20 October 2003 - Third Edition

Rhianna Tyson | Reaching Critical Will

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The five days devoted to Thematic Debate in the GA First Committee have concluded, and the delegations will soon finish their consultations and will vote on draft resolutions this coming week. As the hot-topic of “revitalization” and “reform” of the First Committee has elucidated, this recently concluded phase of the First Committee’s work is perhaps misnamed. Far from an actual debate- an event in which ideas are proposed, argued for or against, and rebutted- the third week delivered predictable resolutions with minimal changes from last years versions, introduced by yet more prepared statements, and almost completely devoid of “interactivity” between Member States, at least not in the open.

The United States has been one of the most vocal proponents of First Committee reform, issuing both a non-paper and a resolution,A/C.1/58/L.15. (See “First Committee Reform” report).

The U.S. efforts at revitalization are another component of its campaign to situate “terrorism” as the priority of the international security agenda, a prioritization warned against by the Indonesian delegation in their statement on Friday, when it called attention to the danger of disarmament being "overshadowed by nonproliferation and the terrorist acquisition of WMD." If the U.S. draft resolution is adopted, the General Assembly would be: “Expressing grave concern at the emergence of new threats to international peace and security in the post-September 11 period.” The urgently relevant question this resolution begs of the First Committee is: Should these “new threats” eclipse the “old threats” of nuclear warfare, the abundance of conventional weapons, and the perpetuation of militarism?

The security of the African continent, for example, is not dependent upon the eradication of terrorism, a phenomenon which in itself is most always a symptom of underlying causes, rather than a naturally occurring condition that can be wiped out with force. For Africa and much of the global South, security is defined in economic and social development, in political stability and in a secure, effective, and empowered civil society. For this reason, then, we applaud the sponsors of the conventional weapons resolutions, especially draft resolution A/C.1/58/L.1. (See “Conventional Weapons” report.)

For South Asia, the greatest threat to peace and security is surely the nuclear warheads that lie poised in opposite directions, the usage of which becoming ever more likely with each missile test fired, each hostile verbal exchange or brash military incursion in the precarious Kashmir region. This reality necessitates the implementation of such as draft resolutions A/C.1/58/L.10 and A/C.1/58/L.18, among others.

This critique of the United States’ proposal should not overshadow some of the very positive and welcomed suggestions put forth in their non-paper and resolution. Time could certainly be more wisely managed, and some resolutions could be combined, as suggested in both the U.S. non-paper as well as in those of Norway and the European Union.

Yet when all is said and done, it is not time management or collapsing resolutions that will revitalize the work of this Committee – it is only actual disarmament itself that will achieve this – of weapons large and small. The reason the majority of the world’s governments are required to maintain positions and repeat demands for nuclear disarmament year after year in resolutions and debates, is because other governments, in particular the Nuclear Five, have not fulfilled their solemn obligations and unequivocal undertakings in disarmament treaties and resolutions. Who then is really to blame for thrusting inefficient tedium upon the International Community? The lack of disarmament, despite the commitments, the signing of treaties, the passing of resolutions, seems to require this remedial repetition on the part of the majority of the world’s governments and people.

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