16 February 2018
The Conference on Disarmament today adopted a decision to establish five subsidiary bodies to discuss the agenda items with a view to progressively advance the substantive work of the Conference.
The President of the Conference, Ambassador Ravinatha Aryasinha of Sri Lanka presented the first draft decision during the public plenary meeting of the Conference 13 February. Summary of the discussions held on 13 and 14 February is available here and here.
The draft decision, contained in the document CD/WP.605/Rev.2, as orally revised 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 substantive work of the Conference.
The subsidiary bodies would pursue the following areas, and any other areas agreed to in accordance with the Rules of Procedure: reach an understanding on the areas of commonalities in the Conference on Disarmament by taking into consideration all relevant views and proposals past, present and future; deepen technical discussions and broaden areas of agreement, including through the participation, in accordance with the Rules of Procedure, of relevant experts; and consider effective measures to advance the substantive work of the Conference, including legal instruments for negotiations.
Each subsidiary body would be chaired by a coordinator appointed by the Conference,
under the guidance of the President on the basis of equitable regional distribution, they would meet in accordance with Paragraph 24 of the Rules of Procedure and conduct their work in accordance with Paragraph 18 of the Rules of Procedure.
The adoption of the text was an important moment in the collective efforts to bring back the Conference on Disarmament to substantive work and negotiations, said Ambassador Aryasinha, noting that it represented a compromise between differing positions which had for too long hampered the proper functioning of the Conference.
Mexico hoped that the subsidiary bodies would meet formally and Cuba welcomed the adoption of the decision in a spirit of diplomacy, multilateralism and cooperation. Sweden said that the decision was less than initially aimed for as it did not contain the elements of progressiveness and continuity. Pakistan deeply appreciated the manner in which Sri Lanka had conducted its Presidency and which had allowed the Conference to resume work on all agenda items. Pakistan would participate actively and constructively in discussions under the subsidiary bodies and invited other members of the Conference to do the same.
During the discussions on the draft text, Iran wished to see the text which limited the validity of the decision to 2018 session and stressed that the language must be clear on the importance of making progress on each and every item of the agenda. Furthermore, Iran insisted that the meetings of the subsidiary bodies be informal in accordance with the Rules of Procedure. Mexico was concerned that granting an unlimited mandate to subsidiary bodies would open the doors to a lesser ambition, and stressed that the language must be clear that in case of the adoption of a programme of work, the subsidiary bodies mandated by the decision would conclude their activities.
Other delegations agreed that the initiative would be the first progress on substantive work of the Conference in twenty years, and urged the adoption of the text especially as there were not many other options at the table. The proposal was a well-brokered balance between flexibility and safeguards and it offered a framework for a more focused and continued debate on core issues. Delegates urged trust, compromise and flexibility, stressing that thee initiative was not an end product and that its outcome and final results should not be prejudiced.
Taking floor in the discussions today were Russia, Iran, Mexico, Belarus, United States, Australia, Netherlands, India, Spain, Brazil, China, Hungary, Chile, Kazakhstan, Canada, Germany, Morocco, Latvia on behalf of the Informal Group of Observer States, Cuba, Sweden, and Pakistan.
This was the last meeting of the Conference on Disarmament under the Presidency of Sri Lanka. The next public meeting will be held on Tuesday, 20 February at 10 a.m. under the Presidency of Sweden.
Presentation of draft decision CD/WP.605/Rev.2
RAVINATHA ARYASINHA, President of the Conference and Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the United Nations Office at Geneva, presented the draft text which tried to incorporate comments heard during the discussions held on 14 February. It was the Presidency’s best attempt at striking a balance between different positions, in full transparency and in consultation with many delegations. Throughout the process, from the initial text and its two revisions, Sri Lanka had carefully taken on board concerns of the delegations to try to resolve the issues that had the potential to derail the work of the Conference.
Russia noted that the revised text was a result of joint efforts and that, although it did not reflect all the national positions, it was a very good foundation for the continued work of the Conference.
Iran was seeking a balanced and comprehensive programme of work and the draft decision could help achieve it, with adjustments to address some of the concerns, including limiting the validity of the decision to 2018 and stressing the importance of making progress in the subsidiary bodies on each and every item of the agenda.
Mexico proposed amendments to the text it did not deem to be entirely balanced, and noted that granting an unlimited mandate to subsidiary bodies would open the doors to a lesser ambition. Mexico reiterated the importance of the adoption of a programme of work, in which case, the subsidiary bodies mandated by the decision should conclude their activities. Despite the scepticism concerning the usefulness of the subsidiary bodies, Mexico would not stand in the way of the adoption of this draft decision and would give a real chance to this initiative to prove its usefulness.
Belarus remarked that the Conference must honestly answer whether negotiations could be started without an agreement on the scope and objective of any potential legal document, and whether it could afford to lose, every year, several months in agreeing technical parameters of its work. The draft text was a balanced document, which would bring the Conference towards starting its substantive work.
