Conference on disarmament concludes first part of its 2009 session (UN)


The following information was released by the United Nations Office at Geneva: The Conference on Disarmament this morning heard statements from Switzerland, speaking as the current President of the Ottawa Convention; Bulgaria, in a farewell speech, outlining achievements and challenges facing the Conference; and Canada on proposals for getting the Conference back to substantive work and on space security.


(25.03.2009)

Ambassador Jurg Streuli of Switzerland, President of the Ottawa Convention, recalled that
three weeks ago the 156 State Parties to the Convention had celebrated the tenth
anniversary of its entry into force. Over the past 10 years considerable and measurable
progress had been made with regard to stockpile destruction; mine clearance; and victim
assistance. States Parties had destroyed more than 41 million stockpiled antipersonnel
mines and the annual number of victims had fallen from 20,000 in 1997 to 6,000 in 2007.
Among challenges facing the Convention was universalization: 39 States were not yet
members.

Canada formally tabled two papers today. The first, a background paper entitled "Getting
the Conference on Disarmament Back to Substantive Work: Food for Thought", did not
pretend to offer any one solution; rather it was hoped that the paper would promote
understanding and dialogue among the members of the Conference and help it find its way,
progressively and positively, to a resumption of its substantive work. The second, "Merits of
Certain Draft Transparency and Confidence-Building Measures and Treaty Proposals for
Space Security", advanced the case that strong transparency and confidence-building
measures could serve as important instruments in their own right, as well as elements
towards an eventual treaty in that area.

Bulgarian Ambassador Petko Draganov, in a farewell statement, observed that the facts
spoke for themselves: military expenditure worldwide was constantly growing at a rate
higher than global economic growth, standing today at some $1.3 trillion per year. The basic
problems they were facing therefore could not be resolved in the Conference, as they were
political by nature. Nevertheless, he had witnessed the growing readiness for compromise
and seen the vast potential for a breakthrough based on shared interests and common
goals. He felt more confident now that sooner rather than later the Conference on
Disarmament would be able to resume its core purposeful activity.

The Conference on Disarmament concludes the first part of its 2009 session this week and
will open the second part on 18 May. The next public plenary will be held on Tuesday, 19
May 2009 at 10 a.m.

Statements

JURG STREULI (Switzerland), speaking as the current President of the Ottawa Convention
on the prohibition of anti-personnel landmines, observed that three weeks ago the 156 State
Parties to the Convention had celebrated the tenth anniversary of the Convention's entry
into force. Next week, they would also celebrate the International Day for Mine Awareness
and Assistance in Mine Action. Those two occasions provided them with an opportunity to
have a closer look at where they stood today on the pathway towards a mine-free world.
Over the past 10 years, the Convention had contributed to free the world of the suffering
caused by anti-personnel mines: considerable and measurable progress had been made
with regard to stockpile destruction; mine clearance; and victim assistance. States Parties
had destroyed more than 41 million stockpiled antipersonnel mines and the annual number
of victims had fallen from 20,000 in 1997 to 6,000 in 2007.

The parties to the Convention, with the help of tremendous civil society support, had made
remarkable progress, but much still needed to be done before the Convention's promise
would be fulfilled. One of the ongoing challenges was clearing mines. In some places,
clearance might take longer than the expected 10-year time frame. Another challenge was
stockpile destruction. A joint effort between affected States and donor States was needed to
fulfil the ambitious goals of the Convention. A third challenge was universalization: 39
States were not yet members of this legal instrument, Mr. Streuli underscored.

Mr. Streuli observed that the adoption of the Mine Ban Convention had marked a shift in the
international community's approach to human security and arms control. Governments had
worked side by side with civil society, outside traditional international fora, and had finally
agreed to totally ban one class of weapon. The Convention had succeeded in promoting
global norms: the use of anti-personnel mines was now stigmatized and the majority of
States, even most of the States remaining outside the Convention, had ceased production.
This year, 2009, the Second Review Conference would take place in Cartagena, Colombia,
from 30 November to 4 December. In conclusion, it was hoped that in October the annual
draft resolution introduced in the First Committee of the General Assembly on the
implementation of the Mine Ban Treaty would be adopted by consensus; that non-members
would commit themselves to work towards adoption of the Convention and would attend the
Cartagena summit as observers; and that new countries would sign and ratify the
Convention.

PETKO DRAGANOV (Bulgaria), in a farewell statement, said that his country had been a
consistently constructive voice in the Conference as it had lent support to all the major
initiatives designed to overcome the predicament that they were currently in. Without
preconditions, Bulgaria had endeavoured to put the Conference back on the track of
substantive work. He had not achieved as much as he had wanted to, but had been able to
contribute to their efforts by facilitating and coordinating informal consultations on behalf of
the Presidents of the Conference, and the last three years had been a source of
encouragement and a sign of hope for a better future. The facts spoke for themselves:
military expenditure worldwide was constantly growing at a rate higher than global economic
growth, standing today at some $1.3 trillion per year. If 10 per cent of that would be devoted
yearly to the Millennium Development Goals, they could be fully funded.

Mr. Draganov underscored that the basic problems they were facing could not be resolved
in the Conference, as they were political by natures and touched upon the complex
interaction of their individual concepts and perception of national and global security. No
matter how inventive and imaginative they would get in the exercise of devising the
perfectly balanced programme of work, at the end of the day they were not the big decision
makers. He hoped that the economic crisis they were facing today would be seized as an
opportunity to sober up and avoid any similarity that what had followed the last Great
Depression. He had witnessed the growing readiness for compromise and seen the vast
potential for a breakthrough based on shared interests and common goals. He felt more
confident now that sooner rather than later the Conference on Disarmament would be able
to resume its core purposeful activity.

MARIUS GRINIUS (Canada) said that, in November 2000, Canada had supported a United
Nations Institute for Disarmament Research conference and a report that was entitled
"Breaking the Conference on Disarmament Deadlock". Nine years later, there was clearly
still work to be done on that subject. Thus, Canada was now sponsoring a new conference
on that theme. Its aim would be to reflect upon, and identify, potential options for getting the
Conference back to work. In that context he was presenting a background paper entitled
"Getting the Conference on Disarmament Back to Substantive Work: Food for Thought",
and hoped delegations would reflect on it over the spring recess. The text did not pretend to
offer any one solution, rather it was hoped that the paper would promote understanding and
dialogue among the members of the Conference and help it find its way, progressively and
positively, to a resumption of its substantive work. The document will be formally distributed
as an official Conference on Disarmament document by the Secretariat at a later stage.
Turning to the issue of prevention of an arms race in outer space, Canada was also tabling
today a working paper entitled "Merits of Certain Draft Transparency and Confidence-
Building Measures and Treaty Proposals for Space Security". The paper advanced the case
that strong transparency and confidence-building measures could serve as important
instruments in their own right, as well as elements towards an eventual treaty. The paper
also argued that the Conference on Disarmament should consider security guarantees such
as a declaration of legal principles, a code of conduct, or a treaty that would ban the
placement of weapons in space; prohibit the test or use of weapons on satellites so as to
damage or destroy them; and prohibit the test or use of satellites themselves as weapons.
Agreement on robust security guarantees was a first step that could help on laying the
foundation and building the momentum for future legal protections, Mr. Grinius concluded.

Von: States News Service USA, 26.03.2009

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