Statement by Mr Micheál Martin, T.D., Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ireland, Conference on Disarmament, Geneva
Statement by Mr Micheál Martin, T.D.,
Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ireland
Conference on Disarmament, Geneva
2 March 2010
I am honoured to speak here today before such a distinguished audience in this historic Council Chamber. This is my first address to the Conference on Disarmament since I took office as Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ireland in 2008. In that period, disarmament and non-proliferation have been issues of high priority for Ireland, as indeed they have been for every Irish Government for over fifty years.
One of my proudest moments as Minister for Foreign Affairs was the Dublin Diplomatic Conference which adopted the Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM) in May 2008. Many of you are associated with that success. It was the result of 15 months of intensive partnership of Governments, international organisations and civil society towards a common humanitarian goal. The CCM has now been ratified by 30 States and signed by 104 and will enter into force on the 1st of August. The first meeting of States Parties will take place later this year in the Lao People’s Democratic Republic. This will open a new phase of work where the focus must be on implementation of the Convention and working towards its universal adoption. I am pleased that the CCM has had a strong effect internationally on stigmatising these terrible and indiscriminate weapons even before formally becoming international law.
This week marks the anniversary of another proud moment in Irish and international history, with the fortieth anniversary next Friday, the 5th of March, of the entry into force of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). In 1958, one of my distinguished predecessors, Frank Aiken, introduced the first of a series of UN resolutions which called for prevention of the further dissemination of nuclear weapons. He worked tirelessly for a treaty on nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation. The lasting achievement of the NPT has been to diminish the spectre of a nuclear war. The nuclear-weapon States made binding commitments to nuclear disarmament and other States undertook not to acquire nuclear weapons. This commitment to nuclear disarmament by the nuclear-weapon States was transformed into practical steps at the 2000 NPT Review Conference, at which the seven-member New Agenda Coalition, including Ireland, played a central role.
Unfortunately, significant unfinished business remains. The threat from nuclear weapons is still very real and promises remain unfulfilled. The potential for destruction of our planet creates the imperative for a nuclear-weapons-free world. The international community has to strengthen efforts to prevent further proliferation of nuclear weapons. It has to stop the risk of these weapons falling into the hands of terrorists. Nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation must be mutually reinforcing.
We have seen high and low points on the road to NPT implementation. With the dissipation of Cold War tensions, the 1995 Review and Extension Conference agreed the indefinite extension of the Treaty. The Middle East resolution, which calls for a nuclear-weapons-free zone to be established, was achieved. Five years later, the 13 Practical Steps towards nuclear disarmament were adopted. Regrettably, these successes have been followed by a decade of stagnation. Progress has not been made on the Middle East resolution and many of the Practical Steps have not been implemented. The status of outcome documents has also been called into question.
Fresh US leadership is a cause for optimism at this time. So too are signals from the nuclear-weapon States that they are willing to make progress on disarmament. This will be essential if we are to achieve movement across the spectrum at the Review Conference in May. President Obama’s Prague speech last April and the US approach since then are very welcome. The Security Council Summit to discuss nuclear non-proliferation and nuclear disarmament last September and the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington next month are encouraging developments. I am heartened by the statements and approaches of other nuclear-weapon States, particularly the Russian Federation and the United Kingdom. Satisfactory conclusion to the START follow-on negotiations would translate rhetoric into reality. It would undoubtedly establish a solid foundation for good faith negotiations in May on practical, concrete, transparent and verifiable steps. These should reduce the number and role of nuclear weapons in existence and offer satisfactory security assurances to non-nuclear-weapon States.
I welcome the UN Secretary-General’s five-point proposal of October 2008. It adds significant weight to the familiar plea that the nuclear-weapon States should fulfil their disarmament obligations and introduce more accountability and transparency. Ireland will not only echo these calls in May but work for genuine progress on them.
With the Review Conference fast approaching, we are frequently asked to define success. The 2005 Conference effectively broke down because there was a lack of political will from a few key States. A starting point this year must therefore be a clear re-statement of purpose. There has to be a thorough review of the Treaty’s implementation. A balanced, consensual and forward-looking package of decisions should be agreed with concrete steps for the way ahead. States should reaffirm their acceptance of important decisions taken at previous Review Conferences, agree measurable progress to implement each of the three pillars of the NPT, and identify concrete steps towards the establishment of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East. The 2010 outcome should make it crystal clear that we are on an irreversible path to achieve the aims set out so clearly over forty years ago.
