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CONFERENCE ON DISARMAMENT DISCUSSES DRAFT DECISION ON ESTABLISHMENT OF FIVE SUBSIDIARY BODIES ON AGENDA ITEMS

13 February 2018

The Conference on Disarmament this afternoon discussed draft decision on the establishment of subsidiary bodies to discuss the agenda items in order to progressively advance the substantive work of the Conference.

Ravinatha Aryasinha, President of the Conference and Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the United Nations Office at Geneva, proposed the adoption of draft decision to establish five subsidiary bodies: four bodies on agenda items one to four, and the fifth one on agenda items five, six and seven, and on emerging and other issues relevant to the Conference, with a view to progressively advance the substantive work in the Conference. The subsidiary bodies would work to deepen the technical discussions and progressively broaden areas of agreement through the participation, in accordance with the rules of procedure, of relevant experts and representatives of civil society, and would consider effective measures, including possible legal instruments for negotiations.

In the discussion on the draft decision, Argentina welcomed the Presidency’s proposal as an excellent alternative that could redirect the Conference to a constructive dialogue, and Hungary recognized that it had taken into account the work done in the past and was geared towards making progress. Italy stressed that a proper mix of formal and informal meetings was the right way to facilitate frank and free exchanges. Norway noted that the proposal would allow the Conference to work in a far more substantive and structured manner compared to what had been done for many years. China warned that the Conference had to scrupulously respect the rules of procedure when including civil society in its work and that those who had shown a very arrogant attitude towards the Conference should not be invited. Pakistan noted that all subsidiary bodies should have an equal allocation of time and Indonesia stressed that future deliberations in the subsidiary bodies should not hinder the work on the core issues of the Conference.

Bulgaria said that the Conference should adopt a realistic approach and further explore converging elements to prepare grounds for future negotiations, while Chile said that although not perfect, the draft decision reflected the main proposals put forward in the past several weeks. Australia welcomed the intention to deepen technical discussions including through participation by relevant experts, while South Africa was wary of the proposal to roll-over the decision on the establishment of subsidiary bodies at the beginning of each year as it was likely to create problems. Mexico emphasized that deliberations on disarmament affairs were useful but there were other fora in the disarmament machinery for that purpose; if the Conference was not negotiating, it was failing in fulfilling its mandate. Turkey said that with the draft decision the Conference was on the right way to commence substantive work. Switzerland noted that discussing substance and technical aspects presented a very pragmatic approach, and that the proposal to open deliberations on emerging security issues was important.

Egypt considered that the outmost priority of the Conference was the adoption of a balanced and comprehensive programme of work with a negotiating mandate, while Iran remarked that the draft decision did not contain any reference to it. Russian Federation stated that the idea contained in the draft decision was useful and timely because it allowed members of the Conference to determine the best possible means to move ahead. Brazil preferred not to have yet another round of negotiations on the draft text and urged the President to judge which amendments would be acceptable without hurting the consensus. Morocco said that the Conference should consider extending its membership to allow for more transparency and democracy and for new and innovative ideas, while Latvia hoped that all observer States would be allowed to follow the work of the established subsidiary bodies in formal and informal settings. The Netherlands urged the delegations not to focus too much on the process and technicalities, but on delivering substance. Spain noted that all technical discussions should be aimed at finding a common middle ground for adopting a programme of work.

France outlined the advantages such as taking up discussions of substance, guaranteeing continuity in the Conference’s work on substance, and increasing true inclusiveness and openness by allowing for the participation of experts. Germany stressed that the draft decision was a chance to move forward and bring the Conference forward and Sweden confirmed that, as the next Presidency holder, Sweden would be very happy to continue the work of the current Presidency. India said the draft decision was an opportunity to underline the importance of the Conference and the substantive work it was capable of conducting. Japan suggested an appointment of a coordinator of each subsidiary body as soon as possible and creating concrete discussion points on each agenda item.

United Kingdom and United States proposed amendments to the draft text.

The Conference decided to invite the representative of United Arab Emirates to participate in the work of the Conference during 2018.

The next public plenary of the Conference on Disarmament will be held on Wednesday, 14 February, from 3 p.m. until 5 p.m.

