Only Way to Remove Nuclear Risk: ‘Completely Eliminate Nuclear Weapons’
United Nations News
Secretary-General António Guterres told delegates gathered to commemorate the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons, it was the only way “to completely eliminate nuclear risk.”
And although nuclear disarmament has been a UN priority since its founding 75 years ago, he reminded the plenary meeting that “the world continues to live in the shadow of nuclear catastrophe”.
For Security’s Sake
Progress towards the total elimination of nuclear weapons has “stalled and is at risk of backsliding”, the UN chief warned.
Against the backdrop of growing distrust and tension between Nuclear Weapon States (NWS) – and programmes that modernize arsenals for faster, stealthier and more accurate weapons, with costs Mr. Guterres called “simply staggering” – he said, pointedly, that the only treaty restricting the size of the world’s largest nuclear arsenals is set to expire early next year – threatening a return to “unconstrained strategic competition”.
“For the sake of all of our security, the world must return to a common path towards nuclear disarmament”, he underscored, adding that it is “imperative” for Russia and the United States to extend, “without delay”, the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) for the maximum duration of five years.
Among other things, START calls for halving the number of strategic nuclear missile launchers and establishing a new inspection and verification regime within seven years from the date the treaty enters into force.
The Secretary-General upheld that NWS “have a responsibility to lead”, including by honouring their existing commitments and taking steps to reduce nuclear risks.
“Especially in today’s tense international security environment, with rising friction between major powers, such steps are more necessary than ever”, he spelled out.
In conclusion, the Secretary-General advocated for “a strengthened, inclusive and renewed multilateralism built on trust” with human security at its centre, to “guide us to our shared goal of a world free of nuclear weapons”.
Stop Wasting Time
Meanwhile, Volkan Bozkir, President of the 75th session of the General Assembly, noted that amidst rising global tensions, the disarmament architecture is “under significant strain”.
“Parties have withdrawn from nuclear-related agreements and others are set to expire”, he elaborated, adding that “some Member States have threatened to restart nuclear testing”.
Mr. Bozkir stressed the need to return to “the common goal” of a nuclear-weapons free world weapons and flagged the cornerstone Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) and Secretary-General’s Agenda for Disarmament, as the right tools to achieve it.
Noting that this year marks the 50th anniversary of the NPT, the Assembly president urged its States’ Parties to use the postponed 2020 NPT Review Conference next year, to renew their commitments and discuss “practical steps in nuclear disarmament”.
“Nuclear disarmament must remain a priority to all of us”, he underscored. “We cannot afford to waste any more time”.
See this UN video explainer on the NPT treaty:
UN Again Calls for Full Ratification of Nuclear Test-ban Treaty
(August 26, 2020) — Speaking on behalf of the Secretary-General, Izumi Nakamitsu said this year’s commemoration falls 75 years after the United States first conducted a nuclear test, resulting in the use of atomic weapons against Japan and some 2,000 more tests carried out by at least eight countries over the succeeding decades.
Impacts on the environment, health and economic development are still being felt today.
“The best way to honour the victims of past nuclear tests is to prevent any in the future,” she stated. “As the Secretary-General has said, nuclear testing is a relic of another era, and should remain there.”
Prioritize a Nuclear-free World
The International Day Against Nuclear Tests has been commemorated annually since 2010. The date 29 August marks the anniversary of the 1991 closure of the Semipalatinsk test site in Kazakhstan, the largest nuclear test site in the former Soviet Union.
Despite the adoption of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty in 1996, thousands of nuclear weapons remain at the ready in stockpiles across the world.
As Ms. Nakamitsu, the UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, pointed out, the current era is marked by “increasingly hostile” relations between nuclear arm states seeking to improve the quality and, in some cases, quantity, of their arsenals.
For UN General Assembly President Tijjani Muhammad-Bande, the COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the need for collective action to safeguard humanity, including by making a nuclear-free world a priority.
“The very survival of humanity hinges on our resolute agreement that nuclear weapons are not to be used and should be forever eliminated. A nuclear weapons-free world is the only true guarantee to safeguard civilization from this existential threat,” he said, speaking from New York.
Impacts on First Nations
Aboriginal people in Wallatina, Australia, experienced this threat first-hand when the United Kingdom conducted two separate atmospheric nuclear tests in October 1953, according to activist Karina Lester.
“Nuclear testing has and still does impact our country, our traditional lands, and our lives,” said Ms. Lester, whose father, the late Yami Lester, was blinded by the tests. “It’s time to put an end to nuclear weapons tests. It is time to put an end to nuclear weapons.”
‘Nuclear Menace on the Rise’
Although 184 countries have signed the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty, and 168 have ratified it, the treaty has yet to enter into force.
This will only happen when it is ratified by eight countries: China, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Egypt, India, Iran, Israel, Pakistan and the United States.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres once again called for all states that have not signed or ratified the treaty to do so without further delay.
“The nuclear menace is once again on the rise. A complete ban on nuclear testing is an essential step in preventing the qualitative and quantitative improvement of nuclear weapons and in achieving nuclear disarmament,” he said in a message for the Day.
Learn from History
With next year marking the 25th anniversary of the test-ban treaty’s adoption, the fear is that hope is slipping away, according to Lassina Zerbo, head of the UN office working towards its entry into force.
“As we survey the international landscape, with peoples and governments reeling from the chaos and suffering caused by COVID-19, let us reflect on the past in order to learn how to better shape the future,” he advised.
“This is not to say that the past will give us all the answers, but learning the lessons of history will enable us to make sound decisions, and implement effective strategies and policies, going forward.”