Chapter III. 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 matters 113 2. Other political and security questions 123 3. Environmental, economic, social, humanitarian and cultural questions 125 4. Law of the Sea 152 5. International Court of Justice 153 6. International Law Commission 168 7. United Nations Commission on International Trade 169 8. Legal... (see full summary)

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


      (a) Comprehensive approaches to disarmament

      (i) Role of the United Nations in the field of disarmament

      In 1989, both the First Committee of the United Nations General Assembly and the Disarmament Commission devoted their attention to numerous aspects of the question of the United Nations role in disarmament. The Conference on Disarmament, for its part, focused mainly on its own role and functioning and on the relation between multilateralism and bilateralism in disarmament negotiations.

      The Disarmament Commission continued the consideration of its agenda item entitled “Review of the role of the United Nations in the field of disarmament” as a matter of priority. It was not able, however, to complete the elaboration of concrete recommendations and proposals, in spite of intense deliberations within the relevant working group and in informal negotiations.

      On the whole, the 1989 deliberations on the role of the United Nations in the field of disarmament presented many positive aspects and reflected major changes in attitudes and perceptions. In this much improved situation, many found it easier to view disarmament and the role of the United Nations as components of a credible strategy for international peace and security.

      On 15 December 1989, the General Assembly adopted a number of resolutions in this area: resolution 44/116 Q2 on the review of the role of the United Nations in the field of disarmament; resolutions 44/119 C3 and D4 on the reports of the Disarmament Commission and Conference on Disarmament, respectively; and resolution 44/119 A5 on the Declaration of the 1990s as the Third Disarmament Decade.

      Regarding the United Nations regional centres for peace and disarmament in Africa, in Asia and the Pacific, and in Latin America and the Caribbean, the General Assembly on 15 December 1989 adopted resolution 44/117 F6 wherein it appealed to Member States, as well as international governmental and nongovernmental organizations, to make voluntary contributions in order to strengthen the effective operational activities of the centres. In its resolution 44/ 117 E,7 on the United Nations disarmament fellowship, training and advisory services programme, also adopted on 15 December 1989, the Assembly expressed its appreciation to the Governments of the German Democratic Republic, the

      Federal Republic of Germany, Japan, Sweden, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and the United States of America for inviting the 1989 fellows to study selected activities in the field of disarmament, thereby contributing to the fulfilment of the overall objectives of the programme; and also expressed gratitude to the Government of Nigeria for serving as host to the United Nations Regional Disarmament Workshop for Africa, which examined African security perceptions and requirements including related regional issues, and to the Government of Norway for making financial contributions to the Workshop.

      Finally, the General Assembly also adopted on 15 December 1989 resolution 44/1228 on compliance with arms limitation and disarmament agreements; resolution 44/116 G9 on implementation of General Assembly resolutions in the field of disarmament; and resolution 44/118 B10 on science and technology for disarmament.

      (ii) Question of general and complete disarmament: the comprehensive programme of disarmament

      On 15 December 1989, the General Assembly adopted resolution 44/119 A,11 in which it called upon the Conference on Disarmament to consider, at the beginning of its 1991 session, the resumption of the work of the Ad Hoc Committee on the Comprehensive Programme of Disarmament with the aim of resolving the outstanding issues in order to conclude the elaboration of the programme.

      (iii) Confidence— and security-building measures

      In 1989, a major set of negotiations concerning confidence- and security-building measures in Europe began in Vienna within the framework of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe process. The prospects for its successful conclusion seemed to be favourable, as there was more common ground in the positions of the participating States, particularly those of Eastern European and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) States, than at the beginning of the Stockholm Conference on Confidence- and Security-building Measures and Disarmament in Europe.

      In the course of its 1989 session, the Disarmament Commission addressed the question of naval armaments and disarmament, including maritime confidence-building measures, in a consultation group, as it had done at its three previous sessions. A number of proposals on the subject were made and there was some progress in its substantive consideration, but the United States of America once again chose not to participate in this aspect of the work of the Commission.

      The considerable support for a confidence- and security-building approach evinced by Member States was reflected in the four resolutions in the subject area that the General Assembly adopted at its forty-fourth session, two of them by consensus: resolutions 44/116 I, 44/116 U, 44/116 M and 44/116 P. Three of the resolutions dealt with matters covered in earlier resolutions: the Vienna negotiations and naval disarmament. The fourth dealt with defensive security concepts and policies, an aspect of security to which attention is increasingly being drawn. There were also indications of growing interest in the applicability of the confidence-building approach to regions other than Europe.

      (b) Nuclear disarmament

      (i) Nuclear-arms limitation and disarmament

      In 1989, the two major Powers continued to make progress towards the conclusion of a treaty on the 50 per cent. reduction of their strategic nuclear weapons. At their Malta meeting, in December, their leaders agreed to resolve the remaining issues by the time of their summit meeting in June 1990 and to sign the treaty before the end of that year.

      Within the multilateral framework, in the Conference on Disarmament, there was again a lack of agreement on an appropriate organizational arrangement for dealing with the item and there were no changes in well-known positions. In a plenary meeting early in August, the heads of the delegations of the United States and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics to the bilateral talks on nuclear and space arms made detailed presentations on the status of their negotiations.

      The subsequent resolutions of the General Assembly on nuclear disarmament underlined once again the special responsibility of the two major Powers for nuclear disarmament and at the same time reflected the conviction of a majority of States Members of the United Nations that the Conference on Disarmament should continue to be entrusted with the consideration of a number of global questions requiring urgent multilateral attention, among them the issues of nuclear disarmament, the cessation of nuclear tests and the prevention of an arms race in outer space.

      Specific resolutions in this area adopted by the General Assembly, on 15 December 1989, included resolutions 44/116 B and 44/116 K,12 on bilateral arms negotiations; resolution 44/116 D13 on nuclear disarmament; resolution 44/116 H14 on the prohibition of the production of fissionable material for weapons purposes; and resolution 44/117 D15 on a nuclear-arms freeze.

      (ii) Prevention of nuclear war

      In 1989, the question of the prevention of nuclear war remained on the agenda of the Disarmament Commission, the Conference on Disarmament and the General Assembly. It continued to be the object of active consideration in those bodies. The General Assembly adopted, as it has each year since the early 1980s, three initiatives of Socialist and non-aligned members calling for the Conference on Disarmament to conduct negotiations concerning the obligation of non-first use, practical measures for the prevention of nuclear war and a convention prohibiting the use of nuclear weapons: resolutions 44/119 B, 44/119 E and 44/117 C.16

      The two major Powers, for their part, continued to make progress in their efforts to put United States-Soviet relations on a more productive and sustainable basis and to reduce further the risk of any conflict which might lead to nuclear war.

      (iii) Cessation of all nuclear-test explosions

      The most noteworthy activity on the question of nuclear testing took place in the bilateral negotiations between the Soviet Union and the United States.

      Regarding the work of the Conference on Disarmament, for the sixth successive year, it was unable to reach consensus on a mandate for a subsidiary body to deal with the question of a nuclear-test ban. Elsewhere in the United Nations, the Secretary-General conveyed to the General Assembly the second annual register of information provided to him on nuclear test explosions; and, once again, as in 1987 and 1988, the General Assembly adopted two traditional resolutions: resolutions 44/105 and 44/107.17 One, sponsored mainly by non-aligned States, focused on the establishment, within the Conference on Disarmament, of a subsidiary body with a mandate to negotiate a multilateral treaty on the complete cessation of nuclear-test explosions. The other, chiefly sponsored by Australia and New Zealand but enjoying diverse co-sponsorship, focused on the initiation of substantive work in the Conference on the various issues involved in working out such a treaty.

      Both of those initiatives drew very wide support, but the negative votes of all three Western nuclear-weapon States on the former initiative and the negative votes of two of the three (France and United States) and the abstention of the third (United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland) on the latter suggested that there was still some distance to go. Furthermore, the United Kingdom and the United States, while affirming that they would continue to fulfil their duties as depositaries, voted...

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