Pressure Mounts to Break Deadlock in Conference on Disarmament, as General Assembly Debates Ways to Jump-start Negotiations on Core Security Concerns

27 July 2011
GA/11120

Pressure Mounts to Break Deadlock in Conference on Disarmament, as General Assembly Debates Ways to Jump-start Negotiations on Core Security Concerns

27 July 2011
General Assembly
GA/11120
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-fifth General Assembly

Plenary

113th Meeting (AM)

Pressure Mounts to Break Deadlock in Conference on Disarmament, as General

 

Assembly Debates Ways to Jump-start Negotiations on Core Security Concerns

‘No Quick Fixes’, Says Secretary-General, Warning

‘The Problem Lies Not with the Vehicle, but with the Driver’

Pressure mounted today for a way to be found to open a passage in the long-deadlocked Conference on Disarmament that would engage members in negotiations on such matters as a ban on fissile material for nuclear weapons, as the General Assembly held a follow-up to last year’s high-level meeting on revitalizing that body.

“There are no quick fixes,” said United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in his opening statement.  “Yet we must never abandon multilateralism or our respect for universal norms,” he said, stressing that the Geneva-based Conference on Disarmament must not be held hostage by the interests of one or two members, but must advance the common interests of all.

At the Secretary-General’s initiative, a high-level meeting had been held on 24 September 2010 in New York to consider what could be done to resume the process of building universally applied disarmament norms and breaking the stalemate in the Conference, of particular concern in light of progress on disarmament outside the body.

Mr. Ban recalled today that, at the conclusion of the September meeting, he had strongly suggested, among other actions, that the Conference re-adopt its 2009 programme of work or a similar proposal submitted during the 2010 session.  So far, the Conference had been unable to do so.  The Assembly responded by putting the item on its agenda.

Surveying suggestions made at the high-level meeting for revitalizing the Conference, he said that they ranged from maintaining the status quo — continuing to seek consensus — to proposals for fundamental structural reform.  He himself saw no fundamental flaw in the United Nations disarmament machinery that could be blamed for the deadlock.  “The problem lies not with the vehicle, but with the driver.”  If differences persisted, however, the appointment of a high-level panel of eminent persons could be considered, he suggested.

Opening today’s meeting, Joseph Deiss, President of the General Assembly, recalled that the grave situation of the deadlock had caused the Conference to be put on the agenda of the General Assembly, in line with the United Nations Charter.  He encouraged the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) to send out a strong signal to the Conference this year, and he agreed that the creation of a panel composed of high-level figures could have utility.

In the discussion that followed, speakers agreed that it was urgent that the Conference on Disarmament resume its substantive work to salvage its credibility and to begin again to advance the international disarmament agenda.  The Secretary-General’s proposal for a panel of eminent persons gained traction in several quarters.  Many speakers focused particular attention on the blockage in negotiations for a fissile material cut-off treaty.  Others said that a too-narrow focus on that issue was not constructive and that more attention should be paid to the overarching goal of the total elimination of nuclear weapons.

In that vein, Egypt’s representative, speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), said that to realize a world free of nuclear weapons, the priority was for nuclear-weapon States to fulfil their legal multilateral obligations, which would bring about a suitable political environment in which the security interests of all States would be taken into account.  That would be much more effective than changing the rules of procedure of the Conference.

While the Movement felt there was a need to enhance the effectiveness of the disarmament machinery, he said it maintained that “the main difficulty lies in the lack of true political will by some States to achieve actual progress”, including, in particular, on nuclear disarmament.  It was counterproductive to ascribe the lack of concrete results in the Conference to its rules of procedure, as such an approach could conceal the true obstacle, namely, the lack of political will.

The European Union, said the head of its delegation, remained deeply troubled by the apparent dysfunction of a crucial part of the disarmament machinery — the Conference on Disarmament, deeming “urgent” the launch of negotiations on a multilateral and verifiable treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons and other explosive devices.