New challenges must be confronted as well as the unfinished business I have set out. The NPT was designed in a different era and many of the situations facing it have evolved over time. We face very serious and different proliferation risks, particularly from Iran and the DPRK. These must be tackled seriously and the issue of withdrawal from the treaty must also be addressed.
Circumstances appear more propitious for the NPT than for a decade. However, success in May needs robust leadership and all of us must play our part. We need to see rhetoric translated into practical steps. Bridges must be built and differences resolved. I assure you that Ireland will play its part in May. We will work with our partners in the European Union, the New Agenda Coalition and the Vienna Group of Ten and with all other States Parties to strengthen the NPT regime. We are committed to achieving an outcome acceptable to all.
There is a fundamental link between the objectives of the NPT and the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, the last major agreement negotiated in this forum. The CTBT is a critical step on the road to nuclear disarmament. I am concerned that almost fourteen years after its adoption by the UN General Assembly, the Treaty has yet to enter into force. I am heartened by recent political momentum on the CTBT and again encourage the nine remaining Annex 2 States to immediately and unconditionally ratify the Treaty.
The Conference on Disarmament has made an outstanding contribution in the area of arms control and disarmament. Therefore I am deeply disappointed that the Conference has not managed to engage in the substantive work of negotiation for almost 15 years. Ireland has not seen any meaningful work since we became a member in 1999. There is more than enough work to be done and I appeal to you to agree on a programme of work without delay.
The negotiation of a treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices is long overdue. Negotiations on an FMCT should begin in this body at the earliest opportunity. To be meaningful, such a treaty should include a verification mechanism and cover existing stocks. An FMCT would limit the expansion of existing nuclear arsenals, and serve as a key element in a phased programme for their total elimination. I hope that a resolution to the current impasse can be found, and that the Conference can proceed with the work that it is here to do.
My visit here today is an opportunity to think about the centrality and relevance of the Geneva Conventions and international humanitarian law and the importance of their full implementation. Humanitarian concerns are at the heart of Irish foreign policy and fundamental to our interconnected approaches to security, disarmament, development, and human rights. Our policy approaches have been informed by the experience of our peacekeepers and development workers overseas. This also influenced our approach to weapon systems that cause indiscriminate harm and our role in the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention in the 1990s and the Convention on Cluster Munitions in 2008.
Ireland takes a leading role in this work and I look forward to the first Meeting of States Parties to the CCM later this year. We are supporting the Lao PDR in its preparations and have already provided an Irish member of staff to support this work in Vientiane. We will make a substantial contribution to the Lao PDR Cluster Munitions Trust Fund when it is established shortly. Ireland also remains committed to a successful outcome to the ongoing negotiations here in Geneva of the Group of Governmental Experts within the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW).
I witnessed at first hand the impact of cluster munitions at the Dublin Diplomatic Conference when I had the privilege of meeting survivors. I am proud that the CCM contains ground-breaking provisions for victim assistance and clearance of contaminated areas. This will significantly influence our future approach at policy and practical level.
There are challenging and evolving trends in the field of conventional disarmament. Ireland is devoting attention to the overarching concept of armed violence and its impact on human security, sustainable development and implementation of the Millennium Development Goals. I hope that there will be a successful outcome to the fourth Biennial Meeting of States on the UN Programme of Action on Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW) in New York in June. I look forward to the presentation of a set of internationally accepted and validated standards on SALW, whose development Ireland has been pleased to support. We are also firmly committed to the development of a binding and comprehensive global treaty on the trade of arms, covering all weapons and ammunition. We will work hard for a robust and effective Arms Trade Treaty.
The Irish Government attaches a high priority to practical initiatives on the ground. Over the past five years, we have spent over €27 million ($37 million) to make genuine differences to people’s daily lives through armed violence prevention and reduction strategies. This will continue to be a priority.
The role played by civil society across the spectrum of disarmament and non-proliferation is critical and welcome. Only States can conclude binding international treaties. However, the political reality is that such treaties are not negotiated in a vacuum. The hopes and fears of our citizens, including those directly affected by armed violence, must be heard.
The challenges we face today on disarmament and non-proliferation are daunting. We cannot afford the luxury of despair or lack the will to go on. There are glimmers of hope and opportunities to make progress here at the Conference on Disarmament and at the NPT Review Conference two months from now. We cannot change the past, but working together with sufficient resolve and determination, we can change the present - and the future.