High-level debate continues

Gabriella Irsten | Reaching Critical Will of WILPF

The Conference on Disarmament (CD) plenary on 29 February heard high-level statements from Estonia and Cambodia.

Mr. Prak Sokhonn, Minister Attached to the Prime Minister of Cambodia, Vice President of the Cambodian Mine Action and Victim Assistance Authority, and President of the Eleventh Meeting of the States Parties to the Anti-personnel Mine Ban Convention (11MSP) updated the CD on the 11MSP that took place in Cambodia last November and December. Mr. Sokhonn indicated that thanks to the contribution of landmine survivors and non-governmental organizations, the meeting was able to make new strong commitments moving forward. He emphasized, “Perhaps this instrumental role of civil society in disarmament is a lesson this Conference may wish to learn from.”

Mr. Sokhonn also announced that both Tuvalu and South Sudan have joined the Convention and Finland has announced it will be joining, summing up the state parties to 159. In light of this announcement, Mr. Sokhonn urged the members of the CD that are not members to the Convention to join in order to “contribute to a disarmament success story.” While stating that the “Anti-personnel Mine Ban Convention has been an unprecedented success,” He made it clear that much more work is needed for the Convention to live up to its promise. 

He also spoke about the current financial constraints in respect to disarmament measures, noting that while “economic challenges weigh heavily on the minds of many,” governments “must not default on our obligations to assist in the effort to support survivors and to free mined land from its deadly bondage.” He concluded by emphasizing that disarmament negotiations are a means to a humanitarian end, saying, “There is an expectation that disarmament fora will produce results and that these results will make a different in the lives of people everywhere.”

Foreign Minister of Estonia Mr. Urmas Paet also supported greater participation of civil society in the CD, but dedicated most of his statement to expansion of CD membership. Explaining that “disarmament issues have security effect on international community and on all countries, regardless of their membership in the Conference of Disarmament” and that the participation in nuclear disarmament initiatives should not only be limited to 65 countries, he urged that a special coordinator should be assigned to the issue of expanding the membership of the Conference.  

Notes from the gallery 
The expansion of the CD’s membership has been a prominent issue during the first weeks of the 2012 session. States including Austria, Germany, Russia, Nepal, Brazil, the Eastern European Group, the European Union, Morocco, and more have all expressed their willingness and support of an expansion of membership. Some also support a greater inclusion of civil society in the work of the CD.  This call has been reiterated by many of this week’s high-level guests, including those from Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Jordan, Malaysia, Costa Rica, Estonia, and Cambodia.

As Mr. Sokhonn pointed out the CD has much to learn from the Mine Ban Treaty as an example of an “unprecedented success” and having great civil society participation, two aspect that the CD lacks.

WILPF is of the opinion that an increasing participation by civil society will benefit the Conference and is an important step in connecting the CD to the new changing international environment. Civil society would bring  further expertise to the Conference and would help to increase public confidence. Furthermore civil society working on different levels could bring a holistic and realistic view of today’s world, from the grassroots level through multilateral negotiations.  

Next meeting 
The next plenary meeting will be held on Tuesday, 6 March at 10 am.