Civil society participation discussed at CD

Gabriella Irsten
4 February 2015

The Conference on Disarmament (CD) met on Wednesday, 4 February 2015, where the CD President, Ambassador Jorge Lomónaco of Mexico presented a draft proposal on civil society participation at the Conference (CD/WP.585). An exchange of views was held on this proposal, as well as on the draft programme of work.

Exchange of views on draft proposal on civil society participation in the CD

  • The draft proposal consists of three paragraphs suggesting that ECOSOC accredited civil society organisations will receive the same rights (though not same status) as CD observer states, including the same speaker’s rights and the right to submit documents.
  • The CD President explained that the language in paragraphs 2 and 3 is directly taken from the rules of procedure 33 and 34 dealing with observer states in order to use already approved language.
  • He further explained that this proposal is not an amendment of the rules of procedure but would be adopted as a new self-standing decision.
  • Several states, including New Zealand, Brazil, Finland, Belarus, Russian Federation, United States, and the Republic of Korea asked some clarifying questions.
  • Belarus, Russian Federation, and Republic of Korea had concerns about only allowing ECOSOC accredited organisations access and noted that not all such organisations have expertise in disarmament. Republic of Korea argued that caution is necessary because the CD handles sensitive security issues.
  • Republic of Korea also cautioned against rushing this decision since the CD Civil Society Forum taking place in March might help states make a more reasonable decision on civil society participation.
  • Cuba also raised the issue of defining which actors should have access and suggested maintaining some sort of roster or list of actors that could participate. Cuba noted that many civil society actors make valuable commitments and contributions and requested an informal discussion on their participation.
  • After asking whether this plenary meeting would be in the official records, Cuba also expressed concern that UN press releases be carefully drafted to reflect CD meetings accurately.
  • Belarus argued that on the whole the main task of the CD is to adopt a PoW and it should not be distracted by rules of procedure matters.
  • Chile highlighted that the solution to the deadlock in the CD will not come from within and argued that the draft proposal strengthens the pursuit of new solutions.
  • Ecuador indicated support for greater democratisation of the CD, enlargement of CD membership, and work on working methods in parallel with greater civil society participation.
  • Switzerland noted that civil society participation in the CD is rather restricted and fundamentally different from most multilateral fora and processes.

Exchange of views on the programme of work

  • The CD President highlighted that the continued inability of the CD to adopt a progremme of work (PoW) should not be seen as the failure or fault of just one CD member, but rather as a collective failure. He noted that had the debate gone slightly differently, some delegations would have expressed their opposition to other elements in the draft and many would have preferred to extend the discussion and delay the taking of action. Informal meetings and bilateral exchanges, previous attempts to adopt programmes of work, and general statements over the past 15 years have demonstrated that most member states are fixated on certain issues and priorities that are treated as mutualy exclusive.
  • South Africa argued that the Mexican PoW proposal was one of the most balance proposals in years and stated that it was ready to adopt it.
  • Austria, South Africa, and the CD President expressed concerns about the misuse of the consensus rule, emphasing that it is not intended to be used as a veto.

Next plenary

The next plenary will take place on Tuesday, 10 February at 10:00 in the Council Chamber.


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