Discussions on the draft report begin

Beatrice Fihn | Reaching Critical Will of WILPF
28 August 2012

On Tuesday, 28 August the Conference on Disarmament (CD) heard statements from the delegations of Kazakhstan, Algeria, Nigeria, Iran, China, Canada, Belarus, and Argentina on the revitalization of the CD. In addition, CD delegations discussed the draft annual report to the UN General Assembly.

Revitalization discussion continues

Last week’s debate on revitalization of the CD continued in today’s plenary when Algeria, Nigeria, Iran, China, Canada, Belarus, and Argentina took the opportunity to share their views on the matter.

The delegations of Algeria, Iran, Belarus, and Nigeria reiterated that the problem with the CD is lack of political will. Mr. Darayei of Iran argued that the impasse does not relate to any procedural problem in the CD, but is closely linked to the lack of progress on nuclear disarmament. While highlighting the need to demonstrate necessary political will and commitment to break the deadlock, Nigeria also suggested that membership expansion and greater engagement with civil society might help. Iran agreed that expansion of the CD would be a possibility, and also supported increased interaction with “impartial NGOs and civil society”.

Algeria supported the idea of a simplified approach to a programme of work, without detailed mandates. China believed that useful ideas from delegations on how to revitalize the CD would be worthy of further exploration, and argued that the international community “should remain patient and contribute to explore ways to break the deadlock by looking for solutions acceptable to all.”

Argentina took the opportunity to point out that it did not want the CD’s financial resources to be affected in 2013, as circumstances might change and the CD must be ready to resume negotiations.

In addition to suggestions for revitalization, Nigeria also reiterated that if the CD is not able to overcome its crisis, the international community and the General Assembly in particular must respond and consider ways and means to overcome it. However, Mr. Daryaei of Iran argued that the “radical proposal” of taking negotiations on a fissile material treaty outside the CD would be neither feasible nor acceptable, and believed that as the CD is not a subsidiary body of the UN, any “recommendation” of the UNGA would only be “of an advisory nature”.

China agreed that abandoning the CD “is not the right way to solve its problems.” China’s delegation emphasized that it does not support establishing new mechanisms outside the CD to address its core agenda items. Ambassador Wu argued that such approach would not attract all main stakeholders and would not move the international community any closer to the objectives of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation. Further, “it will not contribute to a healthy and orderly development of the international arms control and disarmament process.” Belarus agreed that a negotiating process outside the CD would be “counter-productive”.

Ambassador Goldberg of Canada, on the other hand, believed that the greatest enemies of the CD are those who willing “to watch its slow decline,” content with the status quo inertia. She highlighted that the CD has failed to heed the call by the UNGA to fulfill its negotiating mandate, and therefore delegations must be prepared for the UNGA to take up these issues and consider how to proceed with the work of the CD in 2013.

Discussion on the draft report

Ambassador Hoffmann opened a discussion on the draft annual report of the CD to the General Assembly and asked delegations to make concrete proposals in writing to the secretariat by 30 August, which would then be compiled and circulated on 31 August.

Most delegations believed the draft was an excellent basis upon which to start, and some shared a few additional comments. Russia supported the draft as it stood and Ireland, Australia, and Chile commended the report’s balance.

While welcoming the draft, both India and Pakistan spoke warmly about a “traditional” report, with a similar structure of past ones. Pakistan also noted that the debate on revitalization has seen divergent views and that there was no consensus on how this divergence should be communicated to the UNGA.

On the section on efforts on a programme of work, Algeria wished to see more reflection of other proposals and work around this, not only the proposal submitted by Egypt. The Egyptian delegation highlighted that the proposal it made was the only one that had been tabled and that states had taken action upon, and therefore should have different status from other suggestions that had been discussed.

Cuba and China believed the report was a good start, but Cuba said it will flag “a number of lacunae or flaws” and China noted there is still room for further improvements. Algeria argued that the reflection of the statement by Mr. Tokayev, the Secretary-General of the CD, should be improved to give “a positive spin to the work of the Conference”.

However, the Netherlands and Canada believed the report was “too rosy,” and Ambassador van der IJssel argued that it would be difficult to put “a positive spin” on the concerns conveyed by dignitaries.

Next plenary meeting

The next plenary meeting will be held on 4 September at 10:00 in the Council Chamber.