10 november 2020 15th Meeting of the First Committe. GA/DIS/3660 Disarmament and International Security Committee.

75th General Assembly of the United Nations, Session for the Years 2020-2021.

10th of the month of november 2020: 15th Meeting of the First Committee.
Document no. GA/DIS/3660:
Disarmament and International Security Committee.

of Benedetto Loprete

Concluding the session of the works for this year, the First Committee has approved 15 drafts concerning the questions inherent at the regional security and stability in the area and at the disarmament machinery and mechanism to act and agreeing about the programme of the works planned and scheduled in the agenda for the year 2021.

Sending and submitting a total of 72 (seventy-two) drafts of resolutions and decisions to present and to compare these during the dialogue and the verification in the course of the General Assembly of the United Nations, the First Committee on the disarmament and on the international security has concluded the seventy-fifth session today, approving 15 (fifteen) drafts and agreeing about the programme of the works planned and scheduled in the agenda for the year 2021.

“We need to convey to the victims of the weapons of mass destruction that we have fulfilled our mandate to the best of our abilities”, has said the Chair of the First Committee Agustin Santos Maraver, the diplomatic representative for the Kingdom of the Spain, delivering the closing considerations and remarks reflecting and thinking about these questions and situations in act and in course in the different theaters and war fields in the different continents, in the regional and in the territorial areas and contexts and in countries of the world.

Despite a mood of pessimism warned ahead and during the course of the first meeting of the Committee, he has said to the members how much the work done so far “ has 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 of the resolutions sended and submitted for the discussion for the approval respect than usual.

Providing a summary of the works planned and submitted to the exam of the Committee, Mr. Maraver has said that 143 (one hundred and forty-three) delegations has made statements, reflections and considerations during the general debate segment and 72 (seventy-two) drafts of resolutions and decisions were approved, 41 (forty-one) of which by recorded vote, with a total of 80 (eighty) separate votes requested for the legal validity of the vote as requirement. Two drafts of resolutions were rejected – the one on the “Secretary-General’s Mechanism for Investigation of Alleged Use of Chemical and Biological Weapons” and the other concerning the session of the works planned and scheduled for the year 2021 of the Commission for the Disarmament. The number of drafts of resolutions approved without a vote accounted for 22.6 per cent of all drafts submitted to the exam and to the vote, a decrease compared respect to the previous session of the works when the result in terms of votes was attested with the reaching and the achieving of the 32 percent.

Taking the actions concerning and inherent at the drafts of the resolutions relative to the questions concerning and inherent at the regional security and stability and to the disarmament machinery, the Committee held multiple separate recorded sessions of votes for several arguments and questions submitted to the discussions and to the exams, including two competing draft decisions regarding the works of the Commission for the Disarmament , which had not held and operated sessions of the works in the years 2019 and 2020.

Acting without expressing a vote, the Committee has approved a draft decision on the Commission for the Disarmament and on the works and on the resolutions of this Commission, sponsored by the Australia. Before to the approval of this decision, it has rejected, by a vote of 16 (sixteen) in favour against to 56 (fifty-six) against, with 70 (seventy) abstentions, an amendment sponsored by the Russian Federation that would have had, among other things, that the General Assembly take action to ensure the issuance of visas by the United Nations host country.

The Committee has rejected a draft decision concerning the session planned and scheduled to be operated for the year 2021 of the Commission for the Disarmament, sponsored by the Russian Federation, by a recorded vote of 34 (thirty-four) in favour against to 55 (fifty-five) against, with 67 (sixty-seven) abstentions, as well as six of its preambular and operative paragraphs of dispositions provided. Among these provisions was that for which the General Assembly of the United Nations would have invited the host country to guarantee the issuing of a share of the visas and of the permits to the members representatives of the member states to facilitate the participation and the presence at the sessions of the works and of the votes of the representatives of the member states of the Commission for the disarmament.

Delivering a general statement before the vote was held, the representative of the Russian Federation has said that the work of the Commission for the Disarmament was halted because the United States of America had refused and denied to issue the visas in line with the host country’s requirements. Such actions undermine the work of the United Nations, he has said, adding that the issue falls outside the remit of the Committee for the relations with the host country. Several delegates have expressed support for nations facing visa problems, with the Indian delegate saying that the efficient and inclusive functioning of the Commissionfor the Disarmament is of paramount importance.

