U.S. Ambassador Bruce Turner’s Remarks to the Conference on Disarmament on the Program of Work
As Delivered on February 17, 2023
Thank you Mr. President. Like others, let me compliment you and your team on your skill and pragmatism in navigating some difficult weeks.
I think everyone here knows this draft decision is almost identical to last year’s decision, with the exception of the changing of the names of the groups. It would be hard to object to this decision, and I do not intend to do so for that reason.
Nevertheless, speaking personally at least, I worry sometimes that the CD is once again putting itself in a strait jacket – to repeat a word used by our Brazilian colleague. Specifically, what bothers me a little bit is that at each and every step along the way, everything must be agreed by consensus. There is a risk here that we stifle discussion instead of encouraging it. Therefore, while it is entirely appropriate to refer to consensus in the last half of paragraph five, I believe we are overly constraining ourselves if we insist on consensus in paragraph three and the first half of paragraph five.
With reference to paragraph three, would it not be better to leave it to the discretion of the coordinator to schedule meetings, for instance? I would argue that the coordinator should also have the option to consult with delegations individually or in group formats or to schedule informal discussions of particular issues that have come up. Since we are, after all, only speaking of discussions, I would also argue that the coordinator, or any country participating in the meetings, should have the option of putting additional discussion items on the agenda.
Turning to paragraph five, I certainly have no objection to agreeing to a report by consensus, for subsequent adoption by consensus. But what if there is no complete consensus? We would like to avoid a situation again this year where one delegation provides comments on the very last day of the CD session, thereby blocking the report. Why not at least permit the Adhoc Coordinator, on his or her own authority, to report to the plenary, either orally or in writing? Such a report could also serve as a starting point for the following year’s discussions.
In sum, there is no need to challenge the consensus rule, but neither should we be insisting on consensus every step of the way. How can we ever overcome differences of view if those differences are not permitted to find some expression?
Finally, there is nothing here of course on revitalization or an examination of our working methods. While I note there is no consensus to create an ad-hoc committee on this subject, perhaps we could agree to an informal discussion arrangement whereby a coordinator named for that purpose and could have some discussions.