Discussions continue on nuclear disarmament at CD

The Conference on Disarmament (CD) met on Thursday morning to discuss agenda items 1 and 2, with a particular focus on nuclear disarmament. Statements were made by the delegations of Chile, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), Belgium, Pakistan, Syria, Iran, the United Kingdom (UK), Algeria, the United States (US), Japan, and the Russian Federation.

CD president Oyarce from Chile invited delegations to make detailed comments on measures for nuclear disarmament and asked member states to give their views on either a complete programme of nuclear disarmament such as a Nuclear Weapons Convention (NWC), or a step-by-step approach.  The delegations of DPRK, Pakistan, Syria, Iran, and Algeria stated that nuclear disarmament is their main priority and called for the CD to establish an ad hoc committee on this topic.  Ambassador Kennedy of the US argued that progress on nuclear disarmament takes time and highlighted that the US administration plans to address deployed and non-deployed, strategic and non-strategic nuclear weapons within a year.  While emphasizing that the US supports the step-by-step approach “rigorously”, Ambassador Kennedy announced that she was interested to hear discussions of a NWC, how would it be verified, and how would it deal with compliance.

Read more on Reaching Critical Will homepage

Conference on Disarmament begins 2011 session

This year’s Conference on Disarmament (CD) in Geneva opened its session on January 25th with Ambassador Marius Grinius in the President’s Chair. He, like others before him, has his work cut out for him since the CD has yet again not been able to agree upon a programme of work. Following the UN Secretary-General’s speech on January 26th and a general debate, thematic discussions on core issues began. The first of these on February 1st covered nuclear disarmament as a topic. Unsurprisingly, the overwhelming majority of delegations participating in the discussion highlighted nuclear disarmament as their top priority in the CD. New START was welcomed but many states called for further reductions, particularly in non-strategic nuclear weapons. Ambassador Lauber of Switzerland noted that achievements in disarmament seem “rather modest compared to the overall scope of the problem” and argued that “efforts are random instead of systematic and coordinated.” He further argued, “disarmament steps are often results of budget cuts or consequence of technological changeover rather than the conception of a long-term plan to one day give up all these weapons.”

Several countries spoke favorably of a legally-binding agreement to prohibit nuclear weapons or a NWC, such as Pakistan, Argentina, Algeria, Chile, Iran, South Africa, Indonesia, Egypt, Austria, and Switzerland. While the degree of commitment to such a process continues to vary, several delegations highlighted the UN Secretary-General’s five-point proposal for nuclear disarmament, which includes such a legally-binding agreement.

The Swiss delegation argued that nuclear weapons are fundamentally immoral because they cause massive and indiscriminate destruction in terms of human lives, material resources, and for the environment, and that they are illegal with regard to international humanitarian law. Their indiscriminate effect “violates without exception all fundamental principles and rules of international humanitarian law.” Austria also highlighted the NPT outcome document’s reference to international humanitarian law.

Ambassador Marschik of Austria, who was the chair of the Subsidiary Body I on nuclear disarmament at the NPT Review Conference in 2010, noted that the NPT action plan called for negotiations and discussions of core issues at the CD. However, he asked if the CD really could deliver and shared concerns that this body is becoming obsolete. He argued that in a changing international environment, the institutions must adapt or perish.

A full report on discussions in the CD can be found at Reaching Critical Will. Also Reaching Critical Will’s Guide to the Conference on Disarmament 2011 can be found here.