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UN Disarmament Bodies


This page introduces the three main UN fora for debates and negotiations on arms control and disarmament issues. These are: The First Committee of the UN General Assembly (a committee of the whole), which is responsible for disarmament and security matters; the UN Conference on Disarmament (CD), which includes representatives of more than 50 countries and meets in Geneva to conduct negotiations leading to multilateral treaties; and the UN Disarmament Commission, which meets in New York for a few days once or twice a year to help refine the agenda proposed by the First Committee for the talks in the Conference on Disarmament.


Introduction. The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) First Committee deals with disarmament and international security matters. Any UNGA member may introduce an item for consideration. The General Committee decides whether to consider the proposal and through which committee. Through this process, by the time the autumn session opens, the General Committee has usually assigned the First Committee some 20 to 40 items. After debating the items, the First Committee then makes recommendations to the UNGA.

Agenda. In the general First Committee debate, delegations principally address issues related to nuclear weapons, other weapons of mass destruction, and conventional arms.

Location and Sessions. The Committee meets at the UN Headquarters in New York. The General Assembly session begins on the third Tuesday of September. First Committee sessions usually begin in October. In recent years, the First Committee has completed voting by the middle of November and the General Assembly has voted on First Committee draft resolutions in the first part of December. At the fifty-eighth session in 2003, the UN General Assembly voted on forty-eight resolutions and six decisions. In 2004, the fifty-ninth General Assembly took on forty-eight resolutions and three decisions.

Participants. The UN has a membership of 191 states. (The Cook Islands, Niue, and the Holy See are not UN member states.) All are members of the First Committee. In 2002 the First Committee was chaired by Matia Mulumba Semakula Kiwanuka (Uganda), and the Secretary was Mohammad Kasem. In 2003, the First Committee was chaired by Ambassador Jarmo Serava (Finland), and the Secretary was Mr Mohammad Kasem Sarrar. In 2004, Alfonso de Alba (Mexico) co-chaired the First Committee with Dziunik Aghajanian (Armenia); Alon Bar (Israel) and Sylvester Ekundayo Rowe (Sierra Leone) as Vice-Chairmen; and Mohamed Ali Saleh Alnajar (Yemen) as Rapporteur.

2005 session. The 2005 General Assembly started in September. {}

Procedure. The First Committee takes decisions by a simple majority. The General Assembly decides important questions, such as recommendations on peace and security, by a two-thirds majority; other questions are decided by a simple majority. A majority determines whether a question is important.

Issues. In recent years, First Committee discussion has been dominated by concern over the stalemate in efforts for nuclear disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation. The possible negative impact of modifying or abandoning the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and of further missile proliferation were widely underscored in delegates comments in 2001 and 2002. The importance of multilateral disarmament and non-proliferation efforts in the struggle against terrorism was also stressed. Resolutions on regional approaches to disarmament and transparency in armaments and military spending were repeated.

