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Source: United Nations 4

Sending a total of 72 draft resolutions and decisions to the General Assembly, the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) concluded its seventy-fifth session today, approving 15 drafts and agreeing on its 2021 programme of work.

“We need to convey to the victims of weapons of mass destruction that we have fulfilled our mandate to the best of our abilities,” said First Committee Chair Agustin Santos Maraver (Spain), delivering closing remarks.  Despite a mood of pessimism ahead of the Committee’s first meeting, he said members “showed that it is possible to rationally move forward towards a world free of war”, working diligently despite coronavirus-related restrictions and adopting a larger number of drafts than usual.

Providing a summary of the Committee’s work, Mr. Maraver said 143 delegations made statements during the general debate segment and 72 draft resolutions and decisions were approved, 41 of which by recorded vote, with a total of 80 separate votes requested.  Two drafts were rejected ‑ the one on the Secretary‑General’s Mechanism for Investigation of Alleged Use of Chemical and Biological Weapons and the other on the 2021 session of the Disarmament Commission.  The number of drafts approved without a vote accounted for 22.6 per cent of all drafts, a decrease when compared to the previous session’s 32 per cent.

Taking action on drafts related to regional security and the disarmament machinery, the Committee held separate recorded votes for several, including two competing draft decisions regarding the work of the Disarmament Commission, which had not held sessions in 2019 and 2020.

Acting without a vote, the Committee approved a draft decision on the Disarmament Commission, sponsored by Australia.  Prior to that approval, it rejected, by a vote of 16 in favour to 56 against, with 70 abstentions, an amendment sponsored by the Russian Federation that would have had, among other things, the General Assembly take action to ensure the issuance of visas by the United Nations host country.

The Committee rejected a draft decision on the 2021 session of the Disarmament Commission, sponsored by the Russian Federation, by a recorded vote of 34 in favour to 55 against, with 67 abstentions, as well as six of its preambular and operative paragraphs.  Among these provisions was one that would have had the General Assembly decide to call upon the host country to ensure the issuance of visas to representatives of Member States to facilitate the participation of representatives of Member States in Disarmament Commission sessions.

Delivering a general statement ahead of voting, the Russian Federation’s representative said the Disarmament Commission’s work had stalled because the United States refused to issue visas in line with its host country requirements.  Such actions undermine the work of the United Nations, he said, adding that the matter went beyond the remit of the Committee on Relations with the Host Country.  Several delegates expressed support for nations facing visa issues, with India’s delegate saying that the Disarmament Commission’s efficient and inclusive functioning is of paramount importance.

Others shared different views.  Australia’s representative said the visa-related issues put forth in the Russian Federation’s hostile amendment do in fact fall within the purview of the Committee on Relations with the Host Country.  The United States delegate said Moscow was diluting discourse on disarmament by injecting the visa matter into deliberations within the First Committee.

The Committee approved the following draft resolutions and decisions, by separate recorded vote:  conventional arms control at the regional and subregional levels; strengthening of security and cooperation in the Mediterranean; prohibition of the development and manufacture of new types of weapons of mass destruction and new systems of such weapons: report of the Conference on Disarmament; convening of the fourth special session of the General Assembly devoted to disarmament; and the fortieth anniversary of the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research.

Acting without a vote, it approved the following draft resolutions and decisions:  maintenance of international security ‑ good-neighbourliness, stability and development in South-Eastern Europe; regional disarmament; confidence-building measures in the regional and subregional context; United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Africa; United Nations regional centres for peace and disarmament; United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Asia and the Pacific; report of the Conference on Disarmament; United Nations Regional Centre for Peace, Disarmament and Development in Latin America and the Caribbean; and regional confidence-building measures:  activities of the United Nations Standing Advisory Committee on Security Questions in Central Africa.

In other business, the Committee approved its draft provisional programme of work and timetable for 2021 (document A/C.1/75/CRP.5), which proposes an organizational meeting on 30 September, to be followed by eight meetings for the general debate, 12 meetings for the thematic discussion segment and six meetings for the action phase.

Speaking in exercise of the right of reply were representatives of the Russian Federation, Australia and United States.

Action on Draft Texts

The Committee resumed its consideration of drafts related to regional disarmament and security.  Acting without a vote, it approved the draft decision “Maintenance of international security — good‑neighbourliness, stability and development in South‑Eastern Europe” (document A/C.1/75/L.9) and draft resolutions “Regional disarmament” (document A/C.1/75/L.23) and “Confidence‑building measures in the regional and subregional context” (document A/C.1/75/L.25).

