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UN atomic energy experts head to stricken nuclear power station in Ukraine

UNITED NATIONS, Aug 29: A team of UN atomic energy experts set out on Monday for Zaporizhzya nuclear power station in Ukraine, after months of rising tensions between Ukrainian and Russian forces, who have accused each other of shelling the plant.

In a tweet, Rafael Grossi, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA said that he was proud to lead the agency’s Support & Assistance Mission to Zaporizhzya, which has been occupied by Russian forces since shortly after their invasion of Ukraine.

“The day has come…to protect the safety and security” of the plant,” which is Europe’s largest, Grossi wrote, his comments accompanying a photograph of himself and 13 other IAEA staff, ahead of their mission.

Once the IAEA team arrives in Zaporizhzya “later this week”, Grossi indicated that the experts’ priorities include carrying out damage assessments and evaluating whether safety and security systems remain functional.

Other urgent tasks also include checking on the welfare of the Ukrainian staff still running the plant, which houses six of the country’s 15 nuclear reactors.

In recent weeks and months, Grossi has issued repeated calls for access to Zaporizhzya, while also urging all military personnel to fall back from the plant, so that it cannot be deemed to be a target.

During a Security Council meeting prompted by the crisis earlier this month, the IAEA Director-General said that “time is of the essence”, given the uncertainty of the situation and the massive potential threat of a nuclear accident.

Information received from Ukraine and Russia about the status of the facility had been “contradictory”, the IAEA noted at the time, regarding its operation and damage sustained.

Only an in-person official visit to Zaporizhzya would make it possible to corroborate these assessments, Grossi said, adding that IAEA experts also needed “to verify the status of the reactors and inventories of nuclear material to ensure non-diversion from peaceful use”.

Ukrainian grain exports continue

UNITED NATIONS, Aug 30: The UN-led initiative to secure exports of Ukrainian grain and other foodstuffs from the country’s ports reported that around 1.25 million metric tonnes have now been shipped.

Sunday’s update from the Joint Coordination Centre (JCC) – involving Ukraine, Russia, Türkiye and the UN - reported that a total of 114 voyages have been enabled so far (62 inbound and 52 outbound), since the agreement was signed on 27 July in Istanbul.

Three commercial vessels were authorized to move on Monday with more than 70,000 tonnes of foodstuffs on board.

They included the “Karteria”, departing from Yuhzny/Pivdennyi and heading to Türkiye, with 37,500 metric tons of wheat.

“This grain is purchased by the World Food Programme (WFP),” the JCC noted. “It will be milled to flour in Türkiye and it will then be loaded onto a new ship that will head to Yemen.”

A second ship, the “Peace M”, was due to sail from Odesa to Constanta, Romania, with 24,485 tonnes of corn; a third, the “Ash Baltic”, was scheduled to leave from Odesa for El Dekhela, Egypt, with 11,000 tonnes of corn.

International Day against nuclear tests

UNITED NATIONS, Aug 30: Monday also marked the International Day Against Nuclear Tests, which the Secretary-General described as "an opportunity for the world to wake up the the castastrophic and continuing damage done, in the name of the nuclear arms race."

In his message for the day, Guterres said it was a time to remember those who "paid the price for the dangerous games the world risked in all its atomic madness. And it's about raising a cry of alarm so that the world finally puts in place a legally binding ban on all nuclear testing.

"Let's make testing stop once and for all and make nuclear weapons a thing of the past."

UNGA77: 5 key things to know about the upcoming General Assembly session

UNITED NATIONS, Aug 30: With just a few weeks to go until the opening of the 77th session of the UN General Assembly, the UN diplomatic community, as well as residents of New York City, are bracing for the annual arrival of Heads of State and Government from around the world, after two years of disruption wrought by COVID-19.

Many details are still to be confirmed, but here are five things to look out for between 12 and 27 September.

