Conference Hears from Netherlands as Incoming President of the Conference and 18 States
7 July 2015
Kim Won-soo, Acting High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, this afternoon addressed the Conference on Disarmament. The Conference also heard from the Netherlands as incoming President of the Conference and from 18 States.
Mr. Kim noted the historical accomplishments of the Conference on Disarmament that had made lasting contributions to international peace and security, adding that the world needed a functioning Conference on Disarmament now more than ever. As the world’s sole multilateral disarmament negotiating body, the onus was now securely on the Conference to bridge the divide between States and get them back to the road on the elimination of nuclear weapons. Mr. Kim appealed to the Conference to demonstrate flexibility, to devise innovative solutions and to reveal the trust necessary to move forward. He recalled that in 2012, the General Assembly had tasked a Group of Governmental Experts to make recommendations on possible aspects that could contribute to, but not negotiate, a treaty banning the production of fissile material. The Group had now agreed on a report, which, inter alia, reaffirmed the Shannon mandate as the most suitable basis for negotiations. The General Assembly would take up the report at its next session later this year. Mr. Kim hoped that the Conference would consider the report a useful contribution that could advance the deliberations of the Conference.
Ambassador Henk Cor Van Der Kwast of the Netherlands, incoming President of the Conference, said that the main aim of the Netherlands Presidency was to provide room for discussion as a means to find common grounds. The important thing was not to stop questioning and see where they could move forward. They had to search for common ground and informal meetings were a way for that. He asked the Council Members to participate in the debate, submit working papers on any issues, and bring experts from capitals or academia into the debate who could help them explore new grounds.
The Council heard from India, China, United States, Russian Federation, Finland, Australia, Japan, Mexico, South Africa, Pakistan, New Zealand, Republic of Korea, Turkey, Italy, United Kingdom, Canada, Belarus, and France.
Most speakers congratulated Michael Møller, Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva, for being officially appointed as Secretary-General of the Conference on Disarmament. They welcomed the address by the Acting High Representative for Disarmament Affairs. Many bid farewell to Ambassador Jean-Hughes Simon-Michel of France and commended his work in the Conference. A number of States referred to a draft decision circulated by the President yesterday on the appointment of a Special Coordinator to seek views and receive proposals on the methods of work of the Conference on Disarmament.
The next plenary of the Conference on Disarmament will be held at 3 p.m. on Wednesday, 8 July to continue the discussion on the draft decision on the appointment of a Special Coordinator on methods of work of the Conference.
Ambassador HENK COR VAN DER KWAST of the Netherlands, incoming President of the Conference on Disarmament, said it was an honour for the Netherlands to take up the Presidency. Some might ask why? Here at the Conference, they talked about lack of progress in disarmament and a stalemate in the Conference on Disarmament. What did that mean, that they should give up and wait for political will to appear like a miracle? The Netherlands did not choose that. The question should be what they could bring to the table. The Netherlands Presidency stood ready to support all proposals to move forward provided that they were realistic. Their main aim was to provide room for discussion as a means to search for common grounds. The important thing was not to stop questioning and see where they could move forward. They had to search for common ground and informal meetings were a mean to achieve that. There were developments that showed that progress was possible, but that needed vision, patience, perseverance and hard work. In view of the Netherlands, the only way forward was to keep on trying. They all claimed to be committed to a world without nuclear weapons, so they had to work for that. Next to the schedule of activities, Netherlands had organized extra meetings on nuclear disarmament, FMCT, PAROS and others and they were open to other suggestions. He asked the Council Members to participate in the debate, submit working papers on any issues, and bring experts from capitals or academia into the debate who could help them explore new grounds.
