The United Nations (UN) Disarmament and International Security Committee (DISEC) was created as the first of the Main Committees in the General Assembly when the charter of the United Nations was signed in 1945. Thus, DISEC is often referred to as the First Committee. DISEC was formed to respond to the need for an international forum to discuss issues of peace and security among members of the international community. According to the UN Charter, the purpose of DISEC in the General Assembly is to establish ‘general principles of cooperation in the maintenance of international peace and security, including the principles governing disarmament and the regulation of armaments’ and also to give ‘recommendations with regard to such principles to the Members or to the Security Council.’ Although DISEC cannot directly advise the decision-making process of the Security Council, the fourth chapter of the UN Charter explains that DISEC can suggest specific topics for Security Council consideration. Aside from its role in the General Assembly, DISEC is also an institution of the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA), formally named in January 1998 after the Secretary-General’s second special session on disarmament in 1982. The UNODA is concerned with disarmament at all levels’nuclear weapons, weapons of mass destruction, and conventional weapons’and assists DISEC through its work conducted in the General Assembly for substantive norm-setting support in order to further its disarmament initiatives.
Topic A: The Proliferation of Remote Weapons Systems and Unmanned Vehicles
According to the Former US Deputy Secretary of Defense, Bob Work, unmanned technologies will “change the way war is waged.” In recent years, the development of armed remote weapons systems, commonly known as “drones,” has given a growing number of states the ability to conduct a range of military functions (i.e. conducting reconnaissance, eliminating targets) all while keeping friendly forces safe from harm. These qualities have driven up the demand for these drones from militaries around the world, with more than 30 countries working to equip their arsenals with the new technology. Although remote weapons systems can reduce the number of casualties in conflicts, many are worried that drones do not follow the international norms related to conflict escalation and sovereignty. Additionally, the UN has stressed concerns over how the use of drones creates “ambiguity concerning which bodies of law apply depending on the context.” There is an urgent need for new international action and discussion about how these new weapons systems can be used in a responsible way.
Topic B: Regulating the Use, Production, and Disposal of Chemical Weapons
The Journal of Public Health characterizes chemical weapons not only by their composition but also by their ability to inflict extreme physical and psychological trauma to those who come into contact with them. As technology has improved, these weapons are also easier to produce than ever before, particularly in comparison with other weapons of mass destruction, such as nuclear weapons. This was one of the major motivating factors behind the adoption of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) on September 3, 1992. This treaty recognized the cruel nature of chemical weapons and made a firm declaration that chemical weapons should never be used. Although this treaty envisioned a world free of chemical weapons, recent attacks—including the 2012 chlorine attack in the Syrian Arab Republic and the 2017 assassination of Kim Jong-Nam with a VX nerve agent in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia—prove that there is still work to be done before that vision is realized. Some researchers have questioned whether current efforts to enforce the CWC are strong enough to deter the use of chemical weapons. Others have suggested that modern means of ensuring the destruction of chemical weapons may also be inadequate. It is of utmost importance that states address this issue before the ambitious standards set by the CWC begin to fall apart.