Agenda items sent to the First Committee in 2004

G. Disarmament
1. Reduction of military budgets [item 57].
2. Maintenance of international security — good-neighborliness’, stability and
development in South-Eastern Europe [item 58].
3. Verification in all its aspects, including the role of the United Nations in the
field of verification [item 59].
4. Developments in the field of information and telecommunications in the
context of international security [item 60].
5. Role of science and technology in the context of international security and
disarmament [item 61].
6. Establishment of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the region of the Middle
East [item 62].
7. Conclusion of effective international arrangements to assure non-
Nuclearweapon States against the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons [item
8. Prevention of an arms race in outer space [item 64].
9. General and complete disarmament [item 65]:
[The General Assembly decided that the relevant paragraphs of the
annual report of the International Atomic Energy Agency (A/59/295),
which is to be considered directly in plenary meeting under item 14, be
drawn to the attention of the First Committee in connection with its
consideration of item 65.]
(a) Notification of nuclear tests;
(b) Further measures in the field of disarmament for the prevention of an
arms race on the seabed and the ocean floor and in the subsoil thereof;
(c) Disarmament and non-proliferation education;
(d) Measures to uphold the authority of the 1925 Geneva Protocol;
(e) Relationship between disarmament and development;
(f) Mongolia’s international security and nuclear-weapon-free status;
(g) Missiles;
(h) Compliance with arms limitation and disarmament and non-proliferation
(i) Regional disarmament;
(j) Conventional arms control at the regional and subregional levels;
(k) Improving the effectiveness of the methods of work of the First
(l) National legislation on transfer of arms, military equipment and dual-use
goods and technology;
(m) Confidence-building measures in the regional and subregional context;
(n) Promotion of multilateralism in the area of disarmament and
(o) Observance of environmental norms in the drafting and implementation
of agreements on disarmament and arms control;
(p) Follow-up to the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice on
the Legality of the Threat or Use of Nuclear Weapons;
(q) Reducing nuclear danger;
(r) Measures to prevent terrorists from acquiring weapons of mass
(s) Nuclear-weapon-free southern hemisphere and adjacent areas;
(t) Towards a nuclear-weapon-free world: a new agenda;
(u) Implementation of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development,
Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on Their
(v) Implementation of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use,
Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-personnel Mines and on Their
(w) Transparency in armaments;
(x) Nuclear disarmament;
(y) Assistance to States for curbing the illicit traffic in small arms and
collecting them;
(z) The illicit trade in small arms and light weapons in all its aspects;
(aa) United Nations conference to identify ways of eliminating nuclear
dangers in the context of nuclear disarmament;
(bb) Establishment of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in Central Asia;
(cc) Consolidation of peace through practical disarmament measures;
(dd) Convening of the fourth special session of the General Assembly
devoted to disarmament.
10. Review and implementation of the Concluding Document of the Twelfth
Special Session of the General Assembly [item 66]:
(a) United Nations Disarmament Information Programme;
(b) United Nations disarmament fellowship, training and advisory services;
(c) United Nations Regional Centre for Peace, Disarmament and
Development in Latin America and the Caribbean;
(d) United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Africa;
(e) United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Asia and
the Pacific;
(f) United Nations regional centres for peace and disarmament;
(g) Convention on the Prohibition of the Use of Nuclear Weapons;
(h) Regional confidence-building measures: activities of the United Nations
Standing Advisory Committee on Security Questions in Central Africa.
11. Review of the implementation of the recommendations and decisions
adopted by the General Assembly at its tenth special session [item 67]:
(a) Advisory Board on Disarmament Matters;
(b) United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research;
(c) Report of the Conference on Disarmament;
(d) Report of the Disarmament Commission.
12. The risk of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East [item 68].
13. 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 [item 69].
14. Strengthening of security and cooperation in the Mediterranean region
[item 70].
15. Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty [item 71].
16. Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and
Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on Their
Destruction [item 72].
I. Organizational, administrative and other matters
17. Programme planning (programme 3 of the proposed strategic framework
for the period 2006-2007) [item 109].
18. Election of the officers of the Main Committees [item 5].


Framework. The United Nations Disarmament Commission is a subsidiary organ of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) and comprises all UNGA members. Created in 1952 by the UNGA, the DC met only occasionally after 1959. In June 1978, the UNGA’s first Special Session on Disarmament established a successor Disarmament Commission (UNDC) as a subsidiary organ of the Assembly. It was created as a deliberative body, assigned to consider and make recommendations on various problems in the field of disarmament and to follow up on the relevant decisions and recommendations of the special session. It reports annually to the General Assembly.

In December 1989, the UNDC agreed that, beginning in 1991, no item should remain on the agenda for more than three consecutive years and that for each annual session, the agenda should contain no more than four substantive items. In 1998, by its decision 52/492, the General Assembly decided that the UNDC's agenda, as of 2000, would normally comprise two substantive items. That year the UNDC considered the same three items that were on the agenda in 1997. None of the working groups reached consensus on any substantive measures {6–28.4.98}. The UNGA passed a resolution calling on the UNDC to decide the date and agenda for the fourth Special Session on Disarmament (SSOD IV) {ACR 840–306 4.12.98}.

Location and Sessions. The UNDC meets at the UN headquarters in New York. In 1979, the final document of SSOD I directed the UNDC to meet for not more than four weeks. This regimen has been followed in the succeeding years, with one exception (in 1988). In addition, members hold a brief meeting in December at the conclusion of the UNGA to plan their work for the following year.

Participants. All members of the United Nations.

