Civil society participation, methods of work and mayonnaise
10 February 2015
The Conference on Disarmament (CD) met on Tuesday, 10 February 2015, where the CD President, Ambassador Jorge Lomónaco of Mexico presented an updated draft proposal on civil society participation at the conference and one on the establishment of a working group to review the methods of work of the CD. An exchange of views was held on these proposals.
Exchange of views on draft proposal on civil society participation in the CD
After some consultations following the debate last week on the draft proposal on civil society participation at the conference, the CD President presented an updated draft to member states today.
- Belarus, United States, Russian Federation, Japan, France, Egypt, Switzerland, Netherlands, India, Argentina, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, China, Spain, Algeria, Iran, and Turkey asked clarification questions regarding different aspects of the proposal.
- Senegal, Switzerland, Italy, Sweden, South Africa, and Brazil expressed their support for the proposal.
- Russian Federation, Japan, India, and China thought that a decision could be based on the outcome of the CD-Civil Society Forum on 19 March 2015.
In response to many questions raised, the CD President offered the following clarifications on the draft proposal:
- Civil society includes non-governmental organizations that are per definition not linked to any member state.
- A list of civil society organizations would be put before the CD at the beginning of the year for its approval.
- Civil society representatives would be allowed to speak in specifically allocated meetings and listen in all other public meetings.
- Civil society representatives would not be present in non-public meetings.
- Civil society representatives would have assigned seats on the floor of the Council Chamber, subject to availability.
- The CD-Civil Society Forum on 19 March 2015 is organized by the Acting Secretary General, Mr. Michael Møller, and will focus on substantive issues. It is therefore separate from this draft proposal.
In summarizing the discussion, the CD President made the following modifications (changes in italic):
- Operative paragraph (OP) now reads: Representatives of civil society' working in the field of international security, arms control and disarmament should be allowed, upon request, to attend the meetings of the Conference other than those designated closed, to be seated in the designated area, to receive documents of the Conference and, at their own expense, to make written material available to the participants in the Conference.
- OP 2 now reads: The Conference shall also allocate at least one meeting to representatives of civil society to address each of the three parts in which the session of the Conference is divided.
Exchange of views on draft proposal on the establishment of a working group to review the methods of work
The CD President circulated a draft proposal on the establishment of a working group to review the methods of work of the CD based on the Acting Secretary General’s proposal and ideas of previous CD Presidents.
- Japan, Algeria, the Russian Federation asked for clarifications of the codification of best practices.
- The CD President explained these would have to be agreed upon in the working group.
- United Kingdom stressed it would not rule out such a working group, however it would prioritize efforts to start substantive work first
- Australia suggested to replace “to codify” by “better facilitate”.
In closing the meeting, the CD President made the following modifications (changes in italic):
- OP 1 now reads: “To establish a working group to review the methods of work of the conference to provide an opportunity to better facilitate the substantive work of the conference.”
- OP 2 now includes the name of the chairperson, Ambassador Urs Schmid of Switzerland.
- OP 3 now reads: The Chairperson of the group shall deliver a report of the views expressed by all the members and recommendations, in his personal capacity, on this matter to the Conference on Disarmament before the end of the fifth Presidency of its 2015 session for its consideration.
Notes from the gallery
The plenary meeting today served as a good reminder of how not all governments value that the expertise and input that civil society representatives offer to the debate and processes of advancing disarmament. This was perhaps best illustrated in the fear that the delegate of Belarus expressed of “topless ladies” starting to “scream and throw bottles of mayonnaise” from the gallery, if broader civil society participation was allowed. It is, quite frankly, insulting and sexist.
Similarly insulting is the view that civil society has to prove its worthiness on 19 March 2015 before it can be allowed on the floor of the CD, as some delegations implied. Many civil society organizations have worked on matters of disarmament and peace for decades if not longer and have developed valuable expertise on these issues that is respected and welcomed in other UN fora.
CD member states need to realize that civil society is an integral part of any successful decision making process on the local, national, regional, and international level.
Right now the CD is neither making decisions nor is it successful. It’s up to member states to change that and civil society can be an invaluable partner in this endeavor.
The next plenary will take place on Wednesday, 11 February 2015, at 10.00 in the Council Chamber.