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GA/DIS/3534
27 October 2015
Seventieth Session, 18th Meeting (PM)

Difficult to Imagine Conference on Disarmament Regaining Relevance after 17 Years of Dysfunction, Speaker Tells First Committee as Debate Begins on Key Forums

The root cause of the stalemate in multilateral disarmament machinery lay in political factors rather than in the machinery itself, the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) heard this afternoon as it began its consideration of the item, but as debate took shape, others suggested that out-of-date rules of procedure were to blame.

The representative of China said that the profound and complex change of the international security landscape and, more importantly, the double standards and “erroneous doctrine for pursuit of absolute security” were the main obstacles blocking progress in those mechanisms.  Under the new circumstances, efforts should be made to find feasible solutions, with all parties demonstrating adequate political will and working to preserve the principle of consensus.

The Conference on Disarmament, asserted Switzerland’s speaker, risked being overtaken by events if it continued to fall short of expectations.  However, he said, the international community would not be satisfied with a Conference that did not help to make the world a safer place.  It was crucial to revitalize it, along with the Disarmament Commission and the machinery in general.

Austria’s representative said it was difficult to imagine that the Conference could regain its former relevance after 17 years of dysfunction.  That was exacerbated by its restricted membership and consequent “democratic legitimacy deficit”, as well as rules of procedure that could only be described as anachronistic.

France, on the other hand, believed that the Conference had advantages that made it irreplaceable, including the rule of consensus and the unquestioned expertise of its members, said the country’s representative.  The diverse membership should not mask the universal dimension of the stakes, which was why it was important to focus on uniting factors rather than divisive ones.

The afternoon began with a panel discussion during which the President of the Conference on Disarmament said that some Member States viewed the Conference’s glass as half-full, some as half-empty and some saw very little liquid in the glass at all:  2015 had been no different than the many years preceding it, in that no work programme had been adopted.  All the conflicting viewpoints to be included in its report were more varied and antithetical than ever, he added.

The Disarmament Commission had been similarly unsuccessful, said its Chair, as it had been unable to agree on a new agenda this year, despite the recommendations in its last report urging intensified deliberations.  Greater efforts could produce real political will, thereby making it possible for the Commission to address the challenges.

The Chair of the Secretary-General’s Advisory Board on Disarmament Matters  drew particular attention to the new challenges facing disarmament, posed by the increasing role of non-State actors, which, members noted, had expanded worldwide since the end of the cold war.  The Director of the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR) highlighted a serious contraction over the years, in un-earmarked funding for its core institutional and operational activities.  However, he said, Member States had continued to invest in the Institute’s projects, which demonstrated an ongoing demand for and interest in its work. 

During the conclusion of the thematic debate on conventional weapons, the representative of Belgium introduced a draft on implementation of the Mine Ban Convention.  The representatives of Somalia, Costa Rica, Trinidad and Tobago, Guatemala, Nigeria and Botswana participated in the debate.

Also speaking during the disarmament machinery cluster were representatives of Indonesia (on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement), Uruguay (on behalf of the Union of South American Nations), Egypt (on behalf of the Group of Arab States), Algeria, Pakistan, Mongolia, South Africa, India, Iran, Cuba and Spain.  The European Union’s representative also spoke. 

The Committee will meet again at 3 p.m. tomorrow, 28 October, to continue its thematic debate on the disarmament machinery.

Background

The First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) met today to conclude its thematic debate on conventional weapons and take up consideration of the disarmament machinery.  For more information, see Press Release GA/DIS/3533.

Statements on Conventional Weapons Cluster

AWALE ALI KULLANE (Somalia), associating with the Non-Aligned Movement, the Arab Group and the African Group, said small arms and light weapons were the true weapons of mass destruction, killing and maiming civilians worldwide.  Those weapons were catastrophic for development, hindering economic growth, especially for those most in need.  The illicit trade in small arms and light weapons aggravated armed conflicts.  Preventing their trade should be given attention at the international, regional and subregional levels.  Somalia was continuing to fight the scourge of terrorism, which was made worse by the illicit arms trade.  The use of cluster munitions had left behind a high number of dangerous unexploded ordnance, with consequences that persisted for years and even decades after use.  The gender implications of certain forms of weapons warranted more focus, and it was crucial for the gender vantage point to be integrated into all disarmament discussions.

