CONFERENCE ON DISARMAMENT DISCUSSES DRAFT ANNUAL REPORT
Welcomes Participants of the 2013 United Nations Fellowship Programme on Disarmament
27 August 2013
The Conference on Disarmament today held its first public plenary to discuss the draft annual programme of the Conference to the General Assembly.
Ambassador Gerard Corr of Ireland, President of the Conference on Disarmament, said he hoped that the report reflected fairly and appropriately both the intensive efforts undertaken and the lack of results to date. He had reflected in full the decision taken by the Conference to establish the Informal Working Group, which held its first meeting yesterday afternoon and left a place-holder for the work which would be undertaken by the Group between now and the end of the 2013 session of the Conference.
Speaking in the plenary on the draft annual report and on other issues were Japan, Austria, Myanmar, Czech Republic on behalf of the Informal Group of Observer States, Argentina, Germany, United States, Netherlands, Poland, Algeria, Iran, Canada, Cuba and the Republic of Korea. The creation and first meeting of the Informal Working Group with a mandate to produce a programme of work robust in substance and progressive over time in implementation, as proposed on 18 June by Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, Secretary-General of the Conference on Disarmament, was welcomed.
The President and many of the delegations that took the floor welcomed the participants of this year’s United Nations Fellowship Programme on Disarmament who were attending the meeting.
The next public plenary of the Conference will be held at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 3 September to further discuss the draft annual report of the Conference
Ambassador GERARD CORR of Ireland, President of the Conference on Disarmament, said he hoped everyone had received an advance copy of the draft annual report of the Conference. He hoped that delegations would conclude that the draft reflected the requirement set out in rule 45 of the rules of procedure that the report shall be “… factual and reflect the negotiations and work of the Conference.” Each successive President in 2013 had made significant efforts to achieve consensus on a programme of work, but the Conference had not so far reached agreement on a programme of work, nor had it undertaken in 2013 the substantive work of negotiating which was its raison d’être. He hoped that the report reflected fairly and appropriately both the intensive efforts undertaken and the lack of results to date. He had reflected in full the decision taken by the Conference to establish the Informal Working Group, which held its first meeting yesterday afternoon and left a place-holder for the work which would be undertaken by the Group between now and the end of the 2013 session of the Conference. He looked forward to an exchange of general views on the draft report today.
Japan warmly welcomed the participants of this year’s United Nations Fellowship Programme on Disarmament who were present in the Council Chamber this morning. Japan had been supporting this programme for many years. Since 1983, Japan had invited the United Nations fellows to Hiroshima and Nagasaki and so far 786 fellows from various countries had visited these cities. Japan was pleased to be able to receive, once again, 25 fellows this year.
Austria welcomed the establishing of an Informal Working Group to produce a programme and hoped that this group would fulfil its mandate and help to bring the Conference back on track to start the negotiations it had been mandated for. The President had offered the Conference a range of elaborate thoughts on the challenges that the Conference had been facing and on future direction. Austria concurred with his analysis and would like to offer three observations. On the limited membership of the conference, Austria considered it was high time for a review of the membership of the Conference in a comprehensive way. Concerning the working methods in the Conference, Austria wondered if it was lack of mutual trust or of political will that was to blame, and whether a revision of working methods could play a role in breaking this deadlock. He believed that they needed to pull all these three strings together. As for the lack of civil society inclusion in the Conference, exclusion led to poor results when it came to implementation. To open the doors of the Conference on Disarmament for more democracy would be an important ingredient for finally overcoming the impasse that they were all bemoaning.
Myanmar welcomed the draft report and favourably saw it as a very good basis for an active discussion aimed at its finalization and adoption. Myanmar also welcomed the recent establishment and first meeting of the Informal Working Group with a mandate to produce a programme of work that was robust in substance and progressive over time in implementation. To enable the Informal Working Group to achieve a desirable outcome, it was Myanmar’s sincere hope that the rules of procedure, particularly the rule of consensus, would be respected throughout the work of the Informal Working Group. Myanmar hoped that all members of the Conference would show their political will and flexibility in the work of the Conference.
Czech Republic, speaking on behalf of the Informal Group of Observer States, said the group included 42 countries from every region of the world. As these countries voted on all resolutions in the General Assembly, including concerning the Conference on Disarmament, they wanted to share their view on the report. The report was factual and well balanced. The President in his informal paper had offered a fair and realistic view of the work of the Conference in 2013. The Informal Group of Observer States remained deeply concerned about the deadlock in the Conference on Disarmament and its inability to start substantive work. The group was also upset that not enough time was devoted to the issue of the revitalization of the Conference. The Informal Group of Observer States respected the rules of procedure of the Conference, and rule 2, which stipulated that membership of the Conference should be regularly reviewed, should be honoured. There was a need for a Special Coordinator to look at the issue of enlargement. The group also believed that other working methods should be reviewed, including the use of consensus in procedural matters as long as they led to substantive results.
Argentina said on 16 August, the Conference on Disarmament took an important step forward toward substantive work with document CD/1956/Rev.1 on the establishment of the Informal Working Group with a mandate to produce a programme of work that was robust in substance and progressive over time in implementation. This offered an opportunity for the Conference that they should seize with both hands. However, Argentina wished to state that this was a means, not an end, and it showed the willingness of the Conference to move forward. Argentina would participate in the work of the Informal Working Group. Argentina had carefully studied the statements by the Secretary-General of the Conference and by the President, and their ideas could be used as a starting point for concrete progress, concerning the length of the presidency and hearing from civil society. Argentina hoped that the Informal Working Group would help the Conference end its stalemate.
