UN Voting Record on Nuclear Disarmament
Ploughshares Monitor, December 1999
Canada's UN voting record
By Senator Douglas Roche, O.C.
(Note: Following this article are appended: i) the full text of the NewAgenda Coalition resolution, ii) the explanation of Canada's vote by theHead of Canada's Delegation, and iii) details on how the countries of the UNvoted on the resolution.)
The Government of Canada declared in its formal response to the December1998 parliamentary committee report on nuclear weapons that it wanted todevalue the political significance of nuclear weapons and work with the NewAgenda Coalition in pursuing shared nuclear disarmament objectives. Thispolicy was tested this fall at the UN First (Disarmament) Committee. Ananalysis of how Canada voted on nuclear disarmament resolutions shows thatthe government is still not prepared to take a forthright position on actionto rid the world of nuclear weapons.
The centrepiece resolution was submitted by the New Agenda Coalition(Brazil, Egypt, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, South Africa, and Sweden),which was formed last year to seek an unequivocal commitment from theNuclear Weapon States (NWS) to commence negotiations leading to a programfor the elimination of nuclear weapons. The NAC expressed deep concern atthe deterioration of the non-proliferation regime and the spectre of newnuclear arms races.
Canada abstained on NAC's resolution at the 1998 session of the FirstCommittee, claiming that the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs andInternational Trade had not yet completed its review of Canada's nuclearweapons policies. The Committee, when it reported, recommended that "theGovernment must encourage the nuclear-weapon States to demonstrate theirunequivocal commitment to enter into and conclude negotiations leading tothe elimination of nuclear weapons." This was in fact the content ofOperative Paragraph 1 of the NAC resolution.
This year, NAC returned with a resolution that was softened in order toappeal to NATO states, 12 of whom had abstained last year. The core of theresolution was contained in the new Operative Paragraph 1:
Calls upon the Nuclear Weapons States to make an unequivocalundertaking to accomplish the speedy and total elimination of their nucleararsenals and to engage without delay in an accelerated process ofnegotiations, thus achieving nuclear disarmament, to which they arecommitted under Article VI of the NPT.
NAC and the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs went into extendednegotiations on the text. NAC agreed to remove the word "speedy" to getCanada's affirmative vote. The Foreign Affairs Minister gave his assent fora yes vote. The Defence Minister, whose department maintains a close linkwith the Pentagon, which is adamantly opposed to comprehensive nuclearnegotiations, was opposed. The matter went to the Prime Minister, who tookthe position that Canada should not be leading a breakout of NATO statesinto the yes column.
Thus Canada once again abstained on the NAC resolution. With Turkey and theCzech Republic, a new member of NATO, switching their previous no to anabstention, the total number of NATO states abstaining was 14. The otherfive - the US, the UK, and France, known as the P3, along with two other newNATO states, Hungary and Poland - voted no.Canada's explanation-of-vote was very revealing. After praising the NACresolution, the Canadian representative said: "The Nuclear Weapon States andtheir partners and alliances need to be engaged if the goals of the NewAgenda resolution are to be achieved." This was a tacit admission thatCanada's hands are tied in voting for nuclear disarmament as long as the USand the NATO leadership hold that nuclear weapons are "essential" to theirmilitary doctrine.
To drive home the point that the Canadian government considers itself notfree to vote principled positions on nuclear disarmament, Canada alsoabstained on a new resolution introduced by China and Russia on theAnti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty. The ABM Treaty was established by theUS and the former Soviet Union in 1972 to limit defences against nuclearweapons in an effort to slow down the development of new nuclear weapons.The ABM Treaty has long been considered a cornerstone for maintaining globalpeace and security and strategic stability.
Canada has always been an ardent upholder of the ABM Treaty. But now the USwants to either weaken or abrogate the Treaty in order to deploy a newnational missile defence system. Billions of dollars are being spent on thedevelopment of this system, and President Bill Clinton is scheduled to makea decision next June whether to start deployment.
