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PRESIDENT OF CONFERENCE PROPOSES RENEW OF THE INFORMAL WORKING GROUP ON A PROGRAMME OF WORK FOR 2014
Acting Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security of the United States Addresses the Conference, as well as 12 Other States
4 February 2014

The President of the Conference on Disarmament said today that following his consultations with States, he assessed that at this stage there was no consensus on a programme of work for the Conference.  He then proposed the renewal of the mandate of the Informal Working Group to help find a programme of work for the Conference.

Ambassador Eviatar Manor of Israel, the President of the Conference, said he had conducted consultations with many delegations and as a result, three facts were clear: one, due to the divergence of views among the Member States, there was no consensus on a presidential programme of work for 2014; two, there was a strong desire among Member States to renew the mandate of the Informal Working Group for 2014 in order to continue the work that began in the latter part of 2013; and three, in parallel to the renewal of the mandate of the Informal Working Group, there was much support for structured discussions on a framework of a schedule of activities.

The President referred to the proposal for the renewal of the mandate of the Informal Working Group that was circulated yesterday by the Conference’s Secretariat.  The President reiterated that during his consultations with delegations, all had expressed their support in principle for continuing the work of the informal working group.  While many had supported this approach, some had expressed the need to further discuss some elements of the proposed text.  In this respect, stressing that he was in the hands of the Conference, he believed that it would be only fair to put it in front of the Conference this text and to open a discussion with the intention of moving forward and adopting a new mandate for the work of the Informal Working Group.

Most of the States that took the floor expressed their support for renewing the mandate of the informal working group for 2014 and for conducting structured discussions within the context of a schedule of activities.  India said that it was not prepared to accept the draft as contained in the non-paper, but that it would be happy to contribute to any discussions that the President may wish to organize to  change the current draft.  Mexico said that despite its well-known reservations with regard to the Informal Working Group, it would not hamper the renewal of the mandate.  Mexico said the Presidency should base the text on the previous text, as it would not be worth the Conference’s time and effort to renegotiate another text for the renewal of the mandate of something that had already been established during last session. 

Speaking in the plenary today was Rose Gottemoeller, acting Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security of the United States, as well as representatives of Japan, Ethiopia, Slovakia, Sweden, Italy, Czech republic on behalf of the informal group of Observer States to the Conference, Canada, India, Germany, Kenya, the Netherlands and Mexico.

The next public plenary of the Conference will be at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 11 February.

Statements

Ambassador EVIATAR MANOR of Israel, President of the Conference on Disarmament, said he had been involved for several weeks in consultations with a view to producing a programme of work that would enable the implementation of the items on the agenda of the Conference.  He said that he intended to update the Conference on the results of his consultations and would indicate a possible way forward for their work.  He had conducted consultations with many delegations and as a result, three facts were clear: one, due to the divergence of views among the Member States, there was no consensus on a presidential programme of work for 2014; two, there was a strong desire among Member States to renew the mandate of the informal working group for 2014 in order to continue the work that began in the latter part of 2013; three, in parallel to the renewal of the mandate of the informal working group, there was much support for structured discussions on a framework of a schedule of activities.  Based on those facts, he believed that they needed to choose their options for the next phase of their work. He added that a constructive view prevailed last year with the establishment of the informal working group and that momentum should not be overlooked. 

The President referred to the proposal for the renewal of the mandate of the informal working group that was circulated yesterday by the CD Secretariat. This proposal was drafted on the basis of the following principles: a. they wanted to keep things as simple and straightforward as possible; b. this proposal was identical to the language that was adopted last August by the Conference under the presidency of Iraq and had enjoyed the consensus of the room at the time and consequently they believed that it would also enjoy consensus this time; c. the changes introduced in the text were technical changes that were relevant for the year 2014, therefore, they did not introduce new elements or new language in the original text; and d. in addition, by renewing the mandate of the Informal Working Group, the Conference would be echoing the call of the Secretary-General in his speech to the plenary of 21 January. The President reiterated that during his consultations, all States had expressed their support in principle for continuing the work of the informal working group.  However, while many had supported this approach, some had expressed the need to further discuss some elements of the proposed text.  In this respect, stressing that he was in the hands of the Conference, he believed that it would be only fair to put in front of the Conference this text and to open a discussion with the intention of moving forward and adopting a new mandate for the work of the informal working group.  He therefore opened the floor for remarks and comments.

