Continuing CHAPTER VI Institutional aspects

Conference on Disarmament, 2004

In 2004, the Conference on Disarmament (the Conference) was again unable to break the impasse on reaching an agreement on its programme of work. Consequently, it did not establish any mechanism to deal with substantive agenda items.
The Conference was in session from 19 January to 26 March, 10 May to 25 June and 26 July to 8 September 2004, and concluded by adopting its report1 to the General Assembly. The presidency of the Conference was successively assumed by Kenya, Malaysia, Mexico, Mongolia, Morocco and Myanmar. Sixty-five members2 participated in the session. In addition, 38 other States,3 at their request, were invited to take part. The Conference adopted the same agenda as its 2003 session.4
From the beginning of the session, France emphasized that the Conference should also address new issues that could be relevant to the current international security environment, particularly terrorism and WMD, and compliance with arms control and disarmament agreements.5 Consultations carried out by successive Presidents revealed a growing interest among Members of the Conference to address those issues without, however, including them on the agenda. Subsequently, the Conference embarked on a discussion devoted to new and "additional issues" related to its agenda, which took place in the setting of an informal plenary meeting.
Member States agreed to hold a structured debate on issues on the Conference's agenda with the aim of facilitating an agreement on its programme of work, in the format of informal plenary meetings on those issues, on additional issues related to the agenda, the methodology of the programme of work, and ways and means of overcoming the impasse over the programme of work. The outcome of these meetings was summarized by the successive Presidents at the plenary meetings,6 and was welcomed by the members of the Conference as a useful tool for the consideration of crucial arms control and disarmament issues, including new threats and challenges to security, and for bridging the gap in positons held by delegations on the Conference's agenda as well as on its programme of work.
During the first part of its session, the Conference heard statements by six Foreign Ministers (Canada, Ireland, Islamic Republic of Iran, Netherlands, Sri Lanka, and Sweden) and one State Minister for Foreign Affairs (Bangladesh). In addition to addressing arms control and disarmament issues, those speakers expressed concern over the continuing impasse and voiced strong political support for the Conference.
Throughout the session, the successive Presidents made efforts to reach an agreement on a programme of work on the basis of the proposal of the five former Presidents ("A-5 proposal");7 however, consensus remained elusive with a number of delegations holding on to their traditional positions and priorities. The "A-5 proposal" was regarded by many as the most promising solution to the existing impasse. In that connection, a number of delegations advocated the comprehensive approach to the programme of work as a guarantee of addressing the security concerns of all States. There were, however, criticisms of linking issues that were inherent in that approach to the programme of work. In order to overcome the impasse and to maintain the Conference on Disarmament's relevance in the current security environment with its new challenges, views were expressed that items should be addressed only on the basis of their merit and relevance. There were also opinions in favour of breaking the linkages and making separate decisions on how to deal with individual issues on the programme of work.
The Conference was able to take a decision on enhancing the engagement of civil society in its work. Although the implementation of some of its elements (e.g., the allocation of a meeting for NGOs to address the Conference) was subject to the agreement of the programme of work, the decision was noteworthy in strengthening the Conference on Disarmament's engagement of civil society in its work.8
In its report to the General Assembly, the Conference requested the current and incoming Presidents to conduct consultations during the intersessional period and, if possible, to make recommendations, taking into account all relevant proposals, including those submitted as documents of the Conference, views presented and discussions held, and to endeavour to keep the members of the Conference informed of their consultations.

1See Official Records of the General Assembly, Fifty-ninth Session, Supplement No. 27 (A/59/27).
2Algeria, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bangladesh, Belarus, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Cameroon, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Cuba, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ecuador, Egypt, Ethiopia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Iran (Islamic Republic of), Iraq, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Malaysia, Mexico, Mongolia, Morocco, Myanmar, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, Peru, Poland, Republic of Korea, Romania, Russian Federation, Senegal, Slovakia, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Switzerland, Syrian Arab Republic, Tunisia, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States, Venezuela, Viet Nam and Zimbabwe.
3Albania, Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Georgia, Ghana, Greece, Guatemala, Holy See, Iceland, Jordan, Kuwait, Latvia, Lebanon, Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Malta, Oman, Philippines, Portugal, Qatar, San Marino, Saudi Arabia, Serbia and Montenegro, Singapore, Slovenia, Sudan, Thailand, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Uruguay and Yemen.
4The 2004 substantive agenda items included: (a) cessation of the nuclear arms race and nuclear disarmament; (b) prevention of nuclear war, including all related matters; (c) prevention of an arms race in outer space; (d) effective international arrangements to assure non-nuclear-weapon States against the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons; (e) new types of weapons of mass destruction and new systems of such weapons; radiological weapons; (f) comprehensive programme of disarmament; and (g) transparency in armaments.
5CD/PV.941, pp. 17-18 and CD/PV.944, pp. 5-8). These and the following documents of the Conference on Disarmament (CD) are available from
6CD/PV.957, pp.3-5; CD/PV.958, pp.9-10; CD/PV.961, pp.5-7; CD/PV.964, pp. 3-6; CD/PV.968, p.23.
8A/59/27, op. cit., paras. 19 and 20.