Press Releases

    21 January 2004

    Political Will Essential in Overcoming Current Impasse, Secretary-General Tells Conference on Disarmament

    NEW YORK, 20 January (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the message by Secretary-General Kofi Annan to the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva, delivered today by Sergei Ordzhonikidze, Secretary-General of the Conference on Disarmament:

    I am pleased to send greetings to all Member States of the Conference on Disarmament as it opens its 2004 session.  Disarmament remains a high priority in the international community.  Recent events have inspired demands for new efforts to strengthen the effectiveness of arms control and disarmament agreements, and to revitalize the multilateral disarmament machinery, including the Conference on Disarmament.  I have repeatedly voiced concerns about the continuing impasse in the Conference, and have called for prompt political action to break it.  I remain hopeful that progress will be possible in the year ahead.

    In that regard, I commend the efforts in the Conference last year in support of the cross-group proposal on the programme of work, submitted by five former Presidents of the Conference, which have helped narrow differences on the programme of work.  It is also encouraging that the Conference addressed a number of emerging threats and challenges, such as new forms of terrorism and their potential impact on proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, while also exploring ideas on how to strengthen compliance with arms control and disarmament agreements.

    Political will is essential in overcoming the current impasse and revitalizing the Conference.  I am encouraged by the efforts of many Member States to review their policies concerning the priorities on the Conference agenda, and I hope that the outcomes will facilitate bridging remaining divergences and resuming the substantive work of the Conference in 2004.

    In 2003, the world witnessed appreciable progress in addressing the disarmament goals of the Millennium Declaration.  The States Parties to the Mine-Ban Convention celebrated the fourth anniversary of the entry into force of this landmark treaty, which has seen more than 30 million landmines destroyed.  The States Parties to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons concluded negotiations on a new protocol on explosive remnants of war.  And the States Parties to the Biological Weapons Convention initiated a new follow-up process aimed at strengthening of the implementation of that vital Convention.  There was also new cooperation against the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons, as demonstrated at last year’s Biennial Meeting of States.

    These examples prove that progress in arms control and disarmament is possible.  Indeed, in many cases, results were achieved by the same delegations that are representing their countries in the Conference on Disarmament.

    This Conference remains the world’s sole multilateral disarmament negotiation body.  Nothing would better demonstrate its relevance than the resurgence of political will and momentum.  I wish you every success in this endeavour.

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