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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 23, February 1998

Geneva Update No.39
Still No Agreement on a Programme of Work at the CD
By Rebecca Johnson


Despite valiant attempts by the current President of the Conference on Disarmament (CD), Ambassador Erwin Hofer of Switzerland, to get agreement, it has not yet proved possible to adopt a programme of work for 1998. Proposals for ad hoc committees or special coordinators on nuclear disarmament, a fissile materials production ban (fissban), negative security assurances (NSA), landmines, prevention of an arms race in outer space (PAROS) and transparency in armaments (TIA) are all being considered.

It is understood that Hofer has tried various permutations, including seeking agreement for a package of four special coordinators - for NSA, landmines, TIA and PAROS - with continued discussions among the 'troika' of past, present and future CD presidents (which for now would be Sweden, Switzerland and Syria) on how to deal with "nuclear issues" under the CD's agenda item 1. The term "nuclear issues" was intended to include the fissban and nuclear disarmament questions, but several important non-aligned countries objected that nuclear disarmament was not being treated equally since the President was not taking up any of the proposals for an ad hoc committee or special coordinator. During this time it appeared that the Group of 21 (or G-21, which comprises 29 non-aligned States in the CD) would be prepared to accept a special coordinator on nuclear disarmament, rather than continuing to push for an ad hoc committee, but at least one of the nuclear-weapon States was regarded as adamantly opposed, so this option was never included.

Pakistan continued to push hard for an ad hoc committee on NSA rather than the interim measure of a special coordinator, noting the explicit acceptance for this from the United States and France. Many more delegations have also argued that the long-awaited ad hoc committee on a fissban should be established without further delay, in accordance with the Shannon report as agreed in 1995. To get past the problems of conflicting interpretations of the Shannon mandate, Canada proposed that the President of the CD make a statement clarifying that stocks and parallel measures could be discussed in the negotiations but included in the treaty only if the proposals obtained consensus. Canada also sought to reassure India that entering into negotiations would not compromise its sovereign right to decide whether or not to accede to an eventual treaty.

After the excitement of early initiatives for resolving the yearlong impasse, optimism was said to be "dwindling rapidly away" (1). Some delegations expressed hope that a deal would be struck by the 5 March plenary, but they were to be disappointed. With time running out on his Presidency, Hofer tried again, modifying the package to include an ad hoc committee on NSA. Although Hofer's argument for putting nuclear issues in the hands of the presidential troika was presented as a way of giving priority and continuity to attempts to resolve disagreements over agenda item 1, it was clearly viewed by some delegations as a mechanism for side-lining them. This idea was therefore replaced by a formula for further general consultations, including consideration of the proposals already on the table.

Although South Africa had spoken against the proposal for an ad hoc committee on NSA, it was Canada which reportedly blocked consensus on the package over this issue. (South Africa's opposition had prompted debate over whether it could technically withhold consensus, being one of the 23 new members admitted to the CD in June 1996 after agreeing certain conditions designed to assure the United States that Iraq would be unable to veto CD decisions. However, after registering its objections, South Africa indicated that it would not test the 1996 expansion agreement by maintaining any formal block to consensus). At time of writing, no agreement had yet been forged.

France and the United States spoke strongly of their readiness to negotiate a cut-off treaty and address security assurances, presenting this as proof of their willingness to address nuclear disarmament issues in the CD. However, after appearing to reject the South African proposal outright during an earlier meeting, France told the last CD plenary of February that it was open to consideration of the South African and Belgian proposals on nuclear disarmament work, especially regarding issues identified by NPT (Non-Proliferation Treaty) Principles and Objectives. India's first statement of 1998 was also regarded as 'more conciliatory', stressing that the proposal for a time-bound framework on nuclear disarmament was not an 'all or nothing' or 'fixed time-table' approach. However, while seeming to endorse Canada's suggestions for clarifying the Shannon mandate with a Presidential statement, India caused concern by saying that it was necessary to develop a new consensus, which some feared could be a move to re-open the mandate altogether.

