Photo: Secretary-General António Guterres (front left) views an exhibit at the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum on 9 August 2018. UN Photo/Daniel Powell - Photo: 2018

73 Years On, a Nuclear-Weapons-Free World Remains a Mirage

By Ramesh Jaura

BERLIN (IDN) – Nobel Peace Prize laureate Adolfo Pérez Esquivel and Buddhist philosopher Daisaku Ikeda recall a quote from Martin Luther King Jr – “We are always on the threshold of a new dawn” – and aver that the adoption of the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in July 2017 is such a ‘threshold’.

In a joint appeal ‘To the Youth of the World’, released to the media and wider public in Rome, and handed over to Pope Francis, they note that the Treaty “is an international legal instrument that establishes the absolute illegality” of nuclear weapons.

The statement also refers to the international symposium ‘Perspectives for a World Free from Nuclear Weapons and for Integral Disarmament‘, which Pope Francis convened at the Vatican in November 2017.

The symposium participants – including the Tokyo-based Soka Gakkai International (SGI) presided by Dr Ikeda – agreed that in pursuing the goal of a world without nuclear weapons, we must eliminate the threat nuclear weapons pose.

“There is,” therefore, “an urgent need to disarm our ways of thinking,” accentuates the appeal Nobel Peace Prize laureate Dr Esquivel presented to Pope Francis on June 9, 2018 at the Vatican.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres agrees. “Sadly, 73 years on, fears of nuclear war are still with us,” he said in Nagasaki on August 9 commemorating the 73rd anniversary of the atomic bombing of the city and of Hiroshima on August 6.

“Millions of people, including here in Japan, live in a shadow cast by the dread of unthinkable carnage. States in possession of nuclear weapons are spending vast sums to modernize their arsenals,” he said.

This, Masato Tainaka commented in the The Asahi Shimbun, was “a thinly veiled attack on the Trump administration”. Guterres, the first UN chief to attend the annual ceremony in Nagasaki, added Tainaka, “deftly sidestepped naming the United States, but there was no disguising that his speech was a scathing indictment of the Trump administration’s position on nuclear arms.”

More than $1.7 trillion was spent in 2017 on arms and armies, noted Guterres. That was not only the highest level since the end of the Cold War but also around 80 times the amount needed for global humanitarian aid, he said.

“Meanwhile, disarmament processes have slowed and even come to a halt,” said the UN Chief in an obvious dig in particular at the five nuclear weapon states: USA, Russia, China, Britain and France. “Many States demonstrated their frustration by adopting the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons last year,” he added.

Earlier, in Hiroshima, Izumi Nakamitsu, UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, thanked on behalf of Guterres “the Hibakusha (the survivors of atomic bombings) and the people of Hiroshima for their decades of dedication to educating the world about the threat nuclear weapons pose to our global, national and human security.”

“The world needs your continued moral leadership. After decades of momentum towards the shared goal of a world free of nuclear weapons, progress has stalled,” she added on behalf of the UN Chief. “Tensions between nuclear-armed States are rising. Nuclear arsenals are being modernized and, in some cases, expanded.”

These remarks echo a stark reality that smashes the hope of “a new dawn”: But since, as American mystic and author Terence McKenna wrote, “reality itself is not static… but “some kind of an organism evolving toward a conclusion,” nuclear disarmament experts are not plunging into despair.

“We have seen how young people worldwide worked as key agents of civil society in solidarity with the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) to propel the adoption of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons,” Dr Esquivel and Dr Ikeda maintain.

Anticipating that the international support that exists for a permanent end to the threat posed by nuclear arms, as well as frustration at the slow pace of achieving this goal, can change the current reality, Guterres is pleading with world leaders “to return to dialogue and diplomacy, to a common path towards the total elimination of nuclear weapons and a safer and more secure world for all.”

This is the background for his new initiative on disarmament. His disarmament agenda, Securing Our Common Future, released in May 2018, seeks to strengthen disarmament as a practical tool that enhances international peace and security.

