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We just banned nuclear weapons!

By John Loretz | International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War | July 7, 2017

Nuclear weapons have been banned.

Stigmatized and prohibited. That means we’re two-thirds of the way to fulfilling the Humanitarian Pledge, which feels like it was launched only yesterday.

It took three international conferences, two open-ended working groups, medical and scientific evidence accumulated over some 50 or more years, decades of selfless appeals by the Hibakusha and by the victims of nuclear testing, a core group of states with the courage to take effective leadership, a decisive UN resolution, four weeks of honest, good faith negotiating by people who really and truly want to rid the world of nuclear weapons, and seven years of intensive campaigning by ICAN…

… and nuclear weapons have been banned.

The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which was adopted today in Conference Room 1 at the United Nations by an overwhelming 122-1 vote, makes a compelling case for the stigmatization and elimination of nuclear weapons. In fact, the language it uses to make that case is indistinguishable from the language of doctors, scientists, international lawyers, and others with expert knowledge of what nuclear weapons are and the devastating harm they cause:

“[T]he catastrophic consequences of nuclear weapons cannot be adequately addressed, transcend national borders, pose grave implications for human survival, the environment, socioeconomic development, the global economy, food security and the health of current and future generations, and have a disproportionate impact on women and girls, including as a result of ionizing radiation.”

“[A]ny use of nuclear weapons would… be abhorrent to the principles of humanity and the dictates of public conscience.”

“[A] legally binding prohibition of nuclear weapons constitutes an important contribution towards the achievement and maintenance of a world free of nuclear weapons, including the irreversible, verifiable and transparent elimination of nuclear weapons.”

The sections of the treaty that spell out the prohibitions and the obligations of the states that are party to it close the legal gap that has been exploited by the nuclear-armed and nuclear-dependent states not only to forestall their disarmament obligations, but also to keep nuclear weapons at the center of their military and security policies for decades to come. The development, testing, production, manufacture, acquisition, possession, stockpiling, use, and threat of use of nuclear weapons have been declared illegal under this treaty. Period.

The nuclear-armed and nuclear-dependent states have been provided with practical and flexible ways to comply with those prohibitions once they decide to join. If they persist in defying the norms established by the treaty, they will be outlaw states.

The treaty refutes the claim made by a handful of states that they need nuclear weapons to ensure their own security, and that humanitarian consequences must somehow be balanced with those needs. Not only does the treaty insist that the dangers posed by nuclear weapons “concern the security of all humanity,” but it also calls the long-overdue elimination of nuclear weapons “a global public good of the highest order, serving both national and collective security interests.”

The treaty is about more than prohibitions. It spells out the obligations and responsibilities of its parties to work for universalization, to redress and remediate the harm done by nuclear weapons to victims and the environment, and to support and defend the norm of collective security in a nuclear-weapons-free world.

Abacca Anjain-Maddison of the Marshall Islands—a place that has experienced the consequences of nuclear weapons first-hand—spoke on behalf of ICAN at the conclusion of this historic conference:

“The adoption of this landmark agreement today fills us with hope that the mistakes of the past will never be repeated. It fills us with hope that we will pass on to our children and grandchildren a world forever free of these awful bombs.”

Setsuko Thurlow said at the beginning of these negotiations that the ban treaty would “change the world.” With the successful conclusion of the negotiations, we now have a powerful new legal, moral, and political tool to do just that. We will have to maintain the partnership of states, international organizations, and civil society that has brought us this far in order to use the tool we’ve created for its intended purpose.

Nuclear weapons have been banned. All that’s left now is to eliminate them once and for all.

July 7, 2017 Posted by | Militarism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , | 1 Comment

ICAN, in Vienna, calls for negotiations on a treaty banning nuclear weapons

More than 150 states gather in Vienna for global conference on nuclear weapons

International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War | December 8, 2014

In a demonstration of overwhelming support from the international community, representatives from more than 150 states are gathering in Vienna, Austria for the third international conference to examine the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons.

Prior to the government talks, more than 500 activists assembled in the biggest gathering of civil society on a treaty to ban nuclear weapons.

“We are closer than we have ever been to starting negotiations on a treaty to ban nuclear weapons”, said Beatrice Fihn, Executive Director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons. “We are confident that governments will find the courage to embark on a diplomatic process to develop a new international treaty to outlaw nuclear weapons,” Fihn said.

Previous conferences of this process held in Norway and Mexico concluded that there could be no adequate response if one or more nuclear weapons were to be detonated, either intentionally or by accident.

These global talks have represented a collective reframing exercise that has fundamentally changed the way nuclear weapons are discussed internationally.