The United States has continued to push for an ad hoc committee on landmines, co-sponsoring a resolution with 22 other CD members for a special coordinator on the issue. Although opposed, the US has sent mixed messages with regard to CD work on outer space, an issue which is now taken seriously by a broad cross section of States.

In the second month of the CD more than 15 States have addressed the formal sessions, while many more have spoken in closed informal plenaries and small groups of 'informal informals' convened under the auspices of the President. Some gave their views on all the issues under consideration, while others devoted the major part of their statements to arguments for or against issues of particular importance to their security and interests. The following section provides more detail on the main points raised in formal statements.

General and Procedural Issues

On completing his presidency on 12 February, Ambassador Lars Norberg of Sweden noted that two subjects had dominated discussions under agenda item 1, which he described as "pivotal": nuclear disarmament and a fissile materials cut-off treaty (FMCT). He referred to large measures of agreement on reestablishing an ad hoc committee on NSA and for appointing special coordinators for PAROS and TIA, and a "strong trend in favour" of a special coordinator for landmines (2). Norberg had also attempted to get agreement for special coordinators on the so-called 'reform' issues of the CD agenda, expansion and functioning. Hofer's proposals did not include these three reform coordinators: although there is little opposition to such appointments and they may well be decided once the substantive issues are agreed. The Swiss Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Jakob Kellenberger, stressed the need for flexibility and continuity in determining the work of the CD (3).

More States are beginning to recognise that the procedures, role and functioning of the CD need to be thought through more creatively. Several are coming to the conclusion that the proposed fourth UN Special Session on Disarmament should be charged not only with up-dating "fossilised" disarmament priorities, but also with recommending better working procedures and mechanisms for accountability to make the CD more effective. For example, there has been frustration with the "excessive institutional pains" (4) experienced as the CD annually strains to adopt its agenda and work programme. Early in February, Austria expressed support for Chile's proposal for establishing "standing bodies that survive a session and are given the time required to come to their conclusions." (5) Norway also supported Chile's initiatives, noting that they had earned the support of other CD members. Norway also suggested moving away from the rigid annual model, arguing that while time limits might be sensible, they would not necessarily coincide with the calendar (6).

Ambassador Javier Illanes of Chile expanded on points made in his 2 December 1997 letter to the CD President at that time, Ambassador Goonetilleke. Seeking to find a way to allow the CD to discuss disarmament issues "without necessarily implying the existence of the will to initiate a process of negotiation of an international convention", Illanes proposed the creation of "more or less permanent committees or working groups in charge of individual issues of interest to the CD" within the scope of the agreed agenda. These bodies would be authorised to work "year after year, unless the CD should decide to modify or terminate them, at a pace their members would deem convenient".

Illanes also suggested the appointment of coordinators or friends of the Chair to "enhance [the President's] own consultation capabilities" with a view to determining whether or not there were the basis for an eventual negotiating process on any of the issues. Arguing that "this merely informative stage would not alter... the freedom of all the delegations to accept or oppose the subsequent eventual initiation of a negotiating process in an ad hoc Committee", Chile suggested that such coordinators or friends of the Chair could be appointed by the CD President without the specific agreement of member States, thereby bypassing the pettier levels of objection and linkage without altering the freedom of delegations regarding their acceptance or otherwise of subsequent proposals for substantive work on particular issues in committees (7).

Characterising the CD as an irreplaceable confidence-building institution, which (if it did not exist) would have to be invented, Ambassador Joëlle Bourgois of France reiterated the importance of the rule of consensus, seeing it as a guarantor of "the principle of equality among States" (8). In raising concerns about how the CD intends to address the issues of landmines and NSA, which Canada would not oppose, although they were not viewed as priorities for CD work, Ambassador Mark Moher set out what he described as the "simple, clear and logical sequence" that should guide the CD in deciding on which issues to work on:

i) general recognition that the issue is of importance;

ii) determination of the kind of work that could be done by the CD;

iii) establishment of an ad hoc committee with an appropriate mandate (9).

Norway returned to the theme of expansion, arguing that CD membership should be open to all States which applied.

