On the occasion of the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons, which took place on Sunday 26 September, the UN Secretary-General pointed out that the first resolution adopted by the General Assembly in 1946 reflected the will to "eliminate atomic weapons from national armaments, as well as all other weapons capable of causing significant collective destruction".
"Seventy-six years later, we have not yet achieved the objectives of that resolution," said António Guterres in a message in which he warns that "we are facing the highest level of nuclear risk in almost four decades".
He adds that "there are nearly 14,000 nuclear weapons stockpiled around the world" and "it only takes the push of a button for hundreds of them to be launched".
While it is true that the total number of such weapons has been declining for decades, Guterres is concerned that "states are qualitatively upgrading their arsenals” and are showing signs of "a new arms race".
"These weapons are not a problem of the past. They continue to pose a threat today. Despite our progress, humanity remains unacceptably close to nuclear annihilation," he reflects.
However, he notes that there are also reasons to be hopeful, such as the recent decision by the Russian Federation and the United States to extend the New START Treaty, which limits the number of strategic arms between the two countries, as well as the willingness to engage in dialogue.
Another reason for hope is the entry into force of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in January.
"The onus is now on member states to build on this progress. The Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons offers an opportunity for all countries to take practical steps to prevent the use of these weapons, and to eliminate them once and for all," said Guterres.
For the UN chief, we can no longer allow the shadow of nuclear conflict to overshadow our efforts to advance development, achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and end the COVID-19 pandemic.
"It is time to end this scourge for good, eliminate nuclear weapons from our world and usher in a new era of dialogue, trust and peace for all," he concluded.