November in Geneva presided over by Jesus S. Domingo of the Philippines.

2011

The GGE held three meetings during its 2011 session presided over by Jesus S. Domingo of the Philippines. First session took place from 21-25 February, second session 28 March to 1 April, and third session 22-26 August in Geneva.

2010

The GGE held two meetings during its 2010 session that were both presided over by Jesus S. Domingo of the Philippines. The first 2010 session meeting took place from 12-16 April in Geneva. Participants addressed issues such as anti-runway and anti-ship munitions, the nature of safeguarding mechanisms, self-destruction mechanisms, self-propelled mechanisms, air defense, and assistance to cluster munitions victims. Particular attention was given to the Convention on Cluster Munitions.

The second meeting of 2010 session took place on 30 August – 3 September in Geneva. Participants continued discussions from the earlier meeting. Particular emphasis was placed on definitions, international humanitarian law, logistics of the storage and transfer of conventional weapons, clearance and destruction of cluster munitions remnants, victim assistance, and enhanced international cooperation. Special attention was given to determining ways that States could better support the Convention on Cluster Munitions, particularly since the agreement entered into force on 1 August.

2009

The Group of Governmental Experts held three meetings for its 2009 session. The first two occurred from 16-20 February and 27 April-1 May, and the third from 6-10 July. The 2009 report (A/64/296) was released on 14 August.

The GGE’s principal stated aim in 2009 was to determine whether the seven weapons categories that the Register keeps data on are sufficient to provide an accurate picture of global security in the 21stcentury. In its first two meetings, the GGE discussed the potential addition of new categories to the Register for small arms and light weapons (SALW) and unmanned combat air vehicles. The GGE also considered amending existing categories to include vehicles that perform command and control functions, reconnaissance, and electronic warfare.

With the conclusion of the third meeting, the Group was unable to reach consensus on either proposal regarding the expansion of the Register’s scope on new classes of equipment. However, the Group noted that such issues merit review by future Groups. The Group did make recommendations regarding measures to assist Member States with the submission of meaningful reports and made necessary adjustments to the standardized reporting forms. The report also addressed ways in which to improve the relevance and promotion of universal participation in the Register. In the report, the Group affirmed that efforts should be made toward enhancing participation in the Register, including workshops, increased cooperation between the UN Secretariat and relevant regional/sub-regional organizations, in addition to outreach activities by the ODA and regional disarmament centers. Due to the reduced time for deliberation for the 2009 Group, it was recommended that future Groups be given sufficient time to complete their program of work.

In their final report, the Group put forth five recommendations. The first recommendation encouraged increased and consistent participation by States in order to promote universality. Second, the Group reaffirmed all recommendations made by the 2006 GGE in their report (A/61/261). The Group also recommended that all Member States use the newer versions of the reporting forms for all future submissions. It was also suggested that the Secretary-General seek the views of the Member States on whether the absence of SALW as a main category in the Register had limited its relevance and affected decisions on participation. Finally, the GGE recommended that the next regular review of the Register be held in 2012.

2006

The 2006 Group of Governmental Experts was established under General Assembly resolution 60/226 of 23 December 2005, which requested the Secretary-General prepare a report on the continuing operation of the Register and its further development, taking into account the views expressed by Member States and the reports of previous Secretary-Generals on the subject.

The group concluded that significant progress had been made towards achieving a high level of participation, but that universal participation would enhance the effectiveness of the Register as a global confidence-building instrument. The group recognized the need to provide the Department of Disarmament Affairs (DDA) with adequate assistance to carry out outreach and promotional activities.

The group amended the category VI definition of a warship and recommended an overhaul of the Register’s website and database. It also recommended that the DDA conduct a pilot project to test the feasibility of electronic filing of reports

2003

The 2003 Group of Governmental Experts on the continuing operation and further development of the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms, pursuant to General Assembly Resolution 57/75, successfully concluded its work at United Nations Headquarters in New York on 1 August by adopting a consensus report.

The report contained a number of recommendations submitted by the Group of Experts, which are designed to improve the operation of the Register further and to enhance its global relevance. Notably, the group recommended that technical adjustments be made to two of the seven categories of conventional arms covered by the Register. Specifically, it proposed that the reporting threshold for large-caliber artillery systems should be lowered from 100 to 75 millimeters, and that man-portable air-defense systems (MANPADS) should be included in Category VII entitled “Missiles and Missile Launchers.”