Nuclear Disarmament

Renewed pressure for the CD to negotiate a fissile materials production ban is now accompanied by widespread support for addressing the wider issues of nuclear disarmament, although there are divergences of opinion about how best to do this. A number of statements, including India, Chile and Brazil raised concerns about nuclear deterrence postures and the post-cold war ways in which "the doctrinal utility of nuclear weapons has been re-invented, refined and sustained." (10)

Though the early South African initiative has continued to gather support, it was noted that several European Union (EU) representatives spoke rather of their appreciation of its "spirit". Alternatives put forward by Canada and Belgium have diluted the pressure on the nuclear-weapon States to respond directly. There is little sympathy for the argument that multilateral involvement would undermine the bilateral work being undertaken by the United States and Russia. As Sri Lanka trenchantly pointed out: "we do not have to debate whether the CD should supplant bilateral nuclear arms reduction talks. No one has suggested that." Drawing on the positive example of CD negotiations on the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), where "there were parallel bilateral, and at times, pluri-lateral processes under way between the major CW possessors", Ambassador Palihakkara said that such bilateral and multilateral processes could "enrich each other" (11).

Noting Belgium's "scepticism" regarding multilaterally negotiated time-tables, Carl Peters offered a proposal for a "dialogue" on nuclear issues (12):

"The Conference on Disarmament decides to establish an ad hoc group for reflection and study on ways and means of opening an exchange of information within the Conference on matters relating to article VI of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty." (13)

In supporting Belgium that "the Conference was not in a position to negotiate nuclear arms reductions", Ambassador Frank Majoor of the Netherlands called on the CD to "stimulate the nuclear disarmament process" and said that the Dutch delegation could support "in an innovative approach, a framework that would allow member States of the CD to discuss regularly progress on nuclear disarmament and to exchange information, particularly on negotiations between nuclear-weapon States." (14) Italy echoed these sentiments, also commenting that "if the [South African] proposal foresees the objection of a multilateralisation of the nuclear disarmament negotiations, we will not be able to support it" (15).

Norway likewise welcomed the Belgian and South African initiatives as "positive and constructive" and said that although "the CD should not be mandated to negotiate nuclear weapon reduction, we see a clear role for the CD in questions related to nuclear disarmament and nuclear arms control." Norway endorsed the establishment of procedures for reporting on nuclear issues and considered that the CD "could serve as an important forum for information exchange between nuclear-weapons States and non-nuclear-weapons States." (16)

The Group of 21 continued to "attach the highest priority to the establishment of an ad hoc committee on nuclear disarmament under agenda item 1." (17) Algeria argued against the view that nuclear disarmament was only within the competence of the nuclear-weapon States themselves, noting that the July 1996 International Court of Justice (ICJ) opinion made clear that the pursuit of nuclear disarmament was a legal obligation on all States. In rejection of Belgium's proposal, but avoiding reference to South Africa's initiative for an ad hoc committee "to deliberate upon practical steps for systematic and progressive efforts to eliminate nuclear weapons as well as to identify if and when one or more such steps should be the subject of negotiations in the Conference" (18), Ambassador Mohamad-Salah Dembri emphasised that a CD nuclear disarmament committee "should negotiate and not only reflect" (19).

Taking the floor for the first time, India's new ambassador, Savitri Kunadi, said that her country remained "committed to achieving genuine nuclear disarmament in a comprehensive and non-discriminatory manner", emphasising that "a nuclear-weapon-free world will enhance our national security as it will for others" (20). Kunadi argued that the CD was the "most appropriate forum for discussions and negotiations on a Nuclear Weapons Convention which would ban development, production, stockpiling of nuclear weapons and ensure their destruction in a comprehensive manner." Kunadi expressed concern that instead of regarding nuclear abolition as a logical follow-on, "the very success in the field of elimination of chemical and biological weapons [has] become the justification for the continued retention and possible use of nuclear weapons against the perceived threat of other weapons of mass destruction."

