[Disarmament] Conference on Disarmament, H.E. Mr Michael Spindelegger Foreign Minister of Austria
Statement of H.E. Mr Michael Spindelegger
Foreign Minister of Austria
at the Conference on Disarmament
Mr. President of the General Assembly,
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am grateful for this opportunity to address the Conference on Disarmament today, and I am delighted to be able do this together with the President of the General Assembly, Minister Deiss, as well as with my EU colleague from Bulgaria. Let me also use this opportunity to thank our CD-Secretary-General Mr. Sergei Ordzhonikidze for his work over the past years.
Disarmament has been among the key foreign policy priorities of Austria for a long time. Austria became a member of the Conference on Disarmament in 1996 because we wanted to contribute with an active role in this important body. Back then, the successful negotiations of the CTBT had proved the great capacities of the CD, that is, consensual
solutions based on constructive engagement by all parties.
The last time that I had the honour to address this forum, in September 2009, I was able to outline in detail Austria’s position on a number of important issues, including our support for a treaty on fissile material, multilateral approaches to the fuel cycle and the long overdue entry into force of the CTBT. At the time, you had just adopted a Programme
of Work after more than a decade of stalemate. Therefore, I was optimistic that this, together with the increasingly positive atmosphere in the international security arena, would lead to real and tangible progress.
And indeed, we have seen real progress in various fora:
- “New-START” has entered into force. Implementation of this important Treaty will, I hope, serve as a trigger for further disarmament efforts. I want to thank the US and the Russian Federation for their commitments in this regard.
- Last May, the NPT-Review Conference adopted, by consensus, a Final Document that included an ambitious Action Plan on Nuclear Disarmament:
- All NPT-States pledged to pursue the goal of a world free of
- All NPT-States recognized that the use of nuclear weapons would create humanitarian disaster of an enormous scale.
- And the 5 NPT-Nuclear Weapons States have agreed to discuss central issues of policy and doctrine among themselves in order to enable faster nuclear disarmament and more safety and security for all of us – and to share the outcome of their discussions with us.
- All NPT-States pledged to pursue the goal of a world free of
- Also, in the field of conventional weapons, we have seen positive developments: the entry-into-force of the Convention on Cluster Munitions and the First Meeting of States Parties in Laos last November demonstrated convincingly that this Convention is one of the most successful developments in the field of disarmament in the past 15 years. Austria actively supports the implementation of this milestone agreement, in particular in the area of victim assistance.
There have been other recent success stories in disarmament. But just like these three examples, they were achieved outside the Conference on Disarmament.
The poor track record of the CD has lasted long enough. In view of the many historic achievements of this forum it is simply not fair to let it continue failing year after year.
At the High Level Meeting that UN-Secretary General Ban organized last September the message was clear: the CD has become irrelevant. It now faces the real danger of becoming obsolete.
More and more States firmly believe that the international community should use the expertise and resources here in Geneva for better purposes than discussing draft programmes of work.
Like many of you, Austria would prefer working in and through the CD. But if this organization is not able to deliver results, we must explore alternative working structures here in Geneva.
Last fall, the General Assembly of the United Nations put the revitalization of the CD on its agenda. It is my firm view that unless work of the CD commences by the end of its current first session, the General Assembly in New York should have a Plenary Debate on the Follow-Up of the High Level Meeting and on the future of multilateral disarmament. We must try to identify or establish a forum to proceed with substantial work on the most pressing issues. Likewise, we should consider making future allocation of resources for the CD dependent on actual progress.
It is also in this regard that we welcome the engagement of President Deiss with us today: your interest in the CD and the revitalization of the disarmament machinery is very encouraging. President Deiss, I pledge our full support to your endeavours in this regard: Austria will continue to pursue this issue so that we, together with the many countries who support us in this cause, can ensure that a meaningful follow-up to the High-Level Meeting enables a productive disarmament process.
For Austria this is not a “random political issue”. For states that are not members of military alliances, such as Austria, functioning multilateral security institutions are a vital component of our security. Global disarmament is a pressing issue that requires our fullest attention. The long-term deadlock of core disarmament forums poses a serious security
problem - a problem that has to be addressed. Here, paralysis is not an option.
It has been said that the problem is not the forum but the lack of political will. That may be so. But instances like the Mine Ban Treaty and the Cluster Munitions Convention demonstrate that political will can also be generated through process.
Austria attaches great importance to the multilateral institutions that have brought us stability and security for several decades. Yet, these institutions are no purpose in themselves. In this time of optimism on disarmament issues, the peoples we represent here want progress on ubstance, not maintenance of institutions.
There is no lack of expertise or experience or ideas in Geneva. Many interesting proposals have been put forward by states and by independent experts.
It is one of the weaknesses of the CD that there is so little interaction with civil society, so little exchange of views with experts from academia and other organizations – and we thank UNIDIR for their efforts to fill this gap. I encourage you to be more open in this regard. We live in a time when the public in our countries wants to be more informed and more involved. Over the last weeks we have seen that desire expressed by civil society very clearly. It is in our very interest to lead inclusive discussions in multilateral fora.
In order to encourage a more systematic and cross-cutting dialogue with civil society, I had the honour of opening the Vienna Center for Disarmament and Non-Proliferation last Friday in Vienna. This Center, which will be independently managed by the Monterey Institute/CNS, will serve as an open and transparent hub for independent expertise and
opinion in order to contribute to the international discourse on disarmament and non-proliferation. I hope it will stimulate the debate in Vienna and help influence the thinking also here in Geneva. The issues at hand are so important – let us make best use of all positive forces to achieve real and lasting progress in disarmament.