A new session means a new President of the General Assembly. The current PGA – as the UN acronym goes - Abdulla Shahid of the Maldives, will bow out, and Csaba Kőrösi of Hungary will take on the mantle for the next twelve months.

The handover will take place on Monday, 12 September; Shahid will close the 76th session of the GA in the morning, and the 77th session will be officially opened at 3pm the same day.

Kőrösi’s has held several roles within his country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, his most recent post being Director of Environmental Sustainability at the Office of the President of Hungary. He has been involved with the UN for several years, and the Presidency probably won’t involve too much of a learning curve: Mr. Kőrösi served as Vice-President of the General Assembly during the 67th session in 2011-2012.

Transforming Education Summit

As usual, international attention (as well as large numbers of police, and complaints about traffic jams from New York residents) will be centred around the High-Level Debate week, which begins on Tuesday 20 September.

However, the Transforming Education Summit, which takes place the week before at UN Headquarters – on Friday 16, Saturday 17 and Monday 19 September – is billed as a major event by the organization.

Friday is “Mobilization Day”, which will be youth-led and youth-organized, bringing young people’s concerns over their education to decision and policymakers, and will focus on mobilizing the global public, youth, teachers, civil society and others, to support the transformation of education across the world.

The second day is all about solutions, and is designed to be a platform for initiatives that will contribute to transforming education. The day is grouped around five themes (“Thematic Action Tracks”): inclusive, equitable, safe and healthy schools; learning and skills for life; work and sustainable development; teachers, teaching and the teaching profession; digital learning and transformation; and financing of education.

The third day, on Monday 19 September, is Leaders Day, capitalizing on the fact that so many Heads of State and Government will be descending on New York that week. Expect a host of National Statements of Commitment from these leaders.

The day will also feature the presentation of the Summit Youth Declaration and the Secretary-General’s Vision Statement for Transforming Education.

SDG Moment

This year’s SDG Moment, which will take place between 08:30 and 10:00 on Monday 19 September, immediately before Leader’s Day of the Transforming Education Summit, will be an opportunity to refocus attention on the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN’s 2030 Agenda, a blueprint for a fairer future for people and the planet.

Speaking at the High-Level Political Forum – a key annual development forum – in July, Amina Mohammed, the Deputy Secretary-General, said that transitions in renewable energy, food systems and digital connectivity along with “investments in human capital, financing the opportunities”, are needed in order to turn multiple crises into opportunities.

Ms. Mohammed said that this year’s Moment will be “an opportunity to focus on these deep transitions, and on the work needed to get us back on track. It will also be an important milestone on the way to the 2023 SDG Summit.”

Last year’s Moment was notable for the involvement of Korean megastars BTS, who reflected on the huge disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, and challenged the notion that they are part of a “lost COVID generation”.

On 18 December 1992, UN Member States adopted the Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious, and Linguistic Minorities (UN Declaration on Minority Rights for short), described by the UN as a key instrument to address the political and civil, economic, social, and cultural rights of persons belonging to minorities.

On Wednesday 21 September, in the Trusteeship Council Chamber, a High-Level Meeting will take place, as part of the year-long commemoration of the 30th anniversary of the Declaration.

Speaking in June, Paolo David, Head of UN Human Rights’ Indigenous Peoples and Minorities Section, said that, while the adoption of the Declaration brought hope three decades ago, this feeling was quickly lost due to the armed conflict in the former Yugoslavia. Mr. David noted that minorities continue to be instrumentalised in many conflicts, including in Ukraine, Ethiopia, Myanmar, South Sudan, Syria, and Yemen.

Today, minorities face unprecedented barriers and challenges, according to the UN. In many countries they deal with modern threats such as online hate speech and are being stripped of citizenship rights.

The event is billed as a chance to take stock of constraints and achievements, share examples of best practice, and set priorities for the future.

