28 August 2016

Secretary-General's message to the "Building a Nuclear-Free World" conference

[delivered by Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva, Mr. Michael Møller]

I am pleased to send this message to all participants at the conference on “Building a Nuclear-Free World”, marking the twenty-fifth anniversary of the closing of the Semipalatinsk test site and the seventh International Day against Nuclear Tests. I thank the Government of the Republic of Kazakhstan for hosting, once again demonstrating its commitment to the pursuit of a world free of nuclear weapons. 

I saw this same resolve in the people living around Semipalatinsk when I visited six years ago. More than 450 nuclear tests there left deep scars, both physical and spiritual, on the people of Kazakhstan. I was moved by their plight and inspired by their enduring determination to turn this poisonous inheritance into a message of peace. 

The decision to shutter Semipalatinsk twenty-five years ago was truly historic. So too was the decision to return the former Soviet nuclear weapons and join the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. These twin outcomes set the stage for Kazakhstan to become a standard-bearer in the cause of nuclear disarmament.

In addition to helping establish the important commemoration we mark today, Kazakhstan has played a leading role in the creation of a Central Asian Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone. It spearheaded the Universal Declaration on a Nuclear-Weapon-Free World at the General Assembly. President Nazarbayev has called nuclear disarmament a top global priority. 

As divisions between States on how to achieve nuclear disarmament grow, countries like Kazakhstan must lead the way to common ground and inclusive dialogue. Such leadership is urgently needed to make our world truly secure.

We must give priority to achieving the long-overdue entry-into-force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty. Negotiated two decades ago, the absence of sufficient ratifications is a glaring example of the stalemate plaguing multilateral disarmament. 

The achievement of a moratorium on nuclear testing – maintained by all but one State – is significant. But as I have said time and again, it can be no substitute for a legally-binding prohibition.

Political will is essential to replace the costly, divisive and dangerous rivalries that prevail in our world with a sense of global solidarity for our shared future.

On this Day, I call upon all States to summon the political will to advance progress toward realizing our vision of a world free of nuclear weapons.