United States was ready to accept the text proposed by the President but not the last-minute amendments by Iran and Mexico.
Australia stressed that everyone must keep in mind that the adoption of the decision would bring the Conference towards negotiations which had not happen for 20 years, and urged all to approach this initiative with a feeling of trust.
Netherlands urged the delegations to give a chance to the proposed subsidiary bodies, as the adoption of the text would be the first progress on substantive work of the Conference in twenty years.
India, in a spirit of compromise, was ready to support the draft decision as proposed, and said that many concerns raised today, including the negotiating mandate, level of maturity of consideration, and formal and informal meetings of the subsidiary bodies, had already been addressed.
Spain said that the Conference must adopt the constructive proposal before it, especially as there were not many other options at the table; the text offered all the essential safeguards to enable the Conference to start its work.
Brazil wondered about value added of opening the text for additional amendment, noting that many countries had already made a number of concessions to others to arrive to this point.
China urged the delegates to bring closer the positions and adopt the proposed text.
Hungary reminded that the text was not an end product and urged the delegation to seize the momentum and the existing consensus and adopt the draft decision as proposed.
Chile attached great importance to the participation of civil society, the reference to which had been deleted in the revised text. Conscious of the need for each delegation to give some ground, Chile was willing to work together because the adoption of the draft decision, although not an historical achievement, would move the Conference forward.
Iran explained its positions, including on the level of maturity of considerations, and urged the Conference to give due consideration to the proposed amendments.
Kazakhstan supported the proposed text because it offered the minimum possible balance for all, and warned that not much available time for work remained in this year’s session.
Canada said that, although it was concerned about the language referencing the need for an agreement in the subsidiary groups, said that Canada would go with the majority and support the text.
Germany said that the proposal represented a procedural bridge to substantive discussions and a framework for a more focused and continued debate on core issues. It was a well-brokered balance between flexibility and safeguards.
Mexico disagreed that there was a consensus and that the concerns of each delegation had been addressed in the proposed text, and called upon all delegations to show flexibility.
Morocco said that the draft represented a genuine balance between different positions, and because it was not an end in itself, all delegations should show flexibility and adopt it.
Latvia on behalf of the Informal Group of Observer States expressed appreciation for the inclusion of observer States in the work of the subsidiary groups.
Russia said that that the Conference was in a stalemate and that some delegations today were prejudicing the outcome and results of the proposed initiative, which prevented compromise and flexibility.
India agreed that working in atmosphere of trust was important and said that trust deficit must be overcome.
Iran said that the push to a hasty decision was not conducive to a constructive work.
Following a pause during which informal consultations took place, RAVINATHA ARYASINHA, President of the Conference and Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the United Nations Office at Geneva, introduced draft text amended in consultations with the delegations, and said that it attempted to preserve the careful balancing achieved in its previous reiterations.
Iran could not support this decision because it did not include the language proposed by Iran, particularly concerning the need to ensure tangible progress on all items, the formal and informal meetings of the subsidiary groups, and the request to drop the paragraph allowing for the continuation of the work of subsidiary bodies beyond 2018.
China, Ireland, the Netherlands, Iran, Hungary, United States, Brazil, and Mexico also spoke, and offered comments and proposed changes to the text, which RAVINATHA ARYASINHA, President of the Conference and Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the United Nations Office at Geneva, incorporated into the draft text. The President read out the final version and asked the Conference if it was ready to adopt the draft decision CD/WP.605/Rev.2, with the oral amendments.
The Conference then adopted the draft decision.
This was the last meeting of the Conference on Disarmament under the Presidency of Sri Lanka.
RAVINATHA ARYASINHA, President of the Conference and Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the United Nations Office at Geneva, in his concluding remarks said that the adoption of the decision was an important moment in the collective efforts to bring back the Conference to substantive work and negotiations. It represented a compromise between differing positions in the Conference which had for too long hampered its proper functioning. This decision would represent the beginning of a new phase which would allow the Conference to move forward through a search for commonalities and technical substantive work. Finally, the President urged the Conference to be guided by the Rules of Procedures but not to use those Rules to inhibit itself.
Mexico hoped that the subsidiary bodies would be working in formal meetings and reiterated that Mexico would engage in a constructive manner.
Cuba stressed the importance of adoption of a programme of work and welcomed the adoption of the decision in a spirit of diplomacy, multilateralism and cooperation.
Sweden welcomed the adoption of the decision but remarked that was less than initially aimed for, as it did not contain the elements of progressiveness and continuity. Still, something was better than nothing and Sweden would continue to work constructively as the next President of the Conference.
Pakistan deeply appreciated the manner in which Sri Lanka had conducted its Presidency and which had allowed the Conference to resume work on all agenda items. Pakistan would participate actively and constructively in discussions under the subsidiary bodies and invited other members of the Conference to do the same.
For use of the information media; not an official record