By a recorded vote of 159 in favour to 1 against (India), with 2 abstentions (Bhutan, Russian Federation), the Committee approved the draft resolution “Conventional arms control at the regional and subregional level (document A/C.1/75/L.24).  Prior to taking action on the draft as a whole, the Committee held separate votes on two paragraphs.

By a recorded vote of 147 in favour to 2 against (India, Russian Federation), with no abstentions, the Committee decided to retain preambular paragraph 7, by which the Assembly would note with particular interest consultations among Latin American countries on agreements to strengthen peace and security and proposals for conventional arms control in South Asia.

Then, by a recorded vote of 99 in favour to 1 against (India), with 49 abstentions, the Committee decided to retain operative paragraph 2, by which the Assembly would request the Conference on Disarmament to consider the formulation of principles that can serve as a framework for regional agreements on conventional arms control.

The Committee approved the draft resolution “Strengthening of security and cooperation in the Mediterranean region” (document A/C.1/75/L.31), by a recorded vote of 160 in favour to none against, with 2 abstentions (Israel, United States).

Before acting on the draft as a whole, the Committee decided to retain operative paragraph 2, by a recorded vote of 154 in favour to 2 against (Israel, United States), with no abstentions.  Through it, the Assembly would express its satisfaction at the continuing efforts in the region to contribute actively to the elimination of all causes of tension, thus ensuring the withdrawal of foreign forces of occupation.

By a recorded vote of 155 in favour to 2 against (Israel, United States), with no abstentions, the Committee decided to retain operative paragraph 5, by which the Assembly would call upon all States of the region that have not yet done so to adhere to all the multilaterally negotiated legal disarmament and non‑proliferation instruments in force, thus creating the conditions necessary for strengthening peace and cooperation.

Speaking in explanation of vote, Iran’s representative said his delegation did not participate in voting on “L.31” as a whole, as the draft does not reflect the reality of the situation in the region.  However, his delegation voted in favour of operative paragraph 2, as it focuses on ensuring the withdrawal of all foreign forces of occupation while accepting the sovereignty of all countries of the Mediterranean region, and of operative paragraph 5, as it calls for adherence to all legally binding instruments.

Malaysia’s representative, highlighting that said his delegation voted in favour of all drafts and their separate paragraphs in this cluster, said nuclear‑weapon‑free zones are vitally important in enhancing global and regional peace.

Also delivering an explanation of his delegation’s position was the representative of India.

The Committee then turned to its cluster on disarmament machinery, with delegates making general statements, introducing related drafts and explaining their delegations’ position on various texts.

The representative of the Russian Federation regretted to note that the Disarmament Commission’s work has stalled as a result of the United States refusal to issue visas in line with its requirements as the United Nations host country.  The issues at hand go beyond the remit of the Committee on Relations with the Host Country, he said, adding that Washington D.C., undermines the work of the United Nations as a whole.

Australia’s representative, introducing the draft decision “Disarmament Commission” (document A/C.1/75/L.49), said the Russian Federation has presented a hostile challenge, which addresses issues that are actually within the purview of the Committee on Relations with the Host Country.

France’s delegate, also speaking on behalf of Germany, introduced the draft resolution “Fortieth anniversary of the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research” (document A/C.1/75/L.37), and the representative of Belarus introduced the draft resolutions “Prohibition of the development and manufacture of new types of weapons of mass destruction and new systems of such weapons: report of the Conference on Disarmament” (document A/C.1/75/L.7) and “Report of the Conference on Disarmament” (document A/C.1/75/L.51).

Prior to taking action, representatives outlined their delegations’ position on the draft decisions “2021 session of the Disarmament Commission” (document A/C.1/75/L.48), sponsored by the Russian Federation, and “L.49”, with several Member States stating that the First Committee was not the forum to address issues at the core of “L.48”.

The representative of the United States, saying his delegation would vote against “L.48”, emphasized that it is entirely inappropriate for the Russian Federation to raise visa issues within the First Committee.  His delegation would also vote against “L.79”, Moscow’s proposed amendment to “L.49”, as injecting visa matters into the work of the First Committee and the Disarmament Commission dilutes discourse on relevant matters.  Similarly, Germany’s representative, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said the bloc would not support “L.48”, as the underlying issues within it fall outside the scope of the First Committee.  Approving “L.48” would set a dangerous precedent, he said.

Also delivering explanations of their delegations’ position were representatives of Canada and the Netherlands.