ROSE GOTTEMOELLER, Acting Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security of the United States, said that in his January 21 remarks to the Conference on Disarmament, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had spoken about the importance of substantive discussion in laying groundwork for future negotiations in the Conference.  The United States believed it was crucial for the Conference to adopt a programme of work, but it also believed that States in the Conference must continue to engage substantively with one another – both about the disarmament steps that they were taking and the steps they hoped to take next as they worked to break this body’s impasse.  The United States stood ready to begin negotiations on a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty (FMCT), the next logical and necessary step in creating the conditions for a world without nuclear weapons.  It had been frustrating to watch the Conference remain deadlocked over this issue, but negotiation of an FMCT was an essential prerequisite for global nuclear disarmament.  The United States looked forward to engaging fully in the upcoming meetings of the Group of Governmental Experts with a view to providing further impetus to long-sought FMCT negotiations in the Conference.  As disappointed as the United States was that a programme of work for the Conference remained elusive, it was not standing still.  The United States had slashed its nuclear stockpile by 85 per cent from Cold War levels.  The United States was preparing for the upcoming meeting of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Preparatory Committee and attached great value to the P5 process.  The United States also continued to work to build support for ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). 

The United States remained committed to fulfilling its obligations and working to take additional practical and meaningful steps.  As Secretary-General Ban, the United States believed the Conference continued to possess promise, that it must surmount its deadlock regarding a programme of work and, in pursuit of that goal, the United States was open to renewing the Informal Working Group.  At the same time, Conference Member States should foster substantive discussions aimed at future progress, with a view to promoting the prospects for work on issues ripe for negotiations, above all, an FMCT.

Japan said despite its mandate and capacity, Japan regretted that the Conference had not been able to conduct any disarmament negotiation since the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.  In order to not lose sight of their direction in this long stalemate, it was worthwhile to begin by recognizing where they stood on the path to a secure world free of nuclear weapons.  There had been considerable progress to date in the field of nuclear disarmament, despite a reality of increasing diversified nuclear risks which they faced.  Nevertheless, they must intensify their work since uncertainty lingered in the international arena and the task to further disarm may become more onerous as the number of warheads decreased.  Multilateralism would surely be a way to overcome the difficulties that lay ahead.  Japan favoured a programme of work enabling immediate commencement of negotiation on a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty.  Japan supported the President’s idea to re-establish the informal working group on a programme of work to continue to pursue an agreement in an open and transparent manner.  At the same time, the Conference should be engaged in a structured and substantive discussion not only to keep momentum, but also to maintain their expertise for a possible future negotiation.  Japan also presented the statement delivered by Japanese Foreign Minister, Mr. Fumio Kishida, last month in Nagasaki.  He proposed “three reductions” in nuclear disarmament and “three preventions” in non-proliferation.

Ethiopia said it was regrettable that another year had passed without the Conference reaching consensus on a programme of work despite the efforts made in 2013.  Ethiopia was encouraged that the General Assembly had maintained its strong support to the Conference on Disarmament as the single multilateral disarmament-negotiating forum of the international community with the primary role in substantive negotiations on priority issues of nuclear disarmament.  Ethiopia reaffirmed its strong position that the Conference was the sole multilateral disarmament-negotiating forum and nuclear disarmament continued to be its highest priority.  Ethiopia also reiterated its strong support to nuclear non-proliferation, peaceful uses of nuclear energy, on the negotiation of a treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices, on a multilaterally negotiated, legally binding instrument to guarantee non-nuclear-weapon States against the use or threat of nuclear weapons, on the importance and urgency of preventing an arms race in outer space, and on transparency in armament. 

Slovakia said Slovakia regretted that the Conference was still unable to find a consensus on its programme of work, which would enable commencing negotiations and advancing on pressing issues on its agenda.  Last year, the Conference established an informal working group with a mandate to produce a programme of work robust in substance and progressive over time in implementation.  While Slovakia would have preferred to take action on the programme of work, it supported the resumption of the work of the group in the 2014 session with the aim to produce an outcome within a limited time frame.  It believed that a programme of work should lead to negotiations on agreed issues.  While the re-establishment of the  informal working group was seen as one track, Slovakia understood that there could be a value and interest in setting up a schedule of activities for structured discussions on the issues on the agenda of the Conference.  Mentioning that there was a lot of scepticism to repeat an exercise already tried several times in the absence of the programme of work, Slovakia agreed that the schedule of activities could not substitute for real negotiations, but said that it might be worth trying once again if it could help to understand what issues and how could be developed and dealt with further.  Slovakia continued to support the immediate commencement of the negotiation on a treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons, as it was an indispensable and next logical step, which would be part of the architecture of a nuclear weapon free world. 

Sweden said Sweden was fully aligned with the statement delivered by the European Union on 21 January, and he would be brief in his comments.  Some success was achieved in 2013, perhaps most notably the Arms Trade Treaty.  The establishment towards the end of last year’s session of the Informal Working Group could be seen as a ray of hope, and something that should be built upon.  The Group got off to a good start, but time was quite limited.  Sweden supported an early re-establishment of this Group.  Conducting structured discussions on the substantive points of the agenda could also have value, as noted by the United Nations Secretary-General in his recent address in this room.  A joint effort in this regard of all the six presidencies of 2014 had potential, as it would give these efforts a greater degree of continuity.  Sweden also highlighted another element of the European Union statement: the continued priority attached to the early commencement of negotiations on a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty (FMCT), while remaining ready to begin work on the other issues on the agenda.  Sweden looked forward to the Group of Governmental Experts on an FMCT starting its work later this year in the hope that it would give further impetus to the Conference.

