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Statement in CD by Mr. Espen Barth Eide,Norwegian Deputy Minister of Defence.

Norwegian Deputy Minister of Defense, Mr. Espen Barth Eider urged the Conference of Disarmament to make urgent use of a changing international climate more conducive to disarmament, to commence negotiations.  He also stressed the need for the CD to engage with civil society.

Conference on Disarmament (CD) Geneva, 17 February 2009

 Statement by Mr. Espen Barth Eide, Deputy Minister of Defence, Norway

 Mr. President, Ambassador Chipaziwa.

 It is a great pleasure for me to address the Conference on Disarmament today under the very first formal meeting under the presidency of Zimbabwe. I assure you of Norway’s full support.

We are at a pivotal time for international disarmament. In the last weeks and months, we have seen a remarkable trend towards a renewed focus on international cooperation in general, and disarmament in particular.

 Let me point out just a few of these many encouraging new signals and initiatives

*     First, we have President Obama’s expressed commitment to seek multilateral solutions to common threats and challenges. The new US administration clearly sets the stage for substantial achievements in disarmament and non-proliferation.  This emphasis was forcefully reconfirmed by vice president Joe Biden at the Security Conference in Munich ten days ago, which I myself attended.  

I am particularly encouraged by signals the from the Obama administration concerning

o       The commencement of multilateral negotiations on a Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty (FMCT), including verification;

o       The stated intention to seek ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT);

o       And their willingness to resume negotiations with Russia on reductions of strategic weapons;

 Furthermore, the US administration is contemplating

o       the possibility to take remaining nuclear weapons off alert status;

o       Stopping the development of new nuclear weapons;

o       Seeking agreement on anti satellite weapons;

o       and ultimately to seek a world without nuclear weapons.

 *     Secondly, we have President Medvedev’s announcement to suspend the announced deployments of the Iskander missile in Kaliningrad, and first deputy prime minister Ivanov’s pledge that Russia stands ready to work with the Obama administration to strengthen the WMD non-proliferation regime, and a successor treaty to START.

 *     Thirdly, in key European states, not the least in the UK and Germany, high officials are speaking out in favour of a complete elimination of nuclear arsenals.  We welcome UK foreign secretary David Milliband’s six-step programme to create the conditions to rid the world of nuclear weapons, launched less than two weeks ago. 

All these developments have created an atmosphere of cooperation we haven’t had for many years, and it is extremely important that CD makes full use of the possibilities.

The CD is unique in that all de facto nuclear weapons states are members of the Conference.  The CD could have a great potential for advancing our disarmament and non-proliferation agenda – but only if member States are willing to make use of this potential and to reap this unique opportunity.

At the same time, there is a need to review the way the Conference on Disarmament works. To ensure rapid progress, I believe it is necessary to engage civil society, and I welcome the discussion that now seem to be gathering momentum in the CD on this issue. We need civil society, to contribute with innovative approaches and to help mobilize the political will that is necessary to move forward. 

 The launching of Global Zero last December - an international campaign to build public awareness and political support for a nuclear weapons treaty was launched last December by a high-level group of 129 political, military, business, faith and civic leaders from around the world.

 We have a very strong precedent in other disarmament areas already. For instance, both the process leading up to the Mine Ban Convention and most recently the process leading up to the Convention on Cluster Munitions in Oslo last year, illustrates the strong potential that lies in the partnership between states and civil society.

The invaluable input from civil society and their experience from the ground were of paramount importance to our being able to reach agreement on measures that are in fact able to effectively address the severe and long-term humanitarian and developmental problems caused by cluster munitions. So was the ability of civil society to create an international public arena for promoting the idea of a Convention.

Norway is very pleased to note that 95 States have already signed the Convention, and that several others have declared their intention to sign in the near future. We urge all those States present that have not yet signed the Convention on cluster munitions to sign, and for those that have signed, but not yet ratified, to do so on an urgent basis, in order to ensure the rapid entry into force and implementation of the Convention.

Nuclear weapons are indeed of a different category from cluster munitions and anti personnel landmines. But I believe there are parallels and lessons to be learned from the humanitarian disarmament approach, which could benefit our work on disarmament and non-proliferation. We should recognize the NGOs as valuable and necessary partners in our endeavours. We need the impatience of the NGOs.  We need the NGOs to remind us that we are starting in the wrong end when we make a benign security environment a precondition for negotiations.

