Centre for International Studies and Diplomacy, SOAS University of London dp27@soas.ac.uk

UNOG Acting Director General Moller’s Opening remarks at SCRAP’s UN Discussion

Mr Michael Moller, Acting Director General of the United Nations Office of Geneva (UNOG), delivered the opening remarks at SCRAP’s discussion at the United Nations on 12 February 2014. The discussion was titled New Approaches to General and Complete Disarmament: looking towards Mexico and The Hague.

A copy of Mr Moller’s speech was first hosted on the UNOG website.


Dr. Plesch
Dear Friends:

Thank you for inviting me, and welcome to the Palais des Nations – the home of global disarmament. I am very glad to be with you for what I hope will be a tradition of hosting an annual event here on the Strategic Concept for the Removal of Arms and Proliferation Project. I think most projects look for a catchy acronym – certainly the United Nations is full of them! – but very few are as successful as you with the appropriate SCRAP. It captures very aptly and vividly a vision that we all share of a world without weapons. Scrapping all weapons of mass destruction and regulating conventional armaments is a challenging but central goal that the United Nations has been striving to achieve since it was founded. So let’s hope that the acronym is not only fitting but also prophetic.
First of all, a warm welcome and thank you to all the students here and to the leadership of SCRAP. I think that initiatives like SCRAP strengthen our hope in the future of disarmament. We need exactly you, the next generations, to drive the disarmament agenda forward.

I am impressed not only by your commitment but also by your creativity and drive. You are an inspiration to all of us, and you will see many of the diplomats among you here. You can count on the support of the United Nations Office at Geneva in what you want to achieve.

Thank you also to Finland and Switzerland for their continuous strong support for the disarmament work here in Geneva.

Geneva is the venue of choice for global peace and disarmament diplomacy. And to open our discussions, let me give you a flavour of this work and where I see a need for greater involvement of groups such as SCRAP.

As you know, this week representatives of the Government of Syria and of the opposition have been meeting to bring an end to the war in Syria. Last year, negotiators agreed here on an interim deal to ensure the international community of the exclusively peaceful character of Iran’s nuclear programme.

Beyond the headlines, a range of key disarmament instruments that have in different ways contributed to peace and security have been negotiated here in the Conference on Disarmament: the Nuclear non-Proliferation Treaty, the Chemical Weapons Convention, the Biological Weapons Convention and the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test Ban Treaty.

Like last year – and like every year over the past 18 years – you meet at a time of a continued and unacceptable deadlock in the Conference on Disarmament. This situation may not change as quickly as we would like, given the current international security environment. But there does seem to be a strong will among the Members of the Conference for its revitalization. We hope that the mandate of the Informal Working Group that was established last year to produce a Programme of Work, and which is being discussed right now, will be renewed very shortly as part of this effort.

But the impasse in the CD does not mean that nothing has been happening in disarmament. As I already mentioned, recent talks here in Geneva led to an interim agreement with Iran to halt any nuclear activities that might lead to the development of a nuclear weapon. The atrocious use last year of chemical weapons in Syria, and its strong condemnation by the international community led to that country joining the Chemical Weapons Convention and agreeing to the destruction of its chemical weapon stockpile, a process which is ongoing now.

Also, last year, after a decade of campaigning and negotiations, the General Assembly adopted the Arms Trade Treaty, which will enter into force after fifty States have deposited their ratification instruments with us. The ATT is an instrument of much promise in regulating the existing trade in conventional weapons, which – particularly in the developing world – have been likened to weapons of mass destruction because of their wide and destructive use in armed conflicts.

In September of last year, the General Assembly organized the first-ever high-level meeting on nuclear disarmament. And this meeting provided yet another platform for the international community to call for renewed efforts towards a world free of nuclear weapons.

As the Permanent Representative of Finland reminded us in her remarks, your meeting today precedes and looks ahead to the meetings in Mexico and The Hague. There is no doubt that these will be important meetings to move disarmament and non-proliferation forward.

There has recently been a growing – and much welcome – focus on the humanitarian consequences that would result from a nuclear detonation, including in the hands of terrorist groups. The meeting hosted by the Government of Mexico tomorrow, follows on from last year’s conference in Oslo, and will broaden discussions and make recommendations on this dimension of a possible use of nuclear weapons.

At the same time, issues relating in particular to the prevention of nuclear terrorism through the reduction of the amount and improvement of the security of nuclear material will be discussed next month at the Nuclear Security Summit at The Hague, which more than 50 States will attend.

Together, these conferences will chart political and diplomatic ways of reaching our common goal of nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament.

But, despite the recent achievements, the field of disarmament and non-proliferation still presents daunting challenges. I hope that SCRAP, with its holistic approach and focus on concrete steps will inspire concrete action on the part of States to confront those challenges. In general, I am a firm believer that there is scope for much closer and more structured involvement of civil society on the disarmament and non-proliferation agenda. We need a groundswell of public opinion in support of real and meaningful progress. And we need innovative input to move the debate beyond entrenched positions.

As we work to disarm the world, we need to arm ourselves with perseverance. It is often said that disarmament is a field where you need patience. And lots of it! Personally, I would actually like to see a little more impatience – and a less ready acceptance of the status quo. And I see in SCRAP not just this impatience, but also a willingness to engage constructively and move to concrete action.
The success of your project lies in these values.

So, I wish you a successful meeting – and continued impatience!

Thank you very much.