A Disarmament Agenda for the 21st Century

BEIJING, 2-4 April 2002

The crisis in multilateral diplomacy in the field of disarmament and international security calls out for a debate on the future disarmament agenda. As a timely contribution to that international dialogue, the Department of Disarmament Affairs and the Foreign Ministry of the People’s Republic of China jointly hosted a meeting in Beijing from 2–4 April 2002 of security experts and diplomats from around the world to discuss defence doctrines, nuclear disarmament, outer space issues, missile proliferation and defence and conventional arms.

The Foreign Minister of China, Mr. Tang Jiaxuan, set the tone by stressing that a sound international security environment was conducive to the processes of arms control and disarmament as well as a contribution to the preservation of international peace and security. He also called for the United Nations, as the most broadly based international political organization, to continue to play a leading role in the international security arena. 

The conference consisted of five panels, each focused on a separate agenda item, and was opened by Under-Secretary-General Dhanapala, who called for vigilance in the long journey toward disarmament. “What Sun Tsu accomplished in the 5th century BC with respect to the Art of War, we too—all of us, regardless of age, governmental rank, or nationality must now resolve to achieve in the 21st century as we seek to master a new historic and urgent challenge, the Art of Disarmament.” 

The principal theme that emerged in the wide-ranging and lively discussions was the value of multilateral approaches to disarmament. While both unilateral and multilateral efforts can advance disarmament objectives, multilateralism is crucial to ensuring that this progress becomes permanent, irreversible, binding and capable of verification. Unilateralism, when practiced as the pursuit of only a single country’s national interests, jeopardizes the future of multilateral cooperation in disarmament. 

In October 2002, DDA will publish the text of the presentations and summaries of the discussions as its next Occasional Paper. Texts will appear on the DDA website shortly.