Text Only | Disarmament Diplomacy | Disarmament Documentation | ACRONYM Reports
Back to the Acronym home page
British Policy
South Asia
About Acronym

Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 24, March 1998

CD Adopts 'Make Work' Work Programme For 1998
By Rebecca Johnson


The Conference on Disarmament, chaired by Ambassador Taher Al-Hussami of the Syrian Arab Republic, on 26 March established an ad hoc Committee on negative security assurances (NSA) and six special coordinators on substantive and procedural issues. There was not time before the first part of the 1998 session closed to decide on the names of CD Members to fill the posts of special coordinators and Chair of the ad hoc committee, but it is hoped that the appointments will be agreed soon after the CD reconvenes on 11 May.

Special coordinators were established for the CD agenda items dealing with prevention of an arms race in outer space (PAROS), landmines, and transparency in armaments (TIA). Three 'reform' coordinators were also established, for review of the agenda, the expansion of CD membership, and on improving the functioning of the CD. With continued opposition from some of the nuclear-weapon States (NWS), there was no agreement on appointing a special coordinator for nuclear disarmament. It was therefore decided that 'intensive consultations' on this issue should be carried out by the troika of past, present and next presidents of the CD. The Presidency is normally rotated every four weeks alphabetically among the ambassadors of CD member States.

Although a number of delegations showed satisfaction at finally achieving some decisions on a work programme, they also expressed disappointment. Brazil said the decision fell 'woefully short' of international aspirations and agreed with South Africa that it represented the 'lowest common denominator' of consensus; China saw it as the 'product of compromise'; Germany and Pakistan characterised the decision as a 'modest step'; while many emphasised that it was, at least, a start. Japan, Britain, Germany, the United States and others urged the President to seek agreement on the personnel to fill the key appointments so that they could begin consultations in the intersessional period before the CD reconvenes on 11 May, but the non-aligned States warned against rushing such decisions, pointing out that they would not be able to engage in full consultations during the remaining 24 hours as they were also covering the Human Rights Commission.

Delegations from the G-21 group of non-aligned States particularly regretted that nuclear disarmament was not given a special coordinator, and called on the President to begin consultations on this as soon as possible. Others, including Japan and Germany were concerned that the decision did not mention the fissile material production ban (fissban) or cut-off treaty (FMCT), to which they accorded high priority. Ambassador Robert Grey of the United States devoted the major part of his plenary statement to urging the CD to get negotiations on a cut-off treaty underway, calling it "ripe for negotiation". Arguing also for the CD to undertake substantive work on landmines, Grey said that negotiations on these two issues would demonstrate that the CD was a "serious negotiating forum in which meaningful disarmament agreements can be reached." (1)

South Africa and Canada both expressed deep reservations regarding the establishment of an ad hoc committee on security assurances, questioning whether 'real work' could be done on NSA at the CD. While Canada said it would not block consensus, South Africa made clear that it did not support the decision, leaving an impression that it might have exercised its veto if that right had not been suspended as part of the CD enlargement agreement in June 1996.

In public statements as well as in the corridors there was relief that a work programme had been agreed, but recognition that it had missed the major issues. Some delegates complained that the CD had only managed to agree on 'make work' topics to give the appearance of relevance and industry, while in fact it was still deadlocked on the politically-charged issues of fissban negotiations, nuclear disarmament and whether to work on landmines.

Major plenary statements were made during recent weeks by China, Colombia, Pakistan (with a reply from India), Canada, Mexico and the United States. Following the establishment of a new government in India, headed by the Hindu nationalist party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Foreign Minister of Pakistan, Gohar Ayub Khan, criticised his neighbour's "great power ambitions and aggressive proclivities", with particular reference to Jammu and Kashmir and the "unpleasant revelation" of India's chemical weapons programme and stockpiles. In particular, Khan raised concerns about recent public pronouncements from the BJP President that India would "go nuclear". He warned that "South Asia may be pushed into a dangerous arms race" (2). Ambassador Savitri Kunadi responded on behalf of India, but suggested that Pakistan should raise these concerns bilaterally rather than in the CD. She said that India remained committed to sustained and constructive dialogue at the Foreign Secretary level, in the ongoing talks initiated in 1990 (3).