Both Russia and China have protested vigorously to the US, claiming thatsuch deployment will trigger new nuclear arms races, since neither countrycan accept the prospect of US unilateral invincibility. Canada wellrecognizes that a missile defence system will de-stabilize the worldcommunity, which is why this country did not join in supporting the aborted,Reagan-inspired Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) of the 1980s. Now the USis back and wants Canada's support.
The Russian-Chinese resolution called for continued efforts to strengthenthe ABM Treaty and "to preserve its integrity and validity so that itremains a cornerstone in maintaining global strategic stability and worldpeace and in promoting further strategic nuclear arms reductions." Theresolution went on to urge countries to refrain from the deployment of suchsystems and "not to provide a base for such a defence...."
If Canada seriously intended to uphold the ABM Treaty, it would have votedyes. Even France voted yes. The US voted no. Since there were 73 abstentionswhen the resolution came before the First Committee, Canada had plenty ofcompany, but gave away a principled position.
A consequence of US determination to develop the technology for a missiledefence system was Canada's loss of consensus for its traditional resolutioncalling for a committee at the Conference on Disarmament to negotiate atreaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons. Chinabalked on the grounds that it would need new fissile material for nuclearweapons to counter the US missile defence system. Having abstained on theABM resolution, Canada was not in a position to argue with China andwithdrew its resolution. The prospect now for a fissile material ban ispractically zero.
The annual Malaysian resolution revealed that Canada has not moved away fromambivalence about the elimination of nuclear weapons, the government's newpolicy notwithstanding. The resolution called for endorsement of theunanimous conclusion of the International Court of Justice that nations havean obligation to conclude negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament understrict and effective international control. Canada voted yes to thisparagraph. But the next paragraph, calling for the commencement of"multilateral negotiations in 2000 leading to the early conclusion of anuclear weapons convention" drew a no. Then Canada abstained on theresolution as a whole.
A similar resolution calling for immediate negotiations in the Conference onDisarmament "on a phased program of nuclear disarmament" was turned down byCanada, which has customarily voted against time-bound programs fordisarmament (a policy that was turned on its head when Canada supported thepackage accompanying the Indefinite Extension of the NPT, which stipulatedthat a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty be achieved by 1996).
Canada, of course, voted for the resolution endorsing the CTBT and urgingStates which have not yet ratified the CTBT to accelerate their ratificationprocesses. Even the US voted for this resolution.
Canada also joined the great majority of states in voting for the Japaneseresolution reaffirming the importance of the NPT and calling for "thedetermined pursuit by the Nuclear Weapon States of systematic andprogressive efforts to reduce nuclear weapons globally, with the ultimategoal of eliminating those weapons, and by all states of general and completedisarmament under strict and effective international control." The key wordhere is "ultimate." Canada votes to uphold the "ultimate" elimination ofnuclear weapons but resists negotiations now that would lead, in a measuredway, toward that goal. By insisting on the maintenance of nuclear weapons,the NWS have manifestly demonstrated their insincerity in implementingArticle VI of the NPT.
Canada's continued weak voting record on nuclear disarmament resolutions -the rhetoric of the government's policy notwithstanding - is robbing thiscountry of credibility in the nuclear disarmament field. Canada proclaimsthat it must take a "balanced" approach between its desire for nucleardisarmament and its loyalty to NATO. But there is nothing "balanced" in itsvoting record. The record shows clearly that Canada refuses to support anyresolution that specifies immediate action on a comprehensive approach toridding the world of nuclear weapons. Canada follows the U.S. and NATO lineon the tough nuclear disarmament resolutions.
Canadians who followed closely the Parliamentary hearings on nuclear weaponsissues and who took hope in the government's response had a right to expectthat Canada would take bolder positions at the UN It is true that Canadatook a step forward in urging NATO to review its nuclear weapons policies.But this is only calling for a review. When it comes to voting forcomprehensive negotiations Canada says no or abstains. The failure tosupport the New Agenda resolution is a bitter disappointment to Canadianswho expected that this year, in the face of the crippling of thenon-proliferation regime, Canada would at least support a moderateresolution.
