Global disarmament cannot be postponed any longer, Ban says

31 July 2009
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today urged greater progress towards achieving a world free of nuclear weapons, warning that humanity still faces serious threats from this global scourge nearly 20 years after the end of the Cold War.

“Disarmament is back on the global agenda – and not a moment too soon,” Mr. Ban wrote in an opinion piece being published in The Gulf Times, The Kosovo Times and The Guardian, among other newspapers.

“The Cold War’s end, 20 years ago this autumn, was supposed to provide a peace dividend. Instead, we find ourselves still facing serious nuclear threats.”

Some of the threats, he said, stem from the persistence of more than 20,000 nuclear weapons and the “contagious doctrine” of nuclear deterrence, while others relate to nuclear tests – more than a dozen in the post-Cold War era, aggravated by the constant testing of long-range missiles. Still others arise from concerns that more countries or even terrorists might be seeking the bomb.

“For decades, we believed that the terrible effects of nuclear weapons would be sufficient to prevent their use,” the Secretary-General stated.

“The superpowers were likened to a pair of scorpions in a bottle, each knowing a first strike would be suicidal. Today’s expanding nest of scorpions, however, means that no one is safe.”

Mr. Ban highlighted his own five-point plan to achieve the goal of a nuclear-weapon-free world, which begins with a call for the parties to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) to pursue negotiations “in good faith” on nuclear disarmament, either through a new convention or through a series of mutually reinforcing instruments backed by a credible system of verification.

Second, he urged the Security Council to consider other ways to strengthen security in the disarmament process, and to assure non-nuclear-weapon States against nuclear weapons threats. He also proposed that the 15-member body convene a summit on nuclear disarmament, and urged non-NPT States to freeze their own weapon capabilities and make their own disarmament commitments.

Third, he stressed that universal membership in multilateral treaties is “key,” as are regional nuclear-weapon-free zones and a new treaty on fissile materials.

Fourth, in an effort to promote accountability and transparency, countries with nuclear weapons should publish more information about what they are doing to fulfil their disarmament commitments, he stated.

“While most of these countries have revealed some details about their weapons programmes, we still do not know how many nuclear weapons exist worldwide,” he said, adding that the UN Secretariat could serve as a repository for such data.

Lastly, he urged progress in eliminating other weapons of mass destruction and limiting missiles, space weapons and conventional arms – all of which are needed for a nuclear-weapon-free world.

“This, then, is my plan to drop the bomb,” the UN chief wrote. “Global security challenges are serious enough without the risks from nuclear weapons or their acquisition by additional States or non-State actors.

“Of course, strategic stability, trust among nations, and the settlement of regional conflicts would all help to advance the process of disarmament. Yet disarmament has its own contributions to make in serving these goals and should not be postponed.”

As part of his own efforts to promote the cause, Mr. Ban launched the “WMD-WeMustDisarm” multimedia campaign on 13 June, beginning the 100-day countdown to the 2009 International Day of Peace, which this year focuses on nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation.

In the lead-up to the International Day, observed annually on 21 September, Mr. Ban and others will raise awareness of the need to eliminate nuclear weapons by issuing a daily message, via Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, email and radio, urging the world to disarm.

As part of the campaign, the UN will launch a competition tomorrow for the best short film on the issue of nuclear disarmament and/or non-proliferation. Winning films will be shown at UN Headquarters in New York and posted on the online platforms supporting the Secretary-General’s campaign.


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