Also expressing “deep concern” at the long-running stalemate in the Conference was France’s representative, on behalf of all five permanent members of the Security Council – the “P5”.  He said the Conference should maintain the primary role on substantive negotiations relating to disarmament and non-proliferation.  The P5 recognized that a key element for the prevention of nuclear proliferation was the development of a fissile material cut-off treaty.  It would, prior to the next Assembly session, renew efforts and work with partners to that end.

There was broad agreement throughout the debate, set to continue tomorrow, on the need to ramp up talks in the context of the Conference, but some speakers, as they had last September, expressed a willingness to seek a venue “outside” if the impasse persisted.  The representative of Italy, for example, said the paralysis had quickly eroded what was left of the disarmament machinery’s credibility.  He would not oppose moving negotiations outside of the Conference.  “There are no procedural solutions to political problems,” he said.

Along those lines, Austria’s representative said the “procedural hostage-taking” evident in the Conference was unacceptable, and he stressed the need to prevent such abuses.  Along with other delegates today, he felt the Conference’s refusal to admit new members also underpinned its “dysfunction”.  Ultimately, Austria was not committed to the Conference as an institution, but to progress in disarmament.  “What counts in the final analysis is substantive success,” he said.

Additional speakers in the debate thus far were the representatives of Australia, United Kingdom, United States, China, Netherlands, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, Switzerland, Cuba, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Indonesia, Costa Rica and Brazil.

The General Assembly will meet again on this topic at 3 p.m. Thursday, 28 July.

Background

The General Assembly met today for a follow-up to the high-level meeting held on 24 September 2010, entitled “Revitalizing the work of the Conference on Disarmament and taking forward multilateral disarmament negotiations”.

Opening Statements

JOSEPH DEISS, President of the General Assembly, said that the deadlock in the Conference on Disarmament was a grave situation.  If it continued, the Conference would be discredited and rendered useless.  He had expressed those concerns during last year’s high-level meeting, which had given rise to a number of initiatives, namely putting the Conference on the agenda of the General Assembly, in line with the United Nations Charter.  He encouraged the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) to send out a strong signal to the Conference this year.  In his opinion, the creation of a panel composed of high-level figures could have utility.

He said that the consensus rule should not have to lead to deadlock.  In the past, during bipolar situations, there had always been a way to move forward.  What was needed was political will to overcome resistance and build a climate of trust.  Informal avenues could be explored, but their outcomes must be in the context of the Conference so as not to sidestep it.  The negotiating body must not be disabled; its efficiency must be renewed.  It was important, in addition, to keep an integrated approach to disarmament matters.  The 2009 work plan, though it had never been implemented, had been formulated in that manner.  He had hopes that a new work programme would be adopted and implemented.  It was important not to defy the high expectations of recent years.  At today’s meeting, he hoped for concrete suggestions to break the deadlock.

BAN KI-MOON, Secretary-General of the United Nations, said, “We meet in the midst of a growing crisis of confidence.  For too long, the United Nations multilateral disarmament machinery, in particular, the Conference on Disarmament, has failed us.”  That raised two critical questions:  what should be done when the world’s single multilateral disarmament negotiating forum was incapable of delivering its mandate; and how could the world resume the process of building disarmament norms that applied universally.

He said that those questions had led him to convene the high-level meeting last September, at the conclusion of which, he had strongly suggested, among other actions, that the Conference re-adopt its 2009 programme of work or a similar proposal submitted during the 2010 session.  So far, the Conference had been unable to respond.  The Assembly had responded, by putting the item on its agenda, and his own Advisory Board on Disarmament Matters had submitted its review.  Suggestions for revitalizing the Conference ranged from maintaining the status quo — continuing to seek consensus — as well as proposals for fundamental structural reform, without consensus on a mechanism for reform.  There were also proposals for incremental change.  “Yet even those proposals, modest as they are, have encountered resistance,” he said.

He saw no fundamental flaw in the United Nations disarmament machinery that could be blamed for the deadlock.  “The problem lies not with the vehicle, but with the driver.  What is needed most of all is a closer alignment between policy priorities and multilateral disarmament goals”.  If differences persisted, the appointment of a high-level panel of eminent persons could be considered.  Alternatively, States could conduct negotiations in an ad hoc committee of the General Assembly or a United Nations conference.  “There are no quick fixes.  The road ahead will not be easy.  Yet we must never abandon multilateralism or our respect for universal norms.  We must remain true to the ideals of the United Nations.  In addressing disarmament, as with other global public goods, our goal is not to advance the preferences of the few, but the common interests of all.”

