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Conference on Disarmament: First Plenary under the Chilean Presidency Discusses Draft Annual Report of the Conference to the General Assembly

Meeting Summaries

 

The Conference on Disarmament today held its first plenary under the Presidency of Ambassador Frank Tressler of Chile, discussing the Conference’s draft annual report to the General Assembly.

Ambassador Tressler said it was an honour for Chile to take over the Presidency of the Conference on Disarmament. He proposed that the order of business this morning would be first the delivery of his statement as President of the Conference, where he would give an overview of the plans for his Presidency. He would also present the draft annual report of the Conference, a first version of which was circulated the previous day under symbol CD/WP.636. The first draft of the report tried to reflect the work that had been carried out. This draft was the result of the joint work of all Member States of the Conference and this was why it was necessary to work together to find a text that represented all. The final report would not be satisfactory to everyone. In this way, they would avoid deepening the differences. Chile called on all Member States of this very important body of multilateral disarmament diplomacy to show their political will and conclude in the best possible way the 2021 session.

In the discussion, speakers expressed support for the Chilean Presidency and its work to facilitate the Conference’s adoption of its annual report. The draft report was a very good foundation to begin discussions on the final report. The draft report was concise and factual. Some speakers said that while the draft was a good basis for negotiations, there were some missing factual elements that needed to be inserted. Other speakers raised specific points in that context. One speaker would have liked to see a few more details in the report, but could accept Chile’s request for a factual, bare bones report as that was most likely to achieve consensus. Here or there, there might be a slight point missing but one speaker expressed willingness to collaborate with the President to garner consensus. Several speakers welcomed the approach of the President in preparing a factual report but said they were waiting for further instructions from their capitals.

Speakers said that the thematic discussion on women's participation in international security on Thursday, 26 August, was very timely, even if the Conference had not been able to adopt the draft decision presented by Canada to amend the rules of procedure in order to reflect gender parity. They thanked Chile for organising the event, which would be an excellent way to end the session this year.

In concluding remarks, Ambassador Tressler said the success or failure of this Presidency to achieve consensus on the annual report did not depend on the Presidency’s work, rather it depended on all the Member States to facilitate the work. He called for flexibility from all Member States as their success or failure depended on each one of them. He understood that many delegations were discussing the text with their capitals and looked forward to receiving suggestions relating to language and amendment. If they wished to have a document based on consensus, they must not focus solely on national interests, but work on simple and direct factual language. The draft was simply a reflection of the annual report adopted last year by the Conference.

Speaking in the discussion were Argentina, United States, Germany, Nigeria, Mexico, Ecuador, Australia, Canada, Japan, Spain, United Kingdom, Bulgaria, Egypt, Republic of Korea, India, South Africa, France, Netherlands, Austria, Algeria, Pakistan, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Iran, Iraq, Russian Federation, Syria, and Turkey.

China also took the floor, saying it would be President of the Conference next year and hoped that by supporting the President’s work, it would be pouring more nutrients so that they could be better prepared for the smooth commencement of their work next year.

The next plenary of the Conference on Disarmament will be held on Tuesday, 24 August at 10 a.m.

Statement by the President of the Conference

Ambassador FRANK TRESSLER of Chile, President of the Conference on Disarmament, said it was an honour for Chile to take over the Presidency of the Conference on Disarmament. He proposed that the order of business this morning would be first the delivery of his statement as President of the Conference, where he would give an overview of the plans for his Presidency. He would also present the draft annual report of the Conference, a first version of which was circulated the previous day under symbol CD/WP.636. After this, he would open the floor for all delegations that wish to take the floor.

Ambassador Tressler reiterated his delegation's appreciation for the excellent work and leadership of the previous presidencies: Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Cameroon and Canada. Each of these presidencies had faced specific challenges that were taken on with rigorous and honest commitment. It was an honour for Chile to resume the post of President of the Conference on Disarmament 10 years after its last Presidency. He wished to share with the Conference his views on the work and challenges that they faced.

The Conference on Disarmament provoked opposite sentiments. Chile recognised its mandate as the only forum for negotiations in the area of multilateral disarmament. It had negotiated the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons as well as the Comprehensive Test-ban Treaty and its potential was enormous. Nevertheless, precisely because Chile recognised the importance of this body, it could not hide its frustration at the stalemate in the work. This forum’s main task was negotiating international legal instruments in the field of disarmament and it was not fulfilling its mandate.

Chile had on previous occasions expressed its concern about the status of the main items on the agenda. In the area of nuclear disarmament, faced with the impossibility of making progress in this forum, Chile had participated in a special process outside this body to negotiate a legally binding international instrument banning nuclear weapons. While Chile appreciated the proposals to continue combatting the proliferation of nuclear weapons, it believed that, in order for these initiatives to be successful, they must be accompanied by specific actions towards the elimination of these weapons.

The COVID-19 pandemic had impacted the agenda, for example the postponement of the tenth Review Conference of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty. It was the cornerstone of the international legal system in the field of nuclear non-proliferation but not enough progress had been made in implementing article VI on nuclear disarmament. Another important issue was the need to reach an agreement to ensure that no nuclear-weapon State threatened non-nuclear-weapon States with their use. Negative security assurances were a fundamental step to reduce the threat posed by these weapons as they moved towards their full elimination.

The Conference also had to look at the problem of the arms race in outer space. Chile had expressed support for the initiative to negotiate a treaty that prohibited the placement of arms in outer space. This was an issue of central importance to the future of global security and it was necessary to continue to support initiatives that called for international dialogue.

The Conference must urgently resume substantive work as they were seeing the emergence of new technologies. Their impact on the items on the Conference's agenda would mean new challenges that would be added to the issues that this body had not yet resolved.

