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UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon message to the Conference on Disarmament, 10 January 2009

Secretary-General, in message to Geneva meeting, urges Disarmament Conference to start 'practical negotiations that will lead to real disarmament', UN Secretary-General SG/SM/12055 DC/3154, 10 January 2009.

It is a pleasure to send greetings to the Conference on Disarmament. As you know, one of my personal priorities since my first day in office has been to revitalize the international disarmament agenda and strengthen the effectiveness of the United Nations itself in this area. I, therefore, attach great importance to your work and to the wide-ranging efforts of Governments, citizens' groups and activists throughout the world in the area of disarmament and non-proliferation. From conventional weapons and small arms to weapons of mass destruction, the risks are clear. I remain committed to using every opportunity, in my meetings with Government leaders and my outreach to civil society, to forge partnerships and mobilize action. I look forward to continuing this work with you in 2009.

The immediate task before the Conference is to convert your discussions on procedure into practical negotiations that will lead to real disarmament. At a time of global economic and financial crisis, advancing the disarmament agenda could produce a tangible peace dividend when the world needs it most. The United Nations Charter calls for "the least diversion for armaments of the world's human and economic resources". If we are to deliver on the Millennium Development Goals in a deteriorating economic climate, all United Nations Member States must be mindful of this solemn responsibility.

There have been promising signs in recent months, including important initiatives by the United States, the United Kingdom, France, China, Russia, the European Union, the non-aligned countries and other Governments. Civil society continues to generate visibility and support. The United Nations and the Conference on Disarmament should seize this moment and be in the vanguard of efforts towards a world free of nuclear weapons.

Last October, I issued a five-point proposal to revitalize the international disarmament agenda. Included in this proposal were several specific contributions that could be made by the Conference on Disarmament with respect to nuclear disarmament and fissile materials. Indeed, this Conference and its predecessors have an impressive record of achievement, including the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the Bacteriological and Toxin Weapons Convention, the Chemical Weapons Convention and the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty. These instruments demonstrate the potential of the Conference.

For two consecutive years, a proposal to begin substantive work on four core issues -- nuclear disarmament, fissile materials, security assurances and the prevention of an arms race in outer space -- has been at the centre of your deliberations. The Conference has come very close to agreeing to this proposal.

Your recent discussions have had many positive features. These discussions, however, cannot substitute for negotiations. I urge you once again to overcome the deadlock and reach a consensus on an agenda that will permit the resumption of substantive work. I also call on you to intensify your efforts on measures that have already been the subject of your deliberations, including new bans on weapons such as missiles and space weapons. The Conference is a unique multilateral negotiating forum, and must be able to play its proper role.

For my part, I remain strongly committed to global disarmament and will continue to support your efforts to build a better, more prosperous and more peaceful world for all. Please accept my best wishes for a successful session.

Source: United Nations, www.un.org.

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