ACCESSIBILITY AT UNOG A A A A The United Nations in the Heart of Europe

CONFERENCE ON DISARMAMENT HEARS FROM MONGOLIA, NEW ZEALAND, BRAZIL, UKRAINE, SWITZERLAND, AUSTRALIA, SPAIN AND FINLAND

President of Conference Says he will Take the United Nations Secretary-General’s Message as his Roadmap
28 January 2014

The Conference on Disarmament this morning held its weekly public plenary, hearing from the representatives of Mongolia, New Zealand, Brazil, Ukraine, Switzerland, Australia, Spain and Finland on their national views as to how the Conference should proceed in order to start its substantive work.

Ambassador Eviatar Manor of Israel, the President of the Conference on Disarmament, said that they had all heard the message of the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at the Conference last week which in essence called on the Conference to take action.  He had described the Informal Working Group as an innovative attempt in order to take modest steps forward and he had called on the Conference to start substantive work.  The President said he would take the Secretary-General’s message as his roadmap and he was intent to fulfil his mandate.  He was focused on presenting the Conference with a programme of work.  He was also continuing his bilateral consultations with various missions.  He had to make clear that there would be a moment in time when he would have to assess his efforts and see if he could forge a consensus.  If he realized that he would not be able to do so, he would inform the Conference and proceed to extend the work of the Informal Working Group.

Mongolia said the current standstill in the Conference was not acceptable and welcomed the decision to establish the Informal Working Group to produce a programme of work.  Mongolia earnestly hoped that the Conference would revitalize its work and once again fulfil its mandated role and resume its primary task of negotiating multilateral disarmament treaties.  New Zealand called for agreement on a programme of work with a clear negotiating mandate on fissile material, adding that if there was a continuation of the long-standing stalemate on this, it would look instead to the meetings of the Group of Governmental Experts on Fissile Material to advance the work.   Brazil said that it favoured the establishment of an Ad Hoc Committee within the Conference in order to start negotiations on a programme for the complete elimination of nuclear weapons, including a nuclear weapons convention backed by a strong system of verification; however, it was prepared to consider proposals for the commencement of negotiations on any of the core issues of the agenda. 

Ukraine believed the mandate of the Informal Working Group to produce a programme of work should be reaffirmed for the 2014 session and that, should the Conference remain deadlocked, it should continue discussions on the core issues and consider undertaking systemic measures with the purpose of improving its functioning along the lines delineated in Mr. Tokayev’s proposals last year.  Switzerland said that the adoption and implementation of a programme of work by the Conference would represent the best possible revitalization measure.  Should the efforts in this area fail to materialise, the Conference should renew the mandate of the Informal Working Group; establish a structured dialogue on the issues on the agenda of the Conference; and deepen discussions on the revitalization of the Conference.  Australia said that Members of the Conference should continue pressing for a meaningful programme of work and, while doing so, should look for ways to significantly advance discussions on the core agenda items and help prepare the Conference for negotiations. It added that it had long advocated that the Conference’s immediate focus should be on a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty. 

Spain said the Conference needed to re-establish the Informal Working Group as soon as possible, once it became clear that there would be no consensus on a programme of work.  The consensus achieved in 2009 on a programme of work in CD/1864 could be a valid foundation for consensus and it should be their reference and starting point.  The past consensus needed to be the reference for their future work.  Finland said that a balanced agreement on a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty was its priority.  If that was not possible, Finland would be in favour of renewing the mandate of the Informal Working Group, however, the work of this group should not be open-ended. 

The Conference accepted the requests by Brunei Darussalam, Denmark and Malta to participate in the 2014 session of the Conference as Observers.

The next public plenary of the Conference will be at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 4 February.

Statements

Ambassador EVIATAR MANOR of Israel, President of the Conference, updating the Conference on the consultations that he had, said that they had all heard the message of the Secretary-General at the Conference, in which he had said that the Informal Working Group represented an innovative attempt to take modest steps forward and he had called on the Conference to start substantive work.  The President said he would take the Secretary-General’s message as his roadmap and he was intent to fulfil his mandate.  He was focused on presenting the Conference with a programme of work.  He was also continuing his bilateral consultations with various missions.  He had to make clear that there would be a moment in time when he would have to assess his efforts and see if he could forge a consensus.  If he conceived that he would not be able to  do see, he would inform the Conference and proceed to extend the work of the Informal Working Group.  In parallel with his efforts on a programme of work, the President said he was continuing his consultations with the P6 to provide a schedule of activity to pave the way for the Conference to start its substantive work.

Mongolia noted that the high priority attached to the core issues of the Conference on Disarmament’s agenda remained the same.  The current standstill in the Conference was not acceptable and Mongolia welcomed the decision to establish the Informal Working Group to produce a programme of work.  Mongolia still hoped that it could be a positive step in the right direction and that it could help lay the foundation for the Conference to resume its far-sight of substantive work.  As one of the active members of the non-nuclear-weapon States, Mongolia supported the strengthening of existing nuclear-weapon-free zones and the establishment of new zones.  In 2012 the five nuclear-weapon States signed a joint declaration providing additional assurances to Mongolia’s nuclear-weapon-free status.  Mongolia would be contacting the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Asia and the Pacific to jointly organize in Mongolia in 2014 a regional conference on security in Northeast Asia, including nuclear security.  Mongolia earnestly hoped that the Conference would revitalize its work and once again fulfil its mandated role and resume its primary task of negotiating multilateral disarmament treaties.

New Zealand said New Zealand shared the hope that this year they may finally see the Conference come to terms with its responsibilities and answer the very many calls for it to get down to work.  These calls had become more persistent as the years had passed by.  New Zealand very much welcomed the message that Secretary-General Ban brought to the Conference last week.  It must be apparent to all that the way in which they went about their work had to change if they were to make progress.  Greater pragmatism, properly reflective of the priorities of each delegation, was called for.  New Zealand continued to call for agreement on a programme of work with a clear negotiating mandate on fissile material.  New Zealand was ready to be flexible about what such a mandate would contain but if, as seemed most likely, there was a continuation of the long-standing stalemate on this, New Zealand would look instead to the meetings of the Group of Governmental Experts on Fissile Material to advance their work.  New Zealand would also welcome the Conference turning its attention to issues such as the framework that would be required to bring about nuclear disarmament.

Brazil said Brazil continued to attach the utmost importance to the Conference on Disarmament as the single multilateral disarmament negotiating forum and was very concerned that for the past 18 years the Conference had failed to reach an agreement on a programme of work for the substantive treatment of the items on its agenda.  Brazil believed that the problems faced by the Conference did not derive from its rules of procedure nor from its consensus rule.  They were fundamentally political in nature and could not be disconnected from current challenges of the international peace and security agenda.  Brazil rejected any ultimatum to the Conference.  Brazil had a strong and long standing commitment to nuclear disarmament.  As a matter of priority, Brazil favoured the establishment of an Ad Hoc Committee within the Conference in order to start negotiations on a programme for the complete elimination of nuclear weapons, including a nuclear weapons convention backed by a strong system of verification.  However, Brazil was prepared to consider proposals for the commencement of negotiations on any of the core issues of the agenda. 

Ukraine said negative security assurances were one of the main priorities of the Conference’s agenda and the provision of legally-binding negative security assurances would send a strong global message dissuading States from acquiring nuclear weapons, improving mutual confidence and trust, strengthening the non-proliferation regime and fostering a new quality of regional and global security.  Ukraine was resolved to render all-out support to constructive dialogue aimed at breaking the current impasse and getting the Conference back to effective work by reaching compromise on a balanced and comprehensive programme of work with its subsequent implementation.   However, if the Conference remained deadlocked, they should use every opportunity to establish better conditions for future substantive work. In this vein, the Conference could continue discussions on the core issues and consider undertaking systemic measures with the purpose of improving its functioning along the lines delineated in Mr. Tokayev’s package.  Negotiating both a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty and negative security assurances in parallel processes would contribute to confidence building and mutually reinforce each other.  The mandate of the Informal Working Group to produce a programme of work should be reaffirmed for the 2014 session.

