THE CONFERENCE ON DISARMAMENT ADOPTS ANNUAL REPORT TO THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY
Hears a statement by the High Representative for Disarmament Affairs and closes its 2012 session
13 September 2012
The Conference on Disarmament today adopted its annual report to the General Assembly and concluded its 2012 session. It also heard a concluding statement by the United Nations High Representative for Disarmament Affairs.
Angela Kane, High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, said that the 2012 session had once again reached an impasse which was a setback in the effort to advance global disarmament goals. The failures of the Conference on Disarmament were not the failures of the Conference on Disarmament – they were the failures of diplomacy. Now that another year had passed without disarmament negotiations, Member States at the General Assembly would have to consider the fate of negotiations on a fissile material treaty, of the rest of its agenda, and of the Conference as a whole. Defending national security was of course a key priority for Member States. But at the same time it was crucial that States recognized that national security was also linked to the security of one’s neighbours and to regional and global security. The world faced new risks and challenges to its common security. If it managed to address the challenges of disarmament, it would be able to better create a platform for common actions to address those new challenges as well.
During the discussion that followed the adoption of the annual report, delegations congratulated the President for his efforts to reach a consensus, and reported their satisfaction with the report. Some speakers expressed their disappointment and frustration with the deadlock the Conference continued to experience. Several speakers regretted that the annual report did not fully reflect the impasse, and said that the report was not fully factual. Other speakers highlighted the importance of the Conference as the only international forum available to discuss disarmament issues.
In his concluding remarks, Ambassador Hellmut Hoffmann said the Conference had been warned that it had lost it raison d’être and that it would become increasingly difficult to escape the reality of the current situation. Voices were increasingly being heard questioning whether the Conference deserved the resources devoted to it and many people said that the pressing issues of disarmament could not wait any longer.
The following delegations took the floor: Netherlands, Finland, Ireland, Spain, Ecuador and Cuba Algeria, Syria (on behalf of the Group of 21), Japan, Russia, Switzerland, Canada, China, Indonesia, Sweden, Iran, Australia, France, Egypt, Ethiopia, Austria, Croatia, Colombia, United States, Libya, Belarus and Hungary.
The adopted annual report 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 next session of the Conference on Disarmament would begin in January 2013.
Statement by the High Representative for Disarmament Affairs
ANGELA KANE, High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, said that over the years the Conference had produced an impressive record of achievements, treaties that had served to reduce existential threats to humanity. However, those threats were far from eliminated and institutional challenges remained to be solved. As the 2012 session of the Conference drew to a close, the High Representative said she recognized with satisfaction that the Members of the Conference had reached agreement on its report to the sixty-seventh session of the General Assembly. She paid tribute to the outgoing presidents – of Ecuador, Egypt, Ethiopia, Finland, France and Germany – for their efforts in overcoming the long negotiating impasse in the Conference. The High Representative also expressed gratitude to the Secretary-General of the Conference on Disarmament, Mr. Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, for his many efforts to help Member States to move forward at a time when neutral or reverse were not acceptable options. However, in spite of all those efforts, the session had once again reached an impasse, which would be viewed as a setback in the effort to advance global disarmament goals, in particular the elimination of nuclear weapons.
The Conference on Disarmament’s difficulties were not due to a lack of commitment among States to the core issues on its agenda. The thematic discussions initiated by the Ethiopian Presidency and held over the last few months witnessed just the opposite. Delegations from 49 Member States of the Conference on Disarmament as well as observer States took part in the substantive discussions, which were supplemented by gatherings of scientific experts and diplomats in meetings on technical issues related to a fissile material treaty organized by Germany and the Netherlands, as well as by The United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR) Conference on outer-space security. Yet the stalemate continued and its roots lay in the Conference’s external political environment and conflicts between key policy priorities and perceived interest of States. Overcoming that stalemate would require more than just institutional reforms of the Conference or finding a new venue for negotiations, but also genuine commitment by its Member States. The High Representative said she joined the Conference on Disarmament Secretary-General in recognizing that the difficult political environment could not be a basis for complacency. States had debated ways out of the deadlock, including the possibility of taking some issues out of the Conference, pursuing a fissile material treaty as a priority or advancing nuclear disarmament pursuant to a comprehensive framework. However, those goals could not be effectively addressed merely through compacts adopted by coalitions of the willing. The consensus rule existed because it rested on the common-sense notion that universal norms required universal support.
