Press Conference by High Representative for Disarmament Affairs

30 September 2009

Press Conference by High Representative for Disarmament Affairs

30 September 2009
Press Conference
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Press Conference by High Representative for Disarmament Affairs

“The world is witnessing a new wave of interest in advancing disarmament goals,” the UN Secretary-General’s High Representative for Disarmament Affairs said today during his press conference at Headquarters providing an overview of last week’s historic Security Council summit on nuclear non-proliferation and nuclear disarmament, as well as other related events.

The summit, chaired by President Barack Obama of the United States, had “opened a new chapter in the Council’s efforts to address disarmament and non-proliferation”, said Sergio Duarte, also noting that the 15-member body’s unanimous adoption of resolution 1887 (2009) contained measures that Member States could take to strengthen nuclear non-proliferation policy and common security.

The Head-of-State-level meeting and the Council’s subsequent action had brought the issue of disarmament to the forefront of the international agenda and the United Nations.  It had also given the United States and the other four permanent members of the Council an opportunity to show their commitment to continued cooperation.  Furthermore, the events confirmed the astuteness of the Secretary-General’s proposal last October to hold such a meeting, as well as of his five-point action plan to revitalize the United Nations’ disarmament efforts.

With the Council’s adoption of resolution 1887 (2009), States party to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) were now called to fully comply with their treaty commitments and their obligations to existing initiatives.  “It also calls upon all States to sign and ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT),” Mr. Duarte added.

He went on to say that support for the resolution had reaffirmed the Council’s stance on Iran and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and had reminded those present that the Secretary-General had, in his opening remarks to the Summit, underscored the need for simultaneous action on these two fronts.  The international community should not only aim towards a successful 2010 NPT Review Conference, but “seize and build on this momentum towards achieving nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament in general”.

Continuing, he lauded the significance of the joint-understanding reached in July between President Obama and President Dimity Medvedev of the Russian Federation this past July, and said success on a verifiable and legally binding follow-on to the Treaty on the Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms (START) would contribute to the fulfilment of their obligations under Article VI of the NPT. 

Turning to related events, Mr. Duarte pointed out that the United States participated for the first time at the level of Secretary of State in the sixth Conference on Facilitating the Entry into Force of the CTBT, which had also taken place at Headquarters last week.  “These are, of course, signals of the resolve of this Administration in the United States to seek ratification of the Treaty.”

The danger of weapons of mass destruction being developed in countries outside the NPT regime or falling into the hands of terrorists, posed a serious threat, he continued.  At the same time, the global arms trade and increase in weapon sophistication were also serious challenges requiring a “firm response” from Member States.  He added, however, that support was needed to develop and promote peaceful means of atomic energy.

He then highlighted the priority that civil society placed on disarmament, noting that over 1,300 representatives from non-governmental organizations from around the world had just met earlier this month for the annual conference jointly organized by the Department of Public Information in cooperation with non-governmental organizations, which was this year held in Mexico City, and focused on disarmament and development issues.  That meeting had adopted a declaration urging a number of measures to be taken by Governments and international organizations, among others.

When asked if he expected an increase in the role non-governmental organizations played in disarmament, he said civil society involvement had always been “very, very important”.  Reiterating the success of the Mexico City conference, he noted that participants from 70 countries gathered together to investigate how “they could best be of service […] and help the promotion of disarmament.”  He expressed hope that civil society would continue to strongly advocate in that regard.

Mr. Duarte responded to an inquiry about the focus of the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security), which would begin its annual substantive session next week, saying that body was set to address a number of issues. However, although it would deal with various aspects of disarmament and non-proliferation, amongst them conventional weapons, security questions and nuclear-weapon-free zones, nuclear weapons “took a boost now with what happened in the Security Council.”

A correspondent then asked whether the decline in the numbers of people “screaming and yelling” in civil protests against nuclear arms, such as the 1982 demonstration in New York City’s Central Park, reflected a world living closer in harmony than in the past. “Well, I was there.  I was an officer of my own country’s delegation,” Mr. Duarte responded.  He observed that at that time, people in the United States and in Europe were in a “specific state of mind” about the issue.  The conditions that had sparked those protests did not exist today, and he did not see the same level of excitement and demand to demonstrate and march.

Yet, civil society, through various organizations, continued to be involved, concerned and “very vocal” towards disarmament, he said.  Because of the efforts of civic actors, Governments were beginning to recognize that disarmament was a great concern to their citizens and that concrete action was needed.  He said that civil society was now using other instruments -- other than marches and demonstrations -- to make its views known and was indeed having some success.

“You see the number of editorials and op-eds in different parts of the world, not only from former statesmen from the United States, but former statesmen from several other countries.  This is opinion.  This is civil society.  This is one of the ways in which civil society can manifest itself.  And it is very effective in my view,” he said.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.