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Despite challenges the Wassenaar Arrangement is well-placed to build on what has been accomplished so far

Statement by Ambassador Andrej Benedejčič, Permanent Representative of Slovenia and Chair of the General Working Group of the Wassenaar Arrangement, at the Plenary Meeting of the Wassenaar Arrangement, Vienna, 6 December 2017

Dear Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen,

As the Chair of the General Working Group I tried to follow two guiding principles this year.  The first one was promoting and maintaining a constructive dialogue among the participating States and the second one was encouraging an open door policy for the Wassenaar Arrangement.  I informed you about these priorities in April, during the reception hosted by the Slovenian GWG Chairmanship.  As I look back at this year I think I can say that we managed to stay the course. 

First, when it comes to the Regional Views exchange, participating States continued to make good use of this possibility, sharing insights of transfer risks to help inform export licensing decisions.  The recent increase in the number of presentations has been sustained and the focus on specific regions continued to contribute to the effectiveness of the exchange.  The fact that the GWG agreed to continue with the same regions of focus for 2018 shows that the participating States found the dialogue this year to be useful.

Second, when it comes to the possible new members of the Wassenaar Arrangement, the participating States repeatedly took advantage of this year's GWG meetings to consider the 10 outstanding applications.  I would therefore like to emphasize that during the meeting in October we had an extensive discussion on the candidature of India. In the light of the number of expressions of support, I stated in my report, which you all have received, that the GWG agreed that the Plenary consider admitting India to membership of the Arrangement. 

I believe that important developments were achieved also with regard to other application dossiers. In this connection, I have to say that I was especially pleased to see the substantial progress achieved by Montenegro.  As you know, this country expressed its interest to join the Wassenaar Arrangement in October 2015.  The first visit of the Rapporteur Bulgaria and two Co-Rapporteurs, Germany and Slovenia, to Podgorica took place this May and the report provides a solid basis for further work.  It is therefore only appropriate that the GWG at its meeting in October endorsed the recommendation to continue the Friends of the Chair Group on Membership (FOC-M) in 2018. 

Having said this, I also have to emphasize that the GWG sessions this year were just as productive when it comes to other issues.  The GWG thus continued to consider how the Arrangement might contribute to international efforts aimed at combatting terrorism.  Matters related to Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW) and Deactivated Firearms, which were previously raised under this agenda item, were considered in the context of proposals for updated and new best practices documents respectively. 

The GWG also continued to monitor Participating States' compliance with notifications and reporting requirements.  Steps continue to be taken to improve both the timeliness and completeness of submissions.  Nevertheless, we all need to sustain our reporting efforts in order to meet the Arrangement's collective transparency objective.  

The GWG considered a number of proposals - both new and those that have been on the table for some time. In the cases where discussions have so far been inconclusive, the GWG has recommended that work continue.  The Calendar for the Annual Review of WA Public Documents, an outcome from the 2016 Assessment, promises to be a useful tool to help facilitate a regular review of all existing WA public best practices documents. 

The updated GWG "Core Agenda" helped to focus and consolidate the GWG's discussions on several topics this year, in particular those related to the work of the Experts' Group.  In this connection, the Plenary's reflection on the experience gained from the two informal pre-Plenary discussions on emerging technologies and guidance on next steps will also help to inform the GWG's consideration of this topic in the future. 

I also cannot but mention the fact that the GWG meeting in October was attended by the Director of the OSCE Conflict Prevention Centre, who gave a presentation on the work of the OSCE in the area of Small Arms and Light Weapons.  The discussion highlighted the usefulness of sharing information between the two organizations, in accordance with mandates.  Let me therefore say that as the forthcoming Chair of the OSCE Forum for Security Cooperation I intend to promote this practice also next year and invite the Head of the Secretariat to give a presentation that is of relevance to the Wassenaar and the OSCE.   

With regard to Outreach, the GWG considered the implementation status of relevant plenary mandates and recommended additional specific activities to be conducted in 2018 to supplement those mandated in 2016. 

Last but not least, the GWG endorsed several recommendations of an administrative nature.  Among these I would like to highlight WAIS-related matters, the revised Guidelines on Confidentiality, as well as amendments to the Wassenaar Staff Regulations and Staff Rules.  Equally important is the initiative to examine bringing the Wassenaar Secretariat employment conditions further into line with the UN Common System Conditions of Service.  I must also mention the 2018 work program, outcomes of the annual external audit and the 2018 budget, pending one delegation's further reflection. 
Before concluding, I would like to say that as the Chair of the GWG I was very pleased that the Head of the Secretariat took an active part in the launching of the International Gender Champions initiative in Vienna on June 14.  As you probably know, this is a leadership network of female and male decision-makers that focuses on promoting gender equality.  It was first launched in Geneva in September 2015, followed by New York this March, when it was also joined by the UN Secretary-General.  In Vienna the initiative is led by a core group of the most interested States, co-chaired by the United States, Costa Rica and Slovenia.  So far it has been joined by more than fifty heads of Permanent Missions to the International Organizations in Vienna, as well as the Director General of the UN Office at Vienna and the Executive Secretary of the UNODC, the Director General of the IAEA, the Director General of UNIDO, the Executive Secretary of the CTBTO, as well as the new Secretary General of the OSCE.  I am therefore glad that the Head of the Secretariat not only joined the initiative, but also took part in the First Annual Meeting of Vienna champions, which took place on November 24. 

Let me therefore say that, on balance, while challenges remain the work of the GWG this year shows that the Wassenaar Arrangement is well-placed to build on what has been accomplished so far.  I would therefore like to express my thanks again to all the participating States for their support, engagement and contributions, and for making 2017 a productive year in the GWG.  I am confident that this constructive spirit will continue in next year's work.  Finally, I would like to thank the Secretariat for its support and professionalism and wish a successful GWG Chairmanship in 2018 to Slovakia.

Thank you.