Disarmament. Non-proliferation. Negotiations. Treaties
Disarmament. Non-proliferation. Negotiations. Treaties. These are words that matter. These are words that affect our lives. These are words that drive the work of the Conference on Disarmament, the world’s sole multilateral forum to negotiate arms control treaties, and it is located right here in Geneva.
The Conference on Disarmament, or more informally referred to as the “CD,” was established by a Special Session on Disarmament of the United Nations in 1978, and succeeded other Geneva-based negotiating fora. The CD and its predecessors have an impressive record of accomplishment, having negotiated such important treaties as the Treaty for the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), the Chemical Weapons Convention, the Biological Weapons Convention, and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.
These treaties have served the international community well, and have strengthened the efforts of the international community to address the core issue that affects all of us each day: our security and the security of our children.
The CD, which is not a United Nations body but operates with United Nations resources, truly has an ambitious mandate. It has the mandate to address any multilateral arms control or disarmament issue, from nuclear weapons to chemical weapons, from weapons in space to nuclear weapons free zones, from negative security assurances to nuclear disarmament. That is the impressive and ambitious scope of the CD’s agenda.
Today, the CD is grappling with achieving a mandate to begin substantive discussions on some core issues. And it has been debating a mandate to begin negotiations on a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty (FMCT) for years. Last year it almost reached that elusive goal, but a small handful of the CD’s 65 members still had concerns, and the world was left waiting another year for the body to begin negotiations on a multilateral arms control treaty in the new century.
Highlighting the importance of the CD and the issues it addresses, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon personally came to Geneva January 23 to officially inaugurate its 2008 session. The Secretary General went out of his way to urge the CD to make 2008 what he hoped would be a “break-though year.”
He said: “The international community values the Conference on Disarma-ment as the world’s single multilateral disarmament negotiating forum – but we need progress. We need progress because concerted disarmament will forestall arms races. And forestalling arms races calms tensions. By reducing tensions, we free up resources that would have been diverted to armaments. These resources can then be used to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.”
He concluded by saying, “You have great potential to move forward this year. The level of engagement in the Conference on Disarmament since 2006 has been promising. The General Assembly has noted your positive momentum. I urge you to build on this progress.”
Despite the challenges faced in the CD, there has been considerable progress in the field of disarmament and non-proliferation over the past decade. From small arms to land mines, from chemical weapons to nuclear weapons, arms are being increasingly monitored and controlled, and more measures are in place to protect the world from itself. The CD is tasked to move this agenda forward, and it seeks to do so by building consensus among nation states to address issues of most importance.
The interviews that follow shed light on some of the key issues that leading players in the field of disarmament in Geneva have shared with us. The CD is a Geneva organization, and these issues are dealt with here, at the Palais des Nations. What the CD does, or can do, affects all of us, so we better pay attention.