Nearing the end of his second term as Secretary General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan went to Princeton University on November 28, 2006 to make what may well be remembered as the most important speech of his tenure. He began by talking about the general sense of insecurity in our world today related to a broad range of issues, including poverty, environmental degradation, disease, war and terrorism. He concluded that “the greatest danger of all” may well be “the area of nuclear weapons.” He gave three reasons for this conclusion:

“First, nuclear weapons present a unique existential threat to humanity. “Secondly, the nuclear non-proliferation regime faces a major crisis of confidence….

“Thirdly, the rise of terrorism, with the danger that nuclear weapons might be acquired by terrorists, greatly increases the danger that they will be used.”

He pointed to the two significant failures by governments in 2005 to achieve progress on the twin issues of nuclear non-proliferation and nuclear disarmament: first, at the Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference; and second, at the World Summit, which brought together heads of governments from throughout the world.

Annan attributed the current stalemate, which he termed “mutually assured paralysis,” to the deadlock between those who put nuclear disarmament first and those who put non-proliferation first. He urged both sides to come together and tackle both issues “with the urgency they demand.”

He called upon the nuclear weapons states “to develop concrete plans – with specific timetables – for implementing their disarmament commitments.” He also urged them “to make a joint declaration of intent to achieve the progressive elimination of all nuclear weapons, under strict and effective international control.”

He concluded his remarks by appealing to young people: “Please bring your energy and imagination to this debate. Help us to seize control of the rogue aircraft on which humanity has embarked, and bring it to a safe landing before it is too late.”

This speech is a parting gift from the Secretary General to humanity. I urge you to read it and to demand far more serious action on these critical issues by the leaders of the nuclear weapons states, those who are attempting to control the hijacked “rogue aircraft on which humanity has embarked….”

Read the Kofi Annan Speech

David Krieger is president of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation ( He is a leader in the global effort for a world free of nuclear weapons.