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CONFERENCE ON DISARMAMENT HEARS STATEMENTS ON SECOND REVISED DECISION ON SUBSIDIARY BODIES AND SPECIAL COORDINATORS

12 March 2019

The Conference on Disarmament this morning discussed the second revised draft decision on the establishment of subsidiary bodies and special coordinators.  The President of the Conference announced that the draft decision will be tabled for adoption on Thursday 14 March.

The President of the Conference, Ambassador Aidan Liddle of the United Kingdom, opened the floor for the discussions on the revised draft decision CD/WP.619/Rev.2 circulated on 11 March, and stressed that it was a procedural decision and not a legally binding treaty; the only obligation was for the delegations to continue the dialogue from 2018 and build on the substantive work as a step towards the negotiations.

At the beginning of the meeting, Ambassador Syed Md Hasrin Syed Hussin of Malaysia, Chair of the Third Preparatory Committee for the 2020 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, addressed the delegates and stressed that neither the Treaty nor the Conference worked in a vacuum, but in a given geopolitical context.  In every challenge, there were opportunities, and States should utilize those for the common good.

In the discussion on the second revised draft decision, Peru said that establishment of the special coordinator for membership expansion was an opportunity to start the dialogue on mechanisms of acceptance of new members and what that would entail.  The text did not spell out everything in detail and therefore involved an element of trust, which was a positive thing, and it should not be overthought, said Australia.  The adoption of the draft decision would very much pave the way towards an agreement on a genuine programme of work, said Morocco, which expressed its full support.  Canada said that the revised decision was as good as the Conference could get it in 2019.  From the outset, Russia had spoken in favour of a direct link between the work of the subsidiary bodies and the Conference’s agenda, and said that the revised text did not take into account its position. 

The Conference had an opportunity this week to show it was capable of continuing the work started in 2018, Germany said and stressed that the optimum was the enemy of the doable.  The United States welcomed the clarifications on special coordinators on membership expansion and methods of work and stand ready to support the text.  The Republic of Korea welcomed the more realistic timetable for the work of subsidiary bodies and the attention to equal gender representation.  While not perfect, the text represented the best option to achieving consensus, said France.  Japan emphasized the need for the coordinators to focus on substantive planning and identification of priority items for discussions as soon as the work started.  India observed that the text was very close to commanding consensus and stressed the need to trust coordinators of the subsidiary bodies in leading the work forward.

Egypt was convinced that coordinators would carry their work with professionalism and impartiality and remarked that most of the meetings in the proposed timetable would coincide with the holy month of Ramadan.  South Africa remarked on the lack of a clear and strong language concerning the negotiating mandate.  Mexico stressed in considering topics, subsidiary bodies had to take into account all the elements - past, present, and the future.  Cuba raised the concern that the focus on the subsidiary bodies might actually move the Conference from its core mandate and responsibility, and that the draft decision would not lead the Conference towards a negotiation on legally binding treaties.  Pakistan said that the framework the draft text would establish would be a concrete contribution to resuming the discussions in the Conference on substantive issues, without prejudicing any result or any national interest.  

Venezuela expressed concern that the preference to establishing subsidiary bodies was a tactic to avoid the immediate start of negotiations, and stressed that the discussion on membership should not aim to exclude some States. The timing of the proposal on special coordinators raised doubts over the motives, Syria said, adding that the blockage in the Conference was due to the absence of political will and the increasing propensity by some countries to promote their own political agendas.  China emphasized that the draft decision aimed to allow the Conference to conduct its substantive work and expressed its confidence that the coordinators would fully respect and absorb the views and opinions of all members of the Conference.  Iran asked for the clarification on the dimension, scope and the specific methods of working methods of the subsidiary bodies and the special coordinators.  Algeria said that the setting up of the subsidiary bodies under the agenda items of the Conference would bring the Conference closer to revitalizing the work based on its negotiating mandate. 

