1 November 2004 - Final Edition
Rhianna Tyson | Reaching Critical Will
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The 59th session of the First Committee has drawn to a close. 55 draft resolutions have been adopted- 33 of which were adopted without vote, 14 were adopted with less than 5 States opposing, 3 were adopted with less than 10 States opposing, and only 5 draft resolutions incurred more than 10 votes cast against them.
Now, governments and analysts are tasked with deciphering these First Committee statistics, to identify the views relating to the state of international security and, of course, to understand the way in which these views may affect the upcoming deliberations on the 2005 NPT Review Conference.
Throughout these five weeks of negotiations, discussions, haggling and position-crafting, there existed undercurrents of capitulation and resentment on the part of many, a dangerous combination which suffuses most of the security debate today. Take, for instance, the effects of the vote-less adoption of draft resolution L.56, which affirms the importance of the 2002 Strategic Offensive Reductions (Moscow) Treaty.
Many States were unhappy with the draft resolution presented by the US and Russia, which recognizes the "reductions" made under the Moscow Treaty as an important contribution to their obligations under Article VI of the NPT. Forum after forum, from the PrepComs to the First Committee, States express strong reservations to the reversible, opaque and unverifiable cuts called for in the latest bilateral treaty between the two largest Nuclear Weapon States. In the weeks prior to the action taken on the resolution, States were scrambling between consultations with each other and their capitals, trying to ascertain the best way to express disappointment with the draft resolution, and with the treaty.
In the end, the draft resolution was adopted without a vote, with States resigning themselves to critical explanations of votes, some of which were of “an interpretative manner.” The symbolism of this capitulation, the morning after the US national elections were held, should not be lost on any. (For more on draft resolution L.56 and its adoption, see the Nuclear Disarmament report.)
Yet even in a unipolar world, a consensus-driven organization manages to eke out a glimmer of progress. A Fissile Material Cut Off-Treaty (FMCT), for instance, long believed to be the most obvious next step in the disarmament and nonproliferation regime, has recently suffered the greatest blow to its negotiation when the US, contrary to the Shannon mandate and several GA resolutions, declared that it no longer supports negotiations on a verifiable FMCT. (See Fissile Materials report.) Add this to the sabotaged talks on a verification mechanism in the Biological Weapons Convention, and verification has become a political and legal hot potato.
The overwhelming adoption of draft resolution L.34 on a verifiable FMCT, however, demonstrates that the international community is not yet ready to capitulate to the newest US-thrown wrench in the diplomacy cogs. Even though a draft resolution on an FMCT was put to vote for the first time in years, the overwhelming support for a verifiable FMCT illuminates a spark of dissent and courage to stand up to one, unruly superpower.
The vote-less adoption of the belatedly introduced draft resolution L.60, too, demonstrates the power that many smaller States can wield against the power of one. Faced with two diverging draft resolutions on “improving the effectiveness of the working methods of the First Committee,” the two co-sponsors- the US and the Non-Aligned Movement- managed, after weeks of negotiations, to meld together their opposing draft texts and present a single, unified call for reform of the Committee. This resolution was adopted without vote on the last day of the 59th session.
The adoption of L.60 should also demonstrate another point of hope; it should remind us that, in spite of our divergent solutions to the challenges that face us, we all share a common goal: the achievement of a true international peace. This lesson should and must be applied throughout these next months of preparations for the NPT Review Conference, where we must once again wrestle with seemingly “opposing” agendas of nonproliferation and disarmament. Just as the US's and NAM's different draft resolutions embodied complementary solutions to the same problem, disarmament and nonproliferation are complementary processes working toward the same goal: the creation of a truly safe and secure world, for all nations, all peoples, everywhere.
“We the peoples of the United Nations, determined to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war…to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small, and to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained, have resolved to combine our efforts to accomplish these aims…”
- Rhianna Tyson
Reaching Critical Will