UN Disarmament Commission 2014 Substantive Session General Debate

Last updated: 4/14/2014 // This Statement was held by Atle Midttun, Assistant Director of Division of disarmament and non-proliferation, on April 8th.

Mr Chair,

Let me first echo other speakers in congratulating you as Chair of this year's session of the UNDC. We greatly appreciate your leadership in the preparatory process for this session.

Allow me to share some thoughts on how to move multilateral disarmament from a longtime standstill to concrete actions. Our common goal, as reiterated by President Obama in Berlin last year, is a world free of nuclear weapons. However, without a coherent and realistic approach, the goal might prove an extremely distant one.

Although not a specific topic for this UNDC session, let med refer to the ongoing efforts to dismantel, transport and ultimately destruct, the Syrian chemical weapons' arsenal. Much work is still to be done. Yet, we have already learned lessons that might prove benefitial to our efforts to reduce both the numbers and influence of other weapons of mass destruction. Jointly with Denmark, Norway is in the forefront of transporting the chemical agents out of Syria. We took upon the task not least because we have an obligation to do our share in reducing the number of WMDs and make sure they are never again used against the Syrian population, nor against any other. Costs notwithstanding, this is meaningful work. Practical and effective.

The UN and the OPCW are our foremost partners in this effort through their Joint Mission. The operational cooperation is now very good. This is truly an innovative way of carrying out the task. Let me add, that all member countries have a responsibility to do their part in ensuring that this important disarmament operation will be concluded in a timely and effective manner.

The recent Hague Nuclear Security Summit was a success not least because of its hands-on approach, bringing decision makers together in concrete case studies and excersises. It raised awareness by highlighting our common challenges and pointing to the direction in front of us. Our leaders went home with a clear and realistic view of the tasks ahead.

A realistic and fact based understanding was the goal of the conference in Oslo last year, too, where we looked carefully at the humanitarian impact of nuclear detonations. Mexico provided a follow-up conference this year giving us an even broader understanding of the topic. Factual and on expert level. The prime task ahead of us now is to ensure a positive outcome of the 2015 NPT Review Conference, building on what was achieved in the 2010 Plan of Action. Not least, we hope to see progress on the issue of a WMD free zone in the Middle East.

The ongoing negotiations between the P5+1-countries and Iran on the Iranian Nuclear Programme, are promising. Challenging as the talks are, a long-term deal might be within reach. In parallel, the IAEA and Iran has reached a framework agreement with a view to resolving all outstanding issues. Furthermore, the relevance of the Agency is proved by its role in verifying that the intermediate agreement between the P5+1 and Iran is abided to. The IAEA will have a central role in verifying a future long-term agreement, too.

Verification is essential in sustaining the nuclear non-proliferation regime. Norway maintains the need to universialise the comprehensive safeguards agreement and the Additional Protocol. Verification is also key to any future arms reduction process. The international community needs assurances that what has been agreed to, is actually carried through. Verification is the essence of transparency and confidence building measures. It is in our interest to develop the verification tools and procedures needed, and so to prepare for the day when we reach new milestone agreements in arms control and arms reductions. Norway will continue to actively support the development of sound and trustworthy verification systems. The UK Norway Initative is one good example of how to move this agenda forward.

Conventional arms control regimes are concrete tools for verification and information sharing. They enhance confidence and trust on sunny days, paving way for better understanding and ultimately better decision making should a cloudy day emerge. Starting with the Helsinki process in the 1970s, there is an extensive track record in Europe benefiting from our CAC regimes. Open Skies flights and Vienna Document inspections are conducted regularly, even now during times of crisis. As international relations develop and technology evolves, it is paramount to renew and adapt these regimes to the changing security environment. The CFE agreement has served us well for many years. It is therefore important to strike a new balance that provides a formula for an effective regime also for the decades to come.

As the examples I have given underscore, multilateral approaches to non-proliferation, arms control and disarmament, are essential. Multilateral organisations and initiatives outside traditional fora have a role both as stakeholders pushing the agenda, and as verifyers on behalf of a concerned global community. However, these goals will be lost should we not be able to reinvent ourselves and the way we conduct our work. The impasse of the international disarmament machinery falls way short of expectations and needs. That is why we must do our utmost to reach a positive conclusion of this year´s UNDC.

Thank you.

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