UN Chief Puts Forward New Global Disarmament Agenda

[UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferre]

Last Thursday UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, announced a new global disarmament agenda at the University of Geneva, Switzerland. The plan called for the total elimination of nuclear weapons.

Guterres addressed several reasons for the agenda; which included the human and economic cost of militarisation, the increasing complexity of intra-State and regional conflict, eroding respect for international norms and institutions, and the fact that long-standing commitments still remain unfulfilled.

The UN Chief further stated that the agenda is prioritising weapons of mass destruction, conventional weapons, and new battlefield technologies; arguing that “we are one mechanical, electronic or human error away from a catastrophe that could eradicate entire cities from the map.”

It was noted that the disarmament of the 15,000 nuclear weapons worldwide (including the ones currently ready to be launched within seconds) could “save humanity”. Moreover, it was debated that the disarmament of conventional arms (relatively widely used weapons that are not weapons of mass destruction) could save the lives of many, especially innocent civilians not party to the conflict.

This statement prompted Guterres to call for the USA and Russia to come to agreement over the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, and also add an extension to the New START treaty on strategic offensive arms. The latter will expire in three years.

Another argument put forward by Guterres was the fact that, last year, worldwide military expenditure was well over $1.7 trillion; this has been the highest since 1989 – the time of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Shockingly, Guterres revealed that this expenditure was approximately 80 times the amount of global humanitarian aid requirements.

In an ode to peace, the cover of the agenda displays a crane; paying homage to Japanese legend, which states that a wish will be granted by the gods to someone who folds a thousand paper cranes. Suffering from leukaemia after the 1945 Hiroshima atomic bomb, Sadako Sasaki, (a survivor of the blast) folded over a thousand cranes in the hopes that she would return to health.

Although she eventually died from her illness, Sasaki and her cranes have become worldwide symbols of peace. Therefore, it is only fitting that the new disarmament agenda display such a powerful image on its front page.

International Human Rights / Humanitarian Law

Phoebe Egoroff

Founder and of Jurist International, a website focusing on the latest developments in international human rights and criminal law.

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