New York, Riverside Church, 1 May 2010 - Secretary-General's remarks to an international conference "For a Nuclear Free, Peaceful, Just and Sustainable World"Thank you very much for your very warm welcome. I'm very moved by your strong commitment as well as very kind warm welcome.
Mr. Gerson, Reverend Thomas, Mayor Akiba of Hiroshima, Ms. Maris Socorro Gomes, President of the World Peace Council, Ms. Arielle Denis, the President of Le Mouvement de la Paix, Ms. Jacqueline Cabasso, Executive Director, Western States Legal Foundation, Congressman Charles Rangel, Distinguished guests, Ladies and gentlemen,
Reading the list of these organizations and individuals with us this evening, I want to say what a great honour it is for me to be here with you this evening.
I know of your hard work and dedication.
I know how much you have sacrificed in standing for your principles and [beliefs].
I know how much courage it takes to speak out, to protest, and to carry the banner of this most noble human aspiration - world peace.
And so, most of all, I am here tonight to thank you for your strong commitment, your courage, and your leadership.
Let me begin by saying how humbling it is to speak to you in this famous place, Riverside Church.
I know that it was here that Martin Luther King Junior spoke against the war in Vietnam.
I know that Nelson Mandela spoke here on his first visit to the United States after being freed from prison.
Standing with you, looking out, I can see what they saw: a sea of committed women and men, who come from all corners to move the world.
It reminds us that of what matters most in life- is not so much the message from the bully pulpit, but rather the movement from the pews.
From people like you.
And so I say: keep it up.
Our shared vision is within reach – that is a world free of nuclear weapons.
On the eve of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty review conference - beginning on Monday - we know the world is watching.
Let it heed our call. Disarm Now!
Ladies and gentlemen,
From my first day in office as Secretary-General of the United Nations, I have made nuclear disarmament a top priority.
Perhaps, in part, this deep personal commitment comes from my own experience as a small boy in Korea, growing up immediately after the war. My school was rubble. There were no walls. I studied on the dirt. We studied in the open air.
The United Nations rebuilt my country. I was lucky enough to receive a good education. But more than that, I learned about peace, solidarity and, above all, the power of community action.
These values are not abstract principles to me. I owe my life to them. I try to embody them in all my work.
Just a few weeks ago, I traveled to Ground Zero - the former [test] site at Semipalatinsk, in Kazakhstan, that was a notorious nuclear site during the time of the Soviet Union. They detonated more than 450 nuclear explosions.
It was strangely beautiful. The great green steppe reached as far as the eye could see. But of course, the eye does not immediately see the scope of the devastation.
Vast areas where people still cannot live, cannot go. Poisoned lakes and rivers. High rates of cancer and birth defects.
After independence, in 1991, President [Nursultan] Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan closed the site and banished the whole nuclear weapons from its territory.
Today, Semipalatinsk is a powerful symbol of hope - it is a new Ground Zero for disarmament, the birth-place of the Central Asian nuclear-weapon-free zone.
In August, I will travel to another Ground Zero - Mayor Akiba's proud city of Hiroshima. There, I will repeat our call for a nuclear free-world.
The people of Hiroshima and the people of Nagasaki - and especially the hibakusha - know too well the horror of nuclear war.
It must never be repeated.
Yet 65 years later, the world still lives under a nuclear shadow.
How long must we wait to rid ourselves of these nuclear weapons? How long will we keep passing the problem to our succeeding generations?
We here tonight know that it is time to end this senseless cycle.
We know that nuclear disarmament is not a distant, unattainable goal.
It is a dream which we can achieve.
It is an urgent necessity, here and now. We are determined to achieve it.
In fact, we have come very close in the past.
Twenty-four years ago, in Reykjavik, Iceland, [President] Ronald Reagan and General-Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev came within a hair's breadth of agreeing to eliminate all nuclear weapons.
It was a dramatic reminder of how far we can go - as long as we have the vision and the will – the political will.
Today's generation of nuclear negotiators must take a lesson from Reykjavik:
Be bold. Think big - for it yields big results.
And that is why, again, we need people like you.
People who understand that the world is over-armed and that peace is under-funded.
People like you, who understand that the time for change is now.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The [Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty] entered into force 40 years ago.
Ever since, it has been the foundation of the non-proliferation regime and our efforts for nuclear disarmament.
To quote you, Mr. Gerson: It is one of the seminal agreements of the 20th century.
Let's not forget. In 1963, some experts predicted that there could be as many as 25 nuclear-weapons states by this time, by the end of the last century.
It did not happen, in large part because the NPT guided the world toward the right direction.
Today, we have reason for renewed optimism.
Global public opinion is swinging our way.
Governments are looking at the issue with fresh eyes.
Consider just the most recent very positive developments of the situation:
Leading by example, the United States announced a review of its nuclear posture - foreswearing the use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear states, so long as they are in compliance with the [Non-Proliferation Treaty].
In Prague, President [Barack] Obama and President [Dmitry] Medvedev signed a successor regime to a START treaty, accompanied by serious cuts in arsenals.
In Washington, the leaders of 47 nations united in their efforts to keep nuclear weapons and materials out of the hands of terrorists. I myself was there, as the representative of the United Nations.
And on Monday, we hope to open a new chapter in the life of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
In 2005, when leaders gathered for the last review of the NPT, the outcome did not match expectations.
In plainer English, it failed - utterly.
We cannot afford to fail again.
Failure is not an option.
After all, there are more than 25,000 nuclear weapons in the world's arsenals.
Nuclear terrorism remains a real and present danger.
There has been no progress in establishing a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East.
The nuclear programs of Iran and [the Democratic People's Republic of Korea] are of serious concern to global efforts to curb nuclear proliferation?
To deal with these and other issues, I have set out my own five-[point] action plan, and I thank you for your encouraging response.
I especially welcome your support for the idea of concluding a Nuclear Weapon Convention.
Article VI of the NPT requires the Parties to pursue negotiations on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under international control.
These negotiations are long overdue.
Next week, I will call on all countries - and most particularly the nuclear-weapon states - to fulfill this obligation.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
We should not have unrealistic expectations for the conference. But neither can we afford to lower our sights.
What I see on the horizon is a world free of nuclear weapons.
What I see before me are the people who will help make it happen, like your selves.
Please keep up your good work.
Sound the alarm, keep up the pressure.
Ask your leaders what they are doing - personally - to eliminate the nuclear menace.
Above all, continue to be the voice of conscience.
We will rid the world of nuclear weapons.
And when we do, it will be because of people like you.
The world owes you its gratitude.
Thank you very much for your commitment and leadership.
Statements on 1 May 2010