5 August 2005

Secretary-General Heartened by Mayor’s Vision of Global Ban on Nuclear Weapons by 2020

NEW YORK, 4 August (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the text of the message by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to the General Conference of the Mayors for Peace commemorating the sixtieth anniversary of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, delivered in Hiroshima today by Nobuyasu Abe, Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs:

Please accept my best wishes for this Conference of Mayors for Peace commemorating the 60th Anniversary of the Atomic Bombings.

When the atom was split over Hiroshima and Nagasaki 60 years ago, a dark shadow was cast over our human future.  Untold destruction and human suffering were unleashed; more than 100,000 men, women and children were killed instantly, and more than 200,000 more were condemned to horrific and lethal sickness.  Global politics were transformed forever.  We entered a new and terrifying era in which the annihilation of humankind suddenly loomed as a real possibility. Our mutual vulnerability became inescapable.

And yet, from that shadow, a new hope emerged.  Recognition of our interdependence ushered in the United Nations and the concept of our collective security. The link between the horrors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the founding aspirations of the UN was quickly manifest:  the UN General Assembly, in its very first resolution, declared that our common goal must be the elimination of all weapons “adaptable to mass destruction”.

Six decades later, our world has been reawakened to nuclear dangers.  Nuclear proliferation remains one of the most pressing problems confronting our world. Tens of thousands of nuclear weapons remain, many of them on “hair-trigger” alert. The emergence of a nuclear black market and attempts by terrorists to acquire nuclear weapons and materials have compounded the nuclear threat.

Today, our challenge -- as it was for the founders of the United Nations -- is to pass on to our children a brighter legacy than that bequeathed to us.  We must build a future as envisioned in the UN Charter -- a future “in larger freedom”. That requires us to continue to work towards a world free of nuclear dangers, and ultimately, of nuclear weapons.  All States must do everything in their power to ensure that the horrors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are not visited on any peoples, anywhere, ever again.

I am heartened, therefore, that you are promoting your vision of a global ban on nuclear weapons by 2020.  As representatives of the aspirations of peoples and communities around the world, as a link between the local and the global, you have a crucial role to play.

I hope that in September, when heads of State and government convene at the United Nations for one of the largest gatherings of world leaders ever, they will use the occasion to take bold steps towards realizing your vision.  For the sake of succeeding generations, for your communities today, and to honour the memory of the victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, they must do no less.

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