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International Day against Nuclear Tests (29 August)
Embrace a world free of nuclear weapons

Secretary-General's Message for 2010

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. UN Photo/Devra Berkowitz
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. UN Photo/Devra Berkowitz

This day marks the first observance of the International Day against Nuclear Tests, proposed in 2009 by the Government of Kazakhstan at the sixty-fourth session of the United Nations General Assembly.  The fact that the proposal won unanimous support reflects the deep concern of the international community about the dangers posed by such tests.

It was on 29 August 1991 that the President of Kazakhstan closed the test site at Semipalatinsk, where 456 nuclear tests conducted during the Cold War era devastated the landscape and left enduring effects on the local population.  I witnessed this toxic legacy first-hand when I visited Semipalatinsk earlier this year. 

Today, with Kazakhstan having banished nuclear weapons and joined in creating a nuclear-weapon-free zone in Central Asia, Semipalatinsk has become a powerful symbol.  It tells us that a world free of nuclear weapons is achievable.

There is real momentum behind this great cause.  This year, the successful conclusion of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference invigorated the nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation regime.  Bold initiatives by world leaders and civil society are showing the way toward changed policies and reduced arsenals. As we mark the first International Day against Nuclear Tests, I look forward to working with all partners to rein in spending on nuclear weapons and rid the world of the nuclear threat.  A central pillar of this strategy is the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT).  Constraining research and development on nuclear weapons is a potentially powerful tool in strengthening the global nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament regime. 

The CTBT was adopted in 1996 but has yet to enter into force.  I have called for a timeline of achieving this goal by 2012.  Pending the treaty’s entry into force, I urge all States to implement a moratorium on all nuclear explosions.

We cannot pass these challenges to succeeding generations.  We must each do our part to build a safer, more secure world today.