|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
‘My Goal — Our Goal — Is to Make the Whole World a Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone,’
Secretary-General Tells Conference of States Parties and Signatories
Following is the text of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks to the Second Conference of States Parties and Signatories to Treaties that Establish Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zones and Mongolia, in New York today, 30 April:
Many thanks to Chile for preparing the way for this Conference, and to Mongolia for inviting representatives from each country to talks last year — a welcome initiative.
Today, we are at an important moment in our drive for nuclear disarmament. Next week’s talks will bring almost all the countries in the world together, to try to move forward in restricting and dismantling these weapons of mass destruction.
You have pledged to keep your territory free of such weapons. Nuclear-weapon-free zones are the success stories of the disarmament movement. You are leading by example.
A few weeks ago, travelling in Kazakhstan, I stood at “ground zero”. This was the notorious test site at Semipalatinsk, where the Soviet Union detonated more than 450 nuclear weapons. The effects of those tests will last for generations to come –- birth defects, high rates of cancer, contaminated land, poisoned rivers and lakes.
But shortly after independence, Kazakhstan closed the site and banished its nuclear weapons. Semipalatinsk is now ground zero for the Central Asian Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone, which came into force last year. It is a beacon of hope for a nuclear-weapon-free world.
Now, we all know that some see nuclear weapons as vital to their national security, indispensable for deterrence, or as symbols of international status and independence. But we, here, know this is not so.
My goal — our goal — is to make the whole world a nuclear-weapon-free zone. The United Nations has long been working for nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation. We are working patiently to lay the foundations for the abolition of these horrific weapons and to prevent their spread.
Nuclear-weapon-free zones are key to this strategy. So far, more than 100 States have signed up to the five that exist today. In the past year, treaties establishing two new zones -- in Central Asia and Africa -- have come into force.
Along the way, we have learned important lessons. First, disarmament and security should be pursued together. They are mutually reinforcing. Second, these zones provide a powerful model for other countries and regions.
The resolution on establishing a zone free of weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East was adopted 15 years ago. It is high time progress was made towards fulfilling it.
Third, there is still room for improvement. For example, some nuclear-weapon States have not concluded their protocols to the treaties establishing the zones.
Cooperation among zones could also be enhanced — especially concerning the peaceful uses of nuclear energy, and environmental protection.
Fourth, the entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty — CTBT — would complement and reinforce the status of nuclear-weapon-free zones. I hope you will support efforts to bring this Treaty into force at next week’s conference.
Nuclear-weapon-free zones have helped prevent nuclear proliferation. They are a powerful example of what political will can achieve. They add weight to the arguments of Governments and people around the world who firmly reject these weapons. They have helped to change attitudes. And it is only by changing attitudes that we will change the world.
Many of you will attend the NPT Review Conference next week. I hope you will do everything you can to help make it a success. You have a unique chance to spread your message of hope and optimism. Let’s build on the success story of nuclear-weapon-free zones. Let’s make your leadership a model for our common future.
* *** *For information media • not an official record