Statement by Minister Tuomioja at The Conference on Disarmament

Statement by H.E. Mr Erkki Tuomioja, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Finland,  The Conference on Disarmament in Geneva, on 19 June 2012

Mr President, Mr Secretary-General, Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a pleasure to be here today and to have this opportunity to present Finnish thoughts on disarmament at this forum now that our Presidency is drawing on its end. It has been some seven years since the last time I addressed this conference back in 2005. It is nice to be back here at the “UN in the Heart of Europe”.

In my statement seven years ago I noted that the Conference on Disarmament can justifiably be proud of having managed to create international norms on disarmament. This, of course, remains valid today – this body has achieved much in the past. However, back in 2005 I further noted that for the past years the CD had done little but rested on its laurels and that this immobility was a source of concern for us. Unfortunately, also this is very much true today. Efforts to revitalize the CD have not borne fruit – time flies but the impasse continues and our concern remains.

We believe that the Conference should without further delay begin negotiations on key issues. We are fully prepared to proceed on all four core issues in a balanced and equitable manner, with notably our own preference being commencing negotiations on the Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty (FMCT). An FMCT would take us a step closer to our goal of a world without nuclear weapons and would also be essential for our nonproliferation efforts.

But how do we get forward from the current stalemate? Interesting ideas and proposals, including those presented by you Mr. Secretary-General, have been presented. It is true that practical steps, such as streamlining the CD’s processes, increasing its transparency, as well as enhancing its accessibility to civil society organizations, could possibly take us further – but that is not enough. The impasse in the CD is not the result of its procedural rules. Political will is needed to make the Conference to do what it is mandated to do: negotiate. Thematic discussions, like the ones we are having today, do not replace negotiations, but at best they can pave the way for negotiations.

By resuming negotiations, the Conference on Disarmament could regain its authority as the single multilateral negotiating body on disarmament while now its very existence seems to be jeopardized. The CD must redeem itself before it is too late. Because if we lose the CD, we stand to lose a lot. The Conference as a single multilateral negotiating forum that takes different national security concerns into account is indeed something that we as a smaller country do not want to lose. It is only in the CD and as a CD member that a country such as Finland has a permanent right to participate on equal footing in negotiations on potential new treaty instruments in the field of nuclear disarmament.

Mr President,

Based on the Schedule of Activities that the CD agreed upon last month, the plenary today is concentrating on nuclear disarmament. Let me stress that Finland is a strong supporter of disarmament and we continue to urge all states to work towards concrete nuclear disarmament through concrete actions. I would also like to note that Finland continues to assess that short range tactical nuclear weapons systems (SNF) remain in a blind spot of the multilateral disarmament and nonproliferation scenery. We consider that the time would be ripe to introduce treaty-based and verifiable measures on SNF and to thus codify and build upon the unilateral steps announced in 1991, over twenty years ago.

Being one of the original States Parties to the NPT, Finland has attached great importance to that Treaty from its inception. Now that the current review cycle of this cornerstone of international security and stability is well under way, Finland is fully committed to further strengthen the NPT regime and all its three pillars. We are ready to do our utmost in supporting disarmament and actively promoting safer world, in any possible way we can. Let me touch upon one example.

Mr. President,

In October last year, Finland was designated as the Host Government for a Conference on the establishment of a Middle East zone free of nuclear weapons and all other weapons of mass destruction to be held in 2012. Simultaneously, Under-Secretary Laajava of the Finnish MFA was appointed as the Facilitator for the Conference preparations.

The Facilitator gave his first report on the consultations to the first Preparatory Committee in Vienna in May. The Facilitator was able to report that while substantial progress has been made, further and intensified efforts are still needed in order to ensure the convening of a successful Conference. The goal itself, the establishment of a zone, is shared by everyone, but views differ on how and in what timeframe to get there. Work is also still ahead as regards meeting the expectations of all States of the region in order to ensure their participation at the Conference.

The urgency of the issue has been raised in the consultations, as have the recent regional developments. Against this background, it is clear that intensified cooperation between the Facilitator, Conveners of the Conference and the States of the region is required, although, ultimately, the responsibility for a successful Conference lies with the States of the region. The Facilitator will continue doing his utmost in fostering common ground in this process.

Finland as the Host Government is ready to host the Conference at any time in 2012. December has been frequently mentioned in the consultations as a possibility. We now look forward to further concrete input by the States of the region as regards the substantive and organizational aspects of the Conference.

