Informal Working Group mandated to produce a programme of work
16 August 2013
The Conference on Disarmament this afternoon held a plenary meeting in which it adopted a draft decision for the establishment of an informal Working Group with a mandate to produce a programme of work robust in substance and progressive over time in implementation.
The outgoing President of the Conference, Ambassador Mohammad Sabir Ismail of Iraq, said that today was an important moment in the history of the Conference on Disarmament. From now on they would be able to openly address the issues that had prevented them from agreeing a programme of work. The President hoped that today’s decision would represent the beginning of a new phase for the august body and lead to a return to substantive work.
In statements following the adoption of the decision, countries congratulated the President, Ambassador Mohammad Sabir Ismail, and the Secretary-General of the Conference, Mr. Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, on their success, efforts and initiative. Some speakers outlined their expectations for the Working Group, that it would quickly produce tangible results and work in a transparent manner. Speakers hoped the Working Group would change the dynamics of negotiations on a programme of work and provide for improved continuity in those negotiations. Some speakers noted that the informal Working Group was time limited to 2013. Other speakers expressed scepticism as to how effective the Working Group would be in ending the impasse of the Conference, with some suggesting the deadlock was due to a lack of political will rather than the rules of procedure. A speaker said he hoped the decision could lead to a programme of work which would enable the Conference to get back to the work entrusted to it by the international community, which was to negotiate disarmament treaties.
The following countries took the floor in the plenary: France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Russia, China, Pakistan, Mexico, Switzerland, United States, Malaysia, Australia, Iran, Ireland, United Kingdom and the Netherlands.
The next public meeting of the Conference on Disarmament will be at 10 a.m. on Tuesday 20 August, under the Presidency of Ireland.
Statement by the President of the Conference on Disarmament
Ambassador MOHAMMAD SABIR ISMAIL of Iraq, President of the Conference, asked members to give their support by adopting a draft decision for the establishment of an informal working group with a mandate to produce a programme of work robust in substance and progressive over time in implementation, as proposed on 18 June by Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, Secretary-General of the Conference on Disarmament.
The President said that a revised draft decision had been circulated yesterday, but that between yesterday afternoon and today he had received two additional small amendments which he had reflected in the text. He asked the Secretariat to circulate the amended text to delegations and suspended the meeting to allow for some time for consideration of the text. The draft decision would be issued as official document (CD/1956/Rev.1 - link forthcoming). He called upon the Conference on Disarmament to adopt the draft decision.
The decision (CD/1956/Rev.1 - link forthcoming) was adopted by consensus.
France said the decision was a success, both for the Presidency and for the Conference on Disarmament. Naturally, the decision, which had been described of ‘great importance’, was not a programme of work but it was an important step in the right direction. It showed that the Conference was capable of taking initiatives and finding solutions with respect to the rules of procedure in order to overcome the problems it faced. France understood that the Working Group would be provided with interpretation in all six official United Nations languages and noted its commitment to multilingualism within the United Nations.
Germany welcomed wholeheartedly the adoption of the decision to establish an informal Working Group and applauded the President for his tireless efforts to negotiate a programme of work, as well as the Secretary General of the Conference on Disarmament Mr. Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, whose initiative to revitalize the Conference was at the origin of today’s decision. Germany said it could have accepted the programme of work as presented by the President, although it was aware that the language contained in his proposal touched on red lines. A less stringent language simply could not have met consensus.
Germany expected that the Informal Working Group would produce tangible results very soon, change the dynamics of negotiations on a programme of work and provide for continuity as the co-chairs would be in a position to sustain their efforts over a longer period of time. The Working Group should provide for more transparency as all discussions on a work programme would be carried out within the Informal Working Group, thus enabling all members to explain their position and fully participate, as well as negotiate acceptable language for a programme of work.
India applauded the President’s energy, diligence and sustainability and said that with regard to the draft decision adopted, India’s position was that the best way to revitalize the Conference on Disarmament would be to adopt and implement a programme of work such as the one adopted in 2009 by consensus. India had reluctantly agreed to go along with the decision to set up an Informal Working Group in the hope it would lead to negotiations. It would be perverse if the Conference on Disarmament was to become a platform for reopening longstanding consensus agreements and for endless procedural debates, which would take it further away from the prospect of early negotiations. Further, India understood that the Informal Working Group did not take away from the President of the Conference the responsibility, under the rules of procedure, to draw up the Programme of Work and present it to the Conference for consideration and adoption.
Indonesia said they appreciated the two-track approach initiated by the President, and his hard-work and commitment to bring everyone on board in formulating the draft decision. While it was impossible to satisfy all parties, in its current wording there were a number of conditions that would make it difficult for the Informal Working Group to perform properly. Indonesia said establishment of the Informal Working Group was just one attempt to break the impasse in the Conference and overcome the stalemate.
Russia thanked the President for his energy and Mr. Tokayev for his leadership, as well as thanking the delegations that had shown a constructive approach and made it possible to adopt the decision today. Russia had views about the way the Informal Working Group should work but said it would reserve them until the start of negotiations in that forum.
