26 August 2010

Secretary-General, in Message, Says Kazakhstan’s Closed Nuclear Weapon Test Site Now Powerful Symbol of Hope, Tells Us ‘World Free of Nuclear Weapons Achievable’

26 August 2010
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Secretary-General, in Message, Says Kazakhstan’s Closed Nuclear Weapon Test Site

Now Powerful Symbol of Hope, Tells Us ‘World Free of Nuclear Weapons Achievable’

Following is UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon’s message to the High-Level Thematic Conference on the International Day against Nuclear Tests, delivered by Miroslav Jenča, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Regional Centre for Preventive Diplomacy for Central Asia (UNRCCA), in Astana, 26 August:

I am pleased to send my greetings to all participants at this important conference.

In 2009, at the sixty-fourth session of the General Assembly, the Government of Kazakhstan proposed the establishment of an International Day against Nuclear Tests.  The unanimous support for resolution 64/35 reflects the deep concern of the international community about the dangers posed by such tests.

The first observance of the Day will be on 29 August 2010.  It marks the anniversary of the day in 1991 when the President of Kazakhstan closed the test site at Semipalatinsk, where 456 nuclear tests conducted during the cold war era devastated the landscape and left enduring effects on the local population.  I witnessed this toxic legacy first-hand when I visited Semipalatinsk earlier this year.

Today, with Kazakhstan having banished nuclear weapons and joined in creating a nuclear-weapon-free zone in Central Asia, Semipalatinsk has become a powerful symbol of hope.  It tells us that a world free of nuclear weapons is achievable.

There is real momentum behind this great cause.  In May, the successful conclusion of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference invigorated the nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation regime.  Bold initiatives by world leaders and civil society are showing the way toward changed policies and reduced arsenals.

Yet progress will not be easy.  It will require sustained efforts and the highest attention among all United Nations Member States.  I pledge to continue to emphasize – as I did during my recent visits to Hiroshima and Nagasaki – the urgency for concrete actions that will advance nuclear disarmament.

I look forward to working with all partners to rein in spending on nuclear weapons and rid the world of the nuclear threat.  An important stepping stone toward this end is the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT).  By constraining the development and qualitative improvement of nuclear weapons, the Treaty is an important tool in strengthening the global nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament regime.

The CTBT was adopted in 1996 but has yet to enter into force.  I have called for a timeline of achieving this goal by 2012.  Pending the Treaty’s entry into force, I urge all States to implement a moratorium on all nuclear explosions.

I warmly welcome the Government of Kazakhstan’s initiative in convening this conference to address the political aspects of ending nuclear testing, the disposal of nuclear weapons, and the socio-economic and environmental challenges and prospects for developing the Semipalatinsk region.

I ask the entire international community to reflect deeply on the consequences of the nuclear weapons tests that occurred in Semipalatinsk and around the world.  The better this dark era of history is understood, the brighter will be the prospects for achieving a world free of nuclear weapons.

It is time to close all nuclear test sites and address the harm they have caused.  It is time we brought the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty into force.  It is time for all to seek the security of a world without nuclear weapons.  We cannot pass these challenges to succeeding generations.  We must each do our part to build a safer, more secure world today.

I wish you a successful conference.

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