UN Chief Says Humanity on a Nuclear ‘Knife’s Edge’

July/August 2024
By António Guterres

For more than 50 years, the Arms Control Association has gathered experts and leaders around an issue of monumental importance: ending the madness of nuclear weapons. Your team has it right. We need to move back from the nuclear brink.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres addressed the 2024 Arms Control Association annual meeting in Washington by video on June 7. (Photo by Allen Harris/Arms Control Association)

Humanity is on a knife’s edge. The risk of a nuclear weapon being used has reached heights not seen since the Cold War. States are engaged in the qualitative arms race. Technologies like artificial intelligence are multiplying the danger. Nuclear blackmail has reemerged, with some recklessly threatening nuclear catastrophe.

Meanwhile, the regime designed to prevent the use, testing, and proliferation of nuclear weapons is weakening….  [W]e need disarmament now. This was  the central message of my disarmament agenda launched in 2018. Disarmament and conflict prevention are also at the heart of the new agenda for peace to reform the global peace and security architecture.

We need all countries to step up. But nuclear-weapon states must lead the way. They must resume dialogue, commit to preventing any use of a nuclear weapon, and agree that none will be the first to launch one. They must reaffirm moratoria on nuclear testing, and they must accelerate implementation of the disarmament commitments made under the [nuclear] Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT).

All parties to the treaty must start collaborating now to ensure consensus at the [NPT] review conference in 2026. I also urge the United States and [Russia] to get back [to] the negotiating table, fully implement the [New Strategic Arms Reduction] Treaty, and agree on its successor. Until these weapons are eliminated, all countries must agree that any decision on nuclear use is made by humans, not machines or algorithms. Finally, nuclear saber-rattling must stop.

The United Nations is proud to stand with groups like the Arms Control Association across this important effort. Let’s continue working to achieve the secure and peaceful world every country wants.