The failure to do so in the face of such highly informed public opinion asthat contained in statements by the Canadian Pugwash Group, the CanadianNetwork to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, the United Nations Association ofCanada, and the Simons Foundation Strategy Consultation indicates thegovernment's capitulation to the hard-line Cold War elements that stilldrive US and NATO nuclear policies. Since there is a strong public opinionin Canada to abolish nuclear weapons and virtually no public opinion tomaintain nuclear weapons, the question of the subversion of democracy isopened up by the government's continual refusal to call forthrightly for anend to nuclear weapons for the sake of all humanity.
The failure to move ahead through the NAC resolution means that Canada iscrippled going into the NPT 2000 Review. Last spring, Canada offered theoutline of a new set of Principles and Objectives to shore up the NPT. ThesePrinciples and Objectives are confined to the step-by-step approach, whichin the thirty years of the existence of the NPT has produced a situationwhere there are virtually as many nuclear weapons now as when the NPT cameinto existence.
As a result of the UN voting, it now seems that Canada will not be able tosupport the growing demand for the NWS to make an unequivocal commitment tothe elimination of nuclear weapons through negotiations. Canada, which holdsthe NPT at the centre of its policies, will find itself on the margins ofthe debate - all because it refuses to throw off the intimidation of theWestern nuclear powers.
In the Japanese resolution, there is a paragraph that "Encourages theconstructive role played by civil society in promoting nuclearnon-proliferation and nuclear disarmament." Canada voted for this. In Canadathere is a highly developed civil society waiting for the opportunity towork with the government, as happened in the Ottawa Process that secured aLandmines Treaty. But a vibrant partnership between civil society and thegovernment to advance nuclear disarmament must await the day when Canadamakes an unequivocal commitment to the obtaining of a Nuclear WeaponsConvention that will ban forever the production and deployment of nuclearweapons anywhere on the globe.
Former Canadian Ambassador for Disarmament Senator Douglas Roche is theChair of the Middle Powers Initiative (c/o IPPNW, 727 Massachusetts Ave.,Cambridge, MA 02139, USA, http://www.middlepowers.org).
New Agenda Coalition resolution (A/54/563-G)
Approved by the UN General Assembly on 1 December 1999
The General Assembly,
- Convinced that the existence of nuclear weapons is a threat to thesurvival of humanity,
- Concerned at the prospect of the indefinite possession of nuclearweapons, believing that the contention that nuclear weapons can be retainedin perpetuity and never used is not supported by the history of humanexperience, and convinced that the only complete defence is the eliminationof nuclear weapons and the assurance that they will never be produced again,
- Concerned also at the continued retention of the nuclear-weapons optionby those three States that are nuclear-weapon-capable and that have notacceded to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, andconcerned at their failure to renounce that option,
- Concerned further that negotiations on nuclear arms reductions arecurrently stalled,
- Bearing in mind that the overwhelming majority of States entered intolegally binding commitments not to receive, manufacture or otherwise acquirenuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices, and recalling that theseundertakings have been made in the context of the corresponding legallybinding commitments by the Nuclear-Weapon States to the pursuit of nucleardisarmament,
- Recalling the unanimous conclusion of the International Court of Justicein its 1996 advisory opinion that there exists an obligation to pursue ingood faith and bring to a conclusion negotiations leading to nucleardisarmament in all its aspects under strict and effective internationalcontrol,
- Stressing that the international community must not enter the newmillennium with the prospect that the possession of nuclear weapons will beconsidered legitimate for the indefinite future, and convinced of theimperative to proceed with determination to prohibit and eradicate them forall time,
- Recognizing that the total elimination of nuclear weapons will requiremeasures to be taken firstly by those Nuclear-Weapon States that have thelargest arsenals, and stressing that these States must be joined in aseamless process by those Nuclear-Weapon States with lesser arsenals in thenear future,
- Welcoming the achievements to date and the future promise of theStrategic Arms Reduction Talks process and the possibility it offers fordevelopment as a plurilateral mechanism including all the Nuclear-WeaponStates, for the practical dismantling and destruction of nuclear armamentsundertaken in pursuit of the elimination of nuclear weapons,
