Tánaiste’s Statement to the Conference on Disarmament
Speech24 February 2020
It is an honour to be in Geneva to address the Conference on Disarmament (CD). Allow me to begin by congratulating you, Ambassador Foradori, on Argentina’s assumption of the Presidency at this crucial time. I assure you of Ireland’s full cooperation and support in undertaking this important role. I would also like to express our gratitude to the Secretary General of the Conference and to her team for their invaluable support to the work of the CD.
Disarmament is a key driver of peace and security. We have a responsibility to our people, and to our planet, to make progress on the issues entrusted to us. This is the essence also of the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals.
While far from perfect, multilateralism still offers the only real hope for cooperative, constructive engagement and for maintaining peace and security. We know that a focus only on narrow self-interest is not a sustainable approach. It takes courage and leadership to look beyond our national short-term interest. Effective cooperation and engagement on disarmament issues is particularly important in an environment of tension and distrust. We remain firmly convinced that multilateral dialogue and negotiation contributes vitally to our overall goal of a peaceful, more secure world.
It is therefore deeply regrettable that the Conference on Disarmament has been unable to adopt a programme of work or reach agreement on new membership applications in over twenty years. There is a growing frustration, which I expressed in this chamber last year, that the Conference has been unable to perform its role as the single multilateral disarmament negotiating body. In the face of significant challenges, the international community must urgently rebuild a common vision for international security and disarmament, and this should involve a reinvigorated, effective CD.
I commend the six Presidents of the CD for 2020 for working together to develop a package that will, I hope, result in the CD returning to substantive work very soon. Your cooperative approach is a novel one. Let me assure you that Ireland is willing and ready to work with all members to rebuild consensus and fulfil the mandate of this important Conference.
We should not forget that, over several decades, this Conference has played a central role in promoting the rule of law in disarmament. Among its notable achievements are the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention; the Chemical Weapons Convention; and the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty. These achievements have made significant contributions to international disarmament and non-proliferation, and to international security and peace. They demonstrate what the Conference is capable of achieving when there is a collective will among its membership to work together for the common good.
Ireland is deeply concerned that recent years have seen repeated incidents of chemical weapons use, increasing humanitarian harm as a result of the use of explosive weapons in populated areas and the mounting threat posed by nuclear weapons. This situation, coupled with the increasing polarisation and politicisation of multilateral forums and the failure to implement commitments previously undertaken, should give urgency to our work across all disarmament fields. We must not use heightened tensions in the international environment as an excuse for inaction. Rather, the current situation places a greater moral responsibility on us to re-engage with multilateral methods, imperfect as they may be.
With this in mind, 2020 will be an important year. The Review Conference for the Treaty on the Non Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) takes place in April and May in New York. Ireland is proud of its association with the NPT, which is one of the major success stories of multilateral diplomacy. The 2020 Review Conference, coming as we mark 50 years of the NPT, presents an opportunity to celebrate and recommit ourselves to the NPT and its acquis. As we celebrate this anniversary, we should remind ourselves that the NPT came into being at the height of the Cold War. This achievement clearly demonstrates that times of heightened tension do not preclude us from making progress or reaching consensus. Quite the contrary: increased security concerns remind us of the urgency of our work to preserve global peace and security; they can, and should, provide the impetus to reach consensus on our disarmament and non-proliferation goals. We do not accept the notion that progress on disarmament can only be made when the necessary security conditions exist.
Ireland believes that to ensure a successful outcome in 2020, all states must, as a starting point, reaffirm their commitment to all the consensus-based outcomes we have collectively reached throughout the past 50 years. This includes the unequivocal undertaking by the nuclear weapons states to accomplish the total elimination of their nuclear arsenals.
Ireland will engage actively and constructively at the Review Conference in its national capacity, as well as with the European Union, the New Agenda Coalition, the Vienna Group of Ten and other like-minded, and indeed non-likeminded, partners, to ensure a successful outcome.
Ireland is proud to have played our part in negotiating the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW). The Treaty is fully complementary to the NPT and, for Ireland, gives effect to the disarmament obligation set out in Article VI. Ireland completed its domestic legislative process to give effect to the TPNW in Irish law at the end of 2019, and we will complete ratification of the Treaty at the earliest opportunity. I am pleased to note that the TPNW has to date received eighty-one signatures and thirty-five ratifications.
For Ireland, the recognition in the Treaty of the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons is of paramount importance. The TPNW also recognises the disproportionate impact of ionising radiation from nuclear weapons on the health of women and girls and the disproportionate impact of nuclear weapons activities on indigenous peoples.
Ireland firmly believes that the only true guarantee against the horrors of nuclear war is the total elimination of nuclear weapons.
Before concluding, I would like to emphasis the value Ireland attaches to the diversity of voices in disarmament fora. This includes the full and equal participation of women and men in disarmament and security decision-making, and the involvement of youth. I would also emphasise the critical important of the varied voices of civil society, academia and other stakeholders.
For Ireland, the integration of gender perspectives and issues across all spheres of disarmament is a significant priority. In our role as co-chair of the International Gender Champions Disarmament Impact Group, along with Canada, Namibia, the Philippines and UNIDIR, Ireland continues to promote efforts to strengthen the application of gender perspectives in multilateral disarmament, non-proliferation and arms control fora.
The ‘Impact Group’ recently revised and reissued its ‘Gender and Disarmament Resource Pack’ to all CD Presidencies, to encourage the application of a gender lens to their work. We were pleased to see that in 2019, a number of States noted the ‘Resource Pack’ in their national statements, and we hope that many more will incorporate these important perspectives into their work.
President, distinguished delegates, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists’ doomsday clock is now at 100 seconds to midnight, signifying that the global risk of nuclear war is closer than ever. As the President and CEO of the Bulletin, Rachel Brosnan, has noted: there is no margin for error or further delay. The time has long since passed for the stagnation of this Conference to end. There is a clear obligation on all of us to leave behind our differences of opinion and to work together to make progress once more in the interests of all of our peoples and the planet. Our task has never been more urgent.