4 August 2011
Conference on Disarmament
Remarks to the Conference on Disarmament
Mr. Kassym-Jomart Tokayev
Secretary-General of the Conference on Disarmament
and Personal Representative of the United Nations
Secretary-General to the Conference
Geneva, 4 August 2011
Thank you Mr. President for giving me the opportunity to share with the membership my impressions of the UNGA meeting under agenda item 162, held at the request of 49 member states and which took place in New York from 27 to 29 July 2011.
The President of the General Assembly opened the meeting after which the Secretary-General of the United Nations, and subsequently, the Chair of the Advisory Board on Disarmament Matters and I, as Secretary-General of the CD, made statements. In addition, 50 member states contributed to the ensuing debate.
Mr. Deiss, President of the General Assembly recalled that the grave situation of the deadlock had caused the Conference to be put on the agenda of the General Assembly, in line with the United Nations Charter. He encouraged the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) to send out a strong signal to the Conference this year, and he agreed that the creation of a panel composed of high-level figures could have utility.
As indicated by the number of interventions, this was a timely organized meeting, underscoring the urgency to find a solution to the current state of affairs in the CD.
It also provided delegations the opportunity to elaborate on their positions and priorities in the field of disarmament in a process that is expected to continue at the 66th session of the General Assembly later this fall.
Mr. Ban Ki-moon delivered a very strong statement, which from my point of view might be considered as a milestone in the multilateral disarmament process. The Secretary-General, inter alia, stressed the urgency to find a way out of the CD’s predicament.
He noted that members have identified different options to revitalize the Conference.
These include the maintenance of the status quo, which risks rendering the CD irrelevant and obsolete.
The second option would be for a fundamental approach of the disarmament machinery, although no consensus exists on the convening of a Fourth Special Session of the General Assembly.
Lastly, there is the option of incremental changes, which have their opponents as well.
To address the differences, the Secretary-general is taking a decision on the establishment of a panel of eminent persons to address the different issues, further to the recommendations of the Advisory Board.
The Secretary-General pointed out that “states even disagree over where reforms should be implemented. In the CD? In the General Assembly and its First Committee? Or outside the United Nations, in a conference on a specific disarmament issue, or in an ad hoc forum organized by like-minded countries?”
The Advisory Board, in addition to the recommendation to establish a panel of eminent persons, also suggested to the Secretary-General to encourage progress on a programme of work based on the consensus document CD/1864 and proposed to continue raising public awareness and encourage civil society to offer their inputs to overcome the prolonged stalemate at the Conference.
It is abundantly clear that there is no easy solution to break the impasse. The large list of speakers at the three sessions reflected the real involvement by member states but, as expected, did not resolve the issues at hand, neither in the CD nor in the larger disarmament machinery.
From the statements, however, we can feel a grave concern about the lack of progress in the area of multilateral disarmament and in the CD in particular.
It goes beyond my prerogative and role to provide a summary of all the national and group statements made. I am sure everybody is aware of the respective positions. Moreover, all statements have been put online by ODA in New York and the Department for Public Information has provided extensive summaries of the proceedings over the three days.
Nevertheless, I would like to reiterate my views on the current situation in this body.
I continue to believe that the Conference has immense value and is irreplaceable.
At the same time, it is evident that the majority of the members share frustration due to the lack of progress will force us to take action.
The CD might resume its leading role as a multilateral disarmament forum, provided that it would be duly reformed. To that end, it is necessary to look at its procedures, membership and its agenda.
As I stated in New York, some of the procedures, such as the monthly rotating presidency and the annual adoption of the programme of work are impairing the efficiency of the Conference.
Some argue that increasing the membership would not solve our problems. That may be true, but let us not forget that a body such as the CD needs to be representative of the wider international community. We must also keep in mind that the Conference is funded from the regular budget of the United Nations.
The agenda dates back to 1978 and needs, in my view, to be reassessed to reflect the current international security environment.
Finally, the rule of consensus should be interpreted as an encouragement to come to an agreement to start substantive work.
I believe the time is long overdue for the Conference to take action. Failure to do so will compel some members to raise the issue at the General Assembly.
The future of the Conference is in your hands. Meanwhile, it is my belief that its authority and its record should not be compromised.
We should use each of the existing opportunities to revitalize the Conference. As the Secretary-General said, “the problem lies not with the vehicle, but with the driver. What is needed most of all is a closer alignment between policy priorities and multilateral disarmament goals.”
I thank you.