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Opening of the Conference on Disarmament Plenary meeting

  | Tatiana Valovaya Speech

 

Mr. President, Ambassador Pecsteen,
Excellencies,
Distinguished delegates,
Ladies and gentlemen,

It is a pleasure to address you at the opening of this year’s Conference on Disarmament. Let me start by wishing you all a Happy New Year.

I have followed attentively the proceedings this morning and I am disappointed that the Conference has started this way. As a general principle, exclusion undermines the fundamental concept of multilateralism. However, I still maintain high hopes for the 2021 session. 

Excellencies,
Distinguished delegates,
Ladies and gentlemen,

The determination demonstrated by the Member States of the Conference to hold meetings - even in 2020, despite the less than ideal format - is testament to their willingness to use all opportunities to bring forward the important issues on the agenda of the Conference. I hope that this same determination will contribute to substantive outcomes at the 2021 session, shepherded and supported by the six Presidents of this session.

Indeed, I am pleased to see that the spirit of cooperation between the P6 that marked the last session of the Conference continues today through their successors. While decision-making rests, equally, with each CD member, this working in unity can only facilitate your deliberations.  The intense collaboration between the six Presidents of 2021 has already allowed for an early circulation of a draft package proposal prior to the formal start of the session, kickstarting your work and – I am sure – discussions on what can or should be achieved by the Conference this year.

This package includes a draft for a Programme of Work, a draft outline for its implementation and a presidential statement on the improved and effective functioning of the Conference. In its essence, it could provide a framework for the work of the Conference throughout the year – structuring discussions, offering an opportunity to jointly delve into agenda items and explore specific aspects – moving beyond general statements. At this juncture, I see great value in the achievement of these objectives. 

Excellencies,
Distinguished delegates,
Ladies and gentlemen,

For years, we considered the system of norms in nuclear disarmament, non-proliferation and arms control an “aquis”. That very system of norms is instead crumbling before our eyes. In the past few years, we have seen a continuous negative trend, which you must urgently reverse. All States bear the responsibility to make maximum use of all multilateral fora and other channels to stop this negative trend as well as to build trust and confidence among nations. 

In this Conference, which is the single multilateral disarmament negotiating forum of the international community, it is time to move away from exchanges that do not contribute to substantive issues on the agenda of the CD, or that, worse, feed the prevailing trust deficit,  taking you further away from building a conducive environment for successful negotiations. 
Likewise, there is an urgent need for renewed dialogue that moves beyond the affirmation of already known national positions and that addresses the key substantive issues on which States must focus to make progress. 

The subsidiary bodies that would be established through the adoption of this package could provide the much-needed space for renewed dialogue in the Conference on specific topics of its agenda, whose items include some of the most pressing issues in global disarmament, non-proliferation and arms control. 

Excellencies,
Distinguished delegates,
Ladies and gentlemen,

This year marks the 75th anniversary of the first resolution passed by the United Nations General Assembly. This resolution, entitled “Establishment of a Commission to Deal with the Problems Raised by the Discovery of Atomic Energy”, among other things, sought proposals for the “elimination from national armaments of atomic weapons and all other weapons adaptable to mass destruction.”.
 
Seventy-five years later, and despite unquestionable progress in the reduction of nuclear arsenals, this is still an unfinished work. There is an urgent need to recommit to these principles and take urgent measures to implement it.

Despite divergences, even entrenchments, in your positions on ways to address these issues, I trust that you will find the means to bring them forward. 

The Conference on Disarmament, at its 2021 session, could offer the adequate space to bring forward discussions on these topics. 

The United Nations General Assembly, upon recommendation of its First Committee, just passed more than 60 resolutions, of which 19 make specific reference to the Conference on Disarmament. The United Nations Secretary-General has transmitted to the Conference the list of these resolutions, as per usual practice. With respect to the core items on the agenda of the Conference, this included a new request for its members to inform the Conference of their national space security policies, strategies or doctrines, on a voluntary basis.

Although the Conference on Disarmament and the General Assembly are different fora, the Disarmament and International Security issues dealt with in both bodies are similar and overlap and the 65 delegations that participate to both fora represent the same national security interests in both venues. 

Excellencies,
Distinguished delegates,
Ladies and gentlemen,

As 2020 challenged us all in all aspects of our professional and personal lives, it is natural to look at this year with a sense of momentous expectation – including in the field of disarmament. 

This year will indeed be marked by important events for the global nuclear disarmament, non-proliferation and arms control regimes. There will be the entry into force of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) in just a few days and the postponed Review Conference of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) is scheduled to take place this summer.

The preparations for the Review Conferences of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons and of the Biological Weapons Convention will also take place this year. In this sense, the hardest challenges but also the greatest opportunities lie ahead of us.

I hope that the Members of Conference on Disarmament will be inspired by the critical significance of these events and will find the sense of urgency necessary to contribute to their success and reverse the dangerous trends witnessed over the past few years. There is no doubt that what has been missing in this Conference is neither substantive knowledge of its Members nor worthy subject matters, but rather the political will to build on them. 
Excellencies,
Distinguished delegates,
Ladies and gentlemen,

Here at the Palais, business may not return to normal in the near-term. It is likely that as the epidemiological situation continues to be severe. Several constraints to our ability to meet in person will therefore remain throughout the first half of 2021. The financial realities of the Organization will also continue to be a challenging reality. I am, however, strongly committed to support you in your important work to the extent possible. I took note of the requests for further information on the financing of conference servicing at UNOG, and my colleagues in the CD Secretariat and UNOG have answered several of your queries, in various formats. We stand ready to continue to do so, including through pointed information notes on financial, conferencing and logistical issues to address all your queries. 

I wish you all success in your work. 

Thank you.