Global Goals Week

The General Debate will overlap with Global Goals Week which, despite the name, is actually a nine-day programme of virtual and in-person events taking place between 16 and 25 September, involving more than 170 partners across civil society, business, academia, and the UN system, to accelerate action on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

There are too many events to list in full here, but they include NYC Climate Week, covering a wide range of climate-related challenges; the UN Private Sector Forum, run by UN Global Compact, which brings together business, the UN and civil society, to address global crises; and the launch of the 2002 Climate Action Project from Take Action Global, which brings classrooms from over 140 countries together, for a series of live interviews, school visits and social media takeovers.

There will be plenty of SDG Media Zone videos to watch during Global Goals Week, with dozens of interesting speakers, including content creators, influencers, activists and media partners, taking part in panel discussions that will highlight actions and solutions in support of the Sustainable Development Goals.

India Votes Against Russia Over Ukraine at UN

UNITED NATIONS, Aug 25: India for the first time on Wednesday voted against Russia during a "procedural vote" at the United Nations Security Council on Ukraine, as the 15-member powerful UN body invited Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to address a meeting through a video tele-conference.

This is for the first time that India has voted against Russia on the issue of Ukraine, after the Russian military action began in February. So far, New Delhi has abstained at the UN Security Council on Ukraine, much to the annoyance of the Western powers led by the United States.

Western nations, including the US, have imposed major economic and other sanctions on Russia following the aggression.

India has not criticised Russia for its aggression against Ukraine. New Delhi has repeatedly called upon the Russian and Ukrainian sides to return to the path of diplomacy and dialogue, and also expressed its support for all diplomatic efforts to end the conflict between the two countries.

India currently is a non-permanent member of the UNSC for a two-year term, which ends in December.

On Wednesday, the UNSC held a meeting to take stock of the now six-month-old conflict on the 31st anniversary of Ukraine's independence.

As the meeting began, Russian Ambassador to the United Nations Vassily A Nebenzia requested a procedural vote concerning Ukrainian President's participation in the meeting by video tele-conference.

Following statements by him and Ferit Hoxha of Albania, the Council extended an invitation to Zelensky to participate in the meeting via video tele-conference by a vote of 13 in favour to one against. Russia voted against such an invitation, while China abstained.

Nebenzia insisted that Russia does not oppose Zelensky's participation, but such participation must be in-person. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Council decided to work virtually, but such meetings were informal and, after the pandemic's peak, the Council returned to the provisional rules of procedure, he argued.

Reiterating that his country's objection pertains specifically to the President's participation by video tele-conference, he called for a procedural vote on this matter, to which India and 12 other countries did not agree and supported Zelensky to address the Council via video conference.

Albania's Hoxha argued that Ukraine is at war, and the situation in that country requires the President to be there. Due to this unique situation, he supported Zelensky's participation via video tele-conference and urged other members to do the same.

Nebenzia regretted that Council members had spoken out against complying with the rules of the organ. "We can understand the logic of Kyiv's Western backers," he said, expressing disappointment that other members contributed to the erosion of the Council's very foundation and practices.

Soon thereafter, Zelensky in his remarks via a video conference called for the Russian Federation to be held accountable for its crimes of aggression against Ukraine. "If Moscow is not stopped now, then all these Russian murderers will inevitably end up in other countries," he said.

"It is on the territory of Ukraine that the world's future will be decided," he added. "Our independence is your security," he told the UNSC.

Zelensky alleged that Russia has placed the world on the brink of nuclear catastrophe by turning the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant into a war zone. The plant has six reactors - only one exploded at Chernobyl - and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) must take permanent control of the situation as soon as possible, he said.

The Ukrainian President called on Russia to cease its "nuclear blackmail" and completely withdraw from the plant.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres expressed grave concern over the situation in and around the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, underscoring that "the warning lights are flashing".

Any actions that might endanger the physical integrity, safety or security of the plant are unacceptable, and any further escalation of the situation could lead to self-destruction, he said and called for the security of the plant to be ensured, for the facility to be re-established as purely civilian infrastructure and for the IAEA to conduct a mission to the site as soon as possible.

