New York

23 August 2016

Secretary-General's remarks to Security Council Open Debate on the Non-Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction

Thank you for hosting this debate today. The elimination of all weapons of mass destruction is one of the most important obligations entrusted to the international community. 

We can take some comfort from our success in preventing the spread of weapons of mass destruction. The multilateral infrastructure, including the load-bearing pillars of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the Chemical Weapons Convention, the Biological Weapons Convention, and instruments including Security Council resolution 1540 (2004) is robust and tested.

However, at a time when we face greater dangers than ever, the disarmament agenda has stalled in several areas. 

I call on all states to focus on one overriding truth: the only sure way to prevent the human, environmental and existential destruction these weapons can cause, is by eradicating them once and for all. 

To attain this shared dream, we – the international community – must ensure the disarmament and non-proliferation framework is universally and completely implemented, and is resilient and versatile enough to grapple with the changing environment.

The elimination of WMD is one of the founding principles of the United Nations. It was the subject of the first General Assembly Resolution. 

It has been a top priority for me. In 2008, just one year into my tenure as Secretary-General, I released my Five Point Proposal to achieve a world free of nuclear weapons, in the hope that it would spur further action by the international community. Eight years have passed, but the need for urgent action has not diminished. 

The Council has also played its part. In 2009, it convened a historic summit on non-proliferation. In adopting resolution 1887, Council members emphasized this Council’s primary responsibility to address nuclear threats and its willingness to take action. 

But we are all aware that challenges to the disarmament and non-proliferation architecture are growing. The global strategic context is more fluid and dangerous than ever. 

Technological advances have made means of production and methods of delivery for chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear materials cheaper, easier and more accessible. Vicious non-state actors that target civilians for carnage are actively seeking chemical, biological and nuclear weapons. 

It is therefore particularly disappointing that progress on eliminating nuclear weapons has descended into fractious deadlock. We see the reappearance of some of the discredited arguments that were used to justify nuclear weapons during the Cold War. Those arguments were morally, politically and practically wrong thirty years ago, and they are wrong now.  

In this environment, the global community expects this Council to demonstrate the same leadership as it did in 2009; to build on resolution 1887 and to develop further initiatives to bring about a world free of weapons of mass destruction.

It is time to refocus seriously on nuclear disarmament.   

The outcome of the Open-Ended Working Group on taking forward multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations demonstrated that there are many possible approaches to this task.

While more needs to be done to bridge the divide within the international community, I am encouraged that all States agree that our collective efforts must complement and strengthen the nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation regime, including the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).  

The next review cycle of the NPT -- the only treaty-based commitment to nuclear disarmament -- will begin in May 2017. For nearly five decades, this treaty has been a bulwark against nuclear proliferation. 

I call on all to address the issues that plagued the 2015 Review Conference in a spirit of compromise, with full respect for agreed objectives, common values, and core principles.

Moving on to biological weapons: 

In the wake of the very serious outbreaks of Ebola, MERS and Yellow Fever, I am extremely concerned that the international community is not adequately prepared to prevent or respond to a biological attack. 

The impact and consequences of a biological attack on a civilian target could far exceed those of a chemical or radiological attack. But investment in the international architecture dealing with these different  types of WMD is not commensurate with their possible effects. For example, there is no multilateral prevention and verification agency for biological weapons, as there is for nuclear and chemical threats and risks. 

States parties to the Biological Weapons Convention have an opportunity to discuss how to enhance preparedness at the BWC Review Conference in November. 

I also call on this Council to consider how to strengthen resolution 1540 to ensure that non-state actors cannot acquire these horrific weapons. 

For twelve years, this resolution has tried to provide a barrier to the threat and risk of WMD use by non-state actors, which is a very real threat. 

The Comprehensive Review mandated by resolution 1977 provides an opportunity to fine-tune Resolution 1540.

I urge this Council to use today’s session to be proactive in ensuring the resolution continues to be fit for purpose.  

I will now say a few words about new global threats emerging from the misuse of science and technology, and the power of globalization. 

Information and communication technologies, artificial intelligence, 3D printing and synthetic biology will bring profound changes to our everyday lives and benefits to millions of people. 

However, their potential for misuse could also bring destruction. The nexus between these emerging technologies and WMD needs close examination and action. 

As a starting point, the international community must step up to expand common ground for the peaceful use of cyberspace and, particularly, the intersection between cyberspace and critical infrastructure. 

People now live a significant portion of their lives online. They must be protected from online attacks, just as effectively as they are protected from physical attacks.   

Disarmament and non-proliferation instruments are only as successful as Member States’ capacity to implement them. 

I encourage Council Members to use this debate and devise effective solutions so that all states can fully implement their disarmament and non-proliferation commitments. 

Throughout my tenure as Secretary-General, the elimination of weapons of mass destruction has been an urgent priority. 

I urge all Member States to re-commit themselves and to take action.

The stakes are simply too high to ignore. 

I wish you a fruitful debate. 

Thank you.