Repeating the cycle of thematic debates

Beatrice Fihn | Reaching Critical Will of WILPF
19 June 2012

The Conference on Disarmament (CD) met on Tuesday, 19 June for the last plenary meeting of the Finnish Presidency. The Conference focused its thematic debate on nuclear disarmament one more time. The Minister for Foreign Affairs of Finland, Mr. Tuomioja, delivered a statement. Aside from the address by the Foreign Minister, the CD heard a factual summary by UNIDIR read out by the CD President and statements by Indonesia, Ethiopia, New Agenda Coalition (NAC), Cuba, Malaysia, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), Iran, United States, United Kingdom, and Algeria.

Revitalizing the CD

Several speakers once again reiterated their positions on the problems of the CD. Mr. Tuomioja, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Finland argued that the impasse is not the result of procedural rules, but of a lack of political will. He and the Ethiopian ambassador agreed that thematic debates do not replace negotiations, but can pave the way forward for the CD.

The ambassador of Indonesia noted that enlarging the membership and inviting other stakeholders to attend CD meetings could facilitate the commencement of work, but also argued that if the CD does not achieve results in the near future, “then we should admit defeat and find other places, events, or mechanisms to pursue our dream of having a world that is free of nuclear weapons.” Mr. Tuomioja of Finland, however, argued that “if we lose the CD, we stand to lose a lot”.

Nuclear disarmament

Mr. Tuomioja of Finland highlighted that short-range tactical nuclear weapon systems “remain in a blind spot of the multilateral disarmament and nonproliferation scenery” and argued it was time to introduce treaty-based and verifiable measures on this topic. Aside from this comment, most delegations simply repeated previous positions. The delegations of Cuba, Malaysia, Iran, Algeria, NAC, and DPRK highlighted that nuclear disarmament is the highest priority and called for concrete progress on the matter, while the UK and US delegations once again emphasized how a “step-by-step” approach to disarmament is the only way forward.

However, some additional issues emerged in the statements today. For example, Mr. Combrink of South Africa, speaking on behalf of the New Agenda Coalition (NAC), raised concerns about the continued modernization of nuclear arsenals. The delegations of Cuba, Iran and Malaysia also pointed out the billions that are allocated to upgrading and modernizing nuclear warheads, which is contratry to the disarmament commitment under the NPT.

In addition, NAC also drew attention to the need to further explore the catastrophic humanitarian consequences associated with nuclear weapons, including consistency with international law and particularly international humanitarian law. The ambassador of Cuba also highlighted that the issue of nuclear weapons is a question of the survival of the entire human race and argued that negotiations of a nuclear disarmament treaty must commence immediately.

Next meeting

The next plenary meeting will be held on Tuesday, 26 June 2012.