UNFOLD ZERO advises looking forward to September 26, United Nations International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons (Nuclear Abolition Day), and the day in 1983 when a nuclear war was almost triggered by accident. Remembering that day, the UN will hold a half-day High-Level Meeting at its headquarters in New York.

On that day, world leaders will in New York for the opening session of the United Nations General Assembly, notes UNFOLD ZERO, a project of PragueVision, PNND, Basel Peace Office, Mayors for Peace 2020 Vision Campaign, Aotearoa Lawyers for Peace, World Future Council, World Federalist Movement and Global Security Institute.

UNFOLD ZERO also points to another opportunity to contribute to a nuclear weapons free world – by way of supporting the three-day High-Level Conference (Summit) on Nuclear Disarmament originally scheduled for May 2018. However, according to Alyn Ware – co-chair, World Future Council Disarmament Commission – pro-nuclear forces managed to have the Summit postponed; they are now at pains to have it cancelled altogether. However, if the Summit takes place, it could provide important opportunities to make concrete progress on nuclear war prevention and disarmament initiatives, such as de-alerting, no-first use, nuclear stockpile reductions and building more support for the new Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, notes Alyn Ware.

The co-founder and Treaty Coordinator Tim Wright of the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize laureate ICAN analyses how the Nuclear Ban Treaty, adopted by 122 states, is faring nearly one year on.

When the Treaty opened for signature on September 20, 2017 in New York, he says, there was a welcome rush to sign. Fifty states signed that day, three of them ratifying at the same time.

Meanwhile 60 states have signed and 14 ratified, from diverse regions. The pace of ratification, Wright notes, has been faster than for any other multilateral treaty related to weapons of mass destruction (WMDs), such as the conventions banning biological and chemical weapons, the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).

Besides, parliamentary, departmental and legislative processes towards joining the Treaty are well underway in many countries in Africa, Latin America, Southeast Asia and the Pacific. “Recently Switzerland’s first chamber of parliament voted to join, and New Zealand’s Cabinet has decided to ratify… the European Parliament reiterated its call for all 28 EU member states to sign and ratify the Treaty,” adds Wright.

In an interview published on IDN-INPS special website, he said: “We are hopeful that the Treaty will enter into force in 2019. We are working towards that target… We know of many countries that are well advanced in their ratification processes. Some countries should be ready to deposit their ratification instruments in the next few months.” The Treaty will enter into force 90 days after 50 states have ratified.

Nonetheless, even after it has come into force, efforts would have to continue at multiple levels for the complete elimination of nuclear weapons. Because neither the five nuclear powers with veto-wielding permanent seats (P5) in the Security Council, nor India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea – that together possess around 15,000 nuclear weapons – are willing to abandon their atomic arsenal.

This is true of NATO member nuclear weapons sharing states (Belgium, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Turkey) and countries enjoying U.S. nuclear umbrella such as Japan and South Korea as well.

The outright refusal of the P5 – USA, Russia, China, Britain and France – to forsake their arsenal encourages the other four nuclear powers to follow in their footsteps. While Israel has a policy of ambiguity in relation to its nuclear arsenal, neither confirming nor denying its existence, both India and Pakistan justify their stockpiles as deterrents to a potential nuclear assault by either.

India is convinced that the goal of nuclear disarmament can be achieved by a step-by-step process “underwritten by a universal commitment” and an agreed multilateral framework that is global and non-discriminatory to non-P5 nuclear powers.

This is the argument North Korea has been advancing for many years at meetings of non-aligned movement (NAM) – a point that is often overlooked in discussions about the country’s “denuclearisation”. [IDN-InDepthNews – 20 August 2018]

Photo: Secretary-General António Guterres (front left) views an exhibit at the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum on 9 August 2018. UN Photo/Daniel Powell

IDN is flagship agency of the International Press Syndicate. –

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