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Conference on Disarmament (CD)

CD BULLETIN, August 2, 2001

By Jenni Rissanen


Ambassador Carlos Amat Forés of Cuba chaired the 880th meeting of the Conference on Disarmament (CD). The plenary marked the opening of the third and final part of the CD's session this year, due to conclude on September 14. Ukraine made a general statement and Italy gave its views on a range of CD issues. Amat welcomed Bangladesh's new Ambassador Toufiq Ali and Saudi Arabia joined the CD as observer. After the plenary was adjourned, Ambassador Prasad Kariyawasam (Sri Lanka) chaired an informal meeting in his capacity as the special coordinator on the CD's improved and effective functioning.

Plenary Proceedings

Amat briefed delegations on the consultations he had conducted as president since the CD last convened in late June. He identified the emergence of two conflicting views. One group of countries clearly felt the CD needed to agree on "a package formula" with regards to the programme of work. In this context, the Amorim proposal still enjoyed the widest support.1 Another group of several countries, however, felt that this approach was not realistic, advocating instead separate consideration of each issue on the CD agenda. While delegations were unanimous in their support for the work of the three special coordinators appointed in June (on the CD's agenda, membership, and functioning), Amat stressed the need for the Conference to make progress on the more substantive matters confronting it.

Ukraine addressed itself to a range of nuclear disarmament issues. Mykhailo Skuratovskyi said the decision by his country - whose nuclear arsenal was the third largest in the world after the break-up of the Soviet Union - to renounce nuclear weapons could "serve as an example of great moral significance and political courage to be followed". The nuclear disarmament process in Ukraine was due to be completed by December. Skuratovskyi spoke on the constructive role of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty during the last three decades, noting that Ukraine had ratified the Memorandum of Understanding on the treaty last December. The national security review by the United States, he believed, "should not lead to a deterioration of the global strategic stability situation and resumption of the arms race". Skuratovskyi reaffirmed Ukraine's commitment to the Non-Proliferation Treaty, attaching special importance to the thirteen practical nuclear disarmament steps agreed at the May 2000 NPT Review Conference. The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty was "rightfully regarded as another key element in the architecture of strategic stability and a major complementary effort to non-proliferation", as well as constituting "standing proof" of the CD's continued relevance. The Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty was another priority to Ukraine, which was convinced it would bring "valuable security benefits" both to nuclear-weapon states and non-nuclear-weapon states. Thus, Ukraine considered it "discouraging" to see that the negotiations on an FMCT had still not progressed. This, Skuratovsky felt, was due to a lack of necessary confidence. Despite these frustrations, the CD retained an "undeniable role" in promoting nuclear disarmament.

Ukraine spoke also on the role of subsidiary bodies and special coordinators, making a number of suggestions to improve the CD's working methods. Regarding the current focus of the deadlock in the CD - the establishment of subsidiary bodies - Ukraine regretted the missed opportunities to establish working, technical, and governmental experts groups in recent years. Such groups had often proved suitable for carrying out useful pre-negotiation work. While Ukraine applauded the appointment of the special coordinators, it had been reluctant to endorse the practice of the CD negotiating the mandate of their activities. The special coordinators should not be regarded as "some kind of low-profile subsidiary mechanism[s]". Each special coordinator had the task of soliciting views and preparing an acceptable mandate for a subsidiary body. Because of the energy and time invested in drafting a mandate for a subsidiary body, Ukraine proposed that, once functioning, it should be allowed to continue its work until it's task is completed or until at least one delegation withdraws its support. It was "vital" that the CD drop "the practice of annually reopening the same procedural discussions". Furthermore, Ukraine proposed that the Conference examine "other options and formats for substantive discussions", as suggested by Ukraine's foreign minister on March 9 last year, as a means of removing the "anonymous façade" that presidential consultations lent to delegations.

Ambassador Mario Maiolini stated the position of Italy on the issues facing the special coordinators. On the CD agenda, he proposed the automatic elimination of those items on which no proposals regarding the establishment of subsidiary bodies had been forthcoming for many years. For example, the agenda items "prevention of nuclear war and all related matters", and "new types and systems mass destruction armaments: radiological armaments" could be removed. In addition, Italy proposed that the agenda be updated automatically to include any items assigned to the Conference by a consensual UNGA resolution. The agenda should include current issues of major concern such as missile proliferation and regional disarmament. As for the expansion of the CD's membership, Italy supported the admittance of the four remaining EU countries and was not opposed to the Conference's eventual universalisation. Italy encouraged the CD to push ahead with reforms that could ease the CD's activities in the future, removing "burdersome procedures and time consuming rules and procedures" that did "not serve" the Conference well.

The next plenary will be held on August 9, 2001 at the Palais des Nations, Geneva, and will be chaired by Ambassador Carlos Amat Forés.


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 CD Update in Disarmament Diplomacy No. 58.

© 2001 The Acronym Institute.