Nuclear disarmament must shift from aspiration to reality, Ban says

24 October 2008

Acknowledging that obstacles to nuclear disarmament are daunting, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today said that it is more imperative than ever to make it a reality given the twin economic and financial crises the world is currently facing.

“The costs and risks of [disarmament’s] alternatives never get the attention they deserve,” Mr. Ban said in his address to the East-West Institute in New York. “But consider the tremendous opportunity cost of huge military budgets. Consider the vast resources that are consumed by the endless pursuit of military superiority.”

The market turmoil and other crises have triggered an increasing awareness of the need for international cooperation to tackle global problems, he said. “This changing consciousness can also help us revitalize the international disarmament agenda.”

There is support worldwide for the idea that nuclear arms should never be utilized again due to their horrific effects, environmental impacts and repercussions on security, but since disarmament has yet to be achieved, “this forces us to ask whether a taboo merely on the use of such weapons is sufficient,” the Secretary-General said.

Many nations consider nuclear weapons to be a status symbol, with some viewing them as a deterrent, he said.

“Unfortunately, the doctrine of nuclear deterrence has proven to be contagious. This has made non-proliferation more difficult, which in turn raises new risks that nuclear weapons will be used.”

Mr. Ban also voiced concern that a “nuclear renaissance” could occur since nuclear power is seen as a clean alternative to combat climate change.

In his speech, he offered five proposals to reinvigorate the international push towards disarmament.

All parties to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) must fulfil their obligations under the pact, the Security Council’s five permanent members should start talks on the disarmament process, and strengthening laws to promote non-proliferation.

He also called for greater accountability and transparency, as well as complementary measures, such as eliminating other types of weapons of mass destruction.

 

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