The Conference on Disarmament (CD) presided over by Sri Lanka’s Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva, Ambassador Ravinatha Aryasinha, adopted a Decision to establish five subsidiary bodies to discuss all items in its agenda, with a view to advance the substantive work of the Conference.
The Decision described as a “well-brokered balance between flexibility and safeguards and offered a framework for a more focused and continued debate on core issues”, seeks to bring the CD back to its original mandate of negotiating disarmament instruments. Since its negotiation of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) in 1996, the CD is yet to negotiate any new treaty.
In a statement released the same evening in New York, the Spokesman for the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, said “the Secretary-General welcomes the decision adopted by the Conference on Disarmament to take forward its substantive work. The Secretary-General commends the Members of the Conference for achieving this positive step, which he hopes will lead to resumption of negotiations on effective measures for disarmament and arms control. The current international security situation underscores the vital need to restore disarmament as an integral component of our collective efforts to prevent armed conflict and to maintain international peace and security”. It added that “the Secretary-General urges Member States to make use of this opening, redouble their efforts and forge a new consensus for disarmament”.
In his concluding remarks at the CD, Ambassador Aryasinha observed that “the adoption of the decision was an important moment in the collective efforts to bring back the Conference to substantive work and negotiations. It represented a compromise between differing positions in the Conference which had for too long hampered its proper functioning. This decision would represent the beginning of a new phase which would allow the Conference to move forward through a search for commonalities and technical substantive work”. The President “urged the Conference to be guided by the Rules of Procedure, but not to use those Rules to inhibit itself”.
The Sri Lanka delegation to the CD included Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva Mrs. Samantha Jayasuriya and First Secretary Mrs. Mafusa Lafir.
Highlighting the elements of the Decision, the UN Office in Geneva (UNOG) in a media release on Friday noted that “the subsidiary bodies would pursue the following areas, and any other areas agreed to in accordance with the Rules of Procedure: reach an understanding on the areas of commonalities in the Conference on Disarmament by taking into consideration all relevant views and proposals past, present and future; deepen technical discussions and broaden areas of agreement, including through the participation, in accordance with the Rules of Procedure, of relevant experts; and consider effective measures to advance the substantive work of the Conference, including legal instruments for negotiations”. “Each subsidiary body would be chaired by a coordinator appointed by the Conference, under the guidance of the President on the basis of equitable regional distribution”.
Reporting on the earlier lengthy negotiations that culminated in the Decision, the UNOG, while noting initial concerns expressed by some delegations, said “other delegations had agreed that the initiative would be the first progress on substantive work of the Conference in twenty years, and urged the adoption of the text especially as there were not many other options at the table. The proposal was a well-brokered balance between flexibility and safeguards and offered a framework for a more focused and continued debate on core issues. Delegates urged trust, compromise and flexibility, stressing that the initiative was not an end product and that its outcome and final results should not be prejudiced”.
The Conference on Disarmament (CD) established in 1979 as the single multilateral disarmament negotiating forum of the international community, was a result of the first Special Session on Disarmament of the United Nations General Assembly (SSOD-I) held in 1978, and constitute of 65 Members, including the five Permanent Members of the Security Council. (Colombo Gazette)