The Conference on Disarmament is an informal UN organisation whose intention is to negotiate arms control and to set disarmament agreements. It is linked to the UN through a representative of the Security Council. It started out as the Eighteen Nations Disarmament Committee in 1962; in 1969 became the Conference of the Committee on Disarmament
The Conference on Disarmament is an informal UN organisation whose intention is to negotiate arms control and to set disarmament agreements. It is linked to the UN through a representative of the Security Council. It started out as the Eighteen Nations Disarmament Committee in 1962; in 1969 became the Conference of the Committee on Disarmament and in 1983 it was called Conference on Disarmament. Since the beginning, it has held an important role in maintaining multilateral disarmament treaties.
The Conference on Disarmament has an interesting relationship with the UN, since it is funded by its budget, but has control over its own activities and rules of procedure. It has several groupings which include the Western group, the group of Eastern European States and Others, the 5 Permanent members of the Security Council, the 4 Permanent members of Security Council without China – who refers to itself as Group One, and the Non-Aligned Movement (G21). The Council on Disarmament runs 3 sessions each year in Geneva during January, May and July which last for several weeks.
The Conference has a permanent agenda around which the dialogue is held. This agenda includes: chemical weapons, weapons of mass destruction, reduction of military budget, disarmament and security,reduction of armed forces. Through this agenda, it is committed to promoting complete disarmament under international control. Many of the issues concerning the Conference are discussed in ad hoc committees, which are held privately. The whole conference afterwards must agree with what was decided by these committees.
Important treaties and protocols
- Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty – an international treaty that is aimed to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and to promote collaboration for the peaceful use of nuclear energy.
- Biological Weapons Convention – the first multilateral disarmament treaty banning the production of an entire category of weapons. Signatories to this convention are required to stop the production and development of biological toxin and weapons.
- Chemical Weapons Convention – a treaty that outlaws the production and use of chemical weapons. Those who are parties to this convention are obligated to destroy all current chemical weapons. As of August 2014, 85% of the world’s declared stockpile of chemical weapons has been destroyed. This treaty also has the right to run investigation for states with suspected activity related to chemical weapons.
- Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty – a multilateral treaty by which the members have agreed to ban all nuclear explosions for military or civilian purposes. It has not entered into force because it has yet to have been ratified by 8 countries. The negotiations for it were completed in 1994, but arriving at that point was very difficult.
Currently under discussion is a pact that aims to prevent an arms race in outer space, which is called Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty.
The outcomes of the last meeting
Negotiations for for multilateral disarmament treaties headed towards a stalemate during the last meeting. For the third year in a row, an informal working group could not reach an agreement on the four main issues: nuclear disarmament, prevention of arms in the outer space, security assurances, and a fissile material cut-off treaty.
Countries such as Austria and Mexico were left unpleased by the level of negotiations, while other countries like the United States praised the effort of the working groups.
Unfortunately, since 1996 there hasn’t been any program of activity that has moved forward. There have always been many divisive issues which have stopped collaboration and consensus. However, even though at the moment it seems like there’s a stalemate, the end of it could be coming soon since progress is being made toward a global ban on the production of fissile materials. Let’s hope the next sessions will be more positive and the Conference on Disarmament will be able to take another step in the road to achieving peace and security.