Although reminding the CD of the many proposals urging negotiations on eliminating nuclear weapons, Kunadi said that "Our proposal for a time-bound phased programme is not an 'all or nothing' or a 'fixed time-table' approach, as characterised by some." India opposed "non-action" on nuclear disarmament in the CD, but said that it would be "looking at the South African proposal contained in CD/1483 to see whether we can work on it with a view to move our work forward on agenda item 1 by providing a common meeting ground without prejudging the differing approaches." (21)

Brazil also regarded nuclear disarmament as of "paramount concern" and said that it supported the South African initiative (CD/1483) because it was an "opportunity for the CD both to break the deadlock that has hampered its work since 1997 and to take its rightful place in contributing to the elimination of nuclear weapons." Ambassador Gilberto Verge Saboia said that if established along the lines of South Africa's proposal, a nuclear disarmament committee "would first need to identify issues for negotiation. It could serve as a forum where on-going discussions on nuclear disarmament could be the subject of periodic information and clarifications by those directly engaged in them." He also suggested that "useful preparatory work" on aspects of verification could be envisaged", reminding the CD of the work on seismic verification accomplished by the Group of Scientific Experts (GSE) for years before the CD obtained consensus on a negotiating mandate for the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). Brazil emphasised its support for continuing bilateral arms reductions and hoped "that the other nuclear-weapon States will concurrently engage in substantive reductions".

Saboia said he could not see how a nuclear disarmament committee as envisaged in the South African proposal could set back the START process, as argued by some of the P-5: "the existence of a reduction process should not be argued against finding a role for the CD and for other fora on nuclear disarmament." Furthermore, he noted that the emphasis on nuclear disarmament in the NPT's strengthened review process had been stressed as part of the Brazilian government's argument for joining the NPT (22).

Ambassador Robert Grey said that "it strains credibility... to suggest that the US does not foresee a role for the CD on the question of nuclear disarmament", noting that the CTBT and efforts to begin negotiating a FMCT bore "unequivocal testimony to the CD's vital role" (23). Bourgois took a similar line, listing the steps France has unilaterally undertaken to reduce its weapons systems and begin dismantling its nuclear production infrastructure. She viewed her country's willingness to engage in immediate negotiations on an FMCT to be proof of its commitment to engaging in nuclear disarmament in the CD, and argued also that France was ready to consider discussion of other questions of nuclear disarmament identified in the documents adopted by the NPT Review and Extension Conference - starting with the FMCT and security assurances (24). In a careful and Cartesian statement, Bourgois went on to say that France was also giving attention to the proposals of South Africa and Belgium, recognising them as seeking the middle ground between the antagonistic positions which had bedevilled the CD.


On 3 February, Austria proposed that the CD should begin negotiating a fissban in accordance with the March 1995 Shannon mandate:

"The Conference on Disarmament decides to reestablish under item 1 of its agenda entitled 'Cessation of the nuclear arms race and nuclear disarmament' an ad hoc committee which shall negotiate, on the basis of the report of the Special Coordinator (CD/1299) and the mandate contained therein, a treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other explosive devices.

The Ad Hoc Committee shall present a report to the Conference on Disarmament on the progress of its work before the conclusion of the 1998 session." (25)

Many delegations, including the United States, France, Brazil, Sri Lanka, Chile, the Netherlands, Italy, Switzerland, Norway and Belarus, have renewed the push to get fissban negotiations started in an ad hoc committee under agenda item 1. Bourgois said that France did not merely accept this proposal, but "vigorously supported" it, regarding it as simple and direct, without imposing preconditions on the start of negotiations (26). However, there are still fierce disagreements between those representatives who consider that the Shannon mandate excludes stocks, because the core mandate cited the 1993 UNGA resolution 48/75L which made no mention of them, and those who emphasise Shannon's full report, which noted that issues of past as well as future production and other issues (such as the management of fissile material stocks) had been raised, insisting that the core mandate "does not preclude any delegation from raising for consideration in the ad hoc committee any of the above noted issues" (27).

