Rebuilding a Common Vision on Disarmament and Arms Control

By Guterres, António | Arms Control Today, April 2018 | Go to article overview

Rebuilding a Common Vision on Disarmament and Arms Control


Guterres, António, Arms Control Today


The dangers of nuclear weapons are all too clear. They pose a catastrophic risk to human life and to the environment, and there is great and justified anxiety around the world about the threat of nuclear war.

In East Asia, millions face this threat up close on a daily basis. I welcome the courageous initiatives taken by the Republic of Korea during the Olympic Games, but this is not enough. We need lasting improvements, based on the central objective of the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula and sustainable peace in the region. I also welcome the completion of reductions by the United States and the Russian Federation under the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty.

Disarmament and arms control have achieved important gains. They have reduced inventories of strategic nuclear weapons, entirely prohibited chemical and biological weapons, and led to agreed prohibitions and limits on the use of indiscriminate weapons, including landmines and cluster munitions, but the first resolution of the General Assembly- seeking the complete elimination of weapons of mass destruction-remains unfulfilled. There are currently some 15,000 nuclear weapons on earth. The danger posed by these weapons inspired the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons that opened for signature last year.

In recent years, long-standing goals, including reductions in military spending and armed forces, have been seemingly forgotten. Military power is celebrated, without reference to the obscene human cost of conflict. The global arms trade has reached the highest level since the Cold War.

Strategic tensions are jeopardizing gains in nonproliferation, as countries persist in the belief that nuclear weapons make the world safer. Nonstate actors pose an enormous threat to global disarmament efforts. Science and technology are accelerating development of autonomous and remotely controlled weapons, challenging normative frameworks. Nuclear weapons are being re-evaluated as tactical battlefield munitions-a dangerous prospect.

Meanwhile, the impact of war has moved from frontlines to front doors. Armed conflicts are killing more and more civilians, as governments and nonstate armed groups use powerful explosive weapons in populated areas. …

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