I am pleased to send greetings to the distinguished statesmen and thinkers at this symposium. I count on you to inject fresh vision into one of the most crucial debates of our time: how to achieve a world free of nuclear weapons.
For over four decades the Treaty on the Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons has been a bulwark against the spread of the most dangerous and inhumane weapons ever devised, and it has been a central and essential mechanism for their elimination. This indispensable Treaty has strengthened the security of all States parties, underpinning our collective safety and serving as a foundation for international security.
Over the course of its history, the NPT has coped with multiple challenges and competing positions. It has endured thanks to creative diplomacy by States parties which have demonstrated the ability to transcend entrenched ideas to find compromise.
The ultimate goal of the NPT – to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and to bring about their elimination – has not changed. But the international security climate is evolving, with new problems constantly testing our resolve. The Treaty requires constant tending to ensure that it remains strong and capable of safeguarding against the existential threat posed by nuclear weapons. We need new ideas to shore up the NPT, to confront new obstacles head on, and to overcome them.
The international tide of nuclear abolition – so strong in 2010 – has ebbed. Mounting tensions between nuclear-armed States have produced a return to Cold War mind sets. Nuclear weapons are again becoming embedded in national defence strategies. Support has deepened for misguided doctrines of deterrence. Modernization programmes envisage retention of these deadly weapons for decades to come. Nuclear weapon States have not demonstrated the leadership required to break the status quo, instead attaching hollow conditions to their disarmament obligations.
Proliferation challenges persist. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea continues with its dangerous and destabilizing activities, flouting international law and the will of the international community. At the same time, despite valiant efforts, the conference on a Middle East zone free of nuclear weapons and all other weapons of mass destruction has not yet taken place. The benefits of such a zone are manifold, including regional peace and stability.
This Review Conference offers an opportunity to change the narrative; to remind all States parties that their collective good is best served by the full implementation of – and compliance with – all of the Treaty’s goals; and to put us back on course. You can provide ideas that will propel us down the path to a world free of nuclear weapons.
We have seen the sheer emergence of a movement seeking to address the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons. This has re-energized a frozen debate, reminding us that the indiscriminate and catastrophic costs of nuclear weapons are, at their core, human costs. A great majority of NPT States parties support this cause, which cannot be ignored.
I encourage you to use this opportunity to engage in vigorous debate marked by bold ideas and the search for consensus, and wish you great success.