Statement by Mr. John A. Bravaco, U.S. Representative to the 2011 Session of the United Nations Disarmament Commission

John A. Bravaco, U.S. Representative to the 2011 Session of the United Nations Disarmament Commission
New York, NY
April 4, 2011


Thank you, Mr. Ambassador. Good afternoon everyone.

The United States congratulates the Republic of Iraq on its election to the Chairmanship of the 2011 session of the UN Disarmament Commission. Mr. Chairman, we wish you well and pledge our full support as you ably guide the work of the Commission forward.

We also thank the other members of the Bureau for their willingness to serve and thank High Representative Duarte for his support for the Commission. And we offer a special note of appreciation to the Republic of Benin’s Permanent Representative, Ambassador Jean-Francis Zinsou, who personally has labored over many years to seek a successful outcome to the Commission’s objectives.

Mr. Chairman, this year, the Disarmament Commission is faced with a great deal of work to complete, and very little time in which to complete that work. Fortunately, the task before us takes place against the backdrop of renewed international action and progress and achievement in the arms control, nonproliferation, and disarmament arenas.

For it was two years ago tomorrow, on April 5, 2009, that President Barack Obama addressed the people of the beautiful city of Prague, and the people of the world, and recalled another momentous Spring in the long struggle for human freedom, everywhere. In his address, and most pertinently to the work on which this Commission is about to embark, the President stated “clearly and with conviction America’s commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.” He outlined a series of steps and initiatives and actions that America would take in the coming years, to reinvigorate my country’s responsibility to contribute to this historic effort.

The President acknowledged that the steps he laid out – strengthening the global nuclear nonproliferation regime, reducing the numbers of nuclear warheads and their role in military strategy, preventing access to nuclear materials by terrorists, and expanding peaceful nuclear cooperation as the right of every nation that renounces nuclear weapons and plays by the rules – would not be easy to achieve.

The President said specifically:

“Now, I know that there are some who will question whether we can act on such a broad agenda. There are those who doubt whether true international cooperation is possible, given inevitable differences among nations. And there are those who hear talk of a world without nuclear weapons and doubt whether it’s worth setting a goal that seems impossible to achieve.”

Well, Mr. Chairman, in the last two years, the international community has risen to the occasion, and taken significant steps in delivering on the promise of a safer world.

As one reflects on this period of progress in arms control, nonproliferation, and peaceful uses of nuclear technology, it is fair to say that the President’s speech in Prague helped to set the tone for a number of subsequent advances in these areas. Specific examples of the success that can be achieved when nations commit to doing their part and working together include the April 2010 groundbreaking Nuclear Security Summit, the U.S. Nuclear Posture Review, the United States Administration’s stated intent to transmit to the Senate for its advice and consent to ratification of the Protocols to the African and South Pacific Nuclear Weapon Free Zone Treaties, the successful Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty Review Conference in May 2010, and most recently, the February 5, 2011 entry into force of the New Start Treaty between the United States and the Russian Federation.

Certainly, there is much more yet to achieve, including bringing into force the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, and starting negotiations on a verifiable Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty. In this regard, we are deeply disappointed with the failure of the Conference on Disarmament to take up an FMCT, a failure that casts a shadow over our deliberations here in New York. Nonetheless, at home, and in partnership with governments around the world, the United States will continue working to make these vital multilateral instruments a reality. They are so very long overdue.

Mr. Chairman, as this year’s session of the Disarmament Commission begins, let me state clearly that America intends to be as flexible as possible on procedural matters, as well as substantive outcomes. We have come here to do business, and achieve results, and foreswear gamesmanship. Accordingly, we supported the establishment of another subsidiary body to address three issues this session, they being “Recommendations for achieving the objective of nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation of nuclear weapons” in Working Group 1, “Elements of a draft declaration of the 2010s as the fourth disarmament decade” in Working Group 2, and “Practical confidence-building measures in the field of conventional weapons” in Working Group 3.

Mr. Chairman, I would like to recall UN General Assembly Decision 52/492 of 1998, which states among other things that “parallel meetings of [the Commission’s] subsidiary bodies should be avoided.” In this context, the revised “General Program of Work” (A/CN.10/2011/CRP.1) approved by the Commission this morning appears to us to take account of this concern; the plan is fair and makes the most of the time available.

Regarding substantive matters, we look forward to receiving as soon as possible the documents which the three working group chairs intend to use as the basis for achieving consensus. My capital, like all others no doubt, will require time to digest working group proposals and issue specific guidance. So, I respectfully appeal for such information to be provided soonest.

Mr. Chairman, as I mentioned earlier, we have but three weeks left in this issue cycle to conclude our work. My Delegation therefore recommends that we distill from previous efforts only the most broadly agreed, realistic, and focused approaches which have the best chance of commanding consensus on agreed principles, guidelines, recommendations and/or elements. I readily admit that this is easier to achieve in theory than in practice, otherwise, the Commission would have done so years ago. But we must keep trying. Simply put, we have but two options before us: within the limited time available, to commit to registering some progress, however modest, or alternatively, to end the Disarmament Commission’s second, three-year issue cycle in a row with no result whatsoever.

As always, America will do its part to achieve a positive outcome in this, the international community’s deliberative “think tank” on arms control, nonproliferation, and disarmament issues. We look forward to working with each of you as together we pursue this goal.

Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.


PRN: 2011/067