If the Conference remained deadlocked, he said, the General Assembly had a responsibility to step in.  The Conference should not be held perpetually hostage by one or two members.  Concerns should be addressed through negotiations.

Statements

MAGED A. ABDELAZIZ ( Egypt), speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), underscored the absolute validity of multilateral diplomacy in the field of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation.  Stressing that progress in both of those areas, carried out in parallel, was essential to strengthening international peace and security, the Movement emphasized that the legal obligation of disarmament should not be made conditional on confidence-building measures or other disarmament efforts.  To realize a world free of nuclear weapons, it was critical that nuclear-weapon States accomplish their nuclear disarmament obligations.  In that light, the Movement reiterated its deep concern over the lack of progress towards nuclear disarmament, in particular by nuclear Powers in the context of their legal multilateral obligations.

The Movement, he said, also noted with concern the lack of multilateral agreement on a number of key priorities, beginning, in particular, with negotiations on a nuclear weapons convention, and called for tangible progress in that regard.  It strongly urged the Secretary-General and co-sponsors of the 1995 resolution on the Middle East, in close consultation and coordination with the States of that region, to take immediately the necessary measures required to convene a conference in 2012 on the establishment of a Middle East free of nuclear weapons and all other weapons of mass destruction.

Promoting the work of the United Nations disarmament machinery hinged on creating a suitable political environment, he stressed, taking into account the security interests of all States, rather than on changing the “rules of procedure”.  While there was a need to enhance the effectiveness of that machinery, the Movement maintained that “the main difficulty lies in the lack of true political will by some States to achieve actual progress”, including, in particular, on nuclear disarmament.  Additionally, it stressed it was counterproductive to ascribe the lack of concrete results in the Conference on Disarmament to that body’s rules of procedure, as such an approach could conceal the true obstacle, namely, the lack of political will.

He said that the Movement, therefore, reiterated its call for an international conference to identify ways and means of eliminating nuclear weapons, and, pending those weapons’ total elimination, reaffirmed the need for the conclusion of a universal, unconditional and legally binding instrument on negative security assurances to non-nuclear-weapon States.

PEDRO SERRANO, Acting Head of Delegation for the European Union, expressed his delegation’s disappointment with the absence of progress since the high-level meeting in September 2010.  Nonetheless, it was encouraged by important positive developments in global disarmament and non-proliferation over the last two years, illustrated by Security Council resolution 1887 (2009), the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), the Washington Summit on nuclear security, and other initiatives.  It was now time to reinforce and revitalize multilateral efforts.

He said that the European Union remained deeply troubled by the apparent dysfunction of a crucial part of the disarmament machinery, namely, the ongoing stalemate in the Conference on Disarmament.  Launching negotiations on a multilateral and verifiable treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons and other explosive devices remained urgent; the Union continued to urge the last remaining State, so far unwilling to join the consensus, to begin negotiation on such a treaty.

The Union also considered that there were confidence-building measures that could be taken immediately, without waiting for the start of negotiations, he said.  In that regard, it called on States possessing nuclear weapons to declare and uphold a moratorium on the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.  “The world cannot afford to stand still on the crucial issues of disarmament and non-proliferation and to allow procedural issues to stymie real political progress,” he warned.  A review of working methods, therefore, was part of the Union’s proposals to improve the functioning of the Conference on Disarmament.  The delegation supported the call made by the informal group of observer States to the Conference to appoint, during the current session, a special coordinator on expansion of the Conference’s membership.  It also highlighted the importance of working with civil society organizations and with the General Assembly’s First Committee.  However, the Committee should improve its working methods to strengthen debate on contemporary security challenges and development of concrete measures to address them.

