19 October 2011
Opening remarks by Mr. Kassym-Jomart Tokayev
United Nations Under-Secretary-General
Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva
Palais des Nations, Passerelle, E Building, 3rd floor, Door 40
Wednesday, 19 October 2011 at 6:15 p.m.
Ladies and Gentlemen:
It is a pleasure to welcome you all to this exhibition, featuring photographs by Mr. Gwenn Dubourthoumieu. I would especially like to thank the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) for organizing this event. I also very much welcome the presence of Ambassador Perez here this evening. It is a testament to the strong support of the Swiss Confederation - and the personal involvement of its President, Ms. Micheline Calmy-Rey - in raising awareness to the critical issue of armed violence and development.
The global burden of armed violence is a major development challenge. Armed violence is an impediment to human, social and economic development – whether it is from war, a post-conflict situation, or from other types of crime and violence. It is estimated today that at least 875 million small arms and light weapons are in circulation, three quarters of them in the hands of civilians. Armed violence serves as a barrier to sustainable development and threatens the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. According to UNDP, two-thirds of the world’s poorest countries – those least likely to achieve the MDGs by 2015 – also experience high levels of armed violence. This challenge can only be confronted through a holistic approach, in which the demand for weapons is reduced, while at the same time, local and national capacities for armed violence prevention are supported.
This exhibition also draws our attention to the very important work of the Geneva Declaration on Armed Violence and Development, to which 109 governments are now signatory. Adopted in 2006, this initiative is designed to support states and civil society actors to achieve measurable reductions in armed violence in conflict and non-conflict settings. In fact, this exhibition will also be displayed at the 2nd
Ministerial Review Conference on Armed Violence and Development, taking place here in Geneva from 31 October to 1 November 2011. The Conference is hosted by the Government of Switzerland and UNDP and will assess the progress made towards the Geneva Declaration’s key goal of achieving significant reductions in armed violence by 2015.
This exhibit clearly shows the human cost of armed violence. However, among these often stark images are many examples of hope. Of progress made towards the reduction of armed violence. The destruction of arms stockpiles and the creation of community programmes, for example, are steadily achieving results and supporting development goals.
As we reflect on these photographs, let us recommit to protecting future generations from the life-altering impact of armed violence. And let us support the hard work and progress being made around the world to tackle these difficult problems and to meet the goals of peace, development and security for all.
Thank you very much.