Armed with newly gained knowledge and awareness of disarmament approaches from our special nine week trek into the realm of arms control and disarmament, the 2011 United Nations (UN) Disarmament Fellows returned to the 66th session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) for their final workshop, the First Committee. The concepts laid out during the first segment of the study program at the Conference on Disarmament (CD) in Geneva are now the issues being debated here in New York. The First Committee focuses on disarmament and international security, and deals with challenging agenda questions that include: preserving peace and international security; addressing problems regarding arms control, nuclear disarmament, and stemming the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD); and supporting ongoing efforts to preserve outer space for peaceful purposes.
The activities of the First Committee are designed to provide a forum where all member states can voice their opinions on important issues related to arms control, disarmament, non-proliferation and preventing the spread of WMD. Many seek to use the UN forum to forge a consensual approach to issues, while others use it simply to stake out national positions. Early in this fellowship, I learned about the persistent stagnation of multilateral disarmament efforts within the CD. The First Committee is very cognizant of the bitter realities of the CD and now finds itself in a difficult spot to reach for compromise solutions to the most critical problems of disarmament and non-proliferation.
During the opening week of the First Committee delegations expressed frustration over the lack of progress in the disarmament "machinery". However, in the same breath, almost all of the delegates recognized and welcomed this year's positive developments in the nuclear field, notably with the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) between the two nations who possess the largest number of nuclear weapons, the United States and Russia. This treaty takes a significant step towards nuclear disarmament and, in my view, is an encouraging sign of their commitment to a world without nuclear weapons.
Reaching an environment conducive to achieving the peace and security of a world free of nuclear weapons is possible, but will be a long-term, step-by-step process that requires hard work from all states, nuclear and non-nuclear. Recent and ongoing nuclear efforts by the permanent five (P-5) countries -- China, France, Russian Federation, the United Kingdom and the United States -- aimed at fulfilling their commitments within the framework of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) have been viewed favorably, as noted by delegations speaking during the nuclear-themed debates last week.
Many of the diplomats I spoke to have devoted tremendous efforts over the years, engaging and using their diplomatic skills to overcome gridlock in the CD. So far, I've heard countless stories describing the struggle to achieve a consensus that will enable the CD to begin multilateral disarmament negotiation. Now I have witnessed in the First Committee many of the same divisions on the issues, especially those dealing with nuclear disarmament. Still, the potential for these institutions to advance multilateral disarmament goals remains very real and at the forefront of the aspirations of most delegations. I believe that every government that is committed to the goal of a world free of nuclear weapons and securing ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) should also support a ban on the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons purposes. They should support concrete actions to begin the long overdue negotiations in this field.
Over the course of the coming weeks, the committee plans to discuss and adopt approximately 40 to 60 draft resolutions and decisions of UNGA. In light of a number of encouraging developments, I hope that the committee seizes the opportunity and current momentum for creating a world without nuclear weapons by solidifying a viable plan of action, enabling the CD to commence multilateral negotiations on a Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty.
As a Disarmament Fellow, I have cultivated important partnerships with other fellows and diplomats, and believe I am ready for some practical experience negotiating as a U.S. government official. I certainly look forward to making my own contributions to the ever-evolving process of multilateral disarmament and arms control.
October 24 marks United Nations Day. On United Nations Day, the United States joins 192 fellow member states in celebrating the founding ideals of the UN Charter.