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Reaching Critical Will: CD Report

Reaching Critical Will: CD Report

On Thursday, March 10, the Conference on Disarmament observed International Women's Day, the one day a year when civil society is permitted to make a statement to the world's lone body for negotiating disarmament treaties. Afterward, the CD heard brief statements from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Algeria, Norway, Ireland, Netherlands, and Germany, as well as a closing statement by the CD President. All available statements can be found here:

The session began with New Zealand's Ambassador Tim Caughley, who, as rotating President of the CD, read the NGO statement, which was produced from the International Women's Day Seminar held that week. Speaking in his national capacity, Ambassador Caughley remarked that he agreed with the Secretary-General's assertion that, “more organized and sustained dialogue with the NGO community...increases the likelihood that United Nations decisions will be better understood and supported by a broad and diverse public,” as quoted in the NGO statement.

Norway's Minister Paulsen hoped that the CD could hear the voices from civil society directly from the source. He agreed that the CD was a deadlocked body for the moment. However, the CD should invite representatives from civil society to the podium and listen to their concerns.

Ireland's Deputy Permanent Representative Fallon echoed the sentiments of New Zealand and Norway, deploring the continued lack of direct NGO access. He, too, is looking forward to the day when NGOs can participate directly in this forum. He believes that such increased participation not only reflects the spirit of the UN Panel on NGO participation (the Cardoso Report), but also of the UN charter itself.

Ambassador Chris Sanders of the Netherlands and Ambassador Volker Heinsberg of Germany also spoke in favour of direct NGO participation at the CD.

Remarking on the paralysis of the CD, Counsellor An Myong Hun of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea confessed that his delegation felt a sense of guilt regarding the time, labour, and money wasted in the past eight years without a program of work. While acknowledging the continuous efforts made by the majority of Member States to start discussions on the main issues, Counsellor An Myong Hun asserted that the problem did not lie in procedure or work method, but rather the lack of political will. He stressed the only way to revive the CD would be to decisively change the negative political approach of some.

Speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, Ambassador Jazairy of Algeria stressed the importance of creating an atmosphere of security based on the principle of multilateralism and universality. He expressed the hopes of the Arab Group that the Nuclear Weapon States respect their commitments adopted at the 6th Review Conference, implement existing General Assembly resolutions, and work toward strengthening and affirming Nuclear Weapon Free Zones and the 13 Steps at the 7th Review Conference. He reiterated the Arab Group's concern with the spread of weapons in the Middle East, and called upon Israel to accede to the treaty and accept IAEA safeguards.

Finally, Ambassador Caughley provided another update on his ongoing bilateral consultations and the agenda for next week’s high level political focus. His consultations, based on an informal non-paper, have provided "valuable insights into the degree of their flexibility" on one or more of the four priority core issues: negative security assurances, nuclear disarmament, fissile materials treaty (FMCT) and the prevention of an arms race in outer space. He stated that no new or additional issues were put forward seem to be capable of securing consensus for inclusion in a programme of work.

On the FMCT, Ambassador Caughley noted the "main negotiating fault lines":

1) Securing agreement on an FMCT mandate without any conditions may lead to securing discussion mandates on the other three issues. This works in reverse as well: if the CD is able to secure discussion mandates for the three other issues, it may lead to acceptance of an FMCT mandate without conditions.

2) Those willing to negotiate an FMCT want to ensure that the negotiation encompasses verification talks.

He recognized that, "It is relatively easy to state the nature of the problem; it is much harder to suggest an answer." He did, however, suggest "a procedural way forward on the content of the mandate for the negotiation of the FMCT," through a subsidiary body on FMCT which would establish a group of experts "to advise it on matters relevant to the effectiveness of the proposed treaty."

Ambassador Caughley concluded that compromises which can "restore to the CD its credibility as a negotiating body" may "not be particularly palatable," but, "if (the CD) address(es) non-proliferation of nuclear weapons through the negotiation of an FMCT, it will contribute to the security of every nation."

In upcoming weeks, the Foreign Ministers of Canada, Peru, Finland, Netherlands, Sweden, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Slovakia, Japan and Poland will address the CD.

-Philomena De Agrella,

WILPF Disarmament Intern

All statements are available at:
All CD Reports, including this one, are available at:
Press releases from UNOG can also be found at:
Reaching Critical Will's Guide to the CD can be found at:
Other background information on the Conference can be found at:


Reaching Critical Will
Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, UN Office

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