Waiting For Zero Nuke

By D Ravi Kanth* | IDN-InDepth NewsAnalysis

GENEVA (IDN) – The commemoration of the United Nations International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons on September 26 was a grim reminder of the continued threat from nuclear weapons to people at large.

“Around 2000 nuclear weapons are kept on alert between the United States and Russia which are now latched on to the [current] crisis in Syria and Ukraine,” says Aaron Tovish, a leading activist from the global Mayors for Peace campaign to eliminate nuclear warheads.

Just when Iraq and Syria are pounded from the skies with smart bombs, the surviving victims of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombings point towards the deadly effects from the weapons of mass destruction on the civilians.

“We emphasize the importance of intensifying the global campaign for abolition of nuclear weapons and our major goal is to strengthen global momentum for achieving this goal by 2020,” Tovish told IDN.

As the United States plans to spend nearly a trillion dollars on modernizing its nuclear arsenal in the next 30 years and Britain intending to spend 50 billion dollars on its Trident nuclear missile, the days of Cold War are back once again.

“We emphasize the dangers of from Syria, and Ukraine cannot serve as a justification for any of those expenditures on the nuclear weapons which pose a much bigger threat to climate change and food security,” Tovish argued.

Tovish who took part in the proceedings to mark the first anniversary of the UN day to eliminate nuclear weapons in Geneva explained about “I was her age” project launched by Mayors for Peace and Peace Boat to get the “Hibakusha” out to the world in the lead up to the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombings next year.

Hibakusha are the living victims of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The U.S. President Harry S Truman, who took the decision to drop the first weapon of mass destruction on the Japanese city, had insisted that “the world will note that the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, a military base. That was because we wished in this first attack to avoid, insofar as possible, the killing of civilians.”

But the U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey concluded in its official report that “Hiroshima and Nagasaki were chosen as targets because of their concentration of activities and population,” according to historian Howard Zinn.

UNFOLD ZERO and the UN Office of Disarmament Affairs (UNODA), which organized the first anniversary of the International Day for Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons, delivered a strong message that the global civil society must force the governments not to abandon the complete disarmament and the elimination of nuclear weapons.

With the UN Conference on Disarmament, the multilateral body to negotiate disarmament and complete elimination of nuclear weapons, mired in an interminable phase of paralysis for the last 18 years, the civil society has to play a bigger role. “But we must remember that political will is not only generated at leadership level,” says Michael Moller, the acting director general of the UN office in Geneva.

“It is most often propelled by popular demand and we need this commitment because the total elimination of nuclear weapons from the face of the Earth is not a simply a noble goal but it is the ultimate and indispensable condition for guaranteeing long-term, meaningful international peace and security,” Moller told the participants at the UNFOLD meeting.

Indonesia’s strong commitment

Last year, Indonesia on behalf of the non-aligned countries proposed a strong resolution in the UN General Assembly to commemorate September 26 every year as an International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons. The underlying objective is to “enhance public awareness and education about the threat posed to humanity by nuclear weapons and the necessity for their total elimination, in order to mobilize international efforts towards achieving the common goal of a nuclear-weapon-free world.”

The non-aligned countries reminded nuclear states about their forgotten “obligations” in Article VI of the Non-Proliferation of the Nuclear Weapons treaty, which stipulated the cessation of the nuclear arms race and complete nuclear disarmament.

“The NPT was a temporary arrangement resulting from the so-called ‘Grand Bargain’, by which non-nuclear States committed themselves not to acquire or develop nuclear weapons in exchange for access to peaceful use of nuclear energy while, nuclear states committed themselves to nuclear disarmament,” says Ambassador Jorge Lomonaco, Mexico’s representative to the UN in Geneva.

“While non-nuclear states have fulfilled their obligations under the NPT, the nuclear states have not fulfilled their commitment [more than 40 years after NPT was signed], Ambassador Lomonaco told IDN.

The Mexican envoy highlighted the increasing dangers from an intentional or accidental detonation, including the slippage into the hands of non-state actors. “With the greater availability of studies and scientific research in our time, the reflection on the implications of a nuclear detonation, whether incidental or accidental, in the environment; the human, animal or vegetation health; climate change; food security, development and the economy; human displacement, and other dimensions of development,” Ambassador Lomonaco listed in his address as major issues that would require an urgent discussion.

Mexico alongside Norway, Austria and others are now engaged in intensifying the global campaign about the humanitarian consequences from the impact of a single nuclear detonation.

Indonesia, which is a leading campaigner for complete nuclear disarmament at the UN has called for a commitment to ensure “world-free-of-nuclear weapons.” Indonesia’s envoy Ambassador Triyono Wibowo said the nuclear states must eliminate their weapons in the Middle East and commit to disarmament.

The Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) which is one of the oldest multilateral bodies, adopted a resolution in March this year urging parliaments to ensure that governments must not use nuclear weapons as deterrents in national defence plans.

The IPU also called for strengthening the safety of all nuclear materials, consolidating existing nuclear-weapon free zones and supporting the establishment of new nuclear-free zones.

For almost 70 years, nations have been wrestling with the abolition of nuclear weapons. The UN General Assembly adopted the first resolution in January 1946 in London to eliminate atomic weapons. Several important developments marked the disarmament negotiations despite the arms race during the Cold War between the United States and the former Soviet Union.

More countries have now acquired the deadliest atomic weapons of mass destruction during this period on the pretext that they would serve as deterrent in their immediate bilateral and regional conflicts.

Contagious doctrine of nuclear deterrence

The two major nuclear states, the U.S. and Russia, have reduced their stockpile of atomic weapons from around 75,000 at the peak of the Cold War in the mid-1980s to around 20,000, But there are still “detailed, long-term, and well-funded programs” and no “concrete plans for achieving nuclear disarmament- and of course, no progress on negotiating a nuclear weapons convention,” says Ms Gabriele Kraatz-Wadsack, a UN disarmament official.

“We see the perpetuation of what Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called the “contagious doctrine of nuclear deterrence”, which has now spread to some nine countries,” Ms Kraatz-Wadsack lamented.

Despite the prolonged stalemate and the “rust” that has been building up in the disarmament machinery, there are some encouraging developments to raise the awareness and educate people about the need to eliminate nuclear weapons from the civil society, in which the Japan-based Soka Gakkai International (SGI) is also playing an important role.

Also, some governments such as Indonesia, Mexico, Norway, Austria, and Kazakhstan, among others, played a concerted role in the campaign for abolition of nuclear weapons.

The increasing attention worldwide to the humanitarian consequences of the use of nuclear weapons and their implications under the humanitarian and human rights laws and increasing pressure on governments because of non-implementation of commitments are development, which would augur well for opening the door to future progress in nuclear disarmament.

Also the 87th World Peace Voyage – the Hibakusha’s “Journey to Hearth of the World” next year to mark the 70th anniversary of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings is  a significant initiative from Mayors of Peace to pressurize the nuclear states to destroy their arsenal. [IDN-InDepthNews – September 28, 2014]

*D Ravi Kanth is a free lance journalist based in Geneva.

2014 IDN-InDepthNews | Analysis That Matters

Image credit: UN

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