24 February 2011

Efforts to Advance Disarmament Agenda Must Intensify, Secretary-General Tells Advisory Board, or ‘Risk Very Real Possibility of Sliding Backwards’

24 February 2011
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Efforts to Advance Disarmament Agenda Must Intensify, Secretary-General Tells

Advisory Board, or ‘Risk Very Real Possibility of Sliding Backwards’


Following is the text of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, to his Advisory Board on Disarmament Matters, today, 24 February, in New York: 

I am pleased to see you.  Allow me to thank Ambassador [Carlo] Trezza for his service as Chair of this Board last year, and Professor [Olga] Pellicer for agreeing to Chair this year’s Board.  And, to Kate Dewe, a member of this Board and a resident of Christchurch, I would like to express my sadness at the loss of life and the destruction of so much of your beautiful city in this week’s earthquake.

You meet at a critical time to undertake a thorough review of the issues raised last September at the High-Level Meeting on Revitalizing the Work of the Conference on Disarmament and Taking Forward Multilateral Disarmament Negotiations.

We have collectively done much to move the disarmament agenda forward in recent years.  But now, we must intensify these efforts or risk the very real possibility of sliding backwards.  This is why disarmament and non-proliferation are among my top priorities for 2011.

I have asked you to review the issues pertaining to the Conference on Disarmament and multilateral disarmament negotiations, and to feed into the upcoming debate in the General Assembly.  This includes the possible establishment of a panel of eminent persons to look at the functioning of the Conference.

As I told the Conference on Disarmament a month ago, if we are to build on the current momentum, we need more concrete action.  You are all aware that at the High-Level Meeting, many foreign ministers and prominent political leaders expressed deep concern about the inability of the Conference on Disarmament to overcome its differences.  They joined me in urging the Conference to start its substantive work in 2011.

With respect to negotiating a treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons and other nuclear explosive devices, it is clear that, within the Conference on Disarmament, there is almost universal support for negotiations to start.  Many members continue to hope that formal negotiations can and will take place within the framework of the Conference.  However, a number of members have suggested exploring alternative arrangements outside the Conference on Disarmament.  Such a parallel mechanism risks weakening the Conference’s relevance and credibility.

I therefore welcome the joint statement last month in Washington, D.C., by the Presidents of China and the United States reaffirming their support for the early commencement of negotiations on a fissile material cut-off treaty in the Conference on Disarmament.

As a first step, I suggested to the member States of the Conference to start an informal process before they agree on formal negotiations.  This could build trust and facilitate the formal process once the Conference adopts its programme of work.

Recently, the members of the Conference on Disarmament have organized side events on a fissile material cut-off treaty as well as the prevention of an arms race in outer space.  I welcome these creative approaches, and I count on you to develop ideas in your current session that will help us build on our hard-won progress.

I look forward to receiving your recommendations at the end of your July session. Please accept my best wishes for a productive meeting.

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