Statement by Dr Naledi Pandor, Minister of International Relations and Cooperation of South Africa, on the occasion of the High-Level Meeting on the Commemoration of the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons, 28 September 2021

Mr Abdulla Shahid, President of the General Assembly,
Mr António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Eight years ago, in December 2013, South Africa supported the adoption of United Nations General Assembly Resolution 68/32, which declared 26 September as the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons. This date was specifically chosen because on 26 September 2013, the first ever General Assembly High-level Meeting on Nuclear Disarmament was held, in this august House. South Africa once again, welcomes with appreciation the commemoration of the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons.

This year, the commemoration of the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons takes place with renewed hope. This hope is derived from the entry into force on 22 January this year of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW). The TPNW is the result of an increased focus by the international community on the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any nuclear weapon explosion, as already envisaged in the first resolution adopted by the General Assembly, 75 years ago, in 1946.

The TPNW complements the objectives of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which remains the cornerstone of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation. It should also serve as a catalyst for much overdue progress in the disarmament pillar of the NPT in fulfilment of the historic bargain between the Nuclear-Weapon States and the Non-Nuclear-Weapon States, in terms of which the former has undertaken to eliminate their nuclear weapons based on the reciprocal undertaking by the latter not to pursue the nuclear weapons option.

This year also marks the 30th Anniversary of South Africa’s accession to the NPT in 1991, as a Non-Nuclear Weapon State. In this connection we look forward, with much hope, to the successful convening of the 10th NPT Review Conference and the First Meeting of States Parties to the TPNW respectively in 2022.

Furthermore, on 12 April 2021, the African continent commemorated the 25th Anniversary of the opening for signature of the African Nuclear Weapon Free Zone Treaty (Pelindaba Treaty), which established a Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone in Africa. In this context we reiterate our call for Nuclear Weapon States that have signed or ratified any of the relevant protocols of a Nuclear Weapon Free Zone Treaty, but with reservations or unilateral interpretations affecting the status of the denuclearised zone, to modify or withdraw such reservations or unilateral interpretations.

As the only country to have voluntarily abandoned nuclear weapons, South Africa therefore remains deeply concerned that the nuclear disarmament obligations under Article VI of the NPT, and the unequivocal undertakings made in the context of its Review Conferences, remain unfulfilled. Nuclear disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation are mutually reinforcing processes, which continuously require verifiable and irreversible progress on both fronts. A selective focus on non-proliferation measures and the lack of progress on nuclear disarmament undermines the bargain that is central to the integrity of the Treaty.

As we commemorate the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons, South Africa joins others in reaffirming the inalienable right of States to the peaceful uses of nuclear energy and applications. The potential of such applications to contribute towards sustainable and accelerated economic growth in our country and on the African Continent, cannot be over-emphasised. In this regard, South Africa attaches great importance and appreciates the work of the International Atomic Energy Agency through its Technical Cooperation Programme, towards addressing the socio-economic needs and sustainable development challenges in developing countries, particularly in the areas of food security, human and animal health, and energy.

The total elimination of nuclear weapons and the legally-binding assurance that they will never be produced again, is the only guarantee that these weapons will never be used. In this regard South Africa remains convinced that, as long as nuclear weapons exist, humankind will continue to face the threat of their immense, uncontrollable, and indiscriminate use. The suffering from such an incident would be immeasurable, impacting successive generations with long-term humanitarian, socio-economic and environmental consequences.

I thank you.


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