Revitalizing the CD

Beatrice Fihn | Reaching Critical Will of WILPF
14 June 2012

The Conference on Disarmament (CD) met on Thursday, 14 June, to discuss the topic of revitalization of the CD. Statements were delivered by the CD President, Ireland, the European Union (EU), Austria, Spain, Canada, Malaysia, Brazil, the Informal Group of Observer States (IGOS), United Kingdom (UK), Israel, China, Switzerland, Mexico, Slovakia, Netherlands, Sweden, Colombia, France, Iran, Russian Federation, Serbia, India, Republic of Korea, Turkey, Algeria, Germany, and the United States (US).

Before the discussion started, current CD President, Ambassador Kari Kahiluoto of Finland, read out a factual presentation by the United Nations Institute for Disarmaments Research (UNIDIR) on today’s topic.

Summary of discussions

Work in the CD

  • Most delegations voiced support for either CD/1864 or the recent Egyptian proposal.
  • Russia suggested that the CD adopt a so-called “light” programme of work, which would provide for dealing with all four core issues.
  • The US cautioned that a “light” programme of work mustn’t be too light and thereby completely insubstantial.
  • The UK proposed that 7 ad hoc committees on the issues in the CD could be set up and discuss the resolutions passed in the GA in order to move forwards and find grounds for negotiations.
  • The UK also proposed that delegations should spend more time in informal brainstorming sessions under Chatham house rules, in order to get away from national positions and encourage interaction.
  • Israel suggested that a fixed period of time, “two or three weeks” at the beginning of each year, could be devoted to reaching agreements on the four core issues, and if nothing happens, the CD should move on to other issues, such as MANPADS or a ban on transfer of conventional weapons to terrorists.

Rules of procedure

  • Austria, Canada, Mexico, Sweden, Spain, Slovakia, Republic of Korea, and Germany raised concerns about how the consensus rule is being used.
  • Canada, Austria, Ireland, Switzerland, Spain, Slovakia, Colombia, and the Republic of Korea supported an examination of the rules of procedure.
  • Israel, Iran, and India did not believe that the consensus rule should be changed or re-interpreted.
  • The US argued that the problem of the CD was not caused by the rules of procedure.
  • Canada, Switzerland, Sweden, and France supported an examination of the CD presidency, including the length and appointments.


  • Ireland, the EU, Austria, Malaysia, Switzerland, Mexico, Sweden, France, IGOS, Slovakia, and Colombia highlighted the importance of expanding CD membership and supported a special coordinator on the topic.
  • Turkey stated there was no consensus on the issue of expansion or on an appointment of a facilitator to deal with it.

Civil society

General Assembly (GA)

  • Ireland and Austria argued that if the CD continues to fail to commence work, the GA must resume responsibility.
  • Iran pointed out that the CD is not a UN body and argued that any decision by the GA should be considered as mere advice.
  • Russia said that action by the GA could lead to the demise of the CD.
  • Malaysia and Algeria called for the convening of a Fourth Special Session on Disarmament of the GA.

Going outside?

  • The EU argued, “the international community will increasingly reflect on options and other ways to ensure progress in multilateral non-proliferation and disarmament.”
  • The Netherlands was ready to discuss all options, inside, “but also outside the CD”.
  • Mexico highlighted the catastrophic humanitarian consequences that the use of nuclear weapons would represent, saying that it would constitute a crime against humanity and that starting negotiations on nuclear disarmament was therefore a matter of urgency. Mexico stated, “if not in the CD, then other instances must be explored.”
  • Iran argued that negotiations of an FMCT outside the CD would not be “feasible or acceptable”.
  • The Netherlands pointed out that “any meaningful process in the area of nuclear disarmament needs to have a critical mass of countries that participate and preferably have most if not all nuclear weapons states on board”.
  • India stated that proposals that question “the viability or relevance of the CD or even suggest unrealistic alternatives” would not lead to useful or productive results.

Notes from the gallery

See the July 2011 paper from Reaching Critical Will and the Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy on revitalizing multilateral disarmament negotiations.

Next plenary meeting

The next plenary meeting will be held on Tuesday, 19 June, when the second round of thematic debates starts with the topic of nuclear disarmament. The Foreign Minister of Finland will also address the Conference at this meeting.