DISARMAMENT: Stalemate Stalls UN Conference


Nuclear Abolition News | IDN
By Jaya Ramachandran

IDN-InDepth NewsAnalysis

GENEVA (IDN) - The UN Conference on Disarmament (CD) is faced with a deadlock again, only three months after it ended 12 years of stalemate. The Conference adopted a consensus document on May 29 that contains a work plan in run up to the crucial nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) review conference next year.

The first signs of a deadlock surfaced when Australian Ambassador Caroline Millar, chairperson of the conference convened in Geneva, told delegates August 10 that Pakistan had asked that morning for the programme of work to be reopened.

That was seven days after the CD resumed part three of the Conference that is scheduled to conclude on September 18. Part one was convened January 19 to March 27 and part two May 18 to July 3.

The outgoing CD presidency Ambassador Millar expressed disappointment at the deadlock, adding that the document at issue was the result of intense and prolonged consultations. She said reopening the discussion would put in jeopardy some delicate compromises.

"I really would appeal to you all, if we are interested in moving forward and do not look like the same old Conference on Disarmament that actually cannot do anything but process, to see if you can really accept the documents as they stand," she said.

Speaking on behalf of the European Union, whose six-monthly presidency Sweden has, Ambassador Magnus Hellgren said they had all thought that the period of procedural maneuvers to prevent progress on substance was over.

Pakistan's representative Ambassador Zamir Akram responded that his country did not intend to hold up the work of the Conference, but feels that everyone must work on the basis of consensus to protect their own national security interests -- a view he repeated ten days later despite open or indirect criticism not only from the United States, Britain, Russia and China but also, among others, from Morocco, Malaysia and Bangladesh.

As the Conference continued search for consensus on August 20, Ambassador Millar said they had yet to meet the expectations of world leaders as, regrettably, they had yet to adopt a decision on implementation of the programme of work. That was dispiriting, she said.

All understood that important national security interests were at stake. But the place to advance and protect them was in the negotiations, not through delaying implementation of a consensus decision embodied in the May document CD/1864.


There should be no doubt: negotiations on a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty (FMCT), would happen; and substantive, meaningful work on other agenda items would happen, she said. The overwhelming majority of States believed it was imperative to address serious disarmament and non-proliferation challenges and to do so now. It was up to all of them to ensure that the Conference’s potential to do that was realised.

According to the document posted on the Conference website, "most delegations echoed each other’s profound disappointment and regret that, nearly three months after the adoption of a programme of work, they had failed to accomplish the “simple, straight-forward procedural task of agreeing on a schedule of work".

One delegation reportedly borrowed the publicity slogan, "just do it" and several joined the cry. Several delegations also highlighted that the place for consideration of national security interests was not in procedural matters, but in the negotiations and discussions to be held.

Document CD/1864 is the adopted programme of work for the Conference on Disarmament's 2009 session. Draft decision CD/1870/Rev.1, on the implementation of CD/1864, outlines the conduct of work and decision-making under the Conference working groups and special coordinators and the rotation and equitable geographic representation of office bearers.

While the next meeting of the CD, the first under the Presidency of Austria, will be announced by the Conference Secretariat, the August 20 session also heard representatives of the Netherlands, Colombia, Brazil, Mexico, France, Germany, Japan, and the Republic of Korea.

The statement by Moroccan Ambassador Omar Hilale dew particular attention. He noted that, since the conclusion of the Convention on Chemical Weapons in November 1992, the UN Conference on Disarmament had been relegated to the "sidelines" and had been transformed into a '"talk shop".

After 13 years of stalemate, on May 29, the Conference had adopted document CD/1863, which set out a programme of work. Although that document only specifically envisaged negotiations on a FMCT, none of its provisions prevented the other working groups from beginning negotiations on nuclear disarmament, the prevention of an arms race in outer space or negative security assurances.


Morocco remained convinced that nuclear disarmament was a strategic priority. A legally binding, verifiable, non-discriminatory treaty prohibiting the production of fissile material for military purposes and providing for the conversion of existing stockpiles would be a crucial step on the long road towards complete nuclear disarmament.

Other stages would be, of course, an international agreement to assure non-nuclear-weapon States against the use of nuclear weapons and a treaty on the prevention of an arms race in outer space, he said.

Those last mentioned objectives had been strengthened by the momentum created by initiatives and declarations in the sphere of nuclear disarmament such as the declaration by the new United States Administration to deploy efforts to revitalize negotiation on a verifiable FMCT.

Other positive signs were the plan of British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, the initiative of French President Nicolas Sarkozy, and the Russian and Chinese initiative on a treaty to prevent the weaponization of outer space, as well as the positive climate that had prevailed during the work of the Third Preparatory Committee for the NPT Review Conference next year.

In that connection, the international community had to implement the decision of the NPT Review Conference of 1995 for the creation of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East. It was also important that all the nuclear installations in the region without exception were subject to the Guarantees System of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Morocco's had spared no effort to work towards disarmament, and Morocco had hosted the launching of the global initiative to fight nuclear terrorism, decided by the then Presidents Bush and Putin on June 15 in Saint Petersburg, on the margins of the G-8 Summit. Of the 13 founding members in Rabat in October 2006, that initiative now had more than 90 members.

Morocco shared the hope that the Conference would once again take up substantive work and restore multilateral negotiations on nuclear disarmament. It was therefore important to overcome the obstacles to implementing the programme of work of the Conference, in strict compliance with the Rules of Procedure, and to adopt without further delay document CD/1870/Rev.1.

Morocco believed that that document met the criteria established by the members of the Conference regarding the equitable geographical distribution of presidents of the Working Groups and the Special Coordinators, as well as the allocation of time for the different agenda items. Finally, Morocco reaffirmed that the consensus rule was the cornerstone of the Conference's work, and said that any attempt to deviate from that sacrosanct principle put the Conference itself in peril.


Ambassador Azril Abdul Aziz of Malaysia said that his country was dismayed that the Conference had yet to start crucial substantive work. They should not allow the Conference to fall back into the quagmire that had beleaguered it during the past 10 years. Malaysia supported draft decision CD/1870/Rev.1, which it believed contained all the elements needed. It provided clarity and encapsulated much of the understanding that many had to enable the Conference to implement the programme of work. Malaysia called on delegations to remain engaged and to demonstrate flexibility so that they could find consensus.

Ambassador Muhammed Enayet Mowla of Bangladesh said Bangladesh looked forward to an early consensus in the Conference for the beginning of substantive work. The Conference must not fail in taking up its role once again as the sole multilateral forum for disarmament negotiations.

Pakistan Ambassador Akram said that on August 10 he had circulated his country's proposals relative to document CD/1870/Rev.1 in order to convey its views to all members. That was a clear demonstration of Pakistan's constructive approach and its commitment, which remained undiminished.

That remained Pakistan's official stance. Pakistan had remained engaged in discussions with the President, as a demonstration of its flexibility, and had agreed on a number of key issues. Nevertheless a number of issues remained. Pakistan would remain engaged and hoped that they would be able to reach consensus soon on a programme of work.

The Conference on Disarmament was established in 1979 as the single multilateral disarmament negotiating forum of the international community, following the first Special Session on Disarmament (SSOD I) of the United Nations General Assembly held in 1978. The Director-General of UNOG is the Secretary-General of the Conference on Disarmament as well as the Personal Representative of the UN Secretary-General to the CD. (IDN-InDepthNews /25.08.09)

Copyright © 2009 IDN-InDepthNews Service

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