E-mail Print PDF


First Committee takes place each October, from the very beginning to
the very end of that month, and often a few days into November, as was
the case this year. It is the oldest and largest of the various
subcommittees of the UN General Assembly.

First Committee deals with disarmament and international security,
which encompasses all kinds of weapons, ranging from nuclear weapons
to handguns. Typically, sessions of First Committee will result in
resolutions concerning nuclear weapons, small arms and light weapons,
chemical and biological warfare, warfare in space, cyber warfare, -
everything in short that humans do to slaughter each other in large

Ever since 1946, the largest single issue dealt with by First
Committee has been that of nuclear weapons, which at times have taken
over 50% of its time, though this year it took rather less than in
some previous years.

First Committee has a close relationship (with the same people often
attending both), with the Conference on Disarmament (itself a major
topic at this year's first committee), and the UN Disarmament

First Committee is reported on in detail by WILPF Reaching Critical
Will, and the RCW website has become a first port of call not only for
NGOs but for diplomats in search of vital information. RCW's Ray
Acheson has for a number of years held together this vital effort.

I have attended First Committee, usually for the first two weeks of
its month- long sitting, ever since October 2006, when myself and
PSR's Steven Starr held a workshop attended by just a few diplomats,
on the seemingly arcane, but actually apocalyptic, subject of the
operating status of nuclear weapon systems.

At the time I had in hand a declaration signed by 364 nongovernmental
organisations and parliamentarians, endorsed by the European
Parliament, and with the names of 44 nobel prizewinners attached. This
led in the following year (2007) to the Governments of New Zealand,
Switzerland, Sweden, Chile, Nigeria, and Malaysia, sponsoring a
resolution in First Committee and the General Assembly, on
'Operational Readiness of Nuclear Weapon Systems'that has now been
adopted by the General Assembly in 2007, 2008, and 2010. There was a
gap in 2009 as it was hoped the US would change its policy, and in
this year with the aim of going biennial.

I well remember the room in the bowels of the UN designed for 50
people with 80 diplomats crammed into it and the air-conditioning not
functioning, and dead silence as Steve showed the ultimate results of
someone in Stratcom, Kosvinsky Mt, Serpukhov-15, or the White House
making a really really bad decision.

De- alerting, or operational readiness, really deals with the
possibility of nuclear war by accident or miscalculation. Some 2-4000
nuclear warheads (depending how you count them), largely on land-based
missiles but some in submarines, and primarily but not exclusively in
the US and Russia, (but with considerable concern over India and
Pakistan), are kept on high alert. This has been characterised by Dr
Bruce Blair, formerly of Stratcom, as 'Hair Trigger Alert'. This has
led to time-wasting and misleading semantic debates that obscure the
central fact that thousands of missiles are currently configured so
that they can be launched in minutes, and that current strategic plans
depend on this ability.

This leaves ridiculously compressed timeframes for Presidents and
senior military to take decisions that could, potentially, even in
2011, in a worst-case scenario, bring about not merely the end of
civilisation in 40-90 minutes, but the end of most complex land –
based life forms if enough megatons get used. This was what Steve
showed in that 2007 animated graphic.

A number of totally terrifying 'near misses'  have taken place,
notably in September26 1983, and 1995.

Taking nuclear weapons off high alert would, basically, 'take the
apocalypse off the menu'.

Opponents of de-alerting have taken to arguing that, with nuclear
weapons not on alert, there would be, or could be in a crisis, a
're-alerting race' that would itself be de-stabilising. This argument
defies common-sense: It is akin to saying that if two gunmen face each
other with guns cocked and pointed at each others heads, they are
'safer' to stay that way forever and ought never never to contemplate
uncocking their guns and putting them away in case there is a
re-alerting race. Clearly this is utterly ridiculous.

For those unconvinced (those who do not want to be convinced will
never be convinced),by this common-sense analogy, Colonel Valery
Yarynich, formerly of the Soviet missile forces, and  one of our
panelists,has done a series of computer simulations, ('100 nuclear
wars') that show decisively that there is in fact NEVER any rational
incentive for one side to strike the other even if they have cheated
and their forces are on alert and the others are not: there will
always be enough missiles left, even on land – based ICBMs, to ensure
the utter destruction of the other side.  This shows without a shadow
of doubt not only that the re-alerting-race argument is  utterly
wrong, but that even if one side successfully cheats, (i.e. without
being detected), there is, even then, no incentive for a first strike.
In nuclear war-gamers language, a 'splendid first strike' without
catastrophic consequences, is an impossibility.

