Statement by Amb. Sergio Duarte on behalf of Pugwash at the UN Conference to negotiate a prohibition of nuclear weapons

On March 27, 2017, Ambassador Sergio Duarte delivered a statement of behalf of the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs at the High Level segment of the United Nations conference that is negotiating a prohibition on nuclear weapons. The full text of the statement is available below.

United Nations Conference to Negotiate a Legally Binding Instrument to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons, Leading Towards their Total Elimination

New York, 27-31 March 2017

STATEMENT by Ambassador Sergio Duarte on behalf of Pugwash

Madam President, distinguished Delegates, dear colleagues, ladies and gentlemen,

Thank you very much for this opportunity to address this important Conference. I speak on behalf of Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs.

  1. What brought us here today is a historic opportunity. We must not squander it. This is the second time since nuclear weapons started to proliferate that the international community has a real chance to outlaw the most cruel and destructive means of warfare ever invented. In 1946, the General Assembly decided to create a Commission for the control of atomic energy, and ensure its use only for peaceful purposes and for the elimination of atomic weapons and all other major weapons adaptable to mass destruction. Rivalry and mistrust between the two major powers prevented agreement, and the Commission did not achieve its objective.
  2. Today, 71 years after that episode, tens of thousands of nuclear weapons still exist. The number of their possessors has increased to nine, and the possibility of their use by accident or design hangs over the international community. Further proliferation is not completely ruled out. The use of such weapons by non-State sectarian extremists is a frightening possibility.
  3. The conscience of mankind has already banned chemical and bacteriological means of warfare. A ground-breaking decision taken last year by the General Assembly brought us a second opportunity to take decisive action toward the goal of getting rid of the last and most heinous category of weapons of mass destruction.
  4. Participants in this Conference are perfectly aware that formal adoption of an instrument prohibiting nuclear weapons is not a magic wand. No one among those who for many years have earnestly advocated this action is naïve enough to believe that it will miraculously eliminate these weapons overnight. A legally binding ban subscribed by the overwhelming majority of the international community and supported by civil society will reinforce, not undermine existing agreements in the field of non-proliferation and disarmament. As proposed by the 57 States that sponsored Resolution 71/258 and supported by the 113 that voted for it last December 17, the ban should lead towards the total elimination of nuclear weapons. The new treaty must be inclusive, non-discriminatory and forward looking. It cannot ignore the realities of the current international panorama but must contain a clear rejection of nuclear weapons and a legally binding commitment to achieve complete nuclear disarmament within an agreed and workable time frame. It is supposed to increase, not decrease, the security of all nations and peoples.
  5. To reach this long-awaited result, all States must heed the call of reason and the interest of mankind as a whole. The security of a few cannot be based forever on the threat of extinction of all. All governments, as well as the societies which brought them to power, must learn to deal together and in good faith with this pressing issue. Isolationism, exceptionalism and discrimination have no place in the future of the human race.
  6. Sixty-two years ago Bertrand Russell and Albert Einstein, together with a group of distinguished scientists from different nations, issued the Manifesto that inspired the creation of the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs. In 1995, Pugwash was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize together with its then President, Joseph Rotblat, “for their efforts to diminish the part played by nuclear arms in international politics and in the longer run, to eliminate such arms”. The main message of the 1955 Manifesto is still valid today: “Remember your humanity, and forget the rest”.