24 September 2010

Secretary-General Calls on Delegates to End Stagnation in Disarmament Conference, Seize ‘Collective Opportunity to Build a Safer World’, at Headquarters Meeting

24 September 2010
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Secretary-General Calls on Delegates to End Stagnation in Disarmament Conference,


Seize ‘Collective Opportunity to Build a Safer World’, at Headquarters Meeting


Following is UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s opening statement to the High-level Meeting on Revitalizing the Work of the Conference on Disarmament and Taking Forward Multilateral Disarmament Negotiations, in New York, 24 September:

I thank you for heeding my call to attend today’s meeting.

I am grateful for your support for advancing multilateral disarmament negotiations.

We meet only two days after the conclusion of the Millennium Development Goals Summit meeting.

Since the Millennium Development Goals were first articulated a decade ago, world military expenditure has risen by 50 per cent to more than $1.5 trillion. 

Imagine what we could do if we devoted these resources to poverty reduction, climate change mitigation, food security, global health and other global development challenges. 

Disarmament and non-proliferation are essential across the board, not simply for international peace and security. 

They can foster confidence among nations and strengthen regional and international stability. 

They are critical in realizing our common vision of a better world for all. 

This is why revitalizing momentum on disarmament and non-proliferation has been among my key priorities since I took office.

One of my first initiatives was to restructure the Disarmament Office in the Secretariat to elevate its status.

Revitalizing multilateral disarmament and helping to break the impasse in the Conference on Disarmament was also behind my decision to convene this high-level meeting. 

I am grateful for the support given for this by States Parties of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty at its Review Conference in May.

We all believe that the multilateral disarmament machinery should deliver more, and more quickly. 

Only the political will of Member States can make that happen.

There have been some important and encouraging developments.

The Security Council Summit in September 2009, the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington in April this year and initiatives at both multilateral and bilateral levels — including the new START treaty.

The agreement reached at the 2010 NPT (Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons) Review Conference in New York has restored some faith in the international non-proliferation regime. 

We have built important momentum.  This is hard-won momentum and we should build on recent achievements. 

Yet much remains to be done — both on weapons of mass destruction and conventional weaponry. 

The next few years are critical.  We can push forward on nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament or risk sliding back.

We will only bridge the gaps through stronger multilateral partnerships. 

At the top of our list is the effectiveness of our multilateral disarmament machinery:  the Conference on Disarmament, the United Nations Disarmament Commission and the First Committee of the General Assembly.

In the past, the Conference on Disarmament was the undisputed home of international arms control efforts.  It was a catalyst for promoting the rule of law in disarmament.

During the cold war, it concluded far-reaching and forward-looking treaties — the Biological Weapons Convention, the Chemical Weapons Convention, the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

These proud accomplishments show clearly that we can make progress even in a complex political and security context.

There is no good reason for stagnation.

I have tried my utmost to revitalize the Conference on Disarmament through sustained advocacy. 

I have personally addressed the Conference three times in the last five years — once in 2006 as Foreign Minister of the Republic of Korea and subsequently in 2008 and 2009 as Secretary-General.

When I addressed the Conference in 2006, I expressed hope that the long inertia would prove simply to be a respite before the next harvest.  Yet, it has continued.

Despite adopting its first Programme of Work in over a decade last year, the Conference on Disarmament has been unable to translate this breakthrough into substantive progress. 

Differences and concerns can — and must — be addressed through negotiation on substance.  This is the essence of multilateral diplomacy. 

The limited membership of the Conference on Disarmament is a privilege.  So is the consensus rule.

Members of the Conference must accept that this privilege comes with responsibility. 

Member States who are not members of the Conference on Disarmament have placed their trust in it.  They will hold it accountable.

I welcome those countries who are not members of the Conference on Disarmament today.  Let us hear your views.

Let us resolve to close the gap between aspiration and achievement. 

Moving forward on multilateral disarmament negotiations requires political courage, creativity, flexibility and leadership. 

I look forward to candid and stimulating discussion. 

Let us move beyond business as usual.  

Let today’s discussions provide a foundation for concrete action. 

Let us identify forward-looking initiatives that have the greatest potential.

Later today, I will sum up the meeting. 

My summary will reflect your views and I will suggest some action-oriented follow-up steps for your consideration.

I will present my Chairman’s Summary to the President of the General Assembly, and I will request that the General Assembly follows up on revitalizing multilateral disarmament negotiations in Plenary and in the First Committee.

We have a collective opportunity to build a safer world. 

Let us seize it. 

The benefits of disarmament and non-proliferation are undisputed. 

Let us unlock them.  Now.  Today.

Thank you very much for your commitment.

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