Historical archive

Opening statement for a workshop on enhancing the role of the First Committee of the UN General Assembly (Traavik)

Historical archive

Published under: Bondevik's 2nd Government

Publisher Ministry of Foreign Affairs

We are organising this workshop in order to sustain the momentum of the process of revitalising the First Committee and other multilateral processes in disarmament and non-proliferation, which started at this year’s UN General Assembly, State Secretary Kim Traavik said when he opened the workshop. (10.12.03)

State Secretary Kim Traavik

Opening statement for a workshop on enhancing the role of the First Committee of the UN General Assembly (disarmament and non-proliferation)

Oslo, 8 December 2003

Excellencies, distinguished representatives,

We are organising this workshop in order to sustain the momentum of the process of revitalising the First Committee and other multilateral processes in disarmament and non-proliferation, which started at this year’s UN General Assembly. We hope the discussions will generate additional insights and enlarge the common ground in our thinking about these important matters.

Multilateralism is a core principle of Norwegian foreign policy. Our support for the United Nations has always been and remains firm. We are committed to doing what we can to strengthen the UN and enhance its ability to deal with current and future challenges. Hence, we have advocated improvements in the organisation’s working methods.

Our point of departure is that multilateralism and its main expression the UN, must adapt and respond to new challenges or risk increasing irrelevance. Over the last fifty years multilateralism has delivered results. It can continue to do so by becoming more efficient, more focussed and more solution-oriented.

Hence, we have welcomed the reform initiatives launched by the UN Secretary General in recent years, including the proposals he put forward at this year’s session of the General Assembly. We agree with Kofi Annan that periodic questioning of the adequacy or the efficiency of UN bodies and modalities should cause no embarrassment. On the contrary, it would be embarrassing if we did not conduct a critical review from time to time. Circumstances and challenges change, the UN needs to change, too.

We welcome the initiative taken by the Secretary General to set up a High-level Panel on global security threats and reform of the international system. Norway is committed to supporting this initiative and will provide financial support for the work of the panel.

As a small country it is clearly in Norway’s interest to promote international peace and security on the basis of legally binding treaties. The performance of the international community in dealing with security threats and challenges is uneven.

We need to strengthen the multilateral approach to disarmament, arms control and non-proliferation. We are concerned that multilateralism in this area has been under strain in recent years. Reform of the international negotiating bodies is essential if multilateralism is to serve our needs in a changing security environment.

The First Committee has played an important role in addressing new topics and setting the agenda for multilateral negotiations. But in recent years the committee has become something of an underachiever. Hence, it is time to take a critical look at the Committee’s working methods with a view to enabling us to make better use of it in the future. Let me underline, however, that improving these working methods must be part of the broader process of revitalising the General Assembly.

A number of countries, including my own, have introduced specific suggestions. As you know, we believe that the number of resolutions should be reduced, that the time of the committee should be managed more efficiently, and that its discussions should be more focussed and more thematically integrated.

It seems to us that revitalisation of the First Committee could have a positive spill-over effect on both the Conference on Disarmament and the UN Disarmament Commission. The objective must be to empower the CD to do what it is supposed to do: negotiate multilateral instruments that enhance our collective security.

We are disappointed that, from this point of view, the CD has not been functioning as it should for the last seven years. We regret in particular that the CD has been unable to start negotiations on a Fissile Materials Cut-off Treaty.

In the longer term, it is imperative to ensure the further strengthening of the authority and integrity of vital treaties such as the Non-proliferation Treaty, the Chemical Weapons Convention and the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention. The upcoming Review Conference of the NPT offers us a good opportunity in this respect.

Ladies and gentlemen,

We hope and trust the present workshop will engender concrete and specific ideas that may contribute to further enhancing the role of the First Committee and bolster effective multilateralism. If so, it will contribute to a more effective UN that can play its role in full.

I wish you every success in your deliberations.

VEDLEGG