The consensus rule had been seen as a paralysing factor. What had to be kept in mind was that consensus in itself was not a veto, and all must learn that consensus meant seeking common agreements that would enable all to sustain their national interests and preserve international peace and security. Despite the feeling of frustration, the Conference on Disarmament was a tool that still existed and they could not continue with their complacent attitude, they must strengthen their commitment to their work.

Ambassador Tressler said the first three presidencies had done their best to negotiate a work programme acceptable to all Member States. Nevertheless, divisions and deep mistrust had continued. The absence of a programme of work was a symptom of this situation, which prevented the Conference from moving ahead towards their common objective, working collaboratively, defending national interests and at the same time achieving a robust and sustainable peace.

Chile today began its work as President. Its responsibility was to negotiate the final report and resolution to be submitted to the General Assembly. Chile would be pragmatic in its approach, trying to reflect in an honest and transparent manner what had taken place. The first draft of the report tried to reflect the work that had been carried out. This draft was the result of the joint work of all Member States of the Conference and this was why it was necessary to work together to find a text that represented all. The final report would not be satisfactory to everyone. In this way, they would avoid deepening the differences. The plan for the next four weeks would be as follows: plenary sessions would be held on the dates suggested by the secretariat. Added to these plenaries would be an undetermined number of informal sessions and bilateral consultations. Chile was always open for respectful and constructive dialogue.

Ambassador Tressler reminded that Chile was organising a thematic discussion on women's participation in international security on Thursday, 26 August at 3 p.m.

Chile called on all Member States of this very important body of multilateral disarmament diplomacy to show their political will and conclude in the best possible way the 2021 session. Chile hope that in the 2022 session, the Conference would be able to move ahead and that they would be able to preserve the relevance and credibility of the Conference.

Statement by China

China said China would be President of the Conference next year and hoped that by supporting the President’s work, it would be pouring more nutrients so that they could be better prepared for the smooth commencement of their work next year. China supported Chile in leading all Member States to agree on the annual report of the Conference.

Discussion

Speakers expressed support for the Chilean Presidency and its work to facilitate the Conference’s adoption of its annual report. The draft report was a very good foundation to begin discussions on the final report. One speaker said that while the draft was a good basis for negotiations, there were some missing factual elements that needed to be inserted. Another speaker said the draft report was short, concise and pragmatic. The annual report was a routine task and should contain no more and no less that the necessary elements. The draft was a good basis for this task. Some speakers said they would be respectful and constructive in their dialogue on the draft report that was circulated yesterday.

The draft report was concise and factual. It was a good basis for further consideration.

Some speakers said that the draft report was a very solid foundation to garner a consensus on the final report in order for the Conference to conclude its work. Speakers expressed their willingness and openness to work constructively towards the adoption of the report. One speaker thanked Chile for the contents of its statement towards garnering consensus. The value of the draft report was recognised and speakers said it had several components that they agreed with. The draft report was a good start for discussion and speakers looked forward to engaging constructively on it. One speaker said it had a few specific points that it would like to raise in that context.

Speakers said they would provide their suggestions on the draft report in writing. The draft report was a very good basis for achieving a consensus. One speaker said he would have like to see a few more details in the report, but could accept Chile’s request for a factual, bare bones report as that was most likely to achieve consensus. Another speaker said that since the report was good and pragmatic, they would participate in the discussion on it. The draft was a very good starting point and was fit for purpose. Here or there, there might be a slight point missing but speakers expressed willingness to collaborate with the President to garner consensus.

As far as the report was concerned, speakers welcomed the approach of the President in preparing a factual report but said they were waiting for further instructions from their capitals. They said they would have suggestions on how best to reflect what had happened in the Conference. One speaker said that as the President had noted, the draft was not completely satisfactory for all delegations. The draft was straightforward and provided Member States with an excellent basis and solid foundation to garner consensus. Some information was important to be reflected and it would be shared in writing. Speakers said detailed comments would be shared on the draft after receiving feedback from their capitals.

One speaker regretted that one more year had passed without the Conference agreeing on a programme of work. Consensus was the most important rule for the Conference and any derogation on it was not acceptable. Another speaker said that the draft report was a solid foundation for the work of the Conference and was willing to work constructively in the collective efforts to finalise it. Several speakers pointed out certain paragraphs that may need amendments to align them with the factual manners of reporting. Matters should be approached with an eye towards solutions. With the professional experience of Chile, the Conference would be guided toward consensus on the report. The pragmatic approach of the draft report was a robust foundation for the work of the Conference. One speaker said that in order to achieve consensus, what was of crucial importance was to ensure transparency in the work of the Conference, asking the President to circulate the different proposals that he would be receiving.

The thematic discussion on women's participation in international security on Thursday, 26 August, was very timely, even if the Conference had not been able to adopt the draft decision presented by Canada to amend the rules of procedure in order to reflect gender parity. The discussion on the role of women in international security was most relevant and speakers said they hoped it would be a rich debate. This was a very important topic. Speakers thanked Chile for organising the event. This event was an excellent way to end the session this year.

Concluding Remarks

Ambassador FRANK TRESSLER of Chile, President of the Conference on Disarmament, said the success or failure of this Presidency to achieve consensus on the report did not depend on the Presidency’s work, rather it depended on the work of all the Member States to facilitate the work. He called for flexibility from all Member States as their success or failure depended on each one of them. He understood that many delegations were discussing the text with their capitals and looked forward to receiving suggestions relating to language and amendment. If they wished to have a document based on consensus, they must not focus solely on national interests, but work on simple and direct factual language. The draft was simply a reflection of the annual report adopted last year by the Conference.

 

DC21.037E