6 May 2005, No. 5

At what cost agreement?
Rhianna Tyson | WILPF

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With his hand almost constantly clutched to his face, President Duarte looks a bit worried. His righthand man, Jandyr Ferreira dos Santos, scurrying from consultation to consultation, looks a bit harried. Can you blame them?

Four days into the Review Conference (and after a year of global consultations), agreement on an agenda has still not been reached.

The Main Committees have not yet begun, as they were preliminarily scheduled to do on Wednesday. New York-based diplomats are wondering whether their colleagues in their capitols should even bother to come to New York at all, since nobody knows when, or if, substantive work will ever commence.

While the General Debate meanders on, with States expressing various levels of support for key unresolved issues such as negative security assurances, the nuclear fuel cycle, the CTBT, NGO participation, a FMCT and other important measures to strengthen the nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament regime, the diplomatic power team from Brazil continues to sandpaper the rough edges of disagreement in attempts to obtain that ever elusive goal: consensus on a program of work.

We hear they’re almost there. Though by the close of the session on Thursday, still no official word on agreement has been given.

The main point of contention thus far has focused on how to reference the Final Documents of past Review Conferences, or whether to mention them at all, since the US has been loathe to mention the historic agreement of 2000.

With so much disagreement over this point (referred to in the savvy diplomatic circles as paragraph 16), other important procedural points of contention– such as whether to establish subsidiary bodies on issues like negative security assurances and the Middle East– are seemingly abandoned in the Conference’s collective exhaustion.

So what will this highly anticipated agenda look like? Will the 2000 Final Document, and the 13 Steps contained within it, be excluded all together? Will States parties have given up the struggle to ensure that past hardwon agreements focus and direct future negotiations? Will enough time be spent on critical issues of the Treaty, without subsidiary bodies established to focus the diplomats’ attention on them?

One thing should remain clear, however. If the agenda is a watereddown version of the type of framework that would have best guided this Conference, we– States parties and NGOs alike– must not allow a vague agenda to portend a similarly vague Final Document.

At some point, we must collectively ask ourselves: at what cost agreement? At what point does negotiation devolve into capitulation, all in the name of agreement?

If language specific references to crucial disarmament agreements are indeed dropped, we must redouble our efforts to ensure that the agreement of 2005 is one of our strongest, and most accountable yet.

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