GENEVA – As the United Nations Conference on Disarmament begins a seven-week session in Geneva, its future is on the line. Whereas countries and civil-society initiatives are on the move, the Conference has stagnated. Its credibility – indeed, its very legitimacy – is at risk.
The “CD,” as it is informally known, has long served as the world’s only multilateral forum for negotiating disarmament. Its many impressive accomplishments include the Biological and Chemical Weapons Conventions, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty. Much of this progress was achieved during the Cold War, proving that it is possible to create global legal norms even in times of deep political division.