Guterres also expressed concern over alleged violations of international humanitarian law.

US Ambassador to the UN, Linda Thomas Greenfield alleged that "Russia's goal is as clear as ever: to dismantle Ukraine as a geopolitical entity and erase it from the world map.

"Its disinformation campaigns are increasingly being weaponised to prepare for further attempts to annex Ukrainian territory," she said.

However, the international community will never recognise Russia's attempt to change Ukraine's borders by force, she told the UN Security Council.

Noting that Ukraine had an impeccable record of nuclear energy safety and security at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, she said the Russian Federation recklessly attacked and seized control of that site by force, risking nuclear disaster.

The American envoy voiced concern about Moscow's "so-called filtration operation", which involves the systematic and forced deportation of Ukrainian civilians to remote areas of the Russian Federation.

Envoys from France, Ireland, Norway, United Kingdom, Gabon, Ghana, Mexico and China, along with the European Union in its capacity as observers also spoke on the occasion.

Ukraine celebrated its Independence Day on Wednesday, which also marked exactly six months since the start of Russia's military offensive against the country on February 24.

India's Swipe At China Over 'Common Security'

UNITED NATIONS, Aug 22: India on Monday took a thinly-veiled dig at China at the UN Security Council during a discussion on promoting common security through dialogue and cooperation.

"Any coercive or unilateral action that seeks to change the status quo by force is an affront to common security," said Ruchira Kamboj, India's envoy to the United Nations.

Ms Kamboj also underscored that common security is only feasible "when all countries stand together against common threats such as terrorism and do not engage in double standards while preaching otherwise".

Even though the envoy didn't mention any country, the statement assumes significance amid a standoff that India and China have been engaged in since May 2020 over the transgressions by the Chinese Army in eastern Ladakh. The situation worsened after violent clashes with Chinese troops in Galwan Valley in June 15, 2020.

The meeting was organised under the presidency of China.

Foreign Minister S Jaishankar recently accused China of disregarding the border pacts, adding the Galwan Valley standoff has been casting a shadow as ties between the two nations continue to go through a very difficult phase.

"We have agreements with China going back to the 1990s which prohibits bringing mass troops in the border area. They have disregarded that. You know what happened in the Galwan valley. That problem has not been resolved and that has been clearly casting a shadow," he said.

India and China have so far held sixteen rounds of Corps Commander Level talks to resolve the standoff.

Grain deal ‘victory for diplomacy,’ UN chief tells journalists in Ukraine

LVIV, Aug 18: Positive momentum on the landmark Black Sea Grain Initiative to help vulnerable people access food reflects “a victory for diplomacy” for those caught in a cost-of-living crisis as well as for Ukraine’s hard-working farmers, UN Secretary-General António Guterres told reporters on Thursday in Lviv, Ukraine.

Speaking at a press conference alongside Presidents Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Türkiye, he expressed gratitude for the opportunity to visit “again during such a difficult period”.

Despite that the Black Sea Grain Initiative was signed a few weeks ago, the UN chief reiterated that “there is no solution to the global food crisis without ensuring full global access to Ukraine’s food products and Russian food and fertilizers”.

In less than one month, 21 ships have departed from Ukrainian ports and 15 vessels have left Istanbul for Ukraine to load up with grain and other food supplies, recapped Guterres.

“As we speak, more than 560,000 metric tons of grain and other food produced by Ukrainian farmers is making its way to markets around the world,” he said, including the first UN-chartered vessel carrying Ukrainian wheat to people suffering in the Horn of Africa from the worst drought in decades.

Meanwhile, signs have been emerging that global food markets are beginning to stabilize as wheat prices dropped by as much as eight per cent following the signing of the agreements and the FAO Food Price Index by nine per cent in July – the biggest decline since 2008.

Although most food commodities are currently trading at prices below pre-war levels, they are still very high.

