Geneva to New York 2005

5 April, 2005

From: Dave Knight

Conference on Disarmament, Space Security Conference, Global Network Conference and the NPT Review Conference

What is the collective noun for conferences? A verbosity of conferences seems most suitable to me. Not that there is anything wrong with talking about issues, as long as actions follow the words. Unfortunately only the Global Network Conference (April 29-30 in New York City) seems likely to result in action. Is that the natural consequence of it being the only one in the hands of grassroot activists?

I have been to Geneva twice so far this year, partly on International Peace Bureau business but mainly as the UN Representative for the Global Network. Of course, visiting my brother-in-law also makes such trips enjoyable!

The Conference on Disarmament is as blocked as ever despite the efforts of the Conference Presidents to have a programme of work agreed. In addition the initiatives, in and around the Conference, of countries such as China and Russia on the Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space (PAROS) have failed to remove the main obstacle which is the lack of willingness of the United States to enter discussion never mind negotiation on this and other issues.

The US may not be the only problem but they have demonstrated once again their lack of faith in multilateral treaties which have teeth, by stating that they will negotiate a Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty (FMCT) but not verification procedures for it.

The Safeguarding Space Security Conference is one initiative by China, Russia, UNIDIR and the Simons Foundation which aims to lay the basis for work on PAROS by continuing discussions between states and NGOs on issues which will need to be addressed if we are ever to get a treaty which bans weapons from space.

There were many issues raised such as: space debris, definitions of space weapons, present and possible future legal frameworks, verification levels, how to proceed and how to create the willingness to proceed. Chinese, Russian and Canadian diplomats and experts contributed significantly and those from other states spoke from the floor. Unfortunately the US sent only one lesser diplomat who did not speak.

Many of the NGO and academic speakers were from the US and while they all wished for there to be a legal framework banning weapons in space some were not as radical in their approach as the Global Network would wish.

However the whole exercise was very worthwhile and a final call for each space-faring state to follow Russia’s lead and make a unilateral declaration that they will not be the first to place weapons in space was more to my liking.

So on to New York and a gaze in the crystal ball to predict that the Global Network Conference will be illuminating, inspiring and invigorating. It will be an antidote to inaction and to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Review Conference (NPT RevCon) which follows.

At the NPT RevCon the Nuclear Weapon States (NWS) and the US in particular will focus on counter-proliferation, and only horizontal proliferation at that! But many states in the New Agenda Coalition (NAC) and the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) will be doing their best to keep the spotlight on nuclear disarmament or rather the lack of it.

Enough of that, I will bore you with the details in a later report after the event.

The report on the Global Network Conference will however have you on the edge of your seats, ready for fewer words and more action!

Dave Knight

GN United Nations Representative


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