GÉRARD ARAUD ( France), speaking on behalf of the five permanent members of the Security Council (“P5”), said that the five States were deeply concerned by the long-running stalemate in the Conference on Disarmament.  It was crucial to reaffirm the role of the Conference, and to allow it to resume its work without delay, he stressed.  While welcoming the recent positive developments made in the areas of disarmament and non-proliferation, he said that it was now time for all States parties to work together to build upon them; the P5 States were committed to doing their part in that respect.

Following the NPT Review Conference, France had committed to organize the first P5 follow-up meeting, which met this month.  It reviewed progress made at the review conference, and discussed a wide range of other issues.  Outlining some of the meeting’s general outcomes, he said that, as nuclear-weapon States, the P5 had discussed efforts called for in the NPT Action Plan, reporting duties, transparency and the building of nuclear confidence, especially in verification and related areas.  They also shared views on measures to uphold NPT non-proliferation pillars and stressed the need to strengthen International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards.  He emphasized that all States, NPT parties and non-parties alike, must contribute to fulfilling the overall goals of disarmament, including by promoting collective security, ensuring that the nuclear non-proliferation regime remained robust and reliable, and progress in all areas of disarmament.

The Conference on Disarmament should maintain the primary role on substantive negotiations relating to disarmament and non-proliferation, he added.  The P5 States recognized that one key element for the prevention of nuclear proliferation was the development of a fissile material cut-off treaty, including verification provisions.  The P5 would, prior to the next General Assembly, renew efforts and work with partners to that end.  It would also work to ensure the swift entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty.  Speaking next in his national capacity, the representative said that it was necessary to “insist to those who were drawing advantage from the stalemate” that they must join the consensus.  It was critical to demonstrate commitment to ending the production of fissile materials for nuclear weapons, he stressed finally, calling on nuclear-weapon States that had not done so to implement such a moratorium.

GARY QUINLAN ( Australia), on behalf of the Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Initiative, said that the current period of “reflective momentum” in disarmament affairs should be built on.  Recalling the reasons that there were high expectations for the Conference, he said that his group’s members continued to consider it urgent to reduce nuclear risks.  It was concerned that the efficacy of the Conference was being undermined.  If negotiations on a fissile material treaty did not begin soon, the group would start to campaign for them to take place in another venue.  The assignment of a group of scientific experts on the treaty, meanwhile, could get work going.  The group would also like to see other United Nations bodies increase their relevance on a fissile material treaty and other core issues, including the Assembly’s First Committee.  He looked forward to continuing work on that and all other efforts to advance multilateral disarmament negotiations.

MICHAEL TATHAM ( United Kingdom) said that his country took seriously its international disarmament obligations, describing actions taken in that regard.  He recounted other advances that had taken place in the past two years, which clearly showed the commitment of members of the P5 to advance nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament.  Work with Norway had showed that nuclear- and non-nuclear-weapon States could make progress together in verification and nuclear disarmament.  The Conference on Disarmament, however, had failed to make progress.  A fissile material treaty would be a great step forward, but one country continued to block progress.  All countries should be convinced to start negotiations on that treaty, for which the United Kingdom remained convinced that the Conference was the best venue, and the 2009 programme of work remained valid for that purpose.  The well-established rules offered protection for all States, and there was opportunity for all to express their concerns when negotiations began.  His country would continue discussions on related issues, but the Conference must be kept relevant.

ROSE GOTTEMOELLER ( United States) recalled her country’s support for all activity meant to revitalize the Conference on Disarmament.  She also recalled President Barack Obama’s statements and initiatives to renew action towards a world free of nuclear weapons, which, along with progress in treaties between nuclear-weapon States, stood in stark contrast to the inaction in the Conference caused by the deadlock.  A treaty banning fissile material for nuclear weapons would be a major step forward, but it was being blocked by one State.  Her country would prefer that the fissile material treaty was negotiated in the Conference, but it was committed to progress.  The disarmament machinery could benefit from a tune-up, but that was not the cause of the current deadlock.  Other advances had been made over the years.  A panel of eminent persons could be useful for moving things forward on a range of issues, including maintaining consensus while making progress and taking account of all security concerns.  The status quo was unacceptable, but over-ambitiousness in change must be avoided.  Efforts should be directed where progress could be made.

