27 July 2011
Revitalizing the work of the Conference on Disarmament and taking forward multilateral disarmament negotiations
Statement by Mr. Kassym-Jomart Tokayev
Secretary-General of the Conference on Disarmament and
Personal Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General
to the Conference
Follow-up to the high-level meeting on 24 September 2010: Revitalizing the work of the Conference on Disarmament and taking forward multilateral disarmament negotiations
General Assembly Sixty-Fifth Session
113th plenary meeting
Agenda item 162
United Nations Headquarters
Wednesday, 27 July 2011
Mr. President of the General Assembly
Madam Chairperson of the
Advisory Board on Disarmament Matters
Mr. High Representative for Disarmament Affairs
Ladies and Gentlemen:
It is an honour to address the General Assembly.
After the Secretary-General’s strong statement which I consider a milestone in the efforts to advance multilateral disarmament, allow me to share some of my observations in my capacity as Secretary-General of the Conference on Disarmament.
I am impressed by the pool of expertise available in Geneva to address international security issues. Yet, the Conference is unable to tap into that resource for political and procedural reasons. While progress has been achieved in other bodies, within and outside the United Nations, the Conference has remained stagnant since 1998.
The Conference has immense value. It is irreplaceable as the single multilateral negotiating body in the field of disarmament and it has a lot of credits to its name in the disarmament area.
However, if it is to continue its role, its working methods, its composition and its agenda must be reviewed and overhauled. These key components of the Conference date back to 1978 and have largely been overtaken by changes in the international security context.
A majority of members feel that the status quo of the Conference is no longer acceptable. It not only damages its credibility but also has a negative impact on the current momentum in multilateral disarmament.
Worse still, the deadlock may encourage and enable further nuclear armament and proliferation. This is incompatible with the raison d’être of the Conference on Disarmament.
Even though I am also disappointed at the failure of the members to overcome their political differences and to start substantive negotiations, my assessment of the current situation in the Conference on Disarmament is that there is still a slight perspective of moving ahead. It is clear that the present situation in the Conference is an impact of the differences of geopolitical dimension. However, I remain convinced of the essential role of the Conference in the current security environment.
In this context, I would suggest to the General Assembly a two-pronged approach to the Conference.
First, we need to reform the Conference. It is necessary to seriously look into its procedures, membership and agenda.
Use of the consensus rule for procedural issues should also be revised. A Presidency that rotates every four weeks is simply unworkable. The annual adoption of a programme of work impairs continuity. These and other problems with the rules of procedure are the most urgent ones to be reconsidered and overhauled.
These matters need to be addressed for the Conference to reassume its critical role in the field of disarmament and non-proliferation. This could be pursued, as the United Nations Secretary-General already mentioned, through the establishment of a high-level panel of eminent persons.
Second, while we work on such reforms, the General Assembly should assume the responsibilities entrusted to it by the United Nations Charter in its Article 11. In this respect, I fully support the Secretary-General’s idea of not excluding the possibility of conducting negotiations in an Ad Hoc Committee of the General Assembly or a United Nations Conference.
We must be realistic. The political divergences which prevent the beginning of negotiations are extremely difficult to overcome. Patience and persistence will be needed. At the same, procedural questions might be addressed as a first priority to allow the Conference to implement its mandate.
Ladies and Gentlemen:
As Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has previously pointed out, the limited membership of the Conference on Disarmament is a privilege. It is a privilege that comes with the responsibility to negotiate multilateral disarmament treaties and thereby enhance global security. The members of the Conference are accountable to the international community.
The world is going through important geopolitical transformations. It will take time for the Conference to adapt to these changes. But it remains my vision that a transformed and revitalized Conference on Disarmament could again play a crucial role in enhancing international security.
I thank you, Mr. President.