By Prudence Arobani
New York – UN Secretary-General António Guterres has warned that nuclear weapons posed catastrophic risks to human life and the environment.
“We must work together towards our common goal: a world free of nuclear weapons,” Guterres said while addressing the UN Conference on Disarmament, in Geneva.
The UN chief underscored the Secretary-General called on the international community to make a reinvigorated push to rid the world of such weapons.
“Countries persist in the mistaken idea that nuclear weapons make the world safer. At the global level, we must work together towards forging a new momentum on eliminating nuclear weapons,” he said.
Guterres said the world must respond to the dangers of the over-accumulation and proliferation of weapons, and reinforce the need to integrate disarmament into the UN efforts on preventive diplomacy and peacemaking.
Simultaneously, he said a focus is needed on the impact of conventional weapons on civilians as well as on the link between disarmament and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
The UN chief regretted in particular the resources lost to excessive military spending, pointing out that such resources could have been used to spur development activities.
Guterres noted that while the challenges were enormous, “history shows that it has been possible to reach agreement on disarmament and arms control even at the most difficult moments.”
The UN chief also welcomed the completion of reductions by the U.S. and Russia under the New START Treaty – the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty.
He also commended the “courageous initiatives” by the Republic of Korea during the recent Pyeongchang 2018 Olympic Games, saying it be translated into lasting improvements to denuclearise the Korean Peninsula.
Speaking alongside Guterres, the President of the General Assembly, Miroslav Lajčák, said the Conference on Disarmament remained as critical as ever as the demand for disarmament has only risen, not fallen.
“The Conference on Disarmament has been deadlocked since the agreement on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, more than two decades ago.
“We have to address this reality; the Conference is the world’s foremost multilateralism forum on disarmament. It should be producing global frameworks and policies.
“It should be driving discussions and decisions, around the world. It should have the loudest voice of all,” he stressed.
The Conference on Disarmament, established in 1979 but whose last decision was in 1996, was the single multilateral disarmament negotiating forum of the international community.
Currently, the consensus-based body focuses primarily on cessation of the nuclear arms race and nuclear disarmament, and prevention of nuclear war.