UN representative advocates for nuclear disarmament

Angela Kane, who works for the United Nations, stressed the importance of nuclear disar- mament for achieving global security at a Tuesday talk.
Angela Kane, who works for the United Nations, stressed the importance of nuclear disar- mament for achieving global security at a Tuesday talk. Photo by Jacob Geiger.

Nations must eliminate nuclear weapons within their borders in the present age of increased globalization, according to Angela Kane, the United Nations high representative for disarmament.

At a talk on Tuesday afternoon, co-sponsored by the Yale International Relations Association and Global Zero, Kane explained the steps the U.N. is currently taking to combat nuclear weapon proliferation and provided guidance on ways to advocate for global disarmament to a small crowd of seven students. Kane, who has worked at the U.N. for roughly 30 years, said disarmament is the key to resolving conflicts throughout the world in the coming years.

“The world has become interdependent, due to the rough process of globalization,” Kane said. “The future of peace and global security will most likely be determined by disarmament.”

Kane explained that members of the U.N. focus on two ways to diminish the use of weapons: First, they attempt to prohibit and eliminate weapons of mass destruction, and second, they aim to limit and regulate conventional arms.

In the past, U.N. secretary-generals have supported these broad goals, she said. But she added that some secretary-generals have been more active than others. Kane said she believes current U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has been more involved with disarmament initiatives due to his background as a South Korean foreign minster, in which he learned about North Korea’s weapons of mass destruction.

Although the U.N. does not serve as an international governing body to enforce laws, the U.N. is significant because it establishes multinational guidelines to regulate states’ behavior with nuclear arms, she said.

“The U.N. does serve as a kind of an assembly line for establishing these multinational norms,” Kane said. “This assembly line gives a unique value added of our whole institution and serves a function that no other government or coalition can do.”

Kane said much progress has been made in the field of nuclear disarmament. In 1980, roughly 75,000 nuclear weapons existed, and now that figure has lowered to roughly 19,000. But she argued that nuclear proliferation still must be regulated further.

Although every country with nuclear weapons says it will not use them, Kane said the only way to eliminate the danger posed by nuclear weapons effectively is to abolish them entirely. Kane added that states face pressure from other nations to sign disarmament and nonproliferation treaties.

“Every country wants to look good in the international community, and they are subject to moral pressure from other nations,” Kane explained. “There are very few states that don’t care about this, besides North Korea and Iran.”

Kane said a multilateral arms negotiation organized by the U.N. will occur on April 18. During the two-week negotiation, she added, representatives will aim to regulate international gun trade and to achieve transparency between arms sellers and buyers.

Linh Nguyen ’15 said she appreciated that Kane gave opinions of the disarmament process that she had not yet heard in the media — specifically that states do not always work together in a field that demands cooperation.

Mahir Rahman ’16 said he thought Kane provided a well-rounded picture of global disarmament and provided critical insights through her insider perspective.

Prior to joining the U.N., Kane worked for the World Bank in Washington, D.C.

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