Millenium Summit Ignores Disarmament

by Jim Wurst


Disarmament was one of the four key issues to be discussed at the UN Millennium Summit, held from September 6-8 , but you wouldn’t know from the speeches. The dominant theme was globalization with accompanying focus on debt reduction. Reforming peacekeeping was the major security issue raised; but even here, the relevant issue of light weapons proliferation was only briefly touched upon. Nuclear disarmament was a very poor runner-up.

Seven of the eight nuclear powers either ignored the issue or made rote statements. Only Russia made any specific comments on nuclear disarmament, mostly notably on the militarization of space. The US and UK did not mention the issue at all. Russia’s President Vladimir Putin repeated his government’s position in support of the ABM Treaty as part of the "foundation" of "an efficient mechanism for disarmament." He also said, "Particularly alarming are the plans for militarization of the outer space." Putin proposed holding "an international conference on prevention of the outer space militarization" in spring 2001.

Nuclear disarmament fared slight better in the consensus UN Millennium Declaration. Under the "Peace, Security and Disarmament" heading of the Declaration, states resolved "to strive for the elimination of weapons of mass destruction, particularly nuclear weapons and to keep all options open for achieving this aim, including the possibility of convening an international conference to identify ways of eliminating nuclear dangers."

Earlier drafts explicitly called for the conference - an idea floated by Secretary-General Kofi Annan in his Millennium Report earlier this year - but the P5, especially the US and France, opposed it. Inserting the word "possibility" saved the proposal from being dropped entirely from the Declaration.

The Declaration was adopted by the General Assembly by consensus on September 5. However, even with the equivocating language inserted, the US and France still went on record opposing the conference. France said it "has a reservation on the idea of an international conference on pinpointing nuclear dangers. It is a question of options that can lead to the elimination of weapons of mass destruction, especially nuclear weapons. We recall our preference for convening a fourth special session of the General Assembly devoted to disarmament." The US representative said, "The United States has strong and oft-repeated reservations to such a conference."

The Summit was a governmental affair, but at the very end, NGOs were permitted a presentation. The Declaration and Agenda for Action of the Millennium Forum - the NGO event held in May - was presented to the presidents of the Summit. The "Peace, Security, and Disarmament" section of the Declaration calls on governments "to promptly carry out their obligations in the [NPT] to eliminate all nuclear weapons and to ban them," to "initiate a worldwide freeze on armed forces and a 25% cut in production and export of major weapons and small arms," and to "establish a commission at the UN to devise ways of stopping the technological development of new and more advanced weapons."


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