The Facilitator has a clear goal and commitment to continue working towards the organization of the Conference in 2012 as agreed. In order to reach our shared goal of establishing the zone, now is the time to ensure that a successful Conference in 2012 marks a starting point in the process leading to this.

Mr President,

Let me also use this opportunity to spend a few minutes with the developments related to “everyday weapons of mass destruction” – that is conventional arms, including small and light weapons.

Irresponsible transfers of conventional arms can easily lead to destabilization of security in various states and regions, contribute to human rights abuses, especially those of women and children, and add to internal conflicts. It is unfortunate that international trade in conventional arms from the most technologically sophisticated weaponry to more common arms has remained outside global binding rules. Today no set of commonly agreed norms exists.

In the past years we have worked hard to fix this gap. Preparations for an International Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) began already in 2006. Finland, as one of the original co-authors of the ATT, has aimed actively to further the preparations and negotiations of the ATT towards a universal regulation of the international arms trade. The ATT is now really within our reach and this momentum must not be lost.

An efficient Treaty shall include a clear aim, wide definition of various types of arms transfers like brokering and a widest possible and modern arms scope. In addition to the most sophisticated and technologically advanced conventional arms the scope should also include small arms and light weapons (SALW), as well as ammunition which are often diverted to others than to intended end users.

ATT enjoys wide support in number but important open questions still remain. Concluding the Treaty in the UN Conference is, therefore, not to be taken as granted. However, personally I am very hopeful of the successful conclusion of the ATT at the end of July. This would mean an important step forward and a means with which the international community can try to reduce problems caused by arms trade and enhance respect for human rights.

It needs to be stressed that an ATT in July would not mean an end to our work. We need to continue to promote actively a universally effective Treaty. The universality and efficiency of the ATT requires wide adherence from all of us. This is why the Treaty should include provisions on assistance to those states which need it. States like Finland need to assume responsibility to assist to facilitate the adherence to the Treaty, if so desired.

The Arms Trade Treaty would regulate the legal trade in conventional arms, and also indirectly address the problem of illegal arms trafficking, which results in alarming number of casualties each year, and has harmful and destabilizing effects on societies.

There is a direct link between security and development - armed conflicts deny development. It is of utmost importance that we give our full support to all efforts trying to prevent conflicts arising. Regulating the trade and preventing illicit circulation of weapons are crucial means of this support.

Mr President,

I am very pleased to bring to the attention of this Conference Finland’s accession to the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction, the so called Ottawa Convention. Finland deposited the instrument of accession with the UN Secretary-General on January 9 this year and the Government of Finland has finalized all the national constitutional measures required for the entry-into-force of the Convention.

The Ottawa Convention will enter into force for Finland in just about week’s time, on 1st of July. We will fully comply with obligations of the Convention. Key obligation for Finland is to destroy its anti-personnel mines by 2016. Humanitarian aspects of the Convention we have respected already for a long time.

So, let me use this opportunity to recapitulate some key points of Finland’s humanitarian mine action policy. Finland has always had a responsible mine policy and we have always promoted Ottawa Convention’s objectives. The Government of Finland started funding of humanitarian mine action in 1991. Since the entry into force of the Ottawa Convention in 1999, Finland has contributed over eighty million euro to humanitarian mine action.

For us, mine detection and clearance, assistance for the care, rehabilitation and social and economic integration of mine victims, as well as support to mine awareness projects are mutually reinforcing and complementary. Mine action is also an important element of post conflict reconstruction efforts. As a member of the Ottawa Convention, we will follow this same responsible policy. In spite of pressure for budget cuttings, Finland will continue its funding to humanitarian mine action and in fact we are hoping to increase mine action funding to reach the level of 6 million euro annually by 2014.

Mr President,

We have now entered the last week of the Finnish CD Presidency and still before concluding I would like to use this opportunity to thank our P6 predecessors for the 2012 session - Ecuador, Egypt and Ethiopia – for their hard work and commitment to get the Conference back on track again. Let me also extend my best wishes to the two remaining CD Presidents for the 2012 session – France and Germany. You can count on Finland’s cooperation and support.

Let me end with the same remark that I began with. The CD remains regrettably still in a stalemate - but it has achieved much in the past. There is no good reason why this body should not be allowed to do so also in the future. Therefore, I join others in once again urging Members of the CD to take the necessary steps to take us forward.

Thank you.