The Group discussed in detail a range of other issues, including the status of reporting on procurement through national production and military holdings, as well as the relationship of small arms and light weapons to the Register. So far, 164 member states have participated at least once in this voluntary reporting instrument, while a record number of 126 states submitted reports on arms transfers last year.

A report of the final meeting was submitted to the 58th General Assembly at UN Headquarters.

From 17 - 21 March 2003, the Group of Governmental Experts held its fourth review of the Register pursuant to General Assembly Resolution 57/75 of 22 November 2002. The resolution requested the secretary-general, with the assistance of a group of governmental experts to be convened in 2003, on the basis of equitable geographical representation, to prepare a report on the continuing operation of the Register and its further development, with a view of a decision at its fifty-eighth session.

Aside from examining the progress made so far in terms of participation level and the quality of data submitted by States, the governmental experts examined a range of issues pertaining to the current scope of the Register, its existing procedures and operation, as well as the implementation of recommendations made by the group of governmental experts in 2000. The group also considered the outcome of a series of regional and sub-regional workshops held over the last two years in Africa, Asia-Pacific, and Latin America and the Caribbean. The Department for Disarmament Affairs facilitated these workshops in cooperation with the Governments of Canada, Germany, Japan and the Netherlands.

The Department for Disarmament Affairs at the UN Secretariat is responsible for maintaining an electronic database for the import/export data submitted, and files on background information.

2000

The Group of Governmental Experts on the UN Register met from 24 July-4 August 2000. They held two other meetings in the year 2000, from 6-10 March and from 22 May-2 June. The Group submitted its report to the secretary-general (A/55/281) on 9 August of that year. The report contains the following conclusions and recommendations:

The Group emphasized the consistent level of participation since 1992 and the improved quality of information provided by States, but stated that there were wide variations in the level of reporting among regions.

The Group stressed the importance of universal participation and encouraged more States to participate on a regular basis, both in reporting data and information and in making “nil” reports on imports and exports of conventional weapons covered by the Register.

The Group stressed the importance of the principal of transparency and its relevance to WMD and considered the proposal to add a new category to include such weapons. The group, however, agreed that this was an issue to be addressed by the General Assembly.

The Group recommended that the practice of holding periodic reviews, which is essential to the task of ensuring the continued progress of the Register, should be continued.

The Group also met in 1997 and submitted its report to the secretary-general (A/52/316) on 29 August of that year.

1994

In 1994, the Group of Governmental Experts, with members from 25 countries, first met to review operation of the Register and consider its further development, including the addition of new categories of equipment and data on military holdings and procurement through national production. The Group did not reach consensus on any substantial expansion or changes. The following year, the UNGA passed Resolution 50/70 D, which called for continued participation in the Register and requested the secretary-general, with the assistance of a group of governmental experts to be convened in 1997, to prepare a report on the continuing operation of the Register and its further development for submission to the UNGA with a view to a decision at its 1997 session.

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Tracing Illicit Small Arms and Light Weapons

Background

The issue of tracing illicit small arms and light weapons was identified during the preparatory process for the July 2001 UN Conference on Small Arms and Light Weapons in All its Aspects (SALW), and at the conference itself, as one of the most critical problems to be addressed in the global efforts to combat, prevent, and eradicate the illicit trade in SALW.

The Program of Action adopted by the conference reflected this concern by recommending that the UNGA “undertake a study, within existing resources, for examining the feasibility of developing an international instrument to enable States to identify and trace in a timely and reliable manner, illicit SALW.”

Accordingly, the UNGA established the Group of Governmental Experts on Tracing Illicit Small Arms and Light Weapons (GGE) and requested “… the secretary-general to undertake a UN study, commencing during the 56th session of the General Assembly, within available financial resources and with any other assistance provided by States in a position to do so, and with the assistance of Governmental Experts appointed by him on the basis of equitable geographical representation, while seeking the views of States, to examine the feasibility of developing an international instrument to enable States to identify and trace, in a timely and reliable manner, illicit small arms and light weapons and to submit the study to the General Assembly at its 58th Session.”

