Ambassador Robert Wood addressed the Conference on Disarmament three times during this morning’s discussion on updates to the CD’s Rules of Procedure to make the language gender neutral.
The Ambassador’s two longer interventions are included below. He also spoke briefly to express U.S. support for the proposal of the Delegation of the Netherlands to table the Draft Decision.
Given the CD’s inability to gain consensus on the decision today, the future course of action on this issue remains uncertain.
Ambassador Robert Wood
U.S. Permanent Representative to the Conference on Disarmament
Plenary Session of the Conference on Disarmament
August 6, 2021
[At the Opening of the Discussion of the Draft Decision on the CD’s Rules of Procedure]
Thank you, Madam President, the United States absolutely concurs with this technical update to the Rules of Procedure and request that you, Madam President, table the draft decision for action.
This update brings the CD into the 20th century, not even the 21st. The fact is that we should have approved such an update years ago and we thank Australia for proposing it. We view this update as purely technical in nature, which as we last updated the rules of procedure in 2003 to remove Yugoslavia as a member state upon its breakup. We actually agree with those who say we should not expend undue time or resources on this question, as approving a technical change should not take more than a few minutes.
While we understand the President held the informal consultations on this question at the request of some delegations, we do not see why it was really necessary. And frankly, if any delegations oppose this update on its merits, we would appreciate them voicing that opposition clearly.
These objections are not only out of touch with reality, they are insulting to Director General Valovaya, our President, my own Deputy Permanent Representative, and all other women representing their nations in the CD.
This remarkably embarrassing escapade is a microcosm of why we cannot move forward with anything in the CD.
Thank you, Madam President.
Remarks by Ambassador Robert Wood
Plenary of the Conference on Disarmament
August 5, 2021
[The following remarks were delivered later in the discussion after a small group of countries objected to the tabling of the proposal]
Thank you, Madam President, I apologize for taking the floor, but I don’t believe we can close this session, frankly, without making clear some of the concerns that my delegation has and I’m sure are shared by many other delegations in this room.
You know, all women here, all women delegates here today have listened to the various opposing views to this initiative. And I hope they’ve listened very closely to what they’ve heard and that they consider them very carefully and draw their own conclusions on this.
We have listened today to a number of countries who have obfuscated, have brought up issues that have absolutely nothing to do with the issue under discussion. They have tried to bog the discussions down here on the issue of translation instead of focusing on the issue of principle of equality with regard to gender.
This is one of the most disappointing things that I have witnessed in the CD during my seven years here in Geneva. Although, to be honest, I can’t say that I was surprised. Agreeing to the proposed technical linguistic changes should have been very easy. It should have lasted only as long as it took for the President to describe the proposal and confirm there were no objections. But here we are. After hours of debate in both informal and formal plenaries and nothing to show for it except another indicator as to how dysfunctional this body has become.
The failure here offers a fitting bookend to the way this year’s session started with the inability of the CD to agree on a program of work. And let me be clear, these twin failures have nothing to do with the efforts of the CD Presidents, who have worked tirelessly to make this body function at a bare minimum level of effectiveness.
And to those few delegations who are quick to blame the United States, either by name or by innuendo, for the CD’s current sad state, let me remind you that my delegation was prepared to agree to a program of work earlier this year showing flexibility on issues of importance to us.
And today, we were ready to approve this simple but symbolically important update. On the contrary, it should be no surprise that there is a significant overlap between the countries that were the primary obstacles to reaching agreement on a program of work and those who, in essence, blocked action today.
There was no hidden agenda here, no slippery slope to slide down or Pandora’s box to open. Just a straightforward opportunity for this body to do the right thing. And yet we failed.
As many of you well know, I’ve repeatedly stressed the need for this body to have a serious discussion about how it conducts its business. Today’s unfortunate outcome has only underscored the necessity for such a deliberation, which I very much intend to pursue in upcoming plenaries.
Thank you, Madam President. My apologies for taking the floor.