Greater attention should be directed to exploring diplomatic means of establishing a political climate that could enable the Conference to commence negotiations. The failures of the Conference on Disarmament were not the failures of the Conference on Disarmament – they were the failures of diplomacy. The burdens of real progress rested with Member States, not the forums in which they met. As a negotiating venue the Conference and its predecessors proved capable of negotiating multilateral treaties even during the negative political environment of the Cold War, conditions far worse than prevailed today. What would it take to revive the institution and to restore its status as the single multilateral disarmament negotiations forum? With respect to nuclear disarmament a renewed commitment by the States with the largest arsenal was needed.
Now that another year had passed without disarmament negotiations at the Conference on Disarmament, Member States at the General Assembly would have to consider the fate of negotiations on a fissile material treaty, of the rest of its agenda, and of the Conference as a whole. Defending national security was of course a key priority for Member States. But at the same time it was crucial that States recognized that national security was also linked to the security of one’s neighbours and to regional and global security. The world faced new risks and challenges to its common security. If the world managed to address the challenges of disarmament, it would be able to better create a platform for common actions to address those new challenges as well.
Statement by the President of the Conference
Ambassador HELLMUT HOFFMANN of Germany, President of the Conference on Disarmament, opened the meeting by expressing his condolences to the United States on the killing of their Ambassador and three diplomats in Libya this week. Conference Members had spent time considering the annual report which was to be adopted today, and which was factual and reflected a diversity of views. Delegations had had to be flexible in order to reach a consensus, and the President thanked them for their spirit of cooperation.
Statements prior to the adoption of the Report
Netherlands noted that it had organized a meeting which was attended by 67 States representatives and experts who discussed issues related to disarmament. Finland said that the drafting of the report had demanded great effort and thanked the German presidency and the Secretariat for their work. Ireland said that the adoption of the report was never easy, which maybe showed that there was a growing feeling that the status quo was no longer acceptable. Spain said it was not entirely satisfied by the content of the report, but was attached to the rule of consensus of the Conference. As coordinator of the Group of Western States, Spain congratulated the German presidency for its work. Ecuador said that the report was not truly satisfactory, but believed that in the near future, improvement would be possible. Cuba thanked the President and reiterated its support to his work.
Adoption of the Report
At this point in the meeting Member States adopted the annual report to the General Assembly, contained in document (CD/WP.573), which will soon be publically available on the webpage of the Conference.
The President of the Conference said that the report adopted was in line with the rule of procedure of the Conference on Disarmament because it was factual. The President regretted that the Conference had once again failed in performing its mandate, which, speaking as the Ambassador of Germany, he found unacceptable.
Algeria commended the dedication, objectivity and neutrality of the President of the Conference, who had treated everyone equally. It welcomed the adoption of the 2012 report, which was a balanced document meeting the requirements of the rules of procedure. Algeria hoped that progress would be achieved in the future.
Syria, on behalf of the Group of 21, expressed its satisfaction on reaching consensus on the annual report, and congratulated the President for his leadership. The Group wished to re-emphasize that the Conference on Disarmament remained the single disarmament negotiating forum, and it would continue advancing the work of the Conference and reaching consensus that took into consideration the concerns of all States.
Japan expressed its satisfaction that the Conference had reached consensus although it did not reflect entirely the troubles that the Conference faced. Japan commended the President for his work.
Russia thanked the President and asked whether it was possible to discuss the drafting of the resolution that would present the annual report to the General Assembly. Russia encouraged all Member States to consider the way forward before the start of the General Assembly.
