The Norwegian Ambassador stated that “Nuclear weapons are the most inhumane, indiscriminate and disproportionate weapons invented. Their use would be illegal under international humanitarian law. We need to place the humanitarian imperative at the center of our efforts. In this respect, we have much to learn from other, more recent disarmament processes with successful outcomes.
Statement to the Conference on Disarmament
Ambassador Bente Angell-Hansen, Permanent Representative of Norway
17 March 2011
Let me begin by expressing our heartfelt condolences to the governemnt and people of Japan for the loss of lives, the enormous material damage and the suffering they are going through. We admire the immense efforts made to alleviate the impact of the disasters and the bravery and dignity shown by the Japanese people in the face of this triple disaster.
The horrors of the risk of further radioactive leakages, puts the stalemate of this conference into perspective. How can we prove to peoples all over the world that we are serious about dealing with the pressing issues pertaining to nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation?
I commend you for the excellent way you have conducted the Chilean presidency, reflecting the strong commitment by your country to the disarmament agenda. A commitment very much shared by my country.
I thank you for the instrumental role you played in giving civil society, represented by Women International League for Peace and Freedom, the opportunity again this year to interact with the CD on March 8. I pay tribute to the League for their strong and consistent contribution to promoting disarmament. It is obvious that we need strong voices from civil society also on disarmament, and I encourage all forthcoming CD presidencies to enhance our interaction with civil society. Such engagement can take place either in informal or formal settings. We need an inspired and fresh look at the CD. Ideas and proposals from civil society can help provide that. We have been encouraged by recent statements from member states to this effect.
Both your presidency, and the Canadian one, have introduced substantial discussions to the CD. We welcome this, while at the same time need to remind ourselves that the CDs mandate is to “negotiate”. We should be careful not to duplicate the UNs 1st committee. Hence, we would question whether this year’s session could be perceived as “acceptable progress” unless it is manifested with a Program of Work clearly addressing our mandate.
Independent of the quantity and quality of the statements we have heard so far this session, we still feel deep frustration over the more than decade long stalemate in the CD. Basically, the tradition of using consensus on procedural issues in this body continues to be a major problem and one reason why we should consider alternative strategies toward disarmament.
However, let it be clear. The CD has its important mandate, and we are aware of your determined attempts to identify elements that may lead towards consensus on a Program of Work, and to identify agenda items that may pave the way for substantive negotiations in the near future. Norway’s position is that top priority should be given to nuclear disarmament with the objective of a total elimination of such weapons.
We would also emphasize that “Prevention of an arms race in outer space” is an urgent issue. There is a window of opportunity for the CD to deal with this agenda item in a preventive manner. Unless not dealt with soon, we will gradually be confronted by an increasing number of countries claiming national security interest as an excuse for inaction. We must avoid this becoming a reality, making PAROS even less ripe for negotiations in the future than in the current setting. It is our joint responsibility today to do all we can to avoid escalating complications for the future.
We are not hiding the fact that we are skeptical to the CDs ability as an institution to deal with disarmament, reflecting the longstanding stalemate of this body. We would even claim outright that the CD presently is “dysfunctional” when it comes to delivering on its mandate. The CD needs to reform itself – the consensus rule should not be applied to procedural issues, membership should be universal; civil society should play an active role; and we should find new ways to foster cross-regional cooperation.
Yet, we fully recognize that the CD does not operate in a vacuum. It is obvious that there are countries with legitimate and serious security interests and concerns directly linked to our agenda items. Indeed, we would even go further – we recognize that there are countries outside of the CD with legitimate security interests directly linked to our agenda items. Presently these countries still have to trust the 65 countries inside this body to deal with their security interests. That is not fair.
Nuclear disarmament should be a pressing issue for all states. It should also be a pressing humanitarian issue reflecting the devastating effects on populations, as well as on the environment, from the use of weapons of mass destruction. Nuclear weapons are the most inhumane, indiscriminate and disproportionate weapons invented. Their use would be illegal under international humanitarian law. We need to place the humanitarian imperative at the center of our efforts. In this respect, we have much to learn from other, more recent disarmament processes with successful outcomes.
We are aware that most countries maintain that consensus is vital when it comes to nuclear disarmament. Norway is not fully convinced. We believe it could be possible to develop norms against the use of nuclear weapons, and even to outlaw them, without a consensus decision, and that such norms eventually will be applied globally.
We cannot leave it to the nuclear states alone to decide when and how to do away with these weapons. We need to address this urgently. If the CD proves unable to deliver on the expectations, we must explore other options to pursue “a world free of nuclear weapons”.