“Let’s have no illusions – there is a long way to go before this will be translated into the daily life of people at their local bakery and in their markets,” spelled out the top UN official, reminding that “supply chains are still disrupted [and] energy and transportation costs remain unacceptably high”.

Noting the rarity and inherent fragility of the agreements, Guterres upheld that they must be “constantly nurtured”.

As the Joint Coordination Center (JCC) continues to work professionally and in good faith to keep the food flowing, he appealed that those involved “overcome all obstacles in a spirit of compromise and permanently settle all difficulties”.

“Getting food and fertilizer out of Ukraine and Russia in larger quantities is crucial to further calm commodity markets and lower prices”, and essential to providing relief to the most vulnerable”.

The UN chief underscored the urgency of reversing the turmoil in the global fertilizer market, which is currently threatening next season’s crops – including a world-wide staple, rice.

Meanwhile, the UN will continue in solidarity with the Ukrainian people and national partners to help provide humanitarian support to people in need “wherever it is required,” he said.

“We will do our best to scale up our operations to face the difficult the coming winter”.

“The heart of the problem that brings us here remains the war,” reminded the Secretary-General, reiterating that the Russian invasion is “a violation of the territorial integrity of Ukraine” and of the UN Charter.

The war has inflicted innumerous deaths, massive destruction, displacement, and dramatic violations of human rights, he stated, adding that in line with the Charter and international law, “people need peace”.

The top UN official expressed his grave concern over the unfolding situation in and around Europe’s largest nuclear power plant in Zaporizhzhia.

“Common sense must prevail to avoid any actions that might endanger the physical integrity, safety or security of the nuclear plant,” he said, adding that the facility “must not be used as part of any military operation”.

Guterres upheld the urgent need for an agreement to “reestablish Zaporizhhia as purely civilian infrastructure” and ensure the safety of the area.

After making an assessment, with the agreement of both Russia and Ukraine, the UN Secretariat has determined that it can support the Organization’s nuclear overseer, IAEA, in conducting a mission to the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant from Kyiv.

The UN chief outlined that military equipment and personnel should be withdrawn from the plant, no other forces or equipment should be deployed there and the area must be demilitarized.

“Any potential damage to Zaporizhzhia is suicide,” he underscored.

The Secretary-General also called attention to the investigation of an “unacceptable” incident in an Olenivka detention facility on 29 July when a mysterious explosion tore through a prison housing hundreds of Ukrainian detainees.

“All prisoners of war are protected under International Humanitarian Law,” he reminded, adding that the international Red Cross “must have access to them wherever they are kept”.

Against this backdrop, the UN chief decided to establish a fact-finding mission – the terms of reference of which were shared with Ukraine and Russia along with the make-up of the team, including his intention to appoint General Carlos dos Santos Cruz of Brazil to lead this mission.

Obtaining the necessary assurances to guarantee secure access to Olenivka and any other relevant locations is currently underway.

“To put it simply, a fact-finding mission must be free to find the facts. The team must be able to gather and analyze necessary information,” he stated.

“Above all, that means safe, secure and unfettered access to people, places and evidence without any interference from anybody”.

In closing, the Secretary-General assured President Zelenskyy of the UN’s support in promoting “human rights, international law and the cause of peace”.

UN chief appeals for end to military activities at Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Plant in Ukraine

UNITED NATIONS, Aug 11: Military activities around the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Plant in Ukraine must stop immediately, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said on Thursday, warning of the potential danger to the area and beyond amid ongoing shelling.

Europe’s largest nuclear plant has been occupied by Russian forces since March, and last week the external power supply system was damaged in an attack.

“I am calling for all military activities in the immediate vicinity of the plant to cease immediately and not to target its facilities or surroundings,” Guterres said in a statement expressing his grave concern over the unfolding situation.

The Secretary-General recalled his appeal to all parties “to exercise common sense and reason” and not do anything that might endanger the plant’s physical integrity, safety or security.

