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Remarks by Ms. Tatiana Valovaya, Secretary-General of the Conference on Disarmament and Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva

Plenary session of the Conference on Disarmament - As delivered
14 August 2019

Mr. President, Ambassador Duong,

Excellencies,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a pleasure and a privilege to address you today, as Secretary-General of the Conference on Disarmament who shall also act as personal representative of the United Nations Secretary-General to the Conference, newly appointed in accordance with the Rules of Procedure of the Conference.

I am grateful to the United Nations Secretary-General for his trust, to all Members of the Conference for your concurrence with the Secretary-General’s decision and to Ambassador Duong for shepherding this process in his capacity as President of the Conference.

I should like to begin my address to the Conference on Disarmament by assuring you of my unwavering commitment to support the critical work of the Conference and its important mandate. I have been following disarmament related matters for a very long time with great interest. Given the importance I pay to disarmament, I am pleased that my first public address since assuming office, is to the Conference on Disarmament.

I am also proud to be the first woman appointed to this position. I believe women can bring a different outlook and experience to disarmament related discussions. It is also well known that there is still a disparity in terms of participation of women and men in disarmament. And this is a field where we need more gender balance.

This Conference and its predecessors provided the international community with key multilateral agreements that to this day define the disarmament, non-proliferation and arms control landscape at the international level.

In fact, I would like to pick up where my predecessor left off in his last address to the Conference in June, when he noted that “history speaks a stark language: whenever states seek security not in the collective value of diplomacy and dialogue, but in the false protection of weapons, they are sleepwalking into disaster”.

Negotiations are indeed the cornerstone of the Conference’s mandate. It is obvious that the Conference on Disarmament cannot be impervious to the geopolitical dynamics of our day. Yet, it is my firm view that such dynamics only point to a bigger-than-ever need for this Conference to succeed, as the forum intended to provide collective responses to global challenges to peace and security.

In reality, the current escalation of tensions globally is severely jeopardizing the acquis of disarmament, non-proliferation and the entire body of the existing instruments.

As Secretary-General Guterres noted last February, “key components of the international arms control architecture are collapsing”.

This trend makes the need for progress in the Conference all the more urgent.

Going forward, I hope the Conference can build on the substantive work undertaken in 2018 to move forward the core items of the CD. This Conference offers valuable knowledge and profound expertise, which will be critical to maintain for any future disarmament negotiations. I also encourage you to consider how to modernize working methods, strengthening inclusiveness, and bringing a greater continuity to your work.

We will have the opportunity to meet as well as individually over the course of my first months here. I want to hear from you on how best the Secretariat of the Conference and myself can harness our joint resources towards that end. Please rest assured that I am at your disposal, should it be deemed helpful, including on the remaining work for this session.

Excellencies,

Ladies and gentlemen,

There is a quote by Alan Turing, the famous British computer scientist, that “We can only see a short distance ahead, but we can see plenty there that needs to be done.”

This year marks the 100th anniversary of multilateralism in Geneva, as well as the 40th anniversary of the Conference on Disarmament, both presenting us with an additional opportunity to reflect on our past and look forward to the future. And there is indeed plenty to be done. I mentioned geopolitics and the broader international security landscape already. In addition, and as Secretary-General Guterres and High Representative Nakamitsu have emphasized on numerous occasions, new scientific, technological developments and dynamics are challenging the international security paradigm.

For us to move forward and get things done to deliver on the important mandate bestowed on this body, we must ensure that the Conference does what it was intended to do: to negotiate and agree new instruments governing complex, sensitive and urgent issues of national and international security, issues that impact on every living being on this planet.

The Conference has been a key instrument of multilateral disarmament and arms control for 40 years: I trust that you wish it to continue to be so, but its success depends on the will and commitment of the Member States.

Excellencies,

Ladies and gentlemen,

All my predecessors called upon the Member States of this Conference to overcome their differences, and supported efforts to achieve results despite undeniable political challenges. I intend to continue this path.

In these first few days, since taking office, I have benefited from the knowledge of the CD Secretariat. I have also been impressed by the professionalism and dedication of the men and women serving the Conference. I also want to acknowledge the creativity and energy of the community of international partners, think tanks, research centers and civil society partners in Geneva, in varied but very interrelated fields.

I would like to reiterate my commitment to ensuring that you continue to receive the highest degree of support in your work, and to preserving the unique platform for convening the rich and diverse ecosystem that International Geneva offers, even as we navigate the implementation of the Strategic Heritage Plan.

Allow me to conclude with a reflection: A few days ago, a new temporary art installation was unveiled outside the United Nations Headquarters in New York, to mark the Dialogue for Peace celebration. The monument, a stylized peace bench, stands as a symbol of diplomacy. Next to the bench there is a plaque with a quote from Nelson Mandela: “The best weapon is to sit down and talk”.

I look forward to you sitting down and talking, and to interact with each and every one of you personally.

Mr. President, thank you for allowing me to address this venerable body today.

Excellencies,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Thank you for your attention.