Nine countries together possess more than 15,000 nuclear weapons. The United States and Russia maintain roughly 1,800 of their nuclear weapons on high-alert status – ready to be launched within minutes of a warning. Most are many times more powerful than the atomic bombs dropped on Japan in 1945. A single nuclear warhead, if detonated on a large city, could kill millions of people, with the effects persisting for decades.
There are global treaties prohibiting the use, production and stockpiling of certain weapons that the international community has deemed to be inherently inhumane and indiscriminate: chemical weapons, biological and toxin weapons, anti-personnel mines and cluster munitions. No comparable treaty exists for nuclear weapons. These remain, despite their unparalleled destructive capacity, the only WMD not yet comprehensively outlawed.
Tim Wright is Asia Pacific Director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), a global coalition of non-governmental organisations working to mobilise people in all countries to inspire, persuade and pressure their governments to initiate and support negotiations for a treaty banning nuclear weapons.
Tim is keen that we know not only of the dangers of nuclear weapons, but that there is a strong move internationally to ban them even if the media does not tell us much about it.
The Non-Proliferation Treaty of 1968 includes a general obligation to pursue negotiations for nuclear disarmament. In line with this obligation, 113 nations have pledged to fill the gap in existing law by working to prohibit nuclear weapons.
Recent diplomatic conferences on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons have been the impetus behind this significant development. (2 minutes ago, at the time of writing, a tweet on ICAN shows that Mongolia has added its name to the list, taking the total to 114). Still no sign of New Zealand!
You can go and see the countries that have signed here:
Lyndon Burford, who was with Tim Wright at the Non Proliferation Treaty conference in New York in May 2015 speaks on Greenplanetfm explaining how, after a month of negotiations, the conference failed to reach consensus on effective measures to advance nuclear disarmament or stop the spread of nuclear weapons. Hear why.
The failure of the NPT Review Conference has resulted in this new disarmament commitment from the non nuclear-armed states, and the signers of the Humanitarian Pledge will hopefully proceed toward a legal instrument that prohibits nuclear weapons.
The question for the New Zealand government is – why have we, as a nuclear-free country, not signed? It is up to us to put pressure on the government to add our voice to the call for a world without nuclear weapons.
The non nuclear states realise that a nuclear war cannot be won and the humanitarian and environmental results would be devastating for all countries nearby, not just those involved.
In 2013, global military spending surged to an all-time high of US$1.75 trillion. Given the numerous crises facing the planet – the environment, the economy, epidemics, mass poverty – is this the right priority for the use of public money? New Zealand could speak out against this from its two year position on the United Nations Security Council.
Another area where the New Zealand government needs a wakeup call involves Serco, employed to manage Mt Eden Prison and involved in other Department of Corrections operations. The government also plan to use Serco to manage our child services!
However Serco owns a one-third share in the joint venture AWE-ML, which runs the British Atomic Weapons Establishment. It is responsible for manufacturing and maintaining the nuclear warheads for the country’s submarine fleet. It is hardly a company to be involved in taking care of our children, especially given its latest failure in Mt Eden Prison.
It is important that the New Zealand government divests and disassociates itself from all companies that support nuclear weapons.
Tim Wright is the Asia Pacific Director of ICAN. As such he is able to speak about his what has happened in the region in the past. As well as the dropping of bombs in Japan, there were tests in the Marshall Islands, Mururoa Atoll, and central and Western Australia. As well as telling us about his work with ICAN, Tim speaks about these events and the effects on the indigenous people and the soldiers involved.
See Banning Nuclear Weapons, a Pacific Islands Perspective here:
Tim Wright has degrees in law (with honours) and arts from the University of Melbourne, having studied also at SciencesPo in Paris. His writings on nuclear weapons have appeared in the Melbourne Journal of International Law and other scholarly publications.
Prior to working for ICAN, he was manager of the Victorian Council of Civil Liberties and a political adviser to Senator Lyn Allison, the parliamentary leader of the Australian Democrats.
This interview was recorded just before the 70th anniversary of the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki when Tim Wright visited Auckland.
ICAN - http://www.icanw.org/
Don’t Bank on the Bomb – a partner of ICAN -
Additional information added by Lisa.
The Peace Foundation’s upcoming Action for Peace conference is outlined here:
September 19th and 20th Auckland
Please join us.
Below are points on nuclear deterrence written by Commander Robert Green, Royal Navy (retired), who wrote “Security Without Nuclear Deterrence” and whose wife, Kate Dewes, will be speaking at the above conference:
“Nuclear deterrence is a doctrine that is used as a justification by nuclear weapon states and their allies for the continued possession and threatened use of nuclear weapons.
Nuclear deterrence is the threat of a nuclear strike in response to a hostile action. However, the nature of the hostile action is often not clearly defined, making possible the use of nuclear weapons in a wide range of circumstances.
Nuclear deterrence threatens the murder of many millions of innocent people, along with severe economic, climate, environmental, agricultural and health consequences beyond the area of attack.
Nuclear deterrence requires massive commitments of resources to the industrial infrastructures and organizations that make up the world’s nuclear weapons establishments, its only beneficiaries.
Despite its catastrophic potential, nuclear deterrence is widely, though wrongly, perceived to provide protection to nuclear weapon states, their allies and their citizens.
Nuclear deterrence has numerous major problems:
Its power to protect is a dangerous fabrication. The threat or use of nuclear weapons provides no protection against an attack.
It assumes rational leaders, but there can be irrational or paranoid leaders on any side of a conflict.
Threatening or committing mass murder with nuclear weapons is illegal and criminal. It violates fundamental legal precepts of domestic and international law, threatening the indiscriminate slaughter of innocent people.
It is deeply immoral for the same reasons it is illegal: it threatens indiscriminate and grossly disproportionate death and destruction.
It diverts human and economic resources desperately needed to meet basic human needs around the world. Globally, approximately $100 billion is spent annually on nuclear forces.
It has no effect against non-state extremists, who govern no territory or population.
It is vulnerable to cyber attack, sabotage, and human or technical error, which could result in a nuclear strike.
It sets an example for additional countries to pursue nuclear weapons for their own nuclear deterrent force.
Its benefits are illusory. Any use of nuclear weapons would be catastrophic.
Nuclear deterrence is discriminatory, anti-democratic and unsustainable. This doctrine must be discredited and replaced with an urgent commitment to achieve global nuclear disarmament. We must change the discourse by speaking truth to power and speaking truth to each other.
Before another nuclear weapon is used, nuclear deterrence must be replaced by humane, legal and moral security strategies. We call upon people everywhere to join us in demanding that the nuclear weapon states and their allies reject nuclear deterrence and negotiate without delay a Nuclear Weapons Convention for the phased, verifiable, irreversible and transparent elimination of all nuclear weapons.”
See Commander Robert Green on this video ( 7 ½ minutes in)
You can purchase Commander Green’s book from Amazon (I can’t find a NZ
This program was sponsored by The Awareness Party