37th Plenary Meeting - General Assembly 75th Session

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07-Dec-2020 02:37:51
General Assembly, adopting 66 First Committee texts, calls on States to revitalize stalled disarmament machinery, tackle chronic, emerging security threats.

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The General Assembly, acting on the recommendation of its First Committee (Disarmament and International Security), adopted 66 resolutions and decisions today, including several addressing the need for multilateral action‑oriented solutions to spur denuclearization efforts, prevent an arms race in outer space and keep cyberspace safe.

Holding 100 separate recorded votes on almost two thirds of the texts before it, the Assembly acted on a range of issues, calling on Member States to galvanize efforts, from combating chemical weapon use to revitalizing the disarmament machinery, currently stalled for two decades.

General Assembly President Volkan Bozkir (Turkey) welcomed the drive to find common ground to enhance global security. Lamenting that the COVID‑19 pandemic limited the engagement of civil society, he commended efforts to engage in constructive dialogue through virtual meetings. “We must make every second count to promote security,” he declared, urging unity amid unprecedented modalities due to the pandemic and the challenges that come with it.

Committee Rapporteur María del Rosario Estrada Girón (Guatemala), introducing its reports, said: “This year marked an extraordinary session given the COVID‑19 constraints”. Despite the pandemic, the bureau had been able to consult with delegations to frame a realistic and flexible approach to proceed with its work in the most inclusive and transparent way. While traditional thematic discussions were not possible, States were encouraged to submit statements on the thematic clusters in written form for inclusion in a compendium of statements to be issued as an official document.

“The First Committee had one of its smoothest sessions in years and achieved its goals of contributing meaningfully to the General Assembly in the field of disarmament and international security,” she continued. The Committee held 15 in‑person meetings and 3 virtual meetings, the latter of which were the first in its history, and approved 71 draft resolutions and decisions.

Taking up an array of texts on nuclear weapons, the Assembly held separate recorded votes on many, with some atomic-bomb-possessing Member States casting abstentions or voting against several resolutions, decisions and their provisions. In adopting a resolution on the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, by a recorded vote of 130 in favour to 42 against, with 14 abstentions, the Assembly called upon all States that have not yet done so to sign, ratify, accept, approve or accede to the instrument, which is poised to enter into force in January.

In an effort to fortify a path towards an atomic-bomb-free planet, the Assembly adopted a resolution on joint courses of action and future-oriented dialogue towards a world without nuclear weapons, by a recorded vote of 150 in favour to 4 against (China, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, Syria), with 35 abstentions, prior to which it held separate recorded votes on 15 paragraphs. By the text’s provisions, the Assembly reaffirmed that States parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons — the cornerstone of the international non-proliferation regime and an essential foundation for the pursuit of disarmament — are committed to the ultimate goal of eliminating atomic arsenals.

Also by resolution’s terms, the Assembly encouraged nuclear-weapon States to take actions to reduce the risks of detonation. It further recognized both the importance of the Treaty on Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms (New START Treaty) between the Russian Federation and the United States and the ongoing dialogue among parties on its potential extension in a way that contributes to strategic stability.

In adopting a resolution on ethical imperatives for a nuclear-weapon-free world, by a recorded vote of 134 in favour to 37 against, with 14 abstentions, the Assembly called upon all States to acknowledge the catastrophic humanitarian consequences and risks posed by a detonation and declared that the vast resources allocated to the modernization of arsenals could instead be redirected to meeting the Sustainable Development Goals.

With a view to keeping outer space free of weapons and war, the Assembly adopted, by separate recorded votes, four resolutions and decisions. By the terms of a resolution on no first placement of weapons in outer space, adopted by a recorded vote of 132 in favour to 34 against, with 21 abstentions, the Assembly urged an early commencement of substantive work based on a draft treaty proposed by China and the Russian Federation in 2008 in the Conference on Disarmament and updated in 2014.

The Assembly adopted a range of resolutions and decisions contained in the First Committee’s report on general and complete disarmament. In doing so, it took action on various classes of weaponry, from handguns to weaponized toxic substances. By a recorded vote of 152 in favour to 8 against (Cambodia, China, Iran, Nicaragua, Russian Federation, Syria, Venezuela, Zimbabwe) with 23 abstentions, the Assembly adopted a resolution on implementing the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and of Their Destruction. By its terms, the Assembly condemned in the strongest possible terms the use, since 2012, of chemical weapons in Iraq, Malaysia, Syria and the United Kingdom, and the recent use of a toxic chemical as a weapon against Alexei Navalny in the Russian Federation. Prior to its adoption as a whole, the Assembly decided, by separate recorded votes, to retain six of its paragraphs.

