Disarmament Insight


Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Conference on Disarmament: Nuclear Disarmament

These insights on the treatment in the CD of the core issue, nuclear disarmament, were offered by UNIDIR as background to the current thematic debate on that issue in the Conference. 
Participants in that debate on 19 June will have heard the CD’s president, Ambassador Kahiluotu (Finland), draw on some of these points.
1.  Nuclear disarmament was the subject of the first resolution adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1946. The first special session of the General Assembly on disarmament (UNSSOD I) made clear in its consensus resolution that the accumulation of weapons, particularly nuclear weapons, constituted much more a threat than a protection for mankind. At its initial session in 1979, the Committee on Disarmament (pre-cursor of the CD) which was established by UNSSOD I, agreed a list of issues for its future work on the cessation of the arms race and disarmament. Top of this list of ten subjects, often referred to as the “Decalogue”, was nuclear weapons in all its aspects.
2.  The more detailed agenda for 1979 (CD/12) contained six items, three of which related to nuclear disarmament: (1) a nuclear test ban; (2) cessation of the nuclear arms race and nuclear disarmament; and (3) effective international arrangements to assure non-nuclear-weapon states against the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons.
3.  The first proposal on the issue of “cessation of the nuclear arms race and nuclear disarmament” was submitted by the Group of Eastern European States in 1979. It envisaged negotiations on the cessation of the production of all types of nuclear weapons and the gradual reduction of their stockpiles until their complete destruction.
4.  That document was followed by a number of working papers submitted by the Group of 21 (members of the Non-Aligned Movement) proposing that the CD should begin informal consultations on the elements for negotiations on nuclear disarmament and subsequently establish a working group for negotiations of agreements and concrete measures on nuclear disarmament. No consensus emerged on any of these early proposals or on other proposed mandates for nuclear disarmament tabled in the 1980s.
5.  As of 1994, under the item “cessation of nuclear arms race and nuclear disarmament” the Conference began closer consideration of the prohibition of the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices. Proposals to list fissile material as a separate agenda item from nuclear disarmament did not acquire consensus but ultimately, in order to ensure that fissile material would continue to be addressed, the CD agreed that the President would make a statement following the adoption of the agenda that this issue could be dealt with under the nuclear disarmament item.
6.  From the beginning of the 1995 session the atmosphere in the CD was influenced by uncertainties surrounding preparations for the Non-Proliferation Treaty Review and Extension Conference and its outcome. It was expected by many non-nuclear weapon states (NNWS) that reciprocation for their agreement to the indefinite extension of the NPT would generate momentum for dealing with nuclear disarmament in the Conference.
7.  When this did not eventuate the G21 called for the immediate establishment of an Ad Hoc Committee to negotiate after the conclusion of the CTBT negotiations on a phased programme of nuclear disarmament and for the eventual elimination of nuclear weapons within a time-bound framework. Although this proposal did not command consensus, a number of members of the G21 submitted a three-phase “programme of action for the elimination of nuclear weapons”, as a basis for work of an Ad Hoc Committee. The first phase (1996–2000) envisaged measures aimed at reducing the nuclear threat and measures of nuclear disarmament, the second phase (2000–2010) included measures to reduce nuclear arsenals and to promote confidence between states, and the third phase (2010–2020) was planned for “Consolidation of a Nuclear Weapon Free World”.
8.  In the aftermath of the CTBT negotiations a range of other proposals emerged, amongst them one by Japan to appoint a Special Coordinator on nuclear disarmament charged with identifying issues in the field of nuclear disarmament that could be negotiated in the Conference. South Africa submitted a draft decision and mandate for the establishment of an Ad Hoc Committee on nuclear disarmament “to deliberate upon practical steps for systematic and progressive efforts to eliminate nuclear weapons as well as to identify if and when one or more such steps should be the subject of negotiations in the Conference”. And Algeria submitted a dual proposal on nuclear disarmament and fissile material.
9.  The first President of the 1998 session, mindful of the growing interest of members in addressing nuclear disarmament, conducted a series of consultations and issued a statement in which he acknowledged the “extremely high priority of the agenda item ‘Cessation of the nuclear arms race and nuclear disarmament’”. Later that year, the CD established subsidiary bodies on fissile material and NSAs but not on nuclear disarmament per se, prompting the G21 to state that a “satisfactory solution to the issue of nuclear disarmament will have a direct bearing on the work of the CD in the future”.
10.  Thereafter mandates for subsidiary bodies were fused into a single document – the so-called “comprehensive and balanced programme of work” - under which no progress has been made on any of the core issues including nuclear disarmament.  None of the work programmes proposed during the current deadlock has entailed a negotiating mandate for nuclear disarmament, but CD/1933/Rev.1 sought to strengthen the relevant mandate through the term “deal with nuclear disarmament” in contrast to CD/1864’s notion of an exchange of views on this issue.
This is a guest post by Tim Caughley. Tim is a Resident Senior Fellow at UNIDIR.

The artwork is by Ai Y,
 of Hiroshima, Japan,
 awarded Second Place in the Nature category, UN ART FOR PEACE 2012 ages 13-17, www.un.org/disarmament/