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United Nations First Committee 2009

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The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

From Carol Naughton in New York, 19 October 2009

As the thematic debate on nuclear weapons closes the positive expectations and willingness to engage constructively to create success at the 2010 RevCon seems to dominate, at least in the formal statements. Of course many nations reminded the P5 of their nuclear disarmament obligations, and took them to task for tardiness in fulfilling them, but the language was also about moving forward. It was about building on the decisions of 1995 and 2000 by producing a plan for concrete action on disarmament particularly, but also for action plans on non-proliferation and peaceful use of nuclear energy based on a non-discriminatory approach.

The most frequently expressed desire for 2010 was for collective effort by all states to create a climate of confidence and trust, supported by a verification regime, that would lead to increased stability and confidence in the NPT regime.

I don't want to give the impression that it is all peace and harmony though. It is disheartening to hear a few nations persist in using rhetoric and accusations of blame to justify their own actions.

On a more positive note both Russia and the US spoke of their negotiations on a treaty to, as the US described it, 'replace the START Treaty regime and to enact further cuts in delivery systems and warheads.' They aim to have this competed by December this year. Russia expressed a hope that as well as reducing warhead levels it would, 'substantially lower – many times down – the number of strategic delivery vehicles – ICBM, SLBM and heavy bombers'. Russia also called on other nuclear weapon states to continue their efforts on nuclear disarmament with a 'prospect of turning the Russia-US dialogue into five-party negotiations.' with other nations joining them.

The importance of ensuring that cuts in nuclear arsenals are, transparent, verifiable and irreversible was picked up by many nations. Many focused on the need to establish that disarmament is accompanied by measures to ensure that states do not have so-called “upload nuclear potential” in future, otherwise, some felt, cuts in arsenals become meaningless.

As well as plans of action on the three pillars the other need for 'action' is on the resolution on the Middle East. Many nations reminded us that the decision of the 1995 Review Conference to create a zone free of WMD in the Middle East has not yet been implemented. At the PrepCom to the NPT in May this year Russia put forward proposals on moving this forward and there is great hope that these can be implemented at the Revcon.

India's statement re-stated their support for a Nuclear Weapons Convention and introduced the draft resolution they are co-sponsoring, the operative part of which calls on the CD to  'commence negotiations to reach agreement on a international  convention prohibiting the use of threat of use of nuclear weapons under any circumstances', as well as two other draft resolutions .  However India also stated that although they had acceded to and were in full implementation of the CWC and BWC there was no question of them joining the NPT as a non-nuclear weapons state saying, 'Nuclear weapons are an integral part of India's national security and will remain so, pending non-discriminatory and global nuclear disarmament.'.

Negotiations on draft resolutions were in full flow still. The deadline for submission passed on Thursday at the close of session, having been set back from lunch time, but amendments can continue to be made to them. 

There is disquiet in some quarters that, in trying to achieve adoption of draft resolutions   unanimously or at least to bring in the nuclear possessor states with the inclusion of language from the UNSC 1887 resolution, some resolutions will loose focus.

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