Geneva, 12 September

The Conference on Disarmament, the world’s sole multilateral forum for disarmament negotiations, concluded the third and last part of its 2002 session after adopting its annual report to the fifty-seventh session of the General Assembly.

In the last few weeks of the session, a proposal presented by five former Presidents of the Conference—the so-called “Five Ambassadors” initiative—launched by the Ambassadors of Algeria, Belgium, Chile, Sweden and Colombia, provided a glimmer of hope that the Conference would be able to reach agreement on a programme of work and start considering substantive issues. The proposal sought to bridge the gaps between Member States of the Conference on the main stumbling blocks—prevention of an arms race in outer space and nuclear disarmament.

In his concluding statement, the President of the Conference, Ambassador Andras Szabo of Hungary, said that during its 2002 session, the Conference had come very close to reaching an agreement on the establishment of three Ad Hoc Committees, namely on a treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices, on nuclear disarmament, and on negative security assurances, as well as on their respective mandates.

A new proposal by Germany to revisit the issue of radiological weapons in the light of the new threats, and to appoint a Special Coordinator to this end was also discussed. Deep controversy persisted over how to deal with “prevention of an arms race in outer space” (PAROS). The question of whether and how quickly differences concerning PAROS could be overcome remained critical.

Amb. Szabo said the initiative of the group of “Five Ambassadors” provoked especially broad discussions and lent new impetus to the efforts to end the stalemate in the Conference. He said it stood out as a promising compromise. He encouraged the ambassadors to pursue their initiative.

The Conference adopted its annual report in which it requested Amb. Szabo and the incoming President to conduct appropriate consultations during the intersessional period and make recommendations for a programme of work, taking into account all existing proposals and views presented and discussions held in the 2002 session.

The Conference on Disarmament works by consensus and cannot undertake new work without the agreement of all Member States. This is the fourth consecutive year that it has been unable to reach agreement to start substantive work.