MARITZA CHAN (Costa Rica) said that, looking ahead to the next Conference of States Parties to the Arms Trade Treaty, greater effort should be made to finalize the reporting template, and reports should be made public to foster transparency in global transfers.  It was also essential to strengthen synergies between the Treaty and other complementary instruments such as the 2001 Programme of Action.  Concerned with the use of armed drones to carry out selective killings outside armed conflict zones, she said “we are entering a new era” in which the deployment of remotely controlled weapons systems seemed to be the norm.  The use of such weapons should not be considered an easy solution to complex conflicts, and the debate on them should be framed by considerations of their humanitarian impact.

CHARLENE ROOPNARINE (Trinidad and Tobago), associating with Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the Non-Aligned Movement, said that her country was neither a manufacturer, nor exporter or a large importer of conventional weapons.  Nevertheless, it had not been spared their destructive effects.  Her country continued to be adversely affected as a result of that cross-border illegal activity, which was linked to illegal drug trafficking, money-laundering and cyber-crime.  While her society was not beset by civil war, the misuse of small arms and light weapons had, in many cases, contributed significantly to violence and instability.  All actions aimed at stemming their proliferation must be tackled, primarily through multilateral initiatives.  Delineating a number of specific steps, she said that Trinidad and Tobago remained committed to working, as a member of the United Nations, to address the challenges posed by the proliferation, misuse and unacceptable harm caused by small arms and light weapons and their ammunition, as well as other categories of conventional weapons.

MARÍA SOLEDAD URRUELA ARENALES (Guatemala), associating with the Non-Aligned Movement, said that with armed violence crossing borders, it was fundamental to effectively implement the Programme of Action and the Arms Trade Treaty.  The Programme of Action was not binding, but it should be strengthened as it was an important tool for mobilizing international cooperation.  At the next biennial meeting, rather than simply settling for reiterating the same commitments and principles, genuine progress must be made towards positive stocktaking of this instrument’s contribution.  Pushing for the inclusion of an item on munitions, parts and components was essential.  Cluster munitions entailed devastating humanitarian consequences especially in cities where warring parties did not distinguish between military and civilians.  Thousands died or were maimed because of the remnants of such weapons which could remain unexploded for decades.  Guatemala condemned any use of such weapons and it was imperative to contribute to the universality of the Cluster Munition Convention.

E. E. IMOHE (Nigeria), associating with the African Group, said that over the years, people died needlessly as a result of arms and munitions produced primarily for the defence of nation States and other lawful uses, but which were diverted.  Small arms and light weapons were responsible for more than half a million deaths per year.  From Africa to the Middle East, the unprecedented carnage and bloodshed unleashed by terrorists had left communities and cities destroyed or deserted.  He therefore welcomed the entry into force of the Arms Trade Treaty, which aimed to end the unregulated conventional weapons trade.  Nigeria had already commenced the process of ensuring implementation of the Treaty’s provisions, and he expressed appreciation to Member States for electing Nigeria as the president of the Second Conference.  He looked forward to working with other delegations to translate the Treaty’s vision into a reality.

BRIGADIER THEREGO SERETSE (Botswana) remained deeply concerned about the uncontrolled manufacture, transfer and circulation of small arms and light weapons across the world.  The destruction of surplus, seized, collected, confiscated and forfeited weapons and ammunition could be a start for reducing stockpiles available for illicit circulation.  New developments in manufacturing, including polymer components and modular weapons systems, had significant implications for marking, record-keeping and tracing.  Successful implementation of the Programme of Action, as well as of Security Council resolutions such as 2220 (2015) would require the international community to work together, both at regional and subregional levels.  He doubted whether the use of armed unmanned aerial vehicles and autonomous weapons met the standards of public international law, international humanitarian law and international human rights law.

