Ban Ki-moon's speeches

Remarks to the High-Level Meeting to Commemorate the Tenth Anniversary of the Chemical Weapons Convention (Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on Their Destruction)

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, UN Headquarters, 27 September 2007

I am pleased to have the opportunity to address this High-Level Meeting on the Tenth Anniversary of the Chemical Weapons Convention.

Amid continuing concerns over threats to international peace and security posed by deadly indiscriminate weapons, I welcome this occasion to commemorate a truly significant accomplishment in the field of disarmament.

The Convention’s entry into force on 29 April 1997 was a milestone in international efforts to achieve a world free of chemical weapons. It was the culmination of attempts made over several centuries to curtail or prohibit the use of poisons in war -- a legacy dating back to the poisoning of wells in the age of the Roman Empire. The Convention stands as a monument to the world’s determination to eliminate one of the most inhumane weapons ever conceived.

It provides for the elimination of an entire category of weapons of mass destruction. It is the first such agreement negotiated completely within a multilateral forum. Much of this achievement was due to hard work by Governments and representatives of civil society, working together in United Nations arenas.

In 1946, the very first resolution of the United Nations General Assembly called for the elimination of all major weapons “adaptable to mass destruction”. Over the half century that followed, numerous additional resolutions would address the issue of chemical weapons disarmament. Finally, the text of the Chemical Weapons Convention was negotiated in the Conference on Disarmament.

This history shows that real disarmament is possible through collective action within the framework of the United Nations. And the world is increasingly recognizing the benefits of disarmament. Participation in the Chemical Weapons Convention continues to grow. Today, the 182 States parties to the Convention encompass 98 per cent of the world’s population.

However, the non-adherence by a number of key States is a matter of grave concern. I urge all States that have not yet ratified or acceded to the Convention to do so, without delay. Instead of competing in a race to acquire more arms, we must all work together in a race to achieve full universal membership of the Chemical Weapons treaty.

The tenth anniversary of the entry into force of the Convention provides a fitting opportunity to renew the commitment of all nations to the multilateral treaty system and to the objective and purpose of the Convention.

The Convention has already contributed to steady progress in the destruction of declared chemical weapons stockpiles. One third of the world’s declared stockpiles of chemical agent have been verifiably destroyed. Just over two months ago, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) confirmed the destruction of Albania’s entire stockpile of chemical weapons. I call upon all possessor States to complete their destruction according to the deadlines.

I congratulate Member States on the progress achieved thus far. I also pay tribute to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons for its contribution to this effort. The Organisation has demonstrated that international verification is not only possible, it can be undertaken without compromising national security or corporate secrets. The lesson is that international verification is beneficial, both to the security of all States and to legitimate commerce. As disarmament advances, the world advances.

During my tenure as Secretary-General, I will do all I can to promote full implementation of the Convention, and to help free the world from chemical weapons. The United Nations will work together with the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, Member States, and civil society to achieve these noble objectives.

As we recall the unspeakable horror endured by victims of chemical weapons, let us all reaffirm our common commitment to eliminate the dangers posed by such instruments of mass destruction. And let us redouble our efforts to build a chemical weapons-free world.

I wish you success in your deliberations today.

Thank you very much.