The new Chinese Ambassador, Li Changhe, gave a comprehensive statement in which he warned that despite the end of the Cold War, "we are still haunted by the spectre of the Cold War mentality, as evidenced by the expansion of military blocs, the strengthening of military alliances, the retention and even extension of the nuclear deterrence doctrine, and research, development and proliferation of strategic defence systems." Li called the CD "irreplaceable" and said that, since it encompassed "all militarily significant countries", only the treaties concluded in the CD framework could "enjoy wide representation and universality". China expressed its willingness to commence negotiations on a FMCT "on the basis of the mandate contained in the Shannon Report". In his careful wording and reiteration of the mandate based on the 1993 UNGA resolution 48/75L, Li clearly underlined China's view that existing fissile material stocks should not be included in the proposed treaty. He also gave general support for discussing nuclear disarmament in the CD, and pushed for the militarisation of outer space to be addressed. Li backed CD work on NSA and argued for unconditional security assurances to non-nuclear-weapon States and a commitment by the NWS of no-first-use of nuclear weapons against each other (4).

After making a strong case for addressing nuclear disarmament in the CD, the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs of Mexico, Ambassador Carmen Moreno, also considered the work methods of the CD. Observing that the present division of CD Members into "groups reminiscent of the Cold War is anachronistic and does not facilitate decision-making", she said that "the real division with regard to security today is between nuclear-weapon States and non-nuclear-weapon States." Recognising the importance of consensus in safeguarding everyone's security interests, Mexico argued that "if carried to the extreme, as is happening now, consensus is reduced to the lowest common denominator or...line of least possible resistance." Backing Chile's proposal on standing committees, Moreno called for the consensus rule to be re-examined, so that it could not be applied in ways that prevented the effective functioning of the CD (5).


The President, Taher Al-Hussami, first made a declaration regarding agenda item 1 (nuclear disarmament). This was followed by adoption of the decision on the work programme and comments from various delegations, including South Africa, Egypt, India, Iran, Japan, Canada, Pakistan, Germany, China, and the United States on behalf of itself, France and the United Kingdom. The statement and draft decision adopted by the CD on 26 March 1998 were contained in a 'Non-paper' by the President, revision 3. The statement will be issued as CD/1500 and the decision as CD/1501.

Presidential Declaration

After having identified Agenda Item 1 entitled "Cessation of the Nuclear Arms Race and Nuclear Disarmament" as being of an extremely high priority, and after having used all means of consultations provided for in the Rules of Procedure of the Conference, the President came to the conclusion that the only way to move forward on substance at this stage would consist in substantially increasing consultations regarding this item, under his authority by using all possibilities, including the assistance of the outgoing and the incoming Presidents, with a view to reaching consensus on how to deal with this item.

The Presidency is thus willing to consider henceforth Agenda Item 1 as its first priority, to vigorously continue its efforts in this respect and to present early and regular reports on these consultations throughout the session, including before the end of the second part of the 1998 session.

Draft Decision

The Conference takes the following decisions:

1. That the Presidency, taking into account the statement (CD/1500), made by the President at the 791st plenary meeting on 26 March 1998, shall pursue intensive consultations and seek the views of its Members on appropriate methods and approaches for dealing with agenda item 1 entitled "Cessation of the nuclear arms race and nuclear disarmament", taking into consideration all proposals and views on this item.

2. The Conference establishes, for the duration of the 1998 session, an ad hoc committee under agenda item 4 entitled "Effective international arrangements to assure non-nuclear-weapon States against the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons", to negotiate with a view to reaching agreement on effective international arrangements to assure non-nuclear-weapon States against the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons. These arrangements could take the form of an internationally legally binding instrument.

The ad hoc committee shall take into consideration all relevant views and proposals present and future and also address questions related to its mandate.

The Ad Hoc Committee will report to the Conference on the progress of its work before the conclusion of the 1998 session.

3. The Conference appoints a Special Coordinator under agenda item 3 entitled "Prevention of an arms race in outer space" to seek the views of its Members on the most appropriate way to deal with the questions related to this item.

4. The Conference appoints a Special Coordinator under agenda item 6 entitled "Comprehensive programme of disarmament" to seek the views of its Members on the most appropriate way to deal with the questions related to anti-personnel landmines taking into account, inter alia, developments outside the Conference.

