States also referred to the first Conference on Disarmament Civil Society Forum
24 March 2015
The Conference on Disarmament held a plenary meeting this morning in which it heard an address by its President and discussed three draft texts. In general statements some States also referred to the first Conference on Disarmament Civil Society Forum which took place last week.
Mohamed Auajjar of Morocco, President of the Conference on Disarmament, referred to the three draft decisions currently being considered by Members of the Conference. During his informal consultations he took note of constructive proposals and the strong desire of States to revitalize the Conference. The three draft texts dealt with the renewal of the mandate of the informal working group on a programme of work, a schedule of activities for the Conference, and the establishment of an informal working group on the methods of work of the Conference. The President said he would continue informal negotiations on the draft texts.
In general statements, States commended Acting Secretary-General of the Conference Michael Møller for convening the first Conference on Disarmament Civil Society Forum on 19 March 2015, saying it had allowed for fruitful dialogue with civil society on the issue of nuclear disarmament. The merits or otherwise of step-by-step approaches to disarmament were also discussed.
The following States took the floor in today’s plenary: Pakistan, Colombia, South Africa, United Kingdom, United States and Russia.
The next public plenary of the Conference on Disarmament will take place on Tuesday, 26 May 2015 during the second part of the 2015 Session.
Statement by the President of the Conference on Disarmament
MOHAMED AUAJJAR (Morocco), President of the Conference on Disarmament, commended Acting Secretary-General of the Conference Michael Møller for convening the first Conference on Disarmament Civil Society Forum last week. The Forum had allowed for fruitful dialogue between civil society and States, said the President and praised the initiative. The President then turned to the three draft texts under consideration, noting that during his informal consultations he had witnessed the strong desire of States to revitalize the Conference. In considering the texts delegations had the opportunity to draw the best conclusions in relation to the challenges faced by the Conference and focus on the positive elements. The President took note of the constructive proposals made by States with the objective of improving the texts under consideration.
The three draft texts dealt with the renewal of the mandate of the informal working group on a programme of work; a schedule of activities for the Conference; and the establishment of an informal working group on the methods of work of the Conference. The President requested delegations submit any comments on the draft texts to him and said he would continue his informal consultations.
Pakistan said the first Conference on Disarmament Civil Society Forum, organized by Acting Secretary-General of the Conference on Disarmament Michael Møller and the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR), was a timely and laudable initiative which provided important and valuable lessons for the Conference. Civil society’s frustrations with the lack of progress on nuclear disarmament in the Conference were made clear at the Forum. Civil society was not convinced by the subterfuge of the step-by-step approach and was not willing to delay action on comprehensive nuclear disarmament any longer by diversionary tactics of completing other so-called logical steps first. Civil society correctly questioned the value of the so-called unilateral and bilateral disarmament measures taken by some major nuclear weapon States which it said did not amount to disarmament, especially in view of those States’ vertical nuclear proliferation and modernization programmes. Civil society felt that the Conference had become irrelevant and needed to be replaced.
Pakistan said it was no surprise that the most strident opposition to civil society’s participation in the Conference came from those nuclear weapon States that could not stand up to their scrutiny. It was ironic that many States were ardent supporters of civil society engagement in other multilateral fora, such as the Human Rights Council, where it suited their interests and agenda, but blocked their participation in the Conference on a similar footing, said Pakistan. It welcomed the desire of the Acting Secretary-General to hold the Civil Society Forum on an annual basis until such time that the Conference decided to accept greater participation from civil society in its work. Pakistan deeply regretted that the stalemate in the Conference had reached the point that even the indefatigable Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, and its constituent member Reaching Critical Will, had decided to end their engagement with it and encouraged them to return to the Conference soon, since their contribution was extremely valuable. Pakistan strongly urged the President to revive efforts for a new decision to enable civil society to engage meaningfully with the Conference.
Colombia said no other forum had such a difficult task thrust upon it as the Conference on Disarmament – at the end of the day its task was no less than saving humanity from itself through disarmament and non-proliferation agreements. It recalled the statement made last week by the Secretary-General of the Agency for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean (OPANAL) who said blaming the Conference for its stagnation led nowhere and detracted attention from fundamental issues. Colombia said it did not rule out any options for the revitalization of the Conference, which may be from a step-by-step perspective or including parallel scenarios. Colombia praised Acting Secretary-General Michael Møller for his valuable initiative in organizing the Civil Society Forum and recognized important recommendations in the outcome document.
Colombia also spoke about landmine action, announcing that a few days ago, as part of its efforts to de-escalate the conflict in Colombia, the Government and the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) adopted a joint communiqué on an agreement on the clearance and decontamination of the territory of anti-personnel mines, improvised explosive devices and explosive remnants of war as well as unexploded ordinance. The Norway People’s Humanitarian De-Mining Organization had been asked to coordinate a comprehensive de-mining project which would ultimately lead to the formal handing over of cleared territories to local authorities and communities. It called on the international community’s support in that endeavour and thanked all States for their efforts to support peacebuilding in Colombia.
South Africa expressed its strong support for the draft proposal to establish a working group on establishing a draft programme of work. It raised concerns, however, with regard to the draft proposal regarding the proposed decision on a schedule of activities of the 2015 session of the Conference on Disarmament. South Africa expressed concern that some discussions in the schedule of activities were being used as a repetitive exercise and that some Conference Members were using the mechanism simply to create an illusion of activity within the Conference. The Conference was established to negotiate multilateral disarmament negotiations and anything less than that fell short of its mandate. Efforts should be directed at restarting substantive work in the Conference, emphasized South Africa.
United Kingdom said the draft decisions formed a comprehensive plan for the rest of the 2015 session and it was prepared to accept the decision to establish three tracks of work. The United Kingdom also responded to the statement made by Pakistan on nuclear disarmament. It reiterated that the United Kingdom was committed to nuclear disarmament and had not waited for a multilateral process to begin. Instead it had taken unilateral measures to reduce its nuclear arsenal. That was more than could be said of other States which had hidden behind the lack of a multilateral process to increase their arsenals and continue producing fissile material.
United States, responding to the statement made by Pakistan, said it did not agree with or accept the characterization of the step-by-step disarmament process. On the contrary, every step had created the conditions and created momentum for subsequent steps. The United States said it was transparent about its nuclear weapon stockpiles and programmes, and since the Non-Proliferation Treaty entered into force the total number of nuclear warheads in its stockpile had been reduced by 80 per cent. Another concrete example of the step-by-step process was the fact that more than 12,000 nuclear warheads had been dismantled since 2009. The step-by-step process was working and continued every day, emphasized the United States.
Pakistan, responding to the statements by the United Kingdom and the United States, said in its statement it was reflecting the views of civil society and many Governments worldwide, views it shared, which should be taken into account. The reality was that international public opinion was not convinced that so-called step-by-step measures to nuclear disarmament made the world any safer. While there had been a reduction in the number of weapons and delivery systems there has also been concurrent vertical proliferation, creating the same end result. Responding to the comment by the United Kingdom on Pakistan’s development of fissile materials, Pakistan said it was ready to engage in negotiations on fissile materials provided they addressed not only future production but also existing stocks. Ending future production would be meaningless unless the thousands of tonnes of fissile material stocks were also brought into account. Pakistan said it was not hiding behind the stalemate in the Conference nor creating a stalemate: it was ready today to negotiate an instrument that took into account all existing fissile material stocks.
Russia said its positions on nuclear disarmament, negative security assurances and a fissile material cut-off treaty were well known. It asked the President whether he planned to devote some time to summing up the outcome of the Civil Society Forum.
For use of the information media; not an official record