On 10 october, during the 115-2.45 break, myself, Steven Starr of PSR,
Hans Kristensen of FAS, Col Valery Yarynich, and Ambassador Dell
Higgie of NZ, chaired by Ambassador Benno Laggner of Switzerland, held
a panel in which we canvassed these issues, after an intense
discussion cum lunch at the Swiss mission. Much of the discussion both
at the panel and in the Swiss mission preceding revolved around the
fact that this year there wasn't going to be a resolution, and how to
proceed with the de-alerting campaign.

The reason for there not being a resolution this time round was
twofold: There was a desire not to repeat ourselves, and it seems that
the significant advances the resolution had made between 2008 and 2010
, from 147-3 to 157-3, with the ten new votes including China as well
as Canada, Poland, and Slovenia, - were unlikely to be repeated in
2011.  It was felt – at least by some of the de-alerting group – that
a failure to show a similar advance in 2011 would send a 'negative
signal' to the nuclear weapon states. (NWS). I am not at all certain
myself that the complete absence of a resolution doesn't send,
potentially, an equally bad message, but am comforted by the fact that
a number of other resolutions in First Committee also contain
reference to de-alerting or to decreasing nuclear posture.  The
de-alerting group seem to have agreed to put the resolution up next
year, maybe with some changes in language if that can be agreed
between them, and in the meantime to press concerns over operational
readiness and decision-making time within the NPT Review process.  I
Shall be  urging them in a memo between then and now to use the NPR
terminology of 'increasing decision-making time'.

I believe it will be vital to bring up  operational readiness in terms
as much as possible of 'decision-making time' a la NPR, at the
upcoming NPT Prepcom in Vienna, and hope to go there to facilitate
that happening.  I would suggest that it would be important both for a
paper to emanate from the NGO community taking on board Colonel
Valerys computer modelling and making it accessible in a
non-mathematical form,  and highly desirable for a formal working
paper to emanate from the de-alerting group as a whole, also couched
in terms of increasing decision-making time.

I think it is vital that  the insights of the Foreign Affairs 'Smaller
and Safer' paper and in particular of its appendix be used to put the
final nail in the coffin of the entirely non- credible arguments used
by the opponents of de-alerting, who dammit, continue to 'keep the
apocalypse on the menu'.

In addition, while it may prove more difficult to obtain a lot more
support for the de-alerting resolution in the immediate term, and
while  this is due in
large part to a perceived unwillingness on the part of the US and
Russia to entertain the idea of de-alerting, that perceived
unwillingness is in part a misperception.

It is widely asserted that the Nuclear Posture Review rejected the
idea of de-alerting, and that it endorsed fully the arguments of
opponents of de-alerting on 're-alerting races'.

This is an incomplete reading of what the NPR actually did say. The
NPR also – as Hans Kristensen pointed out  during our panel –
emphasised the need to 'increase decision making time', and to review
postures and procedures in order to do just that. Yet increasing
decision making time is the very core and essence of what de-alerting
is all about.  While seemingly rejecting de-alerting at the front
door, the NPR then admits the core of it  by the back door. It is
precisely the fact that presidents and senior military have minutes
(if that) to make truly apocalyptic decisions that keeps the
apocalypse – an entirely avoidable accidental apocalypse – on the menu
of possibilities.

The Obama administration is engaging in its Nuclear Targeting Review
as of now. While this process has never traditionally been open to
formal public submissions and does not call for them now (indeed it
has always been highly classified), carefully calibrated NGO and other
input to this process could be very helpful. The author has already
made an input entitled, unsurprisingly, 'Increasing Decision-Making
Time'. I will probably re-write it in conjunction with Colonel Valery
and Steve and  Hans to be a paper for the Vienna NPT Prepcom. I will
then doubtless submit it once more to the Targeting Review.

In spite of not appearing in a stand-alone resolution  from the
'de-alerting group', a number of other resolutions in 2011 First
Committee have contained brief or not so brief references to lowering
of operating status/operational readiness/de-alerting.

