Question of Palestine home || Permalink || About UNISPAL || Search

English (pdf) ||Arabic||Chinese||Français||Русский||Español||

Follow UNISPAL Twitter RSS


        General Assembly
6 August 1997

Original: English

Fifty-second session
Item 73 (d) of the provisional agenda*

Review of the implementation of the recommendations
and decisions adopted by the General Assembly at its
tenth special session: United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research

Note by the Secretary-General

The Secretary-General hereby transmits to the General Assembly the report of the Deputy Director of the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research on the activities of the Institute (see annex I) and the report of the Board of Trustees of the Institute (see annex II).


*A/52/150 and Corr.1.

Annex I

Report of the Deputy Director of the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research on the Activities of the Institute






Organization and methods of work

Current activities






Collective security

Regional security

Non-proliferation studies

UNIDIR NewsLetter

Computerized information and documentation database services




External relations



I. Introduction

1. The United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR) is an autonomous research institute within the framework of the United Nations. The Institute was established by the General Assembly in its resolution 34/83 M of 11 December 1979 for the purpose of undertaking independent research on issues of disarmament and international security.

2. The present report is submitted to the General Assembly in pursuance of paragraph 6 of its resolution 39/148 H of 17 December 1984, and paragraph 6 of its resolution 45/62 G of 4 December 1990, in which the Director was invited to report annually to the Assembly on the activities carried out by the Institute. The report is for the period from July 1996 to June 1997.a It thus covers activities until December 1996 under the former Director, Mr. Sverre Lodgaard, and from January 1997 under the Deputy Director, Mr. Christophe Carle.

II. Organization and methods of work

3. For the implementation of its research programme, UNIDIR relies largely on project- related, short-term contracts. Within the approved research programme, the Institute hires the services of, or develops cooperation with, individual experts or research organizations, while ensuring that multi-disciplinary approaches are applied. Full use is being made of United Nations services for purposes of coordination, economy and cost-effectiveness.

4. The Institute's regular fellowship programme enables scholars from developing countries to come to Geneva to undertake research on disarmament and security issues at UNIDIR. The work of visiting fellows is integrated into ongoing research projects. In addition to the fellowship programme, the Institute also welcomes visiting scholars and military officers from developed countries. Furthermore, a number of interns offer valuable assistance free of cost. Some of them stay on for an extended period.

5. To enhance the productivity of UNIDIR research and the capacity to sustain work carried out elsewhere, it is necessary to expand the core staff in Geneva. While the core should remain small, the optimal size for an institute of this kind has not yet been obtained.

6. During the period under review, the following either pledged or paid contributions to the Institute's Trust Fund: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Finland, France, Netherlands, Norway, Republic of Korea, Switzerland (Foreign Affairs Department and Military Department) and Turkey, as well as European Council, North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Office at Bamako. UNIDIR avails itself of this opportunity to express its gratitude to those countries and organizations for their contributions.

III. Current activities

7. The research programme adopted by the Board at its meeting in June 1996 had four main headings: collective security, regional security, non-proliferation studies and a fourth special session of the General Assembly devoted to disarmament. Activities pertaining to a fourth special session have been on hold pending clarification of its timing and modalities.

A. Collective security

1. Disarmament and conflict resolution

8. Three publications from the disarmament and conflict resolution project were printed in the latter part of 1996 (see appendix); Managing Arms in Peace Processes: Training is being partly redrafted by its main authors for publication. Among the case studies that were envisaged, the Angola/Namibia study was postponed; the material at hand was not adequate, and important developments have taken place in Angola, rendering parts of what had been prepared out of date. Rather than excluding this case study altogether, an alternative option for publication is being explored in partnership with the Institute for Strategic Studies of South Africa.

9. The disarmament and conflict resolution project is now concluded. However, the project lends itself to two studies of a synthesizing nature: (a) the development of an annotated repertory of demobilization/disarmament procedures and techniques; and (b) a broader analysis of the relationship between disarmament and conflict resolution. These are demanding — but fascinating — tasks that are waiting to be carried out, whether by UNIDIR itself or by other organizations prepared to make use of the material in cooperation with the Institute.

2. Disarmament, development and conflict prevention

10. The logical follow-up to the disarmament and conflict resolution project shifts the focus from conflict resolution to conflict prevention. The project on disarmament, development and conflict prevention in West Africa thus convened a regional one-week conference at Bamako, from 25 to 29 November 1996. It was organized by UNIDIR in cooperation with the UNDP Office at Bamako and supported by the Department of Political Affairs of the Secretariat.

