Representatives from over 100 governments met in the Palais des Nations (United Nations) in Geneva today for the first session of an open-ended working group (OEWG) established to take forward multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations for the achievement and maintenance of a world without nuclear weapons.

The OEWG was initiated by a group of countries frustrated that the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva has been unable to undertake any work on disarmament since 1996 due to an inability to achieve consensus amongst all members. The OEWG, which was formally established by United Nations General Assembly resolution 67/56 adopted on 3 December 2012, will operate by UN rules of procedure which do not require absolute consensus, and thus cannot be blocked by any one member. As such it has the potential to give a fresh breath of life to the multilateral nuclear disarmament process that has been moribund for 17 years.

The representatives unanimously approved the election of Manuel Dengo, Permanent Representative of Costa Rica to the United Nations, as the Chair of the OEWG. Ambassador Hoffman from Germany, in congratulating Ambassador Dengo on his election, noted the rising significance of Latin America which in just two days had produced a new pope (Pope Francis from Argentina) and a leader for this new and exciting disarmament process.

Ambassador Dengo, in accepting the position, noted that Costa Rica, as a country that abolished its army in 1949, recognizes the importance and potential of international law and diplomacy to achieve security without nuclear weapons and without recourse to war.

Ambassador Dengo noted that the OEWG would provide an opportunity to share ideas and proposals for achieving a nuclear-weapons-free world in a respectful atmosphere that would be inclusive of all perspectives. He noted that the deliberations of the OEWG were not intended to replace the work of other existing mechanisms – such as the Conference on Disarmament – but to complement them and enable them to work more effectively.

The meetings would generally be public and thus open to relevant NGOs registered with ECOSOC or the UN Department of Public Information, or other interested organisations upon request.

Meetings would take place between May 14-24, June 27-28 and August 19-30 – with a total of 15 full days of meetings within these periods. They would be supplemented by informal consultations of the Chair with relevant delegations.

For more information see the website of the Open Ended Working Group www.unog.ch/oewg-ndn, or contact

Secretariat of the open-ended working group to develop proposals to take forward multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations

Office for Disarmament Affairs, Geneva Branch

United Nations Office at Geneva, Palais des Nations, room C-113.1

CH-1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland

Fax: (+011-41) 22-917-0034

E-mail: oewg-ndn@unog.ch