Noting that global military spending is now well over $1 trillion and rising every day, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today once again called for ridding the world of nuclear weapons, exhorting civil society groups in particular to continue to speak out against the scourge.
“The world is over-armed and peace is under-funded,” Mr. Ban warned in his opening remarks to the 62nd annual United Nations Department of Public Information (DPI) conference with non-governmental organizations (NGOs).
Over 1,700 representatives from NGOs and experts from 70 countries are taking part in the three-day gathering in Mexico City, whose theme is “For Peace and Development: Disarm Now!”
Mr. Ban noted that more weapons continue to be produced and are flooding markets around the world. “They are destabilizing societies. They feed the flames of civil wars and terror,” he stated. “Here in Latin America, gun violence is the number one cause of civilian casualties.”
He said that while the end of the Cold War led the world to expect a massive peace dividend, there are over 20,000 nuclear weapons around the world, many of them still on hair-trigger alert, threatening the survival of humankind.
Coupled with ever-growing ballistic missile proliferation and increasing threats from terrorists, nuclear weapons constitute existential threats to humankind, he added.
The Secretary-General noted, however, that, thanks in large measure to the unrelenting advocacy of NGOs, there is a new moment of opportunity. “Disarmament is back on the global agenda.”
However, this is just the beginning, he added. “Our final destination is a world free of nuclear weapons.”
Civil society has helped teach the world a profound truth – that the mightiest force for change is the power of the people, he told the gathering. “We have a golden opportunity to achieve a world free of nuclear arms. With your voice and your strong support and participation, I know we will seize it.”
Mr. Ban also discussed how disarmament can be carried out effectively, in what he called his “plan to stop the bomb” – a five-point plan, first introduced last October, to achieve a world free of nuclear weapons based on key principles.
These principles are that disarmament must enhance security; be reliably verified; be rooted in legal obligations; be visible to the public; and must anticipate emerging dangers from other weapons.
There can be no development without peace and no peace without development, he stated. “Disarmament can provide the means for both.”
Mr. Ban also highlighted several “important milestones” coming up in the next few weeks, among them the International Day of Peace on 21 September which is dedicated to the “We Must Disarm” campaign, as well as the Security Council’s 24 September high-level summit on disarmament.
The Secretary-General, who arrived yesterday for a two-day visit to Mexico, made an unplanned visit on Tuesday to the northern suburbs of Mexico City, where he personally consoled victims of the severe flash floods that hit the area and offered the assistance of the UN.
Arriving in the flood-affected area by helicopter, along with President Felipe Calderón and the Governor of the State of Mexico, Enrique Peña Nieto, the Secretary-General saw first hand the recent devastation, which included destroyed homes and damaged public works, and personally consoled victims and interacted with the newly displaced.
He said afterward, as he was presented the keys to Mexico City, that he had met “so many people that have been affected by these sudden floods,” adding, “I was so sad.”
He added that he had deep trust and confidence that Mr. Calderón and his Government can make the affected area much better than it was even before it was affected by the flood.