Turkey was not convinced of the utility of establishing special coordinators and said that the Conference should proceed with the setting up of subsidiary bodies for now.  Brazil said that the decision could command consensus and explained that the coordinators should act as impartial facilitators at the service of the Conference and nothing more.  Belarus remarked that the division between core and non-core items of the Conference did not respect today’s contemporary reality, and suggested that the language in the draft text should enable special coordinators to hold at least one or two informal meetings.  Argentina stressed the importance of negotiating legally binding instruments and said that the subsidiary bodies were mandated to prepare the ground for that work.  The Netherlands said that the text did not contain everything the Netherlands wanted to see, but it was ready to go along in the spirit of compromise.  Chile stressed the need for a degree of flexibility in the work of the special coordinators.

In his concluding remarks, Mr. Liddle said that he did not intend to circulate a new draft decision and that any clarifications or explanations would be provided orally during the next plenary meeting.  The President urged all delegations to seek instructions from their capitals and enable the Conference to take action on the draft decision on Thursday 14 March.

The next plenary of the Conference on Disarmament will take place at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 14 March 2019.

Discussion

SILVIA AFFARO, new Permanent Representative of Peru to United Nations Office at Geneva,
reiterated Peru’s commitment to peace, disarmament, and strengthening of international security, and regretted that the consensus on a programme of work had eluded the Conference and further deferred the start of the negotiations.  Peru stand ready to support the draft decision and said that the very precise description of subsidiary bodies would avoid selective approach to topics.  Peru welcomed the reference to legally binding instruments and said that the establishment of the special coordinators for expanding membership was an opportunity to start the dialogue on mechanisms of acceptance of new members and what that would entail.  The timetable only contained meetings of subsidiary bodies but not of special coordinators, Peru noted, and stressed that empowering women and gender equality had a direct impact on peace and security in the world.  As a non-permanent member of the Security Council, Peru was promoting this transversal theme, an important component of which was the fight against sexual violence in conflict.

SYED MD HASRIN SYED HUSSIN of Malaysia, Chair of the Third Preparatory Committee for the 2020 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, expressed his condolences to families and friends of the United Nations staff who had lost their lives in the tragic crash of the Ethiopian Airlines.  He then stressed the synergies between the Conference on Disarmament and the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, and emphasized that neither worked in a vacuum but in a given geopolitical context.  In every challenge, there were opportunities, he said, adding that it was a collective responsibility of States to identify and utilize them for the common good.

AIDAN LIDDLE of the United Kingdom, President of the Conference on Disarmament, opened the floor for the discussions on the revised draft decision CD/WP.619/Rev.2 circulated on 11 March, and briefed the Conference on the changes in the revised text.   They included, inter alia, nominations of special coordinators, while the subsidiary bodies timetable now contained eight and not ten meetings.  Mr. Liddle reiterated that this was a procedural decision, not a legally binding treaty; the only obligation was for the delegations to continue the dialogue from 2018 and build on the substantive work as a step towards the negotiations; the draft decision, he stressed, was the best and the only way of doing that in 2019.  There was no intention on the part of the presidency to submit further revisions of the draft and any changes, based on the discussions today and consultations with regional groups, would be catered to orally, said the President, announcing that he would table the decision for adoption on Thursday 14 March.

Australia agreed that the draft decision represented a good balance and expressed its support.  The text did not spell out everything in detail and therefore involved an element of trust, which was a positive thing.  Australia said that there was no need to overthink it and urged the adoption of the draft text.

Morocco reiterated its support for the establishment of the subsidiary bodies to allow the Conference to re-engage in substantive work as soon as possible, and said that the adoption of the draft decision would very much pave the way towards an agreement on a genuine programme of work.  Morocco expressed its full support for the text, noting that the President had consulted broadly to explore every possibility toward its adoption and that the text represented a very wise compromise that took into account different opinions.

