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CONFERENCE ON DISARMAMENT EXAMINES WAYS FORWARD TO ADOPTING A PROGRAMME OF WORK

Secretary-General of the Conference on Disarmament urges Member States to Address Challenges of Rapid Development of Technology
30 January 2018

The Conference on Disarmament this morning discussed possible ways of moving ahead toward agreement on a programme of work. Michael Møller, Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva and the Secretary-General of the Conference, addressed the delegates at the beginning of the meeting and reiterated his commitment to support Member States in moving past the blockages.

Mr. Møller also noted that the Secretary-General had put disarmament on the top of his agenda and had tasked his new High Representative for Disarmament Affairs to assist the Conference in moving forward on a number of important issues. Mr. Møller was especially mindful of the need to address the challenges posed by a rapid development of technology, in particular to regulate its use and inject it with a dose of ethics.

The President of the Conference, Ambassador Ravinatha Aryasinha of Sri Lanka, noted the need for a further effort to build convergence among the Member States on any of the agenda items and proposed a discussion, in an informal setting, of the past proposals on the programme of work and a reflection on why they did not work. This would produce a narrowed-down list of proposals on the programme of work which could be discussed in a formal setting and in a more focused manner.

Egypt stressed the importance of negotiating in the Conference a comprehensive nuclear disarmament convention and the establishment of a subsidiary body to deal with nuclear disarmament. Poland said that the Conference was a living institution whose agenda was not set in stone; it must become again a donor of security solutions, preceded by a vibrant political debate. Russia remarked that disarmament processes had never been simple or easy and that acceptable solutions could only be found on the basis of respectful dialogue and fully taking into account the security concerns of each Member State. Myanmar noted that the Conference should not limit itself to traditional priorities and that new challenges - lethal autonomous systems, cyber security threats, and chemical and biological terrorism - should find their way into its work as part of reframing and modernizing long-standing disarmament and non-proliferation priorities.

Kazakhstan noted that the Conference was the most appropriate panel for reaching mutual agreement on fostering international security and peace and that was why it needed to move ahead, with flexibility and a keen sense of responsibility with which it was entrusted. Mexico hoped that the consultations and discussions would bring about a proposal for a programme of work which could be examined as a whole and expressed concern that the Conference continued to meet without concrete proposals for a programme of work by the Presidency, in accordance with rules of procedure. India suggested the areas for focused consideration and action this year in the Conference on Disarmament, including to promote and enhance trust and confidence between all States and to revise the rules of procedure and extend the duration of the presidency of the Conference from four to eight weeks.

China bid farewell to the Permanent Representative of Russia and thanked him for his efforts over the past six years on breaking the deadlock in the Conference.

The Conference approved requests by Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Greece, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Portugal and Thailand to participate as observers in the 2018 session of the Conference.

The President said the high-level segment of the Conference on Disarmament will be held from 26 February to 2 March, in conjunction with the Human Rights Council and other United Nations system meetings taking place in Geneva. The Conference will hold its next public plenary on Thursday, 1 February at 10 a.m.

Statements

RAVINATHA ARYASINHA, President of the Conference and Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka, welcomed Michael Møller, Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva and the Secretary-General of the Conference.

MICHAEL MØLLER, Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva and the Secretary-General of the Conference, wished the Member States a productive year and reiterated his commitment and the commitment of the Secretary-General to support them in moving forward and past the blockages that had been there for far too long. The Secretary-General had put disarmament on the top of his agenda, and had tasked his new High Representative for Disarmament Affairs to come up with creative ideas, and together with others in the United Nations system, to assist the Conference to move forward on a number of important issues. Mr. Møller said he was particularly mindful of the need to address the challenges posed by a rapid development of technology which so far had been unregulated, and in particular to inject it with ethics for future use. The only way to do it was to do it collectively, concluded the Director-General.

RAVINATHA ARYASINHA, President of the Conference and Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka, fully acknowledged the importance of establishing a programme of work for the Conference early and stressed that it should evolve through an expeditious process of consultations and consensus making. Further effort was needed to build convergence among the Member States on any of the agenda items, said Mr. Aryasinha, and noted that the compilation of past proposals on the programme of work circulated to the delegations earlier clearly showed the amount of time and efforts over the years. It was now necessary to bring some clarity on why it did not work and why the Conference remained unable to adopt a programme of work. The President then suggested that the Conference discussed, in an informal setting, those past proposals, which could inspire, and reflect on the reasons why all that work “did not work”, and based on this discussion, narrow down the proposals on a programme of work, to be then discussed in a more formal setting. This approach could allow for a more focused deliberation in the plenary, allowing the Conference to find common grounds, said Mr. Aryasinha and expressed hope that this would be agreeable to all delegations.

Egypt stressed the importance of negotiating in the Conference a comprehensive nuclear disarmament convention and the establishment of a subsidiary body to deal with nuclear disarmament. Welcoming the adoption of the non-discriminatory legal norm prohibiting the development, testing, production, possession, use or threat of use of nuclear weapons, Egypt regretted that this had not been achieved in the Conference. It was important to address the Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty and to adopt a convention prohibiting arms race in outer space. Nuclear disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation were mutually reinforcing and were essential for international peace and security; the Conference must fulfil its mandate and start negotiations on legally binding instruments on its four core agenda items. Egypt remained committed to the establishment of a zone free of nuclear weapons and free from all weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East and stood ready to cooperate and engage with all constructive proposals to this end.

