U.S. Will Skip Disarmament Meetings

March 2016

By Kingston Reif

The United States will not participate in a working group on disarmament taking place in Geneva this year, according to the State Department.

In a Feb. 18 email to Arms Control Today, Blake Narendra, a U.S. State Department spokesman, said the United States has been open to participating in the disarmament group. But he said that the agenda and rules for the Geneva meetings “will not result in constructive dialogue on nuclear weapons or conditions under which nuclear disarmament can best be achieved.”

During last year’s meeting of the UN General Assembly First Committee, UN member states voted to approve a resolution sponsored by Mexico creating the working group. (See ACT, December 2015.) It is open ended, which means that all UN members can participate.

Under the resolution, the mandate of the group is to “substantively address concrete effective legal measures, legal provisions and norms” necessary to “attain and maintain a world without nuclear weapons.”

The working group also will “substantively address recommendations on other measures that could contribute to taking forward multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations.” The resolution said the group should convene in Geneva in 2016 for up to 15 days and present a report on its work to the General Assembly at its session later this year.

The working group held its first meeting Feb. 22-26. Many NATO members and East Asian U.S. allies that attended the meeting joined a statement delivered by Canada saying they “chose to participate” in the group in part because existing institutions that deal with disarmament have been bogged down by “both internal and external challenges which seriously impede [their] effectiveness.”

Like the United States, the four other countries recognized as nuclear-weapon states by the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty—China, France, Russia, and the United Kingdom—did not attend the February meeting.

The working group is scheduled to reconvene during the first two weeks of May and once more during the week of Aug. 22.