Agenda items over the period 1990–1999

• South African nuclear capability. 1990
• Role of the UN in the field of disarmament. 1990
• Naval arms race and disarmament. 1990
• Conventional disarmament. 1990
• Third Disarmament Decade. 1990
• Arms race and nuclear disarmament. 1991
• Objective information on military matters. 1992
• Regional approach to disarmament within the context of global security. 1993
• Role of science and technology in the context of international security, disarmament, and other related fields. 1991–1994
• Process of nuclear disarmament in the framework of international peace and security. 1991–1995. {15–30.5.95}
• Review of the Declaration of the 1990s as the Third Disarmament Decade. 1995
• International arms transfers, with particular reference to resolution 46/36H of 6 December 1991. 1996
• Establishment of nuclear-weapons-free zones on the basis of arrangements arrived at among the States of the regions concerned. 1997–1999
• The Fourth Special Session of the General Assembly devoted to disarmament. 1996–1999. {21.4–13.5.97; 6–28.4.98; 840-306 4.12.98; 806bDC99 12–30.4}
• Guidelines on conventional arms control/limitation and disarmament, with particular emphasis on the consolidation of peace. 1997–1999. {21.4–13.5.97; 6–28.4.98; ACR 806bDC99 12–30.4}
• Establishment of nuclear-weapon-free zones on the basis of arrangements arrived at among the states of the regions concerned. {ACR 806bDC99 12–30.4}

Agenda Items for 2000-2001. As of 2000, the agenda was to comprise two substantive items per session, with each session lasting three weeks, and with agenda items remaining current for three years. The two items on the agenda for 2000 and 2001, and planned to remain on the agenda for 2002, were:
• Ways and means to achieve nuclear disarmament; and
• Practical confidence-building measures in the field of conventional arms.

2002-2004 sessions. In 2002, the DC decided not to hold its substantive session and to carry over its two agenda items to 2003. {ACR 806bDC02 17.4}
The 2003 DC session was held from 31 March to 17 April 2003 under the chairmanship of Amb. Mario Maiolini of Italy. The DC did not reach consensus on its agenda but the chairman said that progress was made. {ACR 806bDC03 17.4}
The DC was unable to hold its substantive session in 2004 due to the inability of members to agree on a working program. Members also failed to set a date for a 2005 session {ACR 806bDC04 7.4}.

• Formal documents
• Informal documents
• Verbatim transcripts of sessions
• Press releases summarizing the daily sessions
• UN Disarmament Yearbook


Introduction. The Conference on Disarmament (CD) was set up as the UN body for negotiating disarmament treaties. The CD resulted from consultations among the members of its predecessor, the Conference of the Committee on Disarmament, held during the 1978 First Special Session on Disarmament (SSOD I).

The CD sets its own agenda, taking into account recommendations from the UN General Assembly (UNGA); and it submits reports annually or more often to the UNGA. Of the three standing multilateral disarmament fora — the CD, the UN Disarmament Commission, and the UN General Assembly’s First Committee — only the CD actually negotiates treaties.

Current Status. In 1998, the CD appointed ad hoc committees on negative security assurances and a fissile material cut-off treaty {27.3.98; 27.7–9.9.98}. It appointed special coordinators to deal with Prevention of An Arms Race in Outer Space (PAROS), a comprehensive program of disarmament, and transparency in armaments. In addition, the CD appointed three reform coordinators to review the agenda, consider membership expansion, and improve the CD’s functioning {27.3.98}. The CD discussed admitting five new members (Ecuador, Ireland, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, and Tunisia), but failed to reach a consensus. Work on the two other reform areas did not make much progress. {27.7–9.9.98}

In 1999, 2000, 2002, the CD failed to agree on a program of work, thus preventing substantive negotiations on the issues before it: fissile material cut-off, PAROS, and nuclear disarmament. As a consequence, it did not reconvene the ad hoc committees on fissile material cut-off or negative security assurances, or any other committees or working groups. It did approve the 1998 proposal for membership expansion. {27.7–7.9.99}

Throughout 1999–2002, the United States opposed any negotiating mandate on PAROS or nuclear disarmament. During the same period China opposed negotiating a fissile material cut-off treaty in the absence of negotiations on PAROS (ACR 615bNUC01 7.8–21.9). In 2000, CD President Celso Amorin proposed setting up three ad hoc committees: one would negotiate a fissile material cut-off treaty, while the other two would only “deal with” PAROS and nuclear disarmament. Despite a Russian effort to improve on the Amorin proposal, the stalemate continued in 2001. The CD appointed three special coordinators to examine its agenda, improve its functioning, and consider membership. Failing to find consensus on these issues, the three coordinators recommended that the CD re-appoint special coordinators for these issues in 2002. {ACR 805bCD01 27.3; 17.5–28.6; 2.8–13.9}

