President Says Conference is Long Way Off from Reaching Consensus on Draft Programme of Work
24 May 2013
The Conference on Disarmament this morning held a public plenary meeting during which it heard a statement by Australia on agenda item 7 on transparency in armaments, farewell remarks by the Ambassadors of the United States and New Zealand, a statement by Switzerland on the 15 May seminar that discussed the stalemate in the Conference, and remarks by Germany and Spain. The outgoing President, the Ambassador of Indonesia, and the incoming President, the Ambassador of Iran, also took the floor.
Ambassador Triyono Wibowo of Indonesia, outgoing President of the Conference on Disarmament, in his closing remarks at the end of Indonesia’s Presidency of the Conference, said that during his Presidency he had held intensive consultations with almost all Member States to find a way to break the impasse in the CD. He was grateful of the fact that Member States had expressed their ideas, views, perspectives, concerns and various degrees of hope pertaining to the future of the Conference. He had tried his best to formulate a programme of work, in full awareness of the different priorities among Member States of the Conference. He had tried his utmost to bridge those differences and to find a middle ground on the matter. However, after a number of consultations with concerned Member States on a draft programme of work, he had to admit that a consensus was a long way off. Despite the fact that many Member States had demonstrated their flexibility and willingness to join consensus, political considerations, insistence on specific language and on certain priority over others made it difficult to reach a consensus.
Ambassador Mohsen Naziri Asl of Iran, incoming President of the Conference, said that Ambassador Wibowo was a very skilful diplomat and expressed his admiration for his diligent efforts during his Presidency. He added that it was his great pleasure to participate in the work of the Conference again after 14 years, that it was unfortunate that there had been no change and that he hoped the Conference would soon adopt a balanced programme of work. Stressing that Iran was taking over the Presidency of the Conference next week, he said he was looking forward to closely working with the outgoing President and to drawing on his vast experience in planning his own programme for the presidency.
Ambassador Wibowo also informed the Conference briefly on the highlights of the seminar that was held on 15 May on exploring avenues to address the stalemate in the Conference on Disarmament. Switzerland, in welcoming the initiative, said that the seminar made it possible to have an exchange of views on the reasons for the deadlock as well as the possible measures to be explored to overcome it.
Australia, speaking on the scheduled topic of transparency in armaments, referred to the important step forward taken by the international community through the adoption of the arms trade treaty on 2 April in New York by an overwhelming majority of United Nations Member States. Ambassadors Laura Kennedy of the United States and Dell Higgie of New Zealand made farewell remarks. Ambassador Hoffmann of Germany asked Ambassador Wibowo about his consultations, and Spain praised the Ambassador for his efforts.
The next plenary of the Conference will take place at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 28 June, under the Presidency of Iran.
Ambassador TRIYONO WIBOWO of Indonesia, Outgoing President of the Conference on Disarmament, said that the Conference today would be discussing agenda item 7 on transparency of armaments. Before he proceeded, however, he wished to bid farewell to Ambassador Laura Kennedy of the United States and Ambassador Dell Higgie of New Zealand and to thank them for their friendship and active contribution to the work of the Conference. He also wished to inform the Conference briefly on the highlights of the seminar that was held on 15 May on exploring avenues to address the stalemate in the Conference on Disarmament. He said that some 45 Member States, UNODA, UNIDIR and the IAEA attended the seminar, and that in total 130 people were present. Given the long impasse in the Conference, he said that new approaches needed to be considered. With reference to the like-minded model which delivered the Ottawa Convention on Landmines and the Oslo Convention on Cluster Munitions, he warned that in the context of the Conference on Disarmament a similar approach would not be adequate to address the contentious issues, including a FM(C)T. Thus, the Conference should address its working methods, membership and agenda to facilitate its revival.
He also said that the creation by the General Assembly of an open-ended working group on nuclear disarmament and of a group of governmental experts on a FM(C)T was a wake-up call for the Conference. Adding that creative options for confronting and overcoming the difficulties in the Coonference could be sought in several areas, he suggested that at the procedural level the Conference considered simplifying its programme of work and refraining from linking the mandates of any subsidiary bodies to one another. He also mentioned that, in his view, there was a lack of initiative on the part of Conference on Disarmament’s members to supplement the dutiful efforts of successive Presidents to find a way through the long-standing impasse. He stressed that the stalemate in the Conference was attributable first and foremost to political and security factors and said Indonesia would be submitting the report of the seminar to the Secretariat to be issued as an official document of the Conference.
