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UN chief launches new disarmament agenda ‘to secure our world and our future’

“The United Nations was created with the goal of eliminating war as an instrument of foreign policy,” Secretary-General António Guterres said, unveiling his new agenda, entitled, Securing Our Common Future, at the University of Geneva, in Switzerland.

“But seven decades on, our world is as dangerous as it has ever been,” he warned.

“Disarmament prevents and ends violence. Disarmament supports sustainable development. And disarmament is true to our values and principles,” he explained.

The launch comes at a time when “arms control has been in the news every day, sometimes in relation to Iran and Syria, sometimes the Korean Peninsula,” said the UN chief.

The new Agenda focuses on three priorities – weapons of mass destruction, conventional weapons, and new battlefield technologies.

First, he stressed that disarmament of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons could “save humanity,” noting that some 15,000 nuclear weapons remain stockpiled around the world and hundreds are ready to be launched within minutes.

“We are one mechanical, electronic or human error away from a catastrophe that could eradicate entire cities from the map,” he warned.

Mr. Guterres said the States that possess nuclear weapons have the primary responsibility for avoiding catastrophe. In that regard, he appealed to Russia and the US to resolve their dispute over the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty; to extend the New START treaty on strategic offensive arms, which is due to expire in just three years; and to take new steps towards reducing nuclear stockpiles.

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In opinion piece, Secretary-General António Guterres shares new vision for UN

9 January 2017 – In an opinion piece for Newsweek, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres outlined a vision for addressing the enormous challenges facing the international community, including maintaining peace and security, promoting economic development, and combatting climate change.

“The greatest shortcoming of the international community today is its failure to prevent conflict and maintain global security,” he wrote. The new Secretary-General, whose five-year term began on 1 January, is urging the international community to respond to recent crises by committing to a more diplomatic and peaceful 2017. To do that, he argued, we must focus on the basics: stronger institutions and more resilient societies.

To strengthen prevention efforts, he urged, the global community must put human rights at the forefront of its national and international policies and ensure that women are free from violence and discrimination. This approach, he emphasized, is essential to sustainable development.

In situations where prevention has failed, Mr. Guterres advocated for greater mediation, arbitration, and “creative diplomacy backed by all countries with influence.” He called for countries to settle differences through peaceful means and hailed the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development as a “blueprint for making our world more equitable, sustainable, and liveable.”

The Secretary-General also outlined a plan of reform for the United Nations itself, promising simplification, decentralization, and flexibility within the Organization.

“The United Nations must focus on delivery rather than process and on people rather than bureaucracy,” he wrote. That vision, explained Mr. Guterres, includes a “culture of accountability, strong performance management, and effective protection for whistleblowers.”

In addition, the Secretary-General spoke of improvements to peacekeeping operations and a commitment to gender parity. He intends to ensure that women hold senior roles at the UN and that women continue to be represented at all levels of the organization.

However, he stressed that reforms are dependent upon trust among leaders, people, and institutions at national and international levels. Leaders, he added, must prove that they care about their people as well as global stability and solidarity.

“It is time for all of us to remember the values of our common humanity, the values that are fundamental to all religions and that form the basis of the UN Charter: peace, justice, respect, human rights, tolerance, and solidarity,” he urged.

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On Non-Violence Day, Ban highlights link between peace and nature

2 October 2016 – United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today stressed the link between non-violence, peace and nature as he observed the International Day of Non-Violence.

“Every year on the International Day of Non-Violence, we re-commit ourselves to the cause of peace, as exemplified by the life of Mahatma Gandhi who was born on this day 147 years ago,” Mr. Ban said in his message for the Day.

The UN General Assembly, through a resolution in 2007, designated 2 October as the International Day of Non-Violence to coincide with the birthday of Gandhi, who led the country's independence movement and pioneered the philosophy and strategy of non-violence.

“We know that a culture of non-violence begins with respect for others, but it does not end there. To nurture peace, we must respect nature. I am pleased this year's International Day of Non-Violence puts the focus on sustainability and the environment,” Mr. Ban said.

“In all he did, Gandhi honoured our obligation to all living things. He reminded us that 'Earth provides enough to satisfy everyone's needs, but not everyone's greed.' Gandhi also challenged us to 'be the change we wish to see in the world,'” the Secretary-General noted.

Today India's commitment is reflected in a momentous way, the UN chief said, as its government is depositing its instrument of ratification for the Paris Agreement on climate change.

There is no better way to commemorate Gandhi and his legacy for people and planet, he said, urging all countries to complete their domestic processes for ratification and also strive in all activities to achieve progress through non-violence.

 

The Day is annually observed worldwide with commemorative events.

At the UN Headquarters, it was celebrated with a programme that included, besides India's ratification of the Paris Agreement, performance by renowned Indian classical music singer Sudha Raghunathan as well as the unveiling of a commemorative UN postage stamp of Indian music legend M.S. Subbulakshmi.

The speakers included UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson, General Assembly President Peter Thomson, and Professor Barry L. Gan, Director of Center of Non-Violence, St. Bonaventure University, New York.

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