KIM WON-SOO, Acting High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, noted the historical accomplishments of the Conference on Disarmament that had made lasting contributions to international peace and security. The world needed a functioning Conference on Disarmament now more than ever. Mr. Kim said Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had asked him to convey his best regards to all at the Conference and to remind them of what he had repeatedly told them. The first time Secretary-General Ban had addressed the Conference, he had told them that the Conference had accomplished a great deal, but that they were distant memories, and the Conference must show progress now. Yet the stalemate still persisted. The failure of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference to reach a consensus outcome had been a disappointment for all and it made the imperative for the Conference on Disarmament to break the two-decades-long stalemate even more urgent. As the world’s sole multilateral disarmament negotiating body, the onus was now securely on the Conference to bridge the divide between States and get them back to the road on the elimination of nuclear weapons. Mr. Kim appealed to the Conference to demonstrate flexibility, to devise innovative solutions and to reveal the trust necessary to move forward. The Secretary-General had called on the Conference Members to put aside differences and serve global interests towards a safer world. On many occasions, the disarmament agenda had proved that international solutions were consistent with enlightened national self-interest. They all wanted a world free of nuclear weapons, but as the NPT Review Conference had highlighted, there was a growing rift in how and when to achieve this.
Mr. Kim recalled that in 2012, the General Assembly had tasked a Group of Governmental Experts to make recommendations on possible aspects that could contribute to, but not negotiate, a treaty banning the production of fissile material. The Group had now agreed on a report, which, inter alia, reaffirmed the Shannon mandate as the most suitable basis for negotiations. The General Assembly would take up the report at its next session later this year. Mr. Kim hoped that the Conference would consider the report a useful contribution that could advance the deliberations of the Conference. It was encouraging that the Conference was holding substantive discussions on the four core issues on the agenda of the Conference; the Conference’s continued readiness to explore all avenues to agree on a programme of work and the recent re-establishment of the informal working group on a programme of work were welcomed. Mr. Kim said that he hoped that the Conference would give due consideration to how to make it as effective as possible. Any rules and practices that could be improved to support the work of the Conference should be considered in order to lift the Conference out of its current stalemate. Despite the fatigue and prolonged stalemate, there still existed quite a strong support for the Conference as the venue of choice for future disarmament negotiations. The international community was now eagerly looking to the Conference to validate this support. The continued stalemate was not an option.
India said it had been unwavering in its commitment to universal, non-discriminatory, verifiable nuclear disarmament. Without prejudice to the priority it attached to nuclear disarmament, India supported the negotiation in the Conference of an FMCT that met India’s national security interests. India hoped that the report of the Group of Governmental Experts on FMCT would strengthen international resolve for the early commencement of treaty negotiations in the Conference on the basis of the agreed mandate contained in CD/1299. While sharing the disappointment that the Conference had been prevented from adopting a programme of work, India remained committed to efforts, consistent with the Conference’s rules of procedure, aimed at commencing early substantive work. The United Nations Secretariat, in particular the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs, had an important responsibility in assisting States in pursuing the multilateral disarmament agenda. The Office for Disarmament Affairs should be strengthened.
China said that China attached great importance to the unique role of the Conference and was deeply concerned about its long-standing deadlock. The current situation reflected that the root cause of the stalemate was the lack of political will of different parties on commencing negotiations on different agenda items. As the single multilateral disarmament negotiation forum, the Conference should bear its responsibility to play its due role and commence substantive work as soon as possible. Rather than rigidly sticking to decades old established positions, Member States should adopt a more open attitude, make necessary political decisions, including reviewing positions on the traditional agenda items of the Conference, actively exploring ways to address important emerging issues in the field of international security and arms control, as well as more flexible approaches to traditional agenda items. For some States, the rule of consensus was absolutely crucial for issues they opposed, but to promote other issues in their interests, such States may prefer to give up this principle. Such a cynical approach to the role of consensus was not acceptable. In this regard, the European Union’s decision to organize multilateral negotiations on an International Code of Conduct for Outer Space Activities later this month in New York provided an example. China did not believe that this was an appropriate approach on the part of the European Union to conduct negotiations in good faith. China hoped the European Union would fully address the concerns of China and other States, so as to facilitate broad participation in the meeting.
The United States said that while it supported and stood prepared to contribute to meaningful dialogue on all issues on the agenda of the Conference, the negotiation of a Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty remained the priority of the United States in the Conference. This could benefit from the work of the Group of Governmental Experts. However, the Group’s work was not intended to bypass the Conference, but to illuminate a path for the Conference itself to follow. The United States encouraged the President to consider developing, in consultation with all delegations, a proposal that would allow for civil society to address Conference on Disarmament Member States similar with the approach taken each year at the United Nations First Committee during its session.
