Acting Secretary-General of the Conference, Russia and China Take the Floor
10 June 2014
The Conference on Disarmament this morning heard statements by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Senegal, Mankeur Ndiaye, the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Space and Defence Policy of the United States, Frank A. Rose, the Acting Secretary-General of the Conference, Michael Møller, as well as the Ambassadors of the Russian Federation and China.
Mankeur Ndiaye, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Senegal, stated that the proper functioning of the Conference was crucial for the maintenance of international peace and security, and that the existing stalemate was regretful. Nevertheless, there were some reasons for optimism, such as the re-establishment of the informal working group in charge of preparing the programme of work. All States were called on to adhere to the Arms Trade Treaty, which would be seen as a sign of their devotion to the cause of disarmament. Senegal had recently ratified the Treaty. Senegal supported the initiative by the Non-Aligned Movement to hold the Fourth Special Session of the General Assembly dedicated to disarmament.
Frank A. Rose, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Space and Defence Policy of the United States, said that the United States was willing to consider space arms control proposals and concepts that were equitable, effectively verifiable and enhanced the national security of international participants. Practical solutions, such as non-legally binding transparency and confidence-building measures to encourage responsible actions were needed. In that context, the proposal by the Group of Governmental Experts on outer space transparency and confidence-building measures, adopted in July 2013, represented the best option for the way forward.
Michael Møller, Acting Secretary-General of the Conference, provided further explanation of his recent suggestions on how to unblock the deadlock in the work of the Conference. There were potentially a number of elements within each agenda item on the disarmament palette around which it might be possible to garner consensus. Mr. Møller noted that politically binding agreements had often in the past been the first step towards a negotiated legally binding agreement. A planning process within the Secretariat on holding an informal forum between the Conference and civil society in late autumn or winter of 2014 would now start.
Ambassadors of the Russian Federation and China also made statements, providing explanations on the updated draft Treaty on the Prevention of the Placement of Weapons in Outer Space and of the Threat or Use of Force against Outer Space Objects, which the two States had circulated the previous day.
The next public plenary of the Conference will be held at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 17 June.
MANKEUR NDIAYE, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Senegal, stated that the Conference on Disarmament was a leading multilateral body in the field of disarmament, whose proper functioning was crucial for the maintenance of international peace and security. The persistent stalemate was regretful, and could be attributed to the lack of trust and political will among the members. There were many roadblocks and the differences among various States were clear.
Having said that, there were three main reasons why there should be no room for pessimism. Firstly, progress on such a delicate and complex matter required patience and vision. Secondly, there had been recent positive developments, such as the re-establishment of the informal working group in charge of preparing programme of work, and the adoption of the calendar of activities for the current session. Finally, the international community could not sit idle and indifferent while armaments around the world continued to pose a permanent risk of conflicts and catastrophes.
The Minister said that the conclusions of the conferences in Oslo and Nayrait showed that no State, no matter how powerful it might be, was prepared to face a nuclear war. The risk of nuclear weapons was still there and it was real, especially given the existence of non-State actors, such as terrorist groups and networks. A growing movement for the complete ban of nuclear weapons was thus becoming ever stronger.
All States were called to adhere to the Arms Trade Treaty, which would be seen as a sign of their devotion to the cause of disarmament. Senegal had recently ratified the Treaty. Senegal was supporting the proposal of the Non-Aligned Movement for the holding of the Fourth Special Session of the General Assembly devoted to disarmament, with the view of seeing all actors coming together to bring a new life into that process. The moment had come for the international community to integrate the discussions on disarmament in the global reforms efforts of the overall United Nations system.
Senegal sincerely hoped that the Conference would soon include the presence of civil society organizations. Senegal remained committed to working with all actors and all partners across board on the goal of world peace. In that regard, the Minister informed that Senegal was a candidate for a non-permanent member of the Security Council for the biennial 2016-2017.
FRANK A. ROSE, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Space and Defence Policy at the Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance of the United States, stated that the use and exploration of space and the information derived from those activities permeated almost every aspect of everyone’s daily lives. There were more than 60 nations and many non-governmental entities that were space-faring or that benefited from space capabilities. However, the space remained a domain that no nation owned, and was becoming increasingly congested from orbital debris and contested from man-made threats.
The United States was willing to consider space arms control proposals and concepts that were equitable, effectively verifiable and enhanced the national security of international participants. The United States wanted to ensure a future where humanity continued to benefit from space activities. Practical solutions, such as non-legally binding transparency and confidence-building measures to encourage responsible actions, were needed.
Mr. Rose stated that the Group of Governmental Experts on outer space transparency and confidence-building measures had reached consensus on the final report in July 2013, endorsing voluntary, non-legally binding measures to strengthen stability in space. According to the report, States should take steps to ensure the long-term sustainability of space by adhering to international guidelines to mitigate space debris and cooperate on orbital collision avoidance. Second, the report encouraged States to implement further information sharing measures, which would provide clarity of intent about military space activities and avoid misunderstandings and miscalculations. Third, States should consider pursuing political commitment, including a multilateral code of conduct, to encourage responsible actions in, and the peaceful use of, outer space. Fourth, the Group recommended that States address harmful radio frequency interference and exchange information on space weather hazards.
The United States believed that the European Union efforts to develop an international code of conduct for outer space activities could serve as the best near-term mechanism for States to implement many of the Group’s recommendations. The United States fully supported the European Union’s ambition of finalizing that non-legally binding code in 2014.