WANG MIN ( China) said that he hoped the current meeting would play an active role in facilitating multilateral negotiations.  Issues of disarmament had always been a “barometer of changes” in international situations; their centrality made it all the more necessary to break the current impasse.  In that vein, he outlined several proposals on ways to move forward.  First, the authority of the Conference on Disarmament should be reaffirmed and maintained; for it to fulfil its potential, and in order to ensure its universality, a fissile material cut-off treaty must be negotiated in the context of the Conference.  Secondly, States deserved equal treatment and their sovereignty must be respected.  Thirdly, there was a need to maintain confidence in the Conference and to further engage in creative thinking.

“In the face of deadlock and difficulties, it was all the more necessary for States to use political wisdom,” he said, and to spare no efforts to seek workable ways to push the Conference towards substantive progress.  Fourth, efforts should be made in areas such as the prevention of an arms race in outer space and assurances for non-nuclear-weapon States.  China was in favour of starting fissile treaty negotiations and on working to reach an agreement on a programme of work for the Conference, as soon as possible.  Both efforts must be undertaken in a “serious, equal, open and transparent manner”, he added.

HERMAN SCHAPER ( Netherlands), speaking on behalf of a group of 41 States, said that the group shared a commitment to strengthening the multilateral nuclear disarmament machinery.  Those countries considered it regrettable that no progress had been achieved for more than a decade.  “The CD is simply failing to fulfil its mandate” of addressing international security concerns, he said.  That failure had directly affected common security in the twenty-first century and had weakened the international nuclear disarmament system.  The group of States found the stalemate unacceptable and saw an urgent need to revitalize the Conference’s work.  The high-level meeting in September 2010 had made clear the international community’s desire to move forward without delay; States had since expressed their concerns in various forums.  However, if the machinery — especially the Conference on Disarmament — was unable to overcome the crisis, the international community, and in particular the General Assembly, would need to respond.  It could not afford to start yet another session in January 2012 “accepting that the impasse was a given and that nothing could be done”.

He noted that some proposals made had focused on agreements previously reached, while others sought to include a broader reform process of the Conference; all proposals were being explored.  He reiterated, nonetheless, that the responsibility for current difficulties lay with the States, which had a duty and an interest in revitalizing the work of the disarmament machinery.

KIM SOOK ( Republic of Korea), associating himself with the remarks made by the previous speaker but speaking in a national capacity, said that many efforts had been undertaken over the course of the last year, but had failed to produce substantive documents or other tangible progress.  “Getting the [Conference on Disarmament] back on track lies at the heart of any solution”, he stressed, adding that neglecting to act quickly would further detract from the body’s authority. States needed greater political flexibility, and should work in a spirit of cooperation.  What the international community needed now was not an “endless and empty debate”, he said, but concrete action.  In that light, he called for the establishment of an eminent persons group, under the authority of the Secretary-General.  Like the Secretary-General’s Advisory Board, which had also proposed its formation, he suggested that such a group could draw global attention to the issues of disarmament and non-proliferation, as well as helping work to progress “behind the scenes”.  Similar groups had also been created in other areas, such as the Millennium Development Goals.  He further hoped that the First Committee would continue to discuss ways to revitalize the nuclear disarmament machinery.  The negotiation of a fissile material cut-off treaty was also “indispensable”, he added, expressing confidence that beginning negotiations on the treaty would build momentum to address other issues.

NIKITA ZHUKOV ( Russian Federation) supported the maintenance and revitalization of the United Nations disarmament machinery.  The deadlock was a reflection, not of problems with the machinery, but of conflicts between the interests of States.  A reasonable compromise was needed based on a balance of such interests.  The “shock therapy” proposed by some countries could ultimately destroy the existing disarmament machinery; a patient quest for breaking the deadlock must be pursued.  Supporting what he called the balanced approach of the Conference’s Secretary-General, he said that his country was willing to look at fresh approaches, including expanding membership and communications efforts.  However, only by acting on consensus could viable treaties result.  He saw no alternative to dialogue that allayed the fears of all Member States.  He pledged that his country would exercise flexibility to move forward, and he affirmed that demilitarization of space and a fissile materials treaty were priorities.