11. The starting point at the conference was the integrated and proportional approach to security and disarmament. The problems associated with the flow of light weapons were examined on a country-by-country basis. Options for regional cooperation against the flow of small arms were emphasized in the discussions. Demobilization and disarmament experiences to date were reviewed and their applicability to the West African subregion was discussed. A special issue of the UNIDIR NewsLetter was prepared for the occasion and a number of contributions on specific items were commissioned for a separate publication.

12. The conference gave rise to a proposal to declare a moratorium on the import, export and manufacture of light weapons. The conference examined ways in which the moratorium might be implemented and a number of specific measures that Governments in the region might take to collect (mop up) arms in the course of the moratorium period. Following the conference, the Government of Mali held consultations with other West African countries for further discussions on the moratorium option, with a view to convening a regional ministerial meeting. That meeting took place at Bamako on 26 March 1997, in the framework of the “Week of Peace” to commemorate the first anniversary of the “Flame of Peace” ceremony (see A/51/364, annex I, para. 20), and was attended by the former Director and the current Deputy Director of UNIDIR.

13. UNIDIR is planning to provide research support for such regional efforts against the dissemination of small arms. Subject to the results of a pending funding application, a twofold research effort will involve:

(a) Small-scale seminars devoted to specific issues in stemming the dissemination of light weapons in West Africa;

(b) Fellowships for selected West African experts to visit Geneva. The aim will be both to enrich UNIDIR research, and to provide those selected with valuable experience in an established research environment, thereby seeking to foster the emergence of a new generation of experts in the region.

14. In addition, UNIDIR will explore further the relationship between conflict prevention and development, with particular emphasis on the notion of relative deprivation, i.e., relative to others, to the past or to expectations. This work will be carried out in cooperation with the Conflict Transformation Working Group at the University of Helsinki, with the funding support of the Government of Finland.

3. Observation of peacekeeping training exercises

15. In June 1997, UNIDIR was an observer in the Ceibo Operation, a joint Argentina/Uruguay peacekeeping training exercise at Frey Bentos, Rio Negro, Uruguay, on the border with Argentina. During the operation, UNIDIR researchers and consultants (both civilian and military) compared the unfolding of events with the findings of the disarmament and conflict resolution project. The publications from the project were distributed to soldiers and civilians participating in the event.

16. A two-day seminar on lessons learned was organized by Argentina and Uruguay at Buenos Aires one month after the operation. UNIDIR participated in that seminar by providing an assessment of the operation, cross-referenced with the disarmament and conflict resolution project, with a view to presenting recommendations. UNIDIR sought to identify areas where new technologies and equipment could be applied in order to maximize the cost-effectiveness of peace operations in both human and in material terms. The appropriateness of using satellite images in humanitarian and peace missions were addressed.

17. The results of the seminar will be brought to the attention of diplomats, academics and industries that manufacture and provide peace-operation equipment and services. UNIDIR is discussing the possibility of publishing a booklet in English and Spanish summing up the lessons learned during the Ceibo Operation.

B. Regional security

1. Confidence-building measures in the Middle East

18. An explanatory compilation of international agreements and legal instruments pertaining to confidence- and security-building measures and arms control in the Middle East and of current restrictions on arms transfers to the area has been completed. This reference guide includes instruments applying between States in the area; instruments applying in the area but adopted by States outside it (unilaterally or multilaterally); and international regimes applicable to the Middle East. The work was begun by Christian Glatzl (Austria), and was finished in late 1996 by Daniele Riggio (Italy). The publication will carry an introduction by Jan Prawitz.

19. Two more publications are in preparation. One of them derives from the June 1996 Workshop on Cooperative Security in the Middle East. The other is an account and analysis of the Euro-Mediterranean partnership and its implications for the Middle East, written by Yannis Stivachtis of Greece, a visiting fellow at UNIDIR in the autumn of 1996.

2. Confidence-building in the Middle East: a remote sensing resource atlas

20. The Middle East studies have led to a special project entitled “A Satellite Imagery Atlas of the Middle East Peace Process”. The production of a remote sensing resource atlas of the Middle East rests on the twin pillars of the Institute’s recent and current work on regional security and on space technology. It involves an innovative combination of both, using selected satellite imagery as an explanatory tool of exceptional clarity for addressing the multiple and complex factors in Middle East security, with special emphasis on confidence- and security-building measures.

