22 January 2007

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Secretary-General, in message to conference on disarmament, stresses need

to maintain moratorium on nuclear tests, keep outer space free of arms

Following is the text of United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s message to the 2007 session of the Conference on Disarmament, as delivered by Sergei Ordzhonikidze, Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva, on 22 January:

I send my greetings to all members of the Conference on Disarmament as it opens its 2007 session.  I express my sincere hope that this year’s meeting will make significant progress on the disarmament agenda.

Since taking office as Secretary-General, I have staked out as one of my priorities the mission to invigorate disarmament and non-proliferation efforts.  As I stressed to members of the Security Council earlier this month, and I now emphasize to you, the United Nations can and must be fully engaged in this work.  I intend to ensure that the Organization is up to the task.

Equally, I look to the Conference on Disarmament -- the world’s single negotiating forum for multilateral disarmament -- to rise to the challenge.  This Conference possesses both the breadth of expertise and the depth of knowledge to address disarmament concerns.  During this year’s session, I hope you will also demonstrate the political resolve necessary to take difficult measures.  Our aim should be twofold:  we must prevent any expansion of nuclear arsenals, and we must accelerate the reduction of existing weapons stockpiles.

All countries should move towards halting production of fissile material for weapons.  In this context, agreement on a treaty on fissile materials for use in nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices would be a prerequisite for sustainable nuclear disarmament.

Maintaining the moratorium on nuclear tests is equally important, and should be in effect at least till the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty enters into full force.  Let me use this occasion to urge all States that have not yet done so to sign or ratify this Treaty.

The prevention of an arms race in space continues to present an urgent challenge as such a race would seriously affect the preservation of outer space for peaceful purposes.  I am also conscious of the importance attached within your membership to stronger “negative security assurances” from nuclear weapons States.  Such strengthened commitments can help reassure non-nuclear weapons States, and significantly advance the cause of non-proliferation and disarmament.

I look to the Conference on Disarmament to lead progress on all these fronts.  I need hardly remind you that the stakes are high.  World military spending has now risen to over $1.2 trillion.  This incredible sum represents 2.5 per cent of GDP(global gross domestic product).  Even if 1 per cent of it were redirected towards development, the world would be much closer to achieving the Millennium Development Goals.

The challenges ahead are significant.  Yet we find ourselves at a promising juncture in the disarmament debate.  Both the Third Review Conference of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, and the Sixth Review Conference of the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention, have recently concluded with significant gains.  Their outcomes have, I believe, improved the climate for progress on multilateral disarmament and non-proliferation diplomacy.  The Conference on Disarmament must now seize this moment.

It is in this spirit that I wish you a most productive session, and look forward to the outcome of your deliberations.

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For information media • not an official record