Sign Our Call for Commencing the Preparation of the UN's Fourth Special Session on Disarmament

It has been 45 years since the UN’s First Special Session on Disarmament (UNSSOD I) was held. This 1978 session established the multilateral disarmament machinery that has governed the UN’s work in this realm ever since. The session enumerated both the priority objectives for arms control and disarmament and the key institutions to realize them, namely the Commission on Disarmament in New York (a deliberative body) and the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva (a negotiating forum with a current membership of 65 states). Two other special sessions followed in 1982 and 1988 without major change to the architecture agreed in 1978.

While this machinery worked reasonably well in an earlier period, producing the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) in 1993 and the Comprehensive Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) in 1996 it has not been able to produce any treaties subsequently. In particular, the Conference on Disarmament has been mired in dysfunction since the CTBT, failing even to agree and implement a programme of work on any of the items on its agenda. It is increasingly evident that the UNSSOD I framework is no longer “fit for purpose” and requires a comprehensive review and likely reform.

UN member states have recognized the desirability of holding UNSSOD IV for years, adopting an annual resolution on this topic. The latest iteration (A/RES/77/46 adopted without a vote on 13 December 2022) reiterated “its conviction that a special session of the General Assembly devoted to disarmament can set the future course of action in the fields of disarmament, arms control, non-proliferation and related international security matters”. 

The universal support for convening UNSSOD IV has however not been followed by purposeful action to bring it about. For almost 30 years the UN General Assembly has instead been engaged in a perpetual “consultation” on “next steps” without actually taking any. Normally, a Preparatory Committee would be established that would decide the practical questions for holding a special session. The UN has however opted to “defer the issue of the possible establishment of a preparatory committee to the General Assembly” to which the General Assembly has responded by continuing “consultations” ad infinitum. This pretence of dealing with an agreed goal while in effect continuing to ignore it, is alas not an uncommon feature of the General Assembly and one convenient to states not keen on addressing the admittedly challenging issues that an UNSSOD IV would entail. This prolonged neglect of a crucial area of the UN’s work on peace and security at a time of intensified rivalry amongst leading powers and the dismantlement of much of the existing arms control and disarmament framework is untenable.

In his New Agenda for Peace, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has recognized the need “to reform the disarmament machinery” and has called for the establishment of “an inter-governmental process to …consider the role, timing and preparations of a special session of the General Assembly on disarmament”. 

We the undersigned, representatives of civil society and academia urge all member states to cease the damaging procrastination and support a resolution that would initiate by 2025 a committee to oversee preparations for UNSSOD IV.


Adeela Ahmed
Lecturer, Bzu Multan Pakistan

Alex Neve
Chair, Canadians for a Nuclear Weapons Convention

Ambassador (ret.) Alfredo Labbe
Vice-President, International Humanitarian Fact Finding Commission

Alison Williams
Membership Secretary and Editor, Wimbledon Disarmament Coalition

Ana-Yancy Espinoza
Academic Director, Arias Foundation for Peace

Andrew Jackson
Chief Executive, Pax Christi England and Wales

Antony John Papard
Member, CND

Ayman Okeil
Chairman, MAAT Foundation for Peace

Bev Delong
Former Chair, Canadians for a Nuclear Weapons Convention
Director, Canadian Pugwash Group

Brenda Grant
Treasurer, Merton PSC

Brian Jason Delos Santos
Lead Convener, Philippine Coalition on Youth, Peace and Security

Cesar Jaramillo
Executive Director, Project Ploughshares
Chair, Canadian Pugwash Group

Clara Coencas
Graduate, University of Westminster

Daniel Ajudeonu
Member of Leadership Team, Youth Pugwash

Daniel Peter
Director, Release Peace

Dan Plesch
Director, SCRAP Weapons
Professor of Diplomacy and Strategy, SOAS University of London

Denia Dimsdale
Postgraduate Student, SOAS University of London

Elisa Shafiqah binti Shahrilnizam
Head Advisor, Malaysian Youth Diplomacy

Ellen R. Judd
Distinguished Professor Emerita, University of Manitoba
Director, Canadian Pugwash Group

Eloisa Romani
Project Coordinator, SCRAP Weapons

Erika Simpson
Associate Professor of International Politics, The University of Western Ontario
Director, Canadian Pugwash Group

Ernie Regehr
Senior Fellow, The Simons Foundation Canada

Francesco Lenci
Former Research Director, National Research Council (CNR)
Former Biophysics Institute Director, CNR
Member, Italian Union of Scientists for Disarmament (USPID)
Member, Pugwash Council

