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2014 “Arms Control Person of the Year”

UNITED NATIONS, Jan 8 2015 (IPS) - Alexander Kmentt, Austria’s Director for Arms Control, Nonproliferation, and Disarmament received the highest number of votes in an online poll to determine the “2014 Arms Control Person of the Year.”

Kmentt, who started his career at the Austrian Federal Ministry for European and International Affairs in 1994 and has been a leading disarmament diplomat for many years, was recognized for organizing the third International Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons, Dec. 8-9, 2014 in Vienna, which drew delegations representing 158 states, the United Nations, and civil society, according to a statement released here.

Nine other candidates were nominated by the staff of the Arms Control Association for their significant achievements and contributions to reducing the threats posed by the world’s most dangerous weapons in the past year.

For the first time in the series of conferences on nuclear weapons use, the list of participants included countries recognized as nuclear-weapon states by the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT)–the United Kingdom and the United States.

In addition, an unofficial representative from China attended the meeting. Two other nuclear-armed states, India and Pakistan, took part in the previous two meetings and were also present in Vienna.

“Ambassador Kmentt deserves enormous credit for making the third conference on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons the most inclusive and extensive yet,” said Daryl G. Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association.

“The Vienna conference has changed the international conversation about nuclear weapons and provided renewed urgency to the effort to move toward a world free of nuclear weapons,” he said.

“The majority of states parties to the NPT will expect the upcoming Review Conference in May to take into account the findings and conclusions of the Vienna conference and prompt the world’s nuclear weapon states to make faster progress on their NPT Article VI commitments,” added Kimball.

The runner-up in the vote for the 2014 Arms control Persons of the Year were the team of Ahmet Üzümcü, director general of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and Sigrid Kaag, head of the OPCW-UN Joint Mission, for successfully overseeing the elimination of Syria’s 1300 metric tons of chemical weapons, constituting a major steps toward a world free of chemical weapons.

Pope Francis was the second-runner-up in online voting. He was nominated for guiding the Catholic Church to revise its position on the morality of nuclear deterrence for the first time in many years.

The Holy See document, “Nuclear Disarmament: Time for Abolition,” issued in December. It argues that: “The strategic nuclear situation has changed dramatically since the end of the Cold War. Rather than providing security…reliance on a strategy of nuclear deterrence has created a less secure world.”

With a late-surge of online voting over the Christmas holidays, Pope Francis edged out another nominee: the members of the technical and political negotiating teams of Iran, led by Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, and the P5+1 group (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) led by EU High Representative Catherine Ashton.

They were nominated for making significant progress toward a long-term, compromise solution to address international concerns over Iran’s sensitive nuclear activities as part a future, comprehensive nuclear agreement. They will resume negotiations next week in Geneva.

Past winners of the “Arms Control Person of the Year” are: Lassina Zerbo (2013); Gen. James Cartwright (2012); reporter and activist Kathi Lynn Austin(2011),Kazakhstan’s Deputy Foreign Minister Kairat Umarov and Thomas D’Agostino, U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration Administrator (2010); Senator Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) (2009), Norway’s Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre and his ministry’s Director-General for Security Policy and the High North Steffen Kongstad (2008), and U.S. Congressmen Peter Visclosky (D-Ind.) and David Hobson (R-Ohio) (2007).

 
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