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Conference on Disarmament Discusses Working Paper by Australia on Consultations Held During the Australian Presidency Last Year

Meeting Summaries

 

The Conference on Disarmament today discussed a working paper by Australia on consultations held during the Australian Presidency last year.

Ambassador Leslie E. Norton of Canada, President of the Conference, said the focus of today’s plenary meeting was document CD/2197, submitted last year as an official document by the delegation of Australia. During its Presidency, Australia undertook extensive consultations asking States about their views on the Conference on Disarmament and how to move forward. Due to the COVID pandemic, this paper had not been put to the Conference for discussion. During Canada’s informal consultations, several States had expressed an interest in discussing this paper.

Ambassador Sally Mansfield of Australia said the working paper summarised the consultations that Australia undertook during its Presidency last year. Australia had canvassed views on which security or arms control issues were the most important to delegations, what the Conference could negotiate over the next five to 10 years, how the Conference could build consensus on such negotiations, and how to break the deadlock on the programme of work. The consultations had been held on a confidential basis, to be shared on a not for attribution basis. The result had been the working paper CD/2197. Australia had drafted it but the views were not Australia’s views. It summarised the views that were heard from delegations.

In the discussion, one speaker said that for the last two decades, efforts in the Conference had been focused on grouping different mandates together, linking the programme of work and the establishment of subsidiary bodies. This had led to a stalemate. The programme of work should be used as a planning tool and should be de-linked from the establishment of subsidiary bodies. Another speaker spoke of the chronic lack of political will that kept the Conference from negotiating legally binding instruments. The international community must intensify dialogue so as to build a consensus to initiate concrete steps towards achieving the goal of nuclear disarmament. A speaker said that the Conference on Disarmament remained a vital organ of the international security architecture and its role remained unique. However, it would remain hamstrung by the effects of the tumultuous geo-political and fragile global security order. One speaker registered concerns regarding the proposal to convene a discussion on the Australian paper in a formal plenary format. This was not related to the content, rather the approach or modalities of the discussion, and the practice of convening a discussion on an individual working paper in a formal plenary format.

Speaking in the discussion were the United States, Netherlands, India, China, Pakistan, Iran, Republic of Korea, Malaysia on behalf of the Group of 21, Indonesia, Turkey, and Venezuela.

The next plenary of the Conference will be held at 3 p.m. on Thursday, 12 August, when on the occasion of International Youth Day, the plenary will be dedicated to a discussion on youth and disarmament. Speaking will be Izumi Nakamitsu, United Nations Under-Secretary General and High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, and Jayathma Wickramanayake, the United Nations Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth. The following four United Nations Youth Disarmament Champions will also give presentations: Patrick Karekezi (Rwanda/ Uganda); Kirsten Mosey (Canada); Linh Trang Phung (Viet Nam); and Christelle Barakat (Lebanon).

Statements by Canada and Australia

Ambassador LESLIE E. NORTON of Canada, President of the Conference on Disarmament, speaking about the Conference’s last two plenary meetings last week, said she was disappointed that the Conference could not agree on updating the rules of procedure to have them reflect the equality of men and women at the Conference, despite support from a large majority of delegations. Her assessment was that the Conference would not achieve consensus on this issue during this final week of Canada’s Presidency, but she encouraged States to continue informal discussions. She had not heard any objections to the principle of equality, and believed that a future Presidency would make another attempt to update the rules in a manner that reflected common values and practice.

The Conference today would discuss document CD/2197, submitted last year as an official document by the delegation of Australia. During its Presidency, Australia undertook extensive consultations asking States about their views on the Conference on Disarmament and how to move forward. Due to the COVID pandemic, this paper had not been put to the Conference for discussion. During informal consultations, several States had expressed an interest in discussing this paper. CD/2197 was the result not only of the hard work done by Australia, but also by those States that offered their input for the paper.

Ambassador MARY MANSFIELD of Australia said Australia was pleased that the Conference had this opportunity to discuss the working paper, which summarised the consultations that Australia undertook during its Presidency last year. Australia’s plans had been very much interrupted by the onset of the pandemic, so it had decided to reflect on the work of the Conference and listen to the views of Members and Observers of the Conference. It had held an extensive agenda of virtual, bilateral calls, speaking with over 40 delegations. Australia had invited delegations to share the views on the priorities and on the role of the Conference on ways to break the deadlock and to be more effective. Australia had canvassed views on which security or arms control issues were the most important to delegations, what the Conference could negotiate over the next five to 10 years, how the Conference could build consensus on such negotiations, and how to break the deadlock on the programme of work. The consultations had been held on a confidential basis, to be shared on a not for attribution basis. The result had been the working paper CD/2197. Australia had drafted it but the views were not Australia’s views. It summarised the views that were heard from delegations.

