On 13 September 2011, the UNITAR New York Office, jointly with the Permanent Missions of Egypt and Indonesia, organized a special briefing on the work of the First Committee of the General Assembly. The briefing aimed to familiarize new delegates about the work of the First Committee and some of the critical issues before the committee during the 66th session of the General Assembly.
H.E. Mr. Jarmo Viinanen, Permanent Representative of Finland and Chairperson of the First Committee opened the session, stressing the significance of disarmament affairs during this year’s General Assembly session. Subsequently, Mr. Randy Rydell from the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs (ODA) provided delegates with an overview of previous and current negotiating efforts of negotiating the disarmament of weapons of mass destruction (WMD). The second speaker of the briefing’s morning session, Mr. Daniel Prins (ODA) discussed conventional weapons. He briefed the participants on: an Arms Trade Treaty (ATT); the issue of Small Arms and Light Weapons; the security hazards of ammunition stockpiles; and, the transparency of military budgets and armaments. Ms. Jacqueline Ogega, from the non-governmental organization “Religions for Peace”, discussed the impact of the proliferation of small arms and light weapons on women and children.
In the afternoon session, Mr. Sergei Cherniavsky, Senior Political Affairs Officer, provided an in-depth review of the First Committee procedures, namely: the General Debate; the Thematic Debate; and, Voting. Professor Minh. A Luong from Yale University provided insight on the role of First Committee in international security, albeit from an academic perspective. He highlighted both the increased media awareness for disarmament issues through the rise of social media and the opportunity for all delegates to help set the disarmament agenda. Ms. Gaia Puleston, Advisor to the First Committee of Permanent Mission of Australia to the United Nations, added hands-on advice on issues such as finding and tracking important documents and ultimately voting in the First Committee.
The Head of UNITAR New York office, Yvonne Lodico, along with representatives from the mission of Egypt and Indonesia provided a summary of the session and responded to questions and comments. Generally, delegates found this initiative very useful, and expressed their interest for further briefing sessions on the First Committee’s mandate for disarmament and international security issues.