Italy said that in Italy’s view, the adoption of a programme of work with a negotiating mandate remained the best way to resume the work of the Conference after a too long stalemate in order to re-launch the relevance and the credibility of the Conference as the single multilateral negotiating body on disarmament.  The raison d’être of the forum was to negotiate and no endeavours should be spared in order to seek the path towards renewed disarmament negotiations.  Italy was aware that this was not an easy task.  They needed to be realistic and they deemed it appropriate and necessary to look for all possible constructive solutions that could allow the Conference to make progress on all the topics on the agenda, in a pragmatic way, while continuing to research an agreement on a programme of work.  Italy considered that the establishment of the Informal Working Group last year was an innovative attempt and an encouraging step reflecting the willingness of Member States to overcome the stalemate in the Conference.  Italy fully agreed with the President’s proposal to re-establish the Informal Working Group, as soon as they could, on the basis of the decision adopted last August.  Unfortunately, last year, the decision came very late and the Informal Working Group did not have enough time to accomplish its work.  Italy hoped that this decision would allow it to full explore its mandate.  In parallel, Italy was convinced that structured discussions on the topics on the agenda could contribute to lay the foundation for future negotiations.  Italy looked forward to the formulation of a schedule of activities, in a spirit of transparency and in close consultation with all regional groups and the active involvement of the whole membership of the Conference.

Czech Republic, speaking on behalf of the Informal Group of Observer States to the Conference on Disarmament, said the group entirely shared the United Nations Secretary-General’s analysis that the existing situation in the Conference was disappointing.  At the same time, the Group kept its hope that substantive work would resume this year.  In this respect, the dual track approach that the President had proposed seemed particularly forward-looking.  The informal group of observer States to the Conference therefore supported a renewal  of the mandate of the Informal Working Group on the programme of work and the adoption of a schedule of activities.  The group welcomed the opportunity to offer their views with focus on its core interest – the expansion of the membership of the Conference.  The group believed that the issue of enlargement was not only essential to the Conference but also of importance to the international community as a whole.  The expansion could help the Conference to regain its credibility, ultimately dispelling any doubts pertaining to the existence or relevance of the Conference.  The Conference could play a vital role in universal disarmament.  However, such a universal goal must by definition be addressed by a universally representing body.  In order to commence practical steps with emphasis on the enlargement of the Conference, the informal group proposed the following plan: to appoint a special coordinator or a coordinator or a friend of the chair under the responsibility of the President; to take necessary steps to initiate a structured debate on enlargement; and to outline possible paths of enlargement.  The informal group therefore proposed to include the topic of enlargement into the schedule of activities.

Canada said two weeks ago, Canada had indicated that should consensus on a programme of work not be possible, consideration should be given to renewing the mandate of the informal working group.  Canada regretted that the President had been forced to determine that a programme of work could not be agreed.  It welcomed the efforts to renew the mandate of the informal working group expeditiously.  Canada hoped that should the mandate of the Informal Working Group be renewed, all delegations would take the opportunity to use this group as an innovative means to assume responsibility for returning the Conference to work.  To make progress, all participants in the Informal Working Group must approach its work with a spirit of cooperation and a willingness to work together to achieve a common purpose, returning the Conference to its mandated role as a negotiating body. 

India said India attached high importance to the Conference as the sole multilateral disarmament negotiating forum and hoped for an early start of substantive work in the Conference.  India appreciated the President’s efforts in holding consultations to draw up a programme of work for the 2014 session of the Conference.  Without prejudice to India’s  support for nuclear disarmament, India was prepared to commence negotiations on a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty in the Conference as part of a balanced and comprehensive programme of work adopted by consensus. 

Concerning what the President had said about the re-validation of the Conference’s decision on establishing an Informal Working Group, and the non-paper circulated by the Secretariat, India recalled that it had joined consensus on the decision to establish the Informal Working Group reluctantly in 2013 and had clearly stated its reservations in this context.  India reiterated that it would not be productive for the Informal Working Group to become a platform for re-opening long-standing consensus agreements and for endless procedural debates which would take the Conference further away from the prospect of early negotiations in the Conference.  Further, in India’s understanding, the Informal Working Group could not take away anything from the responsibility of the President of the Conference under the rules of procedure to draw up the Conference’s programme of work and present it to the Conference for consideration and adoption.  Thus any decision on the informal working group could not deny or dilute the responsibility of the President of the Conference, nor could it deny or dilute in any manner the Conference’s rules of procedure, including the rule of consensus. 

