Addressing the threat of nuclear weapons, said Mr, Guterres, has been central to the work of the United Nations since its inception; the first General Assembly resolution in 1946 sought “the elimination from national armaments of atomic weapons and of all other major weapons adaptable to mass destruction.”
However, the UN chief pointed out that, although the total number of nuclear weapons has been decreasing for decades, some 14,000 are stockpiled around the world, which is facing the highest level of nuclear risk in almost four decades: “States are qualitatively improving their arsenals, and we are seeing worrying signs of a new arms race.” Humanity, continued the UN chief, remains unacceptably close to nuclear annihilation.
Comprehensive ban in ‘state of limbo’
On Thursday, the UN chief called for all countries holding nuclear technology to sign the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), which was adopted in 1996, and has been signed by 185 countries.
However, for the CTBT to enter into force, it must be signed and ratified by 44 specific nuclear technology holder countries, eight of which have yet to ratify the Treaty: China, Egypt, India, Iran, Israel, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Pakistan and the United States.
“We have remained in this state of limbo for too long,” he said.
Signs of hope
Mr. Guterres nevertheless sees the decision by Russia and the United States to extend New START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) and engage in dialogue, as a sign of hope. He added that the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which entered into force in January, also constitutes a welcome step.
The responsibility to build on these developments, said the Secretary-General, falls on Member States. He described the Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, scheduled to take place in January 2022, as a window of opportunity for all countries to take practical steps to comprehensiely prevent the use of, and eliminate, nuclear weapons.
“Now is the time to lift this cloud for good, eliminate nuclear weapons from our world”, exhorted Mr. Guterres, “and usher in a new era of dialogue, trust and peace for all people”.