Eliminating nuclear weapons would be the greatest gift we could bestow on future generations. On this important day, let us commit to forging a new consensus around defusing the nuclear threat for good and achieving our shared goal of peace.
In 1945 two atomic bombs destroyed the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and are estimated to have killed a total of 213,000 people immediately. After this unprecedented, terrible and deadly disaster with devastating consequences, efforts were made to prevent its recurrence.
The General Assembly declared the International Day in December 2013 in its resolution 68/32 as a follow-up to the high-level meeting of the General Assembly on nuclear disarmament held on 26 September 2013 in New York.
This was the latest in a series of efforts by the General Assembly to raise public awareness and to seek deeper engagement on nuclear disarmament matters. In 2009, the General Assembly had declared 29 August as the International Day against Nuclear Tests (resolution 64/35).
Achieving global nuclear disarmament is one of the oldest goals of the United Nations. It was the subject of the General Assembly’s first resolution in 1946, which established the Atomic Energy Commission (dissolved in 1952), with a mandate to make specific proposals for the control of nuclear energy and the elimination of atomic weapons and all other major weapons adaptable to mass destruction. The United Nations has been at the forefront of many major diplomatic efforts to advance nuclear disarmament since. In 1959, the General Assembly endorsed the objective of general and complete disarmament. In 1978, the first Special Session of the General Assembly Devoted to Disarmament further recognized that nuclear disarmament should be the priority objective in the field of disarmament. Every United Nations Secretary-General has actively promoted this goal.
Current Unstable Situation
Today around 12,705 nuclear weapons remain. Countries possessing such weapons have well-funded, long-term plans to modernize their nuclear arsenals. More than half of the world’s population still lives in countries that either have such weapons or are members of nuclear alliances. While the number of deployed nuclear weapons has appreciably declined since the height of the Cold War, not one nuclear weapon has been physically destroyed under a treaty. In addition, no nuclear disarmament negotiations are currently underway.
Meanwhile, the doctrine of nuclear deterrence persists as an element in the security policies of all possessor states and many of their allies. The international arms-control framework that contributed to international security since the Cold War acted as a brake on the use of nuclear weapons, and advanced nuclear disarmament has come under increasing strain. On 2 August 2019, the United States’ withdrawal spelled the end of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. The United States and the Russian Federation had previously committed to eliminating an entire class of nuclear missiles. On the other hand, the extension of the Treaty between the United States of America and the Russian Federation on Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms (“new START”) until February 2026 has been welcomed by the Member States and the Secretary-General of the United Nations. This extension allows the possessors of the two largest nuclear arsenals to agree to further arms control measures.
Securing Our Common Future
As the Secretary-General recognized in his disarmament agenda, “Securing our Common Future,” launched on 24 May 2018, the norm against testing is an example of a measure that serves both disarmament and non-proliferation objectives. By constraining the development of advanced new types of nuclear weapons, the CTBT puts a brake on the arms race. It also serves as a powerful normative barrier against potential States that might seek to develop, manufacture and subsequently acquire nuclear weapons in violation of their non-proliferation commitments.
2022 High-Level Meeting to Commemorate the Day
A High-Level Meeting to Commemorate and Promote the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons will take place on 26 September 2022 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. in the Trusteeship Council Chamber at United Nations Headquarters, New York.
A live webcast will be available here: https://media.un.org/en/asset/k16/k16do3ahup
More related information, resources, and documents are available here. https://www.un.org/en/observances/nuclear-weapons-elimination-day