REVITALISING MULTILATERAL DISARMAMENT NEGOTIATIONS
PND Nuclear Flashpoints Project
Dear First Committee Delegate:
At this years First Committee, you will for the first time, be faced
with not one, but three, proposals for revitalising multilateral
disarmament negotiations in the Committee on Disarmament.(CD).
These proposals are the Austria-Mexico-Norway proposal involving the
setting up of working groups as a possible way forward,(A/C.1/66/L.2
the proposal from Switzerland, South Africa and the Netherlands,
which exhorts governments to facilitate progress at the CD and failing
that suggests a process of 'review' with no specific options being
suggested other than deep thought, ('....Invites States to explore,
consider and consolidate options, proposals and elements for a
revitalization of the United Nations disarmament machinery as a whole,
including the Conference on Disarmament;') and the Canadian FMCT
resolution which as its name suggests covers only the FMCT as an area
for multilateral negotiation.
There is general agreement amongst governments, we believe, that
whilst progress at the CD under the current consensus modus operandi
is the most desirable option, this is simply not taking place – and
has not done so for a variety of reasons for the last 15 years. Absent
change it is unlikely to do so.
The continuing support for the CD without change of any kind
whatsoever that a number of governments are softly articulating is
Continued lack of progress in the CD will therefore either:
a) mean that the CD loses relevance as a negotiating forum as nothing
can be negotiated in it, and as governments therefore seek other means
to progress a multilateral disarmament agenda
b) mean that no progress is at all possible on a multilateral
disarmament agenda (also unacceptable)
c) Will force changes in the rules of operation of the CD so
that it is no longer possible for one or two countries to stymie the
intentions of everybody else by an abuse of the consensus rule
d)Will force that abuse to cease. This last seems most unlikely absent
a 'circuit breaker' such as the resolutions submitted by Austria,
Norway and Mexico or by Switzerland, South Africa and the Netherlands.
Both these resolutions seek to facilitate progress across the broad
range of CD issues not merely on an FMCT as the Canadian resolution
While these resolutions have been submitted entirely independently,
there is no reason not to vote for all three of them. They are in
effect complimentary and not contradictory.
However, the Austria – Mexico – Norway resolution is by far the
strongest and is the one that most clearly offers a way out of the
current impasse in the CD. Even this resolution does not actually
establish an automatic mechanism for moving forward – something that
might serve to focus minds during the upcoming CD – but merely
suggests that the GA MIGHT in the absence of progress, examine what
could be done to facilitate progress and suggests the establishment of
working groups as a possible way forward. There is nothing automatic
about the establishment of those groups.
In that sense there is less difference between the
Austria-Mexico-Norway proposal and the much vaguer and much more open
Switzerland-SA-Netherlands proposal, which does NOT establish any
specific mechanism for proceeding at all, but merely exhorts
governments to 'explore mechanisms' to do so.
Support for the Austria – Mexico – Norway mechanism, however unreal
its differences with the Switzerland – SA – Netherlands proposal, will
'put down a marker' for seriousness in pushing for progress at the CD
and in multilateral disarmament negotiations generally. If we really
truly want progress in multilateral disarmament negotiations this
proposal AS WELL as the other two proposals warrants our support.
While all three proposals should be voted for, it is the
Austria-Mexico – Norway proposal that will determine whether there is
really progress in multilateral disarmament negotiations.
People for Nuclear Disarmament Nuclear Flashpoints Project