‘It Is Time to Proliferate Peace’, End Threat of Nuclear Annihilation, Secretary-General Says at Honorary Hiroshima Citizenship Ceremony

Following is UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ remarks at the Honorary Hiroshima Citizenship Ceremony, in Hiroshima, Japan, today:

I am deeply moved by this granting of honorary citizenship of Hiroshima.  This beautiful and vibrant city epitomizes the necessity of peace.  And how people can work together and move from horror to hope.

I accept this great honour on behalf of all the women and men of the United Nations who are working for peace around the world.  I accept it on behalf of the diplomats and negotiators who — this very week — are meeting in New York to stop the spread of nuclear weapons.  I accept it on behalf of the activists — young and old — who continue to stand up and speak out on this issue.

I accept it on behalf of the inspiring hibakusha I met earlier today who have spent their lives reminding the world of the importance of peace.  Above all, I accept it in the memory of those tens of thousands of people who were killed in Hiroshima and Nagasaki 77 years ago.

We must never forget what happened here.  Nor can we forget all the victims of global conflicts like World War II, which inflicted incalculable damage to communities, countries and the world.  Especially today, when nuclear risk is once again growing around the world.  When stockpiles are being upgraded.  And when almost 13,000 of these doomsday weapons still exist.

The lessons of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are clear.  Nuclear weapons have no place on our planet.  It’s time to lift the cloud of nuclear annihilation, once and for all.

It is time to proliferate peace.  My thanks to the people of Hiroshima for this honour today.  And to the Government and people of Japan for your warm welcome and steadfast commitment to a more peaceful future.

And allow me two personal notes. One to say that it is true that we see a new arms race. It is true that disarmament treaties, that disarmament agreements that were made in the last century are at risk and some of them have been lost, but the Conference on the Review of the Non-proliferation Treaty is going well and I hope that there will be positive outcomes and the States party to the treaty on Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons are working to define a roadmap with relation to the progressive implementation of the treaty.  So, I see movement in the right direction.

I think Hiroshima has a key role to play in helping us to move in the right direction and I was very impressed by the declaration of peace that you, honourable mayor, have made today.

The second note, I came to Hiroshima, I think 39 years ago.  I visited the city and I visited the area at the Peace Memorial and I visited the museum — it was a small museum at the time — but it was very impressive and this made a very deep imprint in myself.  Then, I became Prime Minister of Portugal and just one month after starting functions, there was a vote in the General Assembly of the United Nations about the French nuclear tests in the Pacific.  France had announced the tests.  There was a motion as every year that was a motion, a proposal for a resolution against the test.

Now, the Minister for Foreign Affairs called me and said, well we have this resolution and the tradition is that all the members of the European Union will abstain so as not to offend France.  But at that moment, I remembered my visit to Hiroshima and I told the Minister:  Sorry, we are going to vote against, which means we vote in favour of the resolution which is against the explosion.

And so, this is very complicated because other ambassadors already promised the French that they would abstain as always.  I said it doesn't matter, we vote against the nuclear explosion.  Afterwards two other European countries, I think Austria and another one, when they knew that Portugal was going to vote against, they also voted against.

And this is to say, we’d probably keep on with this abstention if I had not come to Hiroshima.  So, it's impossible for people to come here and not to feel the absurd of the existence of nuclear weapons.  And I join my voice for Heads of State of all over the world to come here to understand that we must have a world free of nuclear weapons.

Thank you very much.  Arigato.  Thank you for your so generous description and I promise I will do everything deserve this high honour that you have given me today.

For information media. Not an official record.