The Vienna meeting will be the first time that an intergovernmental conference will have a focus on survivors of nuclear testing, who will testify about the long-term effects of nuclear explosions on human health. Vienna will also be the first time that states comprehensively address the gap in international law whereby nuclear weapons are the only weapons of mass destruction not subject to an international ban treaty.

“The evidence presented during this process so far has been overwhelming. The impact of nuclear weapons is even worse than we previously understood and the risk of their use is even greater than governments have admitted,” said Thomas Nash, a representative of ICAN and director of a UK-based weapons monitoring NGO, Article 36. “We expect states to respond to this evidence by launching a process towards a ban on nuclear weapons by the time of the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki next August,” Nash added.

Of the 150 states that will participate in the Vienna conference, nuclear-armed states such as the United Kingdom and the United States that have previously boycotted talks in this process will participate alongside India and Pakistan.

“Even those states that dismissed these conferences as a “distraction” only a few months ago have changed their minds and are coming to Vienna to discuss the unacceptable consequences of their nuclear weapons. Nobody can now ignore this humanitarian initiative on nuclear weapons. It must be the starting point for all discussions on nuclear weapons in the future,” said Ray Acheson of ICAN and the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom.

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The Austria conference is the latest step in a process that has changed the way nuclear weapons are discussed at the international level. Since 2010, when states parties to the Non-Proliferation Treaty recognized “the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons,” a new narrative has emerged in which the actual effects of these weapons are the basis for renewed actions to address them. The Red Cross movement, United Nations relief agencies, civil society and the majority of the world’s nations have endorsed this humanitarian initiative. In October, 155 states joined a statement by New Zealand at the United Nations noting that “the catastrophic consequences of nuclear weapons must underpin all approaches and efforts towards nuclear disarmament.”

Among civil society representatives that will address the Conference in Vienna, atomic bomb survivor from Hiroshima (“Hibakusha”) Setsuko Thurlow, and for the first time several atomic testing survivors including Karipbek Kuyukov, will provide a testimony on the experience surviving nuclear exposure. Renowned author of “Command and Control” Eric Schlosser and former US military officer Bruce Blair will address nuclear weapons risks, miscalculations and accidents. Camille Francois from Harvard Law School Berkman Center for Internet and Society and Columbia University will discuss the difficulties of securing nuclear facilities from cyber threats. ICRC President Peter Maurer and Austrian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sebastian Kurz will introduce the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons.

December 8, 2014 Posted by | Militarism, Solidarity and Activism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , | Leave a comment

“It is time we ban nuclear weapons”

Civil society statement to the UN high-level meeting on nuclear disarmament

Delivered by Nosizwe Lise Baqwa of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) on behalf of civil society

26 September 2013, New York

The use of a nuclear weapon on a major populated area would immediately kill tens if not hundreds of thousands of people—women, men, and children.

Hundreds of thousands more would be alive—but severely injured. Blinded, burned, crushed. The immediate effects of even a single nuclear weapon are shocking and overwhelming. Its destructive force capable of nightmarish scenes of death and despair. Of suffering. They go far beyond what is considered acceptable, even in the context of war.

The blinding flash will leave people sightless; the massive blast will level cities; the searing heat and spreading fires will melt steel and engulf homes, and can coalesce into a firestorm that will suck the air from anyone still breathing.

And the survivors of these physical traumas may yet be poisoned by radioactivity, which invades and destroys their bodies over the days and weeks that follow.

In addition to this, there are significant long-term impacts of a nuclear weapons explosion.

A single nuclear weapon will cause devastating damage to infrastructure, critical industry, to our livelihoods and to our lives. The lives of fathers, of mothers, of grandparents; the lives of our children. The long-term effects of exposure to radiation will lead to increased incidence of leukemia and solid cancers among survivors, and a heightened risk of hereditary effects for future generations. Their use would result in large-scale forced or voluntary migration—floods of refugees into neighboring countries, who would be unable to return home for decades, if ever. A nuclear weapons explosion will affect the environment and agricultural production for decades to come.

If multiple nuclear weapons were used, the combined effects of their firestorms would seriously disrupt the global climate, causing widespread agricultural collapse and famine that could blight the lives of millions. Global communications and electrical and electronic systems would be disrupted. An extensive nuclear exchange would produce temperatures lower than the last ice age.

The effects will spread beyond borders, to areas far away from where the bombs were dropped.

There will be a disproportionate impact on the most vulnerable people around the world: those without enough food; those without access to health care, water, and education; those who are already suffering from the lack of resources.

The Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons in Oslo held in March this year, concluded that it would not be possible to coordinate and deliver any meaningful humanitarian response, to a catastrophe brought about by nuclear weapons. No international organization or state could adequately deal with the situation.

