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International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons

Friday, 02 October 2020
HON. MR. TEODORO L. LOCSIN, JR.,Secretary of Foreign Affairs
United Nations Headquarters, New York



Mr. President,


A year after the United Nations’ founding in 1945, the General Assembly — in its very first resolution— identified nuclear disarmament as a leading goal of the UN. 75 years later, that goal is still a distant dream.


To be sure, there was a powerful argument for nuclear arms as the surest way to keep the peace between two superpowers; both armed to the teeth with nukes. If they hadn’t been mutually so armed, it was anybody’s guess if peace in Europe after the unspeakable horrors of two world wars would hold between them. One stretching from the Pacific to Berlin with the largest land army in history and the other stretching from sea to shining sea, an ocean away from Europe but just hours away by missiles and bombers. But that’s over with the Cold War; although each side has enough nukes left to wipe out the other and the rest of mankind.


But even as all that was going on, both sides understood the risk of error and loss of control; they settled for sporadic nuclear disarmament within an arms control architecture that yet continues to dismantle faster than it is built up. Existing agreements are being terminated; others are imperiled. It’s like the old deterrent of mutual assured destruction with nostalgia for the no-surprises stability of the Cold War. Except terrorism is trying to join the nuclear club and it is madness personified. Now comes a pandemic unstitching the fabric of social safety and order across the globe. The pandemic continues with no end in sight. Terrorists most likely think that a dystopian world left by unchecked pandemic is what home should feel like: dirty, dusty, nasty, brutish, short and lights up in the dark without the benefit of electricity.


We face a pandemic that has millions dying and whose end is nowhere in sight. And there is still the looming existential threat of a nuclear war promising human extinction in toto or in very large swaths. The two are not that different: they both threaten the existence of humanity and civilization such as it is—not much but better than the alternative.

The difference though is not small but hugely significant: the pandemic is not of our doing. Nuclear annihilation might happen accidentally; but that it happened will be entirely our fault. Like leaving several loaded revolvers in a kids’ playroom.


In his address before the General Assembly, my President committed to the ratification of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. The Philippines was among the first to sign the Treaty and we will adhere to its universalization of global norms against nuclear weapons.


The International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons was declared to reaffirm commitment to the goal of nuclear disarmament; but it is also to educate the public outside the UN about the whys of disarmament and generate their support. To my President it is quite simple, really: “no aspiration nor ambition can justify the use of weapons that destroy indiscriminately and completely… These weapons of death put us all at mortal risk, especially if they fall in the hands of terrorists without a shred of humanity in their souls.” Thank you. (END)