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 173 2. Other political and security questions 176 3. Environmental, economic, social, humanitarian and cultural questions 178 4. Law of the sea 192 5. International Court of Justice 194 6. International Law Commission 223 7. United Nations Commission on International Trade Law 225 8. Legal... (see full summary)

 
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GENERAL REVIEW OF THE LEGAL ACTIVITIES OF THE UNITED

NATIONS AND RELATED INTERGOVERNMENTAL ORGANIZATIONS

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

1. DISARMAMENT AND RELATED MATTERS1

(a) Nuclear disarmament issues

During 1998, the Conference on Disarmament was unable to overcome the existing differences in perception among its members concerning the item on cessation of the nuclear arms race and nuclear disarmament, and only in August established an ad hoc committee on the question of a treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons.

Also during the year, the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization2 and its subsidiary bodies proceeded with their tasks of establishing an effective global verification regime and with other activities necessary for the implementation of the Treaty, and preparations for the 2000 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons of 19683 continued at the second session of the Preparatory Committee.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) continued with efforts to strengthen and increase the effectiveness of its safeguards system. The number of States signatories to the Model Protocol Additional to Safeguards Agreements,4

which provides IAEA with the legal authority to implement a more effective safeguards system to detect and verify possible non-peaceful nuclear activities in a State at an early stage, increased to 35.5

The United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM) continued its activities related to verifying Iraq’s declarations concerning full, final and complete disclosure of its proscribed chemical, biological and missile programmes, as requested by the Security Council in its resolutions 687 (1991) and 707 (1991), but encountered difficulty as a result of Iraq’s refusal to cooperate. In August, Iraq suspended its cooperation with UNSCOM and IAEA. IAEA resumed its activities in Iraq for a short period of time, but withdrew its staff along with UNSCOM in mid-December, prior to military action by the United States of America and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.6

Regarding nuclear-weapon-free zones, in implementation of General Assembly resolution 52/38 S of 9 December 1997 on the establishment of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in Central Asia, and in response to a request made by the Central Asian States, it was decided to establish a group of experts to prepare the form and elements of an agreement on such a zone. The group of experts held three meetings and by the end of the year had agreed upon 80 per cent of the articles.

At the bilateral level, the United States and the Russian Federation continued to reduce their nuclear arsenals on the basis of existing treaties, but the ratification of the 1993 START II Treaty7 by the Russian Federation was not finalized. All nuclear-weapon States reported that they had undertaken unilaterally a number of measures, such as reducing their stocks of nuclear weapons and putting under safeguards part of their fissile materials.

Consideration by the General Assembly

The General Assembly, on the recommendation of the First Committee, took action on 18 draft resolutions and two decisions dealing with nuclear disarmament, adopting them on 4 December 1998.

Among the resolutions adopted was resolution 53/77 Y, entitled “Towards a nuclear-weapon-free world: the need for a new agenda”. Also adopted was resolution 53/78 D, entitled “Convention on the Prohibition of the Use of Nuclear Weapons”, in which the Assembly reiterated its request to the Conference on Disarmament to commence negotiations in order to reach agreement on an international convention prohibiting the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons under any circumstances. The Assembly also adopted resolution 53/75, entitled “Conclusion of effective international arrangements to assure non-nuclear-weapon States against the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons”, and resolution 53/80, concerning the risk of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East.

In the area of nuclear testing, the General Assembly adopted resolution 53/77 G, which was concerned with the recent nuclear tests conducted in South Asia.

There were several resolutions adopted regarding nuclear-weapon-free zones: resolution 53/74, entitled “Establishment of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the region of the Middle East”; resolution 53/77 A, “Establishment of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in Central Asia”; resolution 53/77 D, “Mongolia’s international security and nuclear-weapon-free status”; resolution 53/77 Q, “Nuclear-weapon-free southern hemisphere and adjacent areas”; resolution 53/77 H, “Regional disarmament”, concerning the regions of Central and Eastern Europe; and resolution 53/83, entitled “Consolidation of the regime established by the 1967 Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean (Treaty of Tlatelolco)”.8

Furthermore, the General Assembly adopted resolution 53/77 C, entitled “Prohibition of the dumping of radioactive wastes”.