Switzerland welcomed that the Conference had established an Informal Working Group mandated to produce a programme of work robust in substance and progressive over time in implementation.  The adoption and implementation of a programme of work by the Conference would represent the best possible revitalization measure.  Should the efforts in this area fail to materialise, the Conference should focus on the three following priorities: firstly, the mandate of the Informal Working Group should be renewed; secondly, the Conference should focus on the establishment of a structured dialogue on the issues on the agenda of the Conference; and thirdly, the Conference should deepen discussions on its  revitalization along the lines suggested by Mr. Tokayev in 2013.  The nomination of a special rapporteur on the enlargement of the Conference to new members and on the enhanced participation of civil society would also seem opportune in view of the disequilibrium between the global nature of the issues addressed by the Conference and its composition.  Switzerland also believed that it was opportune that the Conference did not refrain from addressing new challenges pertaining to disarmament.

Australia said Australia was only too aware of the problems that the Conference had faced in adopting and implementing a programme of work.  The impasse in the Conference was a consequence of political realities outside the Council chamber.  That was an explanation, but it should not be taken as an excuse of inaction.  If these realities did not shift in a way that would allow the Conference to resume its proper negotiating role, they would sweep the Conference away through its lack of relevance.  Australia said that Members of the Conference should continue pressing for a meaningful programme of work and, while doing so, should look for ways to significantly advance the core agenda items and help prepare the Conference for negotiations. Australia had long advocated that the Conference’s immediate focus should be on a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty.  An FMCT was not only the next logical step in the nuclear disarmament process, but it was also fundamental to the process.  In 2014, another important opportunity to advance an FMCT, one endorsed by the United Nations General Assembly, would be provided from the end of March by the Group of Governmental Experts.  Australia would be an active and committed member of the group and would work to find a means for the group to channel its output straight back into the Conference.  While the Group would not negotiate a treaty, it would provide a crucial opportunity for a serious, fact-based, technical discussion of all aspects of a treaty and its outcome should be a central reference point for future negotiations.

Spain  said that the presence of the United Nations Secretary-General at the opening plenary of the Conference was testimony to his faith in the Conference and in the Conference Members  to overcome our differences and find consensus. The Secretary-General had appealed to the Conference to overcome its profound cycle of pessimism.  No State in the Conference was immune to such pessimism cased by 15 years of disagreement and all wanted to see the Conference undertake the multilateral disarmament work that it was created for.  Last year had concluded with a tiny ray of hope thanks to the consensus that led to the creation of the Informal Working Group, but this should neither be exaggerated nor underestimated.  The Conference needed to re-establish the Informal Working Group once it became clear that there would be no consensus on a programme of work.  The Conference should continue its work in a constructive way on the core issues.  Being a negotiating body, discussions, the Conference, however productive, structured or substantive, could never replace its negotiating mandate.  However, at the same time, it was necessary to see possibilities and, as said by the Secretary-General of the United Nations. If the only thing that they could do was to discuss, then they should do so, in the hope that such substantive discussions would pave the way for negotiations.  Hope springs eternal.  The consensus achieved in 2009 on a programme of work in CD/1864 could be a valid starting point.  Past consensus needed to be the reference for their future work.  The Group of Governmental Experts on a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty would start its work shortly and the Conference should pay real attention to what would be said there.

Finland underlined that 17 years were a long period of inactivity. A balanced agreement on a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty was Finland’s priority.  If that was not possible, Finland would be in favour of renewing the mandate of the Informal Working Group, provided that the work of this group would not be open-ended.  At the same time, there should be a schedule of activities to conduct substantive discussions and Finland would support all efforts of the President in this regard. 

Ambassador EVIATAR MANOR of Israel, President of the Conference, drew attention to the letter of 13 January 2014 co-signed with the Secretary-General of the Conference, in which they encouraged Governments to consider addressing the 2014 session of the Conference at the Ministerial level.  The Conference would benefit from involvement at the highest political level.  This concluded their business for today, and the next public plenary would be at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 4 February.

IVOR FUNG, Secretary of the Conference on Disarmament, urged all delegations to review the provisional list of participants and also to check the email addresses as some of them were no longer valid.


For use of the information media; not an official record

DC14/003E