This past week, the 2011 UN-sponsored Fellows on Disarmament arrived in what is sometimes referred to as the “City of Peace” or to others as the “Capital of Disarmament,” depending on who you're asking, a local from Geneva or a disarmament diplomat. Either way, Geneva is a city with picturesque landscape, a major financial hub, and the epicenter for diplomacy that includes the headquarters of numerous agencies of the United Nations and other international organizations.
I am the U.S. representative among 25 diplomats selected by the United Nations to participate in the 2011 Fellowship Program on Disarmament. Now that the program has begun, I will have the privilege of spending the next two months traveling, debating and exchanging ideas on disarmament issues with a distinguished group of culturally and politically diverse young diplomats from Asia, Africa, Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East. Our journey together in this Program, will take us to additional study visits at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) in Vienna, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in The Hague, and with stops in Berlin, Beijing, and Tokyo at the invitation of the governments and, finally, concluding at the UN Headquarters in New York in October.
The Fellowship Program is crucial for introducing and preparing the next generation of arms control diplomats to tackle key issues and challenges in the field of disarmament and international security that the world will face in the 21st century.
Here in Geneva, where some of the landmark multilateral disarmament treaties such as the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BWC) have been negotiated -- both key pillars in the global regime against Weapons of Mass Destruction, I had the opportunity to get a sense of the organizational structure of the Conference on Disarmament and the challenging issues it is grappling with. For those who are not familiar, the Conference on Disarmament (CD) is the only standing multilateral negotiating forum of the international community that handles topics ranging from WMD, to conventional armaments. There are four "core” issues currently before the CD: fissile material cut-off treaty, nuclear disarmament, the Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space (PAROS), and negative security assurances, a term that refers to international arrangements to assure non-nuclear-weapon states that they will not be attacked with nuclear weapons.
The Geneva segment of my Fellowship has so far exemplified to me, through the numerous multilateral disarmament lectures, presentations, plenary sessions, and round table discussions, the importance of revitalizing this body of disarmament that has been at a standstill since 1996. I also found it extremely valuable to hear first hand from a wide range of diplomats -- like Laura Kennedy, the dual-hatted U.S. Ambassador to the CD who is also the Special Representative for BWC issues, which are particularly pertinent this year with a BWC Review Conference in December. I also heard Ambassadors from Japan, the Dominican Republic, Germany, Egypt, and Bulgaria -- all of whom spoke candidly about the work accomplished by the CD and their future perspectives.
This initial portion of the Fellowship has already increased my knowledge on the challenges faced by the CD but, most importantly, it has highlighted where a scientist, like me, working arms control issues can make considerable contributions to the policy world of disarmament.
Stay tuned for more on this from the perspective of Vienna.