Frank N. von Hippel
Professor of Public and International Affairs emeritus
Program on Science and Global Security, Princeton University

Fredrik S. Heffermehl
Author and Lawyer

Grace Orao
Executive Director, Women Volunteers for Peace (WOVOP)

Grant Donohue
Committee Member, People for Nuclear Disarmament, NSW – Australia

Haleema Saadia
Research Fellow, NUST/ The ROADS Initiative

Helen McAuley
Member, Wimbledon Disarmament Coalition

Iain Overton
Executive Director, AOAV

Ida Golberg
Activist, Nei Til Atomvapen/ Youth for TPNW

Jack Cinamon
Researcher, Shadow World Investigations

James Luk
Project Assistant, SCRAP Weapons

Janet Headley
Member, CND

Jean Yves Ndzana Ndzana
PhD candidate, Leiden University

Jennifer Simons
Founder and President, The Simons Foundation, Canada

Jessica West
Senior Researcher, Project Ploughshares

John Carlson
Former Director General, Australian Safeguards and Non-proliferation Office

Joon Chun Park
President, World Methodist Council

Jorge Valderrabano
Advocacy Officer, Agora

Juan Gomez
Chilean Coordinator, Mundo sin guerras y sin violencia

Katie Fallon
Advocacy Manager, Campaign Against Arms

Kennette Benedict
Senior Advisor, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

Larissa Silva
Student, UERJ

Laura Lodenius
Director, Peace Union of Finland

Manuel Galileo
Analyst, SCRAP Weapons

Marc Finaud
Vice President, Initiatives pour le désarmement nucléaire (IDN), France

Marian Wingrove
Branch Chairperson, Labour Party

Martin Butcher
Policy Advisor on Arms, Conflict and IHL, OXFAM

Mary Were
Executive Director, Winam Grassroots

Megan Rayner
Member, Wimbledon Disarmament Coalition

Professor Michael Manulak
Norman Patterson School of International Affairs
Carleton University, Ottawa

Molly Rosaaen
Youth Representative, Peace Boat US

Monalisa Hazarika
Intern, Forum on the Arms Trade

Natalie Goldring,
Visiting Professor of the Practice, Sanford School of Public Policy, Duke University

Nazifa Haqpal
PhD Candidate, SOAS University of London

Nicholas Hudson
Auxiliary Bishop, Diocese of Westminster

Nishchal Baniya
Chief Executive Officer, Bagmati UNESCO Club

Okumu Kenneth Odong Luka
Committee Clerk, Transitional National Legislative Assembly

Olamide Samuel
Board Member, Nuclear Information Service

Paul Meyer
Former Canadian Ambassador for Disarmament
Director, Canadian Pugwash Group

Peggy Mason
President, Rideau Institute
Director, Canadian Pugwash Group

Qijel Mariano
Student, York University School of Global Health

Rahel Beigel
UN Representative, Women’s Refugee Commission

Rakesh Sood
Former Ambassador of India to the Conference on Disarmament

Randy Rydell
Senior Political Affairs Officer (ret.), UN Office for Disarmament Affairs

Ray Acheson
Director, Reaching Critical Will, Disarmament Programme, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom

Reiner Braun
Former Executive Director, International Peace Bureau (IPB)

Robin Collins
Co-Chair, Canadian Network for the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons
Director, Canadian Pugwash Group

Sara Al-Sayed
Postdoctoral Research Associate, Program on Science and Global Security, Princeton University

Sean Conner
Executive Director, International Peace Bureau

Serena Newman
Member, CND

Shristi Tamrakar
Political Affairs Intern, UNRCPD

Sunita Nahar
MA Student
SOAS, University of London

Tamatoa Tepuhiarii
Prospective PhD Student, The Australian National University

Tariq Rauf
Former Head of Verification and Security Policy, IAEA
Vice Chair, Canadian Pugwash Group

Tatsujiro Suzuki
Professor, Research Center for Nuclear Weapons Abolition, Nagasaki University (RECNA)

Tekla Virag
Volunteer Coordinator, HWPL-IPYG

Tom Sauer
Professor International Politics, Universiteit Antwerpen, Belgium

Vanessa Canola
Project Assistant, SCRAP Weapons

Dr. Walter Dorn
Professor of Defence Studies, Royal Military College & Canadian Forces College
Director, Canadian Pugwash Group

William Walker
Professor Emeritus of International Relations, University of St Andrew

Wolfgang Petritsch
President, Austrian Institute for International Affairs

Zahraa Kapasi
Consultant, SCRAP Weapons