As far as the issue of re-validation of the informal working group in 2014, India believed that the draft decision circulated by the Secretariat yesterday needed to be amended to the circumstances of 2014. In particular, the adoption of  the renewal of the mandate early in 2014 would allow for the deletion of any reference to the intersessionals.  The decision needed to be put in proper context by including a reference to the agenda of the Conference, and also a reference to the importance of an early adoption of a balanced and comprehensive programme of work by the Conference in its 2014 session.  Since India was not prepared to accept the draft as contained in the non-paper, it would be happy to contribute to any discussions that the President may wish to organize to change the draft in a manner that it could gather consensus.  Lastly, the Conference may benefit from a structured discussion on the recommendations on the General Assembly to the Conference as contained in CD/1964, which was circulated in the first week of the session. 

Germany noted with deep regret that the President’s endeavours to negotiate a programme of work had not been successful.  Germany reiterated that 2014 would again be crucial for the work of the Conference.  The world around the Conference was changing and its relevance again would be at stake.  The Member States of the Conference should not be seen as idle, the Conference had to move.  For that reason, Germany supported starting the work in the Informal Working Group to explore all possibilities to achieve a programme of work as soon as possible.  For this reason, its mandate should be renewed as soon as possible as well.  Germany could live with the proposal that the President had put before it, it would like slight changes, but the gist of the decision should be maintained.  Germany believed that the Informal Working Group was for the time being the most promising approach to overcome the inability of the Conference to reach consensus on a programme of work.  Germany advocated that a substantive schedule of activities should also be agreed upon in 2014.  The approach developed in the Informal Working Group last year provided a valid basis and Germany thanked the co-chairs.  The substantive schedule for activities would provide room and time for its substantive discussion of all four issues on the agenda of the Conference.  This could not replace the necessary negotiations but could prepare the ground.  The Conference was working under time pressure and it should proceed so that under the guidance of the President, States would be able to renew the mandate of the Informal Working Group this month.

Kenya said the President’s approach to ensure coordination among the P6 had been imaginative.  Although as the President had said, following completion of his consultations, he had come to the conclusion that it was not possible to forge a consensus on a programme of work, Kenya was convinced that all was not lost.  Kenya believed that their quest to produce a programme of work did not rest with any particular presidency.  It was a collective effort of each and every one and could only be achieved by working closely together.  Kenya was convinced that the President’s proposal contained in the draft decision for the re-establishment of an Informal Working Group still held hope; it supported the proposal and urged the membership of the Conference to re-validate its mandate. 

Netherlands said the Netherlands fully supported the continuation of the work of the Informal Working Group in 2014, as this Group had met only a few times in 2013 and needed more time to explore where it could bring the Conference.  The Netherlands appreciated that the two co-Chairs had indicated that they were willing to continue their chairmanship of the Informal Working Group.  The draft that the President had circulated was a good basis on which they could take a decision on the continuation of the work of the Informal Working Group.  In the meantime, the Netherlands encouraged the P6 to continue their work to put together a schedule of activities.  The Netherlands believed that both the Informal Working Group and a schedule of activities might provide the Conference with the necessary tools to examine if progress on any of the core issues was possible. The Netherlands thanked the United Nations Secretary-General for addressing the Conference and said that his address was helpful.  The Netherlands also thanked Rose Gottemoeller, acting Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security of the United States, for addressing the Conference this morning, and hoped that other high-level representatives would follow this example.

Mexico deplored that once again the Conference had been unable to find consensus on the programme of work and that they were forced once again to resort to other pathways.  The Conference was aware of what Mexico’s reservations were with regard to the Informal Working Group, but it also knew that Mexico would not hamper its mandate renewal.  Mexico suggested that the Presidency should base the text on the decision that established the Informal Working Group in 2013, and added that it would not be worth the Conference’s time and effort to renegotiate another text for the renewal of the mandate of something that had already been established.  He also added that should these re-negotiations occur, they would be a bad sign and a bad start to the year.

Ambassador EVIATAR MANOR of Israel, President of the Conference on Disarmament, thanked all the speakers for their relevant remarks.  The draft was now before the Conference.  Any delegation wishing to make amendments or changes may do so in writing to the Secretariat and the deadline for that would be 5 p.m. on Wednesday, 5 February.  This concluded their business for today.  The next plenary meeting of the Conference would be held on Tuesday, 11 February at 10 a.m. 

IVOR FUNG, Secretary of the Conference on Disarmament, said last week the Secretariat had circulated a draft provisional list of participants and invited States to send corrections or amendments.  He thanks delegations which had done so and asked the delegations of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iran, Nigeria, Tunisia and Zimbabwe to send any changes they needed so that they could finalize and publish the list of participants.


For use of the information media; not an official record

DC14/004E