Humanity is just “one miscalculation away from nuclear annihilation,” the United Nations Secretary-General has warned.
Geopolitical threats including the climate crisis, the Covid-19 pandemic and armed conflicts are putting the globe at risk of a nuclear danger not seen since the height of the Cold War, according to Antonio Guterres.
“Today, humanity is just one misunderstanding, one miscalculation away from nuclear annihilation,” Guterres said at the opening of a United Nations nuclear treaty conference at its headquarters in New York.
On Monday, the International Atomic Energy Agency chief Rafael Grossi and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken were among those gathered for the 10th annual review of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.
“The climate crisis, stark inequalities, conflicts and human rights violations, and the personal and economic devastation caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, have put our world under greater stress than it has faced in our lifetimes,” Guterres said.
“Humanity is in danger of forgetting the lessons forged in the terrifying fires of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.”
Guterres added that “geopolitical tensions are reaching new highs,” and “distrust has replaced dialogue.”
“States are seeking false security in stockpiling and spending hundreds of billions of dollars on doomsday weapons that have no place on our planet.”
Nearly 13,000 nuclear weapons are now being held in arsenals around the world, Guterres added, citing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and crises in the Middle East and the Korean peninsula as areas where nuclear undertones “are festering.”
He listed five “areas of action” that are central to the treaty. This includes a steadfast commitment to reinforce and reaffirm the 77-year-old norm against the use of nuclear weapons, working toward the goal of eliminating nuclear weapons, addressing simmering tensions in the Middle East and Asia, promoting the peaceful use of nuclear technology for medical and other uses and fulfilling all outstanding commitments in the treaty itself.
“We need the Treaty on Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons as much as ever. That’s why this review conference is so important. It’s an opportunity to hammer-out the measures that will help avoid certain disaster.”