For information only - not an official document

25 February 2019

The Secretary-General

Remarks to the Conference on Disarmament

Geneva, 25 February 2019

[bilingual as delivered]

Mr. President ,

Excellencies, Distinguished delegates

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is indeed a privilege to take the floor here in this Council Chamber, a space that was created to nurture the agreements that make our world a safer place.

The words inscribed outside these doors are as urgent as ever: "Nations must disarm or perish."

I will be blunt. Key components of the international arms control architecture are collapsing.

The continued use of chemical weapons with impunity is driving new proliferation.

Thousands of civilian lives continue to be lost because of illicit small arms and the use in urban areas of explosive weapons designed for open battlefields.

New weapon technologies are intensifying risks in ways we do not yet understand and cannot even imagine.

We need a new vision for arms control in the complex international security environment of today.

But, as we work toward this new common endeavor, we must take great care to preserve our existing frameworks which continue to bring us indispensable benefits.

Many of the most successful and ambitious disarmament and arms control initiatives over the past several decades were those led by the major powers; that is perfectly natural.

Their drive to regulate and eliminate arms was the product of a strategic understanding of how cooperation and agreement could be the most effective security tools to help prevent, mitigate and resolve armed conflict.

And that is why it is one of my highest priorities.

Over the past seven decades, United Nations Member States have made great gains in these fields.

But our efforts are in increasing jeopardy.

States are seeking security not in the proven collective value of diplomacy and dialogue, but in developing and accumulating new weapons.

And the situation is particularly dangerous as regards nuclear weapons.

The demise of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, should it be allowed to happen, would make the world a more insecure and unstable place. That insecurity and instability will be keenly felt here in Europe. And we simply cannot afford to return to the unrestrained nuclear competition of the darkest days of the Cold War.

I call on the parties to the INF Treaty to use the time remaining to engage in sincere dialogue on the various issues that have been raised. It is very important that this treaty is preserved.

I also call on the United States and the Russian Federation to extend the so-called "New START" Treaty before it expires in 2021.

This Treaty is the only international legal instrument limiting the size of the world's two largest nuclear arsenals, and its inspection provisions represent an important confidence-building set of measures that benefit the entire world.

I urge Russia and the United States to use the time provided by an extension to the treaty to consider further reductions in their strategic nuclear arsenals.

I dream of the day when these bilateral arrangements become multilateral.

And at their summit in Hanoi later this week, I hope that the leaders of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and the United States agree to concrete steps for sustainable, peaceful, complete and verifiable denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.


Ladies and gentlemen,

The treaties and instruments that make up the existing nuclear arms control and disarmament regime were painstakingly constructed over years.

States entered into dialogue despite harboring deep suspicion towards each other. At that time, too, the world was suffering from a serious case of Trust Deficit Disorder.

But in the absence of trust, governments sought the strictest verification measures.

The bilateral arms control process between the Russian Federation and the United States has been one of the hallmarks of international security for fifty years.

Thanks to their efforts, global stockpiles of nuclear weapons are now less than one- sixth of what they were in 1985.

That is the legacy that is in grave danger.

The arms control and disarmament regime is built on the good-faith implementation of provisions - and on rigorous verification and enforcement of compliance. I hope the parties will make use of both, while there is still time.

More broadly, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty remains an essential pillar of international peace and security and the foundation for both nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation.

Distinguished delegates,

Since I last addressed this Conference, I launched the Disarmament Agenda "Securing Our Common Future" which includes 40 specific commitments to support disarmament.

And I have directed the Office for Disarmament Affairs to work with the entire UN System to implement these, and significant progress has already been made.

The Agenda is a useful guide for action by the United Nations system. But it was created to serve as a tool to support the work of Member States, who have a responsibility for providing a clear, ambitious and realistic vision.

This vision should be a bridge from the lessons of the past to the emerging challenges of the twenty-first century.

The slow demise of the Cold War-era arms control regime is already having profound consequences. Member States cannot let the world sleepwalk into a new nuclear arms race.

And I urge you in the strongest possible terms to take a decisive action to safeguard and preserve the existing system through dialogue that will help restore trust.

The development of risk reduction measures fit for this evolving environment, including transparency and confidence-building tools, would help to alleviate tensions and take us back from the nuclear brink.

Such steps could take into account regional nuclear challenges, as well as technological developments including cyber security, artificial intelligence and so- called 'hypersonic weapons' that could be used to launch attacks at unprecedented speed.

I stand ready to support you in any way I can to facilitate your efforts to develop a new vision for arms control, non-proliferation and disarmament in today's world.

Monsieur le Président,

Le ferme soutien en faveur du Traité sur l'interdiction des armes nucléaires montre qu'une majorité d'États Membres veulent éliminer ces terribles armes de destruction massive.

Mains nous ne pourrons y parvenir que par un dialogue constructif, comme dans le cadre de la Conférence du désarmement.

Or l'unique instance multilatérale de la communauté internationale pour les négociations sur le désarmement n'a entrepris aucune négociation sur cette question en 20 ans.

En conséquence, les négociations relatives à la maîtrise des armements se déroulent de plus en plus souvent dans d'autres instances, y compris à l'Assemblée générale ou hors du cadre de l'ONU.

J'invite instamment la Conférence à démontrer qu'elle peut donner de la valeur ajoutée au système multilatéral.

Si les membres de la Conférence souhaitent qu'elle retrouve la place que ses fondateurs avaient envisagée pour elle, ils doivent chercher de nouveau à négocier des accords multilatéraux.

L'histoire de cette salle vient nous rappeler que l'incapacité du Conseil de la Société des Nations à s'attaquer aux problèmes de sécurité les plus pressants de l'époque a compté pour beaucoup dans le fait qu'il a perdu sa raison d'être.

La création d'organes subsidiaires et les travaux entrepris sont encourageants. J'invite les membres à s'appuyer sur les progrès accomplis.

Les procédures innovantes ont leur importance mais la Conférence sera évaluée surtout en fonction de ses résultats.

En tant que grands spécialistes mondiaux des questions de désarmement, nous comptons à la fois sur vos compétences techniques et sur vos qualités de diplomates. Vous devez vous remettre au travail.

Et je vous invite à vous montrer à la hauteur de vos prédécesseurs.


Mesdames et Messieurs,

Pour la première fois depuis de nombreuses années, la maîtrise des armements et le désarmement font la une, pour de mauvaises raisons.

Un des acquis principaux de la diplomatie internationale est gravement menacé. Il nous faut une action décisive.

L'Organisation et moi-même ferons tout ce qui est en notre pouvoir pour prêter main-forte.

Et c'est néanmoins aux États Membres qu'il revient de créer une dynamique et une stratégie. Il nous faut agir sans délai.

Je vous remercie.

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