BENEDICTE FRANKINET (Belgium) introduced the draft resolution on implementation of the Mine Ban Convention, which would call for its further universalization and stress the importance of its full and effective implementation, including through the Maputo Action Plan.

Panel Discussion on Disarmament Machinery

DELL HIGGIE (New Zealand), President of the Conference on Disarmament, said that extensive discussion had taken place among that Conference’s member States about how various statements made at this year’s session should be characterized in its report.  Utilizing too negative a tone in summarizing them might further weaken the Conference’s credibility, while a more positive tone might gloss over the very real challenges facing it.  Some viewed the Conference’s glass as half-full, some as half-empty and some saw very little liquid in the glass at all.  The problem was that all the conflicting viewpoints to be included in the report were more varied and often antithetical than ever.

She said that the report documented the adoption of the Conference’s agenda and the first president’s programme of work.  However, 2015 was no different than the many years preceding it, in that no work programme had been adopted.  Efforts to secure it were undertaken pursuant to the Conference’s decision to re-establish an informal working group, which some saw as a significant step in the right direction, and others as symbolic of a lowered level of ambition prevalent in the Conference.  On expanding its membership, she said that although the language in the report did not move past the text of previous years, there was a reference in it to a paper forwarded from the informal group of observer States, which expressed interest in having a formal debate on the topic next year.  There was also a brief reference to the civil society forum and to the fact that it had not been possible for the Conference to reach agreement this year on any decision aimed at enhancing civil society’s participation in it.

FODÉ SECK (Senegal), Chair of the United Nations Disarmament Commission, said that that body had not been able to agree on a new agenda this year, despite the recommendations of the Commission’s last report, which urged intensified deliberations.  Unfortunately, the provisions could not be implemented during the 2015 session.  Greater efforts could produce real political will, thereby making it possible for the Commission to address the challenges.  He hoped it would be in a position to adopt specific recommendations on its agenda at its next session.

ISTVÁN GYARMATI (Hungary), Chair of the Advisory Board on Disarmament Matters, said that this year, the Board had decided to make concrete recommendations in three areas.  First, it called for a study by the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR) to chart peacekeeping activities, and based on that, prepare a handbook and improve training for relevant United Nations missions.  Second, the Board recommended creating a United Nations body to regularly monitor and report on such items as speeches by national leaders that sought to inspire hatred and appearances in social media that created division.  That recommendation came in the context of new challenges to disarmament posed by the increasing role of non-State actors, which, the Board noted, had expanded worldwide since the end of the cold war.  Their principal tools were small arms and light weapons.  Third, with debate over the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons gaining traction, the Board recommended early entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), increased transparency by nuclear-weapon States about their efforts to limit risks, and the launch of discussions on how nuclear deterrence could take humanitarian concerns into account.

JARMO SAREVA (Finland), Director of UNIDIR, said there had been a great deal of substantive work done despite the many difficulties confronting the Institute.  There had been a contraction, over many years, in un-earmarked funding for the core institutional and operational activities, which included key staff.  It had become increasingly difficult for Member States to justify to their treasuries that taxpayer funds should be made available for such institutional issues.  Non-governmental donors, such as major foundations, also funded projects rather than core activities.  In 25 years there had not been enough of a funding increase.

However, he said, Member States had continued to invest in UNIDIR’s projects, which demonstrated an ongoing demand for and interest in its work.  UNIDIR had managed to reduce its operations budget over the years by outsourcing all non-critical functions that could be conducted by other service providers, the result of which was the loss of four full-time positions.  Other positions had also been downgraded, outsourced or discontinued.  In response to client needs and funding priorities, UNIDIR had also modified its products.  Member States, including Australia and Switzerland, had rallied in support of the Institution, and had made significant contributions to the fund.  That support in economically challenging times for donors had been a humbling experience.  A limit had been reached wherein Member States were not able to provide any increased funding.

