The Earth’s very future leaves no alternative but to pursue nuclear disarmament, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today as he emphasized that the United Nations is destined to lead global efforts on nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation.
In an opinion column published days before the start of the periodic review of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), to be held at UN Headquarters in New York, Mr. Ban wrote that “the United Nations stands today at a new ground zero – a ‘ground zero’ for global disarmament, no longer a place of dread but of hope.”
The actual “ground zero” is the former nuclear test site at Semipalatinsk, Kazakhstan, which was shut down in 1991 as a step towards abolition of nuclear weapons, and which Mr. Ban visited earlier this month as part of his official tour of Central Asia.
“Those who stand with us share the vision of a nuclear-free world. If ever there were a time for the world’s people to demand change, to demand action beyond the cautious half measures of the past, it is now,” he wrote in the International Herald Tribune.
Mr. Ban added that the UN “is the world’s sole universally accepted arena for debate and concord” and, along with the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), serves as the forum where the world can come together.
The opinion column just days before the Secretary-General is due to address dozens of leaders and other officials at the review meeting for the NPT, which since 1970 has provided a foundation for nuclear non-proliferation and peaceful use.
In the article Mr. Ban reiterates his praise for Presidents Barack Obama and Dimitry Medvedev for recently signing a new Treaty on the Limitation and Reduction of Strategic Offensive Arms, or START, calling it a “fresh start on a truly noble aspiration.”
Mr. Ban also noted increasing support for disarmament from both governments and civil society, building momentum which could help steer this year’s review following “an acknowledged failure” at the last review five years ago.
At that time, Sergio Duarte, the President of the 2005 Review Conference and the current UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, said the gathering accomplished “very little” amid widely diverging views, and wrapped up without any substantive agreement.
Mr. Ban today emphasized that at this year’s meeting, Member States cannot afford to lose an opportunity for progress “on disarmament; on compliance with non-proliferation commitments, including the pursuit of a nuclear weapons free-zone in the Middle East; [and] on the peaceful use of nuclear energy.”
In addition to the NPT, Mr. Ban will host a conference later this year to review the implementation of the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism, a ministerial-level meeting to bring the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) into force, and has urged leaders to negotiate for a binding treaty on fissile materials.
In October, the General Assembly is expected to consider more than 50 resolutions on various nuclear issues.
These UN events build on Mr. Ban’s five-point action plan put forward in 2008 to reinvigorate the international push towards disarmament, which led to a special debate on nuclear disarmament and security at the General Assembly and a Security Council summit last September.
The aim, Mr. Ban wrote, is “to take the many small steps, today, that will set the stage for a larger breakthrough tomorrow.”