(b) The Chemical and Biological Conventions

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons continued with its activities under the 1992 Chemical Weapons Convention,9 and the Conference of the States Parties to the Convention and the Executive Council adopted a number of decisions concerning the functioning of the Organisation. A great number of chemical weapons production facilities were inspected and some of those facilities were certified as completely destroyed.

Efforts to strengthen the 1971 Biological Weapons Convention10 through the development of a legally binding protocol to the Convention continued throughout the year in the framework of the Ad Hoc Group of the Conference on Disarmament tasked with negotiating such an instrument. Negotiations continued on the basis of the rolling text; however, considerable differences of position remained as of its last session.

UNSCOM continued its inspection activities in connection with the proscribed chemical and biological weapons and missile production in Iraq with considerable difficulties and, by the end of the year, its activities completely ceased.

Consideration by the General Assembly

Resolutions concerning the Chemical Weapons Convention (resolution 53/77

R) and the Biological Weapons Convention (resolution 53/84) were adopted on 4 December 1998. Also adopted on the same date was resolution 53/77 L, entitled “Measures to uphold the authority of the 1925 Geneva Protocol”.11

(c) Global, regional and other approaches to conventional weapons issues

At the global level, the subjects of small arms, including illicit trafficking, and transparency in armaments were addressed in the United Nations and other multilateral forums. The phenomenon of the excessive accumulation of small arms and their proliferation was considered by the Security Council, the General Assembly, the Economic and Social Council and the United Nations Secretariat, with the Department for Disarmament Affairs being designated the focal point for coordinating all related action in the United Nations system. There were two major developments: a decision of the General Assembly (see resolution 53/77 E) to convene an international conference on the illicit arms trade in all its aspects not later than 2001, and the Declaration of a Moratorium on the Importation, Exportation and Manufacture of Small Arms and Light Weapons in West Africa by the Economic Community of West African States (see resolution 53/77 B).

The United Nations Register of Conventional Arms and the standardized instrument of international reporting of military expenditures continued to contribute to building transparency in military matters. However, differences among Member States continued regarding further development of the Register, with some States (members of the European Union, countries associated with it and the United States) advocating the inclusion of additional information on procurement through national production and military holdings, and others, mostly non-aligned States, advocating the inclusion of weapons of mass destruction.

Consideration by the General Assembly

At its fifty-third session, on 4 December 1998, the General Assembly took action, on the recommendation of the First Committee, on 15 draft resolutions. On the issue of illicit arms trade, in addition to the two resolutions mentioned above, the Assembly adopted two further resolutions: resolutions 53/77 M and 53/77 T.

In the area of transparency, three resolutions also were adopted: resolutions 53/72, 53/77 S and 53/77 V. In the latter resolution, the General Assembly reaffirmed its determination to ensure the effective operation of the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms.

Regarding the issue of anti-personnel mines, the General Assembly adopted resolution 53/77 N on the same date. The resolution promoted the 1977 Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-personnel Mines and on Their Destruction.12 And in its resolution 53/81, entitled “Convention on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons Which May Be Deemed to Be Excessively Injurious or to Have Indiscrim-

inate Effects”,13 the Assembly expressed satisfaction that the Protocol on Blinding Laser Weapons (Protocol IV)14 had entered into force on 30 July 1998 and that the amended Protocol on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Mines, Booby Traps and Other Devices (Protocol II)15 had entered into force on 3 December 1998.

The General Assembly also adopted a number of resolutions concerned with regional conventional weapons disarmament, including: resolution 53/77 O, entitled “Regional disarmament”; resolution 53/77 P, entitled “Conventional arms control at the regional and subregional levels”; resolution 53/78 A, entitled “Regional confidence-building measures: activities of the United Nations...

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