18 July 2008

Conference Highlights
Michael Spies, Arms Control Reporter and Ray Acheson, Reaching Critical Will

Consideration and adoption of the final report

Procedural issues

  • The chair of the BMS urged states to adopt the final report as it stands, emphasizing its non-binding nature and characterizing it as a very modest step. The chair noted that no delegation had approached the conference facilitators with substantive comments on the draft text.
  • Iran blocked the adoption of the final report, repeating its procedural concerns and its demand for either a line by line negotiation on the outcome text or for that portion of the report to be submitted by the chair as a working paper.
  • The chair was compelled to suspend the meeting numerous times in order to allow for consultations on a possible outcome.

Summary of action on the final report

  • The chair reported that his efforts to achieve consensus has not yielded results and that the bureau had decided by consensus to call a vote on the final report.
  • In light of this decision, Iran withdrew its amendment for the outcome text to be removed from the final report, but called for a formal vote on the draft final report.
  • States parties to conference decided to waive the rule on 48 hour delay on voting.
  • Japan formally submitted the draft final report for a vote, seconded by Switzerland and Colombia.
  • States parties voted to adopt the final report as orally amended, with 134 states in favor, none opposed, and with Iran and Zimbabwe abstaining.
  • After the vote, many states, including China and Pakistan, emphasized that this vote should not be used as a precedent in other multilateral venues or fora.

Highlights of the discussion over the final report

Highlights of statements in favor of adopting the final report as it stands orally amended

  • At least 13 delegations expressed support for adopting the final report as it stands, including Norway, the African Group, Nigeria, Trinidad and Tobago, Sierra Leone, Pakistan, the United Kingdom, MERCOSUR, CARICOM, the European Union, Italy, Japan, Kenya, and Jamaica.
  • The Non-Aligned Movement said the majority of its members were prepared to support the text as it stood. NAM noted that, during the consultative process leading to the outcome document, NAM’s positions had been heard and considered and that the draft report was in line with its positions. NAM expressed the understanding, however, that the facilitation process was not as transparent or inclusive as a line by line negotiation.
  • Syria noted there were procedural gaps in the facilitation process, pointing to the lack of active interchange, but said it would support the consensus.

Highlights of statements appealing to Iran to reconsider its position

  • At least six delegations made direct appeals to Iran to reconsider its positions, including the Netherlands, Liberia, Nigeria, Colombia, the United Kingdom, and Kenya.
  • The Netherlands, using strongly charged language, gave numerous examples of where a facilitation approach lead to a successful outcome, stating that heeding Iran’s words—requiring line by line negotiations for all consensus documents—would condemn the UN system to impotence.
  • Nigeria reminded the conference that delegates represent millions of people who are dying daily because of this issue and argued that complaints about process and procedure should not "clog the wheels" from reaching success.
  • Liberia made an evocative appeal to Iran, emphasizing its own history of conflict and stating that the issues facing delegations was not a theoretical but rather a matter of life and death.
  • Honduras, on behalf of SICA and Mexico, said it could not accept Iran’s position.

Highlights of alternative solutions put forward

  • Egypt suggested the chair should open up a substantive process to hear Iran’s concerns, thereby allowing the document to be adopted.
  • Sierra Leone suggested that Iran’s concerns should be annexed to final report.
  • Nigeria suggested a footnote be annexed to the final report indicating that the procedures used in this BMS would not set a precedent for future meetings, in order to assuage one of Iran's reported concerns.