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Statement of Sri Lanka delivered by Ambassador Sarala Fernando at the plenary of the Conference on Disarmament -2 February 2006

Mr. President,

Since this is my first intervention under your Presidency, let me take this opportunity to extend our sincere congratulations on your assumption of this important responsibility.  We also join other delegations to request you to convey sincere condolences on behalf of Sri Lanka to the families of those who lost their lives in the tragic accident in Katowice.

Your Presidency offers a unique opportunity since your country Poland has experience and understanding of the aspirations and sensitivities across the regional groups.  Moreover, the Polish Presidency comes at a crucial time.  As you mentioned in your opening statement our current situation is one of serious frustration and quests for alternative approaches to get the CD back to work.  We must also be mindful of the management reforms currently being processed in New York, which will bring new pressures to further reduce the resources allocated to the CD for reasons of the impasse in this body.  During this year, considering what is at stake, all of us in the CD bear a special responsibility to engage, each other and our capitals, using all the creativity, flexibility and political will evoked by many delegations, to assure a healthy continuity of this unique body. 

Some delegations have referred to the magnificient murals of Jose Maria Sert in this Council chamber and the power they hold to inspire our work.  We would however, prefer to recall, as did many speakers during this week’s 1000th plenary meeting, of the historic achievements of the CD, the landmark multilateral disarmament agreements which represent a robust body of international law, as the basis to inspire our efforts to get the CD back to work. 

Many delegations have referred in the First Committee and in the CD to their disappointment and concern on the lack of progress in disarmament matters throughout 2005, notably the failure of the NPT review conference, the impasse in the CD and UNDC as well as the inability to agree on any language on disarmament in the World Summit outcome document.  Nevertheless, the announcement of the award of the Nobel Prize to Director General El-Baradei and the IAEA on the eve of the First Committee as well as the very positive statements delivered by the Heads of OPCW and CTBTO during that session could be considered as healthy signs that multilateral arms control and disarmament initiatives born in the CD, are now well into the stage of implementation with the broad support of member states.  Reports presented at the First Committee and by delegations in the CD on the physical destruction of important  stocks of arms and land mines, have a similar positive effect.

Several delegations have already commended you Mr. President, for getting the agenda of the CD adopted so quickly this year.  We continue to hold that the agenda is relevant, comprehensive and flexible enough to accommodate issues of concern.  You have taken an initiative to seek the joint cooperation of all CD Presidents of the 2006 session as well as to institute a mechanism of Friends of Presidents with due geographical balance.  With the passage of time, the hibernation in the CD has seen its pool of expertise depleted and suspicion and cynicism set in.  In this impasse, Presidential prerogatives have become some thing of a last resort.  However, Mr. President  your ‘inclusive’ approach and willingness to engage across regional groups will assist to gather momentum for the work ahead, to ensure continuity and a determined attempt to shape the CD proceedings this year while at the same time building confidence towards an eventual resumption of work.  I can assure you Mr. President of my delegation’s full support to you and the 2006 Presidents in this endeavour.

You have also announced your intention to organize a structured debate on issues and to establish a timetable.  My delegation is on record as stating that Sri Lanka fully supports the five Ambassadors proposal.. We could also consider  any other proposal that would likely meet consensus.  To this end, we are also of the view that wider and more frequent use of informal and open-ended consultations could take place on specific issues.  These informal consultations would provide a flexible method to deal with issues in a substantive manner pending agreement on establishment of any subsidiary body to commence negotiations. 

Mr. President,

We cannot turn deaf ears to the call for reform throughout the United Nations system.  Many of us have had the opportunity to witness at first hand the recent developments even small steps towards improving the methods of work of the First Committee.  Should there not be coherence in our work across the multilateral fora?   Finding a balance by moving flexibly between the segments for formal statements and interactive debate, while opening the way also for the participation of civil society, are some of the steps achieved in the First Committee which could benefit the CD too.  Let us not forget that the CD rules of procedure already permit invitations to be extended to the specialized agencies,  the IAEA or any other organs of the UN system, to assist in advancing the work of the Conference. 

There are too few of us who have personal recollections of what the CD has been capable of until the Ambassador of Sweden reminded us recently of the excitement of the negotiation process.  So I ask you dear colleagues ‘since winter has come, can spring be far behind” ?

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