The United Nations chief announced a bold new vision for global disarmament on Thursday, 24 May, to help eliminate nuclear arsenals and other deadly weapons from a world that is just “one mechanical, electronic and human error away” from destruction.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres spoke at the university of Geneva, in Switzerland, on Thursday,  launching his "Agenda for Disarmament".

Unveiling his new agenda, entitled  "Securing Our Common Future" , Guterres said it focuses on three priorities – weapons of mass destruction, conventional weapons, and new battlefield technologies.

First, he stressed that disarmament of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons could “save humanity,” noting that some 15,000 nuclear weapons remain stockpiled around the world and hundreds are ready to be launched within minutes.

Guterres poignantly added: "We are one mechanical, electronic or human error away from a catastrophe that could eradicate entire cities from the map."

He went on to warn that the countries that possess nuclear weapons have the primary responsibility for avoiding catastrophe. In that regard, he appealed to Russia and the US to resolve their dispute over the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty; to extend the New START treaty on strategic offensive arms, which is due to expire in just three years; and to take new steps towards reducing nuclear stockpiles.

Second, he said, disarmament of conventional weapons, which include small arms, light weapons and landmines,  could “save lives,” in particular those of civilians who continue to bear the brunt of armed conflict.

The UN chief said that beyond the appalling numbers of civilians killed and injured, conflicts are driving record numbers of people from their homes, often depriving them of food, healthcare, education and any means of making a living.

Guterres added:  "At the end of 2016, more than 65 million people were uprooted by war, violence and persecution".

Third, he said,  new technologies, when used maliciously, could help start a new arms race, endangering future generations.

The UN chief added:  "The combined risks of new weapon technologies could have a game-changing impact on our future security.   Disarmament – including arms control, non-proliferation, prohibitions, restrictions, confidence-building and, where needed, elimination – is  an essential tool to secure our world and our future. The paradox is that when each country pursues its own security without regard for others, we create global insecurity that threatens us all."

Guterres further explained:  "Disarmament prevents and ends violence. Disarmament supports sustainable development. And disarmament is true to our values and principles".