CONFERENCE ON DISARMAMENT DISCUSSES SESSION HELD BY THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY FROM 27 TO 29 JULY
4 August 2011
The Conference on Disarmament held a plenary meeting this morning in which it discussed the meeting held by the General Assembly in New York from 27 to 29 July 2011.
Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, Secretary-General of the Conference on Disarmament and Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva, reported on the General Assembly meeting that had been held in New York from 27 to 29 July. Mr. Tokayev said that the president of the General Assembly said that the grave situation of the deadlock in the Conference on Disarmament had caused the Conference to be put on the agenda of the General Assembly and he encouraged the First Committee to send out a strong signal to the Conference this year. The Secretary-General sent a very strong statement which stressed the urgency of finding a way out of the Conference’s predicament. The Secretary-General noted that members had identified different options to revitalize the Conference, including maintenance of the status quo, incremental changes, or a fundamental approach to the disarmament machinery. To address the differences, the Secretary-General was 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. It was abundantly clear that there was no easy solution to breaking the impasse.
As he had stated in New York, Mr. Tokayev said that some of the procedures of the Conference on Disarmament, such as the monthly rotating presidency and the annual adoption of the programme of work were impairing the efficiency of the Conference. Some argued that increasing the membership would not solve their problems. That may be true, but they should not forget that a body like the Conference on Disarmament needed to be representative of the wider international community. They must also keep in mind that the Conference was funded from the regular budget of the United Nations. The agenda dated back to 1978 and in his view needed 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. It was long overdue for the Conference to take action; failure to do so would compel some members to raise the issue at the General Assembly. The future of the Conference was in their hands and its authority and record should not be compromised.
During the ensuing discussion, many delegations expressed their condolences and sympathy for Norway and the tragic incident suffered by that country a few weeks ago. The delegation of Norway expressed gratitude for the condolences, support and sympathy that they had received today and from all over the world since 22 July. The horrific and brutal acts of terrorism in Norway were a national tragedy. They were also attacks on their humanity and their fundamental values: openness, inclusion, engagement and democracy. They would not be intimidated or threatened by these attacks. The aim of such attacks was to spread fear and panic and they would not let that happen. Norway had consistently advocated the values of democracy, the rule of law, freedom of speech and human rights in their endeavours to overcome extremism and intolerance. The attacks would not change their policies or the nature of their democracy.
Regarding the work of the Conference, delegations said that it was simply unacceptable that in today’s world there were 23,000 nuclear weapons and of these 7,560 were ready to be used immediately. Many delegations reiterated their calls for the Conference to get back to substantive work and they warned that if they did not fulfil their mandate action would be taken in the General Assembly or States would go outside of the Conference for negotiating treaties. Many speakers decried the fact that the Conference had failed to do any substantive work for the last 15 years and they cautioned that the body could become irrelevant if they did not break this impasse soon.
Speaking this morning were Myanmar, France, Cuba, the Russian Federation, Colombia, Chile, Iran, Malaysia, Israel, South Africa, Pakistan, Norway, Mexico, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, China, Japan, the United Kingdom, Nigeria and the United States.
The next public plenary of the Conference will be on Thursday, 11 August 2011.
SO SE PYONG, President of the Conference on Disarmament, opened the meeting by expressing his condolences to the families of the victims of the tragic incident which occurred in Norway. He asked the Norwegian delegation to convey their message of compassion to its government. Mr. So also bid farewell to the ambassador of Sri Lanka and wished her success in her new assignment and he welcomed the new ambassador of Myanmar to the Conference and wished him luck in his new duties.
