4 October 2004 - First Edition


Rhianna Tyson | Reaching Critical Will

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While a stalemate continues to grip the Conference on Disarmament, the UN Disarmament Commission falls into its own paralysis, and the States Parties to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty fail to make use of the third Preparatory Committee, the international security regime continues to suffer blows from all corners of the world. Hurricanes demolish small Caribbean States as terrorist attacks devastate Russia, Egypt, Israel and Palestine. The world remains gripped with fear as we watch the situation in Iraq devolve into a quagmire of violence. Small arms continue to ravish the globe while the horizontal and vertical proliferation of nuclear weapons remains virtually unchecked.

It is within this overwhelmingly dangerous context that the 59th session of the General Assembly convenes in New York, and the First Committee is charged, once again, with the mandate to make sense of it all, to identify challenges to the security regime and seek to address these challenges through an array of resolutions.

The reform of the First Committee has surfaced as one of the most visible initiatives in this year’s session; the United States has already tabled its draft resolution, 59/L.1, an ambitious and surprisingly detailed proposal that stands in stark contrast with the simple text adopted by consensus last year, A/RES/58/41. And, just as quickly, Member States are making their support and opposition to the draft well-known. The Monitor will be following these developments throughout the five weeks in its First Committee Reform reports.

New developments with the Hague Code of Conduct and Man Portable Air Defense Systems (MANPADS) have sparked new resolutions on these issues, which have sent the sponsors scrambling to ascertain a consensus adoption even at this early date.

Other issues are not quite so new to the Committee, which will be tabling resolutions similar, if not identical to those adopted in years past, such as landmines, fissile materials, biological and chemical weapons, the prevention of an arms race in outer space and regional issues.

The New Agenda, choosing not to revisit their resolution on tactical nuclear weapons reductions, will be tabling only one resolution this year. (See NAC report).

The First Committee Monitor, a weekly newsletter produced by the NGO Working Group on the First Committee and edited by the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, will be tracking the developments of all resolutions tabled during the Committee’s 59th session. The HTML version of this report also includes hyperlinks to the statements delivered in the Committee, all of which are available on the Reaching Critical Will website, www.reachingcriticalwill.org.

To our NGO colleagues around the world, we hope that the Monitor provides you with an accurate snapshot of the debates taking place in New York. We urge you to send us your materials for distribution to the delegates. With just a few months left before the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference, it is urgent that we explore these avenues of communication with those who represent us at the United Nations.

To the delegates charged with negotiating, debating and voting on the resolutions, we offer you our fullest support in a productive session. We hope that the imminent reform measures will allow the opportunity for greater participation and interaction with your constituents, as recommended by the recent Cardoso Report on civil society, and as supported by the Chairman and delegations such as Canada, New Zealand and others. We further hope that you make an effort to ensure that we receive all of your statements, draft resolutions and other papers circulated at the Committee, in order to make your work as transparent as possible.

The challenges that confront us are abundant in number, tortuous in their complexity and global in their scope. It requires, as reiterated by dozens of Member States in the high-level General Debate, global cooperation for truly global solutions. The NGO Working Group on the First Committee hopes to demonstrate, through our efforts, the benefits of working in collaboration with civil society at the local, regional and international levels. We wish all of us the best of luck as we plunge into this crucial GA session.

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