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Statement

Statement by Audun Halvorsen, Deputy Minister, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Norway to the Conference on Disarmament 26 February.

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Mr, President,

On Friday this week, we will be celebrating the 20th anniversary of the entry into force of one of the most successful multilateral disarmament treaties of recent times: the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention. Norway is proud to preside over the Mine Ban Treaty this year and we look forward to welcoming delegates to the 4th Review Conference in Oslo in November. 

Landmines are indiscriminate by nature. They continue to kill and injure long after a conflict has ended. In the past 20 years, the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention has become binding international law for 164 States Parties. More importantly, the Convention has established a strong norm against any use of landmines. This norm is adhered to by many more states than just the States Parties. Put simply, thanks to the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention, landmines are now a weapon that no longer has a place in our international order.

The Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention’s 20th anniversary is an important opportunity to recall what can be achieved through multilateral disarmament negotiations. The success of the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention should be measured in the number of mines destroyed, the amount of land freed from its deadly bondage, and the number of victims and survivors who have increased hope that their needs will be met and their rights respected. On this count too, we have much to celebrate.

Over the past 20 years, more than 51 million stockpiled landmines have been destroyed. Each landmine destroyed represents a potential life or limb saved.

As long as landmines are in the ground, they continue to kill and maim. It is therefore well worth celebrating that 31 states have successfully finished clearance and been declared landmine-free. This means that communities can again use these areas without fear and that development and economic activity is no longer hampered by the deadly legacy of landmines. But we still have more work to do. 32 States Parties still have landmine contamination and clearance obligations in line with the Convention. If we are to reach our ambition of a mine-free world by 2025, we must increase the pace of survey and clearance worldwide.
When all landmines have been cleared and all stockpiles have been destroyed, landmine victims and survivors will still have to live with the legacy of landmines for the rest of their lives. This Anti-Personnel Landmine Convention broke new ground as the first disarmament treaty to recognize the rights of landmine survivors. This recognition has served as an inspiration for how other conventions seek to meet the needs and ensure the rights of victims and indeed has served to highlight the rights of persons living with disabilities in general.

At the same time, challenges remain. In 2017, landmines and explosive remnants of war caused more than 7000 registered deaths and injuries. Landmines are sadly not a problem of the past. Over the past few years, improvised landmines have again been used as tools of war, mostly by armed non-state actors. While improvised landmines themselves are not a new concept, the scale of the problem is. Anti-personnel landmines that meet the definition in the Convention are prohibited and fall under the obligations of the Convention, independent of whether they are manufactured or improvised.
New use of landmines and the rising number of casualties reminds us that it was precisely concerns about the indiscriminate impact of landmines that brought about the Convention in the first place. Many established norms are currently under pressure. It should be our duty to protect them and to address new challenges.

Norway has been a consistent partner in mine-action for more than 25 years. Humanitarian mine action continues to be a priority for our government. We aim to use our presidency of the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention to bring renewed political attention to mine action and to highlight how the Convention is a key protection instrument. We believe the objectives of the Convention - to save lives, protect civilians, assist victims and to enable sustainable development in affected areas - are as relevant as ever.

Mr. President, allow me now to take this opportunity to address other important disarmament and arms control issues.

When the UN General Assembly Special Session on Disarmament in 1978 designed the disarmament machinery, it pointed to the Conference on Disarmament as the forum for negotiations. Sadly, for more than 20 years now, the CD has been unable to fulfil its mandate. Last year’s establishment of the subsidiary bodies was, however, a step in the right direction. In the future, we might consider more creative ways to make use of the CD.

The current international environment appears not conducive to making progress in nuclear disarmament. Measures to build confidence are needed. Successful arms control policies must be in line with realities.
The fundamental norm against the use of weapons of mass destruction is under pressure. Chemical weapons have been used in Syria, Iraq, Salisbury and Kuala Lumpur. Those responsible for such use must be held accountable. This is why the decision taken on attribution at the Special Conference of the States Parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention last June is so important. We offer our full support to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons as it seeks to implement this decision.

Mr. President,

Norway is fully committed to the objective of the total elimination of nuclear weapons. To achieve this, we need a comprehensive arms control agenda with mutually supportive building blocks. Our common goal can only be achieved through balanced, mutual, irreversible and verifiable elimination of nuclear weapons.
The NPT is the cornerstone of our common efforts on disarmament, non-proliferation and peaceful uses of nuclear energy and applications. Norway is working for the full implementation of the NPT and calls for continued global commitment to the treaty. A forward-looking agenda for the 2020 Review Conference covering all three pillars is needed.

This should include:

First, developing credible multilateral solutions to verify future nuclear disarmament. The UN Group of Governmental Experts on Nuclear Disarmament Verification is currently at work here in Geneva. The GGE is the only international forum where nuclear weapon states and non-nuclear weapons states sit at the same table to discuss, on concrete terms, how to advance nuclear disarmament. In this respect, the process also facilitates confidence building.

Second, strengthening the global norm against nuclear testing by calling for the entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty and promote negotiations on, and the adoption of, a Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty. Establishing baseline declarations on fissile materials and developing reporting mechanisms within the IAEA framework would be concrete steps on the path towards an FMCT.
Third, strengthening non-proliferation efforts by promoting universal adherence to the IAEA Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement and its Additional Protocol - the global safeguards standard. Moreover, we should make the most out of peaceful applications of nuclear technologies to assist efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

Mr. President,

Norway supports measures to reduce the risk of nuclear weapons being used, such as steps to improve early warning systems and to decrease the operational readiness of nuclear weapons. We promote increased transparency by nuclear-weapon states and the strengthening of negative security assurances towards non-nuclear weapons states. Moreover, we should address systems not covered by existing multilateral arms control agreements such as sub-strategic nuclear weapons. This is especially important at a time when the INF Treaty is failing.

The INF treaty has significantly contributed to stability in Europe for more than 30 years. We regret that Russia has not taken steps to return to compliance with the treaty, but rather made unreasonable counter-accusations. International treaties cannot be upheld over time if only one party complies. We urge Russia to return to full and verifiable compliance to preserve the INF Treaty.
I would also like to express my hope that the US and Russia will work towards renewing the New START nuclear treaty when it expires.

DPRK’s nuclear and missile programs remain a grave and unacceptable concern. We welcome the summits and dialogue with North Korea. At the same time, we stand firmly behind the relevant UN Security Council resolutions

Norway contributed substantively to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action and remains committed to Security Council resolution 2231. The US decision to withdraw has made the agreement vulnerable. We call on Iran to continue its full cooperation with the IAEA.

Mr. President,

The Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention is another vital pillar of the global disarmament architecture. We must improve response and preparedness, address relevant developments in life sciences, tackle emerging challenges, and improve cooperation and assistance under the Convention.

Finally, Mr. President, building confidence is a priority. Understanding concepts of strategic stability and deterrence is key. Our goal is an agenda of arms control that makes us all more safe and secure.