5. The Conference appoints a Special Coordinator under agenda item 7 entitled "Transparency in armaments" to seek the views of its Members on the most appropriate way to deal with the questions related to this item.

6. In implementing these decisions, the Presidency and the Special Coordinators shall take into consideration all relevant views and proposals, present and future.

7. The Conference requests the Presidency and the Special Coordinators to present early and regular reports on the outcome of their consultations throughout the session, including before the end of the second part of its 1998 session.

8. The Conference also decides to appoint Special Coordinators on the Review of its Agenda, the Expansion of its Membership and its Improved and Effective Functioning. These Special Coordinators, in discharging their duties and functions, will take into account all proposals and views, as well as future initiatives. The Conference requests these Special Coordinators to report to it before the conclusion of the 1998 session.

9. The taking of these decisions contained in paragraphs 1, 3, 4 and 5 does not prejudge the positions of delegations on the eventual establishment of subsidiary bodies on the issues identified, but reflects agreement to advance the Conference's work with a view to reaching consensus. This decision is also taken without prejudice to the rights of Members of the Conference to move forward with positions and proposals already made or to be put forward in the future.


Nuclear Disarmament

Non-nuclear weapon States have continued to stress the importance of nuclear disarmament. Camilo Reyes Rodriguez, the Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Colombia, supported establishment of an ad hoc committee with a negotiating mandate and called on the nuclear weapon States to display the necessary resolution and political will to dismantle their nuclear arsenals (6).

Ambassador Carmen Moreno, Under-Secretary of Foreign Affairs of Mexico, devoted the major part of her statement to addressing nuclear weapons concerns. Pointing out that with the end of the Cold War bipolar confrontation, "logic and practice dictated putting an end to the spread of the awesome weapons it had produced and to the nuclear deterrence doctrines that had lost their fundamental support", Moreno raised concerns about new deterrence doctrines, aimed "everywhere and against anyone", concluding that "today the probability of the intentional use of these awesome weapons is greater than ever." In view of these new doctrines, the continued risk of accidental or mistaken use, and increasing insecurity surrounding nuclear technology and materials, Moreno asserted that the "strains on the nuclear non-proliferation regime could lead us - in the continued absence of consensus on nuclear disarmament - to considering nuclear weapons commonplace."

Though her statement also raised serious concerns about conventional weapons and other weapons of mass destruction, Moreno underlined that the 1996 advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) made clear that nuclear disarmament was relevant to all States and was not to be subordinated to general and complete disarmament.

Noting statements in December 1996 by 60 Generals and Admirals and in February 1998 by the civil leaders of 44 nations, as well as the initiatives put forward by Mexico in the past, Moreno stated that "the abolition of nuclear weapons is an idea whose time has come". Mexico wanted the concept and parameters of a nuclear weapon convention to be explored, stressing that this did not imply artificial deadlines, but that it should be possible to agree on "flexible and differentiated time-frames with due regard to the quantitative and qualitative disparities in existing stockpiles..." Noting the suggestions put forward by the G-21 and others in recent years, Moreno suggested that the CD would only overcome its "endless consultations" when it acknowledged the priority of nuclear disarmament and tackled the subject "systematically and seriously" (7).

Pakistan's Foreign Minister, Gohar Ayub Khan, argued that the danger posed by nuclear weapons was not confined to 'loose nukes' or nuclear terrorism, although these needed to be seriously addressed: "The principal danger arises from the continued possession and possible use of nuclear weapons by some of the nuclear weapon States." Khan raised concerns about the continued existence of large arsenals, even after START II and START III and the "uncertainty of multipolar nuclear deterrence between 5 nuclear powers and perhaps some additional nuclear-capable States". Like Mexico, Pakistan was particularly concerned about "the new nuclear doctrines contemplating the actual use of nuclear weapons - even against non-nuclear weapon States". Khan said that the new doctrines and related refinement of nuclear designs could destroy the consensus against nuclear proliferation and lead to a nuclear disaster.