Russia said that the fact that the Conference was not holding negotiations was well known. The Conference Members was making energetic efforts to break the long stalemate. The main focus was the speedy adoption of a programme of work. The relevant informal working group had been re-established and was working actively to find acceptable solutions. In the absence of an agreement on a programme of work, informal thematic discussions were currently being held, aimed at clarifying positions. There were interesting and promising ideas were being expressed, including on the updated Russian-Chinese draft treaty on the prevention of placement of weapons in outer space that was ready to be negotiated. Russia also hoped that the Conference would start its review of its methods of work. Delegations were doing everything they could to lay down the foundation for resumption of substantive work.
Finland took note of the message of the Acting High Representative for Disarmament Affairs and thanked him for his encouraging words. Finland, as co-Chair of the informal working group on a programme of work, also took note of the positions expressed by colleagues today. Finland would like to see the impasse in the Conference disappear. Finland was willing to work on the basis of an agreed programme of work at the earliest possible opportunity. Finland thanked the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research UNIDIR for the important role that it played.
Australia said welcomed the President’s positive suggestions contained in his document on planning for the CD presidency. It offered a way forward to further elaborate on the informal discussions that they had been holding over the past few weeks. The Conference was indeed at an impasse, but that made these discussions all the more important. Australia knew that this impasse would not be solved immediately, and it had lasted for 19 years now, but they had canvassed some interesting views in the past few weeks in the context of the informal working group. One way was to look creatively on how to make use of the agenda of the Conference, including the discussion on informal items that the President had proposed. The suggestion from the United States on civil society involvement needed to be looked at seriously. Australia also supported the excellent work of the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research UNIDIR.
Japan said the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs was an integral part of the United Nations machinery, which provided countless support for the promotion of disarmament and was, therefore, indispensable in the area of multilateral disarmament. Japan was fully confident that under the wise guidance of Mr. Kim, the Office for Disarmament Affairs would meet the tasks entrusted to it by the international community. They counted on his leadership. The Conference on Disarmament must be revitalized and undertake its important role to negotiate legal instruments. Japan would continue to make efforts along with other Member States to overcome its longstanding stalemate.
Mexico said that the draft decision on the appointment of a Special Coordinator to seek views and receive proposals on the methods of work of the Conference did not reflect all the comments and views expressed by delegations at the informal meeting held on 30 June, or represent a compromised proposal as it did not request the same level of compromise of the membership. Mexico believed that a Special Coordinator could contribute to gather views and proposals, but in order to be able to have a broad panorama of the current situation, he had to be entitled to consult, not just the membership of the Conference, but the United Nations membership and civil society representatives. Also, Mexico attached high importance to the fact that his report constituted an official document of the Conference to be included in the annual report of the 2015 session of the Conference.
Activities and discussions which did not constitute negotiations were not substantive work of the Conference. Therefore, the informal meetings which the President proposed were another way to keep the Conference busy in front of its inability to fulfil its mandate. If the Presidency had already decided to hold discussions according to its plan, why not have them as formal meetings. In this way, at least there would be some record of them.
South Africa said it wished to address the Conference on the President’s draft decision on the appointment of a special coordinator to seek the views and receive proposals on the methods of work of the Conference with the view to improved and effective functioning of the Conference on Disarmament. South Africa wished to register its concern that some of the proposals made, which had garnered the support of a number of delegations, did not appear in the text. This may create an impression that the views of some were more important than others. South Africa was very much aware that Members of the Conference had different priorities and concerns, but these need not necessarily be mutually exclusive. If the Membership of the Conference would show some flexibility and compromise, it should be possible for all of them to work together. The exercise of flexibility could not be a one way street and South Africa expected to be treated in a reciprocal manner. However, it seemed that some refused to recognize the legitimate concerns of others. Of particular interest for South Africa were those proposals which were linked to the need for the special coordinator to consult with the United Nations members and civil society. The views of all States and representatives of civil society should be taken into account. South Africa was also interested in the views expressed about the report of the special coordinator. Previous version called on the special coordinator to report on the outcomes of his consultations, but the latest version restricted these reports to the agreed outcomes. South Africa believed that all the proposals that were made during the consultations must be included in the report. South Africa maintained that the appointment of a special coordinator lay with the President and was designed as a deadlock breaking situation. The continued impasse was not sustainable and had affected relevance of and confidence in the Conference.
