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 93 2. Other political and security questions 98 3. Environmental, economic, social, humanitarian and cultural questions 106 4. Law of the sea 123 5. International Court of Justice 125 6. International Law Commission 144 7. United Nations Commission on International Trade 145 8. Legal... (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 issues

      The most recent global instrument concerning nuclear tests is the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty,2 concluded and opened for signature in 1996, which prohibits any nuclear-weapon test explosion or any other nuclear explosion in any environment. The Treaty has been signed by a large number of States, including the five nuclear-weapon States, and eight had ratified it by the end of 1997.

      At the bilateral level, the negotiations known as strategic arms reduction talks (START), between the Russian Federation and the United States of America, led to the signing of two treaties: START I and START II. The former, signed in 1991, provides for a signature reduction of the Russian and the United States strategic nuclear weapons over seven years. The latter, signed in 1993, provides for the elimination of MIRVed3 ICBMs4 and for the reduction of strategic nuclear warheads to no more than 3,000 to 3,500 each by the year 2003. The START II Treaty was ratified by the United States on 26 January 1996, and while the Russian Federation has not yet done so, the two States reached an understanding that once START II enters into force, they would immediately begin negotiations on START III, which would establish lower levels of their strategic nuclear war-heads.

      The most important instrument concerning nuclear non-proliferation is the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons of 1968, on the basis of which a global non-proliferation regime has been established.5

      The safeguards system of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)

      is a crucial aspect of the non-proliferation regime and steps have been taken over the years to reinforce it. IAEA made a major change in its safeguards system by adopting the draft Model Protocol Additional to Safeguards Agreements,6 which is expected to increase its ability to detect undeclared nuclear activities. The five nuclear-weapon States expressed their intention to apply those measures provided for in the Model Protocol as regards their obligations under the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

      The Nuclear Monitoring Group of IAEA, assisted by and in coordination with the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM), continued to imple-93

      ment an ongoing plan for monitoring and verifying Iraq's compliance with relevant Security Council resolutions. The deterioration in the relations between Iraq and UNSCOM also affected the work of the IAEA inspection teams. The IAEA General Conference, on 3 October 1997, adopted a resolution7 on the implementation of the United Nations Security Council resolutions relating to Iraq, by which it stressed Iraq's obligation to hand over without further delay currently undisclosed nuclear-weapon-related equipment, material and information and to allow IAEA inspectors unconditional and unrestricted rights of access, in accordance with Security Council resolution 707 (1991).

      In the field of safety, the Agency opened for signature the 1997 Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and on the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management.8 The Joint Convention applies to spent fuel and radioactive waste resulting from civilian nuclear reactors and applications and to spent fuel and radioactive waste from military or defence programmes if and when such materials are transferred permanently to and managed within exclusively civilian programmes, or when declared as spent fuel or radioactive waste for the purpose of the Convention.

      A number of positive developments took place with respect to existing nuclear-weapon-free zones, and the 1995 Treaty on the South-east Asia Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone (Bangkok Treaty)9 entered into force on 27 March 1997. The States parties to the Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean (Treaty of Tlatelolco)10 marked its thirtieth anniversary, and during the year the countries of the region continued to take concrete steps to consolidate the regime of military denuclearization established by the Treaty. Regarding the 1985 South Pacific Nuclear-Free Zone Treaty (Treaty of Rarotonga)," the United Kingdom ratified all three protocols to the Treaty. The status of the 1995 African Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty (Pelindaba Treaty)12 remained almost unchanged from 1996.

      Consideration by the General Assembly

      At its fifty-second session, the General Assembly, on 9 December 1997, adopted a total of 14 resolutions dealing with the subject of nuclear disarmament. Several of them are discussed below.

      By its resolution 52/38 O, the General Assembly, recalling the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice on the Legality of the Threat or Use of Nuclear Weapons, issued on 8 July 1996,13 underlined once again the unanimous conclusion of the Court that there exists an obligation to pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament in all its aspects under strict and effective international control; and called once again upon all States immediately to fulfil that obligation by commencing multilateral negotiations in 1998 leading to an early conclusion of a nuclear weapons convention prohibiting the development, production, testing, deployment, stockpiling, transfer, threat or use of nuclear weapons and providing for their elimination. The Assembly also requested all States to inform the Secretary-General of the efforts and measures they had taken on the implementation of the resolution on nuclear disarmament, and requested the Secretary-General to apprise the General Assembly of that information at its fifty-third session.

      By its resolution 52/41, the General Assembly, noting that Israel remained the only State in the Middle East that had not yet become a party to the Treaty on

      the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, called upon that State to become party to the Treaty.

      Resolutions adopted regarding nuclear-weapon-free zones included the traditional proposals for the establishment of such zones in the regions of the Middle East and South Asia, as well as a new proposal for a zone in Central Asia. The General Assembly also adopted a resolution on a nuclear-weapon-free southern hemisphere. Additionally, the Assembly adopted resolution 52/44, on the implementation of the Declaration of the Indian Ocean as a Zone of Peace.

      (b) The chemical and biological weapons conventions

      During the year, efforts continued within the Ad Hoc Group to strengthen the 1971 Biological Weapons Convention14 through the elaboration of verification and confidence-building and transparency measures. In order to assist the Ad Hoc Group in its discussions in this regard, the Chairman submitted a document entitled "Rolling text of a protocol to the Convention".15

      The General Assembly adopted on 9 December 1997, on the recommendation of the First Committee, resolution 52/47, in which the Assembly welcomed the information and data provided to date and reiterated its call upon all States parties to the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on Their Destruction to participate in the exchange of information and data agreed to in the Final Declaration of the Third Review Conference of the Parties to the Convention.16 The Assembly also welcomed the progress made by the Ad Hoc Group to-wards fulfilling the mandate established by the Special Conference of the States Parties to the Convention on 30 September 1994, and urged the Ad Hoc Group to intensify its work with a view to completing it as soon as possible before the commencement of the Fifth Review Conference and to submit its report, to be adopted by consensus, to the States parties to be considered at a special conference. The Assembly further welcomed in that context the steps taken by the Ad Hoc Group, as encouraged by the Fourth Review Conference, to review its methods of work and, in particular, the start of negotiations on a rolling text of a protocol to the Convention.

      The entry into force of the 1992 Chemical Weapons Convention17 was a major event in the field of disarmament in 1997. After the Convention entered into force, two sessions of the Conference of States parties were held and measures were taken to set up the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

      The General Assembly adopted two resolutions on the prohibition of chemical weapons: resolution 52/38 T, adopted on 9 December 1997 on the recommendation of the First Committee, entitled "Status of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on Their Destruction"; and resolution 51/230, adopted on 22 May 1997 without reference to a Main Committee, entitled "Cooperation between the United Nations and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons".

      UNSCOM continued its inspection activities in connection with the pro-scribed chemical and biological weapons and missile programmes of Iraq, as requested under various Security Council resolutions. However, towards the end of the year, the relationship between the Commission and Iraq deteriorated, and the question of free access to all sites in Iraq remained unresolved.

      (c) Global approaches to conventional weapons issues

      During 1997, increasing attention was focused on small arms and light weapons, and on practical disarmament measures that could be applied to operations in which the United Nations was involved, especially in the peace-building phase. Through the study completed in 1997 and prepared by the Panel of Governmental Experts appointed by the Secretary-General,18 which also examined the problem of illicit trafficking and the work of the Disarmament Commission on conventional arms limitation, the Organization began the delicate task of finding common ground in an area that touches the...

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