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CD to begin informal work without civil society

Mia Gandenberger | Reaching Critical Will of WILPF
20 May 2014

The Conference on Disarmament (CD) met on Tuesday, 20 May 2014 for the last time under the Japanese Presidency to hear an address by Mr. Michael Møller, Acting Secretary General of the CD. The CD also heard reports from the groups of governmental experts (GGE) on (1) transparency and confidence building measures in outer space activities; and (2) possible aspects that could contribute to but not negotiate a treaty banning the production of fissile material (FMCT) for nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices; as well as from the work of the Open-Ended Working Group (OWEG) and last week’s informal meeting of experts on lethal autonomous weapons systems. The delegations of Chile, Brazil, New Zealand, Austria, Myanmar, Colombia, Netherlands, Mexico, Uruguay, Pakistan, Switzerland, Indonesia, Australia, Turkey, Finland, India, Algeria, Belarus, Republic of Korea, Egypt, and the United States also delivered statements.

Work of the CD

Mr. Michael Møller, Acting Secretary General of the Conference on Disarmament, offered some suggestions for the future work of the CD. He suggested that member states:

  • identify and turn over to the CD’s Informal Working Group areas of common ground on the core issues;
  • explore issues for which voluntary, politically-binding regimes may be negotiated;
  • establish a subsidiary body on the working methods of the CD or consider having focused discussions on a review of the working methods during the slots reserved for the plenary meetings;
  • support the role and coordination of the P6; and
  • hold an informal CD Civil Society Forum, hosted by the Secretary-General of the CD.

All delegations welcomed his suggestions, but stressed the need to study them before commenting.

Reports on work outside the CD

The Chair of the GGE on transparency and confidence building measures in outer space activities, Ambassador Victor Vasiliev of the Russian Federation, presented the results of the work undertaken from 2012-2013. The report, contained in document A/68/189, was adopted in August 2013 and approved through UN General Assembly resolution 68/50. The delegation of India raised a concern about the composition of the group and regretted that not more space-faring nations, such as itself, could participate.

The Chair of the GGE “to make recommendations on possible aspects that could contribute to but not negotiate a treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices,” Ambassador Elissa Goldberg of Canada, gave a brief update on the group’s first meeting in beginning of April. The delegations of the Netherlands, Australia, Finland, and the United States welcomed the discussions within the group so far and looked forward to the next meeting. Ambassador Akram of Pakistan underlined his government’s concerns about the GGE and stressed it would not consider itself bound by results of the group.

The Chair of the Open-Ended Working Group, Ambassador Manuel B. Dengo Benavides of Costa Rica, reported on the work of the group established by UNGA resolution 67/56. The group convened between 14-24 May, 27-28 June, and 19-30 August 2013. The delegations of Brazil, New Zealand, Austria, Colombia, the Netherlands, Mexico, Uruguay, Switzerland, Indonesia, Finland, and Egypt welcomed the report by Ambassador Dengo and underlined the importance of the work of the OEWG as an open and inclusive forum. Several speakers welcomed the inclusion of civil society. The representative of Belarus, however, voiced concerns about the transparency of the OEWG.

Ambassador Jean-Hugues Simon Michel of France, reported from last week’s informal meeting of experts on autonomous weapons systems, which he had chaired. He welcomed the active participation of civil society in these meetings. The delegations of the Netherlands and Switzerland believed the meeting was a good starting point for addressing concerns over the development of fully autonomous weapons.

The representative of Algeria questioned the usefulness of reporting back to the CD from other meetings, as it believed the CD should not only be a place where records of other meetings were kept.

Informal work ahead

Over the coming days CD delegations will meet informally under the schedule of activities to discuss agenda items 1 and 2. Despite a request from the delegation of Mexico to reconsider, the CD member states have decided to not allow civil society to participate in these meetings. Reaching Critical Will will therefore not be able to report from the informal meetings that will discuss fissile material, nuclear disarmament, negative security assurances, and outer space.

The next public plenary meeting will be held on Tuesday, 27 May at 10.00 in the Council Chamber under the Presidency of Kazakhstan.

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