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STATES RESPOND TO RUSSIAN PROPOSALS ON A DRAFT CONVENTION FOR THE SUPPRESSION OF CHEMICAL AND BIOLOGICAL TERRORISM AND ON A PROGRAMME OF WORK

Japanese Youth Communicators for a World without Nuclear Weapons Address the Conference, Ambassador of Poland takes the floor as Outgoing President
16 August 2016

The Conference on Disarmament today heard a number of States respond to the Russian proposals on a draft Convention for the Suppression of Chemical and Biological Terrorism and on a draft programme of work.  It also heard from Japanese Youth Communicators for a World without Nuclear Weapons, and from the Ambassador of Poland as outgoing President of the Conference.

Ambassador Piotr Stachanczyk of Poland, outgoing President of the Conference, updating the Conference on his latest informal consultations, said that after the presentation on 4 August of a new version of the Russian proposal on a programme of work, he had conducted several consultations.  On the basis of the results of these consultations, he could state that there were four groups responding to this proposal: one group strongly supported it; another group had a lot of open questions and doubts; some Members of the Conference had no clear position, often because they had had no response from their capitals; and some countries because of different reasons opposed the proposal.  This was not a surprise.  The situation had not matured enough to indicate a direction of work on this proposal.  It would be something for the Conference to discuss next year. 

Russia said that hasty and radical acts by advocates of the start of negotiations on the prohibition of nuclear weapons could unfortunately be counterproductive.  They might jeopardize the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons Treaty (NPT), the existing regime of non-proliferation, and the whole multilateral disarmament mechanism under the United Nations.  Russia wished to seek decisions leading to strengthening the security of all countries.  The Russian draft programme of work for the Conference reflected these goals and beliefs.  Russia called on participants to turn to this programme of work with fresh eyes.

The United States said a close reading of Russia’s revised proposal revealed that with only minor modifications, the text closely resembled the proposal previously tabled, and thus the conceptual underpinnings remained flawed.  There were no serious gaps in the existing international framework, only robust and multi-faceted tools available to combat this threat.

The United Kingdom said it was not convinced that the Russian proposal should be the focus of their work at the Conference.  The key issue was implementation of existing legal instruments.  The United Kingdom did not see how a new convention could make non-State use of chemical and biological weapons harder or less likely, or make it easier to hold perpetrators to account. 

Canada said it remained unconvinced that there was a significant value added to be gained from new legally binding measures.  The collective goal should be to reinforce the need for all States to fully implement their existing national obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention and the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention.

Japan said 22 “Youth Communicators for a World without Nuclear Weapons”, commissioned by the Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, were visiting Geneva.  The main mission of the Youth Communicators was to relay the harsh experiences of hibakusha across national borders and generations. 

Nanako Nagaishi, a high school student from Nagasaki, speaking as a member of the Japanese delegation, said today, Japan would like to convey the message of hibakusha – people who had survived the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki – and to express their will to work toward nuclear disarmament. 

China said that the war had caused over 100 million military and civilian casualties.  Of this figure, China alone had suffered over 35 million casualties.  Commemorating the suffering endured by the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki while ignoring the much greater suffering inflicted on the people of other Asian countries would inevitably result in a skewed view of history.

Ambassador Kim In-chul of the Republic of Korea, who will take over the Presidency of the Conference next week, urged Member States to schedule one on one consultations with him to discuss the draft annual report. 

The next public plenary of the Conference on Disarmament will be held at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 22 August 2016.

Statements

Ambassador PIOTR STACHANCZYK of Poland, President of the Conference, said that as the Presidency of Poland was coming to an end, he would like to make some remarks.  It had been challenging, sometimes difficult, but always interesting.  Poland had tried to properly respond to the needs of the Conference and the expectations of Member States.  Whether they had succeeded or not, it was up to the opinion of the participants of the Conference on Disarmament, but they had definitely tried.  He had consulted a significant number of States to identify problems and to understand the most important elements of their positions.  Their approach had resulted in putting in action one of the proposals on a programme of work and they had been very close to reaching a compromise and he hoped that the Conference would agree on the programme of work next year.  During last week’s seminar style debate, they had offered an opportunity for an exchange of views on the main challenges for disarmament. 

Updating the Conference on his latest informal consultations, Ambassador Stachanczyk said after the presentation on 4 August of a new version of the Russian proposal on a programme of work, he had conducted several consultations.  On the basis of results of these consultations, he could state that there were four groups responding to this proposal: one group strongly supported it; another group had a lot of open questions and doubts; some Members of the Conference had no clear position, often because they had had no response from their capitals; and some countries because of different reasons opposed the proposal.  This was not a surprise.  The situation had not matured enough to indicate a direction of work on this proposal.  It would be something for the Conference to discuss next year. 

He welcomed today the Youth Communicators for a World without Nuclear Weapons from Japan. 
 