Another important lesson from these two processes is that it was open for all nations. This is not the case for the CD. The Conference is mandated to negotiate global legally binding obligation. Yet, a majority of states are excluded from taking part in these negotiations. This could undermine the legitimacy of future treaties. This is a challenge we should take very seriously in the CD.

 We must take forceful action in order to ensure that the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) steps up to the challenge and that the 2010 Review Conference becomes a success, strengthening all three pillars of the Treaty. 

Energy access and energy security will continue to be a critical part of the broader development agenda.  As demand for nuclear energy is certain to increase, it is vital that the third pillar of the NPT – peaceful uses of nuclear energy – is strengthened.  Renewed attention must be paid to developing a proliferation-proof system.  Multilateral approaches to the nuclear fuel cycle must be strengthened. 

Norway has pledged USD 5 millions towards the establishment of a fuel bank under IAEA auspices. We welcome the various initiatives from Germany, Russia and others with regard to the establishment of a nuclear fuel bank. Norway also appreciates the cooperation with the IAEA and a number of countries on the conversion of civilian reactors from running on highly enriched uranium to low enriched uranium.

We must continue our work to improve the verification mechanisms of all aspects of nuclear activities, from dismantling of warheads, fissile material or nuclear plants. We value our co-operation with UK and Vertic in this field.

The entry into force of the CTBT (Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty) is crucial.  We urge those other signatories, whose ratification is required for the Treaty to enter into force to ratify urgently, and for others to accede.  Unilaterally declared nuclear test moratoria, can be no substitute for legal obligations under the CTBT.

The most efficient way to combat the spectre of nuclear terrorism would be the full implementation of an effectively verifiable Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty (FMCT), combined with a CTBT with robust verification mechanisms, and irreversible, verifiable disarmament.  A non-discriminatory, verifiable FMCT will bolster both the disarmament and non-proliferation pillars of the NPT. 

All members have already committed themselves to the negotiation of an FMCT.  The recent discussions on an FMCT in the CD have shown that it is time to break the deadlock that has persisted for more than a decade, and to build on the common understanding developed prior to 2005. Questions concerning definitions and scope, including existing stocks, should be dealt with in course of the negotiations, and not be subject to preconditions for agreement on a negotiating mandate. 

Concluding remarks

Henry Kissinger reminded us, at the Security Conference in Munich, once again of the dilemma of the nuclear age that has been with us since Hiroshima, when he asks “how to bring the destructiveness of modern weapons into some moral or political relationship with the objectives that are being pursued. Any use of nuclear weapons is certain to involve a level of casualties and devastation out of proportion to foreseeable foreign policy objectives.  Efforts to develop a more nuanced application have never succeeded, from the doctrine of a geographically limited nuclear war of the 1950s and 1960s to the mutual assured destruction theory of general nuclear war of the 1970s.” 

As I see it – we now have a unique opportunity – either we work to put the nuclear genie back in the bottle, and devise the control and verification mechanisms, necessary to ensure its use for purely peaceful purposes, or we can continue on the road to our own destruction. 

To date, nuclear weapons have largely been regarded in isolation from the broader agenda of international security policy, and the major challenges that we are facing. 

We must deal with the regional conflicts that have effectively brought the multilateral disarmament machinery to a grinding halt.  Lasting security can not be achieved through the acquisition of nuclear weapons.

At a time when the international community must grapple with challenges ranging from adaptation to rapid climate change, the spread of pandemic diseases, the fallout from the global financial crisis, civil strife, major humanitarian and development challenges, the international community we can not afford the staggering costs that the nuclear weapons option entails.

In closing, Mr. President, Norway remains fully committed to any serious effort in all these fields. 

 We should keep in mind that the CD is not an end in itself.  The CD can have a crucial role to play in making the vision of a world free of nuclear weapons a reality, but only if we, the Governments, want it to. The value and relevance of the CD lies in its ability to deliver credible results. It is therefore of paramount importance that the CD seizes this opportunity to get out of the deadlock that has paralyzed its work for so many years. If it fails to do so, there will be calls for considering other avenues in order to move some of the most pressing issues on the disarmament agenda forward.

 I remain confident, however, that we will be able to use the instruments already in place to the best use in order to take advantage of the benign moment we have now for promoting a bold and visionary disarmament agenda.


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