Statement by H. E. Ambassador Abdul Samad Minty, Permanent Representative of the Republic of South Africa to the Conference on Disarmament, 1 September 2011

Mr President,

Since this is the first time that I am participating in the work of the Conference on Disarmament (CD) in this historic Council Chamber, allow me to express my sincere appreciation for the warm words of welcome. It is a pleasure to see you, Ambassador Rodolfo Reyes Rodriguez, presiding over the Conference.  Cuba and South Africa enjoy close bilateral ties and long historical links of genuine solidarity, not least due to the sacrifices made by the people of Cuba in support of our struggle for freedom and democracy in South and Southern Africa.  I also wish to extend a word of appreciation to the Secretary-General of the CD, Mr Kassym-Jomart Tokayev and members of the Secretariat for their ongoing support to the work of the Conference.

As the Conference engages on the finalisation of its report to the General Assembly during this last part of the 2011 Session, we wish to recognise the efforts of this year’s six Presidents aimed at ending the stalemate that has for too long prevented this body from fulfilling its mandate as the single multilateral disarmament negotiating forum.  Given these considerable efforts, it is regrettable that the CD has once again this year failed to commence negotiations on any of the items on its agenda.

Mr President,

At the outset, let me state unambiguously that South Africa is a strong proponent of nuclear disarmament and an ardent supporter of a nuclear weapon-free world.  For my delegation, nuclear disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation are inextricably linked, which requires continuous and irreversible progress on both fronts.  While progress is being made in strengthening non-proliferation measures, similar progress has not yet been realised in the area of nuclear disarmament, despite some positive momentum in bilateral nuclear arms reduction measures.

As the cornerstone of the nuclear disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation regime, the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) remains the only international instrument that contains both the legal commitment to the elimination of nuclear weapons and extensive measures to prevent their proliferation, while recognising the inalienable right of states to the peaceful application of nuclear energy. The NPT therefore represents a historical bargain between the nuclear-weapon States and the non-nuclear-weapon States, in terms of which the former has undertaken to eliminate their nuclear weapons based on the reciprocal undertaking by the latter not to pursue the nuclear weapons option.  In this regard, we wish to emphasise the importance of the implementation of the Action Plan of the 2010 NPT Review Conference, which reaffirmed and built upon previous outcomes, and includes a wide range of measures aimed at fulfilling the core bargain of the Treaty.

While the threat to humanity posed by chemical and biological weapons has long been recognised, which led to the banning of these weapons of mass destruction through negotiations in this very body, the achievement of a world free from nuclear weapons remains an unfulfilled promise and elusive goal.  If the indiscriminate destruction and vast humanitarian consequences posed by weapons of mass destruction is unacceptable, then the continued retention of the nuclear weapons option surely cannot be justified or maintained.  It is also clear that the only absolute guarantee against the use of such weapons is their complete elimination and the assurance that they will never be produced again. 

We are convinced that neither the possession of nuclear weapons nor the pursuit of these weapons can enhance international peace and security. The primary responsibility for undertaking the necessary steps for the elimination of nuclear weapons lies with those states that continue to regard nuclear-weapons as central to their security.  It is therefore incumbent upon these States to engage, without further delay, in an accelerated process of negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament in all its aspects under strict and effective international control.  We all need to work together to achieve this core objective as we execute our responsibilities as Members of the CD.  It is only through such an effort that we will be able to construct a comprehensive framework for the achievement and maintenance of a world without nuclear weapons.

Mr President,

The transformation process in my country fundamentally altered the role of apartheid South Africa as a threat to international peace and security to a democratic state determined to act as a responsible world citizen. This included the early elimination of all its nuclear weapons - a goal for which some of us fought over several decades.  Since its inauguration in May 1994, the South African Government therefore committed itself to a policy of non-proliferation, disarmament and arms control which covers all weapons of mass destruction and extends to concerns relating to the proliferation of conventional arms. This policy forms an integral part of South Africa’s commitment to democracy, human rights, sustainable development, social justice and environmental protection.

Democratic South Africa’s commitment to disarmament was therefore never a goal in itself.  Amongst others, it is based on our belief that international peace and security cannot be divorced from development - that global security is not achievable when enormous financial and other resources are still being diverted towards the acquisition of more and more destructive capabilities; while more than a billion people around the world continue to suffer from hunger and deprivation.

In addition to this link between security and development, our approach to international security is also based on the reality that the threats of the modern post-Cold War world frequently transcend traditional boundaries within an increasingly interconnected world.  This reality, Mr President, clearly requires a different approach to international peace and security beyond the narrow national security paradigm that dominated the twentieth century, including in the balance of power struggle of Cold War rivalries. We believe that common threats can only be effectively addressed through enhanced international co-operation and strong international institutions that can respond to our collective security concerns.  Our approach in this forum should therefore be one that addresses common security concerns rather than that of certain blocks, regions or security alliances.

Mr President,

The question that confronts the CD is whether this institution after so many years of inaction is able to regain its position as a responsive multilateral institution that can contribute towards building a new consensus on matters affecting our common security. My delegation stands ready to contribute towards exploring options to unlock the potential of this institution. We will remain actively and constructively engaged in the CD and other multilateral disarmament fora with a view to seeking solutions that would inevitably require compromises to strengthen the multilateral system and efforts towards the achievement of a world without nuclear weapons.  Beyond nuclear weapons, there are also other important disarmament issues on the CD’s agenda that require our attention, not least that pertaining to the prevention of an arms race in outer space.

The continued impasse in the CD is not sustainable and will increasingly affect the relevance and stature of, and international confidence in the CD as a multilateral disarmament negotiating forum. To restore the substantial confidence-deficit, it remains our hope that compromises can be found that would allow the Conference to resume substantive work. It is clear to my delegation that this will require a significant effort to build trust, increased flexibility by all CD members and a willingness to move beyond absolutist positions and past approaches that have prevented progress.  If we fail, we may not be able to revive this institution that some already believe to be on life support.
Mr President,

I wish to recall the 1996 decision on the expansion of the CD, which included the admission of my own country together with 22 other countries on 17 June 1996 as part of a package deal. While this decision was only brought about after several years of negotiation and lobbying, as well as high-level intervention by our political leadership, the CD has yet to benefit from the collective wisdom of a more representative membership. Despite the lack of progress, more countries have expressed an interest in membership. Notwithstanding the regular membership review envisaged under paragraph 2 of the CD’s Rules of Procedure, this issue has not been given proper consideration in recent years. It is our hope that a solution to this impasse can also be found.

Mr President,

It would be remiss of me not to appreciate the role of civil society, which also played a major role in our own democratic transformation. Among the many non-governmental organisations with whom we worked closely during the anti-apartheid struggle was the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, which plays a prominent role on the margins of the CD.  We believe that it is time for the CD to seriously consider options for enhancing its interaction with such organisations in order to benefit from their insight and ideas to strengthen the work of this Conference.

In conclusion, Mr President,

In taking up my position as South Africa’s Permanent Representative to the CD, I look forward to working with you and other members of the Conference in a collective effort to restore hope for a more peaceful, secure and prosperous world.  I wish to assure you of my delegation’s continued co-operation and support in the execution of the CD’s mandate.

I thank you.

ISSUED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND COOPERATION

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01 September 2011

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