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Conference of Disarmament, Opening Session, 23 January 2018

Statement delivered by Ambassador Hans Brattskar, Permanent Representative of Norway, 23 January 2018

Mr President,

First, let me congratulate you on assuming the Presidency of the Conference on Disarmament (CD). We wish you and the next five presidents every success in the upcoming deliberations on a programme of work for the CD. I would also like to thank the High Representative for Disarmament, Ms. Izumi Nakamitsu, for her thought-provoking remarks.

Given today’s challenging global security landscape, any progress in the field of arms control would be welcome. A resumption of substantive work in the CD would, for example, be an important step forward.

We are deeply concerned about current proliferation threats, in particular the threat posed by the DPRK. We are worried that nuclear weapons may be given a more prominent place in security doctrines, and that we may face a new nuclear arms race. Today, it is clear that some key arms control agreements are under pressure. Important achievements since the end of the Cold War in the area of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation are at stake. We still face considerable challenges in the field of nuclear security.

In these uncertain times, we must make full use of all arenas to re-engage, promote dialogue and foster confidence. Norway welcomes the fact that the United States and Russia are pursuing a path of strategic bilateral dialogue. We encourage continued talks between nuclear weapons states. Norway considers the nuclear agreement with Iran (JCPOA) to be a good example of the way in which diplomacy can produce results. We must uphold this agreement.

We must also make full use of the existing intergovernmental machinery. The CD has been paralysed for more than 20 years. We cannot allow this to continue, especially at a time when the nuclear risk is growing. The CD is not an end in itself, but it provides a forum for states – both those that have nuclear weapons and those that do not – to discuss and negotiate instruments that would make the world safer.

We cannot achieve the objective of a world without nuclear weapons unless all stakeholders are at the table. There is no fast track towards the total elimination of nuclear weapons. Irrespective of our positions on the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, we have to start working together if we are to realise the vision of ‘global zero’. For instance, we need to work more identifying and developing practical and effective measures of nuclear disarmament verification. 

The Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) remains the cornerstone of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation efforts. It is vital to bring the current review cycle to a successful conclusion in 2020. In doing so, we must recognise the Treaty’s role in enhancing our security and focus on what unites us.

Although it has not entered into force, the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) remains a key deliverable of the global disarmament and non-proliferation regime. It has established a norm against nuclear testing. While addressing the issue of the DPRK’s nuclear tests, we should also consider ways to further consolidate this norm.

Continued efforts in the field of nuclear security are vital for addressing nuclear risks and preventing any nuclear detonations, intentional or not. The Norwegian Government remains strongly committed to enhancing nuclear security. This is part of a comprehensive approach to security, non-proliferation and disarmament. In June, we will host the third international symposium on the minimisation of highly enriched uranium (HEU) in the civilian nuclear sector. This has been a nuclear security priority for Norway for several years and under successive governments.

Starting negotiations on a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty (FMCT) or Fissile Material Treaty (FMT) remains a logical next step on our agenda. We must all bear in mind that starting negotiations is not the same as concluding an agreement. We know that views on such a treaty, including its scope, definitions and support functions, differ. But we cannot address these issues unless we actually start working to develop a treaty. An FMCT could limit a future arms race. It could foster enhanced confidence between the parties. It could lead to actual disarmament by gradually placing stocks under IAEA safeguards.

Trust and confidence can also be built through nuclear disarmament verification, and this in turn can facilitate progress on our disarmament agenda. Last week, the Norwegian government presented its new political platform. In it, nuclear disarmament verification is identified as a priority area of security policy for the Norwegian government.

Following the adoption of UN General Assembly resolution 71/67, a Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) is being established. Its first session will take place here in Geneva in mid-May. Norway expects the GGE to build on experience in the field of verification and draw inspiration from cooperative frameworks such as the UK-Norway Initiative, the Quad Nuclear Verification Partnership and the International Partnership for Nuclear Disarmament Verification (IPNDV). Norway greatly appreciates the excellent cooperation it has had with the UN Secretariat in connection with the establishment of the GGE.

Over the last few years, UN member states have increasingly made use of the GGE mechanism to advance their arms control priorities. This can be seen as an expression of their strong commitment to promoting certain disarmament issues. This should obviously be welcomed. But the increasing use of GGEs could also be seen as a sign that the established intergovernmental machinery is not fulfilling its mandate. 

If the latter is the case, then we are dealing with a far more serious question. The CD cannot resolve the shortcomings of the current intergovernmental machinery alone. But it can still make a positive contribution. At the end of the day, it is up to the Conference’s member states to demonstrate the flexibility needed to allow us to get back to work. In previous years, we have come very close to adopting a programme of work on a number of occasions. Let us make this the year that we finally do so.

Thank you.