Canada agreed with previous speakers and said that the revised decision was as good as the Conference could get it in 2019.  If the Conference did not adopt the text this week, it would probably spin off in various directions during the year.  Canada supported the adoption of the draft decision.

Russia welcomed the President’s efforts to strike a compromise on the draft decision which should lead the Conference towards an adoption of a balanced programme of work.  From the outset, Russia had spoken in favour of a direct link between the work of the subsidiary bodies and the Conference’s agenda, and stressed the importance of a balanced and comprehensive approach to all items on the agenda.  The revised text did not take into account the position of Russia, and the delegation was awaiting the instructions from its capital.

Germany stressed that the Conference had an opportunity this week to show it was capable of continuing the work started in 2018 and reiterated that the text was a procedural one.  It was about discussing what the Conference was mandated to discuss, stressed Germany, which was ready to support the text even if it was not fully satisfied with it.  The optimum was the enemy of the doable, Germany said, and urged all to adopt the draft decision.

United States recalled that, from the outset, it had been sceptical about the reiteration of the work in subsidiary bodies and was disappointed that the new text watered down the language on subsidiary bodies.  Welcoming the clarifications in the new draft on special coordinators on membership expansion and methods of work, the United States said it was ready to engage in discussions and stand ready to support the text.

Republic of Korea believed that the new text was more rich and improved, and incorporated many suggestions heard during the discussions.  The Republic of Korea welcomed the more realistic timetable for the work of subsidiary bodies and the attention to equal gender representation, and hoped that all delegations would support the document.

France preferred the first version of the decision, which reflected in a more appropriate way the state of the consideration of the four core subjects, which France believed should be addressed separately.  Diluting the mandates of subsidiary bodies risked losing progress, thus France was in favour of organizing their work thematically.  Still, while not perfect, the text represented the best option to achieving consensus.  France was ready to support the text but would not be able to agree on any version that would be further watered down.

Japan said that the decision would ensure that the work in subsidiary bodies in 2019 would build on the work achieved the previous year, and said that once the work started, it would be necessary for the coordinators of the subsidiary bodies to focus on substantive planning and identify priority items for discussions.

India observed that the text was very close to commanding consensus and asked the President to explain the genesis and the rationale of the wording which had not been there before, namely the reference to “promoting multiculturalism”.  India also asked the President to explain why a reference to legally binding instruments was included in three subsidiary bodies, but not in the subsidiary body two.  India stressed the need to trust coordinators of the subsidiary bodies in leading the work forward and deciding on the format of the meeting.

AIDAN LIDDLE, President of the Conference on Disarmament and Permanent Representative of the United Kingdom to the Conference on Disarmament, explained that the paragraph referencing multiculturalism was a suggestion by one of the delegations.  As for the absence of a reference to legally binding instruments in subsidiary body two, the President said that, given the different views on the ban of the production of fissile material, the language in the revised decision was an attempt to ensure that the conversation could continue, rather than to close it.

Egypt welcomed the proposal for subsidiary bodies’ coordinators and was convinced they would carry their work with professionalism and impartiality.  Egypt suggested that their reports should be submitted, through the President, to the Conference for adoption.  Most of the meetings in the proposed timetable would coincide with the holy month of Ramadan, Egypt said, and urged the President to take that into account, as well as to ensure that subsidiary bodies coordinators had flexibility in their work.

South Africa expressed several concerns related to the draft decision, the chief of which was a lack of clear and strong language concerning the negotiating mandate.  The Conference on Disarmament had been set up to negotiate international treaties in the area of nuclear disarmament, reiterated South Africa.

Mexico recalled its serious concern about the interpretation of the wording “building on the principles identified in subsidiary bodies reports from 2018” and stressed that subsidiary bodies must not be limited by its previous work and that in considering topics, they had to take into account all the elements - past, present, and the future.  Mexico agreed with Egypt on the need to strike a balance between formal and informal meetings of subsidiary bodies, and expressed its preference for formal meetings as the norm.