These included:

The New Agenda Resolution, which contained welcome new wording on
operational readiness/nuclear posture taken from the final declaration
of the 2010 NPT Review Conference including a reference to the
legitimate interests of non–nuclear-weapon-states in the nuclear
posture of nuclear weapon states. The New Agenda resolution  was
adopted  in 2010 by 158 'yes' votes, and in 2011 by 160, with 6 noes
and 4 abstentions. China and Russia, who had voted for it in 2010,
alas! moved to the 'abstain' category.  The relevant  wording is:

(c) Further diminish the role and significance of nuclear weapons in
all military and security concepts, doctrines and policies;
(d) Discuss policies that could prevent the use of nuclear weapons and
eventually lead to their elimination, lessen the danger of nuclear war
and contribute to the non-proliferation and disarmament of nuclear
(e)    Consider the legitimate interest of non-nuclear-weapon States in
further reducing the operational status of nuclear weapons systems in
ways that promote international stability and security;
(f) (g) 14.
Reduce the risk of accidental use of nuclear weapons; and

2) United Action/Renewed Determination
This is the joint Australia-Japan resolution on nuclear disarmament
which is probably the most widely supported nuclear disarmament
resolution  in First Committee. For some time United Action/Renewed
Determination actually had better – or a least, more specific and
detailed – wording than did New Agenda. I would suggest that in 2011
this has changed.

Nonetheless, support for United Action/Renewed Determination is to
some extent a 'baseline' for overall support for nuclear disarmament
that manages to include not only NATO states but also even  the US,
China and Russia, the UK and France. While in 2011 support for United
Action has risen from 154 yesses to 156, with 4 noes in 2010
decreasing to only 1 in 2011, the number of abstentions has risen
dramatically from 1 to 15.

The reference to de-alerting is as follows:
10.    Calls upon the nuclear-weapon States to take measures to further
reduce the risk of an accidental or unauthorised launch of nuclear
weapons in ways that promote international stability and security,
while welcoming the measures already taken by several nuclear-weapon
States in this regard;
11. Also calls upon the nuclear-weapon States to promptly engage with
a view to further diminishing the role and significance of nuclear
weapons in all military and security concepts, doctrines and policies;

This language has been criticised by some as 'code' for 'deterrence',
but I do not see that this is necessarily the case at all. I am
strongly of the opinion that the language should be taken precisely at
its face value, and not taken as 'code' for some unspoken agenda that
is never spelled out. After all, it is precisely international
stability and security that de-alerting tries to promote.

3) Nuclear Disarmament
The traditional Nuclear Disarmament resolution sponsored by Myanmar
and a very long list of non-aligned nations contains a paragraph
calling on nuclear weapon states to de-alert and de-target.

It reads as follows:
“7.    Also urges the nuclear-weapon States, as an interim measure, to
de-alert and deactivate immediately their nuclear weapons and to take
other concrete measures to reduce further the operational status of
their nuclear-weapon systems, while stressing that reductions in
deployments and in operational status cannot substitute for
irreversible cuts in, and the total elimination of, nuclear weapons;”

This in many ways excellent resolution unfortunately manages to put
off all those governments that are not part of NAM, when what is
needed is above all cross-factional support from as wide and
heterogeneous a group of governments as possible. The resolutions
specific references to internal NAM decisions make outside support
more difficult when that is what is required for success and impact.
Yet the support of even one or two 'western' countries would make an
immense difference to the impact made by the resolution which as it
stands is close to no impact at all, in spite of the support of close
to 2/3 of the planet.

It is notable that the votes on some of its operative paragraphs
notably 14 (full implementation of the 2010 Revcon Action Plan) and 16
on the negotiation of a CTBT, gained very high levels of support
indeed – 157 votes for 14 and 164 for 16.

The Nuclear Disarmament resolution as a whole gained slightly in 2011
from 2010, going from 107 votes to 113, with 44 noes in both years,
and from 20 abstentions to 18.

4)Reducing Nuclear Danger

This is the 'Indian Resolution', which New Zealand and Switzerland
vote  'no' to. This has always stuck me as highly unfortunate. The
reason given is that Reducing Nuclear Danger makes no reference to the
NPT, something that is hardly surprising as India is not an NPT
signatory and so cannot be expected to make such reference.

The text is in my view otherwise very good though again hardly
surprisingly it gives the impression that nuclear posture is an issue
that refers solely to the US and Russia, while concerns have very
rightly been expressed over strategic stability in the Indian
subcontinent. Though India and Pakistan insist that their weapons are
not on alert, Pakistan (and India's) use of truck mounted
erector-launcher vehicles configured for more or less immediate launch
with short-medium range missiles must raise questions about the
correctness or even meaningfulness of statements to the effect that
warheads and delivery vehicles are kept separate. Any missile mounted
on a TEL type vehicle clearly has not got its warhead separate, and is

Important as these considerations of strategic stability in the
subcontinent are, they do not in my view, detract from the
overwhelming importance of showing support for the idea of
de-alerting, and it is a pity that bloc boundaries cannot be breached
– as Chile, Malaysia and Nigeria do – to support the idea of
de-alerting even if a 'yes' vote to Reducing Nuclear Danger had to be
accompanied by an EoV that pointed to the problems within the
subcontinent and the desirability of some reference to NPT norms. It
is of vital importance that discussions take place between de-alerters
in India and in the de-alerting group.

