6 May 2010

As Momentum Builds for Nuclear-Weapon-Free World, Parliamentarians Channel Political Will from Streets to Corridors of Power, Says Secretary-General

6 May 2010
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

As Momentum Builds for Nuclear-Weapon-Free World, Parliamentarians Channel

Political Will from Streets to Corridors of Power, Says Secretary-General

Following is the text of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks to the Inter-Parliamentary Union and Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament, “Advancing Nuclear Disarmament:  The Power of Parliaments”, in New York, 6 May:

It is a great pleasure to be amongst you during this very important NPT [Nuclear-Non-Proliferation Treaty] Review Conference.  I thank you for your personal commitment and leadership.  I know that you are very busy persons but your taking time to participate in this, and also witness, monitor and encourage and raise awareness of the importance of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation is inspiring.  Thank you very much.

I thank the Inter-Parliamentary Union, and Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament, for asking me to speak today.  But most of all, I thank you for your devotion to the cause of nuclear-weapon-free world.

After decades of work, it is clear that real change will come only through consistent, strong public pressure — on a global scale, and from the grass roots.

That is why you are so crucial.  Your organizations represent more than 150 national parliaments, and hundreds of millions of citizens around the world.  You are the link between the local and the global — between the grass roots and the international community.

You channel political will from the streets to the corridors of power.  You also play a key role in managing national budgets and ratifying treaties.  Your organizations are a model for information-sharing and cooperation on nuclear statistics and policy.  You are the experts on enacting and upholding the rule of law — a crucial part of the disarmament and non-proliferation agenda.  If the world is to achieve these goals, we need your voices to remain at the centre of the debate.

Momentum is building towards a nuclear-weapon-free world.  People are waking up.  They are beginning to understand:  the alternatives to nuclear disarmament — arms races and deterrence — carry grave risks, and can never offer true security.

People are also asking how military spending can rise, at a time when Governments are calling for cuts in social security, health and environmental protection.

Nuclear arms do not increase international peace and security.  They put them in jeopardy.  They represent a bankrupt strategy, and a moral dead-end.

We have seen some encouraging signs from Governments, too, including last year’s Security Council Summit, and the signing of the new START treaty [Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty] last month between the Presidents of the United States and the Russian Federation.

On Monday, there was another important step forward when the United States revealed the size of its nuclear arsenal — more than 5,000 warheads — nuclear warheads.

It is chilling figure.  But I welcome [ United States] President [Barack] Obama’s courage and leadership, and I urge all nuclear-weapon States to follow this example.  Transparency builds trust among nations.

I hope the negotiators here at the NPT Review Conference will seize this moment.  I have urged them to think big, to take risks, to aim for the prize of a nuclear-weapon-free world.

I myself take every opportunity to speak out on the urgent need for more progress.  This is a strategic priority for the United Nations.  It is also a personal dream of mine.

I come from a country — the Republic of Korea — which witnessed the devastating effects of nuclear bombs in neighbouring Japan.  There were many Koreans living at that time who were affected and were killed.  Many people are still suffering from these effects and Korea itself has experienced the nuclear threat coming from North Korean nuclear programmes.

I have taken this message everywhere with me, since I became Secretary-General three years ago.  From the former nuclear testing site Semipalatinsk on the steppe of Kazakhstan — to the proud city of Hiroshima, which I will visit in August — to parliamentary chambers around the world.

I am deeply grateful for the outpouring of support I received for my own five-point nuclear disarmament proposal of 2008 and thank you very much for your support.  Based on this proposal, I also put forward five benchmarks for success at the ongoing NPT Review Conference.

I am pleased to say that some of the proposals I made in 2008 have already been acted upon.  Last September, the Security Council, under the Chairmanship of President Obama, held a summit-level meeting to address nuclear disarmament issues.  It was the first such meeting at that level, and I hope it will not be the last.

For its part, the General Assembly of the United Nations is continuing to advance disarmament goals.  It held a thematic debate on disarmament last April, and its deliberations and recommendations remain vital in advancing the global disarmament agenda.

But much more is needed, if we are to strengthen the legal framework for our mission.

We need to achieve universal membership in multilateral treaties, and the creation of more regional nuclear-weapon-free zones, particularly in the Middle East.

We need a new treaty on fissile materials, and the entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT).  As you know, the CTBT was opened for signature 15 years ago.  I chaired this CTBT in 1999.  We need to think very seriously about setting a time frame for ratification — and about an alternative mechanism that might get us there.

We need new treaties to reduce nuclear arsenals and verifiably eliminate bombs, warheads, and their delivery systems.  And, we need to start thinking about the legal requirements for global nuclear disarmament.  Article VI of the NPT is unambiguous and unconditional.  It calls for good faith negotiations to this end.  There is also a compelling need to start negotiations on a nuclear weapons convention.

Your organizations have broken new ground in showing how parliaments and non-governmental organizations can cooperate and move the global nuclear disarmament agenda forward.

I would particularly like to mention the resolution adopted by the IPU at its Addis Ababa meeting in April 2009 on the role of parliaments in nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament.  I also appreciate your positive response to my letter last February, appealing for parliamentary support for global nuclear disarmament.

I deeply appreciate your efforts.  I am also profoundly aware of who you represent — those who actually pay for nuclear weapons.  It is the world’s taxpayers who fund the development and storage of nuclear arms.

But tomorrow, in the famous words of John F. Kennedy, due to “accident, miscalculation, or madness”, they could be paying a different — and much higher — price.

We must stop this senseless waste of resources.

Ten years ago, the NPT Review Conference described the total elimination of nuclear arsenals as “the only absolute guarantee against the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons”.  Ten years on, I urge you to take that message back to your capitals and your Governments.

Help to make disarmament a truly global cause.  Use your unique standing, as tribunes of the people, to build a safer and better world for all.  The United Nations will continue to be your partner in that effort.

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