Switzerland said that the report was a very important document and reflected well the discussions the Conference had on the revitalization of its work. Switzerland would have preferred the report to address more clearly the impasse and failure of the Conference to achieve its work.
Canada said that it appreciated the vital work undertaken by the President. Canada said that the report was an adequate reflection of the work of the Conference. Canada worried that countries saw the Conference on Disarmament as an end in itself rather than an important forum to adopt international instruments on disarmament. Canada would work toward ending the impasse.
China said that the work of the Conference this year had shown that its Members were ready to explore effective means to break the impasse and to work towards disarmament. China hoped that all parties would maintain the authority of the Conference, which could not be replaced by other fora. China looked forward to the work of the Conference in 2013.
Indonesia welcomed the adoption of the report and said that only strong political will could lead to breaking the impasse of the Conference.
Sweden said that the report was a compromise between different views and welcomed its adoption. It congratulated the President of the Conference and its team for their work.
Iran said that it really appreciated the work of the President of the Conference in making the compromise that allowed all delegations to support the annual report.
Australia said that it did not consider the report to be the factual document that the General Assembly deserved, despite the warnings of the United Nations Secretary General. The fact that the report was a political document was a political reality. However, ultimately, there was no ambiguity as to the facts, that everybody knew. Everybody knew the tone of the warning that the Secretary-General delivered to the Conference on January 24 2012. Everybody knew the significant efforts made by the six Presidents in 2012, including Ambassador Badr of Egypt, in order to return the Conference to its rightful place among productive multilateral institutions. Everybody knew the results of those efforts.
France regretted that some proposals could not be retained in the final draft, but expressed its satisfaction that the Conference had reached a consensus on it. France said that the 2012 session was ending on a good note.
Egypt thanked all Delegations for welcoming its new Ambassador, commended the work of the President of the Conference on Disarmament, and said that the statement by Ms Kane did reflect many of its concerns, including on the issue of nuclear disarmament.
Ethiopia said that it was regrettable that another year had passed without the Conference completing its work. Ethiopia believed that discussions had generated valuable input by Member States for the future of the work of the Conference. Ethiopia reiterated its view that nuclear disarmament was of utmost importance.
Austria said that it would continue to try to find a way towards substantive negotiations, and would continue to do so in Geneva and in New York.
Croatia thanked the President and his team for their work.
Colombia thanked the President for his work, said that it appreciated the adoption of the report although it did not fully reflect the failure of the Conference. The Conference was a tool towards nuclear disarmament and not an end in itself.
United States said that the negotiations of the report constituted valuable conversations on the work of the Conference. It thanked the delegations that had expressed their condolences for the killing of American diplomats in Libya.
Libya said that it condemned the attacks against American diplomats that took place on its territory. It also commended the work of the Presidency on the annual report.
Belarus said that there may be a feeling of disappointment for some Delegations, but it was important that consensus had been reached. It was also important to remind the General Assembly that the Conference on Disarmament was vital and had to be preserved as the only forum available to discuss the issues.
Hungary commended the work of the Presidency of the Conference, and said that it remained optimistic for the forthcoming consultations in New York and Geneva to be constructive. Hungary would take a down-to-earth, realistic approach when it took over the Presidency of the Conference next year, and planned to hold bilateral and informal consultations with as many of the Member States as possible, as well as informal consultations with regional groups, before the start of the 2013 session.
Ambassador HELLMUT HOFFMANN of Germany, President of the Conference on Disarmament, concluded the 2012 session of the Conference by recalled that at the beginning of his term as President of the Conference, on August 21, he expressed his deep sense of the frustration and hopelessness oozing from the walls of the Council Chamber. The Conference had been warned that it had lost it raison d’être and that it would become increasingly difficult to escape the reality of the current situation. Voices were increasingly being heard questioning whether the Conference deserved the resources devoted to it. It became increasingly difficult to see how the Conference could in the near future achieve its objectives, said the President, and many people said that the pressing issues of disarmament could not wait any longer. He concluded that the climate in the Council Chamber, however, was very positive and collegial.
For use of the information media; not an official record