24 October 2011 - General Assembly - 1st Committee
Disarmament machinery - Statement by Mr. Eric Danon, Permanent Representative of France to the Conference on Disarmament
The disarmament machinery which organizes and implements a multilateralism that we are all attached to, is in a mixed situation.
I. This is particularly true as far as nuclear weapons are concerned.
1. There is no longer any need to prove the vitality of the NPT, and the 2010 Review Conference gave all states-parties a roadmap to take action on the treaty’s three pillars in the coming years. For us, respecting this roadmap is a priority. The Paris Conference of June 30-July 1 reinforced the cohesion of the Five and facilitated the examination of the ways and means to be implemented in order for them to meet their commitments by 2015.
The appointment of a facilitator and selection of a country to host the conference on the implementation of the 1995 resolution are also important milestones on the NPT roadmap. And the countries participating in the 2012 conference will have to devise—if they have the political will—a specific forum with respect to the long, hard road leading to a Middle East free of weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems.
2. While progress is being made on the nuclear issue under the NPT, the same cannot be said with regard to the Disarmament Conference. Nevertheless, France is convinced that this is the only possible forum for discussing a cut off treaty that has any chance of success.
The HLM debates confirmed, as if it were necessary, that the deadlock of the CD is not due to the forum itself but to a particular international context; we are facing conflicts of a political nature rather than procedural constraints.
The procedural rules and in particular the consensus rule are guarantees to safeguard all countries’ defence and security interests. Certainly, it is today a paradox that the consensus rule is an element in the stalemate whilst remaining indispensable to the negotiation itself.
But exporting the debate into another forum—notably, as some hope, into the General Assembly, in the form of working groups—will not help resolve the political problems that underlie the deadlock of the CD. On the contrary, it will enable them to persist, while diluting the pressure to overcome them. It is our job to rather remind those who are at the root of this deadlock that they have nothing to gain—except perhaps a bit of time, but at what cost!—by going against History.
Mr Chairman, dear colleagues,
II. Before I talk about the relevance of forums dealing with conventional weapons, allow me, as a sort of transition, to say a word about our annual forum, the Disarmament Commission.
It must be acknowledged that the UNDC has not lived up to its promises. More than 30 years after it was founded, and a countless number of “cycles,” the result of those years of deliberation is modest. Not to mention the cost—for the UN and national delegations—of these repetitive meetings that yield no final results.
Between the years in which this body hasn’t managed to agree upon an agenda, as in 2004 and 2005, and those in which work cycles came to an end without any concrete results, as we just saw this past spring, we cannot help but feel deep regret.
Nonetheless, the UNDC was able in the past to come up with useful elements such as the 1999 guidelines for the establishment of nuclear-weapons free zones, which unfortunately are not always respected by those claming the creation of such zones.
This situation is no doubt due largely to strongly opposing interests and a lack of flexibility. However, even to establish, for example, confidence-building measures with respect to conventional weapons, we manage to find agreements in other forums, but not in this one. There may be here some lessons to be learned with regard to the Commission’s viability.
III. I would like to conclude by discussing forums relating to conventional weapons.
Three series of negotiations have been completed in 15 years, which France applauds, particularly given the active role our country played in them: the Ottawa Anti-Personnel Mine Treaty, the Protocol on Explosive Remnants of War, and the Oslo Convention on Cluster Munitions. They have one thing in common: they relate to the conventional weapons that inflict the most significant humanitarian damage. They reflect the beneficial influence and the ability to mobilize of the civil society, whose role in the multilateral system should be further reinforced.
At the same time, the conclusion of the Ottawa and Oslo conventions raises the question of the effectiveness of the CCW forum. We can expect that next November will be a critical moment for the credibility—and thus the future—of this framework. We are here at the crucible of a well-known problem regarding the efficiency of the machinery, that of whether a forum is suited to the negotiation it is to host.
For France, the situation is clear. The conclusion of the Ottawa and Oslo conventions is not sufficient, because they will not be adopted within a reasonable time frame by the entire international community. Their universalization, which remains and will always remain a priority for us, is running up against the reticence of numerous key countries. We deplore the fact that the countries with the largest stockpiles of anti-personnel mines or cluster munitions believe they cannot ratify these two conventions in the near future.
Without resigning ourselves as we wait for them to sign on to these conventions, we continue to seek ways to achieve concrete results on the ground. For that purpose, in November we will continue negotiating a sixth CCW protocol on cluster munitions.
For our part, this thought through and assumed choice of a sixth protocol is only worth it if three key criteria are present : it must be a legally binding instrument, be compatible with the Oslo Treaty, as well as it must have a decisive, immediate humanitarian impact. And we have faith that the CCW forum will allow us to achieve that result.
Mr Chairman, dear colleagues,
IV. Effective multilateralism must first be judged according to its ability to solve the problems of the day, i.e., to create a safer world capable of reducing the threats represented by weapons of mass destruction and conventional weapons.
In this regard, France shares the frustration expressed by nearly all countries during our work. Some today hope, through the resolutions they are presenting, to unblock the situation in the CD and launch negotiations of the FMCT.
France will determine its vote on these resolutions on the basis of several criteria:
1/ First, consistency—the consistency of the resolutions amongst themselves, but also with discussions carried out within the CD. Thus, questioning the order of priorities for the four core issues on the CD’s agenda or the specific mandates agreed to, by all, in the CD/1864 work program should be ruled out. We believe that far from advancing disarmament, it would be a step backwards.
2/ Second, clarity and relevance of the mandates. From this standpoint, certain concrete proposals seem interesting, and others less so. Transposing discussions from the CD to the UNGA into working groups the composition, procedural rules or financing of which are unclear would be risky and counterproductive.
3/ Finally, the question of adherence of the Member States. Resolutions that promote new initiatives must achieve consensus, or, in the event of a vote, be adopted by the vast majority of countries. This is how negotiations were launched for the Arms Trade Treaty and could soon conclude. But it is to be feared that a less than large-scale adhesion when voting takes place would deprive these new initiatives of the support and thus of the energy they need to be carried out.
Thank you, Mr Chairman.