Statements

AGUSTINUS ANINDITYO ADI PRIMASTO (Indonesia), speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, said that body remained concerned at the “continuous erosion” of multilateralism in the fields of disarmament, non-proliferation and arms control.  He stressed the need to preserve and strengthen the nature, role and purpose of each part of the disarmament machinery.  He called for the Conference on Disarmament to agree by consensus on a balanced and comprehensive programme of work without delay, taking into account the security of all States.  He noted the deliberations of the informal working group at the 2015 Conference and the structured informal discussions held in accordance with its schedule of activities.  The Movement encouraged all States to demonstrate the necessary political will to enable the Conference to fulfil its negotiating mandate.

To instil “a fresh impetus” to global nuclear disarmament efforts, he called for the urgent commencement of negotiations in the Conference for the early conclusion of a comprehensive convention on nuclear weapons, prohibiting their possession, development, production, acquisition, testing, stockpiling, transfer, use or threat of use, and providing for their destruction, as called for in General Assembly resolution 69/58, presented by the Movement.  He regretted that the United Nations Disarmament Commission had been unable to reach agreement on any recommendations since 2000, despite the Movement’s constructive role and concrete proposals.  He called on States to display the necessary political will and flexibility to enable agreement on substantive outcomes in its present cycle.

MARÍA CLAUDIA GARCÍA MOYANO (Uruguay), speaking on behalf of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), said it was essential to have a strong multilateral mechanism within the United Nations to deal with disarmament and non-proliferation issues.  The first special session of the General Assembly devoted to disarmament had ushered in a set of bodies with different but complementary functions, making up what is now known as the United Nations disarmament machinery.  She highlighted their progress, as reflected in several major international instruments, such as the CTBT and the Chemical Weapons Convention, and cautioned that any attempt to reform that multilateral mechanism should be done in the next special session.  Her delegation was very concerned that for more than 17 years, the member States of the Conference on Disarmament had been unable to achieve an agreement on a programme of work for the substantive treatment of the items on its agenda.  She urged all Conference members to show political will and begin substantive work.  She welcomed the creation, within the Conference, of an informal working group co-chaired by Finland, which sought to create a solid and progressive work programme.

She also called for the establishment of an ad-hoc committee to begin negotiations on a nuclear disarmament treaty, and reiterated the Secretary-General’s five-point proposal and support for such a convention.  That, she added, should be negotiated within the Conference, or, if that was not possible, in the General Assembly.  She noted with concern the potential for an arms race in space, and stressed the importance of a legally binding instrument in that area.  While UNASUR appreciated the efforts of the Disarmament Commission, she noted with regret the lack of progress and the fact that no substantive recommendations had been agreed on nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, or on confidence-building measures in the conventional weapons sphere.  UNIDIR, she said, was an autonomous institute designed to carry out research and promote the informed participation of States in disarmament efforts.

TAREK MAHFOUZ (Egypt), speaking on behalf of the Arab Group and associating with the Non-Aligned Movement, supported the Movement’s call for the convening of a fourth special session on disarmament.  In the period since the last one in 1988, numerous setbacks in disarmament and non-proliferation had taken place and a comprehensive review of the machinery must be conducted to modernize it.  The Group urged all States to engage constructively to achieve consensus on convening the next special session.  Welcoming efforts made by the Conference on Disarmament in 2015, he said the current stalemate was not a shortcoming in the machinery, but a demonstration of the lack of political will by certain States in the Conference.  Preference should not be given to any one of the four topics on its agenda.  The treaty proposed for discontinuing the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons should also deal with the accumulated stockpiles of the nuclear-weapon States.  He was disappointed that the Conference had failed to achieve consensus because of the lack of political will and inflexibility of some of those States.

