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29.11.2011: INES 20th Anniversary

U.N. Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon, addressed an international conference of leading peace, justice and environmental activists this evening at the historic, Riverside Church in New York City to push for a world free of nuclear weapons. The conference and related events are being organized on the eve of this May’s Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference.

Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon, said to nearly 1,000 participants from around 30 countries regarding the NPT, “Let it heed our call. Disarm Now!” He continued, “Our shared vision is within reach…a nuclear-free world.” And that “nuclear disarmament is my top priority.”

The Secretary noted the significance of the Riverside Church hosting Nelson Mendela’s first speech in the U.S and Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous speech against the Vietnam War.

Regarding the only nuclear weapons ever used in war, the two dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki Japan, he stated that, “It must never be repeated.”

“The time for change is now…We cannot afford to fail again,” in NPT negotiations. Instead negotiations should move towards “concluding a nuclear weapons convention. These negotiations are long overdue,” he concluded.

Ban Ki-Moon’s speech was the keynote address to a two-day conference, “For a Nuclear Free, Peaceful, Just and Sustainable World,” which has been organized by a network of 25 leading peace and nuclear weapons abolition organizations in the U.S., Europe, Japan and Israel. Speaking for the network Judith LeBlanc, Field Organizer for Peace Action and conference organizer said “The presence of U.N. Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon at this international conference solidifies the importance of civil society organizations to continue to pressure governments to create a world free of nuclear weapons in our lifetime. We are urging”, she explained, “that the critically important Review Conference conclude with a commitment to begin negotiations on a treaty to completely eliminate all nuclear weapons, as provided for by the Non-Proliferation Treaty.”

Dr. Joseph Gerson, Disarmament Director for the American Friends Service Committee commented, “The U.N. Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon’s speech to disarm now is ahead of President Obama’s actions and the U.S. needs to catch up.” Gerson was one of the key organizers of the international conference, rally, march and peace festival.

The conference and other activities was organized by a network of groups went under The Disarm Now! call which has been endorsed by nearly 300 local, national and international organizations in 32 countries, from every continent.

The network includes Peace Action, the American Friends Service Committee, and Western States Legal Foundation (U.S.), the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (Britain,) Le Mouvement de la Paix (France,) International Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms (Germany,) the Japan Council against A- and H-Bomb, Gensuikyo (Japan), and the Emil Touma Institute for Palestinian and Israeli Studies (Israel).

Other conference speakers included Terumi Tanaka, a Hiroshima A-Bomb Survivor, Tadatoshi Akiba, Mayor of Hiroshima and President of Mayors for Peace, Natalia Mironova of the Institute for Public Policy and Law in Russia, Professor Zia Mian of Princeton University, Dr. John Burroughs of the International Association of Lawyers against Nuclear Arms, Socorro Gomes of Cebrapaz in Brazil and the World Peace Council, Tomas Magnusson of the International Peace Bureau and others. Two dozen workshops addressed interrelated issues of nuclear abolition, peace,
environment/health and economic justice.

The conference will be followed tomorrow by a rally, march and festival attended by more than ten thousand people in Manhattan, May 2 starting at Times Square at 2:00 PM; and the presentation to the Chair of the NPT Review Conference of more than seven million of petition signatures urging that negotiations to eliminate the world’s nuclear arsenals begin without further delay.