AS A UNITED NATIONS MESSENGER OF PEACE, I believe disarma- ment is a great cause serving all mankind. It is my passion.
Twice in the twentieth century, the massive build-up of offensive weapons have led to two world wars, with the latter ending in the world witnessing the most destructive weapon ever conceived by man, the atomic bomb.
The development of the atomic bomb led to a nuclear arms race which culminated in the United States and the Soviet Union pos- sessing a total of some 70,000 nuclear weapons between them during the height of the Cold War, a staggering number that had the potential to annihilate all life from our fragile planet.
Atomic bombs were the not the only weapons of mass destruc- tion. Man has invented, and the world has witnessed, the use of chemical and biological weapons. Chemical weapons were a mainstay of the First World War when chlorine and mustard gases choked the life out of young soldiers who died agonizing deaths in trenches along the fighting fronts across Europe.
Some histories of biological weapons date back to antiquity or the Middle Ages when warriors would catapult the bodies of plague victims over the walls of defending armies. By the twentieth cen- tury, scientists were concocting biological agents and develop- ing missiles that could deliver massive lethal doses of anthrax and even smallpox halfway around the world. Controlling these biological poisons, once unleashed, would be impossible and the victims would be average citizens, mothers, fathers and children, who never signed up for battle.
As scary as weapons of mass destruction are, most wars are fought with conventional weapons, which are not only large ones such as battlefield tanks and artillery canons but also include small arms such as machine guns, assault rifles and handguns. Around the world, these weapons are not only used in battle, but are all too often diverted through payoffs and corruption to terrorist groups, drug lords and criminal organizations. They are then often used to terrorize communities and to undermine peace and development.
So what can we do? In the pages that follow, you will learn the basics of disarmament, including what the United Nations, Gov- ernments and civil society groups are doing to reduce and abolish weapons that have brought so much anguish and suffering to so many.
Treaties now exist to eliminate biological and chemical weapons, and to outlaw certain types of conventional weapons. Most peo- ple now believe, even if some Governments haven’t yet realized it, that nuclear weapons are not a security shield, but are a collective threat to all of us. A world free of nuclear weapons is a world that I wish for this generation and all future generations.
Read, learn and become involved. Knowledge and information, and not weapons, are the true sources of power.
United Nations Messenger of Peace