Represented by Martin Ebeling and Ruth Halle
Our job in the First Committee of the General Assembly of the United Nations was to take care of disarmament and international security. “Said and done!”, or so we thought and dug into the research. The topics on this year’s agenda were various. They were:
- Private Military and Security Companies in Conflict;
- Combating the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons;
- Measures to Uphold the Authority of the 1925 Geneva Protocol.
These topics were of special interest for us because we discovered that, disarmament and arms control is a priority on the Japanese agenda, and Japan takes a very active role in the discussion and often initiates new ideas. Due to historical reasons, nuclear disarmament is one of the main focus points of Japanese policy. But Japan is also very active concerning the other topics which were on this year’s agenda. E.g. Japan has extensive initiatives regarding biological and chemical weapons, has ratified and enforced the Geneva Protocol and the follow-up conventions and it gives assistance to other countries in their efforts to do so and invites them to share its experiences.
The research about the Japanese policy regarding private military and security companies in conflict situations turned out to be a little more challenging, due to the fact that there is no official policy with regard to these companies, as well as a, so far, rather passive stance of the United Nations. But these obstacles made the research even more challenging. The more fertile was our engagement in the third topic on the combat of the illicit trade of small arms and light weapons, but more about that later.
After we had thoroughly familiarized ourselves with the Japanese position on the topics on the agenda we felt well-prepared and were very much looking forward to the negotiations in New York. The session of the First Committee started out with the discussion and voting on the agenda. Thus we had to make first alliances, lobby and mobilize support for our national agenda. Our main priority for agenda-setting was to set the fight against the Illicit Trade of Small Arms and Light Weapons as the first topic on the agenda. Fortunately, several countries shared this opinion, so the agenda passed without many difficulties.
After this first small success we went into the first substantial debate. The central point of the Japanese policy with regard to small arms and light weapons is to establish long-lasting international binding instruments to control the legal trade with conventional weapons and therewith to limit the possibilities for illicit trade. Therefore, our main goal during the negotiations was to make progress with regard to the establishment of an international convention for the regulation of the trade with conventional weapons, the Arms Trade Treaty, which is supposed to also include small arms and light weapons as well as ammunitions. In addition to that we meant to enhance and support the implementation and enforcement of already existing mechanisms like the Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects (PoA) and would of course support all initiatives of other delegations in this direction. In addition to that we continuously tried to include references to the concept of Human Security in the proposals. This concept includes the idea that international security should not only be seen with respect to nation states but to focus more on the individual. For the topic on our agenda this idea is especially important since civilians are most affected by the illicit trade of small arms.
In cooperation with other states, e.g. Uruguay and Switzerland, we worked out a working paper, which we then merged with the working paper of some European states in one very long nightshift. The combined paper laid down the framework and timetable for the drafting and establishment of the Arms Trade Treaty and already included some of the most fundamental principles which were supposed to be covered by it. By incorporating some proposals of other groups we managed to gather a broad support for our draft resolution which was then passed as a resolution by the First Committee during voting procedure on the last day of the conference.
Other draft resolutions focused more on the fight against terrorism, the establishment of financial funds for the support of measures for the implementation of the PoA, disarmament, demobilization and reintegration measures. Most of the drafts were passed as resolutions, some of them also with Japanese support.
All in all it was a successful session of the First Committee for Japan, even if we personally would have wished for more time to discuss the topics left on the agenda. For both of us it was a great and very rewarding experience for us, which we will cherish for a long time.