Chapter III. General review of the legal activities of the United Nations and related intergovernmental organizations

SUMMARY

A. General review of the legal activities of the United Nations 1. Disarmament and related matters 75 2. Other political and security questions 3. Environmental, economic, social, humanitarian and cultural questions 85 4. Law of the sea 5. International Court of Justice 6. International Law Commission 7. United Nations Commission on International Trade Law 8. Legal questions dealt with by ... (see full summary)

 
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  1. General review of the legal activities of the United Nations

    1.  DISARMAMENT AND RELATED MATTERS1

    (a)  Nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation issues

    The Conference on Disarmament, the single multilateral disarmament negotiating forum, had been unable to commence substantive work since 1998. Despite  the Conference’s inability in 2001 to establish a subsidiary body on nuclear disarmament, some progress was made on the issue, with both the Russian Federation and  the United States of America, for the first time in 30 years, indicating a general willingness in the Conference on Disarmament, to establish an ad hoc committee on  nuclear disarmament.

    In December 2001, the United States announced its withdrawal from the 1972  Anti-Ballistic  Missile  Treaty,2  stating  that  the  Treaty  hindered  the  Government’s  ability to develop ways to protect the country from future missile attacks from rogue  States or terrorists. A formal notification was given to the Russian Federation pursuant to the Treaty, with the effective date of withdrawal being six months from the  date of the announcement. At the same time, announcements were made by both the  United States and the Russian Federation of their intentions to drastically reduce  their nuclear arsenals.

    A second Conference on Facilitating the Entry into Force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty of 1996,3 which prohibits any nuclear-weapon-test  explosion in any environment, was held in November 2001, at which the importance of the Treaty in the field of disarmament and non-proliferation was reaf-firmed and the need for continued multilateral efforts to achieve its entry into force was stressed.

    The 1997 Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and on the  Safety of Radioactive Waste Management,4 which applies to spent fuel and radioactive waste from civilian nuclear programmes and military or defence programmes  when these materials have been permanently transferred to civilian facilities, as well  as to material that has been declared by a Contracting Party to the Convention and  to managed releases of radioactive materials into the environment from regulated  nuclear facilities, entered into force on 18 June 2001.

    Consideration by the General Assembly

    At its fifty-sixth session, the General Assembly, on the recommendation of the First Committee, took action on 12 draft resolutions and two draft decisions on 

    topics related to these issues. On 29 November 2001, the Assembly adopted decision 56/413, entitled “United Nations Conference to identify ways of eliminating nuclear dangers in the context of nuclear disarmament”, which had been introduced  by Mexico in the First Committee. The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, explaining its negative vote, together with those of France, the United  States of America and Germany against the draft resolution in committee, stated  that the process established by the 1968 Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear  Weapons5 was the cornerstone of nuclear non-proliferation and the essential foundation of nuclear disarmament; therefore, in those delegations’ view, an international  conference as a separate process would conflict with that approach to nuclear disarmament.

    The General Assembly also adopted resolution 56/25 B entitled “Convention on the Prohibition of the Use of Nuclear Weapons”, which had been introduced by  India in the First Committee. During the deliberations, Pakistan had supported the  draft, reaffirming its belief that the non-use or threat of use of nuclear weapons had its basis in the Charter of the United Nations. The United States had voted against  the draft resolution, stating in explanation that the adoption of an international convention was not a practical approach to the ultimate goal of the total elimination  of nuclear weapons, which could be achieved rather by a step-by-step process of  bilateral, unilateral and multilateral measures.

    Resolution 56/24 B, entitled “Missiles”, also adopted on 29 November, had been introduced by the Islamic Republic of Iran in the First Committee. Five States  had abstained in the vote on the draft, with comments ranging from expressions of  strong support for the draft international code of conduct developed by the Missile  Technology Control Regime to references to the contributions of the United Nations  panel of governmental experts on missiles, as well as to their own efforts in that  regard. The United States questioned the draft’s overall thrust and political intent,  wondering  whether  its  purpose  was  to  divert  attention  and  resources  away  from  ongoing missile non-proliferation, including the draft international code of conduct.  The United States held that efforts to curb the spread of missiles and related technology were more productive when conducted on a regional basis with the active  participation of concerned States, rather than the vague approach embodied in the  draft. Belgium, speaking on behalf of the European Union and a large number of  States, as well as Japan, the Republic of Korea and Australia voiced disappointment  that the draft failed to address satisfactorily the key issue of missile proliferation and  related technology.

