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Conference on Disarmament (CD)

CD BULLETIN, June 14, 2001

By Jenni Rissanen


The 877th meeting of the Conference on Disarmament (CD) was chaired by Ambassador Camilo Reyes Rodriguez of Colombia. The CD took a formal decision -after nearly three years of total deadlock - to appoint three special coordinators on procedural issues: the CD's agenda, the expansion of its membership and its functioning. Germany and Italy commented on the decision and France drew attention to President Chirac's June 8 speech on French security policy.

Plenary Proceedings

Ambassador Reyes said he was pleased to inform the CD that his proposal to appoint three special coordinators - on the CD's agenda, the expansion of its membership and its improved and effective functioning - had been approved unanimously in the informal consultations. The CD thus adopted the following formal decision:

"The Conference on Disarmament, reaffirming its commitment to work intensively towards the approval of a programme of work, using the Amorim proposal, as contained in document CD/1624, as a basis for further intensified consultations and taking into consideration all relevant proposals:

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 2001 session."

Reyes brought the gavel down and thanked delegations for their "spirit of accommodation". He characterised the decision to adopt the coordinators as a "rather modest achievement" but hoped that it could help overcome the current stalemate and give impetus to the continuing search for an agreement on the programme of work. With the decision now taken, Reyes will begin consultations on who to appoint for the three posts.

Italy said it was glad the CD president had not been "discouraged by pessimists". Ambassador Mario Maiolini felt that "with this decision...we can start the dialogue on a minimum common denominator". This was "a first block on which to build a more substantial construction". Italy recalled its proposal, referred to as a 'piccolo work programme' by some: to begin work on four "non-controversial" items in the CD's agenda (anti-personnel mines, nuclear security assurances, transparency in armaments and CD reform procedures). Had the CD been able to agree to start work on all these matters, Maiolini argued, some "mutual give and take" between delegations may well have been forthcoming. The Ambassador noted that, notwithstanding Italy's support for the new decision, it gave the CD "smaller room for manoeuvring and could make our task difficult." He said the CD began its work on the premise that there was only "one shot to shoot", meaning that the Conference must not "miss [its] target".

Germany said it attached great importance to the decision, which it described as the first "of its kind that the Conference [had] been able to take for the last two and a half years". The move was "a first step toward breaking out of the complete stalemate...[and] toward recreating some dialogue...that has hardly taken place lately". At the same time, however, it was " a very modest" step and only of a procedural nature. The route back to real negotiations remained long and hard. As a second step, Germany suggested a decision on the other "uncontroversial" or "uncontested" matters, as proposed by Germany and Italy. The CD could, for instance, appoint special coordinators on anti-personnel mines and transparency in armaments and create an ad hoc committee on negative security assurances.

France drew the CD's attention to a recent speech by President Jacques Chirac, setting out French thinking on security policy, arms control and disarmament, in which he expressed particular concern over two matters: the fact that the CTBT, negotiated by the CD between 1994-96, had not yet entered into force; and the CD's current stalemate, especially its failure to begin FMCT negotiations.

The next plenary will be held on June 21, 2001 at the Palais des Nations, Geneva, and will be chaired by Ambassador Reyes Rodriguez.

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. 55.

© 2001 The Acronym Institute.