Japan said it would give the floor to Nanako Nagaishi, a high school student from Nagasaki who would speak as a member of Japan’s delegation.  She was visiting Geneva together with 21 other “Youth Communicators for a World without Nuclear Weapons”, commissioned by the Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida.  Foreign Minister Kishida had repeatedly stated that nuclear disarmament must be promoted based on the objective assessment of the reality of the international security environment, as well as a clear understanding of the humanitarian aspect of the use of nuclear weapons.  The main mission of the Youth Communicators was to relay the harsh experiences of hibakusha across national borders and generations.  They acted as the Hiroshima Nagasaki Peace Messengers, running a campaign to collect signatures in Japan for the sake of a world free of nuclear weapons, which were submitted to the United Nations every year.
 
NANAKO NAGAISHI, a high school student from Nagasaki, said she was with 21 members of the Hiroshima/Nagasaki Peace Messengers, who had been appointed as Youth Communicators for a world without nuclear weapons by the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs.  Today, Japan would like to convey the message of hibakusha – people who had survived the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki – and to express their will to work toward nuclear disarmament.  On 9 August 1945, the beautiful port town of Nagasaki was turned into ruins by a single atomic bomb.  However, to what extent was the suffering of the people of Nagasaki known to the world.  The Hiroshima/Nagasaki Peace Messengers had visited the United Nations for 19 years.  Their “High-school students 10,000 Signatures Campaign” was launched in 2001 to ask for a world without nuclear weapons and to work toward making world peace a reality.  The total number of signatures collected over the last 15 years had come to approximately 1.4 million, and this year they had brought to the Conference 125,314 signatures.  She understood that the Conference on Disarmament was making a steady contribution toward nuclear disarmament, and wished to take this opportunity to ask all of them to listen to the voices of hibakusha and to once again pay attention to the inhumanity of nuclear weapons.  

China welcomed the high school students from Japan.  Their presence reminded of the important mission in the Conference on Disarmament to promote multilateral disarmament and global peace and security.  A panoramic view of history was essential.  World War II was the darkest page in the annals of mankind, with the nuclear explosions in Hiroshima and Nagasaki being part of the tragedy.  One could not correctly and fully understand this historic episode without a comprehensive and in-depth understanding of the trajectory of the war.  It was also helpful to look at the points of view of others.  The war had caused over 100 million military and civilian casualties.  Of this figure, China alone had suffered over 35 million casualties and the Soviet Union, 27 million.  During the war, a certain country, in violation of international law, had used biological and chemical weapons, killing or maiming several million soldiers and civilians in China.  Commemorating the suffering endured by the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki while ignoring the much greater suffering inflicted on the people of other Asian countries would inevitably result in a skewed view of history.  China encouraged them to delve deep into history by reading more books and learning facts not found in their text books.  He also encouraged them to visit cities devastated in the war, such as Nanjing, China. 

Russian Federation suggested that the positive impulse provided by the Polish Presidency could be built upon and hoped that they would be able to successfully conclude this session of the Conference.  Russia welcomed the youth of Japan.  Russia shared the worthy goals that they had outlined: for humanity, a world without nuclear weapons was one of their key priorities and strategic goals.  He wished to share some points linked to the Conference, and also to the final stage of the work of the open-ended working group on nuclear disarmament, which was concluding its work.  Moscow fully understood and shared the desire of the international community to achieve the worthy goal as soon as possible of the nuclear zero.  At the same time, Russia considered that hasty and radical acts by advocates of the start of negotiations on the prohibition of nuclear weapons could unfortunately be counterproductive.  They might jeopardize the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons Treaty (NPT), the existing regime of non-proliferation, and the whole multilateral disarmament mechanism under the United Nations.  An approach based on forcing nuclear States to discard their nuclear arsenals without taking account their national security interests or the existing strategic reality today would lead to a sharp rise in antagonism between nuclear and non-nuclear weapons States. 

Genuine steps forward were possible only through a respectful and inclusive inter-State dialogue during which account was taken of all factors that had an impact on global strategic stability.  Only this approach would allow them to establish an international atmosphere that would facilitate the implementation of further steps in the context of nuclear disarmament.  Ignoring the role of nuclear weapons as a serious deterrent, their importance in preventing the world from slipping into instability, and the destruction of all international security architecture would be extremely short-sighted.  Hasty and ill-thought through rejections of nuclear weapons could only lead to a sharp drop in the threshold on the use of force in international relations.  With the development today of a new generation of conventional weapons – strategic weapons without nuclear components, their potential in terms of destructive force was very similar to nuclear devices. 

