Following is the text of UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ video message to the Advisory Board on Disarmament Matters, today:
Distinguished members of the Advisory Board on Disarmament Matters,
It is my pleasure to address your seventy-sixth session.
Since we last met, the COVID-19 crisis has continued, and indeed is far from over. Virtual gatherings remain our reality. Nonetheless, I trust your consultations will be frank, open, and fruitful in the days ahead.
As we tackle the pandemic and its social and economic impacts, we cannot lose sight of the many other interconnected and urgent challenges facing our planet. Nuclear risks are among the most dangerous, and we are in dire need of a new and decisive path to a world free of nuclear weapons.
I have already urged you to consider the possible elements for a new vision for nuclear disarmament and arms control. I am pleased to note some positive developments — first and foremost, the decision by the Russian Federation and the United States to seek a five-year extension of the “New START” Treaty. This is the first step towards reinvigorating nuclear arms control. I urge both countries to negotiate further reductions in their nuclear arsenals, and to develop new agreements that can address emerging challenges.
I also welcome the entry-into-force of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. The Treaty is an expression of the legitimate fears held by many about the growing dangers posed by nuclear weapons, and of the need for urgent action to bring about their elimination.
I hope the efforts under way in Vienna will preserve the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, a major achievement in nuclear non-proliferation and diplomacy. I have also been encouraged by positive steps taken this year to address the challenges posed by new weapon technologies.
I welcome the consensus reached by the two bodies mandated by the General Assembly on measures to address existing and potential threats relating to State use of information and communication technologies. Their reports add a valuable new level of understanding on this complex issue and demonstrate that multilateral consensus is possible on key global matters. I have also been heartened by initial efforts to reduce military threats to outer space systems, through the development of norms, rules, and principles.
The pandemic is a human tragedy. But it has created an opportunity to reconsider what we most value in our world — and what we mean by “security”. There are increasing calls for a critical evaluation of the world’s huge and growing military expenditures, which have clearly not kept us safe from COVID-19.
Meanwhile, we are short of resources for policies that prioritize human security and the well-being of our planet; for measures that create resilient communities and economies and safeguard the environment.
The pandemic also underlines the urgent need for States to advance biosecurity and biosafety measures, including at the upcoming Review Conference of the Biological Weapons Convention.
Distinguished members of the Advisory Board,
Disarmament is central to the achievement of human, national and international security. As such, it is a critical element of the United Nations’ robust prevention agenda.
Under the leadership of Her Excellency Selma Ashipala-Musavyi, you have been carving out strategies to bring disarmament back to the heart of our common efforts for peace and security. As you move into the final stage of your deliberations, I ask you to continue expanding on your forward-looking ideas on how to tackle nuclear disarmament and arms control in the twenty-first century. In particular, I look forward to your advice on three issues.
First, please reflect on how to ensure that the international community crafts strategies for disarmament that take into account the interlinkages between key issues that affect security today. These include nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction; rapidly developing new technologies; and possible new domains of conflict. Technical discussions in each silo are no longer adequate to meet today’s challenges.
Second, how can we mobilize support from Member States for more serious and transformative actions in disarmament, in an increasingly divided political environment?
Third, how do we facilitate new and transformative thinking on these issues that yields concrete, achievable results?
I commend your discussions on building effective partnerships with experts, industry, civil society stakeholders, media, academia, and the broader public. This work is crucial, if we are to confront the new challenges facing international peace and security. And we need to reinforce the understanding amongst the global public that disarmament is fundamental to their security.
I wish you all a productive and successful session. I look forward to the outcome of your discussions and to your recommendations.