7 April 2014
Deputy Secretary-General
DSG/SM/764
DC/3487

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Deputy Secretary-General Says There Is No Reason Disarmament Commission

 

Cannot Use New Session to Rebuild Trust, Confidence among Member States

 


Following are UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson’s remarks to the opening plenary of the United Nations Disarmament Commission in New York today:


I am grateful to have this opportunity to address you on behalf of the Secretary-General.  I wish at the outset to congratulate Ambassador [Vladimir] Drobnjak in your role as the new Chair of this Commission.  You have indeed important challenges ahead of you.


To all of you — and in particular those of you who are attending a substantive session of this Commission for the first time — I extend a warm welcome to one of the principal components of the United Nations disarmament work.  Key recommendations, guidelines and principles related to disarmament have historically emanated from this Commission.  Even the cold war did not prevent progress on vital issues of common interest.


Yet, as we meet today, the General Assembly still remains — and now I quote — “moved by anxiety at the general lack of confidence plaguing the world and leading to the burden of increasing armaments and the fear of war”.  End of quote.  These words were not formulated today, or even recently, but 62 years ago.  They are parts of the first sentence of resolution 502 (VI), which established the original Commission in 1952.


It is true that the role of the Commission of today bears little resemblance to its original treaty-making function.  Yet, the concerns over trust and confidence remain.  They continue to prevent collective action in the common interest on an extremely important component of the United Nations agenda.  We are justifiably shocked when we note and learn that global military spending in just one day is almost double the regular annual budget of the United Nations.  And we are frustrated and disappointed when we face difficulties achieving Millennium Development Goals so important for millions and millions because of lack of resources.  As we all should realize, “the world is over-armed and peace is under-funded”.


We see the symptoms of this lack of trust and confidence all around us — in the lack of nuclear disarmament or plans to achieve it, and in the relentless drive to develop ever more advanced weaponry.  And we see this mistrust in soaring military budgets and in the lack of transparency in the armaments trade.  The challenge we are facing is cyclical, because the very lack of progress in these fields generates additional mistrust and additional mutual suspicions.


As a deliberative, subsidiary body of the General Assembly, this Commission is eminently placed and mandated to start what is a difficult but vitally needed process of rebuilding trust and confidence between Member States.  There is no reason why this process cannot begin today, in this very chamber.  Can we not find a way to build on some positive developments that have occurred in the past year?  I think of the successful conclusion of the Arms Trade Treaty and the increasing number of countries that have signed up to it and ratified it.  I think of the growing global consensus on the existential consequences of the possible use of nuclear weapons.  And I think of the outpouring of innovative initiatives that civil society continues to generate.


As we know from the work of this Commission in its previous two sessions, each of the substantive items on its agenda presents its own difficulties.  You know this, of course, very well.


Yet, can anybody dispute that progress in one of these areas must go hand in hand with progress in the other?  These clearly are mutually reinforcing approaches to international peace and security.


Together, they form the very heart of the notion of “general and complete disarmament” — a goal found in a dozen multilateral treaties and long recognized as the ultimate objective of the United Nations.


The skills most needed today are present in this room.  They are the skills of diplomacy, guided by the pursuit of common ground, and by a shared recognition that cooperation is more advantageous than polarization or confrontation.  It’s a win-win proposition.


It is still possible for 2014 to be a year for the diplomatic bridge-builders of this world to carry the day.  The alternative of a new dark age, where origin of fear, mutual suspicion, and hatred prove triumphant, must not be an option.


Nobody expects you to resolve every disagreement.  Your aim must be to find and expand new avenues and common ground.


If you succeed — if you break the stalemate that has prevented the Commission from adopting guidelines or recommendations since 1999 — further progress elsewhere in the disarmament machinery may well follow.


As Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stated to the Conference of Disarmament last January, “Do not wait for others to move.  Be the first mover.”


I ask you to keep these words in mind when you now start your work.  I cannot think of better advice for the UN Disarmament Commission as it enters its sixty-second year.  I wish you progress and, indeed, success.


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For information media • not an official record