The Conference on Disarmament (CD), established in 1979 as the single multilateral disarmament negotiating forum of the international community, was a result of the first Special Session on Disarmament of the United Nations General Assembly held in 1978.
It succeeded other Geneva-based negotiating fora, which include the Ten-Nation Committee on Disarmament (1960), the Eighteen-Nation Committee on Disarmament (1962-68), and the Conference of the Committee on Disarmament (1969-78).
The current Director-General of UNOG is the Secretary-General of the Conference on Disarmament as well as the Personal Representative of the UN Secretary-General to the CD.
The terms of reference of the CD include practically all multilateral arms control and disarmament problems. Currently the CD primarily focuses its attention on the following issues: cessation of the nuclear arms race and nuclear disarmament; prevention of nuclear war, including all related matters; prevention of an arms race in outer space; effective international arrangements to assure non-nuclear-weapon States against the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons; new types of weapons of mass destruction and new systems of such weapons including radiological weapons; comprehensive programme of disarmament and transparency in armaments.
The CD meets in an annual session, which is divided in three parts of 10, 7 and 7 weeks, respectively. The first week shall begin in the penultimate week of the month of January. The CD is presided by its members on a rotating basis. Each President shall preside for a period of four weeks.
In order to ensure a coherent approach among the six Presidents of the session to the work of the Conference, as of 2006, an informal coordination mechanism – the P6 – was established that provides for the six presidents of the session to informally meet, usually on a weekly basis. Also on a weekly basis, the President meets informally with the Regional Group Coordinators and China together with the P6 (Presidential Consultations).
As originally constituted, the CD had 40 members. Subsequently its membership was gradually expanded (and reduced) to 65 countries. The CD has invited other UN Member States that have expressed a desire to participate in the CD’s substantive discussions, to take part in its work as non-member States.
The CD adopts its own Rules of Procedure and its own agenda, taking into account the recommendations of the General Assembly and the proposals of its Members.
It reports to the General Assembly annually, or more frequently, as appropriate. Its budget is included in that of the United Nations. Staff members of the Geneva Branch of the Department for Disarmament Affairs service the meetings of the CD, which are held at the Palais des Nations.
The Conference conducts its work by consensus.
The CD and its predecessors have negotiated such major multilateral arms limitation and disarmament agreements as the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, the Convention on the Prohibition of Military or Any Other Hostile Use of Environmental Modification Techniques, the seabed treaties, the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on their Destruction, the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on Their Destruction and Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty.