United Nations Office of Disarmament Affairs (UNODA) Occasional Papers

English
ISSN: 
2412-1258 (online)
DOI: 
10.18356/5f534666-en
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The UNODA Occasional Papers series has been developed to give wider dissemination of input from expert panels and seminars sponsored by the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA).
 
UNODA Occasional Papers No.29: Bringing Democracy to Disarmament - A Historical Perspective on the Special Sessions of the General Assembly Devoted to Disarmament, October 2016

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UNODA Occasional Papers No.29: Bringing Democracy to Disarmament - A Historical Perspective on the Special Sessions of the General Assembly Devoted to Disarmament, October 2016 You do not have access to this content

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Author(s):
Randy Rydell
01 Nov 2016
Pages:
114
ISBN:
9789210584586 (PDF)
DOI: 
10.18356/52a68150-en

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The United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA) Occasional Papers is a series of ad hoc publications presenting, in edited form, papers or statements made at meetings, symposiums, seminars, workshops or lectures that deal with topical issues in the field of arms limitation, disarmament and international security. They are intended primarily for those concerned with these matters in Government, civil society and in the academic community. This paper provides historical background on the special sessions of the General Assembly devoted to disarmament (1978, 1982 and 1988) and discusses efforts to convene a fourth special session. The Assembly has used these sessions to enable Member States to participate in the process of developing or strengthening global norms in disarmament. Complementing work done elsewhere in the multilateral disarmament machinery, the sessions enable consideration of how the various parts of the disarmament puzzle fit together in a coherent whole.
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  • Foreword
    The General Assembly held three special sessions devoted to disarmament, in 1978, 1982 and 1988, and has been calling for a fourth since 1995.
  • Introduction
    As of 2016, the General Assembly has met in 29 special sessions, with the tenth, twelfth and fifteenth devoted exclusively to disarmament. This paper provides some historical background on these particular special sessions (known by their familiar acronyms, SSOD I, SSOD II and SSOD III) and also discusses efforts to convene an SSOD IV. Emerging from this history is how the General Assembly—the closest entity to a universal democratic political arena in the United Nations system—has used these special sessions to enable all Member States to participate in the process of developing or strengthening global norms in disarmament. While these special sessions complement work done elsewhere in the multilateral disarmament machinery, their “value added” is in the comprehensive scope of their deliberations— they enable consideration of how the various parts of the disarmament puzzle fit together in a coherent whole.
  • The special sessions of the General Assembly devoted to disarmament
  • Postscript: Developments relating to the special sessions on disarmament since 1988
    The disappointing outcome of SSOD III did not in any way weaken the resolve of many Member States to ensure the regular review of the decisions and recommendations of the previous SSODs and, a few years later, to consider the convening of an SSOD IV. This determination was registered in many institutions of the United Nations disarmament machinery—most notably, the General Assembly, four General Assembly Open-ended Working Groups and the United Nations Disarmament Commission.
  • Concluding comment
    Given all the disappointments and setbacks associated with the past special sessions on disarmament—in particular concerning the implementation of agreed standards and recommendations—it is easy to conclude that these sessions offer little hope for advancing multilateral disarmament goals. Yet, as Dag Hammarskjöld used to say about disarmament, the notion of an SSOD has itself become a “hardy perennial” in the United Nations disarmament machinery. The priorities, policies and practices of individual Member States undoubtedly remain the most critical determinant of the success or failure of multilateral disarmament deliberations, which leaves the ultimate responsibility for the outcomes of those events squarely on the doorsteps of the Member States.
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