CD continues to look for magic solution

Gabriella Irsten | Reaching Critical Will of WILPF
20 March 2012

The Conference on Disarmament (CD) met on Tuesday, 20 March, for the first plenary meeting under the Ethiopian presidency. Statements were made by the delegations of EthiopiaMorocco, Kenya, Germany, Cuba, Algeria, Zimbabwe, Chile, Egypt, United States, France, United Kingdom, and Pakistan.


  • Ambassador Getahun of Ethiopia took over as CD President and outlined his work plan for the next four weeks.
  • Member states deliberated on different ways to continue work after last week’s failure to adopt a programme of work.
  • Pakistan’s delegation defended its position on the Egyptian draft and pointed to some delegations’ double standards.
  • The Moroccan delegation briefed the CD on the outcome of the February meeting held in Marrakesh on Global Initiatives to Counter Nuclear Terrorism.

Discussions on Ethiopian work plan
The Ethiopian Ambassador, Mr. Minelik Alemu Getahun, outlined a plan for his presidency. He expressed regret that no consensus had been found on the Egyptian draft programme of work CD/1933/Rev.1 and explained that he would continue consultation with member states with the objective not to lose any of the generated efforts achieved by Ambassador Badr. He reiterated that the goal is to achieve a balanced and comprehensive programme of work in line with UN General Assembly (UNGA) resolution 66/59

Ambassador Getahun noted that while he would continue consultations, he also intended to facilitate further substantive discussions on the core issues that could be incorporated in the CD’s final report and also build confidence. He highlighted that he would also include a discussion on how to revitalize the CD, incorporating the issues raised by the CD Secretary-General, Mr. Tokayev, such as restructuring the role of the six presidents, expansion of membership, and the possibility for the CD to address issues other than the four core ones.

Overall the Eritrean proposed work plan seemed positively welcomed. Moroccan Ambassador Omar Hilale urged the Ambassador Getahun to continue to base his consultations on the Egyptian documentCD/1933. Ambassador Hoffman of Germany supported the work plan and suggested that specific dates could be assigned to certain topics in the plenary in order for delegations to prepare for the discussions. He also wished that this could be coordinated with the rest of the year’s presidents to make the CD work more efficient

Ambassador Pedro Oyarce of Chile agreed with the Ambassador Hoffman that set dates for the discussions would be helpful for small countries to better plan and participate in the CD’s work. He also argued that member states should make every effort to save the CD and that the upcoming work of the Conference should include the comments made by the CD Secretary-General earlier this year. Ambassador Oyarce also drew attention to the fact that the future of the CD might end up in the hands of the UNGA, and that all delegations should be politically ready for this. 

Ambassador Adamson of the United Kingdom warned that continuing to hold plenary discussions as previously done might not be so productive. She suggested that maybe the work in the CD could follow the structure of the UNGA First Committee, where delegations champion a particular cause and not just have statements delivered across the plenary.

Mr. Hamza Khelif of Algeria supported further discussion on the four core issues. He argued that even though some delegations might see such practice as being exhausted, he believed that substantive discussion will lead the Conference forward.

How to continue work in the CD
All delegations, including Pakistan, uttered disappointment that the Egyptian proposal CD/1933/Rev.1 was not adopted. The Moroccan delegation highlighted three negative aspect of the Egyptian proposal: it didn’t include any negotiation mandate on nuclear disarmament, it didn’t have any mandates on the other agenda topics aside from  the four core issues, and it lacked a mandate for the expansion of membership and inclusion of civil society.  Ambassador Hoffman of Germany also pointed out shortcoming of the Egyptian proposal and stated that his delegation would have wished to see a negotiating mandate on the issue of a fissile material cut-off treaty (FMCT). However, he reminded delegations that while many member states were not enthusiastic about the Egyptian proposal, it was a compromise that made many delegations ready to put their claims aside in order to safeguard the future of the CD.

The UK Ambassador also had some reservation in regards to CD/1933 but stated that her delegation would have joined consensus.

Mr. Hamza Khelif from the Algerian delegation expressed that the Algerian delegation still believesCD/1864 from 2009 to be the way to find a balanced programme of work. The French Ambassador Jean-Hugues Simon-Michel also recalled CD/1864 and regretted that CD/1933 was not able to be adopted. Ambassador Hilale of the Moroccan delegation explained that he believes that the best way forward is to adopt a simplified programme of work in which the working groups themselves would establish their mandate.

Kenya’s Ambassador Tom Mboya Okeyo outlined that Kenya’s priority is nuclear disarmament and that it supports convening a fourth special session on disarmament. He also raised concerns on the extreme amount of taxpayer’s money that goes into paying for the CD to hold meeting and argued that it was unacceptable in the light of the Conference stalemate.

Discussion on Pakistan’s opposition to the Egyptian programme of work.
Ambassador Hoffmann of the German delegation regretted that once again a programme of work had been blocked by the same delegation as in 2009. He stated, “It is a matter of serious regret that one member state seems to believe that it can continue to keep the central institution in multilateral disarmament singlehandedly in a situation of permanent standstill.” US Ambassador Laura Kennedy also emphasized that she regrets that Pakistan did not join “the heroic efforts” of Egypt’s Ambassador Badr to get the CD back to work.

Ambassador Hoffman reiterated his view that no country can use its national security as an argument to stop even the commencement of negotiations. He also pointed to the fact that the consensus rule guarantees every state to safeguard their interests in the “actual negotiation on further legal instrument”. And if a state felt that its national security concerns have not been taken into account at the end of a negotiation, he argued that such state can always choose to sign up to the treaty at a later stage or not at all.

Ambassador Akram of Pakistan took the floor to respond to the German ambassador’s comments. He started by saying that he had no difficulties in taking the responsibility for Pakistan’s action because his delegation is acting for the sake of national security. He pointed out that since Germany is protected by NATO’s nuclear umbrella, it can afford to speak brave words about disarmament and non-proliferation. He also reminded the conference that Pakistan has only been blocking the consensus on an FMCT since 2009 and drew attention to the fact that other countries were responsible for the blocking the CD prior to that.

As he did in the last plenary, Ambassador Akram highlighted that no progress has been made on the other three other core issues, because other states object to such negotiations.

Ambassador Akram concluded by saying that it is a question of double standards by some delegations. He stated that just because Pakistan is an underdeveloped country does not mean that the minds of its people are underdeveloped. “We can think rationally, we can think logically, we can think for ourselves.”

Ambassador Hoffman once again took the floor to thank the Pakistanian ambassador for his quick response and emphasized that he would like to see more of this direct discussion in the CD. He further clarified that he had not spoken on adoption of a draft treaty, but only on the opening of negotiation. He reiterated that he could not see how Pakistan’s national security concerns would be threatened if it would join negotiations. He also, although having not gone through all history of the CD, believed that the situation of 64 members accepting a draft and only one opposing was unusual and he could not recall this to have happened before 2009.

Next meeting
The next plenary meeting will be held on Tuesday, 27 March at 10:00 am