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2 November 2012 - 1st Committee - “Disarmament machinery” - Statement by Ambassador Jean-Hugues Simon-Michel, Permanent Representative of France to the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva

(Unofficial translation)

Mr Chairman, Dear colleagues,

France is committed to efficient multilateral disarmament, which would create the conditions for a safer world in successive stages towards comprehensive and complete disarmament.

The multilateral bodies in the area of disarmament are operating with uneven results.

We have a body of major conventions on weapons of mass destruction which enable us to move forward. In general, their follow-up and implementation mechanisms work in a satisfactory way. The success of the First Preparatory Committee of the new cycle of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) bears this out. The speed at which we were able to settle the procedural issues and the balanced discussions which we have had on the three pillars demonstrate the will of all Parties to maintain the spirit in which the 2010 Review Conference was held. What’s more, in the framework of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), and without waiting for the entry into force of this instrument, the establishment of a credible and efficient verification body is under way of achievement. The Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) and its organization in the Hague form an unquestionable model. We hope that the 2013 Review Conference will enable them to adapt to the challenges of tomorrow. I have already had the opportunity to welcome the positive results of the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC) Review Conference last December.

We all recognize, however, that there is a problem in moving on to the next stage.

As regards the WMD, the next logical stage is the negotiation of a Fissile Materials Cut-off Treaty (FMCT). This path has been set out by Security Council Resolution 1887, by Action 15 of the NPT Review Conference Action Plan and finally the CD/1864 document, the most recent programme of work approved by consensus at the Conference on Disarmament (CD) in 2009, as well as every year by a General Assembly resolution. And yet the Conference on Disarmament has still not managed to launch such negotiations, despite the efforts of successive presidencies. France shares the other Parties’ frustration at this deadlock.

However, must we seek the reasons for this situation among a simple problem with the “machinery” and lay responsibility with the institution, the Conference on Disarmament, or its rules of operation? Naturally, we all know that this is not the case. This is why we much exercise caution when examining the proliferations of initiatives which have been put forward this year on the issue of the disarmament machinery.

France is committed to the Conference on Disarmament, the world’s sole multilateral disarmament treaty negotiating body. It was indeed at the CD, or in its previous forms, that the four major treaties I have mentioned were negotiated (NTP, CTBT, BTWC and CWC).

Beyond the legitimacy given to it by the First Special Session on Disarmament (SSOD I), the Conference on Disarmament has three characteristics, three assets, which make it irreplaceable:
— expertise,
— the presence of all States with key capacities,
— and finally the consensus rule.

The consensus rule guarantees the participation of all States concerned by these negotiations, in the knowledge that their legitimate security interests will be met. It provides assurance that the agreements negotiated will be applied by all Parties which adopt them. Finally and most importantly, it is the best means of achieving universality of the treaties.

France therefore clearly recalls its commitment to the consensus rule in disarmament negotiations, which we do not view as an obstacle but rather a condition for effective multilateralism which we welcome. At the same time, it goes without saying that the consensus rule also means that all States have duties, that it must not be confused with formal unanimity, and even less so with unanimity at all stages of negotiation, whether the issue be procedural or substantive and regardless of its significance.

France will judge the different initiatives presented this year on the basis of these fundamental criteria: expertise, inclusion of all States with key capacities, the consensus rule and the observance of the unique competence of the Conference on Disarmament. Naturally, we must also take account of consistency with the current disarmament architecture, the clarity and relevance of the proposed mandates and the cost of these initiatives with regard to the expected added value, in a budgetary context that is particularly tight for many countries. We must find the means to pragmatically help launch FMCT negotiations which, for France, must ultimately take place in the Conference on Disarmament.

Mr Chairman,

Disarmament forms a whole. Nuclear disarmament and chemical and bacteriological disarmament cannot be dissociated from the other aspects of general and complete disarmament, including the issue of means of delivery and that of disarmament or conventional arms control. On conventional disarmament, we have only dealt with what could be called “humanitarian disarmament” for the past 30 years, i.e. the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) and its five protocols as well as the Ottawa and Oslo conventions. Furthermore, beyond its set of protocols, the CCW provides a universal body to address these issues. This body of conventions is naturally essential due to the large numbers of civilian victims. Nevertheless, these instruments only deal with the bottom of the strategic spectrum; they only address specific materials with limited military use. They have great humanitarian value but a more modest impact on international peace and security.

The major issue today is the resumption of negotiations on the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT). Given that this instrument shall cover all conventional arms and serve as much to regulate legitimate trade as to prevent illegal trafficking, it shall make a real contribution to peace and international security, naturally in addition to its clear humanitarian added value. The success of this negotiation, held on the basis of consensus within a universal body, will demonstrate the ability of the United Nations to implement the effective multilateralism which we welcome.

I would now like to come to the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research, the UNIDIR.

France holds particular responsibility in this regard as traditionally it is at the origin of this five-yearly resolution on this institution. We need it to continue its work, the quality of which can only be maintained by preserving its independence. Its proximity is essential to manage the disarmament community in Geneva. It needs our support.

We place great importance on the principles set out by the First Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly Devoted to Disarmament in 1978, which created the UNIDIR:
— autonomy within the United Nations family ;
— the independence of its work, based on real and proven facts on peace and security;
— active role in promoting negotiations and the participation of informed actors in negotiations intended to ensure greater security for all and a gradual reduction of arms;
— Management of the Institute by a Board of Trustees made up of experts in the area of disarmament and security acting in their personal capacities.

The UNIDIR is an integral part of the disarmament machinery. It is neither a training institution nor a purely academic one. While remaining independent, its mandate focuses on the needs of Member States, particularly disarmament negotiations, non-proliferation and arms control.

Thank you very much.

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