Reducing Nuclear Danger passed by 103 yes votes with 48 noes and 14
abstentions in 2010 and by  an improved margin of 110 yesses 46 noes
and 12 abstentions in 2011. The full text of Reducing Nuclear Dangers
s too long to quote here, but is appended with extracts from other
resolutions that make reference to de-alerting.

5) Iranian Resolution on Followup

Another resolution that makes reference to de-alerting is of course,
the Iranian resolution on:
'Follow-up to nuclear disarmament obligations agreed to at the 1995,
2000 and 2010 Review Conferences of the Parties to the Treaty on the
Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons' A/C.1/66/L.3

The relevant section reads:
(d) Concrete agreed measures to reduce further the operational status
of nuclear weapons systems;
(e) A diminishing role for nuclear weapons in security policies so as
to minimise the risk that these weapons will ever be used and to
facilitate the process of their total elimination;

Other Issues

I have focussed almost entirely in this report on operating
status/de-alerting, but of course this is by no means the largest
nuclear issue, much as I might argue that it should be.

In fact the issue that caught most of the attention was that of the 15
– year – old logjam in the Conference on Disarmament (CD) in Geneva,
with a number of government statements expressing frustration over the
lack of progress there.

More worrying however is the number of governments that were all too
ready to defend the status–quo with the CD remaining the sole
multilateral disarmament forum, and with no change to procedure that
might prevent a single government using the consensus rule to
effectively veto progress by everyone else. While many governments
express a WISH  that progress take place, they seem quite unwilling
either to see that progress take place outside the CD or to see the
changes to procedures that are required within the CD take place.

A number of resolutions were tabled that tried in various ways to
unblock the CD.

Switzerland, the Netherlands and South Africa, tabled what they said
to me was a 'baseline resolution' (lowest common denominator) which
they expected to pass without a vote, which indeed it did.

The Swiss/Neth/SA resolution, while it strenuously urges progress
within the CD, calls for nothing more concrete or definite than for
governments to 'explore and consolidate options'.

The question is, what – if anything at all -  will be its effect on
real progress at the CD?

Another much more specific resolution on the CD was tabled by Austria,
Norway and Mexico, only to be withdrawn at the very last moment. That
resolution would have urged the CD to make progress – as in the
Swiss/Netherlands/SA resolution – but would then, absent such
progress, have referred the matter back to the GA/First Committee,
where the suggested but by no means automatic first option was to be
to set up a working group or groups that would deal with the issues of
a fissile materials cutoff treaty, nuclear disarmament, and other

The immediate feedback I had from  a number of delegates and one
highly placed UN official was that it wouldn't fly. The UN official
(shades of Sir Humphrey) said it was 'courageous'.

Still, it was the Austria/Norway/Mexico resolution that everyone got
excited about, because had it passed it would have offered the best
chance of unblocking the CD. It deserved to succeed.

PND Nuclear Flashpoints wrote a letter in support of it and the
SwissNeth/SA resolution  to the entire General Assembly.(appended).

There were significantly fewer references to nuclear weapons in the
2011 General Debate, than there had been in 2010, when there was still
a sense that progress on nuclear disarmament was possible, and in
spite of setbacks, there was a sense of optimism. There was still a
belief that the vision set out in Prague might mean something, and
that there might at least be significant reductions in both nuclear
weapons numbers and in actual nuclear posture. We might not get to
nuclear zero immediately but we would have it in sight.

Unfortunately, developments in the last year have not worked out like
that. Consequently there were not only fewer references to nuclear
weapons in the General debate, but there were more expressions of
frustration particularly at the CD logjam.

Australia's own Kevin Rudd made as good a contribution on nuclear
weapons in the General debate as anyone, given that so many foreign
ministers and heads of state didn't even mention the subject.

A number of nuclear weapons statements do however stand out as
noteworthy, and 'carried the flag' for nuclear disarmament.