21. The content of the atlas addresses the subject matter of the five multilateral working groups initiated by the Peace Conference on the Middle East, held at Madrid in October 1991, with an emphasis on arms control and regional security. The atlas will be published both as a conventional book and as a CD-ROM.

22. The atlas is intended for a broader readership than the usually specialist-oriented UNIDIR publications. The combination of appropriate satellite imagery with explanatory texts produced by the foremost experts in the relevant fields should thus hold a twofold appeal. On the one hand, it can be of particular use for educators, students and interested members of the general public seeking to make as clear and objective sense as possible of complex and politically contested issues. On the other hand, it can be useful to a more specialized readership of experts, government or corporate officials, journalists and academics better acquainted with the subject matter, but often unfamiliar with the unique perspective provided by relevant satellite imagery.

23. The atlas project is a collaborative effort between UNIDIR and the Institute for Global Mapping and Research (IGM). IGM is affiliated with the European Academy of Sciences and Arts in Salzburg and is supported by GEOSPACE, a satellite data distribution and remote-sensing services company.

24. The preparation of both the texts and images for the atlas are being undertaken and guided by a group of about 25 specialists, drawn from the senior ranks of the United Nations and related offices, universities, research institutes and governmental organizations. These individuals will prepare texts for the atlas in their areas of expertise and comment on the assembled volume before its publication.

25. To discuss and promote the atlas project, UNIDIR hosted a seminar entitled ”Reducing Risk-Building Security”, together with the International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction during the 1997 Bremen Space Congress and Exhibition (14-17 May 1997, Bremen, Germany). The Institute’s part of the seminar addressed satellite applications in the field of international security. The role of remote sensing technology in building confidence in the Middle East was specifically addressed.

Annex II

Report of the Board of Trustees of the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research




Review of the report of the Deputy Director on the activities of the Institute

Work programme of the Institute for 1998







Collective security

Regional security

Non-proliferation studies

Fourth special session of the General Assembly devoted to disarmament

Cooperation with and among research institutes

Fellowship programme



I. Review of the report of the Deputy Director on the
activities of the Institute

1. Pursuant to the provisions of article IV, paragraph 2 (i), of the Statute of UNIDIR,a and in view of the fact that a new Director of the Institute had not yet been appointed, the Deputy Director, Mr. Christophe Carle, reported to the Board of Trustees on 11 June 1997, in New York, on the Institute's activities for the period July 1996-June 1997 and presented the draft work programme for 1998.

2. Members were satisfied that the work programme for 1997 had been implemented in an exemplary fashion. The Board therefore approved the Deputy Director's report on activities for submission to the General Assembly (see annex I to the present document).

3. The Board reviewed the draft work programme proposed for 1998 and approved it for submission to the General Assembly (see sect. II below). The Board noted that the draft programme for 1998 contained enough flexibility to allow the new Director to realign priorities according to her own vision of the direction that the Institute should take.

4. The Board expressed its deep appreciation to the Deputy Director for the management of the Institute in the absence of a Director, as well as to the Institute's small staff for their dedication and hard work during a time of leadership transition.

5. A Selection Panel, established by the Secretary-General and comprised of members of the Board appointed by him on geographical basis, met on 9 June 1997 and produced a short list of the most qualified candidates among the applicants for the position of Director of UNIDIR. The Board gave careful consideration to the recommendation of the Panel and agreed to request the Chairman to transmit it to the Secretary-General.b

6. Concerned about the current precarious financial situation of the Institute with respect to voluntary contributions, the Board suggested that the new Director be installed as soon as possible.c It also suggested that a priority task for the new Director be to raise enough funds to stabilize the UNIDIR budget and strengthen its core staff to an appropriate level for an institute of that kind.

7. The Board noted that UNIDIR's research programme was implemented by a dedicated, but small, staff. In addition to the Director, it comprises a Deputy Director, a senior political affairs officer, an administrative secretary, a specialized secretary for publications and other matters and six junior researchers and editors. The Board supported the view of the Deputy Director that a stronger international core staff of confirmed researchers was needed to reinforce the Institute's in-house research capacity as well as to sustain research commissioned externally. That would enhance the Institute's effectiveness in carrying out its own research programme as well as in cooperating with outside experts and research institutes.