At the invitation of the secretary-general, the following 23 Member States appointed representatives to the GGE: Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, China, Colombia, Cuba, Egypt, France, India, Jamaica, Japan, Kenya, Mali, Mexico, the Netherlands, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Russian Federation, South Africa, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Thailand.

Recent Developments

2002–2003

At its first meeting the Group elected Ambassador Rakesh Sood, Permanent Representative of India to the Conference on Disarmament (CD), as its Chairman, and agreed on the two main guidelines that would govern its deliberations. First, the GGE should focus on its precise mandate, and refrain, to the extent possible, from discussing other issues that may be important in their own right, but are peripheral to the task at hand. Second, the GGE was not intended to negotiate an international instrument, but rather, was tasked with reporting on the feasibility of developing such an instrument.

In seeking to define the scope of its task with the necessary precision, the GGE examined the issue of definitions such as what constitutes “illicit SALW”; the main components of tracing, namely marking, recordkeeping, and international cooperation, and their respective technical and political dimensions, in the context of both combating crime and conflict and post-conflict situations. Participants enriched the discussion of these and other related issues by examining their relevant national and regional experiences.

The Group concluded its work on 6 June 2003 and agreed to a set of recommendations to the 58th Session General Assembly, including the need for negotiating an international instrument to enable States to identify and trace, in a timely and reliable manner, illicit arms and light weapons.

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Consider Further Steps to Enhance International Cooperation in Preventing, Combating and Eradicating the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects

Illicit brokering is considered one of the major obstacles to combating the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons and in ensuring full implementation of United Nations arms embargoes.

On 8 December 2005, with op. 3 of resolution 60/81, the General Assembly established a group of governmental experts “to consider further steps to enhance international cooperation in preventing, combating and eradicating illicit brokering in small arms and light weapons in three sessions of one week’s duration each and to submit the report on the outcome of its study to the General Assembly at its sixty-second session."

On 7 June 2006, the secretary-general appointed a GGE from 25 states: Argentina, Brazil, Bulgaria, China, Egypt, Finland, France, Israel, Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, Kenya, Korea, Lithuania, Netherlands, Nicaragua, Norway, Pakistan, Poland, Romania, Russian Federation, Senegal, South Africa, United Kingdom and United States of America.

The GGE has held three sessions since its establishment: 27 November-1 December 2006 (Geneva); 19-23 March and 4-8 June 2007 (New York). During its first session on 27 November 2006, Mr. Daniël Prins of the Netherlands was selected as chairman of the GGE.

The third session of the Group concluded with suggestions regarding a set of optional elements to be included in national legislation and a call for consistent attention to the issue of illicit brokering in small arms at future UN meetings.

A consensus report, A/62/163, was adopted by the end of the third session. It included the first agreed description of what constitutes illicit brokering in small arms. The definition takes a more holistic approach to countering illicit arms brokering by including activities such as transportation and financing. The report also noted that unregulated or poorly regulated arms brokering may result in an increased risk of the diversion of arms to conflict-prone areas, embargoed entities, and organized criminal and terrorist groups.

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Disarmament and Nonproliferation Education

Background

On 20 November 2000, the General Assembly, acting on the advice of the Advisory Board on Disarmament Matters, adopted without a vote Resolution 55/33 E entitled “United Nations Study on Disarmament and Non-Proliferation Education.” In this resolution, the Assembly requested the secretary-general to prepare such a study, with the assistance of a group of qualified governmental experts, and to report to the Assembly on the question at its 57th session (2002). The report was adopted by the UNGA on 22 November 2002 (A/57/124).

The Study builds upon and seeks to revitalize past efforts at disarmament education, which it considers an integral part of peace education. It tackles new elements such as the growth in the significance of nonproliferation of WMD and small arms, as well as gender perspectives on security issues. Its main contribution is the 34 recommendations for action to be undertaken by governments, regional organizations, the United Nations and other international organizations, municipal, and religious leaders. It also seeks to establish close collaboration between experts and civil society, including educators and academic institutions mainly at the secondary and tertiary levels of education.

