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United Nations First Committee 2009

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The Last Day of General Debate

From Carol Naughton in New York, 13 October 2009

Today, on the last day of the First Committee's general debate, it feels just like sitting in NPT PrepCom as nation after nation delivers their set statement with no interaction or discussion except for the occasional 'Right of Reply' being exercised. However, judging by the loud buzz in the room and the high intensity conversations going on among and between delegations, discussions are clearly taking place. 

Today's session heard the last of over 100 statements with speeches from Zimbabwe, Democratic Republic of Congo, Cameroon, Tunisia, Trinidad and Tobago, Maldives, Lebannon, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Pakistan, Togo, Palestine and the Inter-Parliamentary Union.

Many statements welcomed the positive atmosphere created by unanimous adoption of UNSC resolution 1887, but stressed that the focus must be on translating the language of the resolution into action on nuclear disarmament and not exclusively on strengthening non-proliferation efforts.  Some referred to a 'historic moment' for disarmament with oft repeated calls for new impetus.

Many statements called for the creation of a WMD FZ in the Middle East and welcomed the IAEA General Council in its 54th session resolution on Israeli nuclear capabilities.

Pakistan made a strong statement about momentum and actions towards, 'a peaceful and stable world – free of all kinds of weapons of mass destruction – and an equitable global security architecture underpinned by equal and undiminished security for all states' but then went on to set out four barriers to this as they saw it:

  • the imbalances and asymmetries of defence spending
  • regional disputes especially in South Asia and the Middle East
  • discrimination and non-equitable criteria for 'political or strategic interests' undermining the non-proliferation regime
  • the tendency by some states to bypass recognized multilateral negotiating forums with the 'promotion  of security of some states at the cost of others'

In relation to access to nuclear technology Pakistan reiterated the need for universally acceptable criteria and a non discriminatory approach.

The DPRK reiterated its oft stated view that, 'it is none other than the United States, that pushed the DPRK into nuclear armament --' and expressed concern at the US / South Korean joint military exercises that were conducted and were, 'capable of nuclear preemptive strikes'.  This prompted South Korea to exercise 'Right of Reply' to state that this was factually misleading and that the joint exercises were about preparedness and that they had given the DPRK prior notice.

Palestine gave a strong statement linking disarmament with humanitarian law and development, saying that the 'devastating and long-term effects of human rights violations, impunity, foreign occupation, underdevelopment and poverty are directly linked o our efforts on disarmament.

My first day here in First Committee was certainly stimulating and it is always good to see so many 'old' faces and re-establish friendships sitting round the much enhanced Vienna Cafe!

For the rest of this week First Committee moves to thematic debates with the first few days dedicated to nuclear weapons before moving to other WMD and Outer Space.

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© 2009 The Acronym Institute.