Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development, Department of Economic and Social Affairs

Brainstorming session: Readiness of the UN system to react to initiatives on dynamic interaction of cross-cutting issues related to disarmament, non-proliferation, sustainable development

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am pleased and honoured to attend this brainstorming session, organised by the Permanent Missions of Belarus, Kazakhstan, Suriname and UNDP. This is a great opportunity to promote new ideas and initiatives to contribute to a universal push for sustainable development through an interdisciplinary dialogue within the UN system and beyond, particularly from the perspective of disarmament.

The adoption of the 2030 Agenda marked a triumph of multilateralism. The international community has a mere fourteen years to transform the promise of the SDGs into reality. The new, universal Agenda commits to leaving no one behind.

The Agenda makes it clear that transformative change is needed in countries at all income levels. In developing countries, especially least developed countries, this will mean eradicating extreme poverty, ending hunger, and providing universal access to education, health care, clean energy, and water and sanitation. Developed countries face the challenge of bringing the SDGs into the mainstream of policy making, not confining them to the domain of development cooperation in developed countries. The universal SDGs are also applicable to reducing domestic poverty rates and inequalities, shifting towards sustainable patterns of consumption and production, and contributing meaningfully to tackling climate change.

As you know, work of the United Nations rests on three pillars: peace, human rights, and development. Peace and sustainable development are inextricably linked. They reinforce each other: peace cannot be maintained without sustainable development, and at the same time sustainable development cannot be achieved and preserved without peace.

Agenda 2030 explicitly recognizes the link between peace and sustainable development. SDG 16 is entitled “Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels”.

The evidence for this link is strong. According to the Stockholm Peace Research Institute, dangerous places account for 36 per cent of the world’s population, but 61 per cent of the world’s poverty. And 78 per cent of the world’s violent deaths occur in dangerous places, 98 per cent of the world’s refugees come from dangerous places. We know that countries in situations of conflict were among the furthest off-track with respect to the MDGs.

Unfortunately, the world remains beset by enhanced risks of armed actions, including by non-state actors, potential catastrophic terrorist attacks and new technologies that, if misused or abused, could cause mass destruction and disruption.

Conflict prevention and sustainable development are mutually reinforcing concepts. In this context, disarmament is the link to both peace and development. Spending on arms diverts resources from other needs, while potentially contributing to instability and conflict which can establish a vicious cycle perpetuating misery and violence.

Nuclear weapons continue to pose an existential threat to humankind. Fifteen thousand nuclear weapons remain in the world, with the discussions on how to move forward stalemated. Indications are that the threats and risks of a non-state actor acquiring a weapon of mass destruction are not receding. At the same time, new technologies may usher in disruptive weapons, whether in the realm of so-called cyberwarfare or artificial intelligence.

But we should not forget that small arms and light weapons remain the number one killer in countries afflicted by conflict and violence. Controlling the inflow of light weapons into potential conflict zones remains an imperative.

Strengthening the institutions that provide foundation to the peaceful resolution of conflicts – from the village level to the international arena – is crucial. Inclusive, equitable development and giving citizens a voice can help to dampen the tinder of conflict. In the aftermath of conflict, we need to commit the resources for sustained, effective peacebuilding.

And at the global level, we need a renewed commitment to multilateralism and international cooperation.

When it comes to disarmament, there is a need for bold leadership that bucks the trend, leadership committed to a logic that puts universal sustainable development first.

The consideration of the relationship between disarmament and development in the UN is not new. This has been a permanent concern of member states for decades. In that sense I would like to refer to document A/59/119, the Report of the Group of Governmental Experts on the relationship between disarmament and development. The increasing fact is that the main content of the report remains valid even today. We shall also remember that in 1987, from August 24 to 11 September the UN held in New York the 1st International Conference on the relationship between disarmament and development.

Thank you.

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