Ban outlines hopes for disarmament ahead of global review meeting at UN

In an opinion column published days before the start of the periodic review of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), to be held at UN Headquarters in New York, Mr. Ban wrote that “the United Nations stands today at a new ground zero – a ‘ground zero’ for global disarmament, no longer a place of dread but of hope.” The actual “ground zero” is the former nuclear test site at Semipalatinsk, Kazakhstan, which was shut down in 1991 as a step towards abolition of nuclear weapons, and which Mr. Ban visited earlier this month as part of his official tour of Central Asia.“Those who stand with us share the vision of a nuclear-free world. If ever there were a time for the world’s people to demand change, to demand action beyond the cautious half measures of the past, it is now,” he wrote in the International Herald Tribune.Mr. Ban added that the UN “is the world’s sole universally accepted arena for debate and concord” and, along with the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), serves as the forum where the world can come together. The opinion column just days before the Secretary-General is due to address dozens of leaders and other officials at the review meeting for the NPT, which since 1970 has provided a foundation for nuclear non-proliferation and peaceful use.In the article Mr. Ban reiterates his praise for Presidents Barack Obama and Dimitry Medvedev for recently signing a new Treaty on the Limitation and Reduction of Strategic Offensive Arms, or START, calling it a “fresh start on a truly noble aspiration.”Mr. Ban also noted increasing support for disarmament from both governments and civil society, building momentum which could help steer this year’s review following “an acknowledged failure” at the last review five years ago.At that time, Sergio Duarte, the President of the 2005 Review Conference and the current UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, said the gathering accomplished “very little” amid widely diverging views, and wrapped up without any substantive agreement.Mr. Ban today emphasized that at this year’s meeting, Member States cannot afford to lose an opportunity for progress “on disarmament; on compliance with non-proliferation commitments, including the pursuit of a nuclear weapons free-zone in the Middle East; [and] on the peaceful use of nuclear energy.”In addition to the NPT, Mr. Ban will host a conference later this year to review the implementation of the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism, a ministerial-level meeting to bring the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) into force, and has urged leaders to negotiate for a binding treaty on fissile materials. In October, the General Assembly is expected to consider more than 50 resolutions on various nuclear issues.These UN events build on Mr. Ban’s five-point action plan put forward in 2008 to reinvigorate the international push towards disarmament, which led to a special debate on nuclear disarmament and security at the General Assembly and a Security Council summit last September.The aim, Mr. Ban wrote, is “to take the many small steps, today, that will set the stage for a larger breakthrough tomorrow.” 28 April 2010The Earth’s very future leaves no alternative but to pursue nuclear disarmament, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today as he emphasized that the United Nations is destined to lead global efforts on nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation. read more

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International community must unite to support negotiated end to Syria crisis –

At least 20,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began some 21 months ago. Earlier this week, the Joint Special Representative of the United Nations and the League of Arab States for Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, stated that a political solution to end the crisis is necessary and still possible.“If we genuinely unite behind the Joint Special Representative for Syria and behind one process, based on the rejection of violence in favour of dialogue and a peaceful democratic transition, it is still possible to avert the worst-case scenario and enable a reconciled and stable Syria to emerge from this tragedy,” Mr. Ban told the fourth meeting of the Group of Friends of Syria. In his message to the meeting, which was held in Marrakech, Morocco, and attended by the Deputy Joint Special Representative, Nasser Al-Kidwa, Mr. Ban warned that a military solution to the crisis will not end the violence, which has escalated in recent weeks. “Left to themselves, the current dynamics risk the disintegration of Syrian state institutions and full-fledged civil war, with widespread killings along ethnic and confessional lines,” he warned. “Syria could be plunged into a destructive spiral from which recovery will be hard and long, with dangerous consequences for the entire region. “Building a free and democratic Syria will require negotiations and genuine political dialogue. The formation of a new coalition of the opposition is an important step in the right direction and can help create the conditions for a comprehensive and inclusive political process,” he added. Mr. Ban noted the broad representation of Syrian leaders at today’s meeting, and stressed that a durable solution to the crisis must be led and owned by Syrians working together in a spirit of inclusive dialogue and mutual understanding so all Syrians – Sunnis, Alawites, Christians, Druze, Shiites, Kurds, Assyrians and Armenians alike – can enjoy their full human rights. “The international community has an obligation to help you build a democratic future,” he said. “The United Nations stands ready to facilitate. But we can only succeed if all sides engage positively, with the support of the international community, in particular the Security Council.”The Secretary-General also drew attention to the fact that the situation in the country has deteriorated “dramatically” and has become more militarized, with continued large-scale human rights violations. He added that, with the onset of winter, potentially four million men, women and children inside Syria will need humanitarian assistance before the New Year. While commending the generous assistance and provided by host governments to the Syrians who have taken refuge in neighbouring countries, Mr. Ban said the international community needs to do more to help these countries address the growing impact of the refugee crisis. He also urged the international community to exert immediate and sustained pressure on all parties to respect international humanitarian and human rights law. According to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), more than half a million Syrian refugees have now been registered or are awaiting registration in four neighbouring countries – Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Turkey – and North Africa.The agency said the numbers are currently climbing by more than 3,000 per day, and the total number of refugees could increase to 700,000 by the end of the year. Inside Syria, UNHCR reported that about 250,000 internally displaced people in Homs urgently need winter supplies and access to basic health services. The agency delivered urgent winter aid including quilts, sleeping mats, blankets, mattresses and sanitary supplies to thousands of displaced people over the last two weeks.Meanwhile, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) notes that food insecurity is on the rise in Syria and that the distribution of its monthly food rations has been affected by lack of funds. In November, WFP dispatched food rations for more than 1.3 million people in all governorates, and it hopes to reach 1.5 million people in December.The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says that nationwide electricity cuts and fuel shortages have affected people’s access to cooking, heating and telecommunications. The delivery of humanitarian aid has also been affected as fuel shortages have caused delays to aid convoys. read more

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