Pakistan wanted the CD to "play a central role in realising the vital objective of nuclear disarmament". Noting that there may be more than 20 countries with the potential to build nuclear weapons, Khan said that "it would not be wise or logical to exclude them from negotiations which seek the progressive reduction and eventual elimination of nuclear weapons." He reiterated Pakistan's support for the 1997 proposal from 26 non-aligned countries for an ad hoc committee on nuclear disarmament with three simultaneous working groups:

i) to negotiate a binding commitment to the complete elimination of nuclear weapons, on which Pakistan intended to circulate a working paper;

ii) to negotiate a timetable for nuclear disarmament along the lines of CD/1419 (proposed by 28 non-aligned delegations in 1996), making clear that "we are seeking in this process to identify nuclear disarmament measures, their sequence and the approximate timing for their realisation", not for actual negotiations of specific measures; and

iii) to negotiate a Fissile Materials Convention "with a mandate which reflects the Shannon Report and the concerns expressed by all countries." Khan warned that the fissban would not be equitable (and therefore not acceptable) if it failed to address existing and unequal stockpiles (8).

Ambassador Li Changhe reiterated China's policy of opposing the nuclear arms race and nuclear deterrence and standing for "the complete prohibition and thorough destruction of nuclear weapons". He said China had exercised "extreme self restraint" in its development of nuclear weapons. Although China hoped that "on the basis of full exchange of views" an acceptable formula would be found for addressing nuclear disarmament in the CD, Li argued that the two largest NWS should "carry out further drastic reductions of their nuclear arsenals, abandon the strategy of nuclear deterrence, stop the research in and development of outer space weapons and refrain from the development, deployment and proliferation of missile defence systems, which undermine the global strategic security and stability." China considered such progress necessary to create the conditions for all the NWS to participate in nuclear disarmament negotiations in the future (9).


Grey devoted the major part of the recent US statement to highlighting the need to move forward with negotiating a treaty on the basis of the 1995 Shannon mandate. He said that while the United States was "prepared to listen, to participate, to contribute, and to discuss issues of concern" to all CD members, it wanted the Conference to do what was "realistically achievable". Calling a fissile materials cut-off "one of the cornerstones in building a solid foundation for global nuclear disarmament", Grey said that it was not "only" a non-proliferation measure, but would have "clear benefits from a nuclear disarmament perspective":

i) it would apply a quantitative restraint, capping the amount of fissile material available for nuclear weapons globally;

ii) it would extend verification measures to fissile material production facilities not currently subject to international monitoring, including all reprocessing and enrichment facilities in the NWS;

iii) it would make legally binding and irreversible the current voluntary moratoria on fissile material production undertaken by some of the NWS;

iv) it would promote a positive climate for continued progress on reducing nuclear weapons stockpiles;

v) it would meet the commitment made in the NPT Principles and Objectives in 1995.

With regard to its nonproliferation benefits, Grey stressed that a FMCT would "promote stability in regions where the risks of escalating arms races are greatest". In a clear reference to South Asia and the Middle East, Grey said: "We hear talk of dangerous 'regional imbalances' which must be addressed. Would it not make sense to take an important step - a step we can take now - to ensure that those imbalances do not grow larger?" (10)

China maintained that "the conclusion of a convention on the prohibition of fissile material for nuclear weapons will be conducive to the prevention of nuclear proliferation and promotion of nuclear disarmament, a shared responsibility of every member of the international community." Li Changhe said that the future convention should be "fair, reasonable and universal" and be based on the Shannon mandate and the 1993 UNGA resolution 48/75L (11). Pakistan's Foreign Minister said his country was "prepared to commence work on a Fissile Materials Convention with a mandate which reflects the Shannon Report and the concerns expressed by all countries. If it is to be acceptable, the Fissile Materials Treaty must be equitable. It would not be so if it does not address the problems created by unequal stockpiles of fissile materials, including in our region." (12) Mexico's reference to "efforts limited to partial and peripheral measures" was interpreted by some delegations as a dismissal of the importance of CD work on a FMCT (13).

Egypt reiterated the importance of the fissban, putting it in a wider context of nuclear disarmament. Western States, including Canada, Japan and Germany, stressed the urgent need to negotiate the proposed FMCT, arguing that the Shannon report provided a good basis and the necessary flexibility to raise matters of legitimate concern. Germany and Canada also expressed a willingness to re-examine the context of the Shannon mandate, although Ambassador Günther Seibert underlined Germany's view that "this should not stand in the way of commencement of substantive work in an ad hoc committee, or, if necessary, in a less formal setting." (14) Having tabled its own proposal for a Presidential clarification to enable the fissban committee to start work on the basis of the Shannon report, Canada had wondered whether the FMCT issue was omitted from the draft decision because it had been "precluded - dare we say vetoed - by one or more delegations?" (15)

