Secretary-General Urges Nuclear Weapons Consigned to History amid ‘Worrisome’ Arms Race, Addressing General Assembly on International Day

Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ remarks to the General Assembly on the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons, in New York today:

On this International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons, we remind ourselves of a fundamental truth:  the real only way to prevent the use of nuclear weapons is to eliminate them.  Any use of a nuclear weapon — anytime, anywhere and in any context — would unleash a humanitarian catastrophe of epic proportions.

This is not hyperbole.  This is the timeless message of the hibakusha — the survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  To them — and to the world — I have pledged to do everything within my power to gather countries around the need to wipe these devices of destruction off the face of the earth.

This is a matter of urgency.  A worrisome new arms race is brewing.  The number of nuclear weapons could rise for the first time in decades. Hard-won norms to prevent their use, spread and testing are being undermined.  The global disarmament and non-proliferation architecture is eroding. Nuclear arsenals are being modernized to make these weapons faster, more accurate and stealthier.  Nuclear sabres are again being rattled.

This is madness.  We must reverse course.

First — nuclear-weapon States must lead the way. I call on them to meet their disarmament obligations, and commit to never use nuclear weapons under any circumstances.  Second — we need to reinforce and re-commit to the nuclear-disarmament-and-non-proliferation regime built over the decades.  This includes the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

It also includes the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty. Though not yet in force, the Treaty remains a powerful testament of humanity’s will to lift the shadow of nuclear annihilation from our world, once and for all.  In the name of all victims of nuclear testing, I call on all countries that have not yet ratified the Treaty to do so without delay, and for those States that possess nuclear weapons to ensure a moratorium on all nuclear testing.

And third — we must redeploy the timeless tools of dialogue, diplomacy and negotiation to ease tensions and end the nuclear threat.  This dialogue must extend to all categories of nuclear weapons, and it must address the increasing interplay between strategic and conventional weapons and the nexus between nuclear weapons and emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence.  Humans must always be in control of and responsible for any decision to use nuclear weapons.

Disarmament and conflict prevention are at the heart of the recently launched policy brief on a “New Agenda for Peace”.  The Agenda represents a fresh opportunity for the world to usher in a world free of nuclear weapons.  I call on all Member States to stand with us in this essential cause.

The world has spent too long under the shadow of nuclear weapons.  Let’s step back from the edge of disaster.  Let’s usher in a new era of peace for all people.  Let’s make history by consigning nuclear weapons to history.  Thank you very much.

For information media. Not an official record.