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Conference on Disarmament (CD)

ACRONYM CD UPDATE, February 8, 2001

By Jenni Rissanen


The 865th Conference on Disarmament (CD) plenary was chaired by current CD President Christopher Westdal (Canada), now in his third week of the Presidency. Westdal welcomed new Ambassadors Amina Mohamed (Kenya) and Sverre Berg Johansen (Norway). Côte d'Ivoire was accepted as an observer to the CD. Westdal closed the plenary meeting after speeches by Kenya and Switzerland and convened an informal, private meeting, which reportedly focussed on the CD mandate to deal with nuclear disarmament, following a proposal from the floor by New Zealand.

Plenary Proceedings

Kenya's new Ambassador Amina Mohamed took the floor to announce that Kenya had deposited its instrument of ratification to the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction (Ottawa Treaty) at the United Nations on January 23, 2001. Mohamed said Kenya considered the Ottawa Treaty as the appropriate instrument to tackle anti-personnel landmines (APL), and had therefore also co-sponsored the Ottawa Treaty resolution (UNGA 55/33V) in the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA).

Ambassador Christian Faessler of Switzerland took the floor also on behalf of France to make an announcement about an upcoming seminar on the marking and registering of small arms on March 12-13, 2001 to be held at the Geneva International Conference Centre. The first day of the two-day seminar will focus on technical aspects, followed by an informal discussion on the topic, and the second day envisions an in-depth discussion on the political, legal and technical aspects.

In the Corridors

Westdal had reportedly drafted an informal proposal for a programme of work that was discussed in informal consultations earlier this week. The proposal was a slightly modified version of the widely-supported Amorim proposal of August 2000, named after Ambassador Celso Amorim of Brazil, which recommended the establishment of ad hoc committees: on nuclear disarmament, the Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space (PAROS), a ban on the production of fissile material (fissban), and Negative Security Assurances (NSA). Westdal has not officially tabled his version, and is not expected to, as his consultations have reportedly demonstrated its likely failure to resolve the dispute over the programme of work. The mandate on the subsidiary body on PAROS is particularly difficult to draft to the satisfaction of both China and the United States, which hold contradictory views on the need to negotiate on the issue. As a result, Westdal's future consultations are expected to proceed on the basis of the Amorim proposal.

About twenty delegations are understood to have taken part in a lively discussion on nuclear disarmament during the informal meeting following Thursday's plenary. The exchange of views was prompted by a proposal from the floor by New Zealand, a member of the New Agenda. It is understood that Ambassador Clive Pearson informally suggested a change to strengthen the proposed mandate on nuclear disarmament contained in the Amorim proposal. Although the mandate in the Amorim proposal has generally been considered acceptable, except by a few countries, it has provoked some dissatisfaction among some non-nuclear-weapon states in light of the nuclear disarmament pledges made at the 2000 NPT Review Conference. It is understood that a number of countries, from different groups, showed support for the informal New Zealand proposal. Whether it will be tabled officially, and by whom, is still unclear, but it has certainly focussed some welcome attention on nuclear disarmament, when much of the recent spotlight had been on disagreements over PAROS.

The next plenary will be held on February 15, 2001 at the Palais des Nations, Geneva.

To see the speeches, please visit the website of WILPF at http://www.reachingcriticalwill.org/cd/thisweek/thisweekindex.html

Jenni Rissanen is the Acronym Institute's Analyst attending the CD in Geneva. For her latest, in-depth assessment of developments see Geneva Update in Disarmament Diplomacy No. 53.

© 2001 The Acronym Institute.