Epitomising the view of those who want negotiations to commence without delay, the Netherlands reminded the CD delegations that it is "impossible to predict, let alone to prescribe how the negotiations shall take place before they have even started." (28) In France's fullest Statement to the CD on this issue, Bourgois pointed out that her country had already halted production of fissile materials and commenced dismantling the Pierrelatte uranium enrichment plant and the Marcoule reprocessing facility for producing weapons grade plutonium. Underlining France's commitment to a 'cut-off treaty', she said it would establish a quantitative limit on nuclear arsenals, which would contribute an important step to the ultimate goal of eliminating nuclear weapons, and that the multilateral verification envisaged would constitute an essential confidence building measure especially in the Middle East and South Asia. In addition, she said that an FMCT would provide a crucial element of the non-proliferation regime if it halted the production of weapons usable fissile materials for all nuclear-capable states, whether or not they acceded to the NPT (29).

Stressing that Shannon's report was the "only broadly acceptable basis for focused CD work" on fissile materials, Canada proposed that the conflicting views on its interpretation could be clarified in a Presidential statement. In its working paper on the subject, Canada suggested reiterating that all relevant issues can be raised during the negotiations, with the understanding that only those obtaining consensus would be incorporated in the Treaty. Canada also stressed that parallel measures could be undertaken to reduce and control existing stockpiles. To reassure India, which is perceived to have backed away from its earlier agreement on negotiating a fissban in part from fear that it would again be targeted in the entry into force provision in a re-run of the CTBT endgame, Canada suggested that the Presidential statement should underline that "adherence to an FMCT is a prerogative of sovereign national governments and no steps will be taken in the negotiations to prejudge or require such adherence", while also emphasising the importance of participation and adherence by all nuclear-capable States (30). A number of delegations have expressed interest in Canada's suggestions, which Hungary described as "a constructive attempt to hammer out a compromise" (31).

India, which had expressed "reservations on the tenuous nature of the compromise on FMCT" in 1995, said it was ready to participate in consultations on the fissban issue. Noting Canada's working paper, Kunadi said referred to the "value of reconsidering the context in which [the] mandate contained in the Shannon Report was put forward." (32) However, India's view that it is necessary to develop "a new consensus" is not widely shared. In proposing to clarify the mandate in a presidential statement, Canada specifically wished to avoid re-opening the consensus gained in March 1995.

Others, such as Belarus, keen for work to start even if consensus was not forthcoming on getting the negotiations underway, called for active pursuit of "a preparatory negotiating stage". Belarus considered that the negotiations should not only tackle banning the production of fissile materials, "but also reducing the available stock of such materials." (33)

Norway reiterated the proposals it had made during the 1997 NPT PrepCom, advocating greater transparency on fissile materials. "As a first step, the nuclear powers could, on a voluntary basis, provide detailed information on their stocks of plutonium and highly-enriched uranium. A second step could be to ensure cooperative measures to clarify and confirm those declarations. As a third step, the nuclear powers could permit international inspection of their stocks, with the aim of ensuring that the inventory in storage can be taken out only for non-weapons purposes. As a fourth step, agreed monitored net reductions from these stockpiles could be introduced. In addition, consistent and stringent international standards of accounting and security for fissile materials should be established." Norway also said that it would be prepared to look into how transparency on fissile materials could be "integrated into the work of the CD" (34).

Negative Security Assurances

Despite the fact that there is near-consensus on establishing an ad hoc committee on security assurances, there is curiously little enthusiasm for the subject and little new thinking. Few delegations have devoted much time to it in their recent statements to the CD plenary. Some, such as Chile and France, supported NSA in passing as a contribution towards nuclear disarmament, and France felt able to back not only a special coordinator, but reestablishment of a committee. Bourgois noted, however, that over a hundred States already benefited from full security assurances by virtue of their membership in nuclear-weapon-free zones, the relevant protocols of which France has signed and ratified. The United States, which has been reluctant on this issue in the past, surprised some by including the ad hoc committee on NSA among "CD agenda topics that are not merely possible... but indeed in our view, ripe for immediate multilateral work." (35)

Among the most outspoken of those who put this issue far down in their list of priorities for CD work have been South Africa, which has been pushing for the issue to be addressed within the NPT framework, and Canada. Since South Africa, as one of the 23 States admitted to CD membership in June 1996, is still procedurally unable to exercise a veto in the CD, it was left to Canada to withhold consensus when decision on this issue was pushed by Pakistan. Canada stressed that while it could support a special coordinator, "greater clarity is required before we commit ourselves to moving to an Ad Hoc Committee with an agreed mandate." (36)