Security Assurances

The only ad hoc committee established in the work programme was on NSA, due in no small measure to Pakistan's tenacity. Khan suggested that the committee should "enable us to collectively clarify the new doctrines for nuclear deterrence and nuclear use propounded by certain States and Alliances systems" with the aim of concluding a binding international agreement. He also suggested that the committee could examine additional confidence building measures related to nuclear targeting and possible use (16). China's position on unconditional security assurances and no first use has remained solid and Li predictably pledged support for an NSA ad hoc Committee to negotiate such an international legal instrument. Firstly, he said, the "most effective security assurances should be the complete prohibition and thorough destruction of nuclear weapons." Pending the realisation of this "ultimate objective", the NWS should "undertake unconditionally not to use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear-weapon States" and the NWS should commit themselves to "no first use of nuclear weapons against each other." (17)

South Africa, as one of 23 new Members admitted to the CD in June 1996, was denied the right to exercise a veto as part of an agreement designed to deal with US problems over Iraq. Before the 26 March Plenary decided on the 1998 work programme, South Africa read a statement withholding its support from the decision to establish an NSA ad hoc Committee. Quoting Ambassador Selebi, Peter Goosen questioned whether NSA belonged in the CD and noted that in the past the CD had "demonstrated a singular lack of any progress" on NSA. In South Africa's view, NSA was not a genuine disarmament measure, but rather "confirmation of the nuclear weapon status of those States which possess these weapons." Arguing that the NSA issue ought rather to be addressed in the strengthened review process of the NPT, since security assurances are "an implicit part of the NPT bargain which was struck with non-nuclear-weapon States when they forswore the nuclear weapons option", Goosen made clear that the South African delegation did not support paragraph 2 of the work programme setting up a NSA ad hoc committee (18).

Canada affirmed that it regarded nuclear disarmament and the FMCT as national priorities and reiterated its scepticism about setting up a committee on NSA. Canada had noted the fundamental disparity of views over who was to give what to whom and how, and suggested that these questions needed to be explored and clarified before taking "the deliberate decision" to establish a committee. Though it had not blocked agreement on the programme of work, Canada, like South Africa, expressed scepticism that any real progress could be made on security assurances at the CD (19).


China expressed concern about "activities in the development and testing of components of outer space weapons or weapons systems in recent years" and said that such activities were designed to use outer space for consolidating and strengthening military superiority on the ground. As such, they could "undermine regional and global strategic balance, jeopardise peace, security and stability, and harbour the potential danger of turning outer space eventually into a battlefield." Arguing that outer space should be used solely for peaceful purposes and that the existing international legal instruments were far from adequate, Li Changhe endorsed the view of Ambassador Palihakkara of Sri Lanka, that if the CD did not deal now with preventing an arms race in outer space, it would in future years have to negotiate on space disarmament or on the nonproliferation of outer space weapons. China therefore supported the re-establishment of an ad hoc committee on PAROS but would also accept a special coordinator, as a first step.

Mexico raised concerns that technological developments could lead to the increasing militarisation of outer space and considered that a PAROS committee should be re-established on the basis of the 1997 UN General Assembly resolution 52/37. Pakistan and Colombia also backed a PAROS committee, hoping that it would soon negotiate an agreement to preserve outer space for peaceful purposes. Colombia emphasised the need for a comprehensive regime with verification, transparency and confidence building measures.


The United States continued to argue that the issue of anti-personnel landmines (APL) was "ripe for negotiation" in the CD. Noting that a number of the largest producers and stockpilers of landmines were not adherents of existing agreements, Grey argued that "an export/transfer ban negotiated in the CD would enable many more States to accept international obligations that restrict APL." (20)

China said it took seriously the humanitarian concerns and supported "appropriate, reasonable and feasible restrictions" on landmines, as well as carrying out large scale national and international demining activities. However, China considered that landmines continued to be "an indispensable defensive weapon" for many countries, so that "a balance should be struck between humanitarian concerns and legitimate requirements of sovereign States for self defence." Until alternative means could be found, China could not agree to a ban on landmines, but it was prepared to support the reappointment of a special coordinator along the lines of CD/1495, proposed by 23 countries, including Ottawa signatories and non-signatories.