“Regrettably, instead of de-escalation, over the past several days there have been reports of further deeply worrying incidents that could, if they continue, lead to disaster,” he said.

“I urge the withdrawal of any military personnel and equipment from the plant and the avoidance of any further deployment of forces or equipment to the site. The facility must not be used as part of any military operation. Instead, urgent agreement is needed at a technical level on a safe perimeter of demilitarization to ensure the safety of the area.”

The Secretary-General underlined the UN’s support for the critical work of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and its efforts towards ensuring safe operations at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Plant.

He also urged the parties to provide the agency with immediate, secure and unfettered access to the site.

“We must be clear that any potential damage to Zaporizhzhia or any other nuclear facilities in Ukraine, or anywhere else, could lead to catastrophic consequences not only for the immediate vicinity, but for the region and beyond. This is wholly unacceptable.”

Attacking a nuclear plant 'suicidal', UN chief tells journalists in Japan

TOKYO, Aug 8: UN Secretary-General António Guterres condemned a recent attack on a nuclear power station in southern Ukraine during a meeting in Tokyo on Monday with the Japan National Press Club.

“Any attack to nuclear plants is…suicidal,” the UN chief said, adding that he hoped that the UN International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) would be able to access the plant for inspection.

Both Moscow and Kyiv have denied responsibility for the strike on the Zaporizhzhia plant over the weekend.

While Europe's largest nuclear power site has been under Russian control since the early days of the war, Ukrainian technicians are still running it.

Energoatom, Ukraine’s nuclear power plant operator, said that Russian shelling damaged three radiation monitors around the storage facility for spent nuclear fuels, in which one worker was injured.

The shelling prompted IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi to warn that the way in which Zaporizhzhia was being run coupled with the fighting around it posed “the very real risk of a nuclear disaster”.

Since then, a preliminary assessment by UN atomic overseer experts found that the safety and security situation seemed stable with no immediate threat, despite that several pillars were breached.

“We support the IAEA on their efforts in relation to create the conditions of stabilization of that plant,” said the UN chief, adding his hope that the IAEA would be able to access the plant.

When asked why a peace deal between Russia and Ukraine had not yet been realized, the UN chief said they had been working very closely with Türkiye, which had “launched a new initiative in relation to a possible start of peace negotiations”.

But he explained that Ukraine cannot accept that “its territory is taken by another country”, and that Russia “does not seem ready to accept” that areas it had taken “will not be annexed by the Russian Federation or give way to new independent States”.

Guterres’ comments followed a visit to Hiroshima over the weekend, where the Secretary-General marked the 77th anniversary of the world's first nuclear attack on 6 August 1945, destroying the city and killing 140,000 people.

Amidst Russian threats of a nuclear attack since it invaded Ukraine in February, fears of a third atomic bombing have grown.

During Monday’s news conference, the UN chief reiterated his warning over the use of nuclear weapons, saying that if used, the UN would probably be unable respond because “we might all not be here anymore”.

Against the backdrop that the world currently has 13,000 nuclear bombs while continuing to make huge investments into modernizing atomic arsenals, Guterres warned that after decades of nuclear disarmament efforts, we are “moving backwards”.

“Stop it,” he appealed, underscoring that the billions of dollars being leveraged into the arms race need to be used in “fighting climate change, fighting poverty, [and] addressing the needs of the international community”.

The Secretary-General will next be traveling to Mongolia and South Korea to discuss ways to address North Korea’s nuclear development.

When asked about China's massive military exercises around Taiwan, Guterres said the UN “abides by a resolution of the General Assembly, the so-called One China policy”.

The dispute was sparked by a visit last week to island by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

“We all want that resolution to correspond to a peaceful environment,” he said, calling for common sense and restraint to allow for an “extremely important” de-escalation.

