CONFERENCE ON DISARMAMENT DISCUSSES DRAFT ANNUAL REPORT
4 September 2012
The Conference on Disarmament today continued consideration of its draft annual report which will be presented to the sixty-seventh session of the United Nations General Assembly when it opens on 18 September 2012 in New York.
The President of the Conference, Ambassador Hellmut Hoffmann of Germany, said today would be a brief formal plenary after which Member States would meet in informal plenary to discuss proposed amendments to the draft annual report. There were major areas in the draft report that required collective effort, including how to reflect the messages to the Conference of the Secretary-General of the United Nations and of other dignitaries, how to reflect proposals made to improve the effective functioning of the Conference, and how to refer to the Conference’s failure to adopt a programme of work. Members had to balance praise for the potential role the Conference could play in disarmament with appropriate self-criticism in view of its long-running failure to fulfil its mandate.
Concerning the draft annual report of the Conference to the General Assembly,
speakers said that they should not seek to obscure the fact of the Conference’s failure in 2012 as to do so would not help the Conference, but instead further undermine its credibility. Another speaker said the 2012 session had continued to witness another year of stagnation with no tangible results, thus the tone of the report should not be the same as the report of the 2011 session, rather it should more clearly articulate and convey concerns about the Conference, both from inside the Palais des Nations and outside. Another speaker said it actually found the report too ‘rosy’, but was aware that others found it too ‘gloomy’. Several speakers agreed that they understood the draft report had included the opinions of all delegations in order to best achieve consensus.
The previous annual report of the Conference on Disarmament, on its 2011 session, can be accessed here: CD/1926.
Speaking in today’s plenary discussion were Israel, Syria, speaking on behalf of the Group of 21, Switzerland, Spain, Malaysia, Australia, Ireland, United Kingdom, Republic of Korea, New Zealand, United States, Pakistan and Canada.
The Conference on Disarmament will next meet in public on Tuesday, 11 September at 10 a.m. when it is scheduled to adopt the annual report. The third and last part of the 2012 session of the Conference will conclude on 14 September.
Statement by President of the Conference
Ambassador HELLMUT HOFFMANN of Germany, President of the Conference on Disarmament, opened the meeting and said today would be a brief formal plenary after which Member States would meet in private, in informal plenary, to discuss amendments to the draft annual report which was to be presented to the General Assembly. There were four major areas in the draft report that required collective effort: first, the way the message of the Secretary-General of the United Nations to the Conference on Disarmament was to be reflected in the report; second, the way the messages of other dignitaries to the Conference were to be reflected; third, how to reflect proposals made to improve the effective functioning of the Conference. Those three items were in many ways inter-related: how to balance praise for the potential role the Conference could play in disarmament, with appropriate self-criticism in view of its long-running failure to fulfil its mandate. The President said that the fourth major sticking point was how to refer to the failure to adopt the draft programme of work submitted by the Egyptian Presidency (CD/1933/Rev.1), how to reflect the manner in which it was handled in plenary, and how the issue of the programme of work in general was handled during the session.
Israel said it valued the Conference on Disarmament which in the past had had an important impact on peace and security in the world. Israel was confident that given improvements in geo-political circumstances the Conference would continue to play a significant role, and highlighted that the rule of consensus played a vital role in the preservation of States’ confidence. Israel’s own region, the Middle East, was undergoing tremendous changes. While there were hopes that stability would finally find its way to regional countries, guarantees could not be given that in the short, medium, and even long term, radicalization and extremism would not prevail. Taken in conjunction with habitual lack of respect, by some regional partners, of obligations undertaken in the disarmament and non-proliferation field, it was no wonder that Israel adopted a cautious approach. It must be emphasized that such changes in the region had lessened neither the instability nor the volatility of the region. Taken together with non-compliance with treaties and persistent clandestine programmes for the acquisition and development of weapons of mass destruction in contravention of international obligations and Security Council and International Atomic Energy Agency resolutions, as well as hostile policies emanating from the non-recognition of Israel’s right to exist, those cast a dark shadow indeed. Prospects for the Conference’s ability to engage in meaningful negotiations would improve if States adopted a more flexible attitude towards issues other than the four core issues, such as negotiating a ban on the transfer of armaments to terrorists and taking up the threat of ManPads, both of which would be practical steps that tied in closely to the regional challenges Israel faced.