The Committee approved the draft “Prohibition of the development and manufacture of new types of weapons of mass destruction and new systems of such weapons:  report of the Conference on Disarmament” (document A/C.1/75/L.7), by a recorded vote of 170 in favour to 3 against (Israel, Ukraine, United States), with no abstentions.

By a recorded vote of 169 in favour to none against, with 3 abstentions (France, Israel, United States), the Committee approved the draft resolution “Convening of the fourth special session of the General Assembly devoted to disarmament” ( document A/C.1/75/L.16).

The Committee approved the draft resolution “Fortieth anniversary of the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research” (document A/C.1/75/L.37), by a recorded vote of 171 in favour to none against, with 2 abstentions (Israel, United States), prior to which it decided to retain, by a recorded vote of 160 in favour to 1 against (United States), with 3 abstentions (Colombia, Israel, Japan), operative paragraph 8.  By that paragraph’s terms, the Assembly would invite the Secretary‑General to submit, in the context of the 2022 programme budget, a proposal for an increase in the subvention to the Institute.

The Committee then rejected the draft decision “2021 session of the Disarmament Commission” (document A/C.1/75/L.48), as a whole and as amended, by a recorded vote of 34 in favour to 55 against, with 67 abstentions.  It also rejected, by separate recorded votes, six preambular and operative paragraphs.

By a recorded vote of 29 in favour to 44 against, with 70 abstentions, it rejected preambular paragraph 8, by which the Assembly would have noted that the Disarmament Commission, for organizational reasons, was unable to commence its substantive sessions in 2019 and 2020 and submit its report as requested in General Assembly resolution 73/82.

The Committee also rejected the inclusion of preambular paragraph 9, by a recorded vote of 28 in favour to 46 against, with 70 abstentions, by which the Assembly would have recalled its resolution 74/195 on the report of the Committee on Relations with the Host Country.

By a recorded vote of 23 in favour to 46 against, with 72 abstentions, it rejected preambular paragraph 10, by which the Assembly would have expressed serious concern regarding the non‑issuance of entry visas to certain representatives of certain Member States for the 2019 and 2020 sessions of the Disarmament Commission that rendered the body unable to commence its substantive sessions.

The Committee then rejected, by a recorded vote of 22 in favour to 45 against, with 76 abstentions, preambular paragraph 11, which would have had the Assembly expect the prompt issuance by the host country of entry visas to all representatives of Member States for sessions of the Disarmament Commission.

By a recorded vote of 23 in favour to 48 against, with 72 abstentions, the Committee rejected operative paragraph “e”, by which the Assembly would have decided to request the Secretary‑General to deal with problems related to the organization of sessions of the Disarmament Commission, including the issuance of entry visas.

The Committee rejected operative paragraph “f”, by a recorded vote of 22 in favour to 46 against, with 76 abstentions, which would have had the Assembly decide to call upon the host country to ensure visa issuance to representatives of Member States to facilitate their participation Disarmament Commission sessions.

The Committee then took up the draft decision “Disarmament Commission” (document A/C.1/75/L.49), adopting it without a vote.

Prior to that approval, the Committee, by a recorded vote of 16 in favour to 56 against, with 70 abstentions, rejected an amendment, contained in document A/C.1/75/L.79, which would have added several preambular and operative paragraphs to “L.49”.  By the terms of some of those proposed provisions, the Assembly would have decided to request the Secretary‑General to deal with problems with the organization of Disarmament Commission sessions, including the issuance of entry visas to representatives of Member States, that made the body unable to commence its substantive sessions in 2019 and 2020.

Acting without a vote, the Committee approved the following draft resolutions:  “United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Africa” (document A/C.1/75/L.11); “United Nations regional centres for peace and disarmament” (document A/C.1/75/L.20); “United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Asia and the Pacific” (document A/C.1/75/L.40); “Report of the Conference on Disarmament” (document A/C.1/75/L.51); “United Nations Regional Centre for Peace, Disarmament and Development in Latin America and the Caribbean” (document A/C.1/75/L.57); and “Regional confidence‑building measures:  activities of the United Nations Standing Advisory Committee on Security Questions in Central Africa” (document A/C.1/75/L.69).

Several representatives explained their delegations’ position on several draft resolutions and decisions.