It also adopted texts on such instruments as the Arms Trade Treaty and existing conventions banning cluster munitions, biological weapons, anti-personnel mines and the use of nuclear weapons.

Acting without a vote, the Assembly adopted two resolutions on measures to prevent terrorists from acquiring weapons of mass destruction and radioactive sources.

Addressing emerging threats, the Assembly adopted, by a recorded vote of 179 in favour to 3 against (Israel, Ukraine, United States), with no abstentions, a resolution on the Conference on Disarmament’s report on the prohibition of the development and manufacture of new types of weapons of mass destruction and new systems of such weapons, by which it called upon States to follow recommendations on the matter.

Acting without a vote, the Assembly adopted a resolution containing the annual report of the Conference on Disarmament, the single multilateral disarmament negotiating forum of the international community with a primary role in substantive negotiations on priority issues. By its terms, the Assembly called upon the Conference on Disarmament to further intensify consultations and to explore possibilities for overcoming its ongoing deadlock of two decades by adopting and implementing a balanced and comprehensive programme of work at the earliest possible date during its 2021 session.

Adopting the First Committee’s provisional programme of work and timetable for 2021 (document A/75/407) without a vote, the Assembly also approved, through several texts, new dates for meetings or sessions that had been postponed due to COVID‑19 restrictions, including one on the Disarmament Commission.

The General Assembly postponed taking action on the following five draft texts pending a report of its Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) on programme budget implications: developments in the field of information and telecommunications in the context of international security; Open-ended Working Group on Developments in the Field of Information and Telecommunications in the Context of International Security established pursuant to General Assembly resolution 73/27 of 5 December 2018; Group of Governmental Experts on Advancing Responsible State Behaviour in Cyberspace in the Context of International Security established pursuant to General Assembly resolution 73/266 of 22 December 2018; illicit trade in small arms and light weapons in all its aspects; and problems arising from the accumulation of conventional ammunition stockpiles in surplus.

The Assembly adopted the following texts by recorded vote: establishment of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the region of the Middle East; risk of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East; humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons; follow-up to the 2013 high-level meeting of the General Assembly on nuclear disarmament; conclusion of effective international arrangements to assure non-nuclear-weapon States against the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons; treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices; reducing nuclear danger; The Hague Code of Conduct against Ballistic Missile Proliferation; nuclear disarmament verification; nuclear disarmament; towards a nuclear-weapon free world: accelerating the implementation of nuclear disarmament commitments; follow-up to the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice on the legality of the threat or use of nuclear weapons; Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty; missiles; decreasing the operational readiness of nuclear weapons systems; and measures to uphold the authority of the 1925 Geneva Protocol.

Also by recorded vote, the Assembly adopted the following texts: prevention of an arms race in outer space; reducing space threats through norms, rules and principles of responsible behaviours; further practical measures for the prevention of an arms race in outer space; transparency and confidence-building measures in outer space activities; effects of the use of armaments and ammunitions containing depleted uranium; promotion of multilateralism in the area of disarmament and non-proliferation; women, disarmament, non-proliferation and arms control; compliance with non-proliferation, arms limitation and disarmament agreements and commitments; strengthening and developing the system of arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation treaties/agreements; conventional arms control at the regional and subregional levels; strengthening of security and cooperation in the Mediterranean region; convening of the fourth special sessions of the General Assembly devoted to disarmament; and the fortieth anniversary of the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research.

Acting without a vote, the Assembly adopted the following texts: information on confidence‑building measures in the field of conventional arms; assistance to States for curbing the illicit traffic in small arms and light weapons and collecting them; countering the threat posed by improvised explosive devices; Convention on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons Which May Be Deemed to Be Excessively Injurious or to Have Indiscriminate Effects; 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 disarmament fellowship, training and advisory services; relationship between disarmament and development; observance of environmental norms in the drafting and implementing disarmament and arms control agreements; role of science and technology in the context of international security and disarmament; United Nations Disarmament Information Programme; and the United Nations study on disarmament and non-proliferation education.

Also without a vote, the Assembly adopted the following texts: 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; United Nations Regional Centre for Peace, Disarmament and Development in Latin America and the Caribbean; activities of the United Nations Standing Advisory Committee on Security Questions in Central Africa; African Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty; Mongolia’s international security and nuclear-weapon-free status; and the Treaty on a Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone in Central Asia.

The General Assembly will meet again at 10:00 a.m. on Tuesday, 8 December to discuss oceans and the law of the sea.

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