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Disarmament Diplomacy No. 85, Cover design by Calvert's Press, Photo by Rebecca Johnson

Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 85, Summer 2007

In the News

CD ends 2007 session with no work programme

Notwithstanding the seeds of hope sown last year, the 65-member Geneva Conference on Disarmament (CD) closed its ninth consecutive year without a work programme. Despite some procedural and political arguments about how much substance and detail to include, it did manage to adopt its annual report for the UN General Assembly. The report contains more substance than last year's and gives brief descriptions of the ups and downs in the consultations held by the six presidents of the 2007 session (known as the P6) to try to get agreement on a programme of work.

The 'P6' in CD jargon stands for the six ambassadors who take it in turn to be presidents of the Conference over the year (a month each spanning the working weeks from January through September). In 2007, these were the ambassadors of South Africa, Sri Lanka, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and Syria. The P6 proposal was to appoint four ambassadors as "Coordinators to preside over" negotiations on a fissile materials (for weapons) production ban (fissban) and "substantive discussions" on nuclear disarmament, prevention of an arms race in outer space (PAROS), and negative security assurances (NSA) respectively.

In advance of agreement on these substantive areas of work, seven Coordinators were appointed to oversee discussions on seven areas of the 'agenda' (not the same thing as a programme of work as far as the CD is concerned). These ambassadors coordinated informal discussions on issues ranging from fissile materials, security assurances and PAROS to nuclear disarmament and transparency in (conventional) armaments.

The 2007 annual report provides a summary of the many efforts undertaken by the P6. It quotes Syrian Ambassador Hamoui's Report as President of the Third Session, in which he stated, "A wide range of delegations expressed their support for the Presidential Proposal. Some delegations, though they had some concerns about certain elements of the Proposal, said that they would not oppose consensus on it. Others expressed their position that more work and consultations were needed to reach a consensus on it. The CD has achieved substantive progress by conducting important thematic debates on all agenda items and advancing considerably in its efforts but could not yet reach consensus on a program of work. A momentum was created to move the CD out of its longstanding stalemate, and the efforts to reach an agreement to start substantive work must be continued."

Though no countries are named in the report, it is understood that the main objectors to the 2007 CD draft work programme were China, Pakistan and Iran, though in the time-honoured tactics of slip-streaming and fronting, it is feared others may be waiting in the woodwork to raise problems as soon as the current objections are addressed.

Four of the 2008 CD Presidents spoke during the final plenary, indicating their intention to work together in the cooperative P6 spirit next year. Tunisia, the first CD President for 2008, announced consultations during the intersessional period, and was supported by Turkey, Ukraine, and the United Kingdom. The other 2008 CD Presidents will be the United States and Venezuela.

The 2008 CD Schedule is as follows:

First Part: 21 January- 28 March
Second Part: 12 May- 27 June
Third Part: 28 July - 12 September

This news short was compiled from the CD Reports put out by Reaching Critical Will. See www.reachingcriticalwill.org.

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© 2007 The Acronym Institute.