KASSYM-JOMART TOKAYEV, Secretary-General of the Conference on Disarmament and Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva, then took the floor to talk about his impressions of the General Assembly meeting which took place in New York from 27 to 29 July 2011. The president of the General Assembly said that the grave situation of the deadlock in the Conference on Disarmament had caused the Conference to be put on the agenda of the General Assembly and he encouraged the First Committee to send out a strong signal to the Conference this year. The Secretary-General sent a very strong statement which stressed the urgency of finding a way out of the Conference’s predicament. The Secretary-General noted that members had identified different options to revitalize the Conference, including maintenance of the status quo, incremental changes, or a fundamental approach to the disarmament machinery. To address the differences, the Secretary-General was taking a decision on the establishment of a panel of eminent persons, further to the recommendations of the Advisory Board. It was abundantly clear that there was no easy solution to breaking the impasse. The large list of speakers at the three sessions in July reflected the real involvement of Member States but, as expected, did not resolve the issues at hand, neither in the Conference on Disarmament or in the larger disarmament machinery. From the statements, however, they could feel a grave concern about the lack of progress in the area of multilateral disarmament and in the Conference on Disarmament in particular.
As he had stated in New York, Mr. Tokayev said that some of the procedures of the Conference on Disarmament, such as the monthly rotating presidency and the annual adoption of the programme of work, were impairing the efficiency of the Conference. Some argued that increasing the membership would not solve their problems. That may be true, but they should not forget that a body like the Conference on Disarmament needed to be representative of the wider international community. They must also keep in mind that the Conference was funded from the regular budget of the United Nations. The agenda dated back to 1978 and in his view needed 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. It was long overdue for the Conference to take action; failure to do so would compel some members to raise the issue at the General Assembly. The future of the Conference was in their hands and its authority and record should not be compromised. As the Secretary-General had said, “The problem is 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.”
MAUNG WAI, (Myanmar), said that despite the prolonged stagnation of the Conference, Myanmar continued to commit itself to the Conference on Disarmament as the sole multilateral negotiating forum on disarmament. In his view, neither the Rules of Procedure nor the positions taken by a few members of the Conference should be seen as responsible for the current deadlock that had lasted over a decade. On the contrary, they believed that the difference in security priorities of some member countries had prevented the Conference on Disarmament from fulfilling its mandate. Although there was room for further improvement, the existing Rules of Procedure had served the interest of the membership and the purpose of the Conference in the past. They had to admit, however, that the United Nations disarmament machinery was lacking progress as a whole. As the Secretary-General had said, they were now in the midst of a growing crisis of confidence. The United Nations multilateral disarmament machinery had failed, but he personally believed that the upcoming Fourth Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly devoted to disarmament would have the authority and legitimacy to comprehensively review the entire United Nations disarmament machinery, including the Conference on Disarmament.
ERIC DANON, (France), said that in a meeting in Paris the P-5 had discussed a broad range of issues. This was the second such meeting, the first being in 2009 in London. The Paris conference was an important opportunity for reciprocating confidences on nuclear disarmament issues. They had discussed how they could meet commitments under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, particularly under the 2010 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Plan of Action. They had also discussed transparency, nuclear doctrines and verification. They had established a Working Group on terminologies to facilitate understanding on a number of key terms. These measures were important to serve as a basis for further disarmament efforts. They also exchanged views on measures to support the non-proliferation pillar of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. All States must contribute to the overall goal of disarmament, whether they were part of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty or not. For the P-5, a Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty was essential to preventing nuclear proliferation. The next meeting of the P-5 would be in the context of the preparatory meeting for the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. They would continue to work together and hold similar such meetings.
YUSNIER ROMERO PUENTES, (Cuba), noted that it was up to the Conference on Disarmament to play a role in universally accepted disarmament treaties. Cuba regretted that the Conference on Disarmament had not been able to carry out any substantive work for more than a decade. Cuba did not share the assessment that this lack of work was due to the body’s Rules of Procedure. Cuba supported optimizing the United Nations disarmament machinery, but they were convinced that the paralysis currently afflicting the Conference was attributable to the lack of political will on the part of certain States to achieve real progress. Cuba was against the idea of replacing the Conference with ad hoc groups that would be driven by certain States and outside the remit of the United Nations; Cuba was opposed to such moves and felt the solution was not to shun or ignore the Conference or diminish its importance, but rather to preserve and strengthen it. The Conference needed to adopt a programme of work right away that would allow them to move forward. The Conference had the capacity to begin negotiations on treaties and they must build a consensus. It was simply unacceptable that in today’s world there were 23,000 nuclear weapons and of these 7,560 were ready to be used immediately. Cuba would assume the presidency of the Conference on Disarmament on 23 August and it was their firm proposal to make every possible effort to foster substantive negotiations in this body.
