"There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest." — Elie Wiesel

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Chain Reaction 2016

From July to October 2016, civil society around the world is acting in a Chain Reaction of peace to highlight the immorality and insecurity of nuclear weapons, to oppose the institutions and policies perpetuating the nuclear arms race, and to support nuclear disarmament actions by governments and the United Nations.

 This action is engaging youth, environmentalists, parliamentarians, mayors, religious leaders, human rights activists and other representatives of civil society.

 Chain Reaction is facilitated by UNFOLD ZERO, and the Basel Peace Office, which created this video showcasing events related to the CHAIN REACTION 2016.

 My hope is that the energy of these past few months will grow into a sustained CHAIN REACTION, continuing until the day on which the last nuclear weapon is destroyed. Join us!

This video highlights the actions going on around the world that are part of the CHAIN REACTION!

URL for YouTube video:  https://youtu.be/wCZHY1JZS5s 

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

The Astana Vision: From а Radioactive Haze to a Nuclear-Weapon-Free World

Editor's Note: I recently participated in the international conference in Astatna, Kazakhstan - Building a Nuclear Weapon-Free World. The conference included parliamentarians, mayors, religious leaders, government representatives and disarmament experts, and was held in conjunction with the 25th anniversary of the closing the Semipalatinsk nuclear test site.

Kazakhstan's leadership toward a nuclear weapon-free world has, until now, gone largely unnoticed. In addition to closing the Semipalatinsk nuclear test site in 1991 and subsequently decommissioning it, Kazakhstan also relinquished its entire nuclear arsenal (then the fourth largest in the world) to Russia. These were unarguably the most significant acts in the history of nuclear disarmament, and were the first significant acts toward that end. 

It has been under the leadership of President Nursultan Nazarbayev that Kazakhstan has moved away from nuclear weapons, and today he continues to lead the way, calling for a new paradigm of collective security for all nations.

The conference just held adopted the following declaration, which sets a direction for disarmament and calls on governments to take specific steps toward a nuclear weapon-free world. This is the full text of the declaration, The Astana Vision: From а Radioactive Haze to a Nuclear-Weapon-Free World, adopted August 29, 2016.
The Astana Vision:
From а Radioactive Haze to a Nuclear-Weapon-Free World
Adopted in Astana, August 29, 2016
at an international conference ‘Building a Nuclear-Weapon-Free World’
co-hosted by the Parliament of the Republic of Kazakhstan, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Kazakhstan and Parliamentarians for Nuclear Disarmament and Non-Proliferation

On 29 August 1991, precisely 25 years ago, President Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan, with the support of a popular movement of civil society against nuclear tests, closed down the Semipalatinsk nuclