Conference on Disarmament

Efforts underway to reach critical mass____


Activities in the first part of the 2001 session of the 66-member Conference on Disarmament (23 January–30 March) revolved around overcoming the three-year stalemate in its work, but an agreed “programme of work” remained elusive. The agenda of the Conference, handily agreed at the first public meeting in January, comprises a list of items passed down from the previous year. But in order to begin focused work, the Conference needs to adopt a programme of work for the session.

The Conference made “commendable progress” last year, said Secretary-General Kofi Annan in a message sent to the opening meeting, referring to the consensus that appeared to be gathering at the end of the annual session of the Conference in September 2000. He urged the Conference to use that level of agreement “to build a critical mass of political will that could trigger agreement on a workable and balanced programme of work.”

Different views persist on ways to deal with two significant issues: whether to negotiate, explore or discuss nuclear disarmament and the prevention of an arms race in outer space. Agreement on starting negotiations on a treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices is also blocked.

The vigorous efforts made by the successive Presidents of the Conference this year, the Ambassadors of Canada, Chile and China, failed to get the momentum going. The presidency of the Conference rotates among all the members on a monthly basis. Visits from such high-ranking Government officials as the Foreign Ministers of Pakistan and the Russian Federation and the Director General for Disarmament Affairs of the Spanish Foreign Ministry also proved unsuccessful.

The second part of the session takes place from 14 May to 29 June, the third and final part from 30 July to 14 September.