Egypt’s representative, speaking on behalf of the Group of Arab States, said his delegation abstained on “L.48”.  Highlighting a need to fully implement the Headquarters Agreement of 1947, he acknowledged several delegations’ concerns about the implementation of related obligations.  India’s delegate, regretting to note the continuation of visa denial problems, said the efficient and inclusive functioning of the Disarmament Commission is of paramount importance.  Indonesia’s representative said that while the Disarmament Commission provides Member States with a level playing field to present their ideas to promote the disarmament cause, for two years, sessions have not been held.  As certain Member States have not had access to some meetings, he said full and equal participation of all States must be ensured.

Malaysia’s representative, expressing sympathy and solidarity with all delegations that have been impacted by visa issuance problems, said his delegation abstained on “L.48” and voted in favour of “L.49”.  While standing in solidarity with nations who have had problems obtaining visas, Mexico’s representative said the First Committee is not an appropriate venue for dealing with issues related to compliance with the Headquarters Agreement.

Switzerland’s representative, noting that his delegation voted against “L.48” and in favour of “L.49”, said the First Committee’s work is based on the practice that the current or outgoing Disarmament Commission Chair submits a draft resolution.  In addition, the proposed amendment to “L.49” fundamentally changed the content of that draft decision.

The Russian Federation’s representative indicated his delegation’s disassociation from the Committee’s consensus on the draft decision sponsored by Australia.  Because of interpretation difficulties, his delegation’s proposal was not heeded in its calls for removing political difficulties.  Indeed, his delegation’s proposal did not call for the technical relaunch of the Disarmament Commission.  He also rejected that his delegation’s constructive amendment to the Australian draft decision was rejected by the Committee, and reiterated that the visa issue impedes the participation of delegations.

Also delivering statements were representatives of New Zealand, Algeria, Philippines and Brazil.

The Committee then approved its draft provisional programme of work and timetable for 2021 (document A/C.1/75/CRP.5), which proposes an organizational meeting on 30 September, to be followed by 8 meetings for the general debate, 12 meetings for the thematic discussion segment and 6 meetings for the action phase.

Delivering final comments, Indonesia’s representative regretted to note the significant amount of political energy spent on discussing competing proposals and urged Member States to resist polarization.  All States belong to different interest groups, and greater efforts must be made to reach consensus.  Requesting recorded votes must not become the first approach taken by Member States.  As such, Indonesia is ready to work with all delegates to forge consensus, he said, adding that through such efforts, progress can be achieved.

Mexico’s delegate, voicing concern over a shift towards setting aside substantive deliberations and failing to truly delve into the core issues of proposals before the Committee, appealed to all Member States to examine the Committee’s work and to strive for consensus.

Observing that this session’s work was more composed and calmer than previous years, Malaysia’s representative said delegates must now consider what version of the First Committee they will return to in 2021, one characterized by confrontation or one marked by a spirit of cooperation.

Right of Reply

The representative of the Russian Federation, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said Western States are working to dismantle the disarmament machinery by distorting facts.  The United States unilaterally left several treaties, he said, adding that Washington D.C., is failing to uphold its international obligations related to chemical weapons.

The representative of Australia, acknowledging a great deal of sympathy with the Russian Federation on host country issues, said the First Committee clearly repudiated Moscow’s approach to address the issue.  In order to move forward, Member States must move beyond procedural battles and work towards building consensus.

The representative of the United States, noting that the Committee failed to show support for a number of Moscow’s disarmament proposals, said the Russian Federation must pursue approaches that foster cooperation.

The representative of the Russian Federation, taking the floor for a second time, thanked Australia for a constructive statement.  However, he wondered if any representative from Australia’s delegation had been denied a visa to travel to United Nations Headquarters in New York, as has been the case for Russian representatives.

Closing Remarks

First Committee Chair Agustin Santos Maraver (Spain) said that despite complications arising from COVID‑19 pandemic mitigation efforts, a total of 15 in‑person meetings and three virtual gatherings were held, with 143 delegations making statements during the general debate and the approval of 72 draft resolutions and decisions.  Members approved 41 drafts by recorded vote, with 80 separate votes requested, and rejected 2 draft resolutions.  Drafts approved without a vote accounted for 22.6 per cent of all texts, a decrease compared with the previous session, when 32 per cent of all drafts were approved by consensus.

Recalling a general sense of pessimism as planning began for the Committee’s work, he said members have managed to approve a higher number of drafts than usual and “showed that it is possible to rationally move forward towards a world free of war”.  Amid new arms races and regional tensions, Member States must look at the United Nations Charter and its appeal to universal disarmament, he said, emphasizing that:  “We need to convey to the victims of weapons of mass destruction that we have fulfilled our mandate to the best of our abilities.”

For information media. Not an official record.

MIL OSI United Nations News