Statements

RAVINATHA ARYASINHA, President of the Conference and Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the United Nations Office at Geneva, presented the draft decision which proposed the establishment of five subsidiary bodies: four bodies on agenda items one to four, and the fifth one on agenda items five, six and seven, and on emerging and other issues relevant to the Conference. The subsidiary bodies would work to deepen the technical discussions and progressively broaden areas of agreement through the participation, in accordance with the rules of procedure, of relevant experts and representatives of civil society, and would consider effective measures, including possible legal instruments for negotiations. Each subsidiary body would be chaired by a coordinator appointed annually by the Conference. The progress achieved and agreed on in each subsidiary body would be submitted by its coordinator to the Conference, through the President, for adoption and due reflection in the annual report of the Conference to the General Assembly of the United Nations. The draft decision would be reconfirmed, as appropriate, at the beginning of the subsequent annual sessions of the Conference.

Argentina welcomed the Presidency’s proposal as an excellent alternative that could redirect the Conference to a constructive dialogue. The idea of having the same programme of work for future sessions would facilitate the continuity of substantive discussions was an essential element to finding consensus which would allow the Conference to move towards more realistic mandates, in line with the context of international security. As for the proposed subsidiary bodies, informal meetings should be made an exception rather than the rule.

Hungary stated that the President’s proposal was acceptable because it had taken into account the work done in the past and was geared towards making progress.

Italy noted that the President’s proposal captured the points of convergence in the Conference and that there was a need for a certain level of ambition to overcome the deadlock. The programme of work with one or more negotiating mandates would be the most desirable option but in the absence of a consensus, other alternatives should be explored. The establishment of subsidiary bodies was a valuable step forward and a proper mix of formal and informal meetings was the right way to facilitate frank and free exchanges.

China said that although it was not entirely satisfied with the draft decision it would support the Presidency. The participation of non-Member States in the work of the Conference was far more important than the participation of non-governmental organizations because their participation could make the Conference more universal, inclusive and democratic. It was essential to scrupulously respect the rules of procedure when including civil society in the work of the Conference, and examine their requests on a case-by-case and person-by-person basis. Those who had shown a very arrogant attitude towards the Conference should not be invited.

Norway emphasized the need for all the Member States of the Conference on Disarmament to show sufficient flexibility to allow it to get back to work. The current proposal was not ideal, but it would allow for the work in a far more substantive and structured manner compared to what had been done for many years. It was obvious that there should be more deliberations on the Conference’s core issues in order to commence negotiations and the current proposal would allow Member States to broaden areas of agreement.

Pakistan stated it was ready to support the draft decision which was very well balanced, even though it had not met all its priorities. It provided a framework for substantive discussion on all items without prejudice. All subsidiary bodies should have an equal allocation of time.

Indonesia supported the draft decision and noted that the establishment of subsidiary bodies was a viable solution to maintaining the positive momentum in the Conference. To disagree on the establishment of those bodies would prolong the current impasse. Future deliberations in the subsidiary bodies should not hinder the work on the core issues of the Conference and should be structured to avoid political statements.

Bulgaria shared the view that the Conference should adopt a realistic approach and further explore converging elements in order to prepare grounds for future negotiations. Bulgaria therefore found the draft decision acceptable and favoured the mix of formal and informal discussions in the proposal.

Chile agreed with the majority of delegations that a programme of work with a negotiating mandate should be adopted as soon as possible and said that while the draft decision undoubtedly was not a perfect one, it reflected the main proposals put forward in the past several weeks. Chile welcomed the proposal for experts and civil society to take part in the Conference’s work.

Australia supported the draft decision as it represented a genuine, practical step to focus on substance. It recognized the reality that the Conference needed to progressively advance its work in the fulfilment of its mandate, and welcomed the intention to deepen technical discussions, including through participation by relevant experts. The proposal to roll-over the decision on the establishment of five subsidiary bodies at the beginning of each year was appropriate.

South Africa would have preferred if the President had tabled a draft programme of work with a negotiating mandate, but was conscious that in the absence of a consensus on a programme of work, the creation of subsidiary bodies could be the only proposal that stood the chance of being adopted. South Africa warned that the proposal to roll-over the decision on the establishment of subsidiary bodies at the beginning of each year was likely to create problems.

