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‘Nuclear disarmament is my top priority’: United Nations General Secretary Ban Ki-moon

Photo: Terry Foss.

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon addressed the nearly 1,000 participants of the International Peace Movement Conference to Abolish Nuclear Weapons. The Secretary said that “Our shared vision is within reach…a nuclear-free world.” And that “nuclear disarmament is my top priority.”

The speech came at the end of two days of plenary meetings and small group workshops that included nuclear disarmament visionaries from around the world. AFSC’s Joseph Gerson was instrumental in organizing the conference, and a rally, march, and peace festival that accompanied the conference.

The plenary sessions were live streamed during the conference, and most are now available for viewing (the closing session with Ban Ki-moon will be available soon).

For more on the speech by Ban Ki-moon, see the United Nations’ release.

For images from the conference see below:

See pictures taken by New Haven’s Henry Lowendorf here.

The American Friends Service Committee’s Joseph Gerson sent the following dispatch:

“It’s difficult to believe that a week ago today we were putting the last logistical details in place for an extraordinary series of events to influence the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference. Last weekend, we rallied the nuclear disarmament movement in the U.S. and globally.

“Perhaps most encouraging have been the number of people who have gone out of their way to tell me that we have provided the peace movement the boost it so badly needed after a couple of years of disorientation. From all the evidence last weekend, the peace movement is back!

“More than 4,000 AFSC supporters signed the petition for a nuclear-free world. And through generous contributions to help our work, AFSC was able to play a lead role in showing world leaders that there is strong support for nuclear abolition.

“Our conference, rally, and march for a nuclear-free future were extraordinary successes. The conference engaged 1,000 people from 25 countries. Among the experts, influential figures, and others who addressed our conference was U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who used his address to unite with our call for the long-promised good faith negotiations for the elimination of nuclear weapons. The 26 workshops not only provided forums for exchanging information about nuclear disarmament, peace and justice issues, but also developed a host of plans and new possibilities for coordinating peace work more broadly.

“We live-streamed the plenary sessions on the web and posted them, in case you missed the opportunity to see them. Follow this link to view the sessions.

“There were moments that I could never have imagined and are still rushing through my head:

“Talking with Sergio Duarte, the U.N. High Commissioner for Disarmament, as we waited together to greet Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, about the Review Conference’s debate about Israel’s nuclear weapons and the need for a Middle East Nuclear Weapons Free Zone;

“The extraordinary privilege of joining the mayors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on the floor of the U.N. General Assembly to present your petition signatures along with eight million others to the Chairman of the Review Conference;

“Receiving positive feedback about my speech from Egypt ’s Ambassador to the Review Conference, after we both addressed 1600 Japanese peace activists – including 65 Hibakusha (atomic bomb survivors) – in the ornate nave of the Riverside Church , the same platform from which Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his famous declaration of independence from the Vietnam War and U.S. militarism.

“On Sunday, more than 15,000 activists from around the world – including the mayors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki — refused to be intimidated by the failed bombing the night before and marched across New York ’s 42nd St. to the United Nations. Our press coverage included PBS’s NewsHour, the Washington Post, most of Japan ’s major media, Belgium ’s most important television news program, and interviews with the Voice of America, and progressive radio stations in New York City , Washington , D.C., and Los Angeles .

“Our work did not stop after the march.

“After helping to arrange hosting for Japanese peace activist delegations traveling to the Nevada Test Site, Seattle , San Francisco , and Washington , D.C. , I scurried home to Boston . There, 70 Hibakusha and peace activists met with local peace activists and more than 250 high school students in Boston and Cambridge , sharing their painful experiences and hopes with the rising generation.

“This weekend begins the next stage, and we are meeting with other peace and justice advocates to coordinate next steps. High on AFSC’s priorities will be winning ratification of the “New START” treaty, and talking with our U.S. and international partners about how we make the most of the extraordinary international network that we have helped develop.”

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