II. Work programme of the Institute for 1998

8. The UNIDIR research programme, as approved and extended at previous meetings of the Board, comprises four main headings:

(a) Collective security in the framework of the United Nations;

(b) Regional security;

(c) Non-proliferation studies;

(d) The fourth special session of the General Assembly devoted to disarmament.

9. In a period marked by the directorship transition in the Institute, the research framework is retained for the sake of continuity, while allowing for adaptation in the focus of specific activities.

A. Collective security

Disarmament and conflict resolution

10. The disarmament and conflict resolution project was UNIDIR's most intensive undertaking in human and capital terms. While the project itself has been concluded, further publications may be envisaged. The project has been well received by scholars and practitioners alike and a number of requests have been conveyed to UNIDIR for a synthetical summary. That would require further investment, but could serve to facilitate access to the substance of the disarmament and conflict resolution project's extensive publications.

11. UNIDIR will remain closely attentive to the needs of peace operations and exercises as well as training academies, and seek to ensure the dissemination of the disarmament and conflict resolution project results to interested parties, as in the case of the Ceibo Operation (see annex I, paras. 15-17). To that end, one innovation could consist in preparing the output of the project in electronic form. The Institute is discussing with outside partners the dissemination of disarmament and conflict resolution reports in CD-ROM format.

Disarmament, development and conflict prevention

12. Work on disarmament, development and conflict prevention will continue to focus, in the first instance, on the case of West Africa. To address the complex interrelationship between security, the flow of arms and socio-economic problems, the first phase of the project has proceeded from a “security-first” perspective: an inquiry into ways of improving the security situation in West African countries, as a prerequisite for implementing development projects.

13. This approach will be pursued, with special reference to measures designed to stem the dissemination of light weapons within and across West African countries. UNIDIR will aim at providing: (a) research support, in the form of lessons drawn from other regions; and (b) policy options, for efforts conceived on a collaborative basis by West African States to reduce the threat of uncontrolled light weapons to security and to development.

14. One of the focal points for such research support will be the idea, under discussion since the UNIDIR Conference held at Bamako from 25 to 29 November 1996, of a moratorium on the import, export and manufacturing of light weapons. The concept and implementation of such a moratorium, as well as the opportunities for subregional cooperation arising as a result, would be addressed, on the one hand, by small-scale seminars bringing practitioners and experts from within and from outside West Africa, and on the other hand, by West African experts to be provided with research fellowships at UNIDIR.

15. The second phase of the project needs to consider conflict prevention from the angle of development, as the other side of the “security-first” equation. In other words, while security is a precondition for development, lack of resources or relative deprivation thereof can be sources of insecurity. This interaction between access to resources and conflict has been underlined in the case study by Robin Edward Poulton and Ibrahim ag Youssouf, entitled “A Peace of Timbuktu: Democratic Governance, Development and Peacemaking”, to be published as a joint undertaking by UNIDIR and the United Nations Development Programme. Further work on this theme will be carried out in cooperation with the Conflict Transformation Working Group of the University of Helsinki, with the financial support of the Government of Finland.

Blue helmets, disarmament and humanitarian missions

16. There are a number of intricate problems with the interface between civil and military blue helmet contingents and humanitarian agencies. Blue helmets have been deployed in situations involving open conflict between military units, war crimes and humanitarian tragedies.

17. When blue helmets provide protection for delivering humanitarian assistance, they may sometimes be criticized for not remaining neutral. Yet without protection, humanitarian assistance can be diverted to one of the warring factions and in effect prolong the conflict. Hard choices might have to be faced. In other situations, it may be easier to separate humanitarian assistance from blue helmet operations so as not to confuse humanitarian aid with politics.

18. What are the advantages and disadvantages of an integrated approach to the protection and assistance of civilians in dire need? What can United Nations forces do? What is the relationship between demobilization/ disarmament and humanitarian functions? How can these functions be mutually supportive? Are there ways in which the application of military force in support of humanitarian missions can be woven into disarmament for the same ends?

19. Geneva is a good place to undertake an inquiry of this kind, since it is where some of the most important humanitarian organizations are located. Cooperation with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the International Committee of the Red Cross and non-governmental organizations would be important. A valuable research base already exists in the practitioners' questionnaire developed for the disarmament and conflict resolution project. This questionnaire includes a number of points concerning the relationship between United Nations forces and humanitarian endeavours.

