UN chief encourages Conference on Disarmament to live up to world’s expectations

21 January 2014

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today encouraged the world’s sole multilateral forum for disarmament negotiations to live up the international community’s expectations and resume substantive work aimed at ridding the globe of weapons of mass destruction.

“My message is clear. Do not wait for others to move. Be the first mover. Do not hide behind utopian logic which says that until we have the perfect security environment, nuclear disarmament cannot proceed,” Mr. Ban said in Geneva at the opening of the 2014 session of the United Nations Conference on Disarmament (CD).

“The Conference on Disarmament can be a driving force for building a safer world and a better future. That is its very mission,” he added.

Established in 1979 and with a current membership of 65 countries, the Conference has produced landmark disarmament instruments such as the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), the Chemical Weapons Convention and the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT).

However, it has been plagued in recent years by an inability to overcome differences among its members and start its substantive work towards advancing those goals.

“I want you to know that I have not given up hope for this noble body. I want to encourage you to live up to the international community’s expectations,” the Secretary-General stated, while noting that since his last visit to the Conference in 2011, the body has remained unable to begin substantive negotiations.

“But the world has not waited,” he pointed out. “Last year, the international community reacted in horror to the atrocious use of chemical weapons in Syria. In one voice, we condemned these acts as an outrageous violation of international humanitarian law and a war crime.

“The abhorrent use of chemical weapons was a stark reminder of the need to confront the dangers of all weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons. We cannot wait for new catastrophes to act.”

While recognizing the serious efforts made to end the impasse in the CD, Mr. Ban noted that there has been no breakthrough yet. “The pervasive cycle of pessimism in this body must still be overcome or else the CD will be overtaken by events,” he said.

Sharing his thoughts on a possible way forward, the UN chief said that while the CD continues to seek the path towards renewed disarmament negotiations, it is important that it develop treaty frameworks and proposals through structured discussions.

“Laying such a foundation for future negotiations would be a concrete first step towards revalidating the relevance of the Conference,” he noted, adding that he hopes the body can make good progress before this spring’s third preparatory meeting for the 2015 NPT Review Conference.

“I leave you today with the hope that the progress of the past session, your previous successes and a renewed sense of commitment will serve as a stepping stone towards resuming substantive work.”


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