Cuba welcomed the reference to legally binding instruments in the work of subsidiary bodies and stressed the need for a careful definition of criteria for the selection of subsidiary bodies coordinators who would carry much responsibility for the implementation of the work.  Cuba welcomed the deliberations in the Conference, however, since its mandate was to negotiate treaties, the focus on the subsidiary bodies might actually move the Conference from its core mandate and responsibility.  Cuba hoped that its substantive concerns could be accommodated, especially as the draft decision would not lead the Conference towards a negotiation on legally binding treaties.

Pakistan agreed that it was impossible to reconcile all the delegates’ views and preferences and acknowledged the President’s efforts to do so in the second revised draft.  While Pakistan would have preferred the titling of the subsidiary bodies in accordance with the Conference agenda items, and an establishment of a subsidiary body on new and emerging issues, Pakistan recognized that the draft decision was a compromise text and as such it could not fully accommodate all the delegations.  The framework to be established through this decision would be a concrete contribution to resuming the discussions in the Conference on substantive issues, without prejudicing any result or any national interest.

Venezuela expressed concern that the preference to establishing subsidiary bodies was a tactic to avoid the immediate start of negotiations, and said that Venezuela would support their establishment only if they would be a tool to bring the Conference to negotiating international disarmament treaties.  There should be a subsidiary body to deal with emerging issues, Venezuela said and asked for the clarification on the format of discussions on the expansion of membership and on methods of work, and the related timetable.  Substantive issues should not be held hostage to procedural ones for it would only prolong the deadlock, stressed Venezuela, and emphasized that the discussion on membership should not aim to exclude some States.

Syria said that the draft text did not include clarifications on the mandate of the special coordinators on the methods of work and on expansion of membership and raised concern that the timing of the proposal raised doubts over the motives, especially since the Conference had been able to achieve tremendous progress under the current methods of work.  The blockage was due to the absence of political will and the increasing propensity by some countries to promote their own political agendas, and not because of the methods of work or the membership.  Syria was not in a position to agree on this unclear proposal that would make the work of the Conference even more complicated, and reiterated its earlier proposal to split the decision into two, one on subsidiary bodies and another on special coordinators.

China appreciated the efforts of the President to absorb the comments and views of the delegations in the new draft and said China was looking forward to adopting it on Thursday 14 March.  The reference to promoting multiculturalism in the new text could be changed to multilateralism, something everyone could agree on, China said.  The title of the subsidiary body two should reflect the corresponding agenda items of the Conference, and include a reference to legally binding instrument.  The draft decision was procedural one which aimed to allow the Conference to conduct its substantive work, and the coordinators of subsidiary bodies appointed by the President would continue to fully respect and absorb the views and opinions of all members of the Conference on Disarmament, China remarked.

Iran emphasized that the Conference had already spent much effort on non-substantive issues and reiterated its position that each subsidiary body should deal with one agenda item.  Iran welcomed the reference to legally binding instruments in relation to three subsidiary bodies, and said that the mandate for subsidiary body two should be treated and formulated like the other three.  The power and responsibilities of special coordinators were far greater than for the coordinators of subsidiary bodies, Iran remarked, and asked for the clarification on the dimension, scope and the specific methods of working methods of the subsidiary bodies and the special coordinators.  In order to reach progress, everyone must show political will, concluded Iran.

Algeria stressed the importance of revitalizing Conference based on its negotiating mandate, and said that the setting up of the subsidiary bodies under the agenda items of the Conference would bring it closer to that goal.  The work of the special coordinators would have a positive impact on the work of the Conference as well, Algeria said, and asked for a further clarification on the nomination of coordinators.

Russia said that the concept of multiculturalism that “had appeared out of nowhere” in the second draft, complicated the text as it meant that the Conference should promote this particular philosophy without linking it to the nuclear disarmament.  This however, was not within the scope and the mandate of the Conference and gave rise to a major concern.  Russia urged the delegation which had proposed the inclusion of multiculturalism to take the floor and explain the rationale.