ANDRAS KOS, representative of the European Union, said that the role and contributions of the United Nations disarmament machinery, the components of which were mutually reinforcing, remained “crucial and irreplaceable”.  The First Committee should serve as a forum for open and relevant exchange, concentrating on the most pertinent and topical issues.  Many of its resolutions were repetitive and the possibility of considering longer time intervals between their submissions should be examined to alleviate the Committee’s heavy agenda.  He expressed concern that the Conference on Disarmament had again not succeeded in agreeing on a programme of work in order to commence negotiations on, first and foremost, a treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.  He welcomed the report of the Group of Governmental Experts on such a treaty, which should serve as useful guidance in bringing the Conference closer to future negotiations on that issue.  The beginning of a new three-year cycle of the Disarmament Commission could provide room for consensual recommendations.  He supported the expansion of its agenda, which could create favourable conditions for overcoming deadlock.

ABDELKARIM AIT ABDESLAM (Algeria), associating with the Arab Group and the Non-Aligned Movement, said his country was strongly committed to the multilateral disarmament agenda as well as to the strengthening the disarmament machinery.  It was important to preserve the nature, role and mandate of each component of the disarmament machinery, even if there was a need to improve their efficiency.  While each part of the machinery was facing similar challenges, it was a fact that the main difficulty lay in the lack of political will by some Member States to achieve progress and concrete results.  The stalemate in the Conference on Disarmament could not be attributed to a failure of that institutional mechanism, its rules of procedure, or its mode of operation.  The consensus rule was, in fact, a way to protect the national security interests of all Member States and not just those of the most powerful.

TEHMINA JANJUA (Pakistan) said that the shared quest to control, regulate and eventually reduce conventional and non-conventional arms had always required agreed and effective negotiating mechanisms.  Accordingly, the most consequential and consensual architecture for those negotiations had been created by the United Nations in the last century.  The primary purpose of creating the Conference on Disarmament was nuclear disarmament, an agenda item on which no progress had been for the past 32 years, made owing to the positions of some major Powers.  The leading critics of the Conference were themselves responsible for dragging their feet on the most important issues of nuclear disarmament, negative security assurances, and preventing an arms race in outer space.

Those countries, she went on, had played a major role in ensuring the Conference’s inactivity for decades and had stalled deliberations in the Disarmament Commission as well.  Their self-righteous concerns were limited to progress on a single issue in the Conference, with no interest in the other three core issues on its agenda.  To make progress in the Conference and other parts of the disarmament machinery, it was essential to take into account the security concerns of all States.  Recognizing and addressing those concerns were the only way to unblock the Conference and revitalize the machinery.  Pakistan had been obliged to take a stand against nuclear selectivity, discrimination and exceptionalism.  No country could be expected to compromise on its fundamental security interests for an instrument that was cost-free for all other concerned countries.

VAANCHIG PUREVDORJ (Mongolia) expressed genuine concern about the ongoing stalemate in the Conference on Disarmament and the Disarmament Commission’s continued failure to deliver recommendations.  Mongolia, during its presidency of the Conference this year, had convened formal plenary meetings for focused discussions on four core issues, namely, nuclear disarmament, a fissile material ban, the prevention of an outer space arms race and negative security assurances.  It was important that the Conference continued to explore the possibility of ensuring its improved and effective functioning in order to overcome its current impasse.  The establishment of zones that were free of nuclear weapons was a positive step towards strengthening global nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation.  His country, while promoting its status as nuclear-weapon-free, welcomed Assembly resolution 69/66, which enabled the convening in New York this year of the Third Conference of States Parties and Signatories to Treaties that Establish Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zones.  Regarding his delegation’s draft resolution on the “Permanent neutrality of Mongolia”, Mongolia had decided to temporarily postpone its submission until next May during the Assembly’s plenary session to allow some delegations more time to study it, as requested.

