Secretary-General Ban urges all States not to expand nuclear arsenals, reduce stockpiles

22 January 2007 –

Preventing further expansion of nuclear arsenals and reducing weapon stockpiles should be the key aims of this year’s Conference on Disarmament, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today in his message to the meeting’s first session in Geneva, where he also noted that military spending worldwide has risen to over $1.2 trillion.

“Our aim should be twofold: we must prevent any expansion of nuclear arsenals, and we must accelerate the reduction of existing weapons and stockpiles. All countries should move towards halting production of fissile material for weapons,” Mr. Ban said in a speech read out by Sergei Ordzhonikidze, Secretary-General of the Conference on Disarmament and Director-General of the UN Office at Geneva.

“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,” he said, urging all States that have not yet done so to sign or ratify that pact. Preventing an arms race in space also continues to be an “urgent challenge,” he added.

Mr. Ban told the 65 Member States of the Conference, the world's sole multilateral forum for disarmament negotiations, that “stakes are high” in dealing with these issues, as he also highlighted the massive amount of money spent on arms and suggested this would be better used helping to fund the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to reduce poverty and other global ills by 2015.

“World military spending has now risen to over $1.2 trillion,” he said. “This incredible sum represents 2.5 per cent of global GDP (gross domestic product). Even if one per cent of it were redirected towards development, the world would be much closer to achieving the Millennium Development Goals.”

Today’s plenary session also heard speeches from Ambassador Glaudine Mtshali of South Africa, the President of the Conference, and the representatives of Poland, Slovakia, the United States, the Netherlands and the Russian Federation.

During 2007, the rotating presidency of the Conference will be held by Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Switzerland and Syria. The three parts of the 2007 session will be held from 22 January to 30 March for the first part; 14 May to 29 June for the second part; and 30 July to 14 September for the third part.

In 2006, the Conference was not able to reach agreement on a programme of work and so was unable to start work on substantive issues, however it did debate the Conference’s agenda items, focusing mainly on cessation of the nuclear arms race and nuclear disarmament, prevention of nuclear war and other related issues.

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