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Ban marks 40th anniversary of landmark global pact on nuclear weapons control

Ban marks 40th anniversary of landmark global pact on nuclear weapons control

Spent nuclear fuel
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today marked the 40th anniversary of the entry into force of the United Nations-backed Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which forms the foundation of the world’s nuclear non-proliferation regime.

The pact opened for signature in 1968 and went into force 40 years ago today. Since then, Mr. Ban said in a statement, the NPT has remained the cornerstone “for the pursuit of nuclear disarmament,” as well as “a framework for promoting the peaceful uses of nuclear energy.”

Comprehensive safeguards agreements with the UN International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) are in place for 163 of the 190 non-nuclear-weapon States which have signed onto the Treaty.

Under these agreements, the IAEA can verify that a State is fulfilling its international commitments not to use nuclear programmes to develop nuclear weapons.

In addition, 94 States parties have brought the IAEA Additional Protocol – which boosts the agency’s ability to ensure that a State does not have undeclared nuclear material – into force.

That Protocol, the Secretary-General said, “contributes to increased transparency and serves a confidence-building role in regional and international security.”

The NPT also commits nations with nuclear weapons to nuclear disarmament, he pointed out, noting increasing support from both governments and civil society towards this goal.

Several nuclear-weapon States have taken important steps, and Mr. Ban highlighted the move by Russia and the United States to conclude a successor pact to the Treaty on the Limitation and Reduction of Strategic Offensive Arms, or START.

This May, parties to the NPT will meet in New York to review its operation and how to further its full implementation and its universality. Under the provisions of the Treaty, review conferences are held every five years.

The Secretary-General has characterized the last review meeting, held in New York in 2005, as “disappointing.”

At the end of the month-long meeting, Sergio Duarte, the President of the 2005 Review Conference and currently UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, said the gathering ended having accomplished “very little” amid widely diverging views on nuclear arms and their spread. It wrapped up without any substantive agreement having been reached by nations.

Mr. Ban today emphasized the need for a successful outcome at this year’s gathering “to achieve the long-held and widely shared goal of a world free of nuclear weapons.”

In 2008, he put forward a five-point action plan to reinvigorate the international push towards disarmament.

It 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.

In addition, it is based on the following key principles: 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.

In January, the Secretary-General 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,” he told this year’s first plenary session of the Conference on Disarmament, the world’s sole multilateral forum for disarmament negotiations, in Geneva.