UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is inviting nations to a high-level meeting in September on how to revive stalled international disarmament talks, said UN diplomats and officials.
The meeting, scheduled for September 24 during the annual General Assembly gathering of world leaders in New York, follows 12 years of inaction at the world’s sole multilateral disarmament negotiating forum in Geneva.
The 65-nation UN-backed Conference on Disarmament (CD), created in 1978, negotiated biological and chemical weapons conventions but has been unable to carry out substantive work since 1998 because members could not agree on priorities, reports Reuters.
A key proposed task has been to negotiate a halt to production of nuclear bomb-making fissile material but that has been blocked by Pakistan, which says it would put it at a permanent disadvantage to rival India.
To try to break the deadlock, invitations were going out this week to all 192 UN member states to send delegates at ministerial or higher level, said a UN official involved in the planning. He said the meeting was “seen as an opportunity to generate the political will to register some progress.”
The official, who asked not to be identified, said the meeting would last only three hours. Ban would chair it and read out a summary of conclusions at the end but the exact outcome of the meeting was still under discussion, he said.
A senior Western diplomat specializing in disarmament said one possibility was that experts would be asked to draft a resolution for the General Assembly to adopt to reform the UN disarmament machinery.
The diplomat, briefing reporters on condition he was not named, said the cost of the CD was put at some US $500,000 a year in interpretation and other administrative costs.
“Each year you have the hope that it’s going to be back on track but after 12 years you have to admit that there’s something in the system that doesn’t work, that you have to reform something,” the diplomat said.
Ban first floated the idea of a special meeting in a speech to a nuclear non-proliferation conference at the United Nations in May. When the conference ended, it recommended that he go ahead with the special meeting.