Colombia stressed the importance of regional initiatives, as well as humanitarian work and demining, and said that the CD could work on landmines in "parallel" with the Ottawa process, providing that it did not jeopardise the rules established by the Ottawa Treaty (21). Mexico urged continuing work aimed at the entry into force and full implementation of the Ottawa Treaty. With regard to proposals for further negotiations beginning with a ban on exports, Moreno argued that the 1980 Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) would be a more "fitting context" for negotiating phased measures that would "take us one step further from Protocol II... without eroding the prohibitions agreed on in Oslo." (22)

Conventional Arms Control

Several statements supported further work on conventional arms. Clearly concerned about the military disparities in South Asia, Pakistan called for establishment of an ad hoc Committee on Conventional Arms Control and Disarmament, suggesting that it should have three working groups:

i) to constrain advanced technology and development of more sophisticated weapons systems, since "the increasing lethality and sophistication of conventional weapons...increase suffering and...further intensify the concentration of destructive power in the hands of a few militarily and technologically advanced powers";

ii) to formulate a framework for conventional disarmament and arms control at the regional and sub-regional level; and

iii) to consider the transfer of armaments, especially small arms. With regard to regional arms control, Khan identified certain key principles which Pakistan would want to instil: that "none of the potential adversaries should be capable of prevailing in a military attack launched by surprise"; rough parity of quantitative and qualitative defence capabilities between potential adversaries; and "no significant disparity in any of the areas of conventional defence - land, air or naval forces" (23).

Colombia also regarded small arms as an issue of major importance, raising concerns about illicit trafficking and widespread use. Noting that small arms destabilised societies, and sheltered terrorism, drug trafficking and mercenary activities, thus violating human rights, Reyes Rodriguez called for an ad hoc committee in the CD to address this issue (24). Mexico also raised concerns about excessive conventional armaments. Holding that conventional disarmament would have "better prospects of success at the regional level", Moreno noted the work of the Organisation of American States in 1997 and the Rio Group, which met in Mexico in January 1998 to consider possible voluntary measures to control the acquisition of offensive conventional weapons (25).

Other Issues Raised

Reyes Rodriguez pushed for a fourth UN Special Session on Disarmament (UNSSOD IV) to be held in the near future. Colombia also stressed the importance of transparency in armaments, an issue that was barely mentioned (or only in passing) by other delegations. Several States referred to the need to strengthen the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) and work for full implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) and Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). Mexico called for a broad approach to the issue of the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, raising concern about shortcomings in the export control regimes. Arguing that "the closed and hence discriminatory nature of these regimes contributes to their diminished efficiency", Moreno called for the CD to identify the elements for "a multilateral regime for the control of the transfer of technology and dual use materials linked to the building of weapons of mass destruction."

Pakistan wanted the CD to consider negotiations for an international agreement to prohibit or restrict anti-ballistic missile (ABM) and theatre missile defence (TMD) systems, arguing that the development of AMB and TMD defence systems could "seriously erode nuclear stability and provoke a new nuclear and missiles race among the nuclear powers and perhaps other States." As a first step, Pakistan suggested that the CD could set up a working group to clarify the legal and technical developments pertinent to this issue.


The CD's difficulties are essentially political, with structural components that obstruct substantial decision-making. Adoption of this 'lowest common denominator' work programme demonstrates more clearly than ever the need for a positive new mandate on disarmament from the international community. Since the groundbreaking consensus at the UN Special Session on Disarmament in 1978, the geostrategic context has altered beyond recognition. The CD has enlarged its membership to 60, one third of the UN Membership, comprising the major military and industrial nations, with a few notable exceptions. It is high time for another Special Session of the UN General Assembly to allow the international community to re-examine post-Cold War priorities and practicalities. UNSSOD IV could provide a valuable opportunity to update the substantive and procedural guidelines on which the CD relies. In particular, it could help to set an 'Agenda 21' on nuclear and conventional disarmament for the next century, perhaps resulting in an updated decalogue that could be a more practical tool for guiding the CD's work than a decalogue that arose 20 years ago at the height of the Cold War.