Pakistan said that he had asked for the floor to comment on the so-called work plan of the Presidency, which raised two particular concerns for Pakistan which needed to be addressed forthwith. Pakistan did not understand why one of the longest standing items on the Conference’s agenda, also part of the four core issues, i.e. negative security assurances, did not appear in the work plan. The issue of negative security assurances enjoyed broad support and was the most ripe for commencement of negotiations in the Conference. Pakistan also noted that the President intended to devote a day and a half to discuss the group of governmental experts’ FMCT report, even though Pakistan had clearly said before that it was not in a position to accept any conclusion or recommendations produced by this group. Pakistan was ready to generically discuss the FMT issue in any setting in the Conference. Pakistan requested the President to change his draft work plan accordingly by deleting any and all references to the report of the group of governmental experts on FMCT.
New Zealand said it was an honour to have listened today to the Secretary-General’s Acting High Representative for Disarmament Affairs and welcomed to share with him some of New Zealand’s views on the Conference, regretting only that they could not be more optimistic. New Zealand lauded the ambition of the President, but did not expect that even the extent of the discussions planned would meet its expectations regarding the need to advance matters on the agenda of the Conference: making urgent progress on nuclear disarmament. New Zealand saw the debate that the President had scheduled for 4 August as providing additional space to consider this issue, even if it was realistic about the value of further engagement of it in the Conference.
Republic of Korea said today they heard from the Acting High Representative for Disarmament Affairs and Korea extended its welcome to him. As Mr. Kim mentioned in his statement, the Conference was urgently called upon to start negotiations as a matter of priority. They needed to take this as a solemn call for the Conference to revitalize its work. Korea had actively participated in the structured informal discussions this year and had made its position very clear that its priority was to start FMCT negotiations. Although this was to be decided tomorrow, the Republic of Korea supported the draft decision on the appointment of a special coordinator with a mandate to seek views and receive proposals on methods of work for the improved and effective functioning of the Conference on Disarmament.
Turkey said the Conference on Disarmament had a special responsibility regarding the disarmament agenda. However, the Conference had been unable to fulfil its mandate for too long. Today Turkey repeated its disappointment over the stalemate that had prevented it to play its role. They should all strive to maintain the relevance of the Conference by fulfilling its fundamental task; to undertake disarmament negotiations. Recent informal discussions in the framework of the informal working group on a programme of work were an important attestation to their collective endeavour to find a way that would commend consensus. An essential step would be the commencement of negotiations on a non-discriminatory, multilateral and universally and effectively verifiable treaty to ban the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices. The challenges were not created by its procedures or internal dynamics, and the consensus rule was paramount in this regard. They had to carefully the state of affairs. There was a certain malaise throughout the disarmament fora and machinery.
Italy said that effective multilateralism and the contribution of the United Nations disarmament machinery were crucial for disarmament and the Conference on Disarmament remained the unique forum established to negotiate multilateral treaties. It was of utmost importance to promote the Conference’s primary role in promoting substantive negotiations related to disarmament. Italy shared the concern about the situation of the Conference and deeply convinced that resuming its substantive work was imperative. In this context, agreement on a programme of work had to be pursued tirelessly. Italy was ready to evaluate any constructive proposals and to support innovative solutions to revive the role of the Conference. No effort should be spared to put the Conference back on track. Italy supported the adoption of the decision on the appointment of a special coordinator to seek views and receive proposals on methods of work.
United Kingdom welcomed the President’s initiative taken on 6 July, although it did not necessarily believe that the plenary sessions that he had proposed were necessarily governed by articles 6 and 7 of the rules of procedure, the articles concerning conduct of work and organization of work. They could of course spend the plenaries listening to each other’s optimistic statements on arrival and less optimistic statements on departure, or they could have a more useful exchange of views on the items on their agenda. That would be easier if they knew when this could be done. The United Kingdom was uncertain about the link between the group of governmental experts and the failure of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference to agree on a consensus outcome as set out by his colleague from Pakistan. The 2010 Review Conference was a success and its outcome had directed a number of actions at the Conference on Disarmament, foremost among them negotiation of an FMCT, but Pakistan had blocked progress on such negotiations then, just as it did this year.
