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Conference on Disarmament (CD)

ACRONYM CD UPDATE, February 22, 2001

By Jenni Rissanen


The 867th Conference on Disarmament (CD) plenary was chaired by the Conference's new President, Juan Enrique Vega of Chile. Ambassador Vega made an opening statement and the Director General for Security and Disarmament of Spain, Mr. Miguel Aguirre de Cárcer, took the floor as the plenary's only speaker, warning that the CD faced a risk of exclusion and marginalization if the stalemate and deadlock continued there.

Plenary Proceedings

Ambassador Vega, who commenced his Presidency on February 19, recalled what he described as the "thought provoking" remarks and conclusions of the outgoing President, Ambassador Christopher Westdal of Canada (see CD Bulletin, February 15), and thanked him for his "tireless energy" in trying to get the CD back to work. This is the first time that Chile has assumed the Presidency since joining the Conference in 1996.

Vega said he would listen to all member states and try to faithfully interpret the general sentiments in the CD. He said it would be very difficult "to be original" as President, as the problems the CD faced had been with it for quite some time. Vega characterised the situation regarding the deadlock over the programme of work as one in which CD member states knew that positions on the programme depended on the broader international environment, and at the same time wondered what if any power the Conference itself had over that environment. Regardless of any doubts and concerns, however, the CD was there to take collective decisions on disarmament and member states had the primary responsibility over its fate. Vega said he would proceed with consultations on the programme of work on the basis of the Amorim proposal (named after Ambassador Celso Amorim of Brazil, document CD/1624), which envisages the establishment of ad-hoc committees on four subjects (with different mandates): 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), as well as the appointment of special coordinators on other topics.

Spain's Director General for Security and Disarmament of Spain, Mr. Miguel Aguirre de Cárcer, said that the Conference found itself at a critical juncture. Continuing attempts to weave an international legal fabric for arms control were taking place at a especially complex time, with challenges to the non-proliferation regime and the rapid evolution of strategic visions that constrained, if not impeded, global disarmament. Despite these difficulties, there were also positive events that needed to be recalled, such as the 2000 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference. Aguirre de Cárcer recalled paragraph 3 of the "practical steps for the systematic and progressive efforts to implement Article VI" contained in the Review Conference's Final Document, where the CD is urged to begin negotiations on a non-discriminatory, multilateral and internationally and effectively verifiable treaty banning the production of fissile material, as well as paragraph 4 which urges the establishment of a subsidiary body in the CD on nuclear disarmament, saying these were of "major importance" to the CD. Additionally, he recalled Russia's ratification of START II and - together with 17 other countries in 2000 - the CTBT, and also noted the speeding up of the negotiations on a verification protocol for the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC), and the increasing attention being given to aspects of conventional disarmament. Notwithstanding such progress and potential for meaningful discussion, however, the CD continued to be deadlocked. Spain, which regarded the Conference as an irreplaceable forum, considered that the Amorim proposal was not only a good basis for further consultations, but acceptable in all its aspects. He warned that the CD risked exclusion and marginalization if the current deadlock continued, an outcome which would have "very serious consequences for the entire system of multilateral cooperation".

The next plenary will be held on March 1, 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.