Recent Developments

2002

The 10 experts preparing the United Nations Study on Disarmament and Nonproliferation Education met for the third time at the Palais des Nations in Geneva, from 11–15 March, for a special purpose. They hoped to incorporate contributions from educators, educational organizations, and non-governmental organizations that might not have easy access to New York. The meeting succeeded in drawing together representatives from organizations deeply immersed in disarmament education and international security issues. The Group of Governmental Experts held the fourth session in New York from 22-27 July.

2001

The first session was held in New York City from 18-20 April. The experts gathered information from oral and written presentations by relevant United Nations offices and agencies and from leading formal and informal educators in disarmament and nonproliferation education. The Group of Governmental Experts held its second session from 8-10 August in the form of a study visit hosted by the Monterey Institute of International Studies in Monterey, California. The focus of the meeting was on evaluating new pedagogical approaches to teaching disarmament and nonproliferation, including the use of information technology and distance learning.

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Missiles in All Their Aspects

Recognizing the need to combat the missile proliferation threat, the General Assembly of the UN, in Resolution 55/33A, decided to convene a panel of governmental experts with a mandate to prepare a report on the issue of missiles in all its aspects for consideration by the General Assembly at its 57th session. The Panel was composed of 22 invited experts. The first session was held from 30 July-3 August 2001 in New York, and two more sessions were held in 2002 from 1-5 April and 1-12 July. The report “The issue of missiles in all its aspects” was adopted by the UNGA on 22 November 2002 (A/57/229).

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Verification in All Its Aspects

UNGA resolution 59/60 established the UN Panel of Government Experts to “explore question of verification in all its aspects, including the role of the UN in the field of verification.” This is the third such UN Panel on Verification: the previous ones were held in 1990 and 1995. The Panel was chaired by Dr. John Barrett of Canada and met for three one-week sessions. The first session was held in New York from 30 January -3 February 2006; the second in Geneva from 8-12 May 2006; the third in New York from 7-11 August 2006. There were 16 members on the Panel: Argentina, Canada, China, France, Germany, Japan, Mexico, Nigeria, the Russian Federation, South Africa, South Korea, Sri Lanka, the United Kingdom, the United States and Ukraine.

The panel’s work encompassed nuclear, radiological, chemical, biological, and conventional weapons, as well as their means of delivery. Verification as it applies to activities involving non-state actors as well as states was examined during the sessions. During the first two sessions, the group focused on existing verification regimes in their specific contexts, examining strengths and shortcomings in terms of methods, procedures and technologies. The third session was dedicated to aspects of UN sanctions and illicit transfers of conventional weapons, and the role of verification in such circumstances. The Group issued its report “Verification in all its aspects, including the role of the United Nations in the field of verification” to the First Committee and was subsequently adopted without a vote on 11 October 2006.

In its report, the Group made the following recommendations:

Non-proliferation, arms control and disarmament treaties, agreements and commitments should be defined in a way such that they can be subject to effective verification.

Verification approaches should be designed to enable the parties to an agreement to monitor compliance, and detect and collect evidence of possible non-compliance, before that non-compliance threatens the core security objectives of the agreement.

Analysis could be undertaken of the capability of existing and possible new verification methods to detect significant, deliberate non-compliance or a pattern of non-compliance with obligations.

Further consideration could be given to responses to withdrawal from multilateral treaties with specific reference to non-compliance and continuing verification, particularly where the withdrawing party has misused its technology and technology transfers for peaceful purposes to pursue prohibited weapons-related activities, and deny violators the benefits of their violations.

Consideration should be given to assisting relevant states and regional groups in developing the legal, institutional and operational capacity to implement their obligations under UNSC embargoes and sanctions. In this regard, the utilization and continued development of effective, low-tech monitoring technologies and methodologies should be fostered, as well as strengthening national tracking of illegal arms flows and enhanced national controls on imports, exports, financial transactions and brokering related to illicit arms transfers.

The UN also could encourage improved coordination among Member States and regional organizations and assist affected states to participate actively in monitoring and verifying compliance with arms embargoes and sanctions.

UN member states, in line with UNSCR 1540, should consider the kind of practical assistance they can provide, particularly in the areas of reporting and capacity-building, in order to help states implement their non-proliferation obligations.

States should consider practically how they might go about handling challenge inspections at sensitive sites in order to manage access in a way that builds confidence that the process can demonstrate compliance.

The creation of new or expanded obligations may require different or new methodologies and techniques (such as, for example, environmental sampling, open source analysis, interviewing personnel, and informal monitoring by civil society).

