Margot Wallström is no longer a government minister, Minister for Foreign Affairs
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Remarks at the UN Conference on Disarmament, Geneva
27 February 2018, Geneva
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Excellencies, distinguished delegates, madam President,
Allow me first to thank the Secretary-General for his statement yesterday and for his strong commitment to disarmament, non-proliferation and to the CD. I would also like to thank Under Secretary-General Nakamitsu for her strong engagement and persistence in urging us to make progress. My gratitude also goes to the Ambassador of Sri Lanka Ravinatha Aryasinha for his hard and successful efforts to establish subsidiary bodies of the CD.
As a politician coming of age in the 1980´s, I have vivid, chilling memories of the ever-present threat of a possible nuclear Armageddon. The end of the Cold War brought the world back from the brink – for good, it was universally hoped.
Yet, much to my regret, we are currently witnessing a renaissance for nuclear weapons. The doomsday clock of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists was recently adjusted and it is now 2 minutes to midnight. This is a clear indication that risk of nuclear use is rising, either by accident or as result of confrontation. People, civil society organizations and governments are deeply concerned.
Their concerns were clearly expressed by the Secretary-General yesterday. The international situation is challenging. DPRK has been accelerating its nuclear weapons and missile program. The JCPOA, which has our strong support, is going through a challenging time. The same goes for the INF, a treaty of great importance, not least to the European continent. The New START Treaty is being implemented, which is crucial, but what will happen after 2021? There are indications that the nuclear threshold is being lowered. Meanwhile, enormous resources are devoted to modernizing nuclear arsenals, expanding their lifespan by decades.
The United Nations Security Council has the primary responsibility to uphold international peace and security. As a current member of the Council we take that responsibility with the highest degree of seriousness. The Council shoulders its responsibility in many instances, but is clearly acting below the expectations of the international community when it comes to issues such as disarmament or non-proliferation.
The permanent members of the UN Security Council, also being the five recognized nuclear weapon states, must take the lead in upholding international peace and security.
This responsibility is also clear when it comes to disarmament and non-proliferation. Without constructive engagements and contributions from the nuclear weapon states there will be little progress. It is repeatedly stated that disarmament and disarmament negotiations are not possible in the present security climate. But rather than a pretext for inaction, it should spur us to break new ground. After all, it is in harsher times that efforts to break the dead-lock is most needed and brings the greatest rewards.
2017 was another lost year for multilateral disarmament negotiations in the CD despite the dire need for progress. It is in these times of hardship that we must multiply our efforts and show that the conference on disarmament, as a platform for diplomacy, can achieve results that bring us closer to our common goal of disarmament.
During the past weeks intensive consultations have been conducted under the able leadership of the Ambassador of Sri Lanka. During these consultations we sensed that there was an emerging will, underpinned by a spirit of compromise, to get the CD back on track. That sense proved correct. The CD eventually managed to adopt a decision that paves the way for structured discussions.
Now Sweden has assumed the presidency of the CD. Given the high priority that my government and I personally accord to disarmament and non-proliferation, we will make every effort to continue to make progress. But it is only possible with the assistance and goodwill of all of you.
Let me outline three main priorities for the Swedish CD Presidency:
Firstly, our immediate focus will be to take forward, together with other P6 states, the recent decision to launch structured discussions. To this end, constructive consultations are currently being pursued. I urge members to maintain a flexible approach so that coordinators and schedule for the subsidiary groups can be agreed swiftly, hopefully later this week.
Secondly, Sweden's clear ambition remains to make progress towards agreement on a program of work. We will conduct extensive consultations to this end, in parallel to efforts on operationalizing the working groups and build on the momentum from recent weeks. In this context, let us resolve not to make the perfect the enemy of the good. Historically, the CD has conducted highly meaningful work other than negotiations.
Thirdly, and related to my previous point, we must never lose sight of the fact that the core purpose for which this body was created was to negotiate multilateral disarmament agreements. That should always be our beacon. Over the years, several issues have been put forward as ripe for negotiations, not least a Fissile Material Cut Off Treaty. Another highly relevant issue is negative security assurances, which the NPT Review Conference in 2010 tasked the CD to take on.
To Sweden, as to most members of the CD, NPT is the cornerstone for global disarmament and non-proliferation. The Treaty has been resilient over the years, the number of nuclear weapon states are fewer than once feared and the treaty is with a few exceptions universal. That demands progress in all three pillars. My delegation, and myself, stand ready to contribute with concrete proposals and to work with all delegations committed to progress.
Since last year´s meeting of the CD, negotiations took place in another forum, the United Nations, on a Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. I see this treaty as a result of several disappointments and frustration in the field of disarmament, not least the failure from the nuclear weapon states to show concrete progress. But we must not let different views on that treaty prevent us from making progress here in the CD and at the NPT Review Conference.
There are serious tensions in many parts of the world. Some of them involve states with nuclear capabilities. These states have the main responsibility to reduce tensions and avoid confrontation. But all of us have an obligation to contribute to the best of our ability. Let us make sure that we do our part to move the Doomsday Clock and the world back to safety.