China welcomed the adoption by the Conference during the Presidency of Iraq of the decision on the establishment of the Informal Working Group. The adoption of the decision was a reflection of the diplomatic leadership and wisdom of the President, as well as the active and constructive advice put forward by Secretary General Mr. Tokayev. The adoption of the decision by consensus showed that so long as all parties displayed political will, real and substantive work was in reach. China hoped that the concerns of all parties would be met by the Informal Working Group in order to promote the re-launch of substantive work in the Conference.
Pakistan thanked the President for his tireless efforts to promote consensus, and his efforts that had led to today’s decision on establishment of an Informal Working Group. Pakistan also expressed appreciation to the Secretary General Mr. Tokayev for putting forward such a useful proposal. Pakistan wished all concerned success in their efforts to make progress. Pakistan said there was a need to be realistic and know that in order to make progress the views of all members of the Conference on Disarmament had to be taken onboard, with the aim of re-starting substantive work in the next year.
Mexico emphasized that, as per paragraph six of the decision CD/1956/Rev.1, they understood that the informal Working Group was limited in time and duration. That should be appropriately reflected in the annual report of the Conference on Disarmament. The Working Group did not represent substantive work of the Conference. The Conference was currently ineffective and it was inacceptable to continue using human, financial, professional and political resources in the institution when it did not meet its mandate. The priority of the Conference was to achieve nuclear disarmament through negotiations: that must take place either in the Conference or in another forum.
Switzerland said that like all speakers it thanked the President for his tireless efforts and congratulated him on the adoption of CD/1956/Rev.1. Switzerland welcomed the decision for its potential to change the dynamics in the Conference. Nevertheless the Informal Working Group would have to overcome significant challenges to meet expectations, and Switzerland hoped it would meet its responsibilities. Switzerland thanked the Ambassador of Ecuador, Mr. Luis Gallegos Chiriboga and the Ambassador of Australia, Mr. Peter Woolcott, for agreeing to act as co-Chairperson and vice-co-Chairperson and wished them success in their leadership.
United States said that above all they shared the desire of many to see the Conference get down to substantive work, in particular negotiations on a Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty, as reaffirmed by President Obama in his 19 June address in Berlin. In that context the United States noted that document CD/1864 was still the one Programme of Work that commanded consensus, and for the United States remained the touchstone for a balanced and comprehensive approach. The United States considered the informal Working Group a potentially useful intermediate step, although the meaning of “robust in substance and progressive over time in implementation” may be interpreted in various ways; for the United States that meant a programme of work that provided for negotiations on a Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty and for continuity in such negotiations once initiated.
Malaysia said that, as stated previously, it welcomed the establishment of the Informal Working Group and saw the decision as a positive step in the right direction. Malaysia looked forward to participating actively in the work of the informal Working Group. After many years of frustration Malaysia hoped there would be light at the end of the tunnels and wished the Working Group success.
Australia said today’s decision was a positive step, but just that, a step. It hoped it would change the negotiating dynamics in the Conference on Disarmament. The Ambassador of Australia said he looked forward to working closely with colleagues in his role as vice-co-Chairperson of the Working Group in the critical task of formulating a programme of work.
Iran said the crux of the inactivity of the Conference on Disarmament over the last decade was the lack of political will, and inertia in changing the self-sustainable attitude to self-security. The resistance against fulfilling the Conference’s mandate – achieving nuclear disarmament – remained high so long as the presumption of the Cold War continued. There would be no breakthrough in fulfilling the mandate, thus the impasse remained a problem of substance, not of the rules of procedure, or institutional issues. Therefore Iran had doubts over how the informal Working Group would solve the problem and help overcome the deadlock when the problem was the lack of political will.
Iran said that the duration of the Working Group would be limited solely to 2013. The Working Group may continue its work in 2014 if there was a need, and after assessing its usefulness, and only if the Conference on Disarmament made a separate decision in 2014 in that regard. Iran emphasized that although the meaning of “robust in substance and progressive over time in implementation” may be interpreted in various ways, for Iran it meant producing a programme of work on achieving nuclear disarmament and for persistence in negotiations once started.
Ireland said the adoption of the decision was indeed a beginning and not an end, and would need the commitment of all. Ireland was confident that the decision could lead to a programme of work which would enable the Conference to get back to the work entrusted to it by the international community, which was to negotiate disarmament treaties.
United Kingdom congratulated the President on his success and said they did not underestimate the challenge facing the co-Chair and the vice-co-Chair in their task on the informal Working Group and assured them of the full support of the United Kingdom.
Netherlands also congratulated the President and reminded all of the need to be constructive in order for the Conference to achieve what it was meant to, as well as what it was paid to do.
Concluding Remarks by the President of the Conference
Ambassador MOHAMMAD SABIR ISMAIL of Iraq, President of the Conference on Disarmament, said that today was an important moment in the history of the Conference on Disarmament. From now on they would be able to openly address the issues that had prevented them from agreeing a programme of work. The President hoped that today’s decision would represent the beginning of a new phase for the august body and lead to a return to substantive work. The President thanked his colleagues and all involved for their support and hard work. He wished the incoming president, the Ambassador of Ireland, success in his Presidency.
For use of the information media; not an official record