In the context of General Assembly Resolutions A/Res/42/37/C and A/Res/45/57/C, States could consider ways in which they could contribute to making the Secretary-General’s mechanism to investigate alleged use of CW/BW more operational and cost-effective through national measures.

Consideration should be given to strengthening ties and establishing appropriate standing arrangements with international organizations, including the OPCW, states and regional bodies, so as to build upon and make use of their relevant investigative capabilities and make the mechanism more operational and cost-effective.

States could continue to explore the synergies that may exist in the area of techniques and methodologies of monitoring and verification and in addressing situations relating to compliance and non-compliance.

Bilateral and regional arrangements could be encouraged to play a role, where appropriate, in promoting compliance, building confidence and detecting, assessing and responding to non-compliance.

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Arms Trade Treaty (ATT)

Background

The ATT entered into force on 24 December 2014. It has been signed by 130 States, ratified by 84 States, and acceded to by five States. Currently there are 86 States parties to the Treaty. International support grew from across all regions for the negotiation of a treaty on common international standards on the import, export, and transfer of all conventional arms, following the UN General Assembly’s 2006 adoption of Resolution (61/89) by an overwhelming majority.

Recent Developments

2016

The Second Conference of States Parties was held from 22-26 August 2016 in Geneva, Switzerland. The Conference issued a final report at the end of the meeting.

2015

Article 17 (1) of the ATT stipulates that a Conference of States Parties shall be convened no later than one year following the entry into force of the Treaty. The First Conference of States Parties was held in Mexico, from 24-27 August 2015.

2014

The Arms Trade Treaty entered into force on 24 December 2014.

2013

The Final Negotiating Conference for the Arms Trade Treaty met from 18-28 March in New York. Ambassador Peter Woolcott of Australia was the Chair of the Conference. Of the 193 states needed to pass the Treaty, Iran, North Korea, and Syria voted against it, thus preventing it from passing.

On 2 April, the General Assembly adopted the Arms Trade Treaty with a vote of 156-3-22, needing a 97-vote majority to pass.

On 3 June, the ATT formally opened for signature. Sixty-seven Member-States signed the document on this day, with the document receiving wide support throughout the General Assembly. As of 11 June, the ATT has 72 signatories. The treaty will enter into force 90 days after 50 Member-States have ratified it.

2012

From 13-17 February, the Fourth Arms Trade Preparatory Committee met in New York and was chaired by Ambassador Roberto Garcia Moritán of Argentina. Participants met to discuss relevant procedural matters relating to the Arms Trade Treaty, including the draft agenda and submission of documents, as well as the composition of the Bureau, for the United Nations Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty.

From 2-27 July, the First Negotiating Conference of the Arms Trade Treaty met in New York. On 3 July, Ambassador Roberto Garcia Moritán of Argentina was elected President of the Conference. On 9 July, the Conference established Main Committee 1, chaired by Bouchaib Eloumni of Morocco, and Main Committee 2, chaired by Paul van den Ijssel of the Netherlands to conduct negotiations regarding the elements of an arms trade treaty. On 26 July the President of the Conference submitted a draft of an arms trade treaty to the Conference, which was adopted by consensus on 27 July.

2011

From 28 February – 4 March, the Second Arms Trade Treaty Preparatory Committee met in New York and was chaired by Ambassador Roberto Garcia Moritán of Argentina. Participants considered the scope, criteria and parameters of the Arms Trade Treaty, as well as international cooperation and assistance within the context of the Arms Trade Treaty

From 11-15 July, the Third Arms Trade Preparatory Committee met in New York and was chaired by Ambassador Roberto Garcia Moritán of Argentina. Participants considered the implementation and final provisions of the Arms Trade Treaty.

2010

The 2010 Arms Trade Treaty Preparatory Committee meeting took place from 12-23 July and was chaired by Ambassador Roberto Garcia Moritán of Argentina. Participants drafted an outline of the Arms Trade Treaty, including a preamble, outline of articles, and a set of goals and objectives. Additionally, participants discussed ways to prepare for the 2011 Arms Trade Treaty Preparatory Committee meeting.

