Press Releases

    23 January 2002


    NEW YORK, 22 January (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the text of the message of Secretary-General Kofi Annan to the Conference on Disarmament at Geneva on 22 January, delivered on the Secretary-General’s behalf by Vladimir Petrovsky, Director-General of the United Nations Office in Geneva:

    The events of 11 September 2001 and their aftermath have brought home to the world the uncomfortable fact that disarmament and non-proliferation remain unfinished business, and that there is an acute need to strengthen existing measures, explore new ones for halting the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and step up concerted efforts to eliminate these weapons from arsenals altogether. Even more directly, those events reminded us that effective measures are needed -– and need to be swiftly implemented -- to eliminate the risk of weapons of mass destruction falling into the hands of terrorists.

    In the aftermath of the September attacks, the United Nations General Assembly unanimously reaffirmed multilateralism as a core principle in negotiations on disarmament and non-proliferation. The Assembly also emphasized the need for progress in multilateral cooperation on disarmament and non-proliferation, to contribute to global efforts against terrorism. It is my sincere hope that this Conference will respond to these challenges with dynamism and determination.

    Such a response requires a complete break with the recent prolonged inactivity of the Conference. The past year yet again saw lack of progress in multilateral disarmament efforts. The abrupt end of negotiations on a protocol to strengthen the Biological Weapons Convention undermined the subsequent Review Conference of the States Parties to the Convention, which was therefore suspended without agreement on a final declaration. The announcement of the withdrawal of the United States from the ABM Treaty, regarded for years as a cornerstone of strategic stability, raised concerns over the risk of a new nuclear arms race, a loss of credibility in the commitment to nuclear disarmament, a weaponization of outer space and a tendency towards unilateral approaches to international arms issues. And despite the strong reaffirmation of international support for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty at the 2001 Conference to Facilitate its Entry-into-Force, the Treaty has yet to take effect five years after being opened for signature.

    In spite of this stagnation, there have been some positive developments in the international arena:

    • The substantial reduction in nuclear weapons announced by the United States is indeed welcome progress -- but reductions mutually agreed by the major nuclear-weapon Powers would give the rest of the international community greater confidence in the irreversibility of those cuts.
    • The Conference on the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects adopted a programme of action, providing a blueprint for international and regional cooperation that may eventually lead to binding international norms.
    • And the Second Review Conference of the States Parties to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons expanded its scope of application to non-international armed conflicts and established mechanisms to address the issues of explosive remnants of war and mines other than anti-personnel mines.

    There were also some positive developments in your Conference itself. I welcome the movement in bridging the divergent views and interests of Member States on mechanisms to deal with two outstanding issues -- nuclear disarmament and prevention of an arms race in outer space -- although there are still differences of opinion on the respective mandates. In this context, negotiations on banning the production of fissile material for weapon purposes are essential. I urge you to continue the consensus-building process with perseverance and determination.

    I hope that, as you embark on this new year, the events of 2001 will serve as a catalyst for the pursuit of new approaches to overcoming the stagnation in the Conference. I strongly believe that the representative membership of this Conference gives it the intellectual and political potential to overcome the current stalemate, and I trust you will use that potential to its fullest extent. I pledge the full cooperation of the United Nations in that endeavour, and wish you a productive session.

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