Ban Ki-moon's speeches


Address to the United Nations Disarmament Commission

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, UN Headquarters, 09 April 2007

I am delighted to address the UN Disarmament Commission as you begin your 2007 session.  Let me congratulate you, Ambassador [ Elbio ] Rosselli , on your appointment as Commission Chairman.

Let me also express my gratitude to the outgoing Chair -- my former colleague -- Ambassador Joon Oh, for his successful efforts to advance the work of the Commission during 2006.

The dangers posed by weapons of mass destruction, and by the excessive accumulation of conventional weapons, are well known.  This makes our limited progress in addressing these concerns all the more disappointing.  The failure of the 2005 NPT Review Conference, the impasse in the Conference on Disarmament and the disappointing outcome of the 2006 Small Arms Review Conference all point to a disheartening trend.  Unfortunately, we seem to be in a rut, where setbacks in the field of disarmament have become the norm, not an exception.

This situation is unacceptable.  Addressing it demands renewed multilateral attention, understanding and cooperation.  The threat of weapons of mass destruction and the daily suffering inflicted by small arms and light weapons, anti-personnel mines and cluster munitions have to give us pause.  They should prompt a re-examination of the foundations of our international security regime.

Such a review has to be inclusive and it must seek to strengthen existing treaties on disarmament and non-proliferation.  In today's world, only a collective, multilateral approach can effectively eliminate the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction or check the spread of conventional weapons.

From my first day in office, revitalizing the international disarmament agenda, as well as the UN's effectiveness in this area, has been a personal priority.  That is why I proposed a new Office for Disarmament Affairs, led by a new High Representative, which would better mobilize the political will necessary to overcome the current stalemate and re-energize action on both disarmament and non-proliferation.  I was gratified by the General Assembly's broad support for my proposals and I will soon be appointing the High Representative.

Given these ongoing changes, this session of the Disarmament Commission is particularly timely and important.  I remain hopeful that your discussions will reinforce the gathering momentum and prove a source of new and far-reaching ideas.

I am encouraged that your agenda includes nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation.  As you all know, the first session of the Preparatory Committee for the 2010 NPT Review Conference approaches.  Your Commission can play an important role in setting the stage for this Review Conference.  You can seek a consensus around the steps necessary to advance nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation.  Your deliberations can also consider measures that help ensure the continuing relevance and strength of the NPT [Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons].  And your universal membership can serve as an important complement to the NPT review process itself.

As you work on these important issues, let me assure you that I intend to spare no effort in advancing these same goals.  I hope that all UN Member States will also join me in this endeavour.

Of course, your work on conventional weapons is no less important: while nuclear weapons threaten us with mass destruction, on a cumulative basis conventional weapons wreak tremendous death and destruction every day in conflicts across the globe.  It is, therefore, vital to encourage responsible conduct in conventional weapons transfers.  We must also explore ways to lessen the pressure on States to engage in conventional weaponry build-ups, while safeguarding the legitimate right to self-defence of all Member States.

I look to this Commission for the ideas and leadership that can help reinvigorate the disarmament and non-proliferation agenda.  I am confident that all of you will rise to this challenge.  As you work to do so, let me assure you of the full cooperation and support of the office for disarmament.  Its staff, and their colleagues from the Department of General Assembly and Conference Management, will continue to provide the Commission with whatever assistance it may seek.

In that spirit, I wish you a successful and productive session, and I eagerly await the outcome of your deliberations.