Conference on Disarmament

Background information
RCW resources
Key documents
Membership and regional groups

The Conference on Disarmament (CD) is the world's only permanent multilateral disarmament treaty negotiating body.

While the CD is independent of the United Nations, its secretary is appointed by the UN Secretary-General; it is required to consider recommendations from the General Assembly; and it submits reports annually or more often to the UN General Assembly.

The CD started out as the Eighteen Nations Disarmament Committee (ENDC) in March 1962 and then became the Conference of the Committee on Disarmament (CCD) in 1969, expanding to 30 members. Both of these bodies were jointly chaired by the USA and the USSR. In 1983 the institution became the Conference on Disarmament and had 38 members until June of 1996 when the conference expanded to a membership of 61. In 1999, the membership expanded once again to a membership of 65 countries.

Groupings among the members include the Western Group, the Non-Aligned Movement (also known as the G21), the Group of Eastern European States and Others, the P5 (the 5 permanent members of the Security Council, the 5 declared nuclear weapons states) the P4 (the five minus China) and China often refers to itself as the Group of One.

The CD has three sessions each year, the first begins in the penultimate week of January and lasts for 10 weeks; the second begins in May and lasts 7 weeks and the third in July and lasts 7 weeks. The CD hold one public plenary per week, usually on a Thursday, although can have more, if appropriate. The chair of the Conference rotates every four working weeks following the English alphabetical list of membership. Decisions are made by consensus.

The CD has a permanent agenda, also known as the Decalogue which is the following

  • Nuclear weapons in all aspects;
  • Chemical weapons [removed from agenda in 1993 after the CD completed the Chemical Weapons Convention on 3 September 1992] 
  • Other weapons of mass destruction; 
  • Conventional weapons;
  • Reduction of military budgets; 
  • Reduction of armed forces; 
  • Disarmament and development; 
  • Disarmament and international security 
  • Collateral measures; confidence building measures; effective verification methods in relation to appropriate disarmament measures, acceptable to all parties; 
  • Comprehensive programme of disarmament leading to general and complete disarmament under effective international control.

Most items on the CD agenda are discussed in ad hoc committees, held in private. The whole conference must agree by consensus to the mandate given to ad hoc committees. In 1994, four ad hoc committees met: Nuclear Test Ban, Outer Space, Negative Security Assurances and Transparency in Armaments. In 1995 and 1996, only one ad hoc committee met: Nuclear Test Ban. In 1996, the CD completed the negotiations for the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. The final negotiations were difficult and divisive issues remained to the end. Nevertheless, the treaty was opened for signature September 24, 1996.

No program of activity has moved forward since 1996 and this disappointing fact puts at risk the future of the consensus-based Conference on Disarmament. The CD has agreed to a fissile cut-off negotiating mandate but has been unable to establish an ad hoc committee needed to carry forward talks. 

RCW resources

Key CD documents

Membership and regional groups

Currently, the membership of the CD consists of the following 65 member states:

Algeria, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bangladesh, Belarus, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Cameroon, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Cuba, DPR Korea, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ecuador, Egypt, Ethiopia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Malaysia, Mexico, Mongolia, Morocco, Myanmar, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, Peru, Poland, Republic of Korea, Romania, Russian Federation, Senegal, Slovakia, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Switzerland, Syria, Tunisia, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States of America, Venezuela, Viet Nam, Zimbabwe

The members are grouped into four regional groups. 

Western Group 
Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Republic of Korea, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, United Kingdom, United States

Group of 21
Algeria, Bangladesh, Brazil, Cameroon, Chile, Colombia, Cuba, DPR Korea, Democratic Rep. of Congo, Ecuador, Egypt, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Islamic Republic of Iran, Iraq, Kenya, Malaysia, Mexico, Mongolia, Morocco, Myanmar, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, Senegal, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Syrian Arab Republic, Tunisia, Venezuela, Vietnam, Zimbabwe

Eastern European Group
Belarus, Bulgaria, Kazakhstan, Romania, Russian Federation, Ukraine

Group of One


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