VALERY LOSHCHININ, (Russian Federation), said that the Russian Federation agreed with the Secretary-General that the present situation in the Conference on Disarmament was not the result of systemic defects in the disarmament machinery itself; it was a reflection of differing priorities of States and how to ensure their national interests. The situation in which one or two States could hold the entire Conference hostage was not acceptable. The bilateral negotiations on the New START treaty could be used as an example for the Conference. It was their belief that multilateral negotiations could be moved forward from the current deadlock and document CD/1864 could be used as the basis for compromise since the main priorities contained within it did reflect the overwhelming concerns of the States parties. Moving negotiations to a parallel track outside of the Conference would not guarantee the universality or vitality needed for these treaties.
ALICIA VICTORIA ARANGO OLMOS, (Colombia), said they could not continue to repeat the same routine if their goal was to ensure that the body prospered. They must take practical steps now and the time had come to put into practice some of the ideas and suggestions that had been expressed and discussed during the session. It would be unacceptable if at the end of this session they had not accomplished anything. This would only send the message that progress was impossible and decision making should be done outside of the Conference itself. If by September they had not taken measures, next autumn decisions would be made in New York to put disarmament back on course. They had a moral responsibility to create a world without nuclear weapons, a world that would be safer for all. Disarmament had to be seen in a wider sense because it was a cross-cutting issue that affected development, human rights and other aspects of life in all countries.
PEDRO OYARCE, (Chile), said they needed to review the rule of consensus, although there did not appear to be the political will to depart from this rule. It was very clear there was a positive trend to initiate negotiations on fissile material and stocks. The topic was ready for discussion, yet they had not been able to make any progress in that regard. They ultimately needed to address the issue of political will. The Conference had lost credibility and its legitimacy was at risk. In addition, fourteen years without producing any results at all was an unsustainable situation. They would like to see the Conference on Disarmament revived so that it made progress consistent with its mandates; inaction was not a reasonable alternative. Chile believed they should maintain and preserve the Conference on Disarmament as the sole multilateral disarmament body and it was open to various suggestions, including 6 month presidencies and not applying the rule of consensus to procedural matters. They were also open to membership expansion, which would not solve the problems they were facing, but it would deal with questions of political legitimacy and help to bring in new ideas. They should also increase contacts with non-governmental organizations and research institutions in the area of nuclear disarmament so that civil society could contribute ideas on how to break the deadlock and make progress toward a world free of nuclear weapons. Their intention was not to replace the Conference on Disarmament, but they would be willing to look at alternatives if it came to that.
MOHAMMAD HASSAN DARYEI, (Iran), said that it was important to have this sort of self-reflection from time to time. Iran attached great importance to the position of the Conference on Disarmament as the sole multilateral negotiating body on disarmament and supported all suggestions to strengthen it. In their view, negotiating a Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty outside the Conference on Disarmament was neither feasible nor acceptable. Also, changing the Rules of Procedure was not the answer to breaking the impasse and many treaties had been negotiated under these same rules. Thus, they should deal with the root causes of the problem rather than advocating cosmetic changes in the procedures without tackling the substance and crux of the problem which was a lack of political will for creating an environment in which the security concerns of all countries could be addressed. One issue should not prevent the start of negotiations on all the other issues they dealt with.
ISMAIL MOHAMAD BKRI, (Malaysia), said that while Malaysia acknowledged that the Conference on Disarmament was now in a difficult situation and the challenge ahead was huge, all was not lost. They had not explored all available avenues to move forward on the disarmament agenda. Malaysia reiterated its support to the convening of the Fourth Special Session of the General Assembly devoted to disarmament and the formation of an Eminent Persons Group which would come up with recommendations on ways to revitalize the United Nations disarmament machinery. Malaysia was ready to explore any other feasible ideas put forth. Malaysia wished to reemphasize that their ultimate objective was the total elimination of nuclear weapons, a goal he believed they all shared. There existed an obligation to pursue, in good faith, and to bring into conclusion, negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament in all its aspects, under strict and effective international control.
