Canada – Statement to the Conference on Disarmament (26 Jan16)

Thank You Mr. President,

Since I am taking the floor for the first time within the formal proceedings of the Conference on Disarmament, I would like to acknowledge what a great honour and privilege it is to have been appointed Canada’s Permanent Representative to this body. Canada has sought to play a constructive role in the work of the CD and its predecessors, and continues to attach great importance to the work of this body. While the CD’s protracted stalemate on substantive work is a real concern, you can be assured of my commitment to support efforts to return the CD to its role as the world’s sole “disarmament negotiating forum,” as mandated in 1978 by the first UN Special Session on Disarmament.

The grave threat posed to all countries by the proliferation and potential use of weapons of mass destruction, including by non-state actors, and the need for effective controls over these weapons systems, underlines the urgency for action. In this context, Canada views the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action between the P5+1 and Iran, provided it is fully and verifiably implemented, as a positive contribution to global efforts on nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation. However, in contrast to this advancement, we strongly condemn North Korea’s January 6 nuclear test which violates successive UN Security Council resolutions and undermines global security. Canada will not accept North Korea as a Nuclear Weapon State, and we call on it to abandon its illegal nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

In this climate, the impasse in the CD is lamentable. Starting today, I hope to be part of a collective effort to reset the CD’s wayward compass and focus on the urgency of its mandate. This is our collective responsibility.  Our differences must be resolved through negotiation, not procedural wrangling. We must make more efficient use of our time and resources.  Finally, we must move beyond discussion and debate seemingly only for its own sake.  If the CD continues to be unable to agree on a Program of Work, my delegation predicts that the CD’s credibility will soon be irretrievably and irreparably damaged.

Mr. President,

I may be proved wrong, but I choose to be optimistic that it is still possible for the CD to adopt a balanced Program of Work that would enable negotiations to begin on some issues, while allowing concrete discussions toward eventual negotiation to take place on others.

For my delegation, the start of negotiations on a treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices remains the most important element of a Program of Work because it is already ripe for negotiation. Canada has long-promoted the merits of such a treaty and led practical attempts to identify and elaborate key issues.  My predecessor chaired the UN Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) that facilitated the most in-depth discussion on the elements of a legally binding, non-discriminatory, multilateral, and internationally and effectively verifiable treaty.  The GGE’s consensus-based report faithfully reflects the spectrum of views expressed by all its participants and clearly demonstrates that no substantive issues are preventing the immediate negotiation of this treaty. My delegation’s resolve in pursuing treaty negotiations was further strengthened by the overwhelming support that states gave to our UN General Assembly Resolution 70/39 entitled Treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices

Mr. President,

The CD will not be the only UN-related body discussing fundamental disarmament issues in 2016. In the spirit of cooperation, and as part of Canada’s genuine desire to try to advance disarmament discussions, Canada will also participate constructively in the Open Ended Working Group (OEWG) with the mandate to substantively address various measures and norms to establish a world without nuclear weapons. Thailand’s Ambassador Thongphakdi, as Chair of the OEWG, can count on Canada’s commitment to engage collaboratively in a fair and balanced dialogue on these issues. 

Mr. President,

Canada is committed to preventing an arms race in outer space. In seeking to develop legally binding measures to prevent the weaponization of outer space, it will be essential to develop precise definitions, adequate legal language, effective means of verification and to include ground-to-space anti-satellite weapons. We do not believe the draft Treaty on Prevention of the Placement of Weapons (PPWT) in its current form meets these criteria. Implementation of the recommendations contained in the UN Group of Governmental Experts consensus report on transparency and confidence-building measures appear to offer a more realistic and viable avenue for the international community to promptly establish rules of behavior in space for the benefit of all nations.

Mr. President,

The CD has a distinguished history as a multilateral disarmament negotiating forum.  It has helped to provide meaningful solutions to maintain and preserve international security – and it can assume this vital role again. However, as we have seen with respect to processes created to negotiate the Ottawa Convention, the Convention on Cluster Munitions and the Arms Trade Treaty, it is no longer the only game in town.  We urgently need to bridge the gaps between our respective national and regional interests if we want to maintain the relevance of the CD.

In this spirit, Canada stands ready to support a Program of Work proposing a new mandate for negotiations on a treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons and nuclear explosive purposes. While Canada still believes the Shannon Mandate the most appropriate basis on which to commence negotiations, we recognize this new proposal as an extremely significant compromise, and we are prepared to be flexible and to support it fully. If CD members are truly committed to returning this forum to productive work, it is our sincere hope that this approach will be reciprocated by all members. We would encourage you, Mr. President, to conduct informal consultations in order to advance such a promising new Program of Work.  

I firmly believe that the goal of disarmament is achievable if we work pragmatically and constructively together.  With that in mind, I look forward to working with all delegations to instill a new sense of purpose to the CD and contribute to the achievement of its essential mandate – the mandate to negotiate multilateral disarmament treaties. 

Thank You.