Any use of nuclear weapons would eradicate hospitals, food, water and medical supplies, transportation and communications—infrastructure required for the treatment of survivors.

Physicians and paramedics arriving from outside would have to work without resources needed for effective treatment; furthermore, radiation, as we know from both Chernobyl and Fukushima, can make it impossible for rescuers to enter highly contaminated areas.

There are still many aspects of the impact of nuclear weapons that are rarely discussed. We look forward to the upcoming conference in Mexico next year, where we hope all governments will continue to engage in a fact-based discussion around the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons. The horror that these weapons threaten is stark.

That nuclear weapons have not already been clearly declared illegal for all, alongside the other prohibited weapons of mass destruction, is a failure of our collective social responsibility.

The time has come for committed states to correct that failure. The time has come to ban nuclear weapons once and for all.

The current framework provided for multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations has not been able to overcome the lack of political will of nuclear-armed states to comply with their obligations to disarm. Let us not allow deadlocks in meetings to be the legacy we leave behind us, for our children.

A treaty banning nuclear weapons is achievable. It can be initiated by states that do not possess nuclear weapons. Nuclear-armed states should not be allowed to prevent such negotiations. We should not abandon productive or promising efforts in other forums, but neither should we ignore the opportunity that lies before us now, to make history.

History shows that legal prohibitions of weapon systems—of their use or their possession—facilitate their elimination. Weapons that have been outlawed increasingly become seen as illegitimate. They lose their political status, and so do not continue compelling money and resources to be invested in their production, modernisation, proliferation, and perpetuation.

The ban on nuclear weapons will raise the political and economic costs of maintaining them, by prohibiting assistance with the development, production, or testing of nuclear weapon systems.

The new treaty will perhaps be the most important tool in our collective work towards eliminating nuclear weapons, and this tool can actually be achieved now.

It will take courage. It will take the leadership by states free of nuclear weapons. And you will have the support of civil society. My name is Nosizwe Lise Baqwa and I am a campaigner from ICAN, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons. Campaigners like me, from all around the world, are demanding action to finally achieve the outlawing and elimination of nuclear weapons. It is time. It is time to change the status quo. It is time we ban nuclear weapons.

September 27, 2013 Posted by | Militarism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , | Comments Off on “It is time we ban nuclear weapons”

Nuclear weapon reductions will reduce risks, but prohibition treaty urgent

The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons | June 19, 2013

The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) welcomes President Obama’s announcement in Berlin today calling for a world without nuclear weapons and the readiness to pursue further reductions in the US and Russian nuclear arsenals. However, the humanitarian consequences of any nuclear weapon use, increasingly the focus of global engagement on these weapons, demands their prohibition and elimination.

The speech by President Obama contributes to a growing recognition that nuclear weapons are unusable weapons with no practical utility in today’s global security environment. Despite this, they threaten shocking humanitarian consequences if they were to be used. Nuclear weapons are the only weapons of mass destruction not subject to treaty prohibition and ICAN is calling for such a treaty to provide the framework for their elimination.

“The speech by Obama comes at a point where many other states, international organisations and civil society are focusing on the unacceptable humanitarian effects that the use of these weapons would create. The level of civilian harm that nuclear weapons threaten makes a treaty prohibiting their use, production and stockpiling urgent,” said Beatrice Fihn of ICAN’s International Steering Group.

2013 has already seen international discussions focused on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons, and broad cross regional support for this approach. Whilst the intended reductions announced by President Obama would contribute to a reduction in the risk posed by nuclear weapons, the announcement does not challenge the on-going modernisation programmes in most nuclear-armed states or the continued reliance on nuclear weapons in security doctrines.

A single nuclear weapon detonation in an urban area would kill hundreds of thousands immediately and leave hundreds thousands more in desperate need. A wider use of nuclear weapons could cause climatic changes that impair global crop production and result in people starving even in different continents from the conflict.

“The consequences of a nuclear weapon detonation will not stop at borders; it is truly a global concern no matter who possess these weapons,” says Akira Kawasaki, Executive Committee member of Peace Boat and Co-chair of ICAN. “This announcement should encourage action from all states, not only nuclear armed states and those with extended nuclear deterrence arrangements, but all non-nuclear weapon states as well. It is now time to take bold and tangible steps towards the goal of a world free of nuclear weapons by negotiating a ban.”

June 19, 2013 Posted by | Militarism, Solidarity and Activism, War Crimes | , , , , | Comments Off on Nuclear weapon reductions will reduce risks, but prohibition treaty urgent