Poland strongly supported bringing the Conference on Disarmament back to work, noting that it did not operate in a vacuum. While it could not be disconnected from the constantly changing world, the Conference should not be driven only by tensions, conflicts and highly sophisticated political calculations. Agreeing that the reasons for the current stalemate were found mainly outside the Conference, Poland underlined the need to examine whether all possibilities within the Conference’s framework had been explored. The agenda was not written in stone, it should build on past achievements and retain its negotiating and deliberative character, because the Conference on Disarmament was and must remain a living institution. It must become again a donor of security solutions which must be preceded by a vibrant political debate. Last year’s work in the context of the Way Ahead Working Group would prove useful in spite of not being conclusive enough.

The Permanent Representative of Russia, in his farewell address, remarked that the inability of the Conference to return to substantive work was due to important differences between the delegations while the situation in the world was not very conducive to progress in the disarmament arena. Still, there were foundations for consensus if the delegations showed flexibility and willingness to compromise. Member States must be the ones to show respect for this single multilateral negotiating forum on disarmament, and must refrain from taking actions which would violate its norms, and also tone down the rhetoric as there was harm in mutual allegations. Disarmament processes had never been simple or easy and acceptable solutions could only be found on the basis of respectful dialogue and fully taking into account the security concerns of each Member State, said Russia, insisting that decisions be made by consensus, which was a guarantee of their universal acceptance. Russia was committed to restoring the viability of the Conference on Disarmament and agreed that proposals made earlier needed to be revisited, including those made by Russia on preventing an arms race in outer space.

Myanmar said that the tensions and danger in the Korean Peninsula was the most worrying security challenge in the world today and urged the continuation of positive engagements, such as the high-level talks and the Olympic diplomacy. Global military expenditures now exceeded the Cold War levels - channelling only 20 per cent of those expenditures into rural and urban areas and in social protection for 15 years would bring about the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030 and the realization of just, peaceful and prosperous societies and better security environment for future generations. Myanmar considered nuclear disarmament as the highest priority and it supported the establishment of a subsidiary body in the Conference to deal with nuclear disarmament and the immediate commencement of negotiations on a comprehensive nuclear weapons convention. Pending the elimination of nuclear weapons, it was urgent and legitimate for non-nuclear-weapon States to call for unconditional security assurances in a legally binding instrument and the Conference should be responding to this call by creating a subsidiary body with an appropriate mandate. On the way forward, Myanmar noted that substantive discussions on all agenda items had taken place last year in the context of the Way Ahead Working Group, which had brought about a better level of understanding on security concerns and the approaches of others. While its work could not replace the programme of work, it was the next available alternative in the absence of such a programme. The Conference should not limit itself to traditional priorities and new challenges such as lethal autonomous systems, cyber security threats, and chemical and biological terrorism, should also find their way into the work of the Conference as part of reframing and modernizing long-standing disarmament and non-proliferation priorities.

Kazakhstan stood ready to join the efforts in the Conference in overcoming the long-lasting impasse and reiterated the commitment to the goals and objectives of this sole multilateral forum fully authorised to negotiate disarmament matters in all its aspects. The Conference was the most appropriate panel for reaching mutual agreement on fostering international security and peace and that was why it needed to move ahead, with flexibility and a keen sense of responsibility with which it was entrusted.

Mexico stressed the imperative for the Conference to fulfil its mandate entrusted to it by the General Assembly and reiterated its readiness to begin negotiations in this forum on any of the agenda items. Mexico hoped that the consultations and discussions would bring about a proposal for a programme of work which could be examined as a whole and expressed concern that the Conference continued to meet without concrete proposals for a programme of work by the Presidency, in accordance with rules of procedure.

India suggested the areas for focused consideration and action this year in the Conference on Disarmament, saying that the Conference must move for the early adoption of a programme of work that allowed for substantive work on the core agenda items. It was possible to move forward step-by-step, with the protection of the rule of consensus being here when any Member State felt that the direction and the pace of substantive movement on any issue were not in accordance with their security interests. It should tighten the links with other parts of the international framework for disarmament, particularly the new work on nuclear disarmament verification and the work on the Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty in the High-level preparatory group. Another area of focused action was to promote and enhance trust and confidence not only among the States which possessed nuclear weapons but between all States, particularly in the matters of terrorism, nuclear weapons in outer space, and nuclear doctrines. Finally, India said that working methods needed to be examined and the Conference should aim to revise the rules of procedure and agree that one presidency of the Conference would last for eight and not the current four weeks, which would go a long way in increasing the efficiency and would be more in line with requirements of the present.

China bid farewell to the Permanent Representative of Russia and thanked him for his efforts over the past six years on breaking up the deadlock in the Conference and energetically engaging in other areas such as human rights.

The Permanent Representative of Russia thanked all for their warm words and reiterated his best wishes for the Conference.


For use of the information media; not an official record

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