- Welcoming also the Trilateral Initiative between the United States ofAmerica, the Russian Federation and the International Atomic Energy Agencyto ensure the irreversible removal of fissile materials from weaponsprogrammes,
- Believing that there are a number of practical steps that theNuclear-Weapon States can and should take immediately before the actualelimination of nuclear arsenals and the development of requisiteverification regimes take place and, in this connection, noting certainrecent unilateral and other steps,
- Underlining that the ABM Treaty remains a cornerstone of strategicstability,
- Stressing that each article of the NPT is binding on the respectiveStates parties at all times and in all circumstances,
- Stressing the importance of pursuing negotiations in the Conference onDisarmament in the Ad Hoc Committee established under item I of its agendaentitled "Cessation of the nuclear arms race and nuclear disarmament", onthe basis of the report of the Special Coordinator and the mandate containedtherein, on a non-discriminatory, multilateral and internationally andeffectively verifiable treaty banning the production of fissile material fornuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices, and considering thatsuch a treaty must further underpin the process towards the totalelimination of nuclear weapons,
- Emphasizing that, for the total elimination of nuclear weapons to beachieved, effective international cooperation to prevent the proliferationof nuclear weapons is vital and must be enhanced through, inter alia, theextension of international controls over all fissile material for nuclearweapons or other nuclear explosive devices,
- Emphasizing the importance of existing nuclear-weapon-free zonetreaties and of the early signature and ratification of the relevantprotocols to these treaties,
- Noting the Joint Ministerial Declaration of 9 June 1998 and its callfor a new international agenda to achieve a nuclear-weapon-free world,through the pursuit, in parallel, of a series of mutually reinforcingmeasures at the bilateral, plurilateral and multilateral levels,
- Acknowledging the Report of the Secretary-General of 21 September 1999on the implementation of General Assembly resolution 53/77 Y of 4 December1998,
- Taking note of the first Report of the Director General of theInternational Atomic Energy Agency on the Agency's exploration ofverification arrangements that will be necessary for the maintenance of aworld free of nuclear weapons,
- Calls upon the Nuclear-Weapon States to make an unequivocal undertakingto accomplish the speedy and total elimination of their nuclear arsenals andto engage without delay in an accelerated process of negotiations, thusachieving nuclear disarmament, to which they are committed under Article VIof the NPT;
- Calls upon the United States of America and the Russian Federation tobring the Treaty on Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic OffensiveArms (START II) into force without further delay and to commencenegotiations on START III with a view to its early conclusion;
- Calls upon the Nuclear-Weapon States to undertake the necessary stepstowards the seamless integration of all five Nuclear-Weapon States into theprocess leading to the total elimination of nuclear weapons;
- Calls for the examination of ways and means to diminish the role ofnuclear weapons in security policies so as to enhance strategic stability,facilitate the process of the elimination of these weapons and contribute tointernational confidence and security;
- Calls upon the Nuclear-Weapon States, in this context, to take earlysteps:
- To reduce tactical nuclear weapons with a view to their elimination as anintegral part of nuclear arms reductions;
- To examine the possibilities for and to proceed to the de-alerting andremoval of nuclear warheads from delivery vehicles;
- To further examine nuclear weapons policies and postures;
- To demonstrate transparency on their nuclear arsenals and fissile materialinventories; and,
- To place all fissile material for nuclear weapons declared to be in excessof military requirements under International Atomic Energy Agency safeguardsin the framework of the voluntary safeguards agreements in place;
- Calls upon those three States that are nuclear-weapons-capable and thathave not yet acceded to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of NuclearWeapons to reverse clearly and urgently the pursuit of all nuclear weaponsdevelopment or deployment and to refrain from any action which couldundermine regional and international peace and security and the efforts ofthe international community towards nuclear disarmament and the preventionof nuclear weapons proliferation;
