Speech by Foreign Minister Baerbock at the High-Level Event to advance the work on a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty, a side event of the 78th UN General Assembly

19.09.2023 - Speech

What’s the point in speaking up for nuclear arms control today?

Some – probably outside of this room – might say this is futile in a world where a permanent member of the UN Security Council is waging a war of aggression to subdue its neighbour, and where proliferation crises and nuclear build-ups are challenging the very core of the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

But I am convinced that in this world, speaking up for nuclear arms control actually matters more than ever.

Because we all seek to uphold a global order that is based on clear rules – on international law and our UN Charter.

And nuclear arms control is a crucial part of this order:

Because it replaces uncontrolled arms races with mutual assurances of caps and constraints.

Because it provides transparency and insight into each other’s intentions, thus making international relations more predictable.

And because it provides common rules that make all people, all states safer.

That’s why Germany will continue its work to preserve the Non‑Proliferation Treaty and to reduce nuclear risks – with partners from East and West, from North and South, in the Non‑Proliferation and Disarmament Initiative as well as the Stockholm Initiative.

And that’s also why Germany remains committed to starting negotiations on the Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty – the FMCT.

FMCT – that sounds technical. It is. But it’s also critical.

Because fissile material provides the “explosive”, the “dynamite” for nuclear weapons.

And the maths is easy: The more fissile material – the more nuclear weapons.

But the world does not need more nuclear weapons. It does not need more fissile material. It needs less.

And yet, our work to even start negotiations has been stalled for the last three decades.

At the same time, after decades of exchanges between our experts, we all know what an FMCT could look like: The necessary provisions, the substance for negotiations that we need to agree upon are very clear.

So there is no doubt that moving forward is a question of political will. Therefore, I would like to echo the message that so many of you conveyed today: All states should finally clear the way for negotiations to start. And the states with significant nuclear capabilities have a particular responsibility in this regard.

Germany stands ready to continue working for an FMCT – at the Conference on Disarmament and through resolutions at the General Assembly.

As a first step, all states should declare and uphold voluntary moratoria on the production of fissile material for use in nuclear weapons. We call on China – the only nuclear weapon state under the NPT that has not yet declared such a moratorium – to do so without delay.

Colleagues, ladies and gentlemen,

Now is the moment for us to speak up for nuclear arms control.

Not because we are naïve or because we harbour unrealistic hopes.

But because it’s crucial to a world order in which international law and common rules prevail.

An order that protects our security and peace.


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