Switzerland thanked Indonesia for organizing the seminar on exploring ways to overcome the deadlock in the Conference. The seminar was a timely event that allowed an exchange of views on the reasons for the deadlock and on the possible measures to overcome it. Stressing that the large attendance showed the importance that many States attached to the idea of a functioning Conference, Switzerland said that a functioning Conference was essential to enable the international community to meet the challenges to international security and disarmament. Regretting that the stalemate had eroded the Conference credibility, Switzerland added that it also had had an impact beyond this Conference and had contributed to making it difficult to implement the measures adopted under the plan of action of the 2010 Review Conference on the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Switzerland was also fully convinced of the importance of preserving the disarmament community established in Geneva around the Conference. However, it also said that the continuation of the deadlock could not be ignored and that there were no signs that it would be overcome in 2013. Switzerland stressed that immobility was not possible, that it was the lack of political the main factor contributing to the impasse of the Conference and that the political will to make the necessary compromises was lacking. It said that it was also lacking the political will to overcome short-sighted security concerns to embrace an overall and long-term vision and to consider alternative methods of work. Switzerland proposed that the Conference devoted one or more plenary meetings to the question of its revitalization and started a structured process aimed as examining in detail its methods of work with a view at improving the functioning of the Conference.
Australia thanked the President for his efforts to advance the work of the Conference. Recalling that the international community had taken an important step forward on one aspect of transparency through the adoption by an overwhelming majority of United Nations Member States of the arms trade treaty on 2 April in New York, Australia stressed that the need for a more transparent regulation of the international arms trade had long been recognized and that the adoption of the arms trade treaty was the fulfillment of years of work by both governments and non-governmental organizations towards this goal. At the same time, Australia added that the treaty on paper was strong, but in the end, what would make a difference was how it will be implemented. Stressing that the next step would be its entry into force, Australia strongly encouraged States to sign the treaty on 3 June when it would open for signature in New York or as early as possible thereafter. Australia concluded by saying that the arms trade treaty would set new international standards for the arms trade and would provide a forum for transparency and accountability.
Ambassador TRIYONO WIBOWO of Indonesia, Outgoing President of the Conference on Disarmament, in his closing remarks at the end of Indonesia’s Presidency of the Conference, said that it had been an honour and privilege for Indonesia to assume the Presidency of the Conference. He added that, as he assumed the Presidency, he had been fully aware that for 16 years, the Conference had been in a stalemate. He thought that it would be a pity if they allowed themselves to be the witness of an ageing stalemate in the Conference. He said he had benefited of the four weeks of his presidency and of six additional weeks of recess to conduct intensive consultations with almost all Member States on the possibility to make the Conference get back to work, and was grateful to Member States for expressing their ideas, views, perspectives, concerns and various degrees of hope pertaining to the future of the Conference. He said that, based on such exchange, he had tried his best to formulate a comprehensive and balanced Programme of Work. In full awareness of the different priorities among Member States of the Conference, he had tried his utmost to bridge those differences and to find a middle ground on the matter. However, he concluded that after a round of consultations with concerned Member States on a draft programme of work he had to admit that a consensus was a long way off. In fact, despite the fact that many Member States had demonstrated their flexibility and willingness to join consensus, political considerations and insistence on specific language and on a certain priority over others made it difficult to reach a consensus. He added that Member States acknowledged almost in unison that the stalemate that had brought the Conference to its current state had been caused by variables beyond the scope of the Conference itself and that the roots laid in the Conference’s external political environment. It was difficult to commence negotiations when priorities and interests of Member States were in conflict, especially when some of these differences originated from domestic political considerations. However, he concluded, States should not give up their hope and should give this august body a chance as it was their shared responsibility to make the Conference work.
Germany thanked the President for his tireless efforts regarding the adoption of a programme of work and for organizing the seminar. In view of the difficulties surrounding the programme of work, it was highly commendable that the President had taken it upon himself not only to engage in intensive consultations on this matter but also to present an informal programme of work. Regretting that it was a characteristic feature of the Conference that reservations about draft programmes of work were only brought forward in private consultations, Germany said that this was the exact opposite of the transparent procedure that most Member States would like to see. Ambassador Hoffmann said that it was his understanding that in the informal consultations one delegation had expressed reservations on a particular point in the informal draft programme of work and had requested that language concerning document CD 1299 be changed. In this regard, Germany welcomed the fact that the President had rejected this request, however it wished to know if there were other serious problems raised by other States on the draft programme of work, and if so, what were these problems.