- Calls upon those States that have not yet done so to adhereunconditionally and without delay to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation ofNuclear Weapons and to take all the necessary measures which flow fromadherence to this instrument as non-nuclear weapon States;
- Also calls upon those States that have not yet done so to concludefull-scope safeguards agreements with the International Atomic Energy Agencyand to conclude additional protocols to their safeguards agreements on thebasis of the Model Protocol approved by the Board of Governors of the Agencyon 15 May 1997;
- Further calls upon those States that have not yet done so to sign andratify, unconditionally and without delay, the ComprehensiveNuclear-Test-Ban Treaty and, pending the entry into force of the Treaty, toobserve a moratorium on nuclear tests;
- Calls upon those States that have not yet done so to adhere to theConvention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material and to worktowards its further strengthening;
- Urges the development of the Trilateral Initiative between the UnitedStates of America, the Russian Federation and the International AtomicEnergy Agency and urges that similar arrangements be developed by the otherNuclear-Weapon States;
- Calls upon the Conference on Disarmament to re-establish the Ad HocCommittee under item 1 of its agenda entitled "Cessation of the nuclear armsrace and nuclear disarmament", on the basis of the report of the SpecialCoordinator and the mandate contained therein, of a non-discriminatory,multilateral and internationally and effectively verifiable treaty banningthe production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other nuclearexplosive devices, taking into consideration both nuclear non-proliferationand nuclear disarmament objectives, and to pursue and conclude thesenegotiations without delay, and, pending the entry into force of the treaty,urges all States to observe a moratorium on the production of fissilematerials for nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices;
- Also calls upon the Conference on Disarmament to establish anappropriate subsidiary body to deal with nuclear disarmament and, to thatend, to pursue as a matter of priority its intensive consultations onappropriate methods and approaches with a view to reaching such a decisionwithout delay;
- Considers that an international conference on nuclear disarmament andnuclear non-proliferation, which would effectively complement efforts beingundertaken in other settings, could facilitate the consolidation of a newagenda for a nuclear-weapon-free world;
- Notes, in this context, that the Millennium Summit in 2000 willconsider peace, security and disarmament;
- Stresses the importance of the full implementation of the decisions andresolution adopted at the 1995 Review and Extension Conference of theParties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, and, inthis connection, underlines the significance of the forthcoming ReviewConference of the States Parties to the NPT in April/May 2000;
- Affirms that the development of verification arrangements will benecessary for the maintenance of a world free from nuclear weapons, andrequests the International Atomic Energy Agency, together with any otherrelevant international organizations and bodies, to continue to explore theelements of such a system;
- Calls for the conclusion of an internationally legally bindinginstrument to effectively assure non-nuclear-weapon States parties to theTreaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons against the use or threatof use of nuclear weapons;
- Stresses that the pursuit, extension and establishment ofnuclear-weapon-free zones, on the basis of arrangements freely arrived at,especially in regions of tension, such as the Middle East and South Asia,represent a significant contribution to the goal of a nuclear-weapon-freeworld;
- Affirms that a nuclear-weapon-free world will ultimately require theunderpinnings of a universal and multilaterally negotiated legally bindinginstrument or a framework encompassing a mutually reinforcing set ofinstruments;
- Requests the Secretary-General, within existing resources, to compile areport on the implementation of the present resolution;
- Decides to include in the provisional agenda of its fifty-fifth sessionan item entitled "Towards a nuclear-weapon-free world: the need for a newagenda", and to review the implementation of the present resolution.
Explanation of Canada's vote
By Ambassador Christopher Westdal
Head of the Delegation of Canada to the First Committee of the 54th Sessionof the United Nations General Assembly
New York, November 9, 1999
I have asked for the floor to explain the Government of Canada's position onthe draft resolution A/C.1/54/L.18 entitled "Towards a Nuclear-Weapon-FreeWorld: The Need for a New Agenda" [passed by the General Assembly on 1December 1999 as resolution A/54/563-G].
