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Nuclear arms: the big questions...
an article by Daniel Durand, Culture de paix blog

Proliferation and nuclear disarmament will be, as every year, on the agenda of the discussions, which will open on Monday 22 April in Geneva, in preparation of the Review Conference of the NPT (Nuclear Non-Proliferation) in 2015. This meeting was originally scheduled as a routine step in the monitoring process of the action plan adopted in 2010 by the Conference in New York. The assessment disappointed the majority of non-nuclear countries and NGOs who found no significant progress in reducing the number of nuclear warheads in the world, as well as continued modernization of weapons and no change in the military doctrines based on the famous and contested notion of "nuclear deterrence." But the upcoming meeting, which was expected (sadly) to be routine, has been enlivened by three major events, both positive and negative in my opinion, that occurred in the past six months.

The bronze sculpture "Let Us Beat Our Swords into Ploughshares," was created by Soviet artist Evgeny Vuchetich, and presented to the United Nations by the Government of the USSR. Credit: UN Photo/Andrea Brizzi

click on photo to enlarge

Let's start with the Conference held in Oslo on 6 March 2013, on "humanitarian consequences of the use of nuclear weapons." For the first time since 1945, an international conference at the highest level bringing together 127 representatives of governments, international institutions, including the International Red Cross, decided to give a new impetus to avert the nuclear threat to mankind (See CPNN article of March 20. The conference agreed with the Red Cross that on both international and national levels, there is no way to effectively respond to the consequences of a nuclear explosion, even one that is "limited" in scope.

The Final Declaration of the Conference taken at the initiative of ICAN (International Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament) notes that in the case of a nuclear explosion, "The consequences would be global, long-term and completely disastrous for human health, our environment, our development, security, human rights and food resources (...) ". The five nuclear powers decided in the end to boycott the conference, considering that it could create a "diversion" from the "step-by-step" process of the NPT and the Conference on Disarmament. Their position was not shared by several NATO countries and other major countries such as Japan, South Korea and Australia, all countries that are "covered" by the American nuclear umbrella. The fact that the NPT Review Conferences and the Conference on Disarmament have made no progress for 16 years makes one skeptical about the so-called "risk of diversion"!

Hopefully, during the Geneva meeting on the NPT, the representatives of the nuclear powers will be severely questioned about their absence in Oslo.

Two events are likely to weigh negatively on the progress of the Geneva meeting: the first was the postponement, announced by the United States on 23 November 2012 of the Conference on the creation of a Middle East zone free of weapons of mass destruction that had been scheduled for December 18 in Helsinki.

(This article is continued in the discussionboard)

Click here for the original article in French.


Question(s) related to this article:

Can we abolish all nuclear weapons?,

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30 August 2012 The following opinion piece by Secretary-General BAN Ki-moon has appeared in leading newspapers in Argentina, Bangladesh, Burundi, China, Germany, India, Iran, Italy, Japan, Lebanon, Malaysia, The Philippines, Republic of Korea, Russia, Serbia, Turkey, Ukraine and European weekly publications and has been translated into 10 languages.

Last month, competing interests prevented agreement on a much-needed treaty that would have reduced the appalling human cost of the poorly regulated international arms trade. Meanwhile, nuclear disarmament efforts remain stalled, despite strong and growing global popular sentiment in support of this cause.

The failure of these negotiations and this month's anniversaries of the atomic bombings at Hiroshima and Nagasaki provide a good opportunity to explore what has gone wrong, why disarmament and arms control have proven so difficult to achieve, and how the world community can get back on track towards these vitally important goals.

Many defence establishments now recognize that security means far more than protecting borders. Grave security concerns can arise as a result of demographic trends, chronic poverty, economic inequality, environmental degradation, pandemic diseases, organized crime, repressive governance and other developments no state can control alone. Arms can't address such concerns.

Yet there has been a troubling lag between recognizing these new security challenges, and launching new policies to address them. National budget priorities still tend to reflect the old paradigms. Massive military spending and new investments in modernizing nuclear weapons have left the world over-armed -- and peace under-funded.

Last year, global military spending reportedly exceeded $1.7 trillion more than $4.6 billion a day, which alone is almost twice the UN's budget for an entire year. This largesse includes billions more for modernizing nuclear arsenals decades into the future.

This level of military spending is hard to explain in a post-Cold War world and amidst a global financial crisis. Economists would call this an "opportunity cost". . ...more.

This report was posted on April 20, 2013.