CD fails to adopt a programme of work. Again.

Beatrice Fihn & Gabriella Irsten | Reaching Critical Will of WILPF
15 March 2012

The Conference on Disarmament met on Thursday, 15 March, where the Egyptian CD President put CD/1933/Rev.1 up for adoption. The delegations of Cuba, Colombia, Iraq, Belarus, Pakistan, Italy, Egypt, Algeria, and Democratic People’s Republic of Korea delivered statements.


  • Ambassador Akram of Pakistan opposed CD/1933/Rev.1 and blocked consensus on commencing substantive work.
  • No other delegations opposed it vocally.
  • Egyptian Ambassador Badr ended his presidency, and will be followed by Ethiopia next week.

Revised programme of work
The new revised programme of work, CD/1933/Rev.1, which was circulated on the 14 March, appointed the coordinators for the different working groups;

  • Nuclear disarmament: Ambassador Badr of Egypt
  • FMCT: Ambassador Fasel of Switzerland
  • PAROS: Ambassador Vallim Guerrero of Brazil
  • NSA: Ambassador Hannan of Bangladesh
  • New types of WMD: Ambassador Khvstov of Belarus
  • Comprehensive programme of disarmament; Ambassador Oyarce of Chile
  • Transparency in armaments: Ambassador Hoffmann of Germany

Support for CD/1933/Rev.1
Several delegations took the floor on 15 March, after having consulted their respective capitals, to share their national views on CD/1933/Rev.1. Although no delegations that took the floor were completely satisfied with the document, all except Pakistan supported the work of the CD being brought forward on the basis of this proposal. The delegations of Iraq, Belarus, Italy, Colombia, and Cuba voiced their support for the proposal, despite wishing it had been more ambitious.

While acknowledging that the text reflected the security concerns of all delegations, Mr. Carlos Valencia from the Colombian delegation pointed out the draft’s lack of emphasis on nuclear disarmament, the absence of a negotiation mandate, and its failure to appoint a coordinator dealing with the expansion of the CD’s membership. While highlighting similar deficiencies in the draft, the Cuban delegation stated that opposing this programme of work would be careless for further generations’ right to life and peace. He also expressed concern that some CD member states might start negotiations outside the CD if this document was not adopted. Ambassador Giovanni Manfredi of Italy argued thatstarting negations would not undermine anyone’s security. He therefore believed that national security reasons should not be a legitimate reason to block the start of negotiations.

Opposition to CD/1933/Rev.1
Ambassador Akram of Pakistan, the only delegation vocally opposing the programme of work, restated his arguments from the plenary on Tuesday, 13 March. He further clarified that Pakistan’s security situation has worsened since last year and therefore said he is not in a position to jeopardize his country’s national security. He argued that while the wording in the proposal is deliberately vague to accommodate different positions, “there is no room for ambiguity” for Pakistan since the stakes “are extremely high” and emphasized the “existential threat” facing his country. The Pakistani ambassador stated his instructions from Islamabad were that unless Pakistan’s concerns are addressed in a clear manner, it is not possible for his delegation to join consensus on a programme of work.

Ambassador Akram also argued that he did not want to see the CD become irrelevant, but given the choice between national security and the future of the CD, he said Pakistan’s national security would take priority. While rejecting this proposal, Ambassador Akram nevertheless remained open to work to “find the magic formula that can enable us to start work”. 

What now?
After CD/1933/Rev.1 failed to reach consensus, the representatives from Algeria and Democratic People’s Republic of Korea took the floor to regret that no progress hade been made. Mr. Hamza Khelif of Algeria called upon CD members to find a new formula to get back to work, since the CD could not allow the rest of the year to be fruitless. He reminded the CD of the suggestion from former Algerian Ambassador Idriss Jazaïry on adopting a simplified programme of work.

As it was the last plenary meeting under the Presidency of Ambassador Badr, he outlined in his concluding remarks that his delegation had tried to go back to basic in order to break the CD deadlock. He believed the draft programme of work was balanced, considered all members national security, and would have led the Conference into substantive work. He reiterated that the formula he proposed, to “deal with,” could be successful in the future. He explained he had tried to clarify the language in the draft to the extent that it was possible, but further clarifications could only come through actual substantive work.

Notes from the gallery
Once again, the CD and its member states have failed to adopt a programme of work that will allow for substantive work to start. The CD has not negotiated any treaty since 1996 and has proven for over 15 years that it cannot work under current political conditions. There is no “magic formula”. It is not possible to reconcile contradictory positions on fissile material or a nuclear weapons convention if member states are not even allowed to “deal with” such discussions.

While pursuing negotiations on the CD’s core issues elsewhere might have complications, sitting around doing nothing for another 15 years would be much worse. The continued existence of nuclear weapons is not only a national security threat against all states but is a serious existential threat against humankind. Stepping out of a paralyzed CD and pursuing negotiations elsewhere is the only way to protect the security interests of concerned citizens all over the world.

Next meeting
The next plenary meeting will be held on Tuesday, 20 March at 10:00 am, where the delegation of Ethiopia will take over the presidency.