Swiss secure mini-breakthrough at disarmament conference

Switzerland began the first of its two 2018 presidential sessions of the Conference on Disarmament on March 19 – the last was 12 years ago. Keystone

Switzerland has welcomed a decision by states at the Conference on Disarmament (CD) to appoint five working group coordinators and to adopt a timetable to explore common ground on nuclear disarmament “core issues”. 

This content was published on March 28, 2018 - 11:35

“This is another step in the right direction to bring the CD back to substantive work,” declared Sabrina Dallafior, Switzerland’s ambassador to the UN in charge of disarmament issues. Switzerland currently holds the presidency of the world’s main multilateral forum for nuclear disarmamentExternal link (March 19-30 and May 14-25) and is trying to revitalise talks at the Geneva-based forum, which has been deadlocked for over 20 years. 

Dallafior said numerous consultations had taken place over the past ten days to resolve differences. 

On Tuesday, it was announced that Indonesia would lead the CD’s nuclear disarmament group, the Netherlands would lead the nuclear conflict prevention group and Brazil would lead the space arms race group. The discussions on negative security assurances (wherein nuclear powers agree not to attack non-nuclear states) will be chaired by Germany. The fifth group on new types of weapons of mass destruction and other disarmament issues will be led by Belarus. All these bodies, which will meet next May, will have to draw up recommendations in August. 

+ Read more on the Conference on Disarmament

Many of the 65 member states underlined the work of the three presidencies this year – Switzerland, Sweden and Sri Lanka – and delegations’ willingness “to compromise in a constructive spirit”. 

“We hope that this beautiful moment will not be marred by political battles,” declared a Chinese diplomat. Russia also praised CD members “on the adoption of this important decision and the efforts of the President to reach compromise”. 

Tuesday’s announcement remains just one step, however, and the overarching goal of the CD remains negotiations on disarmament issues and the adoption of a programme of work.  

The CD was established in 1979 as the single multilateral disarmament negotiating forum of the international community. However, the forum, which meets several times a year at the United Nations Palais des Nations complex, has been blocked ever since the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty was adopted in 1996. Disagreements between states on which disarmament topics should be negotiated, linkages between issues and the need to agree by consensus have left the forum unable to agree on a way forward.

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