ACCESSIBILITY AT UNOG A A A A The United Nations in the Heart of Europe

JAPAN ASSUMES PRESIDENCY OF THE CONFERENCE ON DISARMAMENT

18 March 2014

The Conference on Disarmament this morning heard from its new President, and discussed details of the proposed duel-track approach to revitalizing its work.  It also heard from Colombia and South Africa.

In his initial address to the Conference as President,
Ambassador Toshio Sano of Japan, said Japan put disarmament as a central pillar of its foreign policy and the Japanese people strongly desired the achievement of a world without nuclear weapons.  The President said he would spare no effort in achieving that aim.  His first priority was to adopt a programme of work, but a more pragmatic aim was to finalize the ‘dual track approach’ and achieving a Schedule of Activities by the end of the session.  The President said he was committed to work with transparency and continuity, with a door that was always open, for the benefit of all.

Colombia quoted a poignant passage from the “Cataclysm of Damocles” address by Nobel Prize-winning author Gabriel Garcia Marquez on the anniversary of the dropping of an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, commenting that the conclusion we must reach is that the arms race is totally counter to any intelligence. Given its stalemate, it seemed the Conference on Disarmament was following the same course.  The prime task entrusted to the Conference was to protect humankind from atomic deluge, and the words of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon were recalled when he said the Conference could not wait until the perfect environment existed in order to make progress in nuclear disarmament. 

South Africa reiterated that nuclear disarmament remained South Africa’s highest priority, and was an international obligation and a moral imperative.  It supported the achievement of a treaty banning fissile material for nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices that would fulfil both nuclear disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation objectives.  South Africa also supported the re-establishment of the Informal Working Group and the adoption of a Schedule of Activities, adding that the reports of the discussions to be held on each agenda items in accordance with the said Schedule of Activities should be adopted by consensus, rather than being reports of the President. 

Speaking in today’s discussion were Colombia and South Africa.

The next public meeting of the Conference on Disarmament will take place on Tuesday 25 March at 10 a.m.

Statement by the President

Ambassador Toshio Sano of Japan, the President of the Conference, said Japan put disarmament as a central pillar of its foreign policy, adding that the Japanese people strongly desired the achievement of a world without nuclear weapons.  The President said he would spare no effort in achieving that aim.  He regretted that the Conference had carried no substantive work since 1996, but said he still recognized it as indispensable, believing that the difficulties ahead could be overcome by multilateralism. The need for disarmament had never been greater.  Being a Member State of the Conference was a privilege, and members must discharge their responsibility to bring about a concrete outcome.   His first priority was to adopt a programme of work, he said, although he was fully aware of difficulties in achieving that in the immediate term.  Therefore, his pragmatic preference, as well as the majority opinion of Conference Member States, was to finalize the ‘dual track approach’. 

Thanks to untiring efforts of the last two Presidents the first track – the reestablishment of the Informal Working Group – had been established.  The Conference must now focus on the second track, the Schedule of Activities.  If the Conference wished to conduct substantive discussions the procedures had to be accelerated, the President said, and therefore he wished to seek adoption of a Schedule of Activities before the end of the session (Friday 28 March).  As the G21 group had requested more time to consider the non-paper, the President gave a deadline of 5 p.m. 20 March for delegations to submit their comments.  He would then incorporate the comments before issuing the draft as a working paper.  The G21 and WEOG groups were also urged to submit the names of candidates to serve as coordinator for the Schedule of Activities.  The President said he was committed to work with transparency and continuity, with a door that was always open, for the benefit of all, in full cooperation with the six presidencies of the Conference.

Statements

Colombia quoted from the “Cataclysm of Damocles” address by Nobel Prize-winning author Gabriel Garcia Marquez to the Conference on Disarmament in 1986, on the anniversary of the dropping of an atomic bomb on Hiroshima:

“One minute after the last explosion, more than half of the humans would be dead. Dust and smoke from the continents in flames will defeat sunlight, and absolute darkness will reign on the world one more time. Those few human beings who would survive the first horror, and those who had the privilege of safe refuge at three o’clock in the afternoon of that fateful Monday when the big catastrophe took place, would have saved their lives only to die later due to the horrifying memories. In the middle of eternal humidity and everlasting nights, cockroaches will be the only remain of the lives which were once on earth.” 

Now, 28 years after that speech, 35 years after the founding of the Conference on Disarmament and 40 years after the Non-Proliferation Treaty, those words were as poignant as ever, said the Ambassador of Colombia.  The conclusion that we must reach is that the arms race is totally counter to any intelligence.  Given its stalemate, it seemed the Conference on Disarmament was following the same course.  Patience with the paralysis of the disarmament machinery had worn thin.  We must direct our work once and for all to the achievement of complete and irreversible nuclear disarmament. 
The prime task entrusted to the Conference was to protect humankind from atomic deluge.  Colombia said it found hope in the recent message by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon who reminded that the Conference could not wait until the perfect environment existed in order to make progress in nuclear disarmament.  Colombia supported the establishment of the Informal Working Group and wished the Ambassadors of Ecuador and Australia all success in leading it, concluding that we must do all we could to protect the planet from the apocalypse that Garcia Marquez described.  

South Africa reiterated that nuclear disarmament remained South Africa’s highest priority.  Nuclear disarmament was an international obligation and a moral imperative.  The continued development of new categories of nuclear weapons and their delivery systems was a clear indication that some countries continued to harbour aspirations for the indefinite retention of those weapons, contrary to their legal obligations and commitments.  It was regrettable that vast public resources were being diverted towards the modernization of nuclear weapons, which was clearly unacceptable and unsustainable in a world where basic human needs could not be met.  Governments should direct much-needed resources towards development assistance in support of the Millennium Development Goals.  South Africa remained supportive of the commencement and conclusion of negotiations in the Conference on a treaty banning fissile material for nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.  However, a simple “cut-off” treaty would restrict it to future production.  Therefore South Africa believed a fissile material treaty should fulfil both nuclear disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation objectives and be non-discriminatory.  With each passing year it became clearer that the vast majority of Member States were frustrated with the lack of progress in the Conference. 
South Africa supported the re-establishment of the Informal Working Group and the adoption of a Schedule of Activities. It also indicated that the reports of the discussions to be held on each agenda items in accordance with the said Schedule of Activities should be adopted by consensus, rather than being reports of the President. 


For use of the information media; not an official record

DC14/013E