[Disarmament] Conference on Disarmament
22 January 2009
Conference on Disarmament
Statement by Ambassador Christian Strohal
Permanent Representative of Austria
I wish to start by congratulating you on your recent assumption of the presidency of the Conference of Disarmament and expressing our appreciation to you and your delegation for the consultations conducted so far. Allow me to assure you of the full support of the Austrian delegation during your tenure. As the last president of the conference this year, Austria looks forward to closely cooperating with you and the other incoming presidents in the well-established P6 format.
My delegation fully subscribes to the statement delivered by the Czech Republic on behalf of the European Union in the course of the inaugural session earlier this week.
More than a dozen years have passed since this conference negotiated the last tangible result in the form of the comprehensive nuclear test ban treaty. But in these twelve years, the world has not become a safer place. To the contrary, the security challenges we are facing today are, in a number of regards, more complex and more difficult to grasp than a decade ago. With the end of the cold war, many hopes arose that peace would turn out to be the prevalent status in international relations. These expectations have not yet been met. One of the reasons is lack of progress in the field of multilateral disarmament.
Over the past years, several proposals have been presented to intensify deliberations on the main issues, in particular with a view to finding an agreement on a programme of work. For various reasons, however, these efforts have not resulted in the resumption of substantive negotiations on any of the topics on our agenda. It goes without saying that this is not because the issues to be addressed were of no importance. In our opinion, the main reason for the continued deadlock stems from a lack of political focus. Like others, we are confident that we will see a significant change in this regard during the course of the year.
My delegation is honoured to serve as president of the conference at the end of this year’s session. Already before, we will spare no efforts to overcome the current stalemate. It is a longstanding tradition of my country to attach a high priority to disarmament and to engage in multilateral negotiations in this field as an honest broker. Our presidency of the CD coincides with our current membership in the Security Council. In both fora, we will work towards the enhancement of peace and security in an open, transparent and unbiased manner.
Austria accords great importance to strengthening the instruments of our current non-proliferation and disarmament architecture. We participate actively in the NPT review process, and in the Vienna based security organizations such as the IAEA and the CTBTO. I will come back to these issues in more detail at a subsequent opportunity. Today, let me concentrate on the more immediate issues before us.
This year’s sessions of the conference should be guided by two principles – focus and flexibility. First, we should concentrate our debate on those issues that are most susceptible to an intensification of deliberations leading eventually to the start of substantive negotiations. Second, flexibility is a necessity where the core decision making principle is consensus.
In mustering all our spirit of co-operation and compromise, we can respond to the expectations to promote disarmament once again, and confront those who would question the relevance of this body.
It would be unfortunate if the incapacity or unwillingness of the CD to find agreement on a programme of work would result in states having to explore ways and means to continue the work outside this forum. We have seen such initiatives in the past, and some of them have proved to be quite successful. When, for example, discussions on a ban on cluster munitions held in the framework of the CCW failed to effectively address the humanitarian concerns, a group of states set up an alternative forum, the Oslo Process. It was within this framework that the Convention on Cluster Munitions was adopted by over 100 states in less than 18 months. We believe the CD would be well advised to demonstrate to the world its continued relevance.
Before concluding, Mr President, a brief word on our working methods. In our view, the CD could benefit from a fruitful and regular exchange with non-governmental organisations active in the field of disarmament.The longstanding Austrian efforts in the area of disarmament and non-proliferation have demonstrated time and again the importance of cooperation between governments, parliaments and civil society in international relations. We have seen this in the case of other security related initiatives and it is our conviction that success in the field of disarmament in general will depend not only on a full commitment on the political level but on a strong involvement by our civil societies as well.
In conclusion, Mr President, let us spare no efforts to start working. Consensus on a programme of work is within reach. During the last years, we have extensively discussed the core issues of disarmament. Let us advance these deliberations into concrete and tangible results. My delegation assures you of our commitment in this regard.