Thank you for this opportunity to brief the Committee on the work of the Group of Governmental Experts to further consider nuclear disarmament verification issues, which concluded its work in May.
I will focus on the modalities for the GGE, how the Group conducted its work and the report adopted by consensus.
The United Nations Secretary-General established the GGE to further consider nuclear disarmament verification issues pursuant to UNGA resolution 74/50. This resolution provided the parameters for the work of the Group. Operative paragraph 6 constituted the primary guidance for the GGE, whereby the group nominated by the Secretary General, should:
(quote) “further consider nuclear disarmament verification issues, including, inter alia, the concept of a Group of Scientific and Technical Experts, building on the report of the Group of Governmental Experts on Nuclear Disarmament Verification and the views of Member States…” (unquote).
Our GGE was the second GGE on NDV. The first GGE considered the role of verification in advancing nuclear disarmament and worked between 2018 and 2019. Its consensus report in 2019 (A/74/90) included seven principles and seven general conclusions. Our Group was mandated to build on this report and the views of Member States, contained in document 75/126.
The work of the group was delayed by the pandemic, and held two sessions in 2022 and two sessions in 2023 Geneva, in line with UNGA decision 76/515 of December 2021.
As chair, I was also mandated by resolution 74/50 to organise two informal intersessional consultative meetings in New York, to update UN Member States on the work of the Group and to receive input to the Experts. These meetings were held after the first and the third session, here in NY.
Work of the Group
To make the best use of the time in the lead up to its first session,, I organised, in cooperation with UNIDIR and Wilton Park, informal virtual briefings and exchanges of ideas on nuclear disarmament verification to prepare for the formal start of the GGE. We also held a fourth informal meeting before the final session of the Group.
At the start of the first session, the GGE elected the chair, adopted the agenda and methods of work. Before each session we adopted a programme of work for that session. The Group’s work was based on consensus.
Considering the issues that the Group discussed, the General Assembly resolution provided the Group some guidance, but at the same time the Group had freedom to choose its issues. Resolution 74/50 explicitly mentions the concept of a Group of Scientific and Technical Experts as an issue to be considered, without prejudice to other relevant topics which the Group can decide to consider.
Furthermore, the resolution refers to an area that the Group may want to reflect upon, where the resolution in OP 4 "Welcomes efforts for capacity-building on nuclear disarmament verification".
The Group made use of the first session to identify issues to pursue work on. These issues can be placed in in three main categories: Conceptual issues, capacity building, and the concept of a GSTE. Gender, youth and education were highlighted as cross-cutting issues for discussion. The issues were discussed during our second and third sessions, which became the basis for a draft report that was discussed at the fourth session.
Experts also committed to intersessional work through working papers, and I was very pleased to see that experts also produced several joint papers. The working papers became, indeed, the engine for the work of the GGE. They became avenues for seeking positions that could enjoy consensus and helped focus the discussions of the Group.
At the fourth and last session of the Group, from 15 to 19 May 2023, the Experts agreed on a final report by consensus, contained in A/78/120.
The final report
It was important to acknowledge that there were differing views on how to take forward work on NDV. The Group was also mindful that our discussions were not to pre-judge any future negotiations or agreements. The report is therefore comprehensive; it reflects both the agreements of the Group, and also its discussions.
There was general agreement that the group should discuss conceptual elements, and therefore, there was to a greater extent convergence to be found in these discussions.
As for practical work on NDV, it was clear that there were more divergent views, and thus this part of the report reflects, in large parts, the different views that were expressed.
Looking at the report, it consists of three parts: a short introduction, a comprehensive part on the issues discussed by the group, and finally conclusions and recommendations.
The second part follows the structure of the discussions in the group, and I would start by highlighting part II a – General considerations, which there were agreement on. Further, the Group also agreed on a working definition of NDV to guide its work, and found also some general convergence on objectives and purposes of NDV, institutional arrangements and governance of NDV, and the scope of NDV.
However, the Group had a very wide discussion on these elements, and several working papers were produced looking at how verification of nuclear disarmament can be broken down in a more manageable manner. This was discussed as contexts and measures for verification of the nuclear disarmament process. Also, work on past experiences and developing capabilities were discussed thoroughly by the Group.
Capacity building was also widely discussed in the Group. The report covers discussions on general considerations, regional approaches, the value of exercises and sustainability in funding.
On the concept of a GSTE, the Group continued to build on the work done by the first GGE, and developed this discussion further. The report reflects a substantial discussion, focusing on objectives for a GSTE, a possible mandate and modalities. Even if there is no consensus at this stage on the value of such a GSTE, the interest and support to the concept is extensive – and I am convinced that the discussions on a possible GSTE will continue.
The Group also discussed cross-cutting issues relating to NDV, gender, youth and education, and had especially dedicated discussions and presentations on the importance of gender in NDV. I very much welcome that the Group engaged in these discussions as well.
The report presents 21 conclusions. The majority of the conclusion points (14) were agreements by the Group. However, seven conclusion points were also added to also capture the full breadth of discussions. All statement conclusions are by consensus, while discussion conclusions reflect the diverging positions of the group.
The report also presents five recommendations, and I was pleased to see that, in general, there was a solid agreement in the Group on continuing work on NDV. The CD has already had one session on the report, organised under the German presidency on 15 August 2023.
Looking at the two GGE’s combined, I believe it is a strong signal that both achieved consensus report, showing that agreement and convergence is possible on this topic. I also believe that the two GGEs have established a strong conceptual foundation for further work on NDV in a multilateral context.
Finally, I would like to highly appreciate all the Experts in the Group. They produced a high amount of working papers, and all Experts also engaged in a constructive and collegial manner, showing a strong commitment to successfully conclude our work.
The work of the GGE would not been able to do its work without the high professionalism and support from UN office in Geneva. I would especially highlight the work of Silvia Mercogliano of the UNODA, and James Revill and Andreas Persbo who served as consultants from UNIDIR. And my final thanks goes to my good colleague from our Ministry, Joon Grane Hetland, for his valuable support to the process.