Canada abstained on the "New Agenda" resolution last year and decided tomaintain our abstention again this year. In both cases, the decision was theproduct of careful, very intensive, high-level consideration. I speak now toshare some of the thinking underlying that decision.
Mr. Chairman,Our decision was not, for the most part, a response to the text of theresolution. This year's text has evolved considerably and favourablyrelative to that we examined last year.The Government of Canada also shares much of the New Agenda Coalition'sassessment of the serious strains on the NPT-based nuclear disarmament andnon-proliferation regime. The New Agenda resolution remains a very timelyand pointed reminder of the urgent need for further progress on both thesefronts.
In our view, however, concerted action to address the many challenges facingthe nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation regime will require thebroadest possible base of support. The nuclear-weapon States and theirpartners and alliances need to be engaged if the goals of the New Agendaresolution are to be achieved. For our part, we intend to continue tocooperate with all like-minded states in the relevant fora to build greatersupport for advancing the key aims of the nuclear non-proliferation anddisarmament regime.
As a member of NATO, Canada was pleased to note the increase in the numberof NATO non-nuclear-weapon states sharing a common position in this year'svote.
We look forward to NATO's consideration of non-proliferation, arms controland disarmament options mandated by the Washington Summit. We see thisprocess as one of the avenues for addressing the critical issues raised bythe New Agenda resolution. As Minister Axworthy said in Boston on October22nd, the Canadian Government believes it is crucial for NATO to have anarms control and disarmament policy that reflects the next decade - not thelast.
The issues addressed by the New Agenda resolution will be before us again inthe April/May 2000 NPT Review Conference when the accountability promised inthe indefinite extension of the Treaty in 1995 will be put to an importantpublic test. As I indicated in our general statement to this Committee, theCanadian Government will be working to ensure that next spring's ReviewConference reinforces the Treaty and restores momentum to the fulfillment ofits goals.
New Agenda Coalition resolution voteFinal vote on UN resolution A/54/563-G, "Towards a nuclear-free world: theneed for a new agenda" (the New Agenda Coalition resolution):
In favour (111): Algeria, Angola, Antigua and Barbuda, Austria, Bahamas,Bahrain, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belarus, Belize, Benin, Bolivia, Botswana,Brazil, Brunei Darussalam, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Cameroon, Cape Verde,Chad, Chile, Colombia, Congo, Costa Rica, C™te d'Ivoire, Croatia, Cuba,Cyprus, Djibouti, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador,Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Fiji, Ghana, Grenada, Guatemala,Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Indonesia, Iran, Ireland,Jamaica, Jordan, Kenya, Kuwait, Lao Peoples' Democratic Republic, Lebanon,Libya, Liechtenstein, Madagascar, Malaysia, Maldives, Mali, Malta, MarshallIslands, Mexico, Mongolia, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Nepal, New Zealand,Nicaragua, Nigeria, Oman, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru,Philippines, Qatar, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent andthe Grenadines, Samoa, San Marino, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Seychelles, SierraLeone, Singapore, Solomon Islands, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Suriname,Swaziland, Sweden, Syria, Tajikistan, Thailand, Togo, Trinidad and Tobago,Tunisia, Uganda, United Arab Emirates, United Republic of Tanzania, Uruguay,Venezuela, Viet Nam, Yemen, Zambia, Zimbabwe.
Against (13): Bulgaria, Estonia, France, Hungary, India, Israel, Monaco,Pakistan, Poland, Romania, Russian Federation, United Kingdom, UnitedStates.
Abstain (39): Albania, Andorra, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Azerbaijan,Belgium, Bhutan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Canada, China, Czech Republic,Denmark, Federated States of Micronesia, Finland, Georgia, Germany, Greece,Iceland, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Mauritius,Myanmar, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Republic ofMoldova, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, The former Yugoslav Republic ofMacedonia, Turkey, Ukraine, Uzbekistan.
Absent (14): Afghanistan, Comoros, Democratic Peoples' Republic of Korea,Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gabon, Gambia, Kiribati, Lesotho, Malawi,Nauru, Palau, Rwanda, Tonga, Turkmenistan.