On 10 February, a group of 23 countries submitted their proposal for a special coordinator on landmines:

"With reference to United Nations General Assembly resolution 52/38H which invited the Conference on Disarmament to intensify its efforts on the issue of anti-personnel landmines, and without prejudice to, and within the context of, its urgent ongoing efforts to establish a Programme of Work for its 1998 session and to set up mechanisms, as appropriate, for other agenda items of the Conference, and in order to facilitate these efforts, the Conference on Disarmament decides:

1. To re-appoint the Special Coordinator to continue his consultations on a possible mandate on the question of anti-personnel landmines under agenda item 6.

2. The Special Coordinator shall take into consideration all relevant proposals and views, present and future.

3. The Special Coordinator shall present an early report to the Conference on Disarmament." (37)

The co-sponsors were Argentina, Australia, Belarus, Belgium, Bulgaria, Chile, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Poland, Romania, Russian Federation, Slovakia, Spain, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States, Venezuela. While some, such as the United States, France and Venezuela, reiterated their support for CD work in their plenary statements, others made only passing reference, if at all. Ambassador Náray informed the CD of Hungary's ratification of the Ottawa Treaty on 24 February.

Those advocating CD work generally focused on the need to engage States which considered themselves unable to join the Ottawa Treaty, emphasising the general support for a phased approach, beginning with a ban on exports and transfers. For France, Bourgois represented the position of Ottawa signatories supporting CD work, stressing that a ban on exports would "reinforce the objectives" of the Ottawa Treaty (38). For Brazil, Saboia echoed the views of a number of Ottawa signatories when he said that despite the existence of two legal instruments already, Brazil was "ready to consider positively a CD role" if it would deepen the involvement of countries outside such international regimes.

However, Saboia warned that duplication and dispersal of efforts should be avoided (39). Some countries merely reiterated that they had "an open mind" regarding appointment of a special coordinator, while Norway said it would be willing to participate in "any constructive dialogue" which could promote universalisation of the total ban on landmines "in conformity with the norms now established" by the Ottawa Treaty (40).

Reminding the CD of the devastation wrought by World-War II landmines in Egypt, Ambassador Mounir Zahran of Egypt circulated Resolution EB101.R23 adopted by the World Health Organisation on 27 January 1998, regarding the public health impact and necessary actions regarding landmines. He called on "States which planted landmines on the territories of other countries, including Egypt ...[to] assume their responsibility in a more serious manner in the clearance operations by providing the necessary maps and information, as well as the requisite technical and financial resources...to avoid further injuries and death among civilians..." (41)

Transparency in Armaments

On 10 February, the Netherlands proposed appointing a special coordinator on TIA:

"The Conference on Disarmament decides to appoint a Special Coordinator to conduct consultations on the most appropriate way to deal with the question of Transparency in Armaments under agenda item 7. In doing so, the Special Coordinator shall take into consideration all relevant proposals and views, present and future, and shall re-examine the mandate contained in the decision of 21 January 1993 (CD/1150), with a view to updating it if appropriate. The Special Coordinator shall present a report to the Conference on Disarmament before the end of the first part of its 1998 session." (42)

Majoor devoted half his statement to the importance of this issue, arguing that transparency was "one of the most important keys to peace and security at the lowest possible level of armament." Majoor argued that the CD "is the pre-eminent body to stimulate further thinking on how to bring about in a gradual but effective manner the necessary level of transparency in armaments." He suggested that the CD should "elaborate and pre-negotiate" workable options for expanding the UN Register on Conventional Arms with other types of conventional weapons and with data on holdings and procurement through national production. He also welcomed Canada's proposals on promoting responsibility and restraint in international arms transfers, developing guidelines or a code of conduct on arms transfers, including small arms, and curbing illicit arms transfers (43).