ALICE GUITTON (France), associating with the European Union, said the disarmament machinery aimed to organize multilateral action that embodied a shared determination to build a safer world, drawing on a shared understanding of current security challenges.  France remained committed to the disarmament machinery and its institutions established or strengthened by the 1978 special session of the General Assembly on disarmament, which provided a solid framework that remained vital to any disarmament progress, using an incremental process to work towards general and complete disarmament.  Like all subjects, disarmament debates now combined a great variety of approaches.  That diversity should not mask the collective, universal dimension of the stakes, which was why it was important to focus on uniting factors rather than divisive ones.  The Conference had three advantages that made it irreplaceable: the rule of consensus, the unquestioned expertise of the delegations represented there, and the participation of all States with key capabilities.  Despite its regrettable stalemate, some encouraging progress had been made with regard to discussions on a fissile material ban.

CHANTELLE NAIDOO (South Africa) expressed disappointment that the Disarmament Commission’s substantive session for 2015 had ended without the adoption of agreed conclusions.  That was unfortunately symptomatic of the stalemate that had marked the deliberations for over a decade.  While there had been some discussion on the inclusion of a third item on the agenda during the 2015 session, it was not clear whether that would further hamper progress.  Of particular concern was the 19-year stalemate in the Conference on Disarmament, due to the continued resistance by a small number of States to implement their disarmament obligations.  It was also disappointing that again the Conference could not reach consensus so as to resume substantive work.  With each passing year, it became clearer that the vast majority of United Nations Member States were exasperated with the lack of progress on nuclear disarmament.  She recognized the important contribution of civil society in disarmament, non-proliferation and arms control, and welcomed the informal forum held in Geneva in March.  She hoped that the interaction between Governments, civil society and academia could be further enhanced so that all could benefit from the variety of insights and ideas.

SIDDHARTHA NATH (India) said that Member States should exercise caution in pursing open-ended working groups, in particular, those with a negotiating mandate, to replace the established disarmament machinery.  The Group of Governmental Experts had identified the Conference on Disarmament as the venue for negotiations on a fissile material cut-off treaty.  Regrettably, India had been excluded from some Governmental Expert Groups, including one on transparency and confidence-building measures in outer space, and another on information and telecommunications in the context of international security.  More balanced representation was necessary.  All possible efforts should be made to enable the United Nations Regional Centre for Asia and the Pacific to resume its functions from Kathmandu at an early date.  The Secretary-General’s Advisory Board on Disarmament Matters should be more representative and inclusive.  Its recent reports had been less than inspiring in terms of the depth of analysis and quality of vision.

BENNO LAGGNER (Switzerland) said the international community faced multiple challenges that required cooperative and multilateral solutions.  The inability of the Conference on Disarmament to fulfil its mandate for nearly 20 years was a cause for extreme concern.  The international community would not be satisfied with a Conference that did not progress towards making the world a safer place.  That body risked being overtaken by events if it continued to fall short of expectations.  It was crucial to revitalize the Conference, the Disarmament Commission and the disarmament machinery in general.  The situation in which UNIDIR currently found itself reinforced Switzerland’s concerns about obstructions affecting the United Nations disarmament machinery.  UNIDIR was in an extremely precarious financial situation, which made it difficult for it to pursue its activities.  If nothing was done to correct that situation, the Institute would be forced to stop operating within a few months.  It was therefore imperative for the First Committee to take strong measures to support it.

JI HAOJUN (China), associating with the statement to be delivered by the Russian Federation, said that the international community was increasingly concerned about the lack of substantive progress in the Conference on Disarmament and Disarmament Commission.  The root cause of the stalemate in the multilateral disarmament machinery lay firstly in political factors rather than in the machinery itself or in its rules of procedure.  The profound and complex change of the international security landscape and, more importantly, the double standards and “erroneous doctrine for pursuit of absolute security” were the main obstacles to progress.  Under those circumstances, efforts should be made to find feasible solutions to revitalize the existing multilateral disarmament machinery.  All parties should demonstrate adequate political will and preserve the principle of consensus.  The disarmament agenda items should be updated, and enlargement of the Conference membership should be considered.

