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United Nations Disarmament Committee

The United Nations Disarmament Commission, was created by the UN General Assembly under Security Council by Resolution 502 of January 1952 [1]. In 1946, the UN Security Council established the Commission for Conventional Armaments, to address issues associated with small arms and light weapons (SALW). However, disagreements between member states blocked the continuation of the Commission. As a result, General Assembly voted on a new disarmament commission as a replacement. The United Nations Disarmament Committee, UNDC, created by the General Assembly in 1952, was introduced to prepare questions and proposals on regulating, limiting, and balancing reduction of all armaments. Since its establishment, the UN Disarmament Committee member states only met a few times a year where they would report back to the security council on their progress.

Member states that are a part of the UNDC, work together as a deliberative body to make new recommendations on any issues that are related to disarmament. The Security Council wanted the UNDC to focus its work on SALW, while also touching on nuclear weapons [2]. In preparation for the report to the General Assembly, the UNDC meets at United Nations headquarters once a year for a three-week period in the spring. Within this session, UNDC creates different working groups that are working on the list of substantive items from its agenda [3]. The UNDC can get a various amount of substantive items yearly, so to get a more in-depth consideration for each item, the General Assembly decided that they should only be focused on a maximum of four items [4].

Since 1993, UNDC has practiced with taking on three to four items, which will be in consideration for three consecutive years [5]. UNDC has concluded that “Recommendations for achieving the objective of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation of nuclear weapons.” and “Implementation of transparency and confidence-building measures in outer space activities with the goal of preventing an arms race in outer space.” will remain their top two major items of focus on from their agenda for the next coming years [6]. When the UNDC finalizes its updated agenda before their conference, member states will form working groups. These working groups reflect the number of items on the agenda for the year.

Conference on Disarmament. February 2018. UN Photo/ Violaine Martin.

UNDC working groups meet regularly to address their agenda items during the three-week conference each year and to create a report for the UNGA [7]. Each September, the General Assembly, divided into six committees, meet to discuss their current issues[8]. The UNDC falls in with the first committee on disarmament and security issues. Resolutions determined by agenda items must be reported to the General Assembly and discussed with the first committee [9]. All UN member states get a vote on disarmament and international peace issues for new resolutions which are later voted on by the General Assembly.

General Assembly Discusses New Urban Agenda and UN-Habitat. September 2017. UN Photo/ Kim Haughton.

Currently, the UNDC and the First Committee are working on new resolutions related to the use of small arms in outer space and preventing these weapons from being used in an arms race. Since their last meeting in 2017, arms in outer space still remains at the top of their list and the General Assembly adopted resolution “No first placement of weapons in outer space” [10]. This resolution states that all member states should consider a political commitment to not be the first to place weapons in outer space. The General Assembly calls upon all member states of the UN to take action and measures towards the elimination of small arms globally [11]. The elimination of these weapons sits at the top of the agenda list for the Disarmament Commission as it did since 1946 [12]. The General Assembly is urging member countries to consider the current time and affects these weapons have on the rest of the world and push through with disarmament actively to reach the elimination of SALW and nuclear weapons in the quickest way possible.

For more information and updates on the United Nations Disarmament Committee and General Assembly first committee, follow @NonviolenceNY, @UN_Disarmament on Twitter or visit


[1] “United Nations Disarmament Commission – UNODA.” United Nations, United Nations, Accessed May 29th, 2018.

[2] “The United Nations Disarmament Commission (UNDC).” United Nations, United Nations, Accessed May 30th, 2018.

[3] “United Nations, Main Body, Main Organs, General Assembly.” United Nations, United Nations, Accessed May 30th, 2018.

[4] “First Committee | Meetings Coverage and Press Releases.” United Nations, United Nations, Accessed May 31st, 2018.

[5] “United Nations First Committee.” Nuclear Threat Initiative - Ten Years of Building a Safer World, Accessed May 31st, 2018.

[6] “The United Nations Disarmament Commission (UNDC).” United Nations, United Nations, Accessed May 30th, 2018

[7] “A/73/42 - E.” S/RES/1888(2009) - E, Accessed June 5th, 2018

[8] “A/73/42 - E.” S/RES/1888(2009) - E, Accessed June 5th, 2018

[9] “First Committee | Meetings Coverage and Press Releases.” United Nations, United Nations, Accessed May 31st, 2018.

[10] Accessed June 5th, 2018

[11] Ibid.

[12] Ibid.

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