These included the presentations of Ambassador Dell Higgie of NZ,
speaking on behalf of New Agenda, and of Ambassador Fasel of
Switzerland speaking on behalf of the de-alerting group and in his
national capacity. The Swiss have done an immense amount also behind
the scenes, to further nuclear disarmament.

Finally, the total number of resolutions on nuclear disarmament  is
down in 2011 from 2010 by a considerable margin.

In 2010, some 27 resolutions were adopted on nuclear disarmament.
In 2011, the number was closer to 17 (depending exactly how you
count)with one withdrawn. (2 withdrawn in 2010).

Resolutions that saw daylight in 2010 but not in 2011 included  ones
on DU, a nuclear weapon – free – zone in the Southern Hemisphere,
bilateral reductions in strategic nuclear arms (START), the High Level
Meeting on revitalising the CD, women, disarmament and
nonproliferation, the Mongolian nuclear weapon-free zone, operational
readiness of nuclear weapon systems, terrorist acquisition of nuclear
material, consolidation of the regime of the Treaty of Tlatelolco,
disarmament and nonproliferation education, and an African nuclear
weapons – free zone.

Finally its as well to look at a couple of resolutions I have not
dealt with thus far that are of major disarmament/nonproliferation
importance, though they have nothing to do with de-alerting.

1)Malaysia's resolution on followup to the 1996 advisory opinion of
the International Court of Justice.

Those who can remember 15 years back, hopefully remember the CJ
decision that essentially declared the use or threat of use of nuclear
weapons to be illegal and that unanimously affirmed the obligation on
the nuclear weapons states to negotiate away their nuclear arsenals by

Malaysia has put up a resolution every year to remind us of this
momentous event and to press for the negotiation of a nuclear weapons
convention that would outlaw nuclear weapons completely.

This year the Malaysian resolution crept up from 121 yes votes, 27
noes and 22 abstentions to 127 yesses, 25 noes and 22 abstentions in

The Malaysian resolution also, interestingly, attracts some cross –
bloc support, notably from NZ, Austria, Switzerland and Sweden. It
would be most helpful if countries such as Australia, Norway, and
maybe Japan and Germany could bring themselves to vote for it.

The CTBTResolution

This is an almost 'motherhood' resolution, that has gone from 161 yes
votes in 2010 to 171 yes votes in 2011 with but one no vote, from the
DPRK. The most important thing to note about it is the
across-the-board support it shows for the CTBT and its ratification
and entry into force.

A Few Positives

1)The chink of light afforded by the NPR language on decision – making
time, and its implications for the nuclear targeting review.

2) The increase in support, and the across the board support for, the
Malaysian ICJ resolution

The improvement in the text of the NAC resolution, and the inclusion
of references to the 'catastrophic humanitarian consequences' of
nuclear weapons use in a number of resolutions.

Finally, the conversations that ensue when you put together a Russian
colonel with 30 years in the Soviet missile forces with one of the
worlds foremost nuclear weapons experts, two crusty activists, and a
bunch of diplomats who want to further the cause of nuclear
disarmament are beyond price.

John Hallam

Note on De-Alerting in First Committee 2011

 In spite of the decision by the de-alerting group not to run a
resolution in 2011 first committee, the de-alerting/operational
readiness issue crops up in a number of resolutions, including the
widely supported United Action resolution of Japan/Australia (both
supported and sponsored by the United States and voted for by
virtually all the nuclear weapons states), the Indian 'Reducing
Nuclear Danger', a worthy resolution that ought to attract much more
support than it does, in the New Agenda resolution, (where it is new
and welcome language that helps to focus the resolution more on
disarmament), and in the NAM resolution.

As one who has never met a nuclear disarmament resolution that I have
not liked, and who welcomes the language on de-alerting particularly
in all these resolutions, I think it s a pity that so many resolutions
whose language is excellent, are not supported simply because of their
provenance and for no other reason.(NAM and Reducing Nuclear Danger
spring to mind) It would help the cause of nuclear disarmament greatly
if some of the 'western' nations could deliberately and consciously
'break ranks' and vote with 3/4 of the rest of the world on
resolutions such as the Reducing Nuclear Danger and the NAM
resolution. Problems with the sponsors of these resolutions could be
handled by an EoV.    I note that there is one resolution at least
where this crossover takes place to a limited extent, namely the
resolution on followup to the ICJ decision.A/C.1/66/L.42, which
attracts support from  Austria, Sweden, Switzerland, New Zealand, and

