20 January 1999

Press Release


Following is the text of Secretary-General Kofi Annan's message to the Advisory Board on Disarmament Matters, which was delivered on his behalf by Jayantha Dhanapala, the Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs, in Geneva today:

I wish to thank all of you for your service to the Board on the occasion of its thirty-second session. I would also like to express my gratitude to Ambassador André Erdös for his skilled chairmanship of the Board throughout 1998. And I welcome Thérèse Delpech, whose expertise on these matters is well known and much appreciated, to its chair for 1999.

Since becoming Secretary-General, I have worked hard to refocus attention on disarmament and non-proliferation. But, as the disturbing events of last year in South Asia demonstrate, we must work harder still. India and Pakistan's regrettable actions have focused attention on the need for a more prescient policy, where the emphasis is not only on furthering disarmament regimes, but also on ways to sustain them. Governments and civil society need to work together through public and private institutions to buttress the non- proliferation Treaty and lay the groundwork for continued negotiations.

My friends, as you meet, the scourge of small arms continues to devastate civilian populations, creating humanitarian crises the world over. These weapons of personal destruction impair economic and social progress, and impede our best development efforts. For its part, the United Nations will help governments and civil society make disarmament and arms control central aspects of future peace initiatives. And, at the regional level, the United Nations will assist States in sharing information and expertise through our recently revitalized disarmament and development centres.

Despite our setbacks, there have been considerable successes. The Ottawa Convention is a remarkable achievement for the eradication of anti- personnel landmines, and shows that cooperation can bear considerable fruits. And in Europe, the European Union's code of conduct on arms exports is an example for other regions whose recent history has been blighted by the curse of war.

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In West Africa we are helping to implement the moratorium on the import, export and manufacture of light weapons. If successful, this ban could lead to a renaissance of peace in the region, and serve as an example to a continent whose economic and social development has been all too often hindered by internal strife and conflict.

The opening of the third millennium has given us a precise and dramatic deadline to focus our minds on all of these issues. I invite the Board over the course of the next two sessions to contribute its ideas on the evolving peace and security role of the United Nations.

In closing, let me wish you all a very productive session. We have been re-awakened to the horrors of these weapons -- let us strive towards developing new ways of ridding our globe of their shattering effects.

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