Thesehistorical insights on the treatment in the CD of agenda item 6, “Comprehensive Programme of Disarmament”, were offered by UNIDIR as background to the debate on that issue in the Conference on 14 August 2012 under the presidency of Ambassador Jean-Hughes Simon-Michel (France).
The comprehensive programme of disarmament (CPD) has its origins in article 11 of the UN Charter. Under that article UNGA is mandated to consider and make recommendations on “principles governing disarmament and the regulation of armaments”. Then in 1969 when declaring the 1970s as a Disarmament Decade, UNGA requested the CD to elaborate a comprehensive programme on all aspects of the cessation of the arms race and general and complete disarmament under effective international control. UNSSOD-I did likewise.
As an instance of the relationship envisaged for the three standing disarmament forums, interestingly UNSSOD-I also requested the Disarmament Commission (UNDC) to consider the elements of the CPD and submit its recommendations to UNGA and, through it, to the CD. UNDC duly elaborated the “Elements of a comprehensive programme of disarmament” and submitted them to the CD.
The item “Comprehensive programme of disarmament” has been on the CD’s agenda since 1980. That year a subsidiary body adopted an outline of the CPD. While there was a measure of agreement on several elements of the outline, fundamental divergences of views emerged on actual measures and stages of implementation and their time frames. Many CD members argued that the CPD should include a firm commitment to its implementation but there was disagreement over whether that commitment should be expressed in legally binding terms.
Since 1989, the item has not been considered as requiring a subsidiary body although over the years Special Coordinators have been appointed to consult members on its future. In recent years, Coordinators appointed by the Presidents of the Conference have chaired informal plenaries during which delegations raised a broad range of issues, both on conventional armaments and nuclear weapons. While some members saw value in resuming consideration of the CPD under the original mandate, others argued for reviewing what they saw as a predominantly nuclear agenda of the CD and updating it with items on conventional weapons.
This posting was published for UNIDIR by Tim Caughley, Resident Senior Fellow