Conference on Disarmament
Statement by Australia’s Permanent Representative and Ambassador for Disarmament, Ms Sally Mansfield
15 May 2018
I am delighted to assume my duties in Geneva representing Australia, and to attend the Conference on Disarmament for the first time.
I have met some of you already, and I look forward to getting to know all of you. I have the sense that the disarmament community is a tight knit, collegiate group – and I look forward to being part of that.
I am conscious that I have come at a challenging time for international security and disarmament.
The rules and institutions that help maintain peace and security and guide global cooperation are under strain. With divergent interests and shifts in power between states, it is more difficult to respond collectively to security challenges.
In this context, it is essential that we promote and protect the international rules and institutions that support stability and prosperity and enable cooperation to tackle global challenges.
I see Australia’s role in the Conference on Disarmament through this lens – maintaining and strengthening the rules-based international order by using the CD to build collaboration and common ground on disarmament and international security.
At the best of times, this takes patience and political will. We will need to build progress incrementally in a way that takes account of all of our security interests.
I am told that year after year, there is an echo-chamber of regretting the CD’s failure, yet again, to agree a program of work with a negotiating mandate. I wish the situation were different; if reaching consensus were easy, we would have done so years ago.
Today I prefer to focus on the positive momentum demonstrated by last year’s “Way Ahead Working Group” ably chaired by Ambassador Lynn, and the opportunity presented this year through the CD’s decision to establish five subsidiary bodies, which start their work later today.
Australia will participate actively and constructively, with a view to building trust, understanding, and hopefully common ground for future negotiations.
Australia was also pleased to Chair the UN Disarmament Commission in New York this year – getting the new three year cycle off to a good start.
The CD does not operate in a vacuum. Much has happened since the CD last met in late March.
On Korean Peninsula issues, Australia welcomes the news that the US-North Korea Summit will be held in Singapore on 12 June. We hope North Korea will honour its commitment to “complete denuclearisation” in the Panmunjom Declaration.
Australia remains committed to the consistent goal of the international community – complete, irreversible and verifiable denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula, and will continue to work alongside our partners to this end.
On Syria, Australia condemned the use of chemical weapons on 7 April in Douma. The use of chemical weapons anytime, anywhere, under any circumstances is abhorrent and deserves investigation and accountability. We strongly support the OPCW’s independent investigation into the attack.
On another matter, the Australian Government has consistently said that the JCPOA should remain in force until such time as an alternative arrangement can be negotiated.
Many of those present in this Chamber attended the recent NPT Preparatory Committee meeting in Geneva. For Australia, the NPT remains a crucial element in the nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation architecture, as well as promoting the peaceful uses of nuclear energy. Australia will continue to make every effort to strengthen and support this important treaty.
I do not intend to outline Australia’s positions on the various issues on the CD’s agenda. There will be plenty of time to do so during the subsidiary bodies.
But I would like to flag that last week the Australian Government announced new investments in Australia’s space industry, including for the development of world-leading satellite infrastructure and technologies. We will shortly establish our first Space Agency.
Like others, Australia’s economic and security interests in space will grow. At the same time, the expansion of space-based technologies creates risks. Australia is committed to strengthening the international laws and norms that apply to state behaviour in space, including military uses of space. We look forward to the discussions in the subsidiary body on Preventing an Arms Race in Outer Space.
Before closing, I would like to say a few words on culture and values. I have just come from running our Department’s People Management area – so I have a particular interest in building effective institutions. I believe deeply that individuals make a difference, and that mentoring, valuing diversity, and respectful communication go a long way in achieving our common purpose.
From me, and the Australian delegation, you can expect:
- a constructive, pragmatic, and realistic approach; we will question why, and look for creative approaches to our work, including from other fora;
- a focus on our region: connecting the dots between global security issues and the Indo-Pacific is important for us, particularly the impact on the Pacific;
- an inclusive, cross-regional approach which encourages diversity; diversity of views, gender, and geographic perspectives; and
- unwavering attention to the central question of how our work contributes to making our communities safer and more secure.
Thank you Madam President