UN First Committee side-event on General and Complete Disarmament sponsored by Chile

18-Oct-2017 all-day
UN Headquarters New York
New York
NY 10017

Report: “Contextualising General and Complete Disarmament”

This panel discussion, hosted by the Mission of Chile to the UN, took place in the margins of the UNGA First Committee on October 18th. It sought to foster an informed and pragmatic discussion on the concept of General and Complete Disarmament (GCD) with the aim of reflecting on how GCD relates to current disarmament processes and whether it can contribute to them. Country representatives and policy experts shared their views on their own understanding of GCD and the role it can play in the disarmament efforts they are respectively involved in.

In her opening remarks, the UN Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, Ms Izumi Nakamitsu, stressed the importance of GCD as a guiding principle for the United Nations. While reiterating that GCD is not utopian but rather offers a practical framework to holistically address disarmament issues, she highlighted the need to modernise the concept so it can be seen as a viable solution for the contemporary world. In this regard, the following trends were identified as particularly important: the current context with growing multiplicity of interests, conflicts and asymmetries; the rapid technological progress; the over-accumulation of arms, especially heavy conventional weapons and explosives; and the growing acquiescence for military solutions to solve international problems.

Ambassador Sergio Duarte, President of Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs and former UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, chaired the panel discussion. He noted that the UN Charter’s call for the “least diversion for armaments of the world’s human and economic resources” reflected GCD’s principles. Similarly to the UN Charter, GCD was never meant to get rid of all the weapons in the world, it also recognises that weapons have a limited role to play in keeping order within national borders and in collective action in accordance with international obligations. He concluded by calling for progress in integrating past disarmament achievements into a coherent framework that will lead to a world where security is not dependent on arsenals of ever more destructive weapons. In this regard, GCD has much to offer.

Ambassador Guilherme Patriota, Ambassador of Brazil to the UN in Geneva, lamented the fact that the comprehensive approach to disarmament put forward by GCD in the 50’s and 60’s had undergone fragmentation. Today’s step-by- step and fragmentary approach to disarmament addresses only peripheral problems while the brunt of destructive power and arms have largely been left untouched. He disagreed with the open-ended list of pre-conditions that are usually used to hinder progress in disarmament such as “achieving world peace” or “security context being not conducive”. Finally, he reflected on the Nuclear Ban Treaty in the context of GCD. He argued that the Nuclear Ban fits perfectly into a GCD overarching framework. In fact, the concept of prohibition of nuclear weapons was first coined in a 1954 UNGA resolution calling for the total prohibition of use and manufacture of WMD and reduction of armed forces and conventional weapons; bringing WMD elimination and conventional arms control together as envisioned by GCD.

Mr Fernando Luque (Ecuador), Chair of the SSOD-IV OEWG, reflected on GCD in the context of the work of the Open-Ended Working Group on the Fourth Special Session on Disarmament. He regretted that lately GCD had been used as a pre-condition to nuclear disarmament. He referred to the outcome document of the First Special Session on Disarmament and observed that the document mentioned GCD 16 times as the ultimate objective of the UN and also called for the adoption of a GCD Treaty. There was also a tension between pursuing GCD in parallel with other partial disarmament measures or waiting for partial disarmament measures to be negotiated first which would ultimately result in GCD. In closing, he considered what practical steps should be taken to bring about GCD and emphasised the need to insert a cyber/new technologies component into the GCD framework.

Ms Jackie Cabasso, Executive Director of Western States Legal Foundation, addressed the relationship between nuclear and conventional weapons. The development of advanced conventional weapons impedes nuclear disarmament efforts and is helping to accelerate a new round of arms racing. There needs to be a discussion on the entire range of disarmament issues across conventional and nuclear in order to pave the way for decreasing regional and global tensions and limiting show of military force in potential nuclear flash-points. She finally reminded the audience that nuclear disarmament should serve as the leading edge of a global trend towards GCD and redirection of military expenditures to meet human needs and protect the environment.

Dr Dan Plesch, Director of the Centre for International Studies & Diplomacy at SOAS, University of London, stated that GCD need not to be far-fetched as there is no technical obstacle to it, offering examples from successful disarmament, arms control, and non-proliferation instruments. He introduced the SCRAP proposal of basic elements for a GCD treaty – which draws on principles from existing international agreements – to illustrate that the problem is political. He lamented the loss of a disarmament track in diplomatic relations between the major powers, unlike during the Cold War, when the US and Soviet Union engaged in serious disarmament and arms control talks despite tensions.

Remarks by Ms. Izumi Nakamitsu at the side event on “Contextualizing General and Complete Disarmament”

Ambassador Duarte Speech

Ambassador Patriota Speech

Speech by Ms. Jackie Cabasso

Comments are closed.