The 2023 Conference on Disarmament.
High Level Segment
Statement by Ms Anniken Huitfeldt
Minister of Foreign Affairs, Norway.
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27 February 2023
Increased tensions and rivalries are putting pressure on the multilateral disarmament architecture. A war is raging in Europe. New nuclear threats and proliferation challenges are raising concerns about potential use of nuclear weapons and the ensuing humanitarian impacts.
Norway deeply regrets the Russian suspension of the New START Treaty. This was the last remaining legally binding measure between the US and Russia to control nuclear arms.
These are challenging times. Norway remains committed to promoting multilateralism and nuclear disarmament. Our aim is to achieve a world without nuclear weapons.
The current situation adds challenges to our work in the Conference on Disarmament. It is more important than ever to break the decades-long deadlock in this forum. We must strive to find ways to make progress that leads to real disarmament negotiations.
Norway is increasing its focus on humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons. This is an important perspective for progress on nuclear disarmament efforts.
It moves the focus from the strategic domain to the catastrophic consequences that any use of nuclear weapons would entail for people and the environment.
Norway’s approach is based on the consensus final document of the 2010 NPT Review Conference. And as was the case at the Oslo 2013 Conference, the purpose is to establish a fact-based understanding of the effects of a nuclear detonation.
Norway welcomed last year’s joint statement by the P5 leaders affirming that a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought. However, not long after this, Russia launched an unprovoked and brutal war against Ukraine. Russia has made irresponsible and thinly veiled threats to use nuclear weapons.
Russia’s actions have global implications. Ukraine had received security assurances from nuclear powers, including from Russia. Russia’s blatant breach of the Budapest Memorandum and the UN Charter is a threat to international peace and stability.
If we want disarmament to be credible, we must stand united in opposition to these threats and breaches.
As stated in the G20 Bali Leaders’ Declaration from November last year: ‘The use or threat of use of nuclear weapons is inadmissible.’
A substantive strategic dialogue between nuclear powers is essential. This must include full transparency on all nuclear arsenals and discussions on concrete and practical risk reduction measures.
Proliferation issues are of global concern. Norway is deeply troubled by North Korea’s nuclear rhetoric and actions. We urge North Korea to return to dialogue and to abandon all programmes for ballistic missiles and weapons of mass destruction.
The accelerating Iranian nuclear programme is also of great concern. We urge Iran to return to full compliance with its nuclear-related commitments under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, and to resume full cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
The Non-Proliferation Treaty has served global security well for more than half a century. It is estimated that at the height of the Cold War, there were around 70 000 nuclear weapons in the world, the last estimate from 2022 is 12 700. These reductions took place due to bilateral efforts, but NPT provided the global framework making this possible.
The Non-Proliferation Treaty remains the cornerstone of our efforts to rid the world of nuclear weapons. A single country blocked consensus on a final document at the 10th NPT Review Conference. This was very disappointing. But this should not overshadow the fact that we still reached a compromise on most issues relevant to the Treaty.
Norway is engaged in practical and concrete efforts for nuclear disarmament and for the full implementation of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. There is consensus that nuclear disarmament should be guided by the principles of transparency, verifiability and irreversibility.
Nuclear disarmament verification remains a high priority for Norway. We continue our leadership of the UN Group of Governmental Experts in this area. The Group of Governmental Experts is working constructively to achieve substantive progress, and aims to present a consensus report to the 78th UN General Assembly.
Together with the United Kingdom, we have initiated a multilateral dialogue on how to apply the principle of irreversibility in practical terms. The aim is to develop a common understanding of how to ensure that nuclear disarmament will not be reversed.
Another priority for Norway is nuclear risk reduction. The risk of nuclear weapons being used, either intentionally or inadvertently, is a constant concern. We all share a responsibility to prevent this from happening. Norway is ready to contribute to concrete and practical risk reduction measures in the upcoming NPT cycle.
Norway continues to advocate the entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, and the early negotiation and conclusion of a Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty.
And finally, let me assure you, Mr President, that Norway will continue its efforts to promote gender equality and diverse participation in disarmament processes, and to the inclusion of younger generations in our work.