Distinguished delegates and civil society representatives,
I am pleased to greet this Informal Conference on Disarmament – Civil Society Forum. I commend the Acting Secretary-General of the Conference, Mr. Michael Møller, on his initiative to convene this long overdue event.
Civil society plays an essential role in all aspects of disarmament. They are catalysts for innovation, and repositories of expertise. They bring the direct voice of public conscience into the intergovernmental arena.
Public advocacy has resulted in some of the most important achievements in disarmament and arms control, including the comprehensive nuclear test ban, global norms that outlaw antipersonnel landmines and cluster munitions, and common international standards regulating the global arms trade.
During the Cold War, one million demonstrators in New York helped lead the Soviet Union and the United States to seek measures to freeze the nuclear arms race and pursue disarmament. More recently, civil society actors have pioneered international engagement on emerging challenges, from killer robots to the humanitarian movement for nuclear disarmament.
Women’s organizations have long been at the forefront. I congratulate the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom on its 100th anniversary and pay tribute to its members for their unwavering contribution to the cause of humanity.
The international community cannot afford a Conference on Disarmament that does not help us move towards the goal of a safer world. Neither can we afford a Conference on Disarmament that does not have any mechanisms for considering the views of civil society.
The Conference on Disarmament has not been able to agree even on a Programme of Work for 19 years. It is clear that we need fresh approaches. I encourage all delegations to use this dialogue with civil society to explore ways to finally break the impasse.
Today’s forum should not be an isolated event, but a platform from which to achieve more beneficial and more regular engagement with civil society – for the sake of a better and more secure world. I wish you a successful meeting.