2009

The Open-Ended Working Group (OEWG) met on 23 January for an Organization Session and again on 2-6 March for its First Session. Mr. Karel Komárek, Minister-Counselor at the permanent mission of the Czech Republic to the United Nations, stated, on behalf of the European Union, that some consensus formed regarding the actual scope of the ATT.

Ms. Hannelore Hoppe, on behalf of the High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, delivered a statement in which she argued strongly for the passage of an ATT. She endorsed a Security Council statement from the previous November that called for “undiminished security for all at the lowest appropriate level of armaments.” In the debate that ensued, the participants agreed on the desirability of an ATT, but several countries, including the United States and Russia, voiced concern over the feasibility of such a treaty.

The OEWG met for its Second Session from 13-17 July. Through the course of its sessions, the OEWG held 19 meetings, including two organizational meetings. From 16-17 July, the OEWG considered the “Report to the General Assembly at its sixty-fourth session.” The draft report was adopted by the OEWG at their 9th meeting.

In both the OEWG and the First Committee, the ATT garnered significant support. Most notably, the United States switched from a no-vote to a yes-vote, leaving Zimbabwe as the only country to cast a vote against the ATT. Both Iraq and Israel switched their abstentions to yes-votes. In addition, for the first year yes-votes were submitted by Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Equatorial Guinea, Palau, the Philippines, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Swaziland, Tonga, and Vanuatu. Cuba and Nicaragua, however, altered their yes-votes from the previous year to abstentions. The resolution adopted by the UNGA outlined a timetable for talks, including a UN conference in 2012.

2008

The GGE met three times in 2008: from 11-15 February, 12-16 May, and 28 July-8 August. The sessions brought together experts from 28 countries, including the five permanent members of the Security Council and other major arms exporters. Ambassador Roberto García Moritán, Secretary of Foreign Affairs at the Foreign Ministry of Argentina chaired these meetings. The Group produced a report or the General Assembly’s 63rd session.

The General Assembly decided Resolution (63/240) "to establish an open-ended working group, to meet for up to six one-week sessions starting in 2009." The open-ended working group will, during 2009, "further consider those elements in the report of the Group of Governmental Experts where consensus could be developed for their inclusion in an eventual legally binding treaty on the import, export and transfer of conventional arms" and should submit an initial report to the next session of the General Assembly.

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Negotiation of a Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty

Background

The role of the Group of Government Experts on the Negotiation of a Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty is to make recommendations on possible aspects that could contribute to but not negotiate a treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.

Recent Developments

2015

On 7 May 2015 the GGE released a report on recommendations on possible aspects that could contribute to but not negotiate a treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices. The Group reaffirmed that a treaty should be legally binding, non-discriminatory, multilateral and verifiable. Document CD/1299 remains the most suitable basis for negotiations of an FMCT. The Group agreed that concluding such a treaty would be a practical step towards the goal of a world without nuclear weapons.

2012

On 19 October 2012, Canada introduced Resolution 67/53 on a Treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other explosive devices during the 67th Session of the First Committee in New York. The resolution requests that the Secretary-General establish a Government Group of Experts on the Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty. Canada suggested that this new GGE have a membership of 25 states, chosen based on equitable geographical representation, to make recommendations regarding “possible elements that could contribute” to an FMCT. Canada suggested that this new GGE meet in Geneva for two sessions of two weeks each in 2014 and 2015. The resolution also calls for the Secretary-General to submit a report on the deliberations of the GGE to the 70th Session of the General Assembly and to the Conference on Disarmament.

On 5 November, the General Assembly adopted Res. 67/53 on a Treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other explosive devices with a 166-1-21 vote.

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Developments in the Field of Information and Telecommunications in the Context of International Security

Background

Cybersecurity became an agenda item for the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in 1998, and in 1999 the UNGA passed resolution 53/70, “Developments in the Field of Information and Telecommunications in the Context of International Security.” The resolution recognized the benefits of scientific and technological advancement in information security, but also noted its potential use for malicious purposes.

UNGA Resolution 58/32 in 2003 requested that the Secretary-General consider existing and potential threats in the sphere of information security and possible cooperative measures to address them. The Assembly also requested the Secretary-General to conduct a study of relevant international concepts aimed at strengthening the security of global information and telecommunications systems, with the assistance of a group of governmental experts (GGE), and to submit a report on the outcome of the study to the Assembly. There have been five Groups of Governmental Experts that have examined the existing and potential threats from the use of information and communication technologies by States, possible cooperative measures to address them, and the appropriate application of international law.

