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Senior UN official calls for disarmament push amid uptick in global tensions

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© UN Photo/Martine Perret

6 April 2015 – The United Nations disarmament chief today urged Member States to work actively and seek common ground on disarmament issues related to nuclear weapons and conventional arms amid a period of increasing global tensions and violence.

Addressing the opening of the 2015 substantive session of the Organization’s Disarmament Commission (UNDC) in New York, UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs Angela Kane warned gathered delegates that efforts to reduce the global circulation of weaponry had stalled and that the prospects of nuclear disarmament were particularly “dim.”

“I have never seen a wider divide between nuclear haves and nuclear have-nots,” declared Ms. Kane.

She added that the “schism” continued to act as a “significant” obstacle to non-proliferation and underscored the need “to bridge the fissure” between Member States while noting that the world’s brewing conflicts had fed the increasing proliferation of conventional weapons.

Nonetheless, she continued, in the midst of “these dark clouds,” she had also seen some “genuine bright spots,” including the complete removal of all chemical weapons from Syria. Moreover, the bringing into force of the landmark Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) could also be considered a “major achievement” for the international community, she said, as it ensured that all actors in the arms trade complied with international standards.

The Commission, whose membership is universal, is a deliberative body mandated to make recommendations in the field of disarmament and to follow up the decisions and recommendations of the General Assembly’s first special session devoted to disarmament, in 1978. Between 1979 and 1999, the Commission was able to reach consensus at least 16 times to adopt guidelines or recommendations on disarmament subjects.

Despite the overall chiaroscuro of disarmament progress, Ms. Kane warned that the commission itself needed to ramp up its efforts in working for non-proliferation, stating that it had become “disheartening to see the commission develop into an annual box-checking exercise.”

To that point, she said, she “encouraged and cajoled” the commission to take up its “integral part” in the UN machinery and work “actively” to seek compromises to achieve common ground.

Ms. Kane observed that in an ever-complicated international security environment, the disarmament commission had an increasingly important function to deliberate and contribute to the enhancement of global security.

What is needed is the political will of Member States “to take us out of the current morass,” she concluded.