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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 27, June 1998

Statement on Disarmament by UN Secretary-General

'Secretary-General's statement to advisory board on disarmament matters,' United Nations Press Release SG/SM/6618, 30 June 1998

Editor's note: the statement was delivered on behalf of the UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, by Jayantha Dhanapala, Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs.

"Since you last met in March in Geneva, there has been a dramatic change in the security landscape in South Asia, with global repercussions, as a result of nuclear tests conducted by India and Pakistan. The international community was rightly shocked and disturbed by the tipping of the balance on which the nuclear non-proliferation regime rests. Decades of international effort aimed at nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation suffered a serious setback.

As you know, I expressed to India my deep regret about its grave choice to test nuclear devices 24 years after it had exploded its first test in 1974. I also made clear to Pakistan, before and after it conducted its series of tests, the seriousness of its decision to step over the nuclear threshold. Many nations of the world and their peoples joined me in decrying those recent events. The Security Council has also spoken with one voice on the dangers these tests represent, and has requested me 'to report urgently to the Council on the steps taken by India and Pakistan' to comply with the Council's various demands. ...

I will be continuing my efforts to encourage India and Pakistan to resume their bilateral talks on the issues that have divided them. I have been in contact with the leaders and have dispatched an envoy to the region [Alvaro de Soto, Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs] to deliver personal messages to them and to prepare for my own eventual visit there.

The tests by India and Pakistan have reiterated that the dangers associated with nuclear weapons remain at the top of the international agenda. The end of Cold War tensions had allowed us to envision a world moving irreversibly towards the ultimate goal of eliminating nuclear weapons. We saw large-scale reductions in nuclear weapons by the two major nuclear Powers; bilateral cooperation in the destruction of existing stocks of nuclear weapons; and reductions and eliminations of systems by the other nuclear-weapon States. I would like to stress that despite the current pause in achieving disarmament agreements, that vision should continue to inform our work.

As you know, two years from now we will have the next five-year review of the non-proliferation Treaty. Last month, the Preparatory Committee for that session concluded its second session, and the results, I am afraid to report, were inauspicious.

Deep differences continue to divide the non-nuclear-weapon States parties from the nuclear-weapon States parties, especially over the implementation of article 6 of the Treaty, and on security assurances in legally binding form. It is clear that greater efforts towards nuclear disarmament are needed on the part of all States, but particularly the nuclear Powers. The current stalemate is unacceptable. I wish the Chairman of the third Preparatory Committee, Ambassador Andelfo García, a member of this Board, success in the heavy responsibility he is about to undertake.

On the positive side of the ledger one can count movement towards preparation of a treaty establishing a nuclear-weapon-free zone in Central Asia. Meetings of the C-5 countries this year and next should sustain this momentum, and are in keeping with the principles and objectives adopted by the 1995 Review and Extension Conference of the [NPT]

Our current focus on nuclear issues should not obscure efforts in other areas. I am pleased that the Panel of Governmental Experts on Small Arms, under the stewardship of Ambassador Mitsuro Donowaki of this Board, has begun its work with a view to submitting a report to the Assembly at its fifty-fourth session in 1999. I understand as well that the Study Group on Ammunition and Explosives held its first session and will report to the Group on Small Arms.

Let no one underestimate the devastating impact of small arms. When 90 per cent of victims of conflicts fought with small arms today are civilians, and 80 per cent of them are women and children, the international community is challenged to mount a humanitarian response. When short- and long-term economic and social programmes are jeopardized by the outbreak of conflict, the international community's development efforts are put to the test. When the possibility exists that conflicts will recur, measures for post-conflict consolidation of peace - that is, practical disarmament measures - must be assured. Here I am referring to the collection, disposal and destruction of arms, and the demobilization of former combatants and the reintegration of those combatants into civil society, including job training and skill enhancement. Where civil unrest in an economically depressed area has led to a proliferation of small arms, as is the case of Albania, and in turn affected the social and economic stability of the country, incentives and disincentives must be offered for the population to turn over their excess arms.

Last week the Department for Disarmament Affairs presented to the Senior Management Group a proposal for multisectoral and coordinated action on small arms. That proposal received a positive response and calls for a system-wide commitment for a range of measures, including priority setting, advocacy, resource mobilization and the identification of a focal point within the United Nations system - the Department for Disarmament Affairs - for all United Nations action on small arms. I see great potential here. In addition to the Department of Disarmament Affairs, the Departments of Political Affairs, Peacekeeping Operations and Public Information, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, as well as the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research, the United Nations Development Programme, the United Nations Children's Fund, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the Office for Crime Prevention, and representatives of civil society are all engaged in this effort. … "

© 1998 The Acronym Institute.

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