Ambassador LESLIE E. NORTON of Canada, President of the Conference on Disarmament, speaking in her national capacity, said that for Canada, the main priority of the Conference should remain the negotiation of legally binding disarmament instruments. As long as this alluded the Conference, international peace and security could be enhanced if Conference members came to consensus on norms or codes of conduct or other measures related to the agenda items. It was important to highlight the importance of operating by the spirit of consensus, with Member States only breaking consensus as a final resort to avert decisions detrimental to national interest. Canada believed that negotiations on a treaty to end fissile material production was a timely, well-developed and widely supported measure. Outer space security was another important area. Implementation of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty was also a priority.

Discussion

One speaker said the Conference was in a catch-22 situation, needing to discuss what the programme of work needed to be. But having that discussion meant that they had to talk about something that was not the negotiation of a core agenda item, which was the very issue that prevented the Conference from adopting a programme of work. A number of delegations were well aware of the fact that refusing to talk about anything other than the core mandate was actually pushing the Conference further away from negotiations. Another speaker said his country had long called for debate on the improved and effective functioning of the Conference. For the last two decades, efforts had been focused on grouping different mandates together, linking the programme of work and the establishment of subsidiary bodies. This had led to a stalemate. The programme of work should be used as a planning tool and should be de-linked from the establishment of subsidiary bodies.

A speaker spoke of the chronic lack of political will that kept the Conference from negotiating legally binding instruments. The international community must intensify dialogue so as to build a consensus to initiate concrete steps towards achieving the goal of nuclear disarmament. The Conference must immediately commence negotiations on a Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty, as this was the most mature subject for it to take up. Prevention of an arms race in outer space was another longstanding item on the agenda of the Conference, as well as negative security assurances. Better communication and greater interaction among members of the Conference could help break the deadlock. Another speaker said document CD/2197 included some one-sided views. This year, delegations had conducted more frank discussions on key topics, and such work should also serve as the basis for discussions today. The President of the Conference should not impose on other Member States the will of his or her State, and should fully respect the views and concerns of all Member States. Concerning difficulties on agreeing on a programme of work, it was necessary to make arrangements for meetings so that Member States could conduct substantive discussions on key topics. The work of the Conference affected the national security interest of all States and the security concerns of all States should be accommodated and respected.

One speaker said that over the last few years, the political order had deteriorated in many ways. A lethal blow had been dealt by powerful States by their deliberate undermining of longstanding arms control rules and norms, and their failure to fulfil their legal obligations. The Conference on Disarmament remained a vital organ of the international security architecture and its role remained unique. However, it would remain hamstrung by the effects of the tumultuous geo-political and fragile global security order. Another speaker thanked Australia for its efforts held last year. However, the working paper contained Australia’s perception of the consultation regarding the work of the Conference. No single subject identified by Australia enjoyed consensus in the Conference, and almost half of the Member States of the Conference had not been consulted due to the lack of time and the pandemic.

A speaker supported the P-6 plus 2 approach, the Presidents of which had shown continuous commitment to working together toward adoption of a programme of work. The Conference needed to identify ways to revitalise its work and move forward. The list of agenda items needed to be narrowed down, or the Conference must engage more topical aspects of the core items. The Conference could try to reach consensus on non-binding texts first as a way of advancing substantive discussions. Establishing subsidiary bodies was also a positive step. One speaker said the programme of work of the Conference should be able to accommodate the interests of both nuclear and non-nuclear weapon States and all agenda items should be addressed equally and appropriately and in consistence with the mandate of the Conference.

One speaker said there was an urgent need for a strong political will in order for the Conference to resume its fundamental task to negotiate legally binding international treaties. Another speaker said the informal discussion today should not be considered a precedent. The Conference should not be using human and financial resources to discuss papers which were not agreed upon by the membership of the Conference; they were just the views of a 2020 Presidency.

 

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