This year can be ‘historic’ for progress on disarmament – Secretary-General

19 January 2010

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today voiced optimism that 2010 will be a “historic year” for progress on disarmament and non-proliferation goals, vowing to press ahead with efforts to rid the world of weapons of mass destruction.

“My hope is based, not on wishful thinking, but on real opportunities for concrete action,” Mr. Ban told this year’s first plenary session of the Conference on Disarmament, the world’s sole multilateral forum for disarmament negotiations, which is meeting in Geneva.

Leaders of key nuclear States, the Security Council, the international community and civil society have shown their support for the issue.

Last July, Russia and the United States committed to cut their strategic warheads to between 1,500 and 1,675 and their strategic delivery vehicles to between 500 and 1,000, as part of the Joint Understanding for a follow-on agreement to the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START).

In September, United States President Barack Obama chaired a Council meeting on disarmament, which helped build growing momentum on non-proliferation issues.

“I urge the Conference to recognize the importance of this moment and demonstrate to the world its continuing relevance,” the Secretary-General, who had originally intended to be at today’s gathering in Geneva but had to cancel his trip due to the earthquake that struck Haiti last week, said.

Last May, the body adopted a Programme of Work for its 2009 session, ending a 12-year stalemate and allowing the body to negotiate and substantively discuss strategic disarmament and non-proliferation.

Mr. Ban called on the members of the Conference to put aside their differences, “focus on the global interest,” particularly the need for binding legal norms, and agree on a work programme for 2010 as soon as possible.

“This would send a positive signal and help build momentum” in the run-up to the Review Conference on the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) slated for May, he said.

Earlier this month, the Secretary-General noted that the NPT is facing “a number of challenges,” underscoring that a successful outcome at the Review Conference would strengthen confidence not only in the Treaty but also for the collective global effort to achieve a world free of nuclear weapons.

He also said he will continue to build support for his Action Plan for nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, as well as the universality of the relevant treaties and conventions.

Presented in October 2008, Mr. Ban’s five-point action plan begins with a call for the parties to the NPT to pursue negotiations on nuclear disarmament, either through a new convention or through a series of mutually reinforcing instruments backed by a credible system of verification.

News Tracker: Past Stories on This Issue

Ban cites 'window of opportunity' to advance disarmament

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today pledged to continue his efforts to advance the goal of a nuclear-weapon-free world, noting that a number of events over the next few months offer an opportunity to build on the “encouraging” developments of last year.