Post-conflict stability, human rights promotion and economic reconstruction

20. Non-traditional security issues are becoming increasingly important for long-term security and peace, economic reconstruction and development. Along with political stability, respect for human rights is at the very foundation of social systems, and ruling regimes in war-torn societies often need to rebuild this basic respect among civilians, the military, the Government and others.

21. A research project addressing these three themes — political stability, the promotion of human rights, and economic reconstruction — would prepare the international community to cope with post-conflict issues in the years to come. The study should be global in scope. The objective should be to assess the best ways and means to achieve sustainable peace.

22. Given the magnitude of such a venture, the project could last from one year and a half to two years, and would require multi-disciplinary and cross-regional expertise. It could, for example, build on the work already initiated by the Social Policy and Resettlement Division regarding post-conflict reconstruction and the policy papers of the World Bank, or the programme on armed forces in West Africa organized by the Centre for Human Rights of the Secretariat. This project could be conceived and implemented in cooperation with such institutions and other regional and global-oriented partners. Its publications would be of value to all institutions (governmental, non-governmental, international and financial) that play a significant role in the reconstruction of war-torn societies.

Modern technologies in the service of peace

23. Modern technologies can be used to enhance preventive diplomacy, strengthen confidence-building arrangements, and make peace operations more effective. This is an underexploited area. Classical peacekeeping operations have had a propensity for low-technology and improvisation. In current conflicts, peace operations may benefit from using modern technologies to gather information and improve early warning capabilities (remote sensing devices, optical and infra-red sensors), to detect and defuse mines (infra-red, ground-penetrating radar), to improve communications and inter-operability among multinational United Nations forces, to equip blue helmets with more effective means, and to assist in humanitarian efforts.

24. It is suggested that UNIDIR might involve itself together with other institutions possessing special technological expertise in an effort to bridge the gap between modern technologies and the needs of confidence-building, preventive diplomacy and peace operations. The disarmament and conflict resolution project, as well as the follow-on studies relating to preventive diplomacy and humanitarian efforts, should provide a good background for identifying needs in this area, while other projects will report on existing and emerging technologies that may go some way towards meeting them.

Light weapons

25. A common denominator in the collective security issues noted above is the dissemination of light weapons. The United Nations is at the forefront of stronger efforts to control light weapons — the ones that account for most of the casualties in contemporary conflicts. Yet, much remains to be done in this field, which UNIDIR has addressed for some time and intends to pursue. Future approaches will take into account the conclusions and the needs identified by the Panel of Governmental Experts on Small Arms, which is due to present its report shortly.

26. In cooperation with other research institutes and national and international institutions combating illicit trafficking, UNIDIR research will continue to focus on both recipient and supplier perspectives. In this spirit, meetings similar to the one held in Buenos Aires in April 1997 on the illicit traffic of small arms and sensitive technologies (see annex I, para. 26, and para. 34 below) may be convened either in Latin America or in other regions.

B. Regional security

27. In recent years, regional security studies at UNIDIR have largely focused on the Middle East. Since 1996, other activities have been undertaken in West Africa and Latin America and to a lesser extent in Asia. Diversification of regional security studies will be pursued in 1998.

Middle East

28. The project on confidence-building and arms control in the Middle East shall conclude with a meeting towards the end of the year. A presentation of the final version of the UNIDIR Satellite Imagery Atlas of the Middle East Peace Process could take place at that time. Some work will remain in 1998 on the finalization of project publications.

29. Having built a certain competence in regional security issues in the Middle East and established cooperative networks for research on arms control there, future research might be conducted on the application of cooperative security in the Middle East, especially as it relates to non-offensive or non-provocative defence. In specific terms, UNIDIR has been encouraged to make further studies on the preconditions and modalities of military restructuring towards non-offensive force postures in the area.

30. UNIDIR has constituted a solid network of experts on and from the Middle East. In 1998, the Institute will seek to make use of this network in non-governmental meetings (track 2), preferably on a small scale. Experience shows that such meetings and workshops can be of use both when meetings at the government level (track 1) are stalled (in which case they help in keeping some channels open), and when track 1 is operational (in which case track 2 can facilitate progress thanks to a more informal setting).

Follow UNISPAL RSS Twitter