SERGE BAVAUD ( Switzerland), fully subscribing to the statement made by the Netherlands and supporting the efforts of the Secretary-General, said that important discussions had been held since last year’s high-level meeting, with more and more States seeing the urgent need to revitalize the Conference and start negotiations on four core issues.  Political will was needed, but there was an inherent weakness in the current institutions, which were not able to capitalize on existing political will.  More holistic approaches were needed, as disarmament affected areas beyond peace and security.  Only if those aspects were included could the challenges be faced.  Work must be done in an inclusive way that embraced the interests of all stakeholders.  Mechanisms, platforms and environments must encourage discussion on all issues related to disarmament.

Dialogue, he said, must be complemented by real action on a number of levels; negotiations must be started on core issues and revitalization must be approached in a more action-oriented way.  The Conference must demonstrate that it could achieve results.  The First Committee might have open-ended working groups, meanwhile, on core issues such as fissile material and outer space.  Such discussions should take place in Geneva and the processes should be compatible with possible progress at the Conference.  Laying further groundwork could provide fresh approaches.  A permanently available pool of disarmament delegations, supported by experts, could also motivate progress.

RODOLFO BENÍTEZ VERSÓN ( Cuba) affirmed the continued necessity of multilateralism in discussions on disarmament and other security issues.  In that context, the Conference was a necessary forum.  The Conference was not isolated from the rest of the international disarmament machinery, all of which had problems in making progress.  He supported the optimization of the disarmament machinery, but he was convinced that the paralysis was caused by the behaviour of certain Member States.  However, selective, improvised, ad hoc arrangements were not the answer, but dangerous steps back.

The Conference, he said, must adopt a comprehensive, balanced programme of work.  He supported progress in matters related to outer space, assurances to non-nuclear-weapon States and other core issues.  The Conference could face those negotiations simultaneously.  Initiating a fissile material cut-off treaty should be accompanied by other work in disarmament, including a phase-out of nuclear weapons, which posed a serious threat to international security.  It was simply unacceptable that there were 23,000 nuclear weapons in existence today.  He noted that Cuba would soon head the Conference and he pledged his country’s efforts to make the body effective.

SIN SON HO (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea), fully endorsing the statement made by the representative of Egypt on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, said the bombs dropped in Nagasaki and Hiroshima had shown, clearly enough, the tragic effects of nuclear weapons.  Even today, nuclear weapons were directly related to the survival of mankind and world peace and security.  Nuclear-weapon States had an unavoidable commitment to fulfil their obligations towards nuclear disarmament, he said, recalling that the International Court of Justice had made clear that the use of those weapons was a violation of international law.  Recent developments — including projects seeking to use nuclear weapons as conventional weapons — “cast a dark shadow” over the progress of international disarmament and non-proliferation.  The activities of nuclear Powers in response to so-called “rogue States” was another major concern.  In truth, those activities were tactics to gain “absolute nuclear superiority”.

In that vein, he said, the world’s largest nuclear Power, which had lost its authority, should show its commitment to the total and complete elimination of nuclear weapons.  A treaty abolishing those weapons should be concluded in a timely and binding manner.  Since the United States had first introduced nuclear weapons to the Republic of Korea, their number had risen beyond 1,000.  Additionally, if the Conference on Disarmament was to move forward, the security interests of all member countries should be fully considered.

CESARE MARIA RAGAGLINI (Italy), joining with the statements made by the representatives of the European Union and the Netherlands, added in his national capacity that the United Nations Disarmament Commission had not achieved any progress in many years.  This year, he recalled, two Member States had taken it upon themselves to organize very successful side events, addressing key topics for consideration by the disarmament machinery.  In the Conference itself, however, the misuse of procedures by a small few still held back any progress.  The monthly rotation of the presidency appeared to be too frequent.  Furthermore, the adoption of a work programme every year was “unwise”, as it allowed for the frequent blocking of forward movement unless consensus was achieved.

