27 October 2003 - Fourth Edition

Rhianna Tyson | Reaching Critical Will

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The articles contained in this week’s First Committee Monitor are decidedly briefer and fewer, in a direct reflection of the past week’s events. Other reports, such as the First Committee Reform report, will not be found in this edition, as the resolutions on some issues have yet to make their way onto the schedule of voting.

The brevity of this week’s Monitor should not suggest that the past week has been devoid of interesting developments, however. With all impassioned, surprising, and often entertaining interventions aside (and here we must thank Chairman Sareva for his skill at handling outbursts and logistical confusion), monitoring NGOs have been privy to a debate as yet witnessed in this year’s First Committee. While dozens of resolutions have been adopted quickly and without a vote, the votes taken on many others have been accompanied by several frank and lucid explanations of votes (EoVs), which often express reservations States may have with issues that had not yet been raised in this forum.

Whether their previous quiet was due to a desire to maintain a level of secrecy on orders from respective capitals, or whether these qualms were developed only after careful analysis and intense informal consultations between Member States, most NGOs do not know. What is apparent, however, is that these disagreements are a sign of a healthy and vibrant democratic debate, and should be aired in the open in order for progress on these critical issues to ensue.

This week’s reports on Transparency and Conventional Weapons, for example, discuss the vote on the UN Register of Arms and the abundance of EoVs that erupted after the resolution was adopted. In all of the discussion on the Register during the first three weeks, not once was it publicly suggested that draft resolution L.45 should include a recommendation to broaden its scope to include weapons of mass destruction, the most popular reason for abstaining or voting against the draft resolution.

The report on Nuclear Testing discusses Syria’s reservations about the CTBT. While voting in favor of the draft resolution L.52, Syria used its EoV to discuss worries about on-site inspections, negative security assurances, and trends of vertical proliferation that are not controlled by the Test Ban Treaty.

Allow us to reiterate, once more, the NGO mantra by which we live our days and find purpose to our work: non-governmental organizations are here to help and assist Member States in their pursuits of disarmament and nonproliferation. Our raison d’être is to foster a debate among peoples and their governments, to provide an enriched analysis of the issues not always possible for Permanent Missions, who often do not have the resources and staff to focus solely on disarmament. We have the ability to supplement the valid arguments of States with briefing papers to governments, or public and media education on the issues and the various positions. We encourage the frank and open discussion of resolutions provided this week in various EoVs, yet the ideas and hesitancies voiced this week must be more thoroughly and publicly discussed prior to the votes, in order to promote a more equitable and productive session of the GA and all of its committees.

-Rhianna Tyson
Reaching Critical Will

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