China said that a reference to multiculturalism was in fact a typo, a mistake, and that it should instead read multilateralism.  It had not “appeared out of nowhere” as China had repeatedly said that promoting multilateralism should be a duty of the members of the Conference. 

Turkey remarked that there was a general consensus on the establishment of subsidiary bodies to deepen areas of agreement, and so possibly pave the way forward to negotiations, and welcomed the reference in the text to the subsidiary bodies reports from previous year.  Turkey was still to be convinced of the utility of establishing special coordinators, and was of the opinion that the Conference should proceed with the setting up of subsidiary bodies for now, since the impasse in the Conference was not a result of the current composition or its rules of procedure.

Brazil said that the decision was not anybody’s perfect choice but it represented something that could command consensus.  Brazil, whose Ambassador was proposed as a coordinator of one of the subsidiary body, saw the coordinators as impartial facilitators at the service of the Conference and nothing more.  The text continued to harbour an imbalance in terms of methods of work of the subsidiary bodies coordinators, who presented their reports through the President to the Conference, while the impact of the work of special coordinators, who were due to present their outputs directly to the Conference, might be brought into question and the reaction of the body could be very unpredictable.

AIDAN LIDDLE, President of the Conference on Disarmament and Permanent Representative of the United Kingdom to the Conference on Disarmament, explained that the method of presenting the conclusions of the special coordinators - orally to the plenary, had been a previous practice.  The language in the draft decision did not mean to imply the obligation on the part of the Conference to take any immediate action on their recommendations.

Belarus remarked that the division between core and non-core items of the Conference did not respect today’s contemporary reality, and suggested that the language in the draft text should enable special coordinators to hold at least one or two informal meetings.  As for their mandate, Belarus suggested an amendment to the proposed text, in order to alleviate some of the concerns raised during the discussion.

India thanked China for the clarifications and fully endorsed the inclusion of the important concept of multilateralism in the text.

Argentina said that the draft faithfully reflected the discussions to date and Argentina was ready to support it fully.  Negotiating legally binding instruments were key to the work of the Conference on Disarmament, and the subsidiary bodies were mandated to prepare the ground for that work.  Mandating the formal opening and closing meetings of the subsidiary bodies was a progress compared to 2018 and would enable transparency. 

Australia suggested a slight change in operative paragraph eight concerning the consensus on the recommendations of special coordinators.

Netherlands said that the proposed text represented a compromise between many delegations, and while it was not everything the Netherlands wanted to see, it was ready to go along in the spirit of compromise.  The Netherlands agreed with Brazil on the role of the coordinators of subsidiary bodies.

Russia asked about the next steps, considering that the Conference had only one working day before Thursday 14 March and that the many proposed changes would point to substantive changes to the text, and those had to be agreed with capitals.

Chile said it could support the proposal and welcomed the timetable and the maximum number of meetings it established.  Additional clarifications contained in the draft would avoid misinterpretations that might prejudge the work of the subsidiary bodies, Chile said, and stressed the need for a degree of flexibility in the work of the special coordinators.  

AIDAN LIDDLE, President of the Conference on Disarmament and Permanent Representative of the United Kingdom to the Conference on Disarmament, in his concluding remarks, thanked the delegations for their engagement in the process and reiterated that he did not intend to circulate a new draft decision.  Any clarifications or explanations would be provided orally during the next plenary meeting, since the basic structure and the form was already there.  The President urged all delegations to seek instructions from their capitals and enable the Conference to take action on the draft decision on Thursday 14 March.  The purpose of the decision, he added, was not to dilute the work of the Conference or to move it away from the core, but to move it back and closer to the core.  Finally, the President remarked that there was a wide-spread feeling in the room that this was the way forward for this year’s session of the Conference on Disarmament.



For use of the information media; not an official record

DC/19/19E