From Hiroshima, UN chief calls for global nuclear disarmament

HIROSHIMA, Aug 5: It is totally unacceptable for states in possession of nuclear weapons to admit the possibility of a nuclear war, António Guterres underscored early on Saturday in Japan at a ceremony marking the 77th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima.

“Nuclear weapons are nonsense. Three-quarters of a century later, we must ask what we’ve learned from the mushroom cloud that swelled above this city in 1945”, he urged during the solemn event at Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park attended by dozens of people, including hibakusha, young peace activists, Japan’s Prime Minister and other local authorities.

The UN Secretary-General warned that a new arms race is picking up speed and world leaders are enhancing stockpiles at a cost of hundreds of billions of dollars with almost 13,000 nuclear weapons currently held in arsenals around the world.

“…Crises with grave nuclear undertones are spreading fast — from the Middle East to the Korean peninsula, to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine… Humanity is playing with a loaded gun”, he cautioned.

Guterres called the current Review Conference of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons in New York a ‘sign of hope’.

“Today, from this sacred space, I call on this Treaty’s members to work urgently to eliminate the stockpiles that threaten our future, to strengthen dialogue, diplomacy and negotiation, and to support my disarmament agenda by eliminating these devices of destruction”, he emphasized.

He underscored that countries with nuclear weapons must commit to the “no first use” of them, and assure other states that they will not use –or threaten to use—nuclear weapons against them.

“We must keep the horrors of Hiroshima in view at all times, recognizing there is only one solution to the nuclear threat: not to have nuclear weapons at all”, the UN chief stated.

Guterres stressed that leaders cannot hide from their responsibilities.

“Take the nuclear option off the table — for good. It’s time to proliferate peace. Heed the message of the hibakusha: “No more Hiroshimas! No more Nagasakis!”, he said, recognizing that in 1945, two atomic bombs were detonated over the skies of Japan – first in Hiroshima on 6 August, and Nagasaki three days later, on 9 August.

Guterres also sent a message to the young people urging them to finish the work that the hibakusha have begun.

“The world must never forget what happened here. The memory of those who died — and the legacy of those who survived — will never be extinguished”, he concluded.

The UN Secretary-General will be in Japan over the weekend, where he will meet with several Japanese senior officials, including Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.

He will also meet a group of surviving victims of the atomic bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and participate in a dialogue with young activists who are leading initiatives on nuclear disarmament, non-proliferation and other global issues.

Later in the day, the Secretary-General met five surviving victims of the atomic bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, known as Hibakusha, and heard their stories.

He expressed his admiration for them, acknowledging that they have suffered enormously but have overcome trauma with ‘enormous courage and resilience’.

Guterres also called them an example for the world, and told the three women and two men reunited with him that they have the moral authority to tell leaders that ‘nuclear weapons are nonsense’

“The UN is committed to keeping the memory of what happened alive, and to make sure that your stories echo forever”, he said.

The hibakusha told the UN chief how they have remained engaged in issues of peace and disarmament for most of their lives: for example, one of them wrote a song to raise awareness and another illustrated her experiences in pictures.

They all expressed their desire that young people also understand the crude reality of nuclear weapons.

António Guterres was also part of an informal dialogue session with young Japanese activists currently leading initiatives on nuclear disarmament, non-proliferation and other global issues.

“I would like to apologize on behalf of my generation for the state of the world we are leaving to your generation”, he said, reiterating an apology he’s made before to the youth worldwide.

He spoke about the current state of the world, including the triple planetary crisis, the raging inequality, and widespread armed conflict.

“Our generations need to work together… and then you will assume the responsibilities, and you need to be prepared and be in very good shape”, he told the young participants.

The UN chief also met with the mayor of Hiroshima, and the deputy mayor of Nagasaki, and was granted honorary citizenship of Hiroshima.

“I accept this great honour on behalf of all the women and men of the United Nations who are working for peace around the world. I accept it on behalf of the diplomats and negotiators who — this very week — are meeting in New York to stop the spread of nuclear weapons”, he expressed.

 

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