TAMAR RAHAMIMOFF-HONIG, (Israel), said that the need to revitalize the work of the Conference on Disarmament could not be disputed. The persisting stalemate required Member States to take decisive action to promote substantive work. In this respect, Israel was of the view that the Conference on Disarmament had long been in need of an up-to-date vision. In the current geo-political circumstances, rehashing their well known positions was not likely to bring them any closer to fulfilling their important mandate. Member States needed to look at new ways to revitalize the Conference on Disarmament’s work. One such way might be by not focusing solely on the four core issues of the agenda as the only possible road map for the Conference on Disarmament’s work at this point in time, despite the fact that these issues were considered the raison d’être of the Conference on Disarmament’s work. Substantive negotiations, on issues of real value to international peace and security, may be concluded while a stalemate persisted over the four core issues. An agreed formula could be found which, on the one had, recognized the importance and continued validity of the four core issues and at the same time focused on the essential necessity to advance the work of the Conference on Disarmament. They were confident that if Conference members ceased to focus solely on the four core issues they could similarly find issues that could realistically contribute to the advancement of peace and stability; a shared vision, which did not centre only on the four core issues, could and should be found.
MICHIEL COMBRINK, (South Africa), expressed disappointment that Conference had failed to fulfil its mandate and that many had started to question its relevance and continued value in the pursuance of disarmament goals. Nuclear disarmament remained their highest priority. Not only did they share concerns about proliferation, but the very existence of such weapons contributed to global insecurity. While these weapons existed, none of them would be secure. The lack of real progress toward non-proliferation had weakened the non-proliferation regime. South Africa reiterated its call for the establishment of a subsidiary body to deal with nuclear disarmament. They also called for the beginning of negotiations on a Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty that would help fulfil non-proliferation and disarmament goals.
ZAMIR AKRAM, (Pakistan), said Pakistan appreciated efforts by the Secretary-General to revitalize the Conference on Disarmament and the international disarmament machinery. They needed to take into account the security concerns of all States, not change the Rules of Procedure. The overarching goal of the Conference on Disarmament when it was established was the negotiation of nuclear disarmament treaties; it was unfortunate that nothing had been accomplished in this regard in a number of years. Apart from failing to make progress on nuclear disarmament, the Conference on Disarmament had also failed to make progress on any other issue on its agenda in the last 15 years. Thus, it was astounding that the quest for progress was fixated on one issue. It was important to acknowledge some basic facts when looking at the impasse of the last few years. The Conference on Disarmament’s activities reflected the prevailing political views as the Conference did not operate in a vacuum and the lack of progress could not be attributed to the Rules of Procedure because other treaties had been negotiated under the same rules. These points underscored the facts and the need to recognize the real reasons the Conference had become dysfunctional, which was that it reflected the realities in the outside world, mainly the discriminatory policies of some States which created imbalances. Pakistan had to take a stand against this nuclear selectivity and discrimination. They needed to adopt an objective approach to the revitalization of the Conference. All issues on the agenda needed to be treated in an equal and balanced manner and lack of progress on one issue should not lead to an impasse on other issues on the agenda.
