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President Cyril Ramaphosa: United Nations General Assembly meeting to commemorate and promote International Day for the total Elimination of nuclear weapons

2 Oct 2020

President Cyril Ramaphosa’s remarks to the United Nations General Assembly: High-Level Meeting to commemorate and promote the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons

Mr President, 

For as long as nuclear weapons exist, humankind will continue to face the threat of catastrophe. 

It is impossible to imagine that there could be any acceptable justification within established international norms for the continued existence of nuclear weapons, much less for their use. 

The International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons must remind the international community of its unfulfilled commitments to eliminate nuclear weapons. 

As we celebrate the 75th anniversary of the United Nations and the 50th  anniversary of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, it is an anomaly that more than 14,000 nuclear weapons remain in existence.

The Non-Proliferation Treaty represents a historic bargain between the Nuclear-Weapon States and the Non-Nuclear-Weapon States, in terms of which the former has undertaken to eliminate their nuclear weapons based on the reciprocal undertaking by the latter not to pursue the acquisition of nuclear weapons. 

A selective focus on non-proliferation measures and the lack of progress on nuclear disarmament undermine this bargain. 

As the only country that has voluntarily abandoned nuclear weapons, South Africa remains deeply concerned that the nuclear disarmament obligations under Article VI of the Non-Proliferation Treaty remain unfulfilled.

Like other Member States, South Africa is concerned about the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons, as aptly outlined in the ground-breaking Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons signed in 2017. 

We hope that this Treaty will serve as a catalyst for progress in the disarmament pillar of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. 

We reaffirm the right of States to the peaceful use of nuclear energy and applications, which have the potential to contribute towards sustainable economic development. 

South Africa attaches great importance and appreciates the work of the International Atomic Energy Agency towards addressing development challenges in several economies, particularly in the areas of food security, human and animal health and energy.

The only guarantee we have that nuclear weapons will never be used is their total elimination and the legally-binding assurance that they will never again be produced.

South Africa wishes to reiterate its commitment to multilateralism and the centrality of the United Nations in solving today’s challenges. 

We stand ready to work with all Member States towards the achievement of a world without nuclear weapons.

I thank you.

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