Minister Cowen addresses Conference on Disarmament (Part I)
There is a particular resonance for me in speaking here today in this Council Chamber which was constructed to house the League of Nations. Ireland's security policy was born out of our experience of the League of Nations. Having joined the League as a small, newly independent country, we came to believe that our security could best be assured through an effective system of collective security which sought to prevent conflict and which should be resolute in addressing aggression. Regrettably, by the time this building was completed, the organisation it had been built to accommodate had been unable to prevent the descent into global war.
The new multilateral system which arose in 1945, based upon the United Nations, while imperfect, has had greater success and can lay claim to greater legitimacy in upholding respect for the rule of law in relations between states. Ireland has been a strong supporter of the role of the United Nations in conflict prevention and in peace-keeping. Recent events have demonstrated the limitations and weakness of the Organisation. They have also demonstrated the unique legitimacy that the United Nations brings to the pursuit of international peace and security. We cannot do without it.
The Conference on Disarmament can have an important role to play in the UN efforts to maintain international peace and security. Ireland's approach to disarmament is rooted in a firm conviction that multilateral cooperation is in the interest of all and most particularly serves the interests of smaller states who, lacking military power must rely on building and supporting a strong rules-based system. We have placed our faith in the multilateral regime of disarmament and non-proliferation treaties and agreements. We are committed to implementing and strengthening these instruments and to pursuing the universalisation of their norms.
The European Union, over which Ireland is honoured to preside at present, has put a commitment to effective multilateralism at the centre of its Common Foreign and Security Policy. A rules-based international order and strong international institutions are of fundamental importance to the Union.
Effective Multilateralism means a commitment to work with others to resolve the root causes of conflict, to promote respect for human rights and to create the machinery for resolving difference by peaceful means. Disarmament and arms control are essential elements in conflict prevention, in mitigating the impact of war and in addressing the problems of post-conflict situations.
Ireland's own experience of conflict has taught us that so-called conventional weapons cause terror, misery and suffering. Our experience is mirrored in many other situations which testify even more emphatically to the damage resulting from the trade in small arms and light weapons. Progress in dealing with the misuse of these weapons will be slow but it must be given greater priority. The negotiations which will get underway this summer on tracing and marking of small arms and light weapons should result in an agreement on a legally binding instrument to strengthen controls and to alleviate the devastating impact of these weapons worldwide.
Post conflict situations are frequently characterised by continuing casualties of war. Children, women and men going about their everyday business have too often become victims of landmines and other discarded remnants of war. Governments encouraged by the support of Civil Society have made progress in dealing with this issue. This year we commemorate the fifth anniversary of the entry into force of the Ottawa Convention on Landmines. Later this year the Nairobi Review Conference will provide an opportunity to take stock of the progress that has been made and will enable us to consider how to achieve universal respect for the principles and application of the Treaty.
In a difficult period for arms control the successful outcome of negotiations on an additional protocol to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) is greatly welcomed. Ireland was glad to have been able to organise a Conference on the topic of Explosive Remnants of War and Development in Dublin from 23-25 April last year. The agreement to address the Explosive Remnants of War represents a significant step forward and will hopefully provide momentum for other issues which need to be tackled in the CCW framework.
Conventional weapons may have killed far more people, but it is the proliferation and possible use of Weapons of Mass Destruction which causes greatest fear. Their potential to destroy our world demands more effective and urgent action towards their elimination. The international community must strengthen their efforts to prevent their further proliferation and the danger that these weapons could fall into the hands of terrorists.
Next month the preparatory committee for the 2005 Review Conference of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons will meet. In 1958 one of my predecessors, Frank Aiken, put forward a proposal for such a Treaty. When it was opened for signature Ireland was privileged to have been the first country to sign and to ratify the NPT. Since then efforts to strengthen the Treaty and to ensure respect for all its provisions has been our highest priority in the area of disarmament and non-proliferation.
The NPT has been subjected to severe strains in recent years. Like others we deplore the announcement made by the DPRK to withdraw from the NPT last year. We continue to urge the DPRK to dismantle immediately any nuclear weapons programme in a visible and verifiable manner, to allow the return of IAEA inspectors, and to come into full and unconditional compliance with all relevant international obligations, in particular the NPT and their IAEA Safeguards Agreement.
Concerns have also arisen about the nuclear programmes of a number of other countries. The possession of nuclear weapons by States outside the NPT and non-compliance with the Treaty's provisions by States Party to the Treaty risk undermining multilateral non-proliferation and disarmament efforts.
There is a tendency for some Members of the Treaty to stress its non-proliferation aspects to the neglect of the disarmament provisions of the NPT. I am firmly convinced that disarmament and non-proliferation are mutually reinforcing. Above all we might consider that what does not exist cannot proliferate. The development of new types or new uses for nuclear weapons is unlikely to inspire a sense of confidence. On the contrary it suggests that the taboo on the use of such weapons could be weakened.