CONFERENCE ON DISARMAMENT CONSIDERS WAYS TO FIND CONSENSUS ON DRAFT PROGRAMME OF WORK
Will meet Friday to consider proposal to establish an informal working group
13 August 2013
The Conference on Disarmament this morning held a plenary meeting in which the President of the Conference announced that Members did not find consensus on his proposed draft programme of work.
The President of the Conference, Ambassador Mohammad Sabir Ismail of Iraq, said
that reaching agreement on a comprehensive and balanced programme of work that reflected the concerns of all Conference on Disarmament members was his priority, as it was his responsibility as President, although it was also the collective responsibility of all Member States. The President said his work had resulted in the draft programme of work CD/1955 (link forthcoming). It was unfortunate that once again the Conference had been unable to agree a common language that would enable it to resume substantive work. The President said they could next draw inspiration from the proposal to establish an informal working group with a mandate to produce a programme of work, and that he would ask the secretariat to circulate today a draft decision on such proposal, which will be discussed at the next plenary on Friday.
During the discussion, delegates regretted that even the modest draft programme of work submitted by the President had not met the agreement of all delegations. The Netherlands hoped Members of the Conference would stop saying ‘no’ to every proposal at some point, allowing it to do what it was supposed to do, negotiate treaties. Russia said that resuming substantive work, especially on the issue of prevention of the deployment of weapons in outer space, was a matter of urgency. The United Kingdom warned that countries had already been flexible and stretched to an uncomfortable position to seek consensus on the draft programme of work, and it should not be expected that such flexibility could always be shown in the future.
The Netherlands, Russia, United Kingdom and Switzerland spoke.
The next public plenary of the Conference will be held on Friday 16 August at 3 p.m.
Statement by the President of the Conference on Disarmament
Ambassador MOHAMMAD SABIR ISMAIL of Iraq, President of the Conference, made introductory remarks and comments. He quoted from the address by the Foreign Minister of Iraq, Hoshyar Zebari, to the Conference on 26 June 2013, in which the Foreign Minister said “Iraq attached major importance to the Conference on Disarmament as the sole multilateral forum for engagement on disarmament issues. The Conference had a good record. Unfortunately it was now going through a very complicated period and decisive crossroads. In light of regional crises, terrorist threats and the increased threat of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction it was paramount for the Conference to redouble efforts to reach agreement on a comprehensive and balanced programme of work and to move and work on the agenda of items of the Conference”.
The President referred to procedural rules of the Conference, emphasizing that reaching agreement on a comprehensive and balanced programme of work that reflected the concerns of all Conference on Disarmament members was his priority, as it was his responsibility as President. However, submitting a programme of work was also the collective responsibility of all Member States. In line with various proposals submitted during the session, the President said he had been actively and intensively working to accomplish the desired outcome, and to bridge the gaps between the different positions of members.
Following many consultations between Member States on the current draft programme of work, the President said he believed he could narrow down the positions of Member States into four categories. First was the position of the majority of Conference Members, which was that they supported and encouraged the adoption of a programme of work as a necessary step; the second category was those members who had expressed concern at the formulation of the current draft programme of work but who had expressed readiness to join consensus for sake of the common good; the third category comprised Members who voiced concern about language which fell below expectations; and the fourth category included those Member States that saw the context of the draft programme of work associated with their national security concerns.
Obviously the stalemate that the Conference on Disarmament faced negatively affected multilateralism and the objective on which the body was built. The impasse must be overcome in full transparent manner, at all levels including capitals. The President said his work had resulted in the draft programme of work CD/1955. It was clear that the compromise would be found not only inside but also outside the Conference, which was not working in a vacuum but overwhelmingly related to the worldwide security environment. It was unfortunate that once again the Conference had been unable to agree a common language that would enable it to resume substantive work. The draft programme of work CD/1955 (link forthcoming) would be recorded as an official Conference on Disarmament document, and the President hoped it would be useful for continuing discussions in the future. It was worth building on the momentum reached.
The President said they could now draw inspiration from the proposal presented on 18 June 2013 by Kassym Jomart-Tokayev, Secretary-General of the Conference on Disarmament, to establish an informal working group with a mandate to produce a programme of work. That idea had now moved beyond the planning stage. The President said he had drafted a decision on the drafting of an informal working group which would be circulated as a ‘non-paper’ after the plenary. He would submit that decision at the next plenary, which would take place on Friday 16 August at 3 p.m. in order to give delegations time to consult with their capitals.
Netherlands said that disarmament was an important priority for them, and the logical and long overdue next step would be the negotiation of a treaty banning the production of fissile material. The successful conclusion of the Arms Trade Treaty negotiations showed that progress in multilateral disarmament was indeed possible. Speaking in disarmament terms, the President bit the bullet by presenting a programme of work, although that bullet turned out to be a rubber bullet in terms of the very modest proposals. The Netherlands sincerely regretted that even that modest Programme did not find the agreement of all delegations. At the same time, the Netherlands appreciated that the President had a ‘Plan B’, which was welcomed and strongly supported, although the Netherlands emphasized that they considered that to be the very bottom line. After 17 years of procedural obstructions it was high time for the Conference on Disarmament to get its act together and start working on what it was meant to do, that was negotiate disarmament treaties. How long could an international body thrive on the success it had almost two decades ago? That was particularly true in a time of budget cuts. Saying ‘no’ was a stage in human development. Young children, as toddlers, are so excited when they learn they can say ‘no’ that they say ‘no’ to everything. After a certain period the excitement ends and you can discuss with them normally. The speaker hoped that in the Conference on Disarmament the excitement at saying ‘no’ to every proposal would also end at some point, thus allowing it to do what it was supposed to do, negotiate treaties.
Russia said the substantive document prepared was deserving of support and thanks to the President’s efforts the Conference was close to reaching consensus on a draft programme of work. Russia deeply regretted that it had not been able to be adopted. It hoped that discussions on the draft would continue, and that those who found it unacceptable would change their stance and be able to adopt the draft in future. Lifting the Conference out of its stalemate and allowing it to restart substantive work was a matter of urgency. The issue of prevention of the deployment of weapons in outer space was especially urgent. Russia was convinced that work of the Conference on Disarmament could continue within the informal working groups proposed by Kassym Jomart-Tokayev, Secretary-General of the Conference on Disarmament, and Russia was able to support that proposal.
United Kingdom said it regretted that it had not been able to achieve consensus on a programme of work and that the vast majority of countries had already been flexible and stretched to an uncomfortable position to achieve consensus, and it should not be expected that such flexibility could always be shown in the future. The United Kingdom would be keen to engage in an informal working group should the proposal be accepted, and hoped that future decisions would not be constrained by those made in the past.
Switzerland expressed words of support and encouragement towards the President’s efforts, including his proposal for setting up informal working groups.
For use of the information media; not an official record