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Norway calls for a "cultural revolution" in the CD.

After more than a decade of deadlock in the CD, a cultural revolution may be in order, said Deputy Permanent Representative, Hilde Skorpen in the CD on 2 September 2008.

CD 2 September 2009

Statement by Hilde Skorpen, Norway



Mr President,


Let me first commend you, as well as the other presidents this year, on your efforts at having a work program adopted, and for having presented a report that is balanced, factual and objective.  Ideally we would have liked to see a report that was even more substantial, and even more forward leaning, but we can live with it as is.  Of most importance to us is that the report can steer us on to a productive path for the coming year, and that it reflects the broad support for CD 1840, and that all member states are ready to build on CD 1840 for 2009.


Like most others we consider 1840 the best prospect for breaking the more than decade long deadlock in the CD.  We consider an FMCT to be the topic most ripe for negotiations.  We did so back in 1995, when the CD succeeded in adopting a mandate to negotiate a fissile material treaty, and we believe it is the topic most ripe for negotiations today.


Ideally we want a negotiating mandate that includes both verification and stocks.   But for now we will settle for that which is possible – a decision to start negotiations.  The rest we’ll take from there. 


Mr. President,


Although we are disappointed that yet another year went without a work program, we find it encouraging that those that are still not in a position to endorse CD 1840 consider it a useful platform to continue our deliberations for next year.  But this must not be a repeat of the discussions of the past.


We must put rethoric aimed at stalling aside, and get the issues into the open.


Norway has long called for something like a cultural revolution in the CD.  We believe it is high time for an open and honest debate about working methods, rules of procedures, consensus principle, seating arrangements for that matter, and not least - the workings of regional groups. 


“Breaking the CD deadlock” has been the subject of many a seminar up through the years.  A report from a conference with this exact title organized by UNIDIR in 2000, starts out as follows:


“The CD is described as “the sole negotiating forum for negotiating international arms control and disarmament treaties.”  Yet for over four years the CD has not been able to agree on a program of work.  Nor has it managed to negotiate for more than a few weeks on the ban on production of fissile materials that it was mandated to deal with in 1995.”


The report than goes on to deal with: How the deadlock at the CD is perceived from outside. 


The report states, rather disconcertingly:  “Generally, few governmental officials and select non-governmental organizations are aware of the work carried out by the CD.  Not many people outside CD circles know about the deadlock; some of those who do know don’t care, as the work of the CD is perceived to be irrelevant to individual or regional security concerns.  Indeed, the CD is a multilateral forum designed to negotiate global arms control and disarmament treaties, and problems that only have a regional impact are not dealt with at the CD, although in the post-Cold War era, regional issues are particularly salient and sensitive.  This is often seen by outsiders to be a major failing of the CD.”


One of the recommendations from the seminar was that Disarmament efforts need to address not only State security, but also regional security and human security.   We may want to discuss this in a more systematic manner.


When it comes to the underlying causes of the deadlock the questions remain the same – is it due to structural deficiencies in the CD or a reflection of the prevailing international security – or insecurity – situation. 


Many participants at the seminar questioned wether the rules and procedures that govern the CD were obsolete and inadequate, especially with regards to the consensus rule and group structure. 


Or are national security concerns still assessed in terms of zero-sum games, or insecurities and lack of confidence so deep, and distrust so high, that it is beyond diplomatic skills to find common ground that makes it possible to move forward.  Or maybe many of our leaders have still to learn that the quest for absolute security ultimately leads to greater insecurity for all? 


We need to know if there are any red lines.  Whether these are absolutes, or are there room for diplomatic maneuvering.  If there are red lines cast in stone game would appear to be over for the CD. 


In any event – we need to have an open debate whether we are well served with a system in which one or two states are allowed to block progress for all of us?  


I found some of the recommendations from the UNIDIR-seminar in 2000 as regards the working procedures, worth repeating:


  • The rules that govern the CD should be more flexible, especially in dealing with the establishment of a program of work.  The consensus rule is often used to voice dissent and oppsosition; it should be overhauled or at least not used for procedural issues.
  • The group structure is not a mechanism that is conducive to progress or efficient work within the CD.  It should therefore be replaced by an issue-based mechanism or like-minded States system.
  • The role of the civil society should be expanded within the work of the CD, as it has been in most other speres of policy making.  Indeed expanding the role of civil society within the CD could reassert the importance and relevance of its work and counteract the diminished importance of disarmament in the eyes of many governments since the end of the Cold War.
  • In terms of substance, a new mandate for the CD could be formulated.



Dealing with the concrete topics on the agenda – according to the report - the discussions and excuses for stalemate and stalling – were much the same as today; linkages; equal treatment of all main topics; does specific measures belong to disarmament or non-proliferation. 


Concerning the question of which topic was most ripe for negotiations, the report states as follows:  “Everyone agreed that starting negotiations on a ban on the production of fissile materials is important.”


I believe one particular recommendation from the report on how to overcome the deadlock is particularly valid today:  


“The most contentious issues could be better resolved through negotiations rather than being used as an excuse for not holding negotiations at all.”


In my view this is exactly what CD 1840 is trying to do.  Therefore we consider CD 1840 the best compromise till date.


The longer the CD avoids negotiations on an FMCT, the more chances discussions will be held outside the CD.  To us the venue or forum is, however, of less importance.

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