It is my pleasure to introduce Part II of the 2020 United Nations Disarmament Yearbook. Now in its forty-fifth consecutive year of publication, the Yearbook continues to be the pre-eminent source of objective information for diplomats, civil society advocates and members of the public on each year’s developments in the field of multilateral disarmament, non-proliferation and arms control.
Atomic-bomb survivors could no longer appear in person to plea, on behalf of humanity, for progress towards a nuclear-weapon-free world.”
In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted and challenged institutions of governance at every level, arriving as the world was preparing to commemorate, among many other pivotal milestones, the seventy-fifth anniversary of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. When the escalating public health crisis forced States to postpone the tenth Review Conference of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons in late March—just weeks before it was scheduled to begin—the lost opportunity was perhaps felt most keenly by the scores of atomic-bomb survivors who could no longer appear in person to plea, on behalf of humanity, for progress towards a nuclear-weapon-free world.
COVID-19 reshaped the harms that weapons cause in conflicts and homes.”
The impact of COVID-19 on our field was far broader, however, extending beyond the work of intergovernmental forums to reshape the harms that weapons cause in conflicts and homes. Illicit arms networks thrived as societies faced widespread unemployment and unrest, and firearms fuelled part of a devastating surge in gender-based, domestic violence. The Secretary-General pressed for a global ceasefire to support the international pandemic response; yet, despite his call receiving the unanimous support of the Security Council, fighting persisted around the world, and global military spending continued to climb.
My Office’s ‘#Youth4Disarmament’ initiative also inaugurated its very first group of ‘Youth Champions for Disarmament’”
Still, these and other challenges did not thwart the tireless, collaborative efforts of countless individuals and organizations to free future generations from the scourge of armed violence. The Office for Disarmament Affairs adapted its working methods and substantive activities to continue actively implementing its mandates in close consultation with Member States and regional and non-governmental organizations. In one example of our work in 2020, we launched a multi-year initiative in partnership with two key African regional organizations—the African Union Commission and the Regional Centre on Small Arms in the Great Lakes Region, the Horn of Africa and Bordering States—to support States across the continent in processing illicit firearms surrendered to authorities. My Office’s “#Youth4Disarmament” initiative also inaugurated its very first group of “Youth Champions for Disarmament”, equipping 10 promising young people to be lifelong advocates for peace through a rigorous programme of online training and live webinars.
That landmark accomplishment was thanks to the dedicated advocacy of civil society”
Then, in October, the conditions were met for the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons to enter into force. That landmark accomplishment, reflecting the deeply held hopes of the States parties and other signatories, was only possible thanks to the dedicated advocacy of civil society, including decades of tireless work by the survivors of nuclear bombings and tests.
Now and in the years ahead, let us draw inspiration from those survivors, who were spurred by immense tragedy and personal suffering to carry forward, throughout their lives, the hope for a peaceful future for us all.