Ambassador TRIYONO WIBOWO of Indonesia, Outgoing President of the Conference on Disarmament, said that he had to admit that during the consultations on the draft programme of work, there had been one delegation that could not accept any reference to CD 1299 but that there were also some delegations that had proposed new language that could not be accepted by others. So it was not only one delegation that rejected the language in the programme of work with reference to CD/1299, but also other delegations that did not agree with some proposed language, in particular in respect to working groups one and two. He had therefore concluded that it was not possible to have a consensus on such draft. Before giving the floor to further speakers, he welcomed Ambassador Mohsen Nasiri Asl of Iran, incoming President of the Conference on Disarmament.
LAURA KENNEDY (United States), in a farewell statement, thanked Ambassador Wibowo and his team for their work in trying again to forge a way forward for the Conference. She said that it was unfortunate that those efforts did not bear fruit and suggested that the CD reflects on what could be done in the future. For the United States, CD 1864 was still the one programme of work that commanded consensus and remained for the United States the touchstone for a balanced and comprehensive approach. Recalling that the Conference had often heard the United States speak of its belief that the way to a world without nuclear weapons was a series of mutually reinforcing steps, she stressed that progress had never been, nor probably ever would be, fast enough to satisfy everyone. However, she continued, the United States had justifiably pointed out the vast nuclear reductions made, which had brought down nuclear arsenals by 85 per cent since the height of the Cold War and added that that did not mean complacency and the United States welcomed the energy and commitment of its partners in civil society and academia. Ambassador Kennedy also noted how President Obama had expanded this essential work on state arsenals to focus as well on the ongoing work to secure nuclear materials from non-state actors with malign intent. She stressed that the United States also could not relax its focus on non-proliferation and the absolute need for compliance with international obligations.
DELL HIGGIE (New Zealand) said that although she was departing Geneva, she was not in fact leaving the Conference since she would be continuing on as New Zealand’s Ambassador for Disarmament and therefore, as part of that portfolio, she would continue to be New Zealand’s Permanent Representative to the Conference. Recalling that the triumph of CD 1864 in May 2009 proved very short-lived and the Conference’s sorry record of not having a programme of work since 1996 continued to this day, she stressed that this was certainly not the fault of the Conference’s chairmanship. She continued by saying that the fact that the absence of a programme of work should suggest to any realist that there was no elixir that could be found under the status quo. In fact, she continued, unless the Conference were to have its rules of procedure changed, so that the interests of the few could not continue to prevail over the interests of the many, or unless there were to be some considerable evolution in certain key national positions so that, in the spirit of multilateralism, they were prepared to take greater account of the security interests of the broader global community, it would be hard to see that they would ever be able to get down to work. Asking what was there left for the Conference to do, she feared that theological debates might continue to be the order of the day and that they could continue to debate the best means to reach the end goal of nuclear disarmament and to watch what happened on security and disarmament issues elsewhere. She said she had a direct and personal interest in the fate of the Conference as being something else than a venue for a theological debate and an audience for what happened in more dynamic bodies elsewhere.
Spain expressed its best wishes to the two Ambassadors leaving today, extended its personal thanks to the President for his efforts to try to achieve a programme of work and said that very few Presidents had put in the efforts that he had to consult with so many delegates. Spain concluded by saying that the fact that Ambassador Wibowo had not been successful in adopting a Programme of Work was definitely not the fault of the President.
Ambassador MOHSEN NAZIRI ASL of Iran, Incoming President of the Conference, said that Ambassador Wibowo was a very skilful diplomat and expressed admiration for his diligent efforts during his Presidency. It was his great pleasure to participate again in the work of the Conference after 14 years, and it was unfortunate that after a long time, there had been not much change in the Conference. He expressed his hopes that the Conference would soon adopt a balanced programme of work. Mentioning that Iran would be taking over the Presidency of the Conference next week, he said he as looking forward to closely working with the outgoing President and drawing on his vast experience in planning his own programme for the presidency.
For use of the information media; not an official record