Press Releases

    8 March 2004

    Secretary-General, Addressing Conference on Weapons of Mass Destruction, Urges Greater Resolve to Enforce Arms Treaties

    NEW YORK, 5 March (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the text of Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s remarks at the International Peace Academy Conference on Weapons of Mass Destruction and the United Nations, held today in New York:

    I am very glad to be able to join you, albeit briefly, for this conference on a topic of great importance for all of us.

    I would like to congratulate the International Peace Academy on organizing it.  And I would like to thank the Government of New Zealand for its generous support, both in terms of leadership and funding.

    The United Nations has been seeking the global elimination of weapons of mass destruction ever since the General Assembly adopted its first resolution on 24 January 1946.  For an organization dedicated to saving future generations from the scourge of war, there could scarcely be a more sensible goal to pursue, nor one more important to the ultimate achievement of many other aims of the Charter.

    Yet the world continues to confront profound dangers from the acquisition, possession, and possible use of these deadly weapons.  And let us be clear:  the threats are inherent in such activities, regardless of who may be undertaking them.

    Treaty regimes have great potential, but doubts are sometimes cast on their effectiveness.  That is why reliable verification measures are needed, and why the world must strengthen its resolve to enforce such commitments. 

    And of course, in the last couple of years we have become much more attuned to another grave potential danger:  that terrorists might acquire weapons of mass destruction.

    The high-level panel that I have appointed on threats, challenge and change will be looking at all of these issues, as well as those threats in the economic and social areas, to the extent that they influence peace and security and the underlying conflicts and tensions that motivate those seeking such weapons in the first place.

    People have described the panel as a panel on United Nations reform.  It may indeed propose changes in our rules, mechanisms and processes.  But if so, those changes will be a means to an end.  The primary objective is to have a collective security system that acts effectively to deal with all global threats, and inspires confidence in all states.  It is a huge challenge, but I hope they will give us some helpful proposals.

    I hope to make recommendations to the General Assembly later this year or early in 2005.  And while the ultimate decisions can be taken only by the Member States, I expect the panel to gather wisdom from around the world, and not to organize a closed-door exercise, and to listen to the advice of civil society, universities, other sources.  So I hope you will make your views known.

    In closing, perhaps you are all aware that today is the thirty-fourth anniversary of the entry into force of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.  Let us all, as we move ahead, recommit ourselves not just to that treaty, but to all the others dedicated to eliminating weapons of mass destruction.

    I wish you all the best for a fruitful conference, and I look forward to seeing the report of this conference.

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