Disarmament blog: disarmament in 2020

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Aidan Liddle

UK Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the Conference on Disarmament

Part of Conference on Disarmament

10th January 2020 Geneva, Switzerland

Disarmament blog: disarmament in 2020

2020 is going to be a hugely important year for multilateral disarmament in Geneva.

The biggest event of the year, of course, is the Review Conference of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which takes place in New York over April and May. The RevCon’s job is to look back over the last five years and “identify the areas in which, and the means through which, further progress should be sought in the future,” as well as addressing the strengthen the implementation of the Treaty and further its universalisation. That task takes on extra significance this year, the 50th anniversary of the Treaty’s entry into force, and the 25th of its indefinite extension.

No-one doubts that this RevCon takes place in an extremely difficult context; expectations for success are low. But the UK believes that there’s more that unites us than divides us, and that a strong NPT regime – covering disarmament, non-proliferation and the peaceful uses of nuclear technology – remains in everyone’s interests. We’ll be working hard for a consensual outcome which celebrates the historic success of the NPT and strengthens it for the next 50 years, and beyond. The UK will also play an important role in the preparations by hosting the London Conference of the five NPT nuclear weapon states in February.

Before all of that, though, the Conference on Disarmament’s 2020 session kicks off on 21 January. The rotating Presidency returns to the start of the alphabet, and Algeria. It was under Algeria, of course, that the CD last agreed a Programme of Work, in 2009: I hope that this year we can break the procedural impasse that has blighted our work for far too long, and get back to substantive discussions on nuclear disarmament and the security of outer space.

There’s important work to do on the conventional weapons side, too. The Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention begins work to implement the Oslo Action Plan agreed at November’s successful Review Conference: the UK plays its part by taking on the chair of the Enhancement of Cooperation and Assistance Committee. The first round of Arms Trade Treaty working group meetings takes place at the beginning of February. And later that month, we’ll pick up the discussions we began late last year on a possible Political Declaration on the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, on the initiative of Ireland.

Coming up in the second half of the year, the Cluster Munitions Convention will hold its second Review Conference in November. The Biological Weapons Convention and the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons will step up their preparations for their Review Conferences next year – in particular, for the CCW, through the Group of Government Experts on Emerging Technologies in the Area of Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems, which is charged with producing recommendations on the normative and operational framework in this area. But more on all that later!

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