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Ban urges UN forum to ‘seize the moment’ to advance disarmament

Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva Kassym-Jomart Tokayev.
UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré
Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva Kassym-Jomart Tokayev.

Ban urges UN forum to ‘seize the moment’ to advance disarmament

Lamenting the lack of progress in recent years within the world’s sole multilateral disarmament negotiating forum, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today urged its members to break the existing impasse and move the agenda forward.

“I urge you to seize this moment, when the world is focused intently on advancing disarmament goals,” Mr. Ban said in a message to the opening of the Conference on Disarmament, read out on his behalf by Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, Director-General of the UN Office at Geneva (UNOG).

“I appeal to you to support the immediate commencement of negotiations in the Conference on agreed disarmament issues,” he added. “Prior agreement on their scope or final outcomes should not be a precondition for the start of negotiations, or an excuse to avoid them.

“The tide of disarmament is rising, yet the Conference on Disarmament is in danger of sinking.”

Established in 1979 as the single multilateral disarmament negotiating forum of the international community, the CD – as the Conference is known – primarily focuses on cessation of the nuclear arms race and nuclear disarmament, prevention of nuclear war, and prevention of an arms race in outer space, among other things.

It has been plagued in recent years by an inability to overcome differences among its members and start its substantive work towards advancing disarmament goals.

Mr. Ban reminded members that the CD and its predecessors have had some impressive accomplishments, including work on the Biological and Chemical Weapons Conventions, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT).

“Many of these were achieved during the Cold War, proving that it is possible to create global legal norms even in times of great political disagreements,” he noted.

“Yet today, this distinguished body is no longer living up to expectations,” Mr. Ban said, adding that the last occasion on which the Conference fulfilled the negotiating role given to it by the General Assembly was in 1996, when the CTBT emerged from an intensive three-year process.

“The future of the Conference is in the hands of its member States. But I can not stand by and watch it decline into irrelevancy, as States consider other negotiating arenas,” said the Secretary-General.

“Let us restore the Conference to the central role it can and must play in strengthening the rule of law in the field of disarmament. It is our shared responsibility to make the Conference work, not only for us but for future generations.”