The United Nations Conference to negotiate a nuclear-weapon ban elected its president today, and adopted — as orally revised — the draft provisional agenda for its four-week substantive session, to begin in March.
Holding its first organizational meeting, delegates decided that the substantive session of the United Nations Conference to negotiate a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination, would be held in New York from 27 to 31 March, and from 15 June to 7 July.
“This rapid pace is quite unprecedented and reflects the urgency that Member States attach to the need to realize progress in the area of nuclear disarmament,” said newly elected Conference President Elayne Whyte Gómez (Costa Rica). She asked delegates to be flexible given the length of the substantive session, adding that she was committed to leading inclusive, constructive discussions to shape a binding convention on nuclear weapons. Indeed, the Conference was the result of a long struggle at the United Nations to establish a nuclear-weapon-free world, she said, emphasizing that that resolution 71/258 demonstrated the Organization’s commitment to that goal.
She appealed to delegates to commence work with a spirit of dialogue and flexibility in taking forward the mandate of that resolution to achieve, as soon as possible, a legally binding instrument, which would serve to strengthen the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.
Presiding over the Conference President’s election was Thomas Markram, its Secretary-General.
Taking up its draft rules of procedure, the Conference considered a number of oral revisions. Before holding informal consultations on the rules as a whole, it adopted a decision, as orally revised, on the participation of non-governmental organizations in the substantive session, whereby those groups wishing to participate should request to do so with the Conference President. Delegates also took note of the draft timetable for the substantive session in March.
During the meeting, speakers, including India’s representative, emphasized the overarching need to rid the world of nuclear weapons. Thailand’s representative, speaking on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), said nuclear weapons remained a threat as long as they were in existence. Complete elimination was the only guarantee of their non-use, he added, reiterating that the Conference should be open to all States, as well as civil society. Summing up a general view, Guatemala’s representative said “we have never been as close to negotiating such an instrument as we are now”.
Also speaking today were representatives of Iran, Netherlands, Egypt, Switzerland, Ecuador, Liechtenstein, Mexico, Syria, Ireland, Austria, New Zealand, Brazil, Chile, Argentina, Malaysia, Antigua and Barbuda, Colombia, South Africa, Nigeria, Morocco, Venezuela, Algeria, Nicaragua and Bangladesh, as well as the State of Palestine.
The Conference will reconvene on Monday, 27 March, to begin its substantive session.