An official website of the United States government

Remarks by Ambassador Bruce Turner on the Conference on Disarmament Program of Work
February 16, 2023

Remarks by Ambassador Bruce Turner on the Conference on Disarmament Program of Work

Informal Plenary

Mr. President,

Thank you for your revised draft as well as explanation of rationale for making the changes you did. We will study it carefully. To begin with, I will note, as other delegations did, the inconsistencies in OP1 and OP2. Thank you to the delegates from Iran, Russia, and China for the clarity of their opinions on OP2, which are not compatible with our opinions. We will probably agree in finding that the language is too prescriptive in calling for an international treaty at this point in time.

We are disappointed that the revised draft does not mention a FMCT, even if only as a reference to agenda item 2. As stated on Tuesday, what is crucial is substantively to discuss all the various items on our agenda. Discussion is necessary in any case to prepare the groundwork for any future negotiation and to build common understandings as the basis for proceeding in a consensus manner. We understand that some tracks may proceed more rapidly than others, but there’s a difference between speed and status.

Many today have referred to failure of CD to begin negotiations on any one of its agenda items for over twenty years. Call it inertia. Call it stalemate. Call it absence of political will. Call it bad faith and double standards. Call it absence of trust. Call it abuse of the consensus rule. The result, or lack thereof, unfortunately remains the same.

I would also recall, no matter how States may view the issue, that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has had an undeniable impact on our work here that goes beyond what it is doing on the territory of another country. Russia’s actions have also had an impact on our entire disarmament machinery. I only need to cite the CD’s failure to agree on a meaningful report last year. Or its failure to pass a consensus resolution in the UN First Committee. Or the current blockage over allowing UN member states, who are expected to help fund the CD through their assessed contributions, to participate as observers.

As we have heard as well over the last couple of weeks, and years, and today, this body is riven by division over the prioritization of our agenda items. Added to that, it is not as if Russia’s war in Ukraine has ended or that we can return to business as usual in multilateral organizations.

Given the situation I have just described, we would urge a more realistic approach to our work here. Everyone in this room understands deep down that this year is unlikely to produce a breakthrough toward initiation of a negotiation mandate on any of our traditional agenda items. The environment, or political will, or critical mass of consensus, is simply not present at the moment. As today’s discussion have shown, achieving consensus on a program of work will be difficult, if not possible.

So why not take the simpler, non-discriminatory approach such as the one described by our Swiss colleague. Why not go back to what worked so well before, when the CD was still productive, by regarding the POW as nothing more than a timetable enabling us to engage on all the various agenda items that we deem to be vital.

And when I say enable, I mean exactly that. These procedural discussions need to be focused on allowing us the time and space to have real dialogue on the issues, using whatever methodology we choose. As we said last year, the four half-day discussions per Subsidiary Body did not give us that time and space.

To that end, and as the absolute majority of delegations said in their opening remarks, we also need to begin discussions on any adjustments we can make to our working methods in order to improve our disarmament machinery.

Instead of raising unrealistic expectations, our advice would be to lower our expectations and concentrate on restarting meaningful discussions. These are important issues, with important consequences for future international stability and security. We should at least be able to talk about them.

As our Brazilian colleague said, let’s just get to work. Thank you Mr. President.