Press Releases

    30 September 2005

    Disarmament Committee Holds Organizational Meeting; Debate Will Begin 3 October

    NEW YORK, 29 September (UN Headquarters) -- The First Committee (Disarmament and International Security), in an organizational meeting today, adopted its programme of work and agenda for the sixtieth session.

    The work programme is divided into three phases.  The first, from 3 to 7 October, will be a general debate on all disarmament and international security agenda items.  Those include, among others, reducing nuclear danger, nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, missiles, verification, the risk of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East, and the illicit small arms trade.

    The second phase, to be held from 10 to 21 October, will be a thematic discussion on all items, as well as the introduction and consideration of all draft resolutions and decisions.  The final phase, from 24 October to 1 November, involves action on all draft texts, a discussion on the revitalization of the Committee's work, and consideration of a draft on the Question of Antarctica. 

    Pursuant to a resolution on improving the effectiveness of the methods of work of the Committee, adopted by the General Assembly last December without a vote, the Committee will put in practice at the current session the request to hear briefings by, and hold interactive discussions with, the heads of relevant organizations, such as the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and the Secretary-General's Advisory Board on Disarmament Matters.

    Committee Chairperson Y.J. Choi (Republic of Korea) presided over today's meeting and welcomed the new bureau.  Its members are:  Vice-Chairpersons, Detlev Wolter (Germany); and Lotfi Bouchaara (Morocco) and Rapporteur Elvina Jusufaj (Albania).  Elected today by acclamation was Gabriela Martinic (Argentina). 

    When the Committee's debate gets under way on Monday, it will have as a backdrop the new challenges and threats, highlighted by the Secretary-General in his Report on the Work of the Organization. Those threats, which have heightened global concern about weapons of mass destruction, include cases of non-compliance with nuclear non-proliferation commitments, evidence of illicit nuclear procurement networks, ambivalent commitment to disarmament, and the threat of mass destruction weapons falling into terrorists' hands. Multilateral disarmament instruments must be revitalized if they are to continue to contribute to international peace and security, he says. 

    After the Review Conference of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) failed to reach substantive agreement on an outcome in May, the Secretary-General said that States parties had "missed a vital opportunity to strengthen our collective security against the many nuclear threats to which all States and all peoples are vulnerable".  (For details, see press release DC/2969 of 27 May).

    Citing cracks in each of the Treaty's pillars -- non-proliferation, disarmament and peaceful uses of nuclear technology -- the Secretary-General warned, in an article published on 30 May, that the NPT-based regime "has not kept pace with the march of technology and globalization. Whereas proliferation among countries was once considered the sole concern of the Treaty, revelations that the Pakistani nuclear scientist A.Q. Khan and others were extensively trafficking in nuclear technology and know-how exposed the vulnerability of the non-proliferation regime to non-State actors". 

    To revitalize the NPT, the Secretary-General called on world leaders to find ways to reconcile the right to peaceful uses of nuclear energy with the imperative of non-proliferation. And, he called on them to agree to make the International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA) Additional Protocol the new standard for verifying compliance with non-proliferation commitments. He challenged them in the article to "break the deadlock on the most pressing challenges in the field of nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament", adding that, if they failed to do so, "their peoples will ask how, in today's world, they could not find common ground in the cause of diminishing the existential threat of nuclear weapons".  Yet, later this year, the 2005 World Summit, like the NPT Review, was unable to reach substantive agreement on nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation in its outcome text. 

    Those disappointing outcomes will likely dominate debate in the Committee, which is also expected to consider the status of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT). That instrument is still not in force nearly 10 years after it opened for signature.  The fourth Conference to facilitating its entry into force, held at Headquarters this month, concluded with a Final Declaration.  In it, the parties agreed to spare no efforts and use all avenues open to them to encourage further signature and ratification of the Treaty. The Test-Ban Treaty, ratified by 125 States, lacks 11 of 44 "Annex 2" States who must ratify it for its entry into force, including two nuclear-weapon States -- China and the United States.

    Along a parallel course, Mohamed ElBaradei, recently elected to a third consecutive four-year term as Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, told the Agency's annual General Conference in Geneva this week that, "current challenges to international peace and security, including those related to nuclear non-proliferation and nuclear arms control, cannot be wished away, and will continue to stare us in the face".  He, therefore, urged all States to "step up and pursue, at the highest policy levels, the urgently needed reforms to our global security system".

