CONFERENCE ON DISARMAMENT HEARS STATEMENT BY TATIANA VALOVAYA,SECRETARY-GENERAL OF THE CONFERENCE
Observes Minute of Silence to Pay Tribute to Victims of the Explosion in Lebanon and of the COVID-19 Pandemic
The Conference on Disarmament held a plenary meeting this morning under the presidency of Bangladesh, during which it heard a statement by Tatiana Valovaya, Secretary-General of the Conference and Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva, as well as other statements.
At the beginning of the meeting, the Council observed a minute of silence to pay tribute to the innocent lives lost following the tragic explosion that occurred in Lebanon last week and because of the COVID-19 virus.
Ambassador Shameem Ahsan of Bangladesh, President of the Conference on Disarmament, speaking in his national capacity, said that a broad majority of the Member States were not happy as the Conference had not delivered any substantial progress over the last two decades. Stressing the need to draw upon collective wisdom and act together towards reaching a broad consensus, he noted that the seventy-fifth anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki reminded the international community of the real and harrowing consequences of war and the growing urgency to free the world of nuclear weapons.
Tatiana Valovaya, Secretary-General of the Conference on Disarmament and Personal Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General to the Conference, Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva, said that it was necessary to overcome the current global situation of insecurity, the lack of trust and cooperation among States, and the diminished faith in and support for the very multilateral institution that had been designed to maintain global peace and security. She was encouraged by Conference Members’ determination to resume meetings of the Conference, and stood ready, with the Secretariat, to support their work.
In the ensuing discussion, speakers said efforts must be redoubled to reinforce and revitalize the Conference, as well as preserve its credibility, by resuming substantive work. Members should demonstrate flexibility and willingness to compromise, so this body may raise above challenges. They noted positive developments, such as the cooperation and leadership of the P6+2. Some noted that the Middle East was going through a period fraught with risks. The COVID-19 pandemic was accelerating the use of technologies, a development which was relevant to the Conference’s work.
Organizational matters were also among topics broached during the meeting, with speakers calling for the separation of the programme of work from the establishment of subsidiary bodies. For health and safety reasons, the Conference should hold as few in-person meetings as possible and adopt minimalist technical reports. The importance of discussing and adopting the draft annual report of the Conference was stressed. Some speakers requested accurate information on the financial situation of the Conference, including the savings made, detailed budgets and forecasts.
Negative security assurances, the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons Review Conference, the relevance of softer instruments, such as military codes of conduct, and threats in outer space were also discussed.
Speaking in the meeting were the delegations of Ethiopia, Japan, Kenya, Saudi Arabia, Netherlands, United States, Germany, Australia, Russian Federation, Peru, Venezuela, Pakistan, Indonesia, France, Republic of Korea, Morocco, Brazil and China.
The Conference on Disarmament will resume its work at 3 p.m. this afternoon.
Statement by the President of the Conference on Disarmament
Ambassador SHAMEEM AHSAN of Bangladesh, President of the Conference on Disarmament, invited those present to observe a minute of silence, to pay tribute to the innocent lives lost and impacted by the tragic explosion that had occurred in Lebanon last week, as well as for the loss of hundreds of thousands of lives to the COVID-19 virus.
Speaking in his national capacity, he said that a broad majority of the Member States were not happy as the Conference had not delivered any substantial progress over the last two decades. Stressing the need to draw upon collective wisdom and act together towards reaching a broad consensus, he noted that the seventy-fifth anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki reminded the international community of the real and harrowing consequences of war and the growing urgency to free the world of nuclear weapons.
Statement by the Secretary-General of the Conference on Disarmament
TATIANA VALOVAYA, Secretary-General of the Conference on Disarmament and Personal Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General to the Conference , Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva, said that 2020 was a year of important anniversaries in the field of disarmament, including the seventy-fifth anniversary of the founding of the United Nations and of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the fiftieth anniversary of the entry into force of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. It was necessary to overcome the current global situation of insecurity, the lack of trust and cooperation among States, and the diminished faith in and support for the very multilateral institution that had been designed to maintain global peace and security. These anniversaries should provide the impetus to address important questions on the way forward in disarmament. She was encouraged by Conference Members’ determination to resume meetings of the Conference, and stood ready, with the Secretariat, to support their work.
The United Nations Secretariat was facing a severe liquidity crisis. While it was sparing no effort to identify ways to re-prioritize and make bridge funding available, the United Nations Office at Geneva had not received sufficient funding for normal operations through to the year’s end, while also facing unforeseen expenses related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Her office would be briefing Member States in Geneva on the situation, measures and outlook going forward in 2020 soon.
Ethiopia , speaking on behalf of the Group of 21, said efforts must be redoubled to reinforce and revitalize the Conference on Disarmament, as well as preserve its credibility, by resuming substantive work. The Conference should start negotiations towards complete nuclear disarmament, through the adoption of a comprehensive international convention that, inter alia, prohibited the use or threat of use, as well as the possession, development, stockpiling and transfer of nuclear weapons, with a specific timeframe.
Japan said the Conference needed to show the world its significance by tackling the problems posed by the severe international security environment. It should conduct substantial discussions to lay the groundwork for a future commencement of disarmament negotiations. The cooperation and leadership of the P6+2 was a significant positive development this year. Japan emphasised the importance of a meaningful outcome of the upcoming Review Conference of the parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.
