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United Nations First Committee 2009

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Voting – Cluster 1: Nuclear Weapons

From Carol Naughton in New York, 27 October 2009

After all the statements and days and days of negotiating, today was day 1 of voting on the 54 draft resolutions. Today was Cluster 1: Nuclear Weapons and First Committee was voting on 14 of them.  It was all very tense with diplomats huddling in last minute consultations on resolutions coming up later in the week. Before voting could start we still had a good many nations wishing to speak to introduce draft resolutions or to to make general statements and comments on them. Delegations who are not a sponsor can explain their vote on any resolution.

There is a large electronic 'score board' that shows all votes immediately the delegations push their buttons: green for YES; red for NO; orange for ABSTAIN.  The problem I had was the board is so far away I could only read the names of those countries with short names! We all get a printout for every decision though so I could check names then.  I did feel sorry for one nation though whose bulbs had gone in their voting lights and had to call out their vote to the chair until it was sorted. Technology in the 21st Century!

There were calls on a good few occasions to take individual paragraphs separately, for example references to recent IAEA decisions on the Middle East, which the EU pointed out had not been by consensus and that many states had voted against. All of these failed and all the resolutions were taken in whole for voting. The voting results can be seen at: http://www.reachingcriticalwill.org/political/1com/1com09/resolutions.html

One disappointment was on the US vote against the New Agenda Coalition resolution, 'Towards a nuclear-weapon-free world: acceleration the implementation of nuclear disarmament commitments.' Again there was a failed attempt to take separately the paragraph relating to universality of the NPT calling for India, Israel and Pakistan to accede to the treaty. The resolution was passed with 165 for, 5 against and 4 abstentions. The UK abstained as in previous years as did Bhutan and Micronesia, with Pakistan abstaining rather than voting against this year. The votes against were from DPRK, India, Israel, France and the US. The US explained that they had engaged in intense negotiations with the NAC and had very much appreciated their willingness to engage, hoping that this engagement would continue, but that they had been unable to agree on wording.

However, soon First Committee will vote on the draft resolution introduced by Japan which has the US as one of the sponsors in a complete turn round from previous years when they have voted against it. It will be interesting to see how the voting pattern on this emerges this year, though, given the references within it to the DPRK, it will probably not go through without a vote.

The annual draft resolution introduced by India calling for negotiations to begin in the CD on a convention prohibiting the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons  under any circumstances maintained much the same voting pattern as usual with 116 for, 50 against and 11 abstaining.

The annual resolution on negative security assurances introduced by Pakistan had a similar pattern of voting as previously but this year the US abstained rather than cast the lone vote against as in the last few years. Votes were 119 for, none against with 58 abstaining.  Of the nuclear weapon possessor states China, DPRK, India and Pakistan voted for it, with France, Israel, Russia, UK and US abstaining.

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