New York

01 July 2008

Message by the Secretary-General on the 40th anniversary of the opening for signature of the Treaty on the Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT)

Today marks the fortieth anniversary of the opening for signature of the landmark Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, the only legally binding multilateral nuclear disarmament instrument and the cornerstone of the non-proliferation regime.

The grand bargain, negotiated and embodied in the Non-Proliferation Treaty -- to prevent proliferation, advance disarmament and assure the right to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes -- was signed by 59 States in Washington, D.C., Moscow and London on 1 July 1968. Since then, 190 States have joined the Treaty, making it the most universally supported international disarmament and non-proliferation instrument.

The Treaty has suffered serious setbacks and faces multiple challenges to its credibility, though it has also seen steady progress and significant measured success.

A number of nuclear-weapon States have recently outlined or initiated measures to reduce their arsenals, accelerate dismantlement, close some nuclear test sites and reduce their reliance on their deployed weapons. These efforts should be recognized and commended.

Support for the goals of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation is overwhelming. The International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards agreements are in force in 160 States -- of which 88 have also agreed to the Additional Protocol. Nearly two thirds of the world's States are signatories to nuclear-weapon-free zone treaties.

Yet, tens of thousands of nuclear weapons remain deployed and stockpiled, and significant deeper, irreversible and verifiable cuts are needed. Nuclear proliferation -- whether by States or non-State actors -- threatens everyone, and therefore requires global cooperation in addressing non-compliance, in resolving concerns over nuclear programmes and in ensuring the most reliable controls over nuclear materials.

At the same time, the benefits of peaceful nuclear applications have reached nearly everyone and demands for nuclear energy are rising dramatically. The right to peaceful uses of nuclear technology should be exercised in conformity with non-proliferation obligations. Due regard should also be given to the responsible development of peaceful uses of nuclear energy.

Achieving universality of the Treaty remains a priority. We are a long way from a nuclear-weapon-free world and the recent revival of interest to achieve this vision is welcome and promising.

The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons continues to be the most effective multilateral instrument for preventing nuclear proliferation and achieving disarmament. We need a strong Non-Proliferation Treaty and we must reinforce and strengthen it to meet the challenges of the day.