Kenya said the Conference, with its unique mandate, remained an indispensable bastion for the maintenance of international peace and security. It would be unrealistic to expect that much could be achieved in the time left this year. Efforts made under the presidency of Australia should be carried forward. Seventy-five years after the founding of the United Nations, multilateralism was severely under strain. Members should demonstrate flexibility and willingness to compromise, so this body may raise above challenges.
Saudi Arabia said the Middle East was going through a dangerous period marked by weapons trafficking and arms falling in the hands of extremist organizations. The Iranian Government had been involved in attacks targeting the east of Saudi Arabia, and it sought to destabilize the region by financing militias. Other countries were also suffering from these attacks.
Netherlands said the organization of work could be rationalized by separating the programme of work from the establishment of subsidiary bodies. By taking this approach, the Council would put the focus in the plenary on the substance of its agenda. After two decades of stalemate resulting from an all-or-nothing approach, it was time to go “back to basics” and shift gears in 2021.
United States said that, for health and safety reasons, the Conference should hold as few in-person meetings as possible. The United States would continue to meet with the Russian Federation to achieve greater understanding. The people China also needed to show transparency and provide clarity into its nuclear doctrine that threatened to trigger an arms race amongst the three major nuclear powers. Full cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency was the only path forward for Iran.
Germany said it was important to avoid another negative precedent; this august body must get back to work, and this implied the adoption of its annual report. This report should be technical in nature and focus on core issues. For this to happen, the Conference needed time to hold discussions and must not face too many constraints. Transparency was key, notably as regarded financial matters.
Australia said that strengthened P6+2 coordination had been a feature of the Conference on Disarmament this year and such continuity and transparency was likely to continue next year. Australia recalled that it had made a proposal on the gender neutrality of rules of procedure. Nuclear risk reduction should be prioritized in 2021, as well as softer instruments, such as military codes of conduct.
Russian Federation said it had always complied with international agreements it was party to. Consensus was the most important factor to ensure the viability of treaties and agreements. While there were no quick and easy solutions, painstaking and thorough work aimed at better understanding of the position of other countries could yield long-term results. The Russian Federation expressed reserved optimism regarding the bilateral meetings it had held with the United States, which addressed issues of interest to the Conference.
Peru said the humanitarian consequences of a nuclear explosion were severe, regardless of whether it was intentional or not and who or what triggered it. Nuclear weapons simply should not exist. Using them, or threatening to do so, amounted to a crime against humanity and a violation of international law. Peru was proud to be part of the first densely populated nuclear weapons-free zone.
Venezuela welcomed the declaration of Latin America and the Caribbean as a peace zone. This proclamation was an important contribution to efforts aiming to achieve complete disarmament. The United States wanted to eradicate the current disarmament system, the breaking down of which would only strengthen nuclear deterrence doctrines based on a renewed arms race.
Pakistan said it was clear that the international order continued to be undermined, as unilateralism emerged as a defining feature of this period. Many States were pursuing the expansion of arms, rather than their control. Tenets of international law had been trampled in the illegally occupied territory of Jammu and Kashmir. It would be naïve to dismiss statements by India that showcased its militarized mindset as mere bravado. There were several signals of India’s aggressive design.
Indonesia said that, in order to move forward, Conference Members needed to identify low hanging fruits. Negative security assurances were an important issue in the multilateral process aiming to reduce nuclear weapons, and no State had officially opposed the idea of an agreement on effective international arrangements on them. In exchange for the commitment to never develop or receive nuclear weapons, the Non-Nuclear Weapon States had legitimate rights not to be attacked nor threatened, by the Nuclear Weapon States.
France expressed surprise that the remaining budget for 2020 only allowed for four two-hour hybrid meetings, and requested an accurate assessment of the financial situation of the Conference. The aim of the Review Conference of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, due to take place in 2021, should be to reaffirm the authority and primacy of the Treaty. France defended the logic of disarmament, which served security and global stability. France had reduced its arsenal to fewer than 300 nuclear weapons.
Republic of Korea said the Conference should address the issue of the growing threats related to outer space, but in a realistic manner. The first step forward should be the commencement of discussions on reducing space threats through action that would build confidence among States. The COVID-19 pandemic was accelerating the use of technologies, a development which was relevant to the Conference’s work.
Morocco said expressions of goodwill were not enough where matters of disarmament were concerned. Acts were needed. The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons’ Review Conference would be a decisive moment for future policymaking on disarmament.
Brazil said the concerted efforts of the P6 had shown the value of joint action. The COVID-19 pandemic had forced the postponement of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons’ Review Conference. It should nevertheless be an opportunity to reaffirm and move beyond previous commitments. Implementing nuclear agreements presented the practical challenge of verification, and Brazil had proposed the creation of a group of scientific experts. Brazil dissociated itself from the statement made on behalf of the Group of 21.
China said politicians in the United States were aiming to put China at loggerheads with the rest of the world. China was a champion of upholding existing international treaties, and would remain a reliable force for peace in the world. The American Cold War mentality was at odds with current times. Without trust, there could be no arms control. China denied the United States’ allegations about the allegedly expanding Chinese arms arsenal, and stood ready to engage with the United States in a dialogue on strategic stability and arms control.