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WOMEN’S INTERNATIONAL LEAGUE FOR PEACE AND FREEDOM ADDRESSES CONFERENCE ON DISARMAMENT
Also hears statement from Algeria on the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention
11 March 2014

In connection with International Women’s Day the Conference on Disarmament this morning heard its annual address from the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom.  The Conference also heard a statement from the President of the Thirteenth Assembly of States parties to the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention, and concluding remarks from the outgoing President of the Conference, Ambassador Vinicio Mati of Italy.

Mia Gandenberger, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, said disarmament was not about action plans, programmes of work or informal working groups.  Disarmament treaties should prevent civilian casualties, prevent humanitarian catastrophes and prevent escalation of armed conflicts.  Unfortunately the Conference did not contribute to preventing any civilian casualties or armed violence.  Progress was being made on disarmament everywhere else but here.  The Conference should seize the momentum created in other forums and break the deadlock, or move forward productively elsewhere. 

Boudjamaa Delmi, Permanent Representative of Algeria to United Nations Office at Geneva and President of the Thirteenth Assembly of States parties to the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction, spoke about the fifteenth anniversary of the entry into force of the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention.  He was pleased to hear that the United States was considering signing the Convention, joining the 161 States parties.  Since its entry into force a remarkable 44.5 million stockpiled mines had been destroyed and the situation of victims of anti-personnel landmines was much better now that it was several years ago. 

Ambassador Vinicio Mati of Italy, the outgoing President of the Conference, gave a summary of his Presidency and said the Conference needed to show a sign of vitality or it would be overcome by events, side-lined, and lose its credibility in the international arena.  The President also noted that following consultations, he was ready to put forward a draft proposal for a Schedule of Activities for the 2014 session for structured dialogue on key issues. 

In a general discussion States spoke about the role of civil society in the work of the Conference, with one warning that the Conference should no longer keep the voices of civil society out of its discussions as there was a danger that civil society representatives may turn away from the forum altogether.  Other States raised the issue of the expansion of membership of the Conference, while the international conferences on the humanitarian consequences of the use of nuclear weapons  were also discussed.

Speaking in today’s discussion were Algeria, Austria, Republic of Korea, Australia and Turkey.  The Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom also gave an address.

The next public meeting of the Conference on Disarmament will take place on Tuesday 18 March at 10 a.m. under the Presidency of Japan. 

Statement by the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom

MIA GANDENBERGER, Representative of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, recalled the adoption of the Arms Trade Treaty by the General Assembly last year with the inclusion of provisions called for by the League at its 2013 address to the Conference on Disarmament, which placed gender-based violence on the same footing as other criteria for refusing arms transfers, such as violations of human rights and international law.  The Arms Trade Treaty was the first to explicitly link gender-based violence with the international arms trade.  It was a significant treaty and it set an example to all future treaties.  It was not about action plans, programmes of work or informal working groups, Ms. Gandenberger said.  Disarmament treaties should prevent civilian casualties, prevent humanitarian catastrophes and prevent escalation of armed conflicts.  Unfortunately the Conference did not contribute to preventing any civilian casualties.  It did not prevent armed violence.  Progress was being made on disarmament everywhere else but here. 

Some said the Conference risked losing its relevance.  Civil society had certainly turned elsewhere in the interest of achieving progress on disarmament, arms control and non-proliferation issues.  Civil society engagement was not only important for progress on multilateral negotiations, it was essential.  Without campaigns, media, experts and other elements that civil society brought to those forums, Governments struggled to make progress on difficult issues that required compromise and negotiations.  Furthermore, there was also a question of scarce resources – where should tax-payers money go?  To negotiating treaties or to holding plenary meetings in a body that had not adopted a programme of work in years?  Those were questions for the Conference to consider this year.  Achieving change required creativity and courage.  The Conference should seize the momentum created in other forums and break the deadlock, or move forward productively elsewhere.  Either way, the goal should be preventing armed violence and advancing human security.

Statement by the President of the Thirteenth Assembly of States parties to the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction

BOUDJAMAA DELMI, Permanent Representative of Algeria to United Nations Office at Geneva and President of the Thirteenth Assembly of States parties to the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention, said on 1 March this year the international community celebrated the fifteenth anniversary into entry of the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention.  Fifteen years of intense activities and outstanding efforts in the framework of the implementation of that instrument had enabled the international community to make enormous progress in the pursuit of raising universal awareness of de-mining activities, the destruction of stockpiles and humanitarian assistance to victims.  The Permanent Representative said he was very happy to hear that the United States was considering signing up to the Convention and would soon take a decision on joining the 161 States parties to it. 

To date, four States had declared they had fulfilled their de-mining obligations in all the mined areas under their jurisdiction or control: Venezuela, Bhutan, Hungary and Germany, bringing the total to 27 States parties that had completely fulfilled their obligations under the Convention.  Additionally, Burundi and Mozambique had indicated that they would achieve their demining objectives by the end of 2014.  Since its entry into force a remarkable 44.5 million stockpiled mines had been destroyed.   States parties had strengthened their commitments to help survivors and victims of anti-personnel landmines; today their situation was much better than it was several years ago.  States parties were urged to step up their efforts in implementation of the Convention, including humanitarian assistance.  All Member States of the Conference on Disarmament who had not yet signed the Convention were urged to do so. 

Statement by the President

Ambassador VINICIO MATI of Italy, the President of the Conference, said as today was his last plenary as President he would provide a summary, including his objectives with regard to the dual track approach.  The Conference needed to show a sign of vitality or it would be overcome by events, side-lined, and lose its credibility in the international arena.  In order to do so a certain amount of flexibility was needed by all Member States.  Flexibility and national interests could go together, he said.  On the first track, the renewal of the mandate of the Informal Working Group had to be seen as a positive step towards the revitalization of the conference.  Regarding the second track, the President said that, following consultations, he was ready to put forward a draft proposal for a Schedule of Activities for the 2014 session for structured dialogue on key issues.  There was not much time to complete the task as decision had to be taken by the end of the month if the Conference wanted to complete structured dialogues by the end of the session.  The President was confident progress could made. 

Statements

Austria said it was pleased to see that the discourse on nuclear weapons had significantly developed during recent years.  The two international conferences on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons in Oslo and Nayarit were pivotal for addressing the risk of that horrific scenario becoming reality.  Austria would hold the third international conference on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons later this year, to be known as the Vienna Conference and was convinced the debate played a crucial role in underscoring the urgency of progress leading to the irreversible elimination of nuclear weapons.  As Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz stated in his announcement of the Vienna Conference: “Nuclear disarmament is a global task and a collective responsibility. As a State party committed to the Non-Proliferation Treaty, Austria wanted to do its share to achieve the goals of this treaty”.   Austria supported the call by the Informal Group of Observer States to the Conference to expand its membership.  Austria commended the important work of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) on linking disarmament with development and human rights, but noted that the Conference was only about to benefit from the League’s input once a year.  The Conference should no longer keep the voices of civil society out of its discussions: that must be corrected before civil society representatives turn away from the forum altogether. 

Republic of Korea spoke of its support for the dual-track approach that encompassed the Informal Working Group with its aim to produce a programme of work, and agreement on a Schedule of Activities for 2014.  The Conference should begin discussions on practical measures for its next step in the field of disarmament instead of its continual cycle of confrontation and ‘all or nothing’ approaches.  As a matter of priority, Republic of Korea believed the next logical step towards a world free of nuclear weapons was the negotiation of a Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty.  As chair country of the 1540 Committee of the United Nations Security Council, Republic of Korea hoped that the various approaches to nuclear disarmament being discussed would lead to substantial discussions.  Republic of Korea said that as a space-faring country it would like to build on transparency and confidence-building measures in outer-space activities.  Republic of Korea looked forward to contributing to moving the Conference from the state of continued deadlock to one of constructive dialogue.

Australia commended the President on his work during the Italian Presidency, and the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) for their statement.   As co-chair of the Informal Working Group Australia was determined to help develop a programme of work with a negotiating mandate, which was the raison d'être of the Conference.  Australia agreed with several delegations that the Schedule of Activities was no programme of work.  It was not, but it did offer the opportunity to discussing core issues of the Conference and perhaps providing a key to unlocking the paralysis that had gripped it for so many years.  There would be challenges in finalizing the schedule of activities, of course, but Australia extended its support to the incoming Japanese Presidency to iron out issues and focus Members on the main game. 

Turkey said the re-establishment of the informal working group was a good start in achieving a programme of work.  Turkey emphasized that the problems faced by the Conference on Disarmament were not created by procedures, membership or internal dynamics.  Turkey also emphasized that the time for enlargement of membership would come after the adoption of a programme of work and the start of negotiations; introducing additional points of contest into deliberations would not be helpful.

Concluding Remarks

Ambassador VINICIO MATI of Italy, the President of the Conference, said it had been a great pleasure and a true honour to preside over the Conference on Disarmament in the last few weeks.  The President said he hoped he was leaving for his successor a framework characterized by progress to help the Conference move forward.


For use of the information media; not an official record

DC14/012E