New York

27 April 2015

Secretary-General's message to the Opening Plenary of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons [delivered by the Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson]

On behalf of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, I am honoured to welcome to the United Nations all participants to this important session of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, and to deliver the following message on his behalf.

Before that, let me also, on behalf of the Secretary-General, express deepest sympathy and condolences to the people and Government of Nepal at this moment of grief and humanitarian plight after the horrific earthquake affecting large parts of the country.

Eliminating nuclear weapons is a top priority for the United Nations.  No other weapon has the potential to inflict such wanton destruction on our world.  The Non-Proliferation Treaty is the cornerstone of the non-proliferation regime and an essential basis for realizing a nuclear-weapon-free world.

  I congratulate Ambassador [Taous] Feroukhi on her appointment as President of the Conference.  This is a difficult and demanding role.  But I have confidence that she can generate a successful outcome with the cooperation of States parties.  We all must remember that a world free of nuclear weapons is a critical global public good that benefits all nations.

This Review Conference is to ensure that the Treaty retains its central role in our collective security.  It is to chart a clear path forward for what the NPT regime will be in 2020 – the fiftieth anniversary of its entry into force.

I call upon States parties to work hard and constructively in the coming weeks to produce an outcome that strengthens the Treaty.  We need an outcome that promotes its universality, ensures compliance by all Parties with all provisions, and reinforces the NPT’s principal goals which are to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and bring about their elimination. I urge you to build on common ground, be inclusive and show flexibility.

I encourage all States parties to deepen engagement with civil society groups.  They play an important role in strengthening NPT norms and promoting disarmament. In the lead up to this Review Conference, the President of the 2015 NPT Review Conference and the UN have received several petitions from civil society groups calling for the successful conclusion of this session and the elimination of nuclear weapons.

  These petitions have received millions of signatures from concerned citizens across the world. This is a powerful reminder of the hopes and expectations of the peoples we are here to serve.  I thank the many individuals and organizations that have done so much to champion disarmament over the years.  I pledge my full support for their principled commitment to this cause.

In 2010, agreement on the 64-point Action Plan, together with progress on the 1995 Resolution on the Middle East after 15 years of inaction, resulted in a successful Review Conference. Agreement on the Action Plan represented a high point of international consensus, delivering a road-map for achieving the Treaty’s aims.
This Conference must now demonstrate how and when the Action Plan will be implemented – or it could risk fading in relevance.  Such progress demands that every States Party comply with its obligations under each of the Treaty’s mutually reinforcing pillars.

At its heart, the NPT is a grand bargain underpinned by the symbiotic relationship between, on the one hand,  nuclear disarmament and, on the other, non-proliferation.  One cannot be advanced without the other.  Progress on both is in everbody’s interest.

Since the last Review Conference, the danger posed by nuclear weapons is still there.  Proliferation challenges persist, including with respect to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Yet, important understanding between the E3+3, or P5+1, and Iran proves that such challenges can be dealt with by diplomacy. A final agreement, verified by the International Atomic Energy Agency, could help ease serious regional security concerns, apart from making progress on non-proliferation.

A Middle East zone free of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction can provide substantial benefits, in addition to the disarmament and non-proliferation gains that would flow from such an agreement.

It is disappointing that too little progress has been made, despite the determined efforts by the facilitator, Ambassador Laajava, and the expectations of the international community for results.  The Review Conference must focus on seeking means to enable the States of the region to move forward on this issue with a shared vision and a shared purpose.

Between 1990 and 2010, the international community took bold steps towards a nuclear weapon-free world.  There were massive reductions in deployed arsenals.  States closed weapons facilities and made impressive moves towards more transparent nuclear doctrines.

I am deeply concerned that over the last five years this process seems to have stalled. It is especially troubling that recent developments indicate that the trend towards nuclear zero is reversing. Instead of progress towards new arms reduction agreements, we have allegations about destabilizing violations of existing agreements. 

Instead of a Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty in force or a treaty banning the production of fissile materials for nuclear weapons, we see expensive modernization programmes that will entrench nuclear weapons for decades to come. Instead of pursuing proposals to accelerate nuclear disarmament, including my Five Point Plan, there has been a dangerous return to Cold War mentalities.

This reversal is a regression for our world.  I call on leaders to abandon short-sighted political posturing and instead embrace a bold and global vision that meets the demands of humanity.  True national security can only be achieved outside and away from the shadow of the nuclear threat. This shadow must be removed for the sake of present and future generations.

This is the message of the Hibakusha who survived the nuclear attacks seventy years ago this August in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  I challenge anyone who doubts the urgency of nuclear disarmament to listen to their experiences.  I defy anyone to look into the eyes of these courageous and resilient individuals and say you know better what nuclear weapons bring.  They are here as a sober, living reminder of the horrific humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons and of the urgent need for their abolition.  I thank these witnesses for their participation and urge this Conference to heed their warnings and deliver results.

In this effort, I am heartened by encouraging growing momentum for humanitarian considerations to be placed at the centre of disarmament deliberations.  The humanitarian movement has injected the moral imperative into a frozen debate. This imperative should be the subject of serious consideration by the Review Conference. 

The next few weeks will be challenging as you seek to advance our shared ambition to remove the dangers posed by nuclear weapons.  This is a historic imperative of our time.
I call on you to act with urgency to fulfil the responsibilities entrusted to you by the peoples of the world who seek a more secure future for all.

Thank you.