JON ERIK STROMO, (Norway), expressed gratitude for the condolences, support and sympathy that they had received today and from all over the world since 22 July. The horrific and brutal acts of terrorism in Norway were a national tragedy. They were also attacks on their humanity and their fundamental values: openness, inclusion, engagement and democracy. They would not be intimidated or threatened by these attacks. The aim of such attacks was to spread fear and panic and they would not let that happen. Norway had consistently advocated the values of democracy, the rule of law, freedom of speech and human rights in their endeavours to overcome extremism and intolerance. The attacks would not change their policies or the nature of their democracy. Regarding the subject under discussion today, Norway said there was no reason to hide their deep frustration over the more than decade long stalemate in the Conference. They were sceptical of the Conference’s ability as an institution to deal with disarmament according to its mandate. The Conference on Disarmament needed to reform itself: the consensus rule should not be applied to procedural issues; membership should be universal; civil society should play an active role; and they should find ways to foster cross-regional cooperation. The question was whether the Conference on Disarmament was able to reform itself. The consensus rule seemed to hamper any attempt to revitalize the body so Norway questioned whether it could reform itself. Thus, they should consider alternative strategies toward disarmament, based on the fact that nuclear disarmament was a humanitarian issue that needed to be addressed not on behalf of all States, but on behalf of their populations. Nuclear weapons were the most inhumane, indiscriminate and disproportionate weapons ever invented. Thus, they considered it vital that the humanitarian imperative be placed at the centre of their efforts, and they believed they had much to learn from other and newer disarmament processes with successful outcomes.
MARIA ANTONIETA JAQUEZ HUACUJA, (Mexico), said that the meeting of the General Assembly in July showed the great interest placed in the work of the Conference on Disarmament and the disarmament machinery. A majority of the United Nations membership had expressed that the status quo was not viable when it came to protecting the interests of the international community. Mexico regretted that the Conference had not been able to fulfil its mandate over the last 15 years. For decades, Mexico had given the Conference and its predecessors its unswerving support and it was for this reason they believed it was indefensible that this forum should continue to be frozen in place. Mexico did not support the idea that the Conference was the victim of outside circumstances; political will was not something that was generated spontaneously and it had to have a feedback loop going into it. The Conference was designed to respond to a situation that did not exist anymore, namely the Cold War, so perhaps it no longer met the needs of its members. The rotating presidency did not allow for efficiency, and the makeup of the Conference on Disarmament itself and the lack of inclusion of civil society were other anachronisms.
RI JANG GON, (Democratic People's Republic of Korea), said they hoped political will would prevail to advance the work of the Conference on Disarmament. The current impasses was attributable to a lack of political will and the unwillingness of some States to take into account the security concerns of other States and to address a balanced agenda. As long as political will was not displayed, they would suffer from an impasse no matter how many meetings and discussions were held. They were particularly concerned that some Member States threatened to take alternative negotiating processes outside the Conference and this hindered their collective efforts to produce useful and productive results. It was high time to take practical and decisive action for nuclear disarmament.
LI YANG, (China), said that action needed to be taken to get the Conference on Disarmament back to substantive work and referred to the press communiqué issued after the P-5 meeting in Paris.
AKIO SUDA, (Japan), said Japan appreciated the P-5’s expressed commitment to transparency and they hoped the P-5 would be able to advance the items laid out in the joint statement made after its Paris meeting.
JOANNE ADAMSON, (United Kingdom), said that they welcomed informal meetings and the chance to discuss matters outside the chamber because sometimes their format held them back. She also thanked everyone for their warm words of welcome upon the assumption of her duties.
SYNDOPH ENDONI, (Nigeria), said Nigeria supported any constructive efforts to move their work forward. Nuclear weapons continued to pose a threat to the haves and have nots. The potential use of these weapons by non-State actors should serve as a warning to them. Any calls to hold discussions outside of the multilateral forum should be discouraged. The spirit of compromise and political will was the most appropriate way out of this current stalemate.
WALTER REID, (United States), said that they should make a frank analysis of their time utilization and allocation as they repeat themselves over and over again and he saw no progress in what they were saying. He thanked Ambassador Danon of France for the read out of the P-5 meeting in Paris. It was important to realize that the P-5 they were dedicated to meeting their Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference action plan and they were pressing forward to realize what they had undertaken in that regard. So while there might not be light visible in the Conference on Disarmament that did not mean there was not progress being made in other areas.
SO SE PYONG, President of the Conference on Disarmament, said that next plenary session would be held on Thursday, 11 August 2011.
For use of the information media; not an official record