Syria, speaking on behalf of the Group of 21, took the floor to inform the Conference that the Group of 21 had submitted four working papers for the purposes of the annual report that reflected the Group’s common positions on the following issues: nuclear disarmament (CD/1938), the work of the Conference (CD/1939), negative security assurances (CD/1940), and the prevention of an arms race in outer space (CD/1941). The Group of 21 hoped that the papers would be listed under the relevant headings of the report. The Group had already put forward in plenary its positions on the work of the Conference and on nuclear disarmament. In the interest of time the Group had decided not to deliver statements on negative security assurances and the prevention of an arms race in outer space at this time, as its position was reflected in CD/1940 and CD/1941 respectively.
*The documents referenced are not yet publicly available.
Switzerland said the Conference was confronting a major crisis: the deadlock afflicting it must be broken and the Conference must fulfil the role assigned to it. With regard to the draft report, Switzerland expressed its appreciation to the Presidency of Germany for producing the draft text, and its hope that it would be swiftly adopted. It was particularly vital that the report reflected the fact that the Conference was in an impasse and that no true progress had been made during the past year to find a way out of that impasse. The draft did represent a balance between the existing opinions in the forum and a compromise that should be acceptable to all. Adopting the draft would also avoid the Conference embarking on a painful process of drafting a new report, as the outcome of that would be unpredictable.
Spain said it had not taken the floor during the last session in order to be part of the consensus so often spoken about in the Conference, and in order to provide tacit support to the draft text, which reflected all sensitivities as far as possible. Spain understood the longing of some delegations to perfect the text but was concerned that attempts to tamper with the delicate balance of the draft may not have positive results.
Malaysia appreciated the President’s efforts in presenting the draft report in a transparent and efficient manner and said the draft was a balanced document which was factual and reflective of the negotiations and work of the Conference and provided a good basis for discussions. After studying the draft report Malaysia proposed some additional text which it felt would provide further clarity to the report and said it would elaborate on its proposals during the informal plenary.
Australia said that while the Conference was still in formal plenary mode it wished to place some points on the record. The draft report on the conduct and state of the Conference during its 2012 session was adequate and Australia could join consensus on it. Some of the proposed amendments circulated so far did however suggest there was room for technical polish to the draft. Members should not seek to obscure the fact of the Conference’s failure in 2012. To do so would not help the Conference, but instead further undermine its credibility.
Ireland commented that the draft report was a fair and objective document that it hoped the Conference could adopt by consensus.
United Kingdom also commented that the draft report was factual, and while the United Kingdom may have written something different just as every delegation would have given the opportunity, it would be able to join consensus.
Republic of Korea said the draft report was both factual and well-balanced. The 2012 session had continued to witness another year of stagnation with no tangible results. Thus the tone of the report should not be the same as the report of the 2011 session, rather it should more clearly articulate and convey concerns about the Conference, both from inside the Palais des Nations and outside.
New Zealand said that drafting the report was no easy task and it commended the President for his work so far. However, the report could have gone further and given a greater indication of the predicament the Conference was in. New Zealand did understand that the draft report had included the opinions of all delegations in order to best achieve consensus, and New Zealand would join that consensus.
United States said it had reviewed the draft report and concluded that it met its standards. It was factual and met the concerns of members. The United States would join consensus and strongly urged colleagues to join them, even today in the formal plenary. There were other areas of work that the Conference could better spend its time on that had a higher priority for Member States.
Pakistan said the draft report was a good start but there was a lot of room for improvement. Pakistan had submitted a number of amendments which they would push for inclusion during the informal plenary.
Canada said for the record that it could accept that draft report as it stood. It actually found the report too ‘rosy’, but was aware others found it too ‘gloomy’. However it was an adequate reflection of the 2012 session. Canada hoped that the essence of the balance the President had sought to strike in the report would be maintained during the informal negotiations on it.
The President of the Conference addressed the Conference to note the support for the draft report and the many amendments now on the table. Beauty was in the eye of the beholder, he said, and he hoped consensus would be achieved. The President ended the formal plenary and asked delegates to continue the meeting in informal mode to discuss the proposed amendments.
For use of the information media; not an official record