The NPT was the only genuine, legally binding document that worked on a consensus basis and its erosion and undermining was extremely dangerous.  Russia was not against developing a legally binding prohibition on nuclear weapons, but it must be adopted at the concluding phase of a global process of genuine and complete disarmament.  This would guarantee its irreversibility.  On the humanitarian approach to nuclear weapons, while Russia understood its importance, it could lead to changing understandings and an unjustified shift in emphasis in the disarmament sector from keeping global strategic stability to achieving some humanitarian standards.  Russia was not avoiding discussions to nuclear disarmament; it was open to comprehensive dialogue.   Russia wished to seek decisions leading to strengthening the security of all countries.  Its main criteria in efforts should be realism and maintaining the balance of interests.  The Russian draft programme of work for the Conference reflected these goals and beliefs.  It was based on a balanced approach to the current British idea on an in-depth discussion of nuclear disarmament issues and negotiations on a Russian initiative on developing an international convention to combat acts of chemical and biological terrorism.  Russia called on participants to turn to this programme of work with fresh eyes and to assess it in terms of helping the Conference on Disarmament emerge from the deadlock and in broader terms to seek a possibility for the Conference to make a practical contribution to strengthening international security and basing itself on a realistic approach.

United States said it had carefully reviewed Russia’s revised proposal for a Convention on the Suppression of Acts of Chemical and Biological Terrorism.  A close reading of the revised proposal revealed that with only minor modifications, the text closely resembled the proposal previously tabled, and thus the conceptual underpinnings remained flawed.  Like Russia, the United States recognized that recent use of chemical weapons in Iraq and Syria highlighted that the threat and use of chemical and biological weapons by both State and non-State actors was a real and complex problem.  The United States did not question the malady, only the proposed remedy.  

At its core, Russia’s proposal was founded on the false premise that there were gaps in the current international framework that could only be addressed by a new legally binding convention.  Fortunately, this was not the case.  There were no serious gaps in the existing international framework, only robust and multi-faceted tools available to combat this threat, like the Biological Weapons Convention and the Chemical Weapons Convention, the International Convention on the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings, and United Nations Security Council resolution 1540.  Russia had also claimed that its proposal was necessary because the issue could not be tackled at the national level and should not be scattered under various existing mechanisms.  In fact, Russia’s own proposal relied on the same mechanisms, i.e. national implementation.   Unlike the Russian proposal, these initiatives were available now, an existing framework built over the past two decades.  Russia’s assertions undersold both the breadth of the existing international framework and the commitment of its Member States.  Negotiations for a new legally binding convention could at best result in a superfluous and unnecessary mechanism, and at worst distract the international community and provide the very actors that they aimed to deter with opportunities for their exploitation.

The United States that Russia had often said that its proposal was the best vehicle to bring the Conference back to work.  The United States reminded that there was a proposal that would have broken the current logjam in the Conference, a proposal that should have easily commanded consensus.  However Russia had rejected the British text. 

United Kingdom welcomed that the Russian proposal contained the operative part of the United Kingdom’s proposal to identify and elaborate effective measures for nuclear disarmament.  It was a pity, however, that Russia insisted on a package approach.  Everyone else seemed willing to get the Conference back to work on the basis on the proposal by the United Kingdom.  The United Kingdom condemned all forms of terrorism and terrorist use of biological and chemical materials was a serious concern, and it was determined to take effective action to prevent such use, and to hold to account all perpetrators of attacks using biological or chemical materials by State or non-State actors.  However, it was not convinced that this issue should be the focus of their work at the Conference.  The key issue was the implementation of existing legal instruments.  It did not see how a new convention could make non-State use of chemical and biological weapons harder or less likely, or make it easier to hold perpetrators to account. 

Canada thanked the Russian Federation for its constructive engagement and its efforts to get the Conference back to work.  Canada had studied the Russian proposal with care.  It recognized the challenges posed to global security by continued efforts by non-State actors who sought to access and use weapons of mass destruction.  It was against such threats that Canada had led the creation of the global partnership programme in 2002 and continued to fund concrete projects to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and acts of terrorism.  Canada remained unconvinced that there was a significant value added to be gained from new legally binding measures.  The collective goal should be to reinforce the need for all States to fully implement their existing national obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention and the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention.

Russian Federation said it wished to react to the comments made by the United States and the United Kingdom.  Russia respected their positions and arguments.  However, it maintained its assessment of the Convention despite the comments made.  Russia called on all delegates to look at the proposed Russian programme of work with fresh eyes.  Russia believed that the British proposal was highly topical and it was not blocking it, it was blocking a precedent, turning the Conference into a one-item forum that would undermine the principle of the balanced nature of the Conference.  The United Kingdom’s proposal was highly interesting, that was why Russia had tried to balance it with its proposal.   

Ambassador KIM IN-CHUL of the Republic of Korea, who would be taking over the presidency of the Conference on Disarmament next week, announced that with the cooperation of the President and the Secretariat, they had reserved room S190 this week for one on one consultations with Members of the Conference to discuss the draft annual report.  He requested Members to schedule consultations. 

Ambassador PIOTR STACHANCZYK of Poland, President of the Conference, thanked all for their support during Poland’s Presidency.  The next plenary would be held at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 22 August, under the Presidency of the Republic of Korea.



For use of the information media; not an official record

DC16/034E