13 October 2003 - Second Edition

Rhianna Tyson | Reaching Critical Will

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At the crux of the First Committee Bureau’s decision to shorten the general debate and make time for informal sessions on “revitalizing the First Committee,” was the unanimous desire to maintain consensus and to promote unity amongst the Member States. After weeks of general statements, both in the GA and in the Committees, frequent reference to “revitalization,” or “repoliticization” evidenced a needed discussion. One way of jumpstarting this discussion with minimal objection from Member States, was to close the doors, speak frankly, and shut out the NGOs who have been dutifully monitoring and reporting on the events for years. 

While we congratulate the Committee for the ability to recognize one method of fostering unity, we are nonetheless dismayed at our exclusion. We hope, however, that this sense of purpose and drive toward consensus does not diminish as the debate ensues, and that Member States can use this process as a learning tool for further successful, consensus-based decisions on disarmament, peace and security.

In the same vein, NGOs from various backgrounds and with different areas of expertise have come together in the working group that produces this newsletter. Each week, these varied groups- ranging from faith-based organizations, a legal group, a humanitarian relief group, a coalition of disarmament groups, and an international women’s peace group- convene in the cramped quarters at 777 UN Plaza, to debate and discuss the best ways of monitoring, reporting, and promoting action at the First Committee. We hope that the work we produce not only enhances the work of other NGOs, governments, and UN staffers, but also serves as a model of cooperation and the utility of civil society efforts. 

In this week’s issue, Reaching Critical Will again takes up the pertinent topic of First Committee reform, despite the fact that NGOs did not have access to the much anticipated informal discussions. Nya Gregor-Fleron of the Lawyers’ Committee on Nuclear Policy reports on the efforts of Member States to promote a culture of peace, through disarmament education, Regional Centers for Peace, Disarmament and Development, and the Human Security Network. The report on Proliferation this week focuses on the Proliferation Security Initiative, a new effort to curb the proliferation of WMD and related matériel that is sure to be a heavily debated issue in the coming months. In her report on Disarmament Machinery, Jennifer Nordstrom of Global Action to Prevent War, describes the recent discussion concerning the Special Sessions on Disarmament, and the desire of many States to see a Fourth Special Session. 

As was conveyed in the briefing by the Vice-Chair on Thursday, October 16, the efficacy of NGOs runs on a two-way street. The unique quality of our work depends largely upon like-minded States and their openness toward our participation, just as their efforts are enhanced and promoted with the incorporation of NGO research, advice, and assistance. Disarmament remains the number one priority for both civil society groups as well as for the vast majority of Member States. We strongly encourage the ideas, comments, questions, and concerns of States that they might have while reading The Monitor or other NGO materials. To facilitate a dialogue on any of the issues raised in this publication, we have included in this edition the email addresses and websites of all participating NGOs. 

We look forward to hearing from you.

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