Mr. Rose stressed that the United States believed that arms control proposals and concepts should only be considered by the international community if they were equitable, effectively verifiable and enhanced the national security of all. The United States analysis of the draft Treaty on the Prevention of the Placement of Weapons in Outer Space and of the Threat or Use of Force against Outer Space Objects, introduced in 2008 at the Conference, did not meet the necessary criteria. The revised draft submitted by the Russian Federation the previous evening would now be analysed in depth.
If the international community was serious about maintaining the space environment for future generations, States had to support measures that promoted positive activities and refrain from proposing ineffective measures that would fail to unify States in solving the challenges in the space environment. The Group of Governmental Experts recommendations offered the best, most practical solutions for bolstering the international community’s efforts to ensure the availability of the space environment for all of humankind.
MICHAEL MØLLER, Acting Secretary-General of the Conference on Disarmament and Acting Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva, provided further details on his earlier suggestions aimed at unblocking the protracted deadlock in the Conference. He explained that his suggestions had been meant to provide food for thought for the Conference’s own deliberations. The Conference was clearly the master of the substance and procedures.
First, regarding the search for common ground with a view to eventually producing a framework convention to which substantive protocols might be subsequently added, Mr. Møller said that a “building-blocks” approach could provide the balance between setting a clear aim and a common objective of nuclear disarmament on the one hand, and flexibility in achieving it in a gradual manner on the other. There were potentially a number of elements within each agenda item on the disarmament palette around which it might be possible to garner consensus.
Second, on exploring issues on which voluntary, politically binding regimes might be negotiated, Mr. Møller said that he was not suggesting a move away from the core negotiating mandate of the Conference. There was, however, nothing in the Conference which prevented the parties from negotiating other types of instruments. Nonetheless, there were examples of politically binding regimes that functioned quite effectively, even in challenging circumstances. The fact was that politically binding agreements had often in the past been the first step towards a negotiated legally binding agreement.
Regarding the setting up of a subsidiary body to review the methods of work of the Conference, Mr. Møller said that it might be more convenient to first start with an informal exchange to see what the traffic would bear and then move to a more formal subsidiary body setting once it was clear that there was the possibility of agreement on some of those issues. Mr. Møller stressed that he was not suggesting that the principle of consensus should be challenged, but observed that the consensus in the Conference had migrated to mean unanimity. Some ideas included reducing the number of presidents per year, which would imbue the work of the Presidency with greater continuity and consistency.
The Conference’s representativeness was often questioned, as multiple States had been queuing to get in for years. Some forward movement on that issue would go a long way to restore this. There was currently no mechanism for self-review or evaluation comparable to the five-yearly reviews built into some of the outcomes of the Conference.
Finally, Mr. Møller said that his suggestion of holding an informal forum between the Conference and civil society had been received with varying degrees of enthusiasm, but with unanimity among those who had spoken in welcoming the idea. It was not likely that such an event could be organized before late fall or winter of 2014. A planning process with the help of the Secretariat would now commence. Such a forum would be hosted by the Secretary-General of the Conference, but other possibilities could emerge. Once the Forum took place and if it was deemed to be a success, the Conference might want to draw lessons from it as it contemplated the future of its relationship with civil society.
Russian Federation said that the risk of placing different weapons in outer space was growing every day given the increased speed of scientific and technical developments in the military field. Consequences of the use of such weapons could be devastating for the biosphere of the Earth and the entire mankind. If the weapons were to be placed in the outer space, the long-term sustainability of such practice would also be questionable.
The parties to the Conference had a unique opportunity to act in a preventive manner and use the favourable situation that there were no weapons in outer space for the time being. Negotiations on the drafts text of the Treaty on the Prevention of the Placement of Weapons in Outer Space, the Threat or Use of Force against Outer Space Objects submitted by the Russian Federation and China should thus start in earnest. The text submitted now reflected the results of previous discussions, and was a result of collective efforts, and not only efforts by China and the Russian Federation. Thematic discussions were scheduled to commence the following day.
The co-authors were interested in hearing new ideas and proposals which would make that draft closer to being accepted by consensus. The Russian Federation was hoping that the United States would present constructive ideas in the future. The key provisions of the document had remained unaltered, and the Treaty was supposed to become a legally binding international instrument which would place barriers to turning outer space into an area containing weapons of any kind.
China said that China was hoping that the upcoming discussions would be fruitful. The Acting Secretary-General of the Conference had put a constructive proposal on the agenda of the Conference, which was appreciated by China. The rules of procedure with the consensus rule at their core should be preserved, but ways of revitalising the Conference ought to be found.
China and the Russian Federation had provided an updated draft text of the Treaty on the Prevention of the Placement of Weapons in Outer Space, the Threat or Use of Force against Outer Space Objects, and the following day, informal discussions would start. The risk of spreading weapons in outer space was increasing, given the arms developments in the world. The existing legal instruments could not prevent the weaponization of outer space, which was why preventive measures ought to be adopted in a timely manner. China would provide further introduction on that issue the following day, and it hoped that other parties would contribute to further improvements of the draft.
China believed in common security and an international system of mutual benefits; all parties should abandon the concepts of Cold War and zero-sum game, and should create favourable conditions for the disarmament process to proceed. China believed that global nuclear governance should guarantee broad participation of the international community. Countries with the largest arsenals should continue to take the lead in drastically reducing their stockpiles. All States should strictly implement the non-proliferation provisions and consolidate international non-proliferation, while all, and especially developing countries, should have the right to the peaceful use of nuclear energy.
For use of the information media; not an official record