UNSSOD IV could also play a useful role in helping the CD to examine its procedures, and consider ways to be more accountable and bring greater continuity and coherence to its work. This could include rethinking its relationship with the United Nations (26), the strengths and limitations of the rule of consensus, as suggested this week by Mexico, and Chile's proposal for standing committees. Some States (notably by the United States) seem worried that UNSSOD IV may turn into a forum for mutual accusation. This can be avoided if the international diplomatic community and NGOs engage in careful planning and have creative input into the organisation of the Special Session early on. The modest decision on the CD's work programme does not adequately reflect the sophisticated level of debate among many of the delegations or the growing degree of convergence about the need to address conventional arms control and disarmament and to ensure continued positive progress towards nuclear disarmament.

The programme of work adopted by the CD will enable more systematic consultations on some of the topics, but it cannot escape notice that the really substantive issues have been avoided. Most notable, however, is the growing recognition that the CD has a role to play in conventional disarmament and in regulating military activities so as to prevent outer space from becoming a future battleground. Although there are serious questions which can be discussed in the ad hoc committee on security assurances concerning use, new doctrines and postures, alliances, nuclear capable States and whether nuclear, chemical and biological weapons can be regarded as equivalent for the purposes of security assurances and no first use, the gulf between the perspective of the NWS and that of the nuclear capable States (who have been pushing most strongly for a multilateral treaty) remains too wide for the CD to have a realistic prospect of agreeing a negotiating mandate in the near future.

Despite having agreed a mandate to negotiate a fissban three years ago, the CD is still unable to move forward on this. Nor will the sleight of hand in giving the nuclear disarmament issue to the President's troika satisfy for very long. Some States are already claiming that the CD has broken new ground by establishing a mechanism for addressing nuclear disarmament. Some consider that agenda item 1 has been given priority above the issues dealt with by special coordinators, while others see the decision as a con, offering nothing new. Although linkage is, of course, formally eschewed, in reality the CD will have to consider mechanisms for addressing both the fissban and nuclear disarmament if it is to make concrete progress on these important issues.

Whether the 26 March decision will be dismissed at the end of the year as irrelevant will depend on how the special coordinators and NSA committee address their tasks. If they are willing to step beyond past thinking and ideologies, examine the new technologies and security conditions and update their proposals for making progress, then the CD will be shown to be acting responsibly in creating conditions for future work. If old positions and proposals are endlessly rehashed, the judgement of the international community on such expensive 'make work' will be harsh.

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 T Grey, Ambassador of the United States, 26 March 1998, CD/PV.791.v 2. Gohar Ayub Khan, Foreign Minister of Pakistan, 19 March 1998, CD/PV.790.

3. Savitri Kunadi, Ambassador of India, 19 March 1998, CD/PV.790. The statements are summarised in Documents and Sources.

4. Li Changhe, Ambassador of the People's Republic of China for Disarmament Affairs, 12 March 1998, CD/PV.788.

5. Carmen Moreno, Under-Secretary of Foreign Affairs of Mexico, 26 March, 1998, unofficial translation (will be in CD/PV.791).

6. Camilo Reyes Rodriguez, the Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Colombia, to the CD Plenary, 12 March 1998. The actual speech was unavailable, so the summary has been taken from United Nations Press Release, DC/98/14.

7. Moreno, op. cit.

8. Khan, op. cit.

9. Li, op.cit.

10. Grey, op. cit.

11. Li, op. cit.

12. Khan, op. cit.

13. Moreno, op. cit.

14. Günther Seibert, Ambassador of Germany, 19 February 1998, CD/PV.785 (not available for inclusion in Disarmament Diplomacy No. 23), and remarks on 26 March 1998.

15. Mark Moher, Ambassador of Canada, 19 March 1998, CD/PV.790

16. Khan, op. cit.

17. Li, op. cit.

18. Peter Goosen, 26 March 1998, quoting J.J. Selebi, 20 January 1998, CD/PV.779.

19. Don Sinclair, 26 March 1998.

20. Grey op. cit.

21. Reyes Rodriguez, op. cit.

22. Moreno, op. cit.

23. Khan, op. cit.

24. Reyes Rodriguez, op. cit.

25. Moreno, op. cit.

26. See R. Johnson, 'Making the CD more accountable', Disarmament Diplomacy No. 17, July/August 1997.

Rebecca Johnson is Director of the Acronym Institute.

© 1998 The Acronym Institute.

Return to top of page

Return to List of Contents

Return to Acronym Main Page