Disarmament and the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction
A major role in disarmament and the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction
Although disarmament is not among the aims and principles of the United Nations, Article 11 of the Charter enables the General Assembly to examine the principles of disarmament and weapons regulation and to make recommendations to Member States and the Security Council. Article 26 of the Charter promotes “the establishment and maintenance of international peace and security with the least diversion for armaments of the world’s human and economic resources”. The UNGA’s First Committee is specifically devoted to disarmament and international security questions.
In 1976, the UNGA decided to hold its first special session on disarmament from 23 May to 1 July 1978. This special session defined two major objectives: to divert States from the arms race and to seek an agreement on a comprehensive disarmament strategy. It established the Conference on Disarmament (CD), which is the sole negotiating forum on disarmament, and the UN Disarmament Commission (UNDC), a deliberative assembly separate from the First Committee.
The Conference on Disarmament, based in Geneva with 66 Member States, completed negotiations for the main agreements on weapons of mass destruction, such as the 1993 Paris Convention to prohibit chemical weapons and the 1996 comprehensive nuclear test ban treaty. After several years of stalemate, the CD finally adopted a work plan which could restart negociations in 2010 and lead to the drafting of a “cut off” treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons in 2010. The Disarmament Commission, to which all Member States belong, meets annually but has not managed to reach a consensus on practical recommendations.
At France’s suggestion after the 1978 UNGA special session, a United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR) was established in Geneva. The United Nations also runs three regional centres for peace and disarmament reporting to the Secretariat (Office for Disarmament Affairs) in Lomé, Togo, for Africa, Katmandu, Nepal, for Asia-Pacific and Lima, Peru, for the Americas and Caribbean.
The United Nations addresses the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction in close association with disarmament matters: in the field of nuclear non-proliferation, for example, a number of resolutions have been passed by the First Committee every year since the adoption in 1994 of the resolution on the gradual reduction of the nuclear threat.
Under the main relevant conventions on the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (non-proliferation treaty [NPT], 1972 Biological Weapons Convention [BWC] and 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention [CWC]), the Security Council has examined a number of cases of proliferation, such as Iran and North Korea, by virtue of its main responsibility for maintaining international peace and security.
Security Council Resolution 1887 on nuclear proliferation and disarmament was adopted by a Heads of States meeting under the presidency of President Obama on 24 September 2009. This resolution stresses that the Security Council has a vital role to play in the fight against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction as this phenomenon poses a threat to international peace and security. In addition, Resolution 1887 also provides for an ambitious roadmap which notably paves the way for the Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference of May 2010.
The 1540 Committee, a new Security Council instrument for addressing the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction
With its adoption of Resolution 1540 on 28 April 2004, the Security Council for the first time described the proliferation of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and their means of delivery as a threat to international peace and security. Resolution 1540 called on States to adopt and implement national rules and regulations to ensure compliance with the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. It also identified the risk from non-State actors with weapons of mass destruction.
The establishment of the 1540 Committee to implement this resolution led to the development of a number of further strands in the international community’s fight against nuclear, biological and chemical proliferation:
Binding measures: requirement that States should report their actions to the 1540 Committee;
Information and outreach measures: planning of seminars held for Member States, including joint meetings with the counter-terrorism committees (1267 and 1373 Committees);
Assistance measures: assistance with implementing Resolution 1540 for States that request it. This system is based on international “best practice” on non-proliferation, in particular the commitments of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) concerning nuclear non-proliferation. The aim of the 1540 Committee is primarily to help States acquire the means to combat the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction by countering the proliferation networks that endanger their security, such as that of the Pakistani Abdul Qadeer Khan, discovered in 2003.
Update : July 2010
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