Various delegations supported or elaborated on the Dutch proposals for further work on TIA, including Brazil, Venezuela and Sri Lanka, who placed special emphasis on the illicit arms trade and what Palihakkara described as "the nexus between illicit arms traders, drug traffickers and terrorists." Italy described the objectives as moving "from values to written rules, from principles to procedures, from claims to rights" and referred to the EU's proposals for a code of conduct on arms and military equipment exports, especially with regard to "countries responsible for serious violations of international agreements safeguarding human rights..." (44)


Following on from Canada's proposal for an ad hoc committee on outer space with the mandate to negotiate a convention for the non-weaponisation of outer space, several delegations have urged the importance of this issue, including Italy, Sri Lanka, Brazil, and India. Some have endorsed Canada's approach, which seeks negotiation of a legally binding instrument to prohibit the development or deployment of weapons in space. France identified PAROS as one of its three priorities for work in the CD, backing most of the points made on this subject by others, including Canada, Egypt and Sri Lanka. Norway noted that there was no arms race taking place at present in outer space and that space was "subject to different kinds of military use". However, Norway supported Canada's proposals, aimed at preventive action to exclude future positioning of weapons in outer space (44). India was among those who wished for a broader scope, for example, to include "a ban on ASAT [anti-satellite] weapons." (45)

Other Issues Raised

The First Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Belarus, Sergei Martynov, devoted a large part of his statement to the proposal for a nuclear-free 'space' in Central and Eastern Europe, from the Baltic to the Black Sea. Recalling proposals on this since 1990 and noting that since 1996 Central and Eastern Europe have been de facto free of nuclear weapons, Martynov defined the goals of his country's proposal thus: to enhance disarmament progress and the elimination of weapons of mass destruction; to reduce the danger of resumption of nuclear confrontation in Europe; for an integrating element of security and confidence in the region; to enhance the "transcontinental element of European security through mutual obligations of the USA and Russia" towards such a nuclear-weapon-free space; to consolidate various nuclear-weapon-free commitments; to enhance regional security and stability, particularly confidence building between NATO "and those nations whose interests are affected by NATO's enlargement"; to prevent geographical proliferation of weapons of mass destruction; and to promote cooperation on nuclear energy technologies (46).

Hungary, which chairs the Ad Hoc Group of the States Parties to the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) emphasised the importance of its attempts to strengthen compliance. Noting that work had commenced now on a rolling text, Náray called for additional efforts to reinforce the negotiations in the ad hoc group, and said that "the strengthening of the [Biological Weapons] Convention is too important a task to be treated as a 'stepchild' of the multilateral disarmament and arms control machinery." This allusion appears to hark back to European folk tales where step-children were mistreated and not given the rights and attention normally accorded to children who were biologically related to the parent(s). Bourgois clearly shared Hungary's concerns when she lamented that the negotiations on a BWC verification protocol "did not benefit from the favourable conditions" accorded the CWC or CTBT in the CD (47).

Several countries, including Norway, the Netherlands, France, Brazil, Switzerland and Sri Lanka pushed for small arms and light weapons to be addressed in a more focused manner, noting that excessive concentration of small arms threaten the stability of States and undermine work on development and conflict resolution. For some, this could be done within the context of expanding the remit of a TIA Committee, while others raised questions about this as a possible separate area for CD consideration. Norway announced a seminar in May with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to discuss the Norwegian Initiative on Small Arms transfers, launched in December 1997.


Several times this past month CD members have appeared to be on the brink of taking some decisions on work, but so far consensus has eluded the Conference. Some delegations are worried that the 'easy' decisions will get taken, thus filling CD time up with 'make-work' to no real purpose. The heat has been stepped up on the FMCT issue and there is a sense that France and Britain are no longer hanging back. However, despite the rhetoric, there is no sense of leadership from the United States, which reportedly has but few personnel working on this issue now in Washington. India's reservations are serious but should not be viewed as insuperable.

