The General Assembly, as the main deliberative body of the UN, takes up questions concerning disarmament and related international security matters at each of its annual sessions, through its First Committee, and makes recommendations. In the late 1980s and into the 1990s, some 25–30% of the resolutions adopted by the General Assembly have been concerned with disarmament and related international security matters; many of these resolutions give mandates to the Disarmament Commission or make requests to the Conference on Disarmament (formerly the Committee on Disarmament) to take into consideration various ideas or questions under negotiation. Both the Disarmament Commission and the Conference on Disarmament report to the General Assembly each year.
The revitalized Disarmament Commission established after the first special session of the General Assembly on disarmament is composed of all members of the UN. It provides a deliberative forum for consideration of specific disarmament issues when the General Assembly is not in session. A subsidiary organ of the General Assembly, it meets annually at UN headquarters for approximately four weeks, usually in spring, to make recommendations to the General Assembly on specific disarmament problems and to follow up mandates given to it.
As a result of its first special session on disarmament, the General Assembly mandated the Committee on Disarmament to fulfil the role of a single multilateral negotiating forum and to carry on the work of earlier committees. It enlarged the membership of the committee to 40 countries, including all five nuclear-weapon states (China, France, the USSR, the United Kingdom, and the US). Redesignated the Conference on Disarmament at the end of 1983, it meets in Geneva for approximately six months each year, usually when the General Assembly is not in session. Its Secretary-General is appointed, upon consultation, by the Secretary-General of the UN and also serves as that individual's personal representative. In 2000, the Conference on Disarmament was composed of 66 member states.
The Conference on Disarmament has a unique relationship with the UN. It defines its own rules of procedure and develops its own agenda, taking into account the recommendations made by the General Assembly. It agreed on a permanent agenda of 10 items in 1979, and from those items it chooses an annual agenda and fixes its program of work for the year. Its work in plenary meetings and also in subsidiary bodies dealing with specific items is conducted by consensus, since international agreements, if they are to be effective, must be generally acceptable.
As a result of the General Assembly's second session on disarmament, the Department for Disarmament Affairs was established in 1982, and it continued until 1992. The Department was reestablished in 1998. It provides substantive and organizational support for norm-setting in the area of disarmament through the work of the General Assembly's First Committee, the Disarmament Commission and the Conference on Disarmament. It is structured in five branches. The CD Secretariat and Conference Support Branch provides organizational and substantive servicing to the Conference on Disarmament (CD). The Weapons of Mass Destruction Branch (WMD) supports and participates in multilateral efforts to strengthen the non-proliferation of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons. The Conventional Arms Branch (CAB) focuses on all weapons not considered WMD, to curb the flow of small arms in regions of tension, and to develop measures of practical disarmament. The Regional Disarmament Branch (RDB) provides support and advisory services to member states and regional and subregional organizations on disarmament and security matters. It oversees and coordinates the activities of three regional centers: one in Africa, one in Asia and the Pacific, and one in Latin America and the Caribbean. And the Monitoring, Database and Information Branch (MDI) organizes a wide variety of special events and programs in the field of disarmament, produces DDA publications such as the Disarmament Yearbook, and maintains the database for specialized areas.