24 May 2011
Conference on Disarmament
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is a great pleasure to address this distinguished body in my new function as Secretary-General of the Conference on Disarmament. I am grateful for your support of my nomination and I stand ready, together with the Secretariat, to support the Membership in its activities.
Incidentally, I had the honor to address the Conference some nine years ago in this same Chamber.
At that time I stated "it is necessary to commence work in parallel, conducting negotiations on some issues and beginning discussions on the possibility of pursuing negotiations on other issues. Otherwise, the Conference on Disarmament will lose its credibility and, afterwards, we will have to seek other ways of solving the relevant problems".
Now I have to concede that since that time not much has evolved. We have seen a number of cleverly drafted proposals to commence substantive work but unfortunately, none has led to breaking the political impasse this body is confronted with.
There is no doubt that the adoption of a Programme of Work in May 2009 represented a milestone in the work of the Conference. It has shown the unique potential of the Conference when the right balance of compromise and consensus was found.
I commend the Conference for the political will, vision and leadership that the Programme of Work represented. But again, even such an important proposal went astray through procedural discussions that seem to become endless.
As the United Nations Secretary-General has said, the continued deadlock in the Conference on Disarmament has ominous implications for international security. While States and civil society are on the move, this body has remained stagnant.
The successful NPT Review Conference in May of last year was an important achievement. Bilateral efforts are coming to fruition, such as the new START treaty. But the Conference on Disarmament, as you all know, ended its 2010 session without starting substantive work,
This fact is very disappointing for the whole international community.
I must indicate that half of this year has been very constructive due to the efforts of the successive Presidents, Canada, Chile and China. I congratulate and thank them for this. I still hope that you, distinguished Ambassadors, will use this positive atmosphere to build further momentum to start substantive work in the Conference.
I have arrived in Geneva from a country that voluntarily renounced its nuclear arsenal, joined the NPT and CTBT and closed down its nuclear testing ground.
I came here at a crucial moment in the life of the Conference. There is an obvious disagreement on how to proceed in the future.
Some underscore the important position of the Conference as a single multilateral negotiating body in the field of disarmament, while others think that, in the absence of substantive work, the resources dedicated to it might be better used elsewhere.
Calls are being clearly heard to take issues outside the Conference. While this may be a way to advance some issues, such approach will seriously affect the CD and make this body irrelevant.
The General Assembly will hold a debate on the appropriate issues in July and has placed the item on its agenda for its next session in September.
We all must be realists and see the truth regardless whether it brings pleasure or trouble to us. If this year ends again without agreement on a Programme of Work, the discussions on the future of the Conference at the General Assembly might be very complicated.
It is against this sobering backdrop that I assume my function of Secretary-General of the Conference on Disarmament. I was hoping I could have been a bit more optimistic. But still I am more optimist than pessimist because I really look forward to your wisdom and sense of responsibility, and I am also hopeful about your diplomatic creativity. It is time to look at the disarmament issues in the broader political context of sustaining global security.
The latest op-ed from the Secretary-General of the United Nations, which was published only some days ago in a number of newspapers around the world including Le Temps in Switzerland, is yet another clear message and call for the Membership to overcome its difficulties urgently.
Mr. Ban Ki-moon was absolutely eloquent and blunt in his assessment of the present situation in the CD. He indicated the real controversy between the tendency in the world and what we see here. I quote "the tide of disarmament is rising, yet the CD is in danger of sinking".
Nonetheless, the Secretary-General of the United Nations has made several calls for the Conference to overcome its differences, including a High Level Meeting.
His five-point proposal needs to be taken very seriously and considered as a platform for starting substantive work.
He also tasked his Advisory Board to look into the matter and I understand there will be a possibility of the Conference to interact with the Board during its second session here in Geneva at the end of June.
That is why I believe that the CD still has the capacity to yet drag itself out of its impasse. For this goal, deliberations and discussions must be complemented with negotiations.
As a true supporter of multilateral disarmament, I will take it upon me to do everything within my powers to help you to preserve this valued body from falling into disarray.
It would indeed be extremely unfortunate if this body, the single multilateral disarmament negotiating forum, which has seen so many successes and contributions to international security, would not be able to overcome its differences.
I wish to encourage you to be winners, not losers. Diplomatic history shows that winners are not judged; they are hailed, losers are to be blamed.
I still trust in the collective wisdom and your sense of responsibility. I am eager to closely work with you.
Thank you for your attention.