The 2002 CD saw the “Five Ambassadors’ Initiative” to resolve the deadlock, undertaken by the representatives of Algeria, Belgium, Chile, Columbia, and Sweden. This also proved fruitless {805bCD02 31.7–12.9}. The three special coordinators appointed in 2002 reported that they found no consensus among the members on the issues they examined. {ACR 805bCD02 31.7-12.9} In 2003, although the “Five Ambassador Proposals” was updated and received more support, the CD closed without agreeing on a program of work. {ACR 805aCD03 7.8; 14.8; 21.8; ACR 805bCD03 9.9}

In 2004, the CD decided to organize informal plenaries to assist the work of the conference {ACR 805bCD04 5.2}. Myanmar proposed and the CD accepted the establishment of four ad hoc committees: nuclear disarmament, fissban, PAROS and security assurances {805bCD04 19.2}. The CD also determined that civil, commercial and military use of space needed to be protected but that the legal ad hoc existing structure was inadequate {ACR 805bCD04 3.6}. China and Russia proposed the expansion of a legal mechanism and distributed two non-papers on PAROS {ACR 805bCD04 26.8}. In the informal meetings, the majority of the delegates, including Canada, France and Sweden, supported the re-establishment of an ad hoc committee on PAROS {ACR 805bCD04 3.6; 26.8}. The United States reiterated its pledge to negotiate an FMCT in the CD, although it maintained that an effective verification system was not achievable {ACR 805bCD04 29.7}.

Title. The Conference on Disarmament was called the Committee on Disarmament through 1983; the abbreviation “CD” is the commonly used name.

History. In 1960, there was a meeting of the Ten-Nation Disarmament Committee. The Eighteen-Nation Disarmament Committee (ENDC) began meeting on 14 March 1962. In 1969, it became the Conference of the Committee on Disarmament (CCD) and expanded to 30 members. Both committees were chaired jointly by the United States and the USSR; France had a seat in both committees but did not participate. The Conference on Disarmament, as currently constituted, began work in 1979. In 1994, priorities were set that still occupy the committee today. Four ad hoc committees were created dealing with a Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban, Outer Space, Negative Security Assurances, and Transparency in Armaments. In 1995 and 1996, only one ad hoc committee, on a Nuclear Test Ban, met. In 1995, the CD agreed to a negotiating mandate on a fissile material cut-off, but it was unable to establish an ad hoc committee. Formation of that committee and others was blocked, largely by linked issues on which various countries would not agree to negotiate {29.5–7.7.95; 3.9.96; see further below}. In 1997, for the first time, no ad hoc committees were convened {28.7–12.9.97}.

Location and sessions. CD meetings are held at the Palais des Nations in Geneva. Beginning in 1991, the annual session was divided into three (instead of two) parts. When in session the CD holds one or two plenaries each week.

Initial Agenda. Following the recommendations of the first special session of the General Assembly on disarmament, the CD began meeting with an agenda covering various topics relevant to the cessation of the arms race and disarmament. {Agenda adopted 10–11.4.79}
1. Nuclear weapons in all aspects
2. Chemical weapons (removed from the agenda in 1993 after the CD had completed the Chemical Weapons Convention on 3 September 1992)
3. Other weapons of mass destruction
4. Conventional weapons
5. Reduction of military budgets
6. Reduction of armed forces
7. Disarmament and development
8. Disarmament and international security
9. Collateral measures, confidence building measures, and effective verification methods in relation to appropriate disarmament measures, acceptable to all parties
10. Comprehensive program of disarmament leading to general and complete disarmament under effective international control

Ongoing Agenda for 2005

1. Cessation of the nuclear arms race and nuclear disarmament. A mandate for an ad hoc committee to negotiate a fissile material cut-off was adopted in 1995, but the committee never convened. With the conclusion of the CTBT, member states renewed calls for the CD to negotiate a fissile material cut-off in 1997. No progress was made during the 1997 session and no ad hoc committee was convened. In 1998, Israel, India and Pakistan agreed to CD negotiations on a fissile cut-off and an ad hoc committee was appointed on 11 August 1998. Since 1999, the CD’s failure to agree on a program of work prevented it from convening the fissile material cut-off ad hoc committee or a committee on nuclear disarmament.

2. Prevention of nuclear war, including all related matters
The Western states did not agree to a mandate proposed repeatedly by the Group of 21 from 1987 {28.8.87} through 1996 {31.1–7.4.95}. No progress was made during the 1997–2004 sessions.

3. Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space (PAROS) An ad hoc committee was not convened in 1995, 1996 or 1997. In 1998, a special coordinator was appointed to address this issue, but no progress was achieved {27.3.98}. No progress was made in 1999–2004

4. Effective international arrangements to assure non nuclear weapon states against the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons (negative security assurances or NSA) An ad hoc committee was set up in 1983 and renewed every year thereafter through 1994, but not in 1995, 1996, or 1997. The ad hoc committee was re-appointed in 1998 but met without result {27.3.98; 850–204 27.7–9.9.98}. In 1999, the CD’s failure to agree on a program of work prevented it from reconvening the ad hoc committee {27.7–7.9.99}. The item did not figure in efforts to establish ad hoc committees in subsequent years. No progress was made in 2004.

5. New types of weapons of mass destruction and new systems of such weapons; radiological weapons (RW) An ad hoc committee on radiological weapons was set up in the CD in 1979 and renewed every year through 1992. The CD did not re-establish the RW ad hoc committee after 1992 {19.1–25.3.93; 25.1–31.3.94; 31.1–4.7.95}. This item was on the Agenda from 1997 to 1999, but no ad hoc committee was convened {12.9.97; ACR 840-703 26.6.98; 27.7–7.9.99}. In 2002, CD president Volker Heinsberg of Germany proposed that the CD should continue discussing the issue by appointing a special coordinator on it. Germany also introduced a working paper on the topic. {ACR 805bCD02 31.7-12.9}

6. Comprehensive program of disarmament (CPD) A working group in the CD met in 1980–1989 without result; the UNGA recommended that the CD examine the issue again in the beginning of 1991 (ACR 801 15.12.89). The CD decided, however, not to re-open the working group in 1991–1997 {ACR 805bCD91 30.5; 31.1–7.4.95}. In 1998, the CD appointed a special coordinator for this topic, but instructed specifically to deal with landmines {ACR 708bLMC98 27.3; 26.6}. No action was taken in 1999–2004.

7. Transparency in armaments (TIA) (see section 709). The CD added this item in May 1992 {14.5–26.6.92} and created an ad hoc committee in 1993 {19.1–25.3.93} and 1994 {25.1–31.3.94}, but did not renew the committee in 1995 {31.1–7.4.95}. In 1996, the Special Coordinator for Review of the Agenda suggested replacing this item by a broader one, “conventional disarmament” {3.9.96}. No action was reported in 1997. In 1998, the CD appointed a special coordinator on TIA, who held inconclusive discussions with several delegations {27.3.98; 27.7–9.9.98}. No action was taken in 1999–2004.

8. Landmines In 1996, the Special Coordinator for Review of the Agenda recommended opening talks on banning landmines {3.9.96}. No progress was made in 1997 as no ad hoc committee was convened {28.7–12.9.97}. In 1998, the CD appointed a special coordinator for a “comprehensive program of disarmament, “but specifically to deal with the landmine issue. Discussions, however, made no progress {ACR 708bLMC98 27.3; 26.6}. No action was taken in 1999–2002. The item was not on the 2003-2004 agenda.

9. Consideration and adoption of the annual report and any other report, as appropriate, to the General Assembly of the United Nations.

Participants. On 17 June 1996, the CD expanded its membership to 61. Membership was again expanded in 1999 with the addition of five more members, for a total of 66. The 66 members are: Algeria, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bangladesh, Belarus, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Cameroon, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Congo (DR of), Cuba, Ecuador, Egypt, Ethiopia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Korea (DPR of), Korea (Rep of), Malaysia, Mexico, Mongolia, Morocco, Myanmar, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, Peru, Poland, Romania, Russia, Senegal, Slovakia, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Switzerland, Syria, Tunisia, Turkey, Ukraine, United States, United Kingdom, Venezuela, Vietnam, Yugoslavia, and Zimbabwe.

Procedures. The chair of the CD rotates every four working weeks in accordance with the English alphabetical list of states {ACR box 24.8.90}. Decisions are made by consensus. Plenary meetings are generally public. Ad hoc committee meetings are private (see the Agenda below).

Official records. The CD publishes a variety of records.
• Verbatim Transcripts of plenary sessions, designated CD/PV (procès verbale)
• Documents, designated CD/.
• Informal pieces, designated CD/INF.
• Working papers, designated CD/(initials of working group)/WP.
• Conference room papers, designated CD/(initials of working group)/CRP.
In addition, developments in the CD are discussed in the UN Disarmament Yearbook and Disarmament Times, a publication of the NGO Committee on Disarmament.

22 January-30 March 2001 24 January–1 April 2005 First (winter) Part
30 May–15 July 2005 Second (spring) Part
8 August–23 September 2005 Third (summer) Part

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