Secretary-General Cites ‘Growing Crisis of Confidence’ in Remarks to General Assembly Follow-Up to 2010 High-Level Multilateral Disarmament Meeting

27 July 2011

Secretary-General Cites ‘Growing Crisis of Confidence’ in Remarks to General Assembly Follow-Up to 2010 High-Level Multilateral Disarmament Meeting

27 July 2011
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Secretary-General Cites ‘Growing Crisis of Confidence’ in Remarks to General


Assembly Follow-Up to 2010 High-Level Multilateral Disarmament Meeting


Following are UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks to the General Assembly meeting on the follow-up to the 2010 High-Level Meeting on the Conference on Disarmament and Multilateral Disarmament Negotiations, in New York, 27 July:

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 (CD), has failed us.

As we look ahead, we face two critical questions.  First, what are we to do when the world’s single multilateral disarmament negotiating forum is incapable of delivering its mandate?  Second, how can the world resume the process of building disarmament norms that apply universally?

These questions led me to convene the High-Level Meeting last September on revitalizing the CD and taking forward multilateral disarmament negotiations.  Concerns expressed at that Meeting, coupled with the many initiatives that were proposed, testify to the importance that Member States attach to this challenge.  I am also grateful to the President of the General Assembly for his own efforts to address this issue.

In the Chairman’s Summary of that Meeting, I proposed four actions.  First, I strongly suggested that the CD re-adopt its 2009 Programme of Work or a similar proposal submitted during the 2010 session.  To encourage progress, I addressed the CD last January for my third time as Secretary-General.  So far, the CD has been unable to respond.  I look forward to a more action-oriented move from the membership, pending the final status of the CD’s 2011 session.

Second, I proposed that the General Assembly include on the agenda of its sixty-fifth session an item to follow-up on the High-Level Meeting.  The Assembly approved that request; it has also added the item to the agenda of its forthcoming sixty-sixth session.

Third, I asked my Advisory Board on Disarmament Matters to review the issues raised at the High-Level Meeting.  The Board has completed its review, my report on the Board’s work is now before you, and I look forward to your feedback.

Fourth, I stated that I would submit a report on the High-Level Meeting and its follow-up to next year’s first session of the Preparatory Committee for the 2015 NPT [Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons] Review Conference.

Member States have identified many options for revitalizing the CD and carrying multilateral disarmament negotiations forward.  One option is the status quo approach — namely, to continue seeking consensus in the CD without fundamentally changing its mandate or rules.  Many States, however, are understandably reluctant to follow such a course, given the years that have passed without result.  Indeed, I am among the many who have warned that the status quo will simply render the CD irrelevant and obsolete.

A second set of options consists of various proposals for fundamental reforms in the multilateral disarmament machinery.  Some feel these would be best addressed at a fourth special session of the General Assembly on disarmament.  As yet, there is no consensus among Member States on convening such a gathering.

This leaves the third option, incremental change.  Yet even these proposals, modest though they are, have encountered resistance.  Various States argue strongly for or against changing the CD’s rules of procedure.  Proposals for ad hoc mechanisms have also found supporters and opponents.  State policy priorities differ widely.

And States even disagree over where reforms should be implemented.  In the CD? In the General Assembly and its First Committee? Or outside the United Nations, in a conference on a specific disarmament issue, or in an ad hoc forum organized by like-minded countries?

As Secretary-General, I see no fundamental flaw in the United Nations disarmament machinery that may be blamed for this deadlock, certainly none that cannot be overcome by changes in State policies.  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 persist, we could consider the appointment of a high-level panel of eminent persons, as I have suggested.  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 CD remains deadlocked, the General Assembly has a responsibility to step in.  As I have said before, the CD should not be held perpetually hostage by one or two members.  Concerns should be addressed through negotiations.

The stakes are too high to continue falling short.  The world expects progress.  Let us defer no longer.  Let us put an end to this long cycle of stagnation.

For my part, I will do all I can to assist you in achieving our shared goals.

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