The others members representatives of other countries have shared different opinions and considerations. The delegate representative of the Australia has said that the questions relative to the issuing and to the granting of the visas and of the permits put forth in the Russian Federation’s hostile amendment do in fact fall within the purview and in the functions of the Committee for the Relations with the Host Country. The United States of America delegate has said that Moscow was trying to dilute and to disperse the sense and the meaning of the discourse and of the discussion concerning and inherent at the question in act and in course on the disarmament trying to insinuate them in the context and in the course of the questions of the visas and of the permits into deliberations within the First Committee.

The Committee has approved the following draft resolutions and decisions, with a separate vote recorded concerning and inherent at the question relative to the control of conventional arms and therefore to the subdivision of the regional and sub-regional levels of accountability and of responsibility and of the functional and operational competences; the strengthening of security and cooperation in the regional and operational context concerning the regional and territorial areas of functions and of competence of the region of the Mediterranean Sea; a ban on the development and on the manufacture of new types of weapons of mass destruction and of new weapons systems; the report of the Conference on the issue of disarmament and arms control; the calling of the fourth special session of the General Assembly dedicated to the questions concerning and inherent at the disarmament; and the fortieth anniversary of the “United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research”.

The Committee, without expressing a vote, has approved the following draft resolutions and decisions concerning and inherent at the maintenance of the international security and stability in relation to the diplomatic and consular relations and so-called “good neighborly” relations and at the stability and development to be increased and favored in the south-eastern regions of the countries of Europe and in the neighboring regional and territorial areas; at the regional disarmament; at the measures to strengthen confidence and constructive relations that can lead to the dialogue and to the mutual encounter, favoring and promoting the stabilization of the governmental, of the political and of the social situations and balances and in regional and sub-regional contexts the discussion and the dialogue on the national and international governmental and political questions and issues; at the United Nations Regional Center for Peace, at the United Nations Regional Centers for Peace and Disarmament; at the United Nations Regional Center for Peace and Disarmament in Africa; at the United Nations Regional Center for Peace and Disarmament in Asia and the Pacific Ocean; at the report of the Conference on the Disarmament; at the disarmament and at the development in the Latin America and in the Caribbean region and countries and at the regional confidence building and searching a form of dialogue realizing measures and achieving the results and the objectives of the activities demanded and recommended by the United Nations Permanent Advisory Committee on issues relating to the stabilization of governmental, political and social security issues and to the situations in the territories and countries of Central Africa.

In other ambit of activity, the Committee has approved the allocation of agenda items to the First Committee in the course of the Document A/C.1/75/1, the list of draft proposals with voting results as at the date of the 11th of the month of november of the year 2020, the Status of Documentation for the First Committee in the course of the Document A/C.1/75/INF/1, the revitalization of the work of the General Assembly in the course of the Document A/C.1/75/INF/, the draft provisional programme of the works and of the timetable scheduled and planned for the year 2020 in the course of the Document A/C.1/75/CRP.1 revised and integrated with other requests and questions in the course of the revision 1 of this Document A/C.1/75/CRP.1, the indicative timetable for the thematic discussion in the course of the Document A/C.1/75/CRP.2, the note concerning the logistical arrangements and the other organizational matters for the First Committee in the course of the Document A/C.1/75/CRP.3, the programme of Action on draft resolutions and decisions in the course of the Document A/C.1/75/CRP.4, for the year 2021 in the course of the Document A/C.1/75/CRP.5 and on the disarmament and on the international security and concerning the introduction of all draft resolutions and decisions to be submitted and discussed, which it proposes an organizational meeting on the date of the 30th of the month of September of the year 2021, to be followed by eight meetings for the general debate, 12 meetings for the thematic discussions segment and six meetings for the phases action of actuation.

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

Actions on Draft Texts.

The Committee has resumed its consideration of drafts related to regional disarmament and security. Acting without expressing a vote, it has 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 the 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). Before 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 of America).

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 of America), 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 of America), 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 of America 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 of America, 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 of America), with no abstentions.

By a recorded vote of 169 in favour to none against, with 3 abstentions (France, Israel, United States of America), 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 of America), prior to which it decided to retain, by a recorded vote of 160 in favour to 1 against (United States of America), 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 planned and scheduled for the year 2021 in the course of the 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 of America unilaterally left several treaties, he said, adding that Washington D.C., is failing to uphold its international obligations related to the 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 of America, 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”.