De-alerting is a vital issue: It has been pointed to as the single
action that would do most to 'take the apocalypse off the Agenda',
other then the complete elimination of nuclear weapons, to which it is
a vital first step. Action in the First Committee, and at NPT
conferences, needs to be translated into action in Moscow and

John Hallam

From Iranian resolution on

Follow-up to nuclear disarmament obligations agreed to at the 1995,
2000 and 2010 Review Conferences of the Parties to the Treaty on the
Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons


(d) Concrete agreed measures to reduce further the operational status
of nuclear weapons systems;
(e) A diminishing role for nuclear weapons in security policies so as
to minimise the risk that these weapons will ever be used and to
facilitate the process of their total elimination;

From New Agenda Resolution:


(c) Further diminish the role and significance of nuclear weapons in
all military and security concepts, doctrines and policies;
(d) Discuss policies that could prevent the use of nuclear weapons and
eventually lead to their elimination, lessen the danger of nuclear war
and contribute to the non-proliferation and disarmament of nuclear
(e)    Consider the legitimate interest of non-nuclear-weapon States in
further reducing the operational status of nuclear weapons systems in
ways that promote international stability and security;
(f) (g) 14.
Reduce the risk of accidental use of nuclear weapons; and

From united action towards the total elimination of nuclear weapons:


10.    Calls upon the nuclear-weapon States to take measures to further
reduce the risk of an accidental or unauthorised launch of nuclear
weapons in ways that promote international stability and security,
while welcoming the measures already taken by several nuclear-weapon
States in this regard;
11. Also calls upon the nuclear-weapon States to promptly engage with
a view to further diminishing the role and significance of nuclear
weapons in all military and security concepts, doctrines and policies;

Resolution sponsored by India, Reducing Nuclear Danger:


Sixty-sixth session First Committee Agenda item 98 (r) General and
complete disarmament: reducing nuclear danger
11-54954 (E)
Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, Chile, Congo, Cuba, the
Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gabon, Haiti, India, Indonesia,
Libya, Malaysia, Mauritius, Myanmar, Nepal, Nicaragua, Sri Lanka,
Sudan, Viet Nam and Zambia: draft resolution
Reducing nuclear danger
The General Assembly, Bearing in mind that the use of nuclear weapons
poses the most serious threat
to mankind and to the survival of civilisation,
Reaffirming that any use or threat of use of nuclear weapons would
constitute a violation of the Charter of the United Nations,
Convinced that the proliferation of nuclear weapons in all its aspects
would seriously enhance the danger of nuclear war,
Convinced also that nuclear disarmament and the complete elimination
of nuclear weapons are essential to remove the danger of nuclear war,
Considering that, until nuclear weapons cease to exist, it is
imperative on the part of the nuclear-weapon States to adopt measures
that assure non-nuclear-weapon States against the use or threat of use
of nuclear weapons,
Considering also that the hair-trigger alert of nuclear weapons
carries unacceptable risks of unintentional or accidental use of
nuclear weapons, which would have catastrophic consequences for all
Emphasising the need to adopt measures to avoid accidental,
unauthorised or unexplained incidents arising from computer anomaly or
other technical malfunctions,
Conscious that limited steps relating to de-alerting and de-targeting
have been taken by the nuclear-weapon States and that further
practical, realistic and mutually reinforcing steps are necessary to
contribute to the improvement in the international climate for
negotiations leading to the elimination of nuclear weapons,
Distr.: Limited 14 October 2011
Original: English
Mindful that a diminishing role for nuclear weapons in the security
policies of nuclear-weapon States would positively impact on
international peace and security and improve the conditions for the
further reduction and the elimination of nuclear weapons,
Reiterating the highest priority accorded to nuclear disarmament in
the Final Document of the Tenth Special Session of the General
Assembly1 and by the international community,
Recalling the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice
on the Legality of the Threat or Use of Nuclear Weapons2 that there
exists an obligation for all States 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,
Recalling also the call in the United Nations Millennium Declaration3
to seek to eliminate the dangers posed by weapons of mass destruction
and the resolve to strive for the elimination of weapons of mass
destruction, particularly nuclear weapons, including the possibility
of convening an international conference to identify ways of
eliminating nuclear dangers,
1.    Calls for a review of nuclear doctrines and, in this context,
immediate and urgent steps to reduce the risks of unintentional and
accidental use of nuclear weapons, including through de-alerting and
de-targeting nuclear weapons;
2.    Requests the five nuclear-weapon States to take measures towards
the implementation of paragraph 1 above;
3.    Calls upon Member States to take the necessary measures to prevent
the proliferation of nuclear weapons in all its aspects and to promote
nuclear disarmament, with the objective of eliminating nuclear
4.    Takes note of the report of the Secretary-General submitted
pursuant to paragraph 5 of its resolution 65/60 of 8 December 2010;4
5.    Requests the Secretary-General to intensify efforts and support
initiatives that would contribute towards the full implementation of
the seven recommendations identified in the report of the Advisory
Board on Disarmament Matters that would significantly reduce the risk
of nuclear war,5 and also to continue to encourage Member States to
consider the convening of an international conference, as proposed in
the United Nations Millennium Declaration,3 to identify ways of
eliminating nuclear dangers, and to report thereon to the General
Assembly at its sixty-seventh session;
6.    Decides to include in the provisional agenda of its sixty-seventh
session the item entitled “Reducing nuclear danger”.