    With the spotlight on the "unprecedented array of challenges to the non-proliferation and arms control regime", he said he wished to universalize the additional protocol, expand implementation of integrated safeguards, normalize safeguards in Iraq, bring the Democratic People's Republic of Korea back to the NPT regime, provide the required assurances about Iran's nuclear programme, and continue to investigate the nature and extent of the illicit procurement network. 

    [The IAEA's safeguards system comprises measures by which the Agency independently verifies the declarations made by States about their nuclear material and activities.  These measures are implemented under various agreements and protocols, such as the NPT and nuclear-weapon-free zone treaties.  The objectives of the comprehensive safeguards agreements are the timely detection of the diversion of significant quantities of nuclear material from peaceful uses to the manufacture of nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices, and the deterrence of such diversion by the risk of early detection.

    The Model Additional Protocol, approved by the Agency's Board of Governors on 15 May 1997, provides for verification by the Agency of the "correctness and completeness" of States' declarations, so that there would be credible assurance of the non-diversion of nuclear material from declared nuclear activities and of the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities.]

    Addressing the IAEA's Board of Governors on 19 September, the Director General reviewed several priority issues of the Agency, and countries -- the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Iran and Iraq -- are also likely to preoccupy First Committee members during the current session.

    On the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, the Agency has been unable to fully implement its comprehensive NPT safeguards agreement and, since 2002, it has not been able to perform any verification activities in that country.  The Agency, therefore, could not provide any level of assurance about that country's nuclear activities. It remains ready to work with all parties towards a comprehensive settlement that would both address the security needs of the country and provide assurance to the international community that all of its nuclear activities are exclusively for peaceful purposes. 

    After two years of complex negotiations, Mr. ElBaradei found encouraging the news about an initial agreement at the six-party talks that the Democratic People's Republic of Korea has expressed its commitment "to abandon all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programmes and [to return] to an early date, to the NPT and to IAEA safeguards".

    On Iran, the Agency's stated objective is to clarify all aspects of Iran's past undeclared nuclear activities, with a view to assuring the Board that all past activities have now been declared to the Agency, and that all nuclear material and activities in the country are under safeguards.  "The more thoroughly we are able to clarify all of Iran's past nuclear activities, the more we will be in a position to understand and confirm the nature of the programme", he said. 

    He says that Iran continues to fulfil its obligations under the safeguards agreement and additional protocol by providing timely access to nuclear material, facilities and other locations.  This is a "special verification case" that requires additional transparency measures.  Two decades of concealed activities have created a situation that makes it imperative for the Agency's investigation to go beyond the confines of the safeguards agreement and the additional protocol. 

    It is a prerequisite for the Agency to be able to reconstruct the history and nature of all aspects of Iran's past nuclear activities, and to compensate for the confidence deficit created, he explains.  He calls on Iran to expand the transparency and confidence-building measures it has already provided.  By promptly responding to these Agency requests, Iran would well serve both its interests and those of the international community. 

    On Iraq, a team of inspectors returned this month to Vienna after completing the annual Physical Inventory Verification of declared nuclear material in Iraq.

    The material -- natural or low-enriched uranium -- was consolidated at a storage facility near the Tuwaitha complex, south of Baghdad.  The inspectors found no diversion of nuclear material.  The two-day inspection was conducted with the logistical and security assistance of the Multinational Force, the Office of the United Nations Security Coordinator, and the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI).

    For the seventh consecutive year, the Conference on Disarmament, the world's sole multilateral forum for disarmament negotiations, wrapped up its 2005 session this month without agreement on a programme of work.  Thus, it did not establish or re-establish any mechanism on any of its specific agenda items, and was unable to start any substantive work.  It decided that the dates for the three parts of its 2006 session would be from 23 January to 31 March for the first part; 15 May to 30 June for the second part, and 31 July to 15 September for the third part.

    In the Disarmament Commission, the specialized deliberative body that focuses on specific disarmament issues, agreement on a provisional agenda for the 2006 session collapsed following a last minute amendment on an item on nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation. A further organizational meeting will take place in November-December 2005.  The Commission decided to hold its substantive session during a period of three weeks in April 2006. 

    In the conventional weapons sphere, a meeting was held at Headquarters in July to review progress in the implementation of the United Nations action plan to combat illegal trafficking in small arms and light weapons.  General agreement emerged that implementation of existing commitments, rather than the creation of new ones, remained the foundation of all efforts.

    The Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. Monday, 3 October, to begin its general debate.

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