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Rose Gottemoeller: The status quo is unacceptable
July 28, 2011

Remarks by Rose Gottemoeller, Assistant Secretary of State for Arms Control Verification and Compliance, at a High Level Meeting on Revitalizing the Work of the Conference on Disarmament

New York, NY
July 27, 2011

Mr. President, Good morning and thank you for the opportunity to speak today.

The United States welcomed the initiative of the Secretary-General to convene last September’s High Level Meeting on “Revitalizing the Work of the Conference on Disarmament and Taking Forward Multilateral Disarmament Negotiations,” in the hopes that it would spur progress on FMCT negotiations in the Conference on Disarmament. We co-sponsored the related UNGA Resolution on “Follow-up to the high-level meeting” and we also welcome this opportunity today to take stock of where we are ten months later. The United States shares your commitment to progress and your interest in seeing this process carried forward.

Mr. President, two years ago in his speech in Prague, President Obama affirmed the commitment of the United States “to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons” and laid out a plan of action for near term practical steps to move in that direction. Since then, significant progress has been registered. I won’t detail all of it here, but I would like to highlight a few successes because they stand in stark contrast to the continuing failure to begin negotiations on a priority objective – a ban on the production of fissile material for use in nuclear weapons.

A key arms control achievement of the past year is the entry-into-force of the New START Treaty with the Russian Federation this past February. Implementation of the Treaty is well underway. As of last weekend, we and the Russian Federation had exchanged 1,000 notifications in implementation of the treaty regime. Furthermore, we have conducted 13 inspections, six by the Russian Federation and seven by the United States. We are keeping pace in our implementation efforts.

In May, President Obama also submitted to the Senate for its advice and consent, the protocols of the African and South Pacific nuclear-weapon free zones treaties. And we are in discussion with parties to the Southeast Asia and Central Asia nuclear- weapon- free- zones treaties in an effort to reach agreement that would allow the United States to sign the Protocols to those treaties, as well.

The United States remains committed to securing ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), and we are engaging the United States Senate and the American public on the merits of that treaty.

And, as already reported by the distinguished representative of France, the NPT Nuclear Weapon States – the P5 – met in Paris 30 June-1 July to engage on issues bearing on nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation, and in particular steps outlined in the 2010 NPT Review Conference Action Plan. This was a continuation of discussions begun in London in 2009 and will continue with a third conference in the context of the 2012 NPT Prepcom. These meetings are helping to build a process for P5 dialogue on transparency, nuclear doctrine, and on verification, recognizing that such a dialogue is needed if we are to establish a firm foundation for further disarmament efforts.

Mr. President, the United States has spared no effort to initiate negotiations in the Geneva Conference on Disarmament on a Treaty banning the production of fissile material for use in nuclear weapons; completion of such a Treaty continues to be the top multilateral priority for the United States and the vast majority of others, and would be a major international achievement in nonproliferation and disarmament. At a time when significant progress has been registered in other areas of arms control and disarmament, it is all the more disappointing that a single state has prevented the CD from again taking its place on the disarmament stage and undertaking negotiations to reach that long overdue objective.

The preference of the United States is to negotiate the FMCT within the Conference on Disarmament. We welcomed the initiative of Australia and Japan to organize serious technical FMCT discussions on the margins of the Conference on Disarmament this year. The activity proved to be productive, substantive, and collegial. But this does not obscure the central fact that the CD remains blocked and we are no closer to FMCT negotiations today than we were two years ago when a compromise Program of Work was adopted by consensus by all 65 CD members.

It is because of this continuing stalemate that we have launched consultations to move this issue forward. We are encouraged, therefore, that the P5 agreed in Paris to take steps prior to the next UNGA to renew efforts with other relevant partners to promote such FMCT negotiations, and we are planning these activities now. Mr. President, turning to the issue of the UN disarmament machinery and how it functions – or does not function – I note that this is often a subject of discussion. For example, “improvements” motivated the 1978 decision to create the Committee on Disarmament – renamed Conference soon after – by the then Member States of the CD’s predecessor body. They judged that certain changes, such as a rotating Presidency and membership expansion, would render the body more representative and more productive; the decisions of those States were recalled in the Final Document of the First Special Session on Disarmament.

More recently, serious thought and a number of interesting ideas have emerged regarding reform of the Conference on Disarmament and other disarmament machinery. But we should consider such proposals with our eyes wide open, realistic about what the root cause of the current deadlock is. While the machinery could certainly benefit from a tune-up, it is not the underlying cause of the breakdown in the CD. The Conference on Disarmament has produced good results in years past –the Biological Weapons Convention, the Chemical Weapons Convention, the CTBT. Put simply, when countries share an objective they can move it forward in the CD, and this is an experience we wish to see repeated, starting with the Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty.

Mr. President, the UN Secretary- General has offered recommendations on how to proceed with a review of multilateral disarmament affairs and his Advisory Board has provided us a thoughtful report. The United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research has also provided stimulating food for thought. We have a wealth of ideas. A panel of “eminent persons,” the CD itself, or some others, might usefully continue exploration, to include recommendations on the following:

· How to revamp or reconsider the role of the United Nations Disarmament Commission which, after yeoman’s efforts, has been unable to reach consensus for a number of years on any agenda item;

· How to update the Geneva CD. Its Decalogue and agenda could be updated to reflect the current international security environment. Members should also review some of its other procedures and recommend changes that would encourage greater continuity and focus.

· How to provide for continuity on an agreed CD work from year to year, such as automatic rollover of an agreed program of work;

· How to protect national security interests while preventing abuse of the consensus rule; and

· Whether expansion of the CD would improve CD efficiency, and how to reflect universal disarmament goals in deliberative and negotiating bodies, while maintaining their efficacy and assuring that states’ security concerns are respected and protected. This is the fundamental issue. In this regard, we view that theoretically working at 193 will inevitably pose complexities. I might note that the CD in its current composition, expanded since 1996 to 65 Member States, has yet to demonstrate its ability to function as a negotiating body.

In exploring new ways to proceed, we think that balance is needed. The status quo is unacceptable, but we should also guard against being overly ambitious, lest we lose our way. As we seek our way forward, we must keep our eye on the prize and, for most of the international community, that prize is a Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty as the next immediate multilateral nuclear disarmament step. Calls for yet another Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly on Disarmament are a distraction at best. An SSOD is not the only or the most practical vehicle for reform in light of its record of failure. Unless we have agreed objectives for such a session, we should better direct our efforts where progress can be made.

Thank you very much again, for this opportunity to speak.


Common Ground on the BWC: An Interview With U.S. Special Representative Laura Kennedy

Interviewed by Daniel Horner and Jonathan B. Tucker

Laura Kennedy, the U.S. ambassador to the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva, was named last December to serve also as U.S. special representative on issues relating to the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC). In that position, her principal focus is the treaty’s review conference later this year. Her previous diplomatic postings include a broad range of arms control assignments.

Arms Control Today spoke with Kennedy by telephone May 12. She described the U.S. approach to the BWC and the upcoming review conference, which is scheduled to take place December 5-22. The interview covered many of the topics that are expected to be central to the review conference, including verification, peaceful cooperation, and the BWC’s intersessional process.  (READ MORE)