Canada welcomed the President’s proposed agenda for the coming month. They had heard much discussion in this room about the rule of consensus, including today. Canada’s views on this issue were well known. Canada had strongly questioned the use of consensus as a veto power to block the ability of the Conference to return to work. It was disturbing to Canada that consensus was now being used to question the prerogative of the President to set an agenda for the Conference to discuss informally. Canada welcomed the proposal to hold informal discussions on the topics the President had proposed and would welcome others, including negative security assurances. With regard to the work of the group of governmental experts, it was never intended to supplant the Conference but to assist it.
United States echoed what his British and Canadian comments about the rule of procedure of the Conference. The United States looked forward to a fulsome discussion in the Conference of the group of governmental experts report on an FMCT. There should be no fear in discussing it. As for why the Conference had been unable to negotiate an FMCT, it was very clear, an attempt to blame other countries for why we are not able to move forward in the Conference was unfortunate and without foundation.
Russia said they needed to go back to the beginning of the session to understand certain things. It was unfortunate that the High Representative was no longer here as he might get a one-sided view on what was taking place with the draft decision on the appointment of a special coordinator on the methods of work. At the beginning when that question was discussed, Russia proposed to not make haste and to identify what was meant by methods of work. This was rejected by the Presidency that was upset. When the question of an informal working group on methods of work was proposed, Russia suggested the same type of approach, because most delegations did not show the willingness to discuss in detail what was meant by methods of work. Russia showed some flexibility, to limit the work of the working group by specifying clearly that the rule of consensus would not be discussed. The Conference on Disarmament had three specific features: consensus, limited membership and the mandate to hold negotiations. If they removed two of the pillars, removed consensus and adopted decisions by majority, and if they broadened the membership, then the only thing left would be the mandate to have negotiations, but it would not be important. As for methods of work, one of the diplomatic methods of work was consultations with delegations. Informal consultations and thematic discussions were being carried out fully in line with rules of procedure.
Belarus said it had not intended to take the floor but some of the comments by his colleagues had required reaction. First of all, as far as the assessment of the situation in the Conference was concerned and the lack of progress, there was a pretty flexible position here. Belarus was ready to support the start of negotiations on the FMCT, on prevention of an arms race in outer space, on negative security assurances and also on nuclear disarmament, but it saw that the key issues were blocked and any repetitive statements were not appropriate. Belarus was ready to join consensus and support the draft document that the President had proposed and was circulated yesterday, but if they were unable to reach consensus on that issue, Belarus would like to repeat its suggestion. The President decision said the Conference could hold one or two plenaries on methods of work of the Conference, and the results would be reflected in a report. In this way, they would take into account the desire of delegations to hold substantive discussions on this issue and avoid unnecessary manipulations on the preparations of some type of report.
Pakistan said he needed to respond to his worthy colleagues from the United States and the United Kingdom. There was a misunderstanding on their part of the rules of procedures. Rule 15 stated clearly that the Conference shall conduct its work and adopt its decisions by consensus, and that the work of the Conference shall be conducted in plenary meetings as well as any other additional arrangements agreed on informally, with or without experts. As for rule 30, it stated that the subject of statements made in plenary meetings would normally correspond to the topic then under discussion. However, it was the right of any Member State of the Conference to raise any subject relevant to the work of the Conference at a plenary meeting, which was what he said in his statement. What he had objected to was that it was not for the President to prejudge and bring into discussion a document which was not a document of the Conference.
France said as he prepared to leave Geneva, he wished to present his farewell to the Conference. He was leaving with heartfelt emotion. Since he had arrived in Geneva in 2012, he had had the chance to negotiate two treaties and see France sign and ratify them. The treaty on trade in arms was an innovative instrument which was a historic turning point. The other was the treaty on a nuclear weapon free zone in central Asia. He was happy to leave Geneva with the meetings of the Convention of Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) on lethal autonomous armed systems moving in the right direction and the start of the process of improvised explosive devices, one of the most deadly weapons today. They must move towards the universalization of the CCW. As for the Conference, it served no purpose to denigrate this institution. He regretted that they had been unable to start negotiating an FMCT, but debates had been held that had moved things forward.
For use of the information media; not an official record