Recent Developments

2016/2017

In December 2015, the General Assembly adopted resolution 70/723 calling for a new GGE report by 2017. The group met for the last time in June 2017 and was unable to come up with a consensus final report.

In a statement delivered upon the failure of the final meeting, the United States State Department attributed the lack of consensus to insufficient language on how international law applies to States’ responses and countermeasures to cyber-incidents. The U.S. noted that a lack of recognition of the lawful options States have to respond to malicious cyber activity would not serve to deter States from destabilizing behavior in their use of information and communications technologies.

On the other side of the argument, as represented by a statement of the Cuban delegation, there was concern over that discussion of appropriate national responses and countermeasures to cyber incidents would serve to justify “unilateral punitive force actions, including the application of sanctions and even military action by States claiming to be victims of illicit uses of information and communications technologies,” thereby converting cyberspace into a theater of war. The delegation was unwilling to use language that equated malicious use of information and communication technologies with an armed attack.

There have been no calls for a follow up meeting or the convention of any more groups of governmental experts on information security in the United Nations.

2014/2015

In December 2013, the General Assembly adopted resolution 68/243 calling for a new GGE report by 2015. The 20-member group met four times in 2014 and 2015 and produced a consensus report in June 2015 (A/70/174.)

The consensus report of the fourth GGE built upon the recommendations in the previous substantive reports, and incorporated a set of voluntary, non-binding norms, rules and principles to promote an open and secure cyber-sphere. The group also expanded on the previous GGE’s application of international law to cyberspace, noting law of war principles, including humanity, necessity, proportionality, and distinction in their relation to cyber-conflict.

In December 2015, the UN General Assembly adopted the GGE report, and called upon Member States to be guided by the report in their use of information and communication technologies. This was stronger language than in previous UN General Assembly resolutions, which had merely “taken note” of the GGE consensus reports.

2012/2013

In 2011, the General Assembly adopted resolution 66/24 calling for a third group of GGE which convened for three one-week meetings in 2012 and 2013. The group arrived at a consensus final document, and reached more far-reaching conclusions than previous GGEs regarding the relationship between cyberspace and international law. The GGE agreed that international law, in particular the United Nations charter, is applicable to the cyber-sphere, and that the norms and obligations of state sovereignty apply to State’s conduct in cyberspace and on information and communications infrastructure located on a State’s territory. The GGE also agreed that States are obligated to not use proxies to commit intentionally wrongful acts in cyberspace and to ensure that their territory is not used by non-State actors to commit such acts. The GGE acknowledged the crucial role of the United Nations in promoting dialogue among states to improve cybersecurity.

The group also made several specific recommendations on confidence-building and capacity-building measures to improve cybersecurity. It built upon the recommendations of the previous GGE by encouraging cooperation and collaboration among national Computer Emergency Response Teams (CERTs), and recommended regular institutional dialogue among states to keep pace with advances in technology.

2010

After the failure of the first GGE to achieve consensus recommendations, the UNGA resolved in 2005 to convene a second GGE to be established in 2009. A second 15-member GGE on Information Security was formed in and released a consensus report (A/65/201) in 2010. The GGE urged cooperation and collaboration among states, the private sector, and civil society to increase cybersecurity, and included a list of specific recommendations to reduce the risk of misperception resulting from information and communication technology disruptions. These included confidence-building and risk-reduction measures; information exchanges on national legislation, policies and best practices; and capacity building in less developed countries.

2004

The first 15-member GGE on Information Security could not agree on a substantive report, instead releasing a brief report on procedural matters. Two main issues prevented consensus: whether to emphasize the impact and potential threat of developments in information and communications technologies (ICTs) on national security and military affairs; and whether the GGE should focus on the content of information in addition information infrastructure.

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About

The Secretary General of the United Nations may appoint a Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) to undertake a study on issues of concern and report findings at the UN General Assembly. This page tracks nine GGEs related to disarmament and proliferation.

This material is produced independently for NTI by the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of and has not been independently verified by NTI or its directors, officers, employees, or agents. Copyright 2018.