From the NAM resolution on nuclear disarmament:

7.    Also urges the nuclear-weapon States, as an interim measure, to
de-alert and deactivate immediately their nuclear weapons and to take
other concrete measures to reduce further the operational status of
their nuclear-weapon systems, while stressing that reductions in
deployments and in operational status cannot substitute for
irreversible cuts in, and the total elimination of, nuclear weapons;

Statement from Ambassador Fasel of Switzerland on behalf of De-Alerting Group

66th Session of the General Assembly
First Committee

Cluster Nuclear Weapons:
De-alerting – Decreasing the operational readiness of nuclear weapons systems

New York, 13 October 2011

H.E.  Mr. Alexandre Fasel
Permanent Representative of Switzerland
to the Conference on Disarmament

Mr Chairman,

I take the floor on behalf of Chile, New Zealand, Nigeria, Switzerland
and Malaysia - our current co-ordinator who unfortunately cannot be
here today due to their chairmanship of the Third Committee - on the
issue of decreasing the operational readiness of nuclear weapons

Since 2007 our countries have called for action to address the
significant numbers of nuclear weapons that remain today at high
levels of readiness.  Our countries believe there is an urgent need
for action to address this situation.

It remains of deep and abiding concern to us that twenty years after
the end of the Cold War, doctrinal aspects from that era – such as
high alert levels – are perpetuated today.  While the tensions that
marked the international security climate during the Cold War have
lowered, corresponding decreases in the alert levels of the arsenals
of the largest nuclear-weapon states have not been forthcoming.

We welcome the lower levels of alert adopted by some nuclear-weapon
States.  As with all other nuclear disarmament measures, it is the
view of our Group that steps to decrease the operational readiness of
nuclear weapons should be irreversible, transparent and verifiable.

We welcome recent reductions in the numbers of nuclear weapons.  What
is also required is increased recognition that the high level of alert
of those nuclear weapons that remain is disproportionate to the
current strategic situation and that steps should be taken to address
this inconsistency.  We are disappointed that recent reviews of
nuclear doctrine have not resulted in lowered levels of alert.  We are
encouraged, however, that the door has been left open for further work
in this area and look forward to receiving an update on how this work
is progressing.

We note the recognition of last year’s NPT Review Conference of the
issue of de-alerting and welcome the commitment by the nuclear-weapon
States to “consider the legitimate interest of non-nuclear weapon
States in further reducing the operational status of nuclear weapons
systems” on which they are to report on in 2014.  Reports in the
interim on how this work is progressing would be most welcome and we
will be pursuing updates at the preparatory committee meetings during
the forthcoming NPT review cycle.  We believe it is of utmost
importance to achieve greater transparency levels than exist at the
moment with regard to such military doctrines.  We view progress in
this regard as a major task for the years ahead which could facilitate
further reductions of alert levels.

We have also taken heart from the recommitment contained in the Action
Plan by the nuclear-weapon States to accelerate concrete progress on
the steps leading to nuclear disarmament contained in the 2000 NPT
outcome document given the strong reference in that document for
action on operational readiness.
A lowered operational readiness of nuclear weapon systems would
represent an important interim step towards a nuclear-weapon-free
world. It would demonstrate a palpable commitment to a diminishing
role for nuclear weapons.  In addition, steps to lengthen the
decision-making “fuse” for the launch of any nuclear attack would
minimise the risk of unintentional or accidental use.

