This September, DiSec is…not the committee to watch

A press release from the US State Department just caught my eye. The entire statement in full reads:

Following up on their commitment made during the July Paris Conference, the P-5 met in Geneva on August 30 to take stock of developments regarding the Conference on Disarmament (CD). They discussed how to achieve at the earliest possible date in the CD their shared goal of a treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons purposes. They expressed their determination to this end. In that context, they look forward to meeting again, with other relevant parties, during the United Nations General Assembly First Committee.

What’s so interesting about this? Well, first is that the P-5 even bother to lend credence to the Conference on Disarmament. As some may recall, much to the dismay of right-wing commentators in the US the DPRK took hold of the Presidency of the Conference on Disarmament this year. The uproar was rather furious. As Mark Goldberg of UN Dispatch lets us know, this whole matter in and of itself really isn’t a big deal. The seat that North Korea now holds rotates alphabetically, so they were bound to get it eventually. Moreover, the Conference itself just isn’t all that important a body. It’s work is taken up by many other committees including the UN First Committee, the Security Council, and the similarly named UN Disarmament Commission. States show up annually in Geneva, but not much tends to actually get done at the meeting.

The treaty goal of banning fissile material mentioned in the statement is what really took me by surprise though. I hadn’t heard anything about this which might speak to its feasibility and progress. A bit more research led me to check out the Conference’s program and learned some more about the proposed Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty. The  idea has been around since the early 1990s, but so far nothing has been put down on paper, let alone voted on.

In 2009 in what was either a hopeful move designed to boost the CD’s credibility or cynical way to kill any chance of the Treaty moving forward, the CD set up a negotiating committee after the US reversed its position on the treaty. Since then, the work of the committee has stalled out thanks to the efforts of Pakistan, working against every other member of the committee. Yes, every other member. That means that even North Korea is for completing the treaty and getting it signed.

Which makes me wonder just how effective the meetings on the sidelines of the First Committee, Disarmament and International Security, or DiSec, are going to be. That the P-5 is working in tandem on this one is great and I really do hope that a treaty gets ratified sooner rather than later. I get a nerdy thrill of excitement every September as UN Week approaches, but I’m somehow doubting that GA First is where the logjam is going to break in regards to the FMCT.


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