Mexico expected the President, particularly the first one, to exert all his effort to present a programme of work with a negotiating mandate. Deliberations on disarmament affairs were useful but there were other fora in the disarmament machinery for that purpose, said Mexico, stressing that if the Conference was not negotiating, it was failing in fulfilling its mandate. By focusing on deliberations, the Conference was duplicating the functions of other elements of the machinery, such as the General Assembly and the United Nations Disarmament Commission. The establishment of yet another deliberative exercise in a global context than desperately needed progress in disarmament, fell behind the expectations.

Turkey stated that the draft decision reflected most of the delegations’ expectations. The Conference was on the right way to commence substantive work and Turkey welcomed the proposal to establish five subsidiary bodies in that regard.

United Kingdom proposed an amendment regarding the rules of procedures on formal and informal meetings of subsidiary bodies.

Switzerland expressed the support for the draft decision and the direction it had laid out and said that the proposed subsidiary bodies should have equal time to deliberate. Discussing substance and technical aspects presented a very pragmatic approach, while the proposal to open deliberations on emerging security issues was important. The draft decision would allow the Conference to progressively move forward on substance and to adopt a negotiating mandate, concluded Switzerland.

United States noted that much of the language in the preamble of the draft decision was unnecessary and proposed a deletion a paragraph. Further, there should be no separate reference to civil society and experts in order to avoid subsidiary bodies being bogged down in procedural discussions. The proposal for subsidiary bodies to meet formally and informally was welcome.

Egypt underscored that the conclusion of negotiations on legally binding instruments was the main responsibility of the Conference, and said that the text of the draft decision did not reflect that responsibility. The draft decision should contain strong language on the importance of negotiating legally binding instruments as the primary work of the Conference.

Iran noted that the draft decision did not contain any reference to a programme of work and did not follow the rules of procedure. The text introduced new language with respect to States’ level of armament and military forces, and delegations should not be hasty in adopting the draft decision.

Russian Federation remarked that the draft decision would allow members of the Conference to determine the best possible means to move ahead and stressed that the absolute priority was the early adoption of a programme of work. The Russian Federation would support the draft decision if there was consensus on it.

China, in a right of reply, expressed surprise that so many delegations had proposed amendments to the draft decision noting that it should have been done at a much earlier stage. China urged delegations to show restraint when deciding to move forward with a decision on the draft decision, given the near end of the President’s mandate.

Brazil stated that an agreement on the draft decision would represent an important step forward for the Conference and expressed its full support for the draft text. Preferring not to have yet another round of negotiations on the draft text, Brazil said the President should judge what amendments would be acceptable without hurting the consensus.

Morocco supported India’s proposal to extend the mandate of the Presidency for another four to five weeks in order to finish the work in relation to the draft decision. The Conference should consider extending its membership to allow for more transparency and democracy, and for new and innovative ideas.

Netherlands was ready to be part of any needed consultations and said that although the draft decision was not the most optimal solution, it was the most realistic one. Delegations should not focus too much on the process and technicalities, but on delivering substance, and should demonstrate restraint in proposing too many amendments.

France supported the draft decision because it presented several advantages, such as taking up discussions of substance, and guaranteeing continuity in the substantive work. Also, by allowing for the participation of experts, the proposal represented true inclusiveness and openness.

Spain noted that the draft decision provided a reasonable and realistic approach which could lead to the possible adoption of a programme of work. All technical discussions should be aimed at finding a common middle ground for adopting a programme of work.

Sweden said that the draft decision was a solid foundation for further work, and that as the next Presidency holder, Sweden would be very happy to continue the work of the current Presidency.

Germany stressed that the draft decision was the smallest common denominator, which constituted a viable road forward. It contained some key elements which distinguished the Conference’s work from previous sessions. There was a chance to move forward and bring the Conference forward by adopting the draft decision.

India stated that the President had looked for the maximum stretch in every possible direction and urged caution in tinkering with the proposed text. The draft decision was an opportunity to underline the importance of the Conference and the substantive work it was capable of conducting.

Japan invited the President to exert his prudence in order to avoid the repetition of discussions and said that it might be helpful to appoint a coordinator of each subsidiary body as soon as possible, and create concrete discussion points on each agenda item.

Latvia expressed hope that all observer States would be allowed to follow the work of the established subsidiary bodies in formal and informal settings, and that such a notion would be incorporated in the draft decision.

RAVINATHA ARYASINHA, President of the Conference and Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka, thanked all delegation for their comments and proposals and said that the revised version of the draft decision would reflect the broadest possible consensus.


For use of the information media; not an official record

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