Germany said the text of the President’s draft report was quite close to last year’s report, which had only been accepted after extensive negotiations. Germany hoped that the report would be adopted speedily this year. The report reflected the message of the Secretary-General of the United Nations to the Conference, and was delivered by the Secretary-General of the Conference on 22 January. In the message, the Secretary-General called for an end to the continued stalemate on the programme of work in order to avoid jeopardizing the credibility of the Conference. Not much had happened on this, though there had been efforts. The situation of the continued stalemate, as reflected in the present draft, would only amplify the calls that these negotiations would take place elsewhere. Germany attached great hope that the one concrete outcome of this year’s session, the decision on an Informal Working Group with a mandate to produce a programme of work, would achieve tangible results very soon. Germany expected that the Informal Working Group would change the dynamics of the negotiations and facilitate consensus. They had to be realistic that this would take time and the policy differences that blocked the Conference would have to be overcome. This needed to be reflected in the report at a later stage.
United States said it was looking forward to engaging with the President on the draft annual report, which it found to be an appropriate basis for work. The United States had some observations. Regarding the mention in the draft report of the statement of the United Nations Secretary-General to the Conference, the reading of the United States of the quote was that the credibility of the Conference did not only depend on agreement on a programme of work, but also on whether it led to negotiations which the United States considered as an important output, especially with regard to the issue of fissile material. It was, indeed, the output of work, not agreement on a programme of work, that was important.
Netherlands regretted that during this year, the Conference did not find a way out of the impasse in the disarmament machinery that had lasted for more than 15 years. Once, again, they had lost a year without doing substantive disarmament work. So far, the Council Chamber had been more impressive than what came out of it. However, four serious attempts had been made by Presidents of the Council, including three that had become documents of the Conference and a fourth that had been tabled and rejected. The Netherlands wondered if they could not reach consensus on discussing the programme of work, how would they ever reach agreement in negotiations. The Netherlands agreed with what had been said that the issue now was not just adopting a programme of work, but of engaging in multilateral negotiations with an outcome. The start of the work of the Informal Working Group did not mean they were at the end of the stalemate, it only meant that they were at the start. The Netherlands believed the President had prepared an excellent draft report and it was in favour of the observations that the President had made in it. The Netherlands suggested that the Conference should spend its energy to come out of the stalemate facing it, rather than on lengthy discussions on the draft annual report.
Ambassador CEZARY LUSINSKI of Poland said he would be concluding his assignment in Geneva in a few days. He would be replaced by Mr. Wojciech Flera, Poland’s long-standing Director for Disarmament, Non-Proliferation and Arms Control. He hoped for a successful recovery of the Conference on Disarmament and negotiating a treaty that would foster the goal of the world without nuclear weapons.
Algeria thanked the President for the report, which was a good foundation and would make it possible for the Conference to have a report that factually represented the work of the 2013 session, as required by the rules of procedure. Algeria agreed with most of the information in the report. During the session, Algeria had said that it wished that the open-ended working group on taking forward multilateral negotiations on nuclear disarmament, established by a resolution in January 2013, would indeed be in a position to contribute to the work of the Conference. In that respect, Algeria wanted some language in the report that mentioned the work of this working group.
Iran said that the report was draft annual factual as required by the rules of procedure. The discussions that had been held in the Conference should be reflected in a balanced manner, and Iran was glad that the President had tried to keep to previously adopted language. Further refinement was needed to reflect what had been done in the Conference in a balanced manner. They should avoid giving a negative manner to the work of the Conference. Despite the deadlock, the Presidents had done their best to bridge the gap and bring the delegations together. For the first time, they had had three draft programmes of work up for adoption, this showed how hard they had worked and it should be reflected. They should pay attention to the credibility of the Conference and the way that the President had referred to the deadlock in paragraphs 5 and 25 needed further refinement.
Canada thanked the President for preparing the draft annual report, for following the rules of procedure and for drawing on last year’s report. Canada wished to note for the record that while all appreciated the work done by consecutive Presidents who had put forward draft programmes of work, their commitment was not in the end substantive negotiations.
Cuba believed that the draft annual report served as a good basis for the negotiations that they would carry out on it. It was true that the draft report offered a factual reflection of what had happened in the Conference in 2013 and used agreed language from last year, which was the result of long negotiations. However, in paragraphs 5 and 25, they had moved away from the language used in 2012. Cuba believed there was a need to amend the language in these two paragraphs, and it would come back to the President with written proposals at the appropriate moment.
Republic of Korea noted that the draft annual report was quite close to last year’s report and hoped there would be no problem in adopting it as speedily as possible.
Ambassador GERARD CORR of Ireland, President of the Conference on Disarmament, said this had been a substantive discussion that would be helpful to reach an early conclusion of their work. The next public plenary would be held on Tuesday, 3 September at 10 a.m. to consider and adopt the annual report. By then, the secretariat should have received written remarks and the Conference would then proceed with a paragraph by paragraph reading of the report, first in a public plenary and then in an informal meeting.
For use of the information media; not an official record