UN Secretary-General Announces Initiative for Global Disarmament
UN Photo/Cia Pak
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The UN Secretary-General has presented an agenda that focuses on three priorities: weapons of mass destruction; conventional weapons; and new battlefield technologies.

He underscored the initiative’s basis in the 2030 Agenda, stressing the importance of disarmament for preventing and ending violence, supporting sustainable development and upholding the UN’s values and principles.

The Agenda document includes recommendations for how States can address disarmament and the SDGs.

24 May 2018: UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has announced a vision and agenda for global disarmament, aiming to eliminate nuclear arsenals and other deadly weapons around the world. He said the initiative has a strong basis in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and that spending resources on weapons drains resources from sustainable development efforts.

Gueterres introduced the agenda in remarks at the University of Geneva, Switzerland, on 24 May 2018. It is also presented in a publication titled, ‘Securing Our Common Future,’ released on the same day.

Recalling that the UN was created with the goal of “eliminating war as an instrument of foreign policy,” Guterres noted that arms control continues to be “in the news everyday.” The Agenda will focus on three priorities: reducing and eliminating weapons of mass destruction, “to save humanity”; reducing and mitigating the impact of conventional weapons, “to save lives”; and addressing new battlefield technologies, “for future generations.”

Guterres explained that disarmament of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons can prevent and end violence, support sustainable development and support the UN’s values and principles. Observing that 15,000 nuclear weapons are stockpiled around the world, he said the world is “one mechanical, electronic or human error away from a catastrophe that could eradicate entire cities from the map,” and appealed to States with nuclear weapons to take action to avoid catastrophe. He called for the US and the Russian Federation to: resolve the dispute over the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty; to extend the New START Treaty on strategic offensive arms, which is scheduled to expire in three years; and to take new steps towards reducing nuclear stockpiles.

On small arms, the UN Secretary-General announced a new initiative to combat the illicit circulation and trade in small arms. He said he will dedicate resources within the Peacebuilding Fund to support government action on illicit small arms and light weapons.

On new technologies, Guterres urged the use of big data and analytics and artificial intelligence, among other new technological tools, to help combat and mitigate climate change, protect the environment and create conditions for development and growth for all. However, governments must improve oversight, transparency and accountability to ensure that science and technology is used for peaceful purposes, he said.

Guterres called for bringing back the “historical relationship between disarmament and development.”

The UN Secretary-General also highlighted linkages between the disarmament agenda and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, underscoring that “excessive spending on weapons drains resources for sustainable development” and is incompatible with creating inclusive, stable societies, strong institutions, effective democracy and governance and a culture of respect for human rights. The disarmament agenda underscores a “vast potential” to operationally link implementation of disarmament objectives with many SDGs, the report notes, arguing that such action can help to bring back the historical relationship between disarmament and development.

‘Securing Our Common Future’ explains that disarmament can support progress on SDG 16 (peace, justice and strong institutions), which includes targets on disarmament and arms regulations. In addition, it identifies connections between disarmament and SDG 3 (good health and well-being), SDG 4 (quality education), SDG 5 (gender equality), SDG 8 (decent work and economic growth), SDG 10 (reduced inequalities), SDG 11 (sustainable cities and communities), SDG 14 (life below water), SDG 15 (life on land) and SDG 17 (partnerships for the Goals).

On SDG 3, for example, the report cites armed violence as a leading cause of premature death, and argues that disarmament and arms control can reduce the impact of conflict on human health. Gender-responsive disarmament and arms control can reduce violence against women and girls, in line with SDG 5. Disarmament and arms control can support SDG 14 and SDG 15 by reducing the impact of weapons on the environment; previous testing and use of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons have contaminated the environment.

Linkages between the ‘Securing Our Common Future’ agenda and the SDGs are highlighted throughout the document, with specific recommendations for how States can address disarmament and the SDGs. [UN Press Release] [UN Secretary-General remarks] [Publication: Securing Our Common Future: An Agenda for Disarmament]

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