Nonetheless, he said, “there are no procedural solutions to political problems”.  The ongoing stalemate was a matter of urgency, as it has quickly eroded what was left of the disarmament machinery’s credibility.  Italy, therefore, would not oppose moving negotiations outside of the Conference, and was open to discussions of negative assurances.  He hoped that work would move forward in the upcoming session of the General Assembly, in particular in the context of the First Committee.

ALEXANDER KMENTT ( Austria) said that, unfortunately, the current debate was a sign of continued problems in the international disarmament machinery.  Associating his statement with that of the representatives of the European Union and the Netherlands, Austria welcomed recent bilateral momentum in international disarmament and non-proliferation.  However, in the context of the Conference on Disarmament, momentum had not materialized; while there had been strong convergence in diagnosing the Conference’s illness, no remedy had been proposed and accepted so far.  Austria further found the “procedural hostage-taking” evident in the Conference to be unacceptable, and he stressed the need to prevent such abuses.  The Conference’s refusal to admit new members, and its lack of cooperation with civil society, were other symptoms of its dysfunction.

Moreover, he continued, the Conference remained paralysed, and its members could not agree on starting fissile material cut-off treaty negotiations — held back by just one Member State.  Nuclear disarmament, negative security assurances and other divisive issues also persisted.  The Conference was now risking both its credibility and its legitimacy.  Ultimately, Austria was not committed to the Conference as an institution, but to progress in Disarmament.  Two options existed.  The international community could continue to work through and within the Conference on Disarmament, waiting for Member States to reach consensus, or it could support the General Assembly playing more active and central role in disarmament negotiations.  “What counts in the final analysis is substantive success,” he said, adding that it was time to focus on the parameters that would allow the international community to reach the goals of disarmament.

HASAN KLEIB ( Indonesia), associating himself with the statement made on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, expressed hope that today’s discussion would generate clear political momentum to overcome the obstacles that had continued to hamper progress in disarmament.  It was high time that all States, particularly nuclear-weapon States, actualize their commitments on complete nuclear disarmament, through time-bound actions.  The disarmament machinery itself was not the problem.  If will was lacking, however, the best of procedures would not bear fruit.  Given political will, he was confident that the Conference could advance negotiations on core issues.  He stressed the continued validity of the consensus Final Document adopted at the first special session of the General Assembly devoted to disarmament and urged all States to make the next round of that body a success.

EDUARDO ULIBARRI (Costa Rica), aligning himself with the statement made by the Netherlands, said that, besides the Conference’s stalemate and closed membership, it still had a key role in the promotion of international stability.  His country had stated so in its unsuccessful efforts to become part of the body.  Progress must be constantly made in disarmament; therefore, his country had grave concern at its absence.  The current working methods of the Conference did not totally cause that lack of progress.  It was about time to approach arms control as a part of human rights, respect for human dignity and rule of law.

He said that with the Conference, there was an illusion of disarmament, with some weapons controlled but others taking their place.  The Conference was a “closed club” with only a third of the membership of the United Nations tasked with negotiating global disarmament.  His country had turned military disarmament into a national reality.  A focus on human security was needed to make global progress on nuclear disarmament.  States had the obligation under international human rights law to commence negotiations on nuclear disarmament and to stop all activity to maintain those arsenals and conduct research on their updating.  The Conference should cooperate with bodies concerned with international human rights law, including the Human Rights Council.  The militaristic approach in the Conference was a route to continued paralysis.

MARIA LUIZA RIBEIRO VIOTTI ( Brazil) agreed that efforts must be renewed to achieve the long-sought goal of a world free of nuclear weapons.  The deadlock was due to political reasons and not the fault of the institutional machinery.  Any reform should consider the disarmament machinery as a whole, and should not be based on progress in only one area, such as the control of fissile material.  However, she supported negotiations on fissile material, negative security assurances and a nuclear-weapon-free outer space, adding that a fissile material cut-off treaty should take account of stocks.  She advocated as well for the inclusion of the views of civil society.  Negotiations on nuclear disarmament were urgent.  Despite the Conference’s shortcomings, there was no alternative; that was why means of revitalizing it should not circumvent it.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.