Secretary-General remarks at the informal meeting of the General Assembly to mark the International Day against Nuclear Tests
New York, 10 September 2014
I thank the General Assembly for organizing this meeting to mark the International Day against Nuclear Tests.
Nuclear disarmament has always been a priority for me, and ending testing is a central component.
The International Day against Nuclear Tests recognizes two critical events.
On this day in 1991, Kazakhstan closed a nuclear test site near Semipalatinsk.
On that same date in 1949, the Soviet Union conducted its first nuclear test.
This was followed by another 455 nuclear tests, with a terrible effect on local population and environment.
I saw some of the enduring aftermath, and I spoke to people affected when I visited Semipalatinsk myself in April 2010, and I commend the visionary leadership and courage of President Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan by unilaterally and decisively closing the site in Semipalatinsk.
I saw all the terrible things myself. How these terrible things have affected populations and I spoke on the fields of Semipalatinsk, to the world, that there should be no more nuclear tests. If any one of you goes there and sees by yourself you’ll have the same feeling and commitment which I am making. I am very thankful that the General Assembly has designated August 29th as the International Day against Nuclear Testing.
These tests and hundreds more that occurred in other countries in the post-war period became hallmarks of a nuclear arms race.
Our human destiny was suspended on a flimsy thread — a doctrine called mutually assured destruction, known by its fitting acronym, MAD.
The madness and horror of nuclear war had already been made appallingly evident in August 1945, when just two atomic bombs destroyed the entire cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki of Japan.
They caused the deaths of approximately 213,000 people within five months and more than 300,000 people within five years.
My meetings with the survivors, in Nagasaki and Hiroshima, have been among my most humbling and heart-breaking experiences.
In Hiroshima, in Nagasaki — and in Semipalatinsk — I met people who have refused to be defeated by their tragedies.
Instead they have chosen to speak out courageously about their suffering, so that no-one else should ever suffer the same fate.
Their resolve and commitment should guide our work for a world without nuclear weapons.
And that means an end to testing.
Eighteen years ago today, the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty was adopted by the General Assembly and swiftly opened for signature.
Given the many benefits of such a global ban, it is regrettable that the Treaty has still not entered into force.
As Secretary-General, as the former Chairman of the CTBT serving in Vienna, I call on the world community not to allow despair or cynicism to erode our commitment to this great common cause.
I wish to appeal particularly to those States that have not yet ratified the CTBT, especially the eight remaining Annex 2 States whose ratification is required for the Treaty’s entry into force.
It has been already eighteen years and the CTBT has not been able to be effective, while it has been contributing a great deal in practice, we need to make it legally effective.
I wish to encourage them to look squarely at the human suffering the rest of the world is trying to address.
As we commemorate the International Day against Nuclear Tests, let us all take a fresh look at the survivors’ stories.
Let us listen to their words and imagine the effects of these detonations as if they were experienced by each of us.
Only then can we can better understand the imperative to renew our commitment to a world free of nuclear weapons and nuclear tests.
Thank you for your commitment. Thank you.
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