As a growing number of States from all sides are reaching convergence on a role for the international community in identifying concrete objectives for nuclear disarmament by the existing nuclear-weapon States and in facilitating, focusing and monitoring their progress, the hardliners and a few small allies appear still to be stuck in old thinking. While there are signs of a gradual softening that could lead to constructive compromise, the 'fossilised' demands for full and immediate multilateral negotiations on a binding time-table on the one hand, or "hands off our toys" on the other continue to reinforce each other in preventing the CD as a whole from dealing effectively with the issues which it is funded by the international community to address on our behalf.

The dates for the 1998 session are:

19 January to 27 March;

11 May to 26 June;

27 July to 9 September.

Notes and references

1. Robert R Grey, United States representative to the Conference on Disarmament, 12 February 1998, CD/PV.784.
2. Lars Norberg, Ambassador of Sweden, 12 February 1998, CD/PV.784.
3. Jakob Kellenberger, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs of Switzerland, 5 March, CD/PV.787.
4. S. Palihakkara, Ambassador of Sri Lanka, 26 February 1998, CD/PV.786.
5. Harald Kreid, Ambassador of Austria, 3 February 1998, CD/PV.782.
6. Aslaug Marie Haga, State Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Norway, 5 March, 1998, CD/PV.787.
7. Javier Illanes, Ambassador of Chile, 19 February 1998, CD/PV.785.
8. Joëlle Bourgois, Ambassador of France, 26 February 1998, CD/PV.786.
9. Mark Moher, Ambassador of Canada, 26 February 1998, CD/PV.786.
10. Palihakkara, 26 February 1998, op. cit.
11. Palihakkara, ibid.
12. Carl Peters, Deputy Ambassador of Belgium, 12 February 1998, CD/PV.784.
13. CD/1496.
14. Frank Majoor, Ambassador of the Netherlands, 12 February 1998, CD/PV.784.
15. Giulio Picheca, Deputy Ambassador of Italy, 19 February 1998, CD/PV.785.
16. Haga, 5 March, op. cit.
17. S. Palihakkara, Ambassador of Sri Lanka, on behalf of the G-21, 12 February 1998, CD/PV.784.
18. CD/1483
19. Mohamad-Salah Dembri, Ambassador of Algeria, 12 February 1998, CD/PV.784.
20. Savitri Kunadi, Ambassador of India, 12 February 1998, CD/PV.784.
21. ibid.
22. Gilberto Verge Saboia, Ambassador of Brazil, 12 February 1998, CD/PV.784.
23. Grey, 12 February op. cit.
24. Bourgois, 26 February op. cit.
25. Draft decision on the reestablishment of an ad hoc committee to negotiate a treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices, CD/1492.
26. Bourgois, 26 February, op. cit.
27. Report of Ambassador Gerald E. Shannon of Canada on Consultations on the Most Appropriate Arrangement to Negotiate a Treaty Banning the Production of Fissile Material for Nuclear Weapons or other Nuclear Explosive Devices, 24 March 1995, CD/1299.
28. Majoor, 12 February, op. cit.
29. Bourgois, 26 February, op. cit.
30. Mark Moher, Ambassador of Canada, 22 January 1998, CD/PV.780 and Working Paper with regard to an ad hoc committee on a fissile material cut-off treaty, CD/1485.
31. Peter Náray, Ambassador of Hungary, 26 February 1998, CD/PV.786.
32. Kunadi, 12 February, op. cit.
33. Sergei Martynov, First Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Belarus, 26 February 1998, CD/PV.786.
34. Haga, 5 March, op. cit.
35. Grey, 12 February, op. cit.
36. Moher, 26 February, op. cit.
37. CD/1495
38. Bourgois, 26 February, op. cit.
39. Saboia, 12 February, op. cit.
40. Haga, 5 March, op. cit.
41. Mounir Zahran, Ambassador of Egypt, 5 February 1998, CD/PV.783, and CD/1493.
42. CD/1494
43. Majoor, 12 February, op. cit.
44. Picheca, 19 February, op. cit.
45. Haga, 5 March, op. cit.
46. Kunadi, 12 February, op. cit.
47. Martynov, 26 February, op. cit.
48. Bourgois, 26 February, op. cit.

Rebecca Johnson is Director of the Acronym Institute.

© 1998 The Acronym Institute.

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