For nearly a decade as United Nations Secretary-General, I have witnessed many of the worst problems in the world as well as our collective ability to respond in ways that at times seemed impossible. Our ambitious new 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement on climate change have demonstrated the power of political will to break longstanding deadlocks. On this International Day against Nuclear Tests, I call on the world to summon a sense of solidarity commensurate with the urgent need to end the dangerous impasse on this issue.
Today marks a quarter of a century since the closure of the Semipalatinsk test site in Kazakhstan, ground zero for more than 450 nuclear tests. The victims there are joined by others scattered across Central Asia, North Africa, North America and the South Pacific.
A prohibition on all nuclear testing will end this poisonous legacy. It will boost momentum for other disarmament measures by showing that multilateral cooperation is possible, and it will build confidence for other regional security measures, including a Middle East zone free of nuclear weapons and all other weapons of mass destruction.
When I visited Semipalatinsk in 2010, I saw the toxic damage – but I also witnessed the resolve of the victims and survivors. I share their determination to strive for a world free of nuclear weapons.
Since its adoption 20 years ago by the General Assembly, the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty has yet to enter into force. Given the catastrophic risks posed by nuclear weapons to our collective human and environmental security – even our very existence – we must reject this stalemate.
I urge Member States to do everything possible to facilitate a breakthrough. We welcome any and all efforts to bring about a complete testing ban.
I especially urge immediate action by the eight remaining Annex II countries. Any one of them can and should be the first to ratify. That will encourage others to follow suit and generate a cascade of benefits for the broader disarmament and non-proliferation agenda.
I also call for action by the more than twenty non-Annex II States that have yet to sign or ratify the treaty. Let us understand that for many of these States, they are willing but not able, and so deserve our full assistance.
The United Nations stands ready to help. We are working in partnership with the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organisation to boost efforts to assist States, refine our methods and take a more targeted approach to securing progress.
I take this opportunity to applaud the CTBTO’s remarkable work. In April, I attended their 20th anniversary commemoration in Vienna. I declared that the sufferings of the victims should teach the world to end the nuclear madness.
A number of young people spoke to me on that occasion. I was impressed by their commitment. At the same time, I felt a strong sense of responsibility to resolve this issue so that they do not have to inherit the failings of today’s leaders.
On this Day, I call on all countries and peoples to work for the CTBT’s entry into force as soon as possible so that we may advance toward a nuclear-weapon-free world.