2011 session of the UN Disarmament Commission

4/5/2011 // Norway's statement to the UN Disarmament Commission (UNDC) on April 5 was presented by Minister Counsellor, Mr. Knut Langeland. In the statement he hails the UN Secretary-General's attempts to move the multilateral disarmament agenda forward, but notes that the UNDC itself is still struggling.

Mr. Chair, 

Since the last session of the UNDC, there has been important progress in some areas of multilateral disarmament and non-proliferation.

Norway welcomes the positive outcome of the NPT 2010 Review Conference. It is important that we are able to follow-up on the adopted Program of Action.

While a bilateral treaty, the entry into force of the new START is an important step in building down existing nuclear arsenals with the objective to achieve their full elimination.

Norway is encouraged by the way the Mine Ban Convention and the Convention on Cluster Munitions have established and consolidated global norms prohibiting weapons that cause unacceptable harm to civilians, norms which go beyond the membership of these two legally binding multilateral instruments. Indeed, the field of humanitarian disarmament has shown that it is possible for those who are ambitious to set the agenda and achieve results in the field. This is clearly not the case for other areas of disarmament.

Norway is pleased by the initiative by the UN General Secretary to move multilateral disarmament and arms control forward. The High Level meeting in September last year reconfirmed the deep frustration of most UN member states over the long lasting impasse that has paralyzed the formalized multilateral machinery, rendering it increasingly dysfunctional.  The CD is designated negotiating body, yet no negotiation has taken place for a decade and a half.

The long lasting impasse in the Conference on Disarmament denies the international community the possibility to move forward on pressing disarmament issues, and to implement important steps set out by the recent NPT Review Conference.

In addition, an entry into force of the CTBT, despite its broad support, seems not to be on the horizon.Time is also running out for the preparation of the Middle East Conference as decided by the NPT Review Conference. 

The CD is struggling. The same can be said about the UNDC. The High Representative for Disarmament Affairs Sergio Duarte noted in his statement yesterday that the Commission has not been able to reach consensus for more than a decade.

My delegation agrees with USG Duarte that the fate of this year’s report remains in the hands of member states, but it is clear that the working methods of the Commission also have an important impact on whether the UNDC can provide added value.

It is obvious that the UNDC has not delivered the results which were expected when the General Assembly adopted 52/492. While much can be said about member states and their lack of political will, we need to examine whether the current structure of three year cycles, two broad topics, and not least the consensual reports is the best way to make use of the Commission.

Let me assure you Mr. Chair, Norway intends to contribute in reaching consensus in this year’s session of the Commission. But frankly, we are not very optimistic about the prospects. Is it feasible that the UNDC will be able to adopt a stronger language than what was agreed at the NPT Review Conference last year? Do we really believe that the UNDC will make break-through on conventional confidence building measures, small arms or ATT? If we are to reach agreement on a report, I believe that it will be a rather modest text.

Norway has on number of occasions, and not least in the First Committee, advocated a profound assessment of the Commission. We believe this is necessary, even if we were to succeed at this current session to achieve a consensus report.

Given its role as deliberative body, the UNDC should seek to stimulate discussions and build common understanding on clearly defined topics on global disarmament and non-proliferation. These topics could be set out by the First Committee.

As a deliberative body, the UNDC should not be held hostage of an outdated consensus rule. Norway believes that the outcome of the UNDC session could be a Chair’s summary, reflecting the discussions, identifying areas where there might be convergence of views, and where positions are still far apart. Such an outcome may facilitate the work of the GA, the First Committee, and possibly the individual treaty bodies.

Like the CD, the UNDC is at a cross-road. If we continue with business as usual, the Commission’s will be further marginalized and loose its relevance.  Hopefully, there is time during this session to discuss the future role of the UNDC. 

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