Civil society key to advancing disarmament issues, Annan tells advisory panel

Civil society key to advancing disarmament issues, Annan tells advisory panel

Secretary-General Kofi Annan
Against a backdrop of rising military spending and a gradual erosion of established global norms on weapons of mass destruction, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan today urged an advisory panel to focus on ways to involve civil society in advancing disarmament issues.

"Non-governmental organizations have long played a vital galvanizing role in this area, mobilizing public opinion and motivating political leaders to act with determination to promote disarmament," the Secretary-General said in remarks to his Advisory Board on Disarmament Matters, which is meeting at UN Headquarters in New York. "An alert and knowledgeable public can contribute greatly to convincing world leaders that a much better and safer world can be achieved by doing away with all weapons of mass destruction."

Mr. Annan noted that the Board is meeting at a time when the question of disarmament is at the very top of the international agenda, and the current dangers to the world posed by the spread of weapons of all kinds have made its work more central and more urgent.

"An ominous cloud hangs over the Board's deliberations this year," he said. "This cloud represents the concerns of all humanity about the many dangers posed by weapons of mass destruction - especially nuclear weapons. Similar concerns inspired the leaders of the world, who gathered here for the Millennium Summit, to designate the elimination of such weapons as a key goal of the Millennium Declaration."

The Secretary-General also stressed the importance of working to preserve and consolidate existing multilateral norms through adherence to treaties and fulfilment of legal obligations. "As this board knows well - and the wider public is beginning to learn - there are serious challenges posed to international security and non-proliferation regimes," he said. "The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) and Iraq are only the tip of the iceberg."