Vol. 17, No. 1 | Preview Edition

Preserving the First Committee’s global village and the edifice of international cooperation    
7 October 2019

Ray Acheson 

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Forests are burning, droughts are devastating, storms are thrashing. We know why. We also know what we have to do to prevent it from getting worse and to mitigate and deal with what is already happening. But instead, the richest among us—in terms of individuals, in terms of governments—choose instead to invest in weapons. They choose instead to fuel war. To build walls. To construct and solidify surveillance states. To weaponise their security—their own security, not the security, or safety, or well-being of their fellow citizens or anyone else.

As we prepare for another round of First Committee, we would do well to bear in mind this reality. Some participants are working hard to create a future in which the 1% thrive while the rest of the world crumbles, in which weapons are used as the primary mode of order and control. They assert this power through their investments in technology of violence, through attempts to crush and criminalise resistance and revolt, and through their condescension to the rest of the world’s governments and people. This condescension will be on full display during First Committee. The majority of delegations will be told by the minority that they don’t understand the “international security environment” and that they are “politicising” issues or creating “divisions” whenever they speak up for disarmament. These same delegations will fight with each other vociferously, trying to score points—with whom we are not sure, because the schoolyard antics of name-calling and finger-pointing grow tiresome for the rest of us by the end of the first day. The informal back-and-forth of these end-of-day discussions would be most useful to figuring out how to eliminate weapons. But instead the time is spent reinforcing hostilities and tensions among the most weaponised. 

While this theatrical performance goes on, the rest of First Committee would do well to recall the words of Prime Minister Ralph E. Gonsalves of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines during last month’s high-level debate at the UN General Assembly. “As the original builders of our global economic and political architecture descend into jingoistic isolationism, and succumb to the narrowest pursuits of short term self-interest,” he noted, “it is the small, the poor and the historically marginalised states of our global village that present the last, best chance to restore the crumbling edifice of international cooperation, and the principles on which that cooperation rests.”

The UN General Assembly was designed as a place for the governments of all member states to have an equal say, and it is this spirit that we urge First Committee delegates to uphold in 2019. The activists, survivors, and public that look to the UN for progress and change urge all delegates to speak up for humanity. The resolutions and agreements reached in this Committee can have meaning: they have led to great things in the past and can again. Do not let a handful of heavily militarised governments shut you down. What needs to be shut down are arms factories and arms fairs, not international discourse about disarmament. At a time when the nuclear-armed states are ripping apart arms control treaties, when they are more interested in the profits of the arms trade instead of the well-being of people, the rest of the international community has a vital role to play in putting forward alternatives for our collective security—security based on the rule of law, disarmament, equity, justice, and peace.



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