Statement by the President of the Conference on Disarmament - HE Ambassador Sarala Fernando -Sri Lanka , Opening of the 1061st Plenary Meeting 20 March 2007

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CD 20march2007

I call to order the 1061st plenary meeting of the Conference on Disarmament.

I have the honour to convey the following message of good wishes addressed to the Conference by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Sri Lanka, Hon. Rohitha Bogollagama.

‘I have great pleasure in addressing this special message on the occasion of Sri Lanka’s assumption of the Presidency of the Conference on Disarmament. As a small, yet always engaged member State of the United Nations, Sri Lanka’s assumption of the Presidency of this Conference is yet another manifestation of its commitment to and belief in multilateral diplomacy as the indispensable means to address major global challenges and enhance the prospects of a stable, just and peaceful world. The Conference on Disarmament, as the sole multilateral negotiating body on disarmament matters has a proud history of codification and remains relevant in our constant endeavour to free the world from all weapons of mass destruction.

I take this opportunity to urge all members of the Conference to work with renewed commitment and a sense of urgency, while also demonstrating maximum flexibility, to strengthen the hand of the six Presidents of the Conference in 2007 in their endeavour to overcome the present impasse and in order to realise once again the full potential of the Conference on Disarmament in meeting the challenges of the international security and strategic environment. One should not forget for a moment that the international community is eagerly awaiting for the Conference on Disarmament to get down to its substantive work and I wish you all the very best in your endeavours towards achieving that goal.’

Dear colleagues,
Sri Lanka assumes its fourth Presidency of the Conference on Disarmament at a time of both critical challenge and opportunity for this august body. Having remained in impasse over the last several years unable to agree on a programme of work, many appear disheartened over the prospects of the CD, reasoning that it is a reflection of a broader global malaise affecting the entire multilateral disarmament machinery.

While progress has been made on important reductions in the nuclear arms stockpiles following the end of the Cold War, we cannot forget that tens of thousands of nuclear weapons still remain in arsenals around the world. We need to redouble our efforts to create the conditions for the realisation of our shared objective of a nuclear weapon-free world. All of us have a collective responsibility and engagement in the historic cause of disarmament and non-proliferation initiated by the very first resolution adopted by the UN General Assembly of 24 January 1946 calling for the elimination of all atomic weapons and ‘all other major weapons adaptable to mass destruction’.

It is against this background that under the leadership of Ambassador Rapacki of Poland in 2006 and Ambassador Mtshali of South Africa in 2007 an initiative was born to build a common platform for the year which has brought a ray of hope to the CD that it would enable member States to narrow their differences and reach common understandings.

At the same time we need to keep in mind that the CD, although the master of its own proceedings, is nevertheless responsible to the international community as a whole, which is the eventual beneficiary of our deliberations. It is the international community which will receive the final products that come out of this body in the form of international instruments and contribute thereby to global peace and security. We need to ask ourselves whether we have discharged our responsibilities diligently.

As a representative of a Non Aligned country which is neither a nuclear weapon State nor has any ambition of becoming one, our delegation made its advent into the Committee on Disarmament in 1979 one of eight new members admitted following the First Special Session of the General Assembly devoted to Disarmament which brought a wave of democratization into this body which previously had been restricted to militarily significant States. Since that time the Government’s instructions to the Sri Lanka delegation has always remained to constructively participate in and contribute positively and actively to the consensus building process in this unique ‘multilateral disarmament negotiation body’.

Sri Lanka’s Presidency will also cover week 10 of the P6 platform during which an evaluation will be made on the basis of which will be determined the planning of activities for the second half of this year including the level of intensity of work for the various coordinators. I would like to remind all delegations that Sri Lanka in conducting this exercise, will be acting together with the other 2007 Presidents wielding the collective responsibility which is the cornerstone of the P6 platform, in an open, transparent manner. On behalf of the P.6 I extend our sincere appreciation to the Coordinators for having exercised their responsibilities with competence and dedication.

In conclusion I would like to express my felicitations and sincere thanks to my distinguished predecessors Ambassador Glaudine Mtshali of South Africa and Ambassador Juan Antonio March of Spain for their strong and confident leadership which has contributed greatly to both the new momentum and the positive atmosphere in the CD.