Dear Excellencies, Colleagues,
Let me start by thanking the Foundation pour la Recherche Strategique for organizing today’s event, and for your excellent support during Norway’s Chairmanship of the Hague Code of Conduct (HCOC). I would also like to thank all representatives of subscribing and non-subscribing states, as well as those of you representing NGOs, for attending the seminar. I hope that the we can leave the seminar feeling a bit more optimistic about how we can work together to reduce the threat posed by ballistic missile proliferation to international peace and stability.
As the current Chair of the HCOC, it is a pleasure to make a few remarks here today. I want to focus on the role of the HCOC as a unique multilateral cooperation to reduce the risks posed by ballistic missile activities. It’s importance cannot be overestimated in a time when increasingly more sophisticated ballistic missile programmes are threatening our common security.
The HCOCs aims to reduce the destabilizing effects of ballistic missile activities, through transparency and confidence-building. It is a pragmatic and low-threshold supplement to already existing export controls of ballistic missiles capable of delivering weapons of mass destruction. The HCOC importantly fills a gap in the international rules-based order. Unlike the international treaties and conventions regulating the spread and use of weapons of mass destruction (such as the NPT and the Chemical and Biological Weapons Convention), there is no international law regulating the use of WMD-delivery systems. The lack of a legally binding treaty makes it even more important to join the HCOC, to show your country’s credible and holistic commitment to non-proliferation.
What makes the HCOC a unique and effective non-proliferation tool, is the sharing of information between the members of the Code. Each subscribing state submits an annual report on their ballistic missile policies and notify each other in advance about planned launches of ballistic missiles and space launch vehicles. The transparency fosters confidence and helps to prevent dangerous misunderstandings, for example by making sure that scientific launches are not mistaken for aggression against another state. The Code therefore plays an important role in maintaining predictability and stability even though some of its members actually do have ballistic missiles and space programs. To make my point very clear, joining the HCOC gives you access to information that significantly increases your own security.
HCOC is also unique as it is open to all states from all over the world. Subscription is free. All you have to do to subscribe is to send a note verbale to the Code’s secretariat at the Austrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. There is even a template note verbale to make subscription as easy as possible.
Promoting the HCOC as a threat reduction initiative in the margins of the First Committee here in New York makes perfect sense as the UNGA has adopted eight resolutions in support of the Code since 2002. The last resolution from December 2018 was endorsed by as many as 171 states, meaning 31 non-subscribers also voted yes. The credibility of the code as a non-proliferation tool and a threat reduction initiative is strengthened by it’s near universal support. I am pleased to note that even non-subscribing states here today have voted in favour of several of the resolutions. As such, you have already proved your political support for the Code. On behalf of Norway and the other 139 subscribing states, I hope that you will follow up by subscribing to the Code sooner rather than later. In this regard, let me also stress that by subscribing to the HCOC, even states not possessing missile capabilities can demonstrate their political support for the global non-proliferation regime, consistent with all UN members’ obligations under UNSCR 1540 which requires all members to take steps to prevent the proliferation of WMD and their delivery systems.
I am very much aware that for many States one thing that is taken into consideration when deciding on whether to join a new agreement or regime are the administrative implications that can follow – how much resources will be required to comply with the obligations involved? Coming from one of the countries that regularly share information about planned launches, I can assure you that the work load of submitting both annual reports and pre-launch notifications is very limited. A simplified template of the annual report has even been developed for states that have no activities in the missile field. Reports are easily submitted through the Code’s online platform. In this way, the administrative burden is very limited, while the political gain is significant.
I would also like to underline that the right to use space for peaceful purposes is not affected by joining the HCOC. This is clearly stated in both the text of the Code and the UNGA resolutions in support of the Code. Neither does subscription impede the development of a national space program or a ballistic missile program or call for destruction of any missiles. Subscription does however send a clear message to the international community and confirms your country’s serious commitment to non-proliferation of ballistic missiles and weapons of mass destruction. Subscription is as such a confidence-building measure in itself.
Joining this unique worldwide cooperation is particularly important in a time when multilateral security arrangements are under increasing pressure. In addition, ongoing testing, development and use of ballistic missiles with longer range and increased accuracy makes it more urgent than ever to join international non-proliferation efforts such as the HCOC.
Increased transparency is also needed as many states are developing or already running peaceful space programs, with the capacity to launch satellites and sometimes even manned vehicles into orbit. The trend of more and more states gaining such launch capabilities is likely to continue. It is also very likely that we will soon have a large group of private actors in space related activities. The fact that civil space programs and ballistic missile programmes to a great degree requires the same technology increases the challenge such activities represent for international peace and security. Sharing information through the HCOC about peaceful intentions will be vital to avoid dangerous misunderstandings.
To summarize, let me underline the need of a strong international response to combat the ballistic missile threat and maintain peace and stability.
So far, 140 states, with and without missile-programmes, from all regions of the world have come together to demonstrate their commitment to non-proliferation of ballistic missiles by subscribing to the HCOC. The high number of subscribing states reflects the Code’s significance as an efficient non-proliferation tool worldwide. At the same time, the aim is to reach full universalization of the Code. We are therefore hopeful that this event can encourage even more states to join the HCOC and by this, contribute to fill the blank spots on the HCOC-map, to the benefit of international and regional peace and stability.