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Remarks to the Conference on Disarmament on the New Agenda for Peace 
As Delivered by U.S. Deputy Permanent Representative Aud-Frances McKernan
August 8, 2023

Remarks to the Conference on Disarmament  on the New Agenda for Peace 

As Delivered by U.S. Deputy Permanent Representative Aud-Frances McKernan

Thank you, Mr. President, for giving me the floor.  I would like to say a few brief words on this important topic.  First, let me thank Deputy Secretary General Mélanie Regimbal for her briefing and being with us today.

The New Agenda for Peace, and the Our Common Agenda process as a whole, provides vital context, substance, and thoughtful analysis on the challenges currently faced by the international community, as well as ways to address the pre-existing challenges and gaps in the international system.  This is an important opportunity for all of us to take stock of UN tools in the maintenance of international peace and security.

While the United States is still reviewing the New Agenda for Peace policy brief that was released a few weeks ago, we see distinct value in a New Agenda that allows the UN to effectively manage existing and emerging threats to international peace and security.  Current geopolitical tensions, such as those caused by Russia’s full-scale war against Ukraine and the PRC’s rapid and opaque nuclear weapons build-up, necessitate a more activist role for the Secretary-General in resolving international disputes, and heighten the need for the UN to provide tailored, technical solutions to specific problems.

Further, the brief makes clear the vital importance of arms control and past efforts to reduce nuclear risks, calling for such work to continue, including through transparency, confidence-building measures, and dialogue.  We welcome the inclusion of this element in the brief, and we support continued efforts in these directions, and underscore that the current international security environment necessitates that risk reduction efforts play an even more important role in maintaining peace and security and pursuing nuclear disarmament.

We also underscore the need to maintain and strengthen the nuclear nonproliferation regime as well as the linkages between nonproliferation and the peaceful uses of nuclear energy and nuclear technology to address the climate crisis and contribute to Sustainable Development Goals.

When trust is low and risk is high, it is exceedingly difficult to develop new, effective arms control measures and agreements – or maintain those that already exist.  Only by reducing risk and working together constructively can we meaningfully advance progress on arms control in the service of our common cause to achieve a world free of nuclear weapons.

Mr. President,

The United States has reaffirmed its commitment to reducing the salience of nuclear weapons globally and made clear that the United States would only consider the use of nuclear weapons in extreme circumstances to defend its vital interests or those of its allies and partners.  However, the security conditions and our commitment to the defense of our nation and our allies and partners require that we maintain our current deterrence posture, and as such we cannot support the New Agenda brief’s recommendations about the prohibition of use of nuclear weapons and subsequent punitive measures for such use.

Additionally, we are supportive of efforts to strengthen the machinery of disarmament but would note with caution that such efforts must be taken in a way that seeks to build consensus and avoids having the opposite effect – potentially leading to the weakening of existing structures.  However, that does not mean we should let ourselves sit idle, as there are steps that can be taken.

For example, here at the CD, we should consider creative avenues, such as looking within the existing Rules of Procedure.  That way, we could take small steps to add continuity to our working methods, make it more efficient, and more interactive.  I suggest we could begin such a task by making adequate preparations for next year’s Program of Work.  We look forward to sharing more on this topic at an upcoming CD session.

Thank you.