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Conference on Disarmament (CD)

CD BULLETIN, March 15, 2001

By Jenni Rissanen


The 870th Conference on Disarmament (CD) plenary was chaired by the Ambassador Juan Enrique Vega of Chile for the fourth and final week. Hungary's Ambassador Rudolf Joó gave a farewell statement and France's Ambassador, Hubert de la Fortelle, spoke on a recent Franco-Swiss seminar on the traceability of small arms and light weapons.

Plenary Proceedings

Ambassador Rudolf Joó stated that, whatever the causes, the current CD situation - with no agreement in sight on a programme of work - was "deplorable". Joó said Hungary thought the work programme proposal by Ambassador Celso Amorim of Brazil, dating back to August 20001, was "a sound basis" for the resumption of substantive CD work. He aligned Hungary with the European Union statement of February 15 calling for the immediate launch of Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty (FMCT) negotiations as well as the establishment of subsidiary bodies dealing with nuclear disarmament and the prevention of an arms race in outer space (PAROS). Joó said the resumption of FMCT negotiations continued to be "a high priority", as clearly stated by Hungary at the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference and the UN General Assembly First Committee. Hungary welcomed all initiatives to this end, and in this context welcomed the seminar on "The Verification of a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty", held by Germany and the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR) on March 14, 2001.

Joó turned to issues being dealt outside the CD and commented on the negotiations on a Protocol to the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BWC) in Geneva, chaired by Ambassador Tibor Tóth of Hungary. Believing that "significant progress" had been made at the negotiations, Joó called on states parties to "redouble their efforts…and to make the [necessary] political decisions". Joó believed that given the general condition of stalemate in multilateral disarmament, the conclusion and adoption of the Protocol "would gain even greater significance by demonstrating the determination of the international community to counter the threat posed by the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction".

Speaking on conventional weapons, Joó said Hungary believed that global initiatives on anti-personnel mines (APL) would be best implemented by regional cooperation. With respect to small arms and light weapons, Hungary favoured "effective and widely acceptable measures" to prevent their destabilising flows. There was a need for concerted efforts to develop norms, guidelines and practical measures "covering all aspects of this issue", including "national controls on the traceability of small arms, increased transparency, reinforced export control mechanisms and enhanced cooperation among national agencies and wider international levels". Joó said that progress in these areas, being considered outside the CD, could serve to emphasise "even further the imperative need to move this Conference out of the current deadlock".

Ambassador Hubert de la Fortelle of France commented on the March 12-13 seminar on the traceability of small arms and light weapons hosted by France and Switzerland. Noting that over 200 representatives from 90 states had been present, de la Fortelle requested that the Chair's summary of this meeting be made available as an official CD document.

Ambassador Juan Enrique Vega of Chile made his closing remarks as CD President. Vega said that in his effort to find agreement on the programme of work, he had focused on three possibilities, which he left with delegations for further consideration. First, he had sought acceptance of the Amorim proposal, which proved unattainable due to divergent positions. Vega did not believe that acceptance of the proposal could materialise in the absence of some extraordinary events outside the CD. Second, he had studied options for modifying the Amorim proposal, more specifically the mandates on nuclear disarmament and PAROS. However, this approach was not likely to reach consensus either: while it might satisfy some parties, it may also create new problems. Third, he had explored the possibility of altering the presidential declaration contained in the Amorim proposal in order to strengthen the nature and negotiating intent of all the mandates involved. Specifically, Vega argued that it would be possible to issue a presidential statement, independent of the Amorim proposal, which would reaffirm the CD as the sole multilateral forum for disarmament negotiations and reiterate that all matters in the CD could be subject to negotiations. It would also emphasize that subsidiary bodies and their mandates could contribute towards the commencement of PAROS negotiations. Vega said his consultations had shown there was "some glimmer of hope" in this approach. For it to succeed, all parties involved would need to agree "to embark on an exercise of constructive ambiguity", enabling the CD to concentrate once more on "our prime objective" of negotiations while "setting aside considerations of precise language".

Vega also listed the four proposals that had been put forth on complementary action the CD could take. Myanmar (Burma) has suggested holding structured debates at plenary meetings on the substantive issues on the CD's agenda. Germany has proposed reviewing the CD's agenda and possibly establishing special coordinators on CD reform and efforts to reach consensus on specific items. Italy has advocated "a piccolo programme" allowing the Conference to begin work on the less contentious items in its agenda while continuing consultations on the three more contentious issues (nuclear disarmament, fissile materials, and PAROS). Finally, Mexico had noted that the rules of procedure allowed for the establishment of a range of subsidiary bodies, including subcommittees, technical groups and expert groups. The idea of appointing a special coordinator to address the issue of complementary activities had also been put forth.

Vega concluded by arguing that achieving a programme of work in the CD was a collective task, a burden which was not being shared equally in the Conference at present. He argued that the nuclear-weapon states should play a greater role in getting the Conference out of its stalemate, and urged them to shoulder their especial responsibility.

The next plenary will be held on March 22, 2001 at the Palais des Nations, Geneva and it will be chaired by Ambassador Hu Xiaodi of China.


1. The Amorim proposal (CD/1624, August 24, 2000) recommends the establishment of four ad hoc committees: one each to "deal with" nuclear disarmament and PAROS, one to negotiate a ban on the production of fissile materials, based on a specific mandate agreed in 1995, and one, with a broader mandate, to negotiate on negative security assurances (NSA). For further details and analysis, see Jenni Rissanen, 'Geneva Update', Disarmament Diplomacy No. 50, September 2000.

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. 54.

© 2001 The Acronym Institute.