Ambassador Virachai Plasai, the Permanent Representative of Thailand to the United Nations, opened the side event on 18 October 2016 in New York by praising the work of the Open-Ended Working Group (OEWG) on nuclear disarmament and appealed to all Member States to continue their efforts in this regard.
The first speaker Mr. Thomas Markram, the Director and Deputy to the High Representative for Disarmament Affairs also praised the lively debate and legal parameters that took place within the OEWG in 2016. He concluded by challenging the Member States to reconcile the divisions between States and to overcome the “business as usual approach” towards the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). This is essential, he inferred, because all Member States have the responsibility to achieve a nuclear-weapon-free world.
Next to speak was Amb. Thani Thongphakdi, the Permanent Representative of Thailand to the United Nations Office in Geneva and the Chair of the OEWG. He praised active involvement of Member States and civil society organisations in progressing the work of the OEWG throughout the year. The Ambassador stated that while many approaches, avenues and testaments were discussed, the OEWG voted on 19 August to support a proposal from Guatemala for the OEWG report to recommend convening a conference to negotiate a nuclear weapon prohibition in 2017. The Member States reaffirmed the importance of the NPT and the need for effective measures to complement the three pillars of the NPT, the promotion of confidence building measures in conjunction with promoting disarmament education.
The next panel expert was Dr. Gro Nystuen, a senior partner from the International Law and Policy Institute, who examined the international laws that relate to nuclear weapons and disarmament.
Dr. Gro noted that there still persist differences and loopholes in the legal framework for nuclear weapons in comparison to frameworks for other weapons of mass destruction.
Tim Caughley, the Resident Senior Fellow of UN Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR) spoke of the best institutional bodies to use in order for disarmament deliberations to continue. Mr. Caughley referred positively of utilising the OEWG due to its open nature and well known rules of procedure, and lamented the Conference for Disarmament (CD) due to the paralysis within this diplomatic avenue saying that progress continues to be hampered in this environment. He highlighted the limitations of the NPT due to the lack of progress on nuclear disarmament and that progress will be halted until the common interest of a nuclear free world is agreed with and among States possessing nuclear weapons. Mr. Caughley did however praise the new resolution on a nuclear weapons ban treaty and noted that the decision on the resolution will act as a referendum on the best way forward to implement nuclear disarmament and the perceived speed of urgency towards reaching this objective.
Dr. John Borrie concluded by praising the work of OEWG and urged Member States to continue their involvement and pushing for nuclear disarmament. He remarked that progress can continue as there is an overall feeling that many States want to make a difference, which is different from the past, and they will not accept the current disarmament environment.
Drafted by Edward Hainsworth