« At the tipping point – address nuclear risks & return to the path of disarmament »

Bern, 02.08.2022 - Adress by Ignazio Cassis, President of the Swiss Confederation and Head of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) on the occasion of the Review Conference of the parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) on 2 August 2022 – Check against delivery

Mr. Chairman,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Sixty years ago, during the Cuban Missile Crisis, the world stared into an abyss. Russia’s unacceptable nuclear threats made earlier this year in the context of its military aggression against Ukraine remind us once again of the sword of Damocles hanging over our heads.

Any use of nuclear weapons would break the 75-year-old nuclear taboo and risk further escalation. We all know that any use of nuclear weapons would have catastrophic humanitarian consequences. This conference should strengthen the norm against the use of nuclear weapons.

1.    Return to the path of arms control and disarmament

Nuclear risks are higher than ever before since the end of the Cold War. We should agree on measures to reduce nuclear risks and to enhance resilience in times of crises. This conference must set the course for an urgently needed change: to reduce the role of nuclear weapons, to reduce the likelihood of a nuclear accident or usage as a result of a misunderstanding. Words must be complemented by concrete action to avert humanitarian and environmental disasters.

Switzerland, together with our partner from the Stockholm Initiative, has therefore presented a working paper, containing a package of measures to reduce nuclear risks now, before it is too late.

But nuclear risks will remain until the last of these weapons is dismantled. We therefore call on the nuclear states to abandon the nuclear build-up and the parade of nuclear arsenals – to return to the path of arms control and disarmament. 

Even as the reduction of nuclear arsenals has stalled, we must reaffirm our goal: a world without nuclear weapons. Together with the Stockholm Initiative, we have outlined 26 Stepping Stones.

2.    Political will to address regional non-proliferation challenges

Mr. Chairman,

Recent international developments have shown the vulnerabilities of civilian nuclear facilities. We have to ensure that nuclear facilities are safe and secure under all circumstances. Failure to do so would result in catastrophic humanitarian and environmental consequences. I comend the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) for defining the seven indispensable pillars of nuclear safety and security, which must be respected and implemented under all circumstances. Compliance with these seven pillars allows us to use nuclear energy peacefully and safely.

To ensure the NPT’s effectiveness, we must uphold its non-proliferation norm: In particular, we need to address regional challenges and, for example, condemn the DPRK’s continued development of its nuclear programme, in violation of UN Security Council resolutions. We also need an immediate return to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action by all its parties. And we must support the IAEA’s safeguards system, which is the backbone of the nuclear non-proliferation regime.

3.    The promotion of peace and security is a priority

Mr. Chairman,

Last year, the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons entered into force. As an observer state, wonders whether this new treaty can find its place in the normative architecture built around the NPT, and whether efforts in this field can be complementary. Is it possible to achieve nuclear disarmament without the nuclear weapon states?

Mr. Chairman,

Promoting peace and security is one of Switzerland’s top priorities. We are committed to facilitating dialogue and building bridges, including at this conference.

Thank you for your attention.

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