MOHAMMAD ALI ROBATJAZI (Iran), associating with the Non-Aligned Movement, said that disarmament issues were delicate and multidimensional.  They were also closely related to the supreme national security interests of Member States.  Therefore, non-discriminatory, transparent and consensus-based multilateral negotiations within the United Nations were the only way to address the issues.  The Conference on Disarmament was and should remain the sole multilateral disarmament negotiating body.  Together with the Disarmament Commission, it had formulated landmark universal instruments, which proved, not only the relevance of their mandates, but also the effectiveness of their rules of procedure, in particular, the consensus rule.  Therefore, the main difficulty with the disarmament machinery lay in the lack of genuine political will by some States to achieve progress, particularly on nuclear disarmament.  The main problems in the Conference on Disarmament were double standards, discriminatory policies, and selective approaches to the four core issues.  There was no alternative to the Conference and its consensus rule, and no artificial initiatives could replace the role of a fourth special session on disarmament.  The Conference should focus on advancing the nuclear disarmament agenda towards the total elimination of those weapons.

JUANA ELENA RAMOS (Cuba), associating with the Non-Aligned Movement, said multilateralism was the basic principle of disarmament negotiations.  Multilaterally agreed solutions in accordance with the United Nations Charter were the only sustainable way to address disarmament and international security-related issues.  She did not share the argument put forward that blamed the machinery itself for the lack of concrete results.  The main reason for the stalemate was the lack of political will.  The last Review Conference on the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) was a clear example of that lack of political will and the large gulf between declarations and actions allowed by some nuclear-weapon States.  The Conference on Disarmament had historically been able to produce treaties, when the political will of all its members had prevailed, and should adopt without further delay a comprehensive and balanced work programme that took into account the real disarmament priorities.  The Conference was prepared to negotiate a treaty that banned nuclear weapons, another that prevented an arms race in outer space, and yet another protecting non-nuclear-weapon States from the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons, as well as a fissile material cut-off treaty that also dealt with stockpiles.  Negotiations on the latter would be a welcome but insufficient measure if the international community failed to take sufficient steps towards nuclear disarmament.

ALEXANDER KMENTT (Austria) said it was easy to find many flaws in the existing disarmament forums, the biggest of which was not the disarmament machinery itself, but the lack of political will.  It seemed difficult to imagine that the Conference on Disarmament could regain its former relevance of negotiating key disarmament treaties after 17 years of dysfunction.  That was exacerbated by its restricted membership and consequent “democratic legitimacy deficit”, as well as rules of procedure that could only be described as anachronistic.  The Disarmament Commission was in a similar predicament.  The most watered-down recommendations in the previous triennial cycle had not been adopted by consensus.  A call to bring the forum back to an effective functioning might be just as futile as calling for the Conference on Disarmament to adopt a work programme.  The General Assembly, the Organization’s highest forum, could make decisions to advance the disarmament agenda.  One such decision could be the establishment of an open-ended working group to take forward multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations, he said, inviting all States to support the relevant resolution tabled by Mexico.

JULIO HERRAIZ (Spain), associating with the European Union, said the best way to preserve international peace and security was through a multilateral approach.  He firmly supported strengthening multilateral institutions that served disarmament and non-proliferation, such as in the First Committee, the Conference on Disarmament and the Disarmament Commission.  The problems with the Conference were both procedural and related to political will.  Stressing the importance of the consensus rule, he said however that that, as Spain understood it, was an inclusive practice, designed to address and accommodate all the sensitivities of Member States; it was not a means of excluding any item from the debate.  Drafting a treaty to prohibit the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons offered the Conference a chance at greater technical maturity, and was the next step to be taken in the negotiating process.  The Conference must begin to produce tangible results.  It would help if it further streamlined its debates and focused on priority issues submitted for discussion.

For information media. Not an official record.