On the 26th of August 2020
Key note address by President Tarja Halonen
President of the General Assembly, Excellencies, dear listeners,
It is an honour to join today’s commemoration of the International Day against Nuclear Tests. Thank you to the President of the General Assembly for convening this important meeting and inviting me to be part of it.
Six weeks ago, we were commemorating the victims of nuclear bombings in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Today our message and our ambition are clear: never again. Never again the use of a nuclear weapon. Never again a war.
Nuclear weapons have been used twice in wartime and with horrible consequences. Often overlooked is that there has been more than 2000 nuclear test explosions by at least eight countries since 1945.
The tests, particularly the atmospheric detonations, have negatively affected the lives and health of millions of people around the globe. In response, ordinary citizens, scientists, legislators, and government leaders have pursued a long effort to bring into force a global verifiable comprehensive nuclear test ban, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).
Currently, the Treaty has 184 signatories and 168 ratifications and it establishes a norm against nuclear testing. However I would like to remind us all, that the Treaty will not enter into force until eight key states ratify it. Once again, we appeal to these eight states to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.
Excellencies, dear friends,
Rethinking disarmament today does not necessarily imply dismissing the progress that we have made in the past. On the contrary, rethinking disarmament to me implies capitalizing even more on existing work and institutions through fresh and innovative approaches.
I am worried about the significant weakening of global norms and institutions, which have contributed to international peace and security.
These include some key mechanisms that have helped reduce nuclear threats and prevent the use of nuclear weapons.
I have, for a long time, championed more comprehensive understanding of security. The security threats of today are manifold; pandemics, climate change and extreme poverty, just to name a few. And these threats do not end at the national borders.
We need wide-reaching collaboration and diverse participation to counter these threats. We need to use the whole human capacity.
The worrying trend of weakening the multilateral collaboration threatens to further diminish the international community’s ability to address these significant transboundary challenges.
Some countries deem it necessary to develop and retain nuclear weapons for their security. At the same time, the very same weapons pose an existential threat to every nation and every human being on our planet. We must overcome this paradox.
Our ultimate goal is a world free of nuclear weapons. This can only be achieved through a process that provides increased security for all. This requires a good faith effort to build trust through dialogue, while exercising restraint in rhetoric and postures. Putting a permanent end to nuclear testing is an important step towards a world free of nuclear weapons.
As a Member of the CTBTO Group of Eminent Persons, I am deeply attached to the noble objective of a world free from nuclear testing.
It is only through the full implementation of the CTBT that the world will enjoy its promised benefits for international peace, security and development.
Much progress has been achieved over the years, both in reinforcing the Treaty and the non-test norm, and building up and maintaining the Treaty’s verification in a sustainable and cost-effective manner.
For States, ratifying the CTBT provides both an opportunity to lower the prospects of a new nuclear arms race and an opening to build trust with each other via scientific cooperation and data sharing.
For citizens and communities, CTBT represents a first concrete step towards nuclear disarmament.
In the post-Covid world, what is urgently needed is a reordering of priorities and a rethinking of approaches that will allow to rebuild trust and confidence in science-based diplomacy, and multilateral solutions to global security threats.
These principles must be embraced if we are to safeguard and build upon the international nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament regime, which is the only way to advance the overarching objective of a world free of nuclear weapons.
The entry into force of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty is an attainable victory for the international community that is hiding in plain sight.
Let us work together to finally put an end to nuclear testing by anyone, anywhere, and for all time.