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Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

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New York, 18 February 2009 - Secretary-General's remarks to the Advisory Board on Disarmament Matters (as prepared for delivery)

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I welcome you to this session of the Advisory Board.

I thank Dr. Carolina Hernandez for agreeing to serve as Chairperson. Her longstanding experience will surely contribute to a productive exchange of views during this year's sessions.

I also wish to express my gratitude for the distinguished service of the previous Chairman, Professor Daniel Rotfeld.

Today is the first occasion for the Board to meet Theresa Hitchens, the new Director of the UN Institute for Disarmament Research. She will lead the Institute with a clear vision for arms control and disarmament, and with the practical orientation that is necessary for fund-raising and other aspects of the Board's work. I know you will work well together.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The international community must advance beyond the stalemate that continues to hinder our work for disarmament and nuclear proliferation. The global financial crisis is only the latest reminder of the high opportunity costs associated with massive investments in weaponry.

At a time of fiscal cutbacks and constraints, global military expenditures run to about $1.3 trillion each year. A fraction of that amount could help guide us out of the food crisis, reach the Millennium Development Goals and tackle the problem of climate change.

Indeed, we need to see our work for disarmament in this broad perspective. While disarmament and non-proliferation are urgent goals in their own right, they are also linked inextricably to development, human rights and peace. By achieving progress in disarmament, we free up vast resources to meet other challenges.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

This year you will be considering cyber warfare and its impact on international security. As you know, there have been many widely reported breaches of information systems in recent years. With both the public and private sectors growing increasingly dependent on electronic information, your work in this area is very timely. It will also complement the efforts of the panel of governmental experts that will be addressing information security later this year.

Another critical issue on your agenda is verification. We will never foster confidence in the possibility of a world free of nuclear weapons unless we establish a robust verification system. That is why, when I launched my five-point proposal for nuclear disarmament last October, I called on governments to invest more in verification research and development. The General Assembly has long recognized – literally from its first resolution in 1946 – the importance of means “to protect against the hazards of violations and evasions” of disarmament agreements, a theme echoed at its first Special Session on disarmament in 1978.

After many years of setbacks, there are now grounds for cautious optimism about the future of nuclear disarmament. We have seen a cascade of useful disarmament proposals in the past two years, and virtually all of them place a heavy emphasis on the importance of verification. The United Kingdom has made some very constructive proposals for international cooperation in this area

In the United States, President Obama has declared that ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty is a priority for his administration. Three other nuclear-weapon states have already ratified it, and its robust international monitoring system is nearly in place. Universal membership in the Treaty and the final completion of its verification system would reassure a world concerned about any resumption of nuclear tests. Prospects for both non-proliferation and disarmament would also be given fresh impetus.

As you know, effective verification will require concerted collective action encompassing legal, political and technical questions. The broad expertise of the United Nations will continue to have a crucial role to play.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I look forward to your recommendations on these important issues.

Last year, you recommended that I continue to strengthen my personal role in generating political will for nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation. I trust you have read my speeches last October at the East-West Institute and Harvard University. I will continue to do all I can to advance this agenda.

The time is ripe to end the disarmament deadlock. Let us work together to bring about a breakthrough. Please accept my best wishes for the success of your vitally important work.

Thank you.


Statements on 18 February 2009