    The General Assembly also adopted resolution 56/24 L, entitled “Prohibition of the dumping of radioactive waste”, which had been introduced by the Sudan in  the First Committee, on behalf of the Group of African States.

    (b)  Biological and chemical weapons

    Biological Weapons Convention6

    Despite increased concerns over bioterrorism after the 11 September 2001 attacks and the anthrax-related incidents that followed, multilateral efforts to strengthen  the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention suffered setbacks. The Ad Hoc Group of  States parties to the Biological Weapons Convention entered into its seventh year  of negotiations on a verification protocol to the Convention; however, the United States rejected the composite texts proposed by the Chairman of the Group and of 

    further negotiations on the protocol. The Group was therefore unable to complete  the negotiations on the draft protocol. Furthermore, the Fifth Review Conference of  the States Parties to the Biological Weapons Convention was held from 19 November to 7 December, but due to divergent views and positions among States parties  with regard to certain key issues, particularly the work of the Ad Hoc Group, the  Conference suspended the session and agreed to resume the session in 2002.

    Chemical Weapons Convention7

    In  2001,  further  progress  was  achieved  in  the  implementation  of  the  1992  Chemical Weapons Convention on the destruction of chemical weapons, as well as  the destruction or conversion of chemical weapons production facilities to peaceful  purposes. The sixth session of the Conference of the States Parties to the Chemical  Weapons Convention was held at The Hague in May, and preparations commenced  for the first Review Conference, to be convened in 2003. As part of the international efforts to combat terrorism, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) established a working group to formulate specific measures to prevent terrorist groups from acquiring and using chemical weapons.

    United Nations Monitoring, Verification and

    Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC)8

    The College of Commissioners held four meetings during 2001 to review the  implementation of Security Council resolution 1284 (1999) and other relevant resolutions, as well as to provide political advice and guidance to the Executive Chairman, including guidance on significant policy decisions and on the quarterly reports of the Chairman submitted to the Security Council through the Secretary-General.  In  addition  to  the  members  of  the  College,  representatives  of  IAEA  and  OPCW  continued to attend the meetings as observers.

    One of the main focuses of the work of the Commission remained the identification of “unresolved disarmament issues” in Iraq through the reinforced system of ongoing monitoring and verification called for by the Security Council. In 2001, the Commission completed its review of the criteria for the classification of inspection sites and facilities throughout Iraq and prepared common layouts and formats for  the reporting of site inspections to allow greater consistency and a clear basis for  analysis. Work was also completed on revision and updating of the lists of dual-use  items and materials to which the export/import mechanism applied. The revised lists  were forwarded to the Security Council on 1 June 2001.9

    As concerns its non-inspection-related sources of information, UNMOVIC initiated a commercial satellite imagery contract and continued to analyse the imagery  it was receiving through that arrangement, principally for infrastructure changes at  sites in Iraq previously subject to monitoring. The Commission also received the  results of an independent study it had commissioned on open-source information  concerning Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction capabilities in the period following  the  withdrawal  of  the  former  Special  Commission  inspectors  from  the  country.10 

    Much  work  was  devoted  to  improving  the  UNMOVIC  database  and  archive  and  making them more readily available sources of information.

    Consideration by the General Assembly

    During its fifty-sixth session, the General Assembly took action, pursuant to recommendations of the First Committee, on one draft resolution and one draft deci-

    sion regarding these issues. Decision 56/414 on the Biological Weapons Convention  had  been  introduced  by  Hungary  in  the  Committee  and  was  adopted  by  the  Assembly on 29 November. During the deliberations on the draft, several States had  expressed their disappointment that the Committee could only adopt a procedural  decision instead of a substantive resolution that would have established a political  basis for continuing the Ad Hoc...

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