The Disarmament Commission concluded its 2003 session without concrete proposals to advance either nuclear disarmament or confidence-building in the field of conventional arms, departing from its usual practice of completing consideration of two items in three years, with the consensus adoption of guidelines and recommendations.
The Disarmament Commission, whose membership is universal, is a deliberative body mandated to make recommendations in the field of disarmament and to follow up the decisions and recommendations of the General Assembly's first special session devoted to disarmament (1978). The Commission focuses on a limited number of agenda items each session to allow for in-depth discussion. At this session, it considered two items: ways and means to achieve nuclear disarmament, in working group I; and practical confidence-building measures in the field of conventional arms, in working group II.
Following the Commission's adoption of its draft report, as orally revised, as well as the amended reports of the two working groups, delegations debated the reasons for the session's disappointing outcome.
The representative of Cote d'Ivoire highlighted the need for political will, without which the disarmament debates would remain mere academic gatherings, and United Nations resolutions would remain a "dead letter". Empty talk would enshrine a global strategic imbalance and foster nuclear proliferation. Delaying tactics, if continued, would lead many countries to believe that nuclear proliferation was the way forward. Perhaps, only that threat of proliferation -- sadly -- will ever prompt the nuclear Powers to advance total nuclear disarmament.
He said that the nuclear Powers became skittish even at the mention of nuclear disarmament. Underpinning the impasse was the strategic superiority that such weapons conferred upon those who had them. An armed man was king in his neighbourhood, and only a crazy man would wish to become weak again after acquiring the power conferred upon him by weapons. But, countries that had to deal daily with hunger and thirst, disease and illiteracy had no time even to think about conventional weapons. They deserved security assurances by the nuclear Powers against the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons.
The United States representative said that the nuclear disarmament topic had been too broad. He had expected the Commission to pick out a few ways and means that might be ripe for attention and command consensus. Instead, it had adopted a catch-all approach. He had also hoped that the Commission would devote more time to the immediate and urgent threats to international peace and security, such as preventing States and terrorists from acquiring mass destruction weapons. Had working group I started with the prospect of a real convergence of views, it might have been successful.
The failure of working group II was much more difficult to comprehend, he said. He, along with most of the other delegations, could have accepted the draft as it was presented on the first day. All of the contentious points on which that paper had foundered were introduced last week. Why were issues of such fundamental disagreement not raised until the final week of a three-year process? Confidence-building measures were extremely useful in reducing tensions and preventing conflict, but instead of sending a strong message acknowledging that fact, the Commission had produced nothing.
Committee Chairman Mario Maiolini (Italy) suggested that the unsatisfactory conclusion of the proceedings should draw attention in the coming days to the reasons why consensus had been elusive. Progress had been made, but it had not been possible to draw positive conclusions. He heard expressions of regret for the missed opportunity, as well as a willingness to continue to seek results. Members should ask themselves why, despite the call to advance the proposals, that had not been possible.
Introducing the draft report of the Commission (document A/CN.10/2003/CRP.2), Rapporteur Mehiedine El Kadiri (Iran) said that, as was customary, the final report was a factual description of the Commission's work and proceedings during the session. The substantive part comprised two reports of the working groups, which the Commission just adopted. That part was a reflection of compromises and agreements reached by delegations through delicate negotiations carried out in the spirit of constructive cooperation.
He said that he had watched closely both Chairmen and delegations "skilfully, painstakingly and step by step crafting a consensus on the two most complex issues of the modern disarmament agenda". The reports of the two working groups, although not perfect or fully satisfactory to everybody, would serve as a good basis for further discussion. The inability to adopt them by consensus was due to the complexity of the issues, and not the lack of effort on the part of delegations.
Alaa Isaa (Egypt), Chairman of working group I, introduced its draft report. Working group II Chairman Santiago Irzabal Mourao (Brazil) introduced the report of that body.
Also speaking in the discussion and expressing appreciation for the sincere efforts were the representatives of Yemen, on behalf of the Arab League, Malaysia, on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, Venezuela, India, Greece, on behalf of the European Union, Cuba, Pakistan, Republic of Korea, Nigeria, on behalf of the African Group, and Switzerland. The representative of Iran proposed changes to the draft report, which were accepted.