We are keen to capitalise on changes in the global security
environment since the end of the Cold War.  The adversarial
relationships of those bleak times are clearly behind us and the
threat of a conflict among major powers has become remote.  Against
this backdrop, the rationale for high-alert levels has lost its

Mr Chairman

Our countries have presented a resolution on this issue to previous
sessions of the General Assembly.  While we remain committed to the
operational readiness issue, we will not be tabling a resolution this
year.  Rather, we will be looking ahead to the forthcoming review
cycle of the NPT, starting with next year’s preparatory committee
meeting in Vienna, and measuring progress in that context.  We will be
putting forward a paper for discussion next year that canvasses the
substantive arguments in favour of lowering the operational readiness
of nuclear arsenals – as well as considering the full range of steps
available in the multilateral political process to take the issue

We will spare no efforts in advocating for progress towards lowering
operational readiness in all relevant fora, including at the General
Assembly, and will look to revisit our resolution next year.


John Hallam
PND Nuclear Flashpoints Project

Dear First Committee Delegate:

At this years First Committee, you will for the first time, be faced
with not one, but three, proposals for revitalising multilateral
disarmament negotiations in the Committee on Disarmament.(CD).

These proposals are the Austria-Mexico-Norway proposal involving the
setting up of working groups as a possible way forward,(A/C.1/66/L.2
the proposal from Switzerland, South Africa and the Netherlands,
which exhorts governments to facilitate progress at the CD and failing
that suggests a process of 'review' with no specific options being
suggested other than deep thought, ('....Invites States to explore,
consider and consolidate options, proposals and elements for a
revitalisation of the United Nations disarmament machinery as a whole,
including the Conference on Disarmament;') and the Canadian FMCT
resolution which as its name suggests covers only the FMCT as an area
for multilateral negotiation.

There is general agreement amongst governments, we believe, that
whilst progress at the CD under the current consensus modus operandi
is the most desirable option, this is simply not taking place – and
has not done so for a variety of reasons for the last 15 years. Absent
change it is unlikely to do so.

The continuing support for the CD without change of any kind
whatsoever that a number of governments are softly articulating is

Continued lack of progress in the CD will therefore either:
a) mean that the CD loses relevance as a negotiating forum as nothing
can be negotiated in it, and as governments therefore seek other means
to progress a multilateral disarmament agenda


b) mean that no progress is at all possible on a multilateral
disarmament agenda (also unacceptable)

      c) Will force changes in the rules of operation of the CD so
that it is no longer possible for one or two countries to stymie the
intentions of everybody else by an abuse of the consensus rule

d)Will force that abuse to cease. This last seems most unlikely absent
a 'circuit breaker' such as the resolutions submitted by Austria,
Norway and Mexico or by Switzerland, South Africa and the Netherlands.
Both these resolutions seek to facilitate progress across the broad
range of CD issues not merely on an FMCT as the Canadian resolution
While these resolutions have been submitted entirely independently,
there is no reason not to vote for all three of them. They are in
effect complimentary and not contradictory.

However, the Austria – Mexico – Norway resolution is by far the
strongest and is the one that most clearly offers a way out of the
current impasse in the CD. Even this resolution does not actually
establish an automatic mechanism for moving forward – something that
might serve to focus minds during the upcoming CD – but merely
suggests that the GA MIGHT in the absence of progress, examine what
could be done to facilitate progress and suggests the establishment of
working groups as a possible way forward. There is nothing automatic
about the establishment of those groups.

In that sense there is less difference between the
Austria-Mexico-Norway proposal and the much vaguer and much more open
Switzerland-SA-Netherlands proposal, which does NOT establish any
specific mechanism for proceeding at all, but merely exhorts
governments to 'explore mechanisms' to do so.

Support for the Austria – Mexico – Norway mechanism, however unreal
its differences with the Switzerland – SA – Netherlands proposal, will
'put down a marker' for seriousness in pushing for progress at the CD
and in multilateral disarmament negotiations generally. If we really
truly want progress in multilateral disarmament negotiations this
proposal AS WELL as the other two proposals warrants our support.
While all three proposals should be voted for, it is the
Austria-Mexico – Norway proposal that will determine whether there is
really progress in multilateral disarmament negotiations.

John Hallam
People for Nuclear Disarmament Nuclear Flashpoints Project
This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it




At the most recent annual Doomsday Clock press-conference, held in Washington, the nobel-prizewinner-heavy advisers of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, itself founded by Einstein and Oppenhiemer in the 1940s, revealed that it had been decided to keep the hands of its iconic and symbolic 'Doomsday Clock' at three minutes to midnight. This is bad news for civilisation and humans as a species.