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Council Chamber United Nations Geneva - Photo: UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferre
Council Chamber United Nations Geneva UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferre

Presentation to the Conference on Disarmament by Jørn Osmundsen, Chair Designate of the Group of Governmental Experts on Nuclear Disarmament Verification.

Verification is essential in the process of nuclear disarmament and to achieving a world without nuclear weapons. All States could contribute to aspects of nuclear disarmament verification. A verification regime in which all states have confidence is key.

Jørn Osmundsen, Chair Designate of the Group of Governmental Experts on Nuclear Disarmament Verification.

11 May 2021

Mr President,

Thank you for organising this thematic debate on nuclear disarmament verification (NDV).

In 2019 the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) adopted resolution 74/50 on NDV. In its OP 3 the resolution encourages the Conference on Disarmament to address nuclear disarmament verification, including through substantive consideration of the report of the Group of Governmental Experts on Nuclear Disarmament Verification. I am therefore very pleased that this session is dedicated to NDV.

Mr. President,

In my presentation I will first take a step back and consider the work of the first Group of Governmental Experts on NDV, and then outline the schedule of work for the next GGE.

In 2016 UNGA adopted resolution 71/67 on Nuclear Disarmament Verification, requesting the Secretary-General to establish a group of governmental experts. The mandate from the resolution said that the Group should consider the role of verification in advancing nuclear disarmament. More precisely, the resolution instructed the Group to consider the general role of NDV in achieving and maintaining a world without nuclear weapons.

The resolution also called for, among others, the Secretary-General to seek the views of Member States on NDV, which was collected in document [A/72/304]. The Group took these views as its point of departure. In its work, the Group dedicated considerable time to principles, taking guidance from the Final Document of the UNGA/General Assembly’s 1st Special Session devoted to Disarmament from 1978 and the 16 general principles for verification identified by the UN Disarmament Commission in 1988.

The Group also benefitted from several presentations on relevant past experiences and from other verification regimes.

The Group focused on three dimensions regarding NDV. First, WHAT could constitute effective and adequate NDV. This included discussions on the conceptual understanding of NDV and principles for NDV. Second, HOW do we go about NDV, and to what extent is it possible to draw lessons from past experiences. Third, WHO shall we carry out NDV. This consisted of consideration of possible roles and functions in carrying out and supporting NDV under different phases.

To support the work of the Group, 17 working papers were submitted by experts on the three dimensions, and a number of these working papers were joint papers.

The report of the Group was adopted by consensus. The chair, ambassador Langeland, was pleased about this and highlighted the constructive and collegial attitude of all the members leading to this consensus.

The report is organised in three main sections. The first part reflects the range of views expressed in the GGE. The second part moves in the direction of where there are points of convergence, including suggested guiding principles. The third part outlines the agreed conclusions and recommendations from the group.

Mr President,

The GGE identified seven principles to guide NDV:

  • Nuclear disarmament verification should conform with international law and the principles laid out by the final document of the First Special Session devoted to Disarmament (SSOD-I, 1978) and by the United Nations Disarmament Commission Principles of Verification (1988).
  • Nuclear disarmament verification measures should be decided by the parties to specific treaties, and all the parties to such treaties should have equal rights to establish and take part in verification activities.
  • Nuclear disarmament verification must conform to applicable international legal non-proliferation obligations, national safety and security requirements, and the need to protect otherwise sensitive information.
  • Nuclear disarmament verification must be effective in ensuring compliance by the parties with obligations under the relevant treaty while also being mindful of the need for efficiency in the application of financial, human, and other resources.
  • Nuclear disarmament verification provisions in the context of a specific treaty should be clear as to obligations of the parties concerned.
  • A future nuclear disarmament verification regime must be non-discriminatory to the parties of the treaty.
  • Verification arrangements, satisfactory to all parties involved, should correspond to the purposes, scope, and nature of the agreement(s) reached on nuclear disarmament.

In the final part of the report the Group reached the following seven conclusions: 

  • Advancing nuclear disarmament is an ongoing undertaking, and there is need for a continued international examination of the issue in all its aspects, including verification.
  • Verification is essential in the process of nuclear disarmament and to achieving a world without nuclear weapons.
  • The role of verification in advancing nuclear disarmament will be determined on a case-by-case basis in the context of the negotiations of legally-binding agreements in the area of nuclear disarmament.
  • A credible verification regime in which all States have confidence will be essential for maintaining a world without nuclear weapons.
  • Confidence-building measures may complement nuclear disarmament verification arrangements between the implementing parties of a specific treaty.
  • Engagement in nuclear disarmament verification must be strictly in line with applicable international legal non-proliferation obligations as well as other legal requirements.
  • All States could contribute to aspects of nuclear disarmament verification and no State is restricted from developing verification techniques and methodologies.

Finally, the Group recommended:

  • UN Member States, as well as relevant parts of the international disarmament machinery, in accordance with their respective mandates, consider this report.
  • To consider further work related to the role of verification in advancing nuclear disarmament, taking into account the GGE report.

Mr. President,

As a follow up of the report the 74th UNGA adopted resolution 74/50. This resolution, among others, welcomes the adoption by consensus of the report of the Group of Governmental Experts on Nuclear Disarmament Verification [A/74/90]. The resolution also decided on follow-on activities within the UN framework. Among the main activities called for, the resolution:

  • Requests the Secretary-General to seek the views of Member States on the report of the GGE. These views were collected and published by the Secretary General last year as document [A/75/126].
  • Encourages the Conference on Disarmament and the Disarmament Commission to address nuclear disarmament verification.
  • Requests the Secretary-General to establish a GGE on NDV, building on the former GGE.
  • Instructs the incoming chair to organise, in New York, two informal intersessional consultative meetings, open-ended, interactive discussions with all UN Member States. The Chair will then convey the views of the Member States to the Group of Governmental Experts for its consideration.

Mr President,

This new GGE was appointed last fall by the Secretary General. The Group consists of 25 participants, chosen on the basis of equitable geographical representation and equitable representation of women and men. The Group will meet in Geneva for four sessions of one week each in 2021 and 2022. Through a silent procedure I was nominated as chair-designate in January this year.

The mandate for the GGE is given by resolution 74/50. Paragraph 6 requests the Group to “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 […];”

It should also be noted that paragraph 4 of the resolution “Welcomes efforts for capacity-building on nuclear disarmament verification;”

The pandemic situation has affected us all, including the work of the GGE. The original plan was to conduct the first formal session in April. As we aim for in-person meetings, the Group has consented to conduct the first formal session in November this year, with the three following sessions in 2022.  We cannot at this point know for sure that all are able to participate in-person in November, and we therefore plan for different scenarios including hybrid versions. At the first session the Group will formally elect the Chair of the Group and decide on a work programme.

In cooperation with UNIDIR, we conducted two informal and voluntary briefings for the GGE members in April. These briefings have outlined some general considerations on NDV issues and provided updates on previous and ongoing activities on NDV. We are now considering setting up more such informal briefings for the Group.

Mr President,

Let me once again thank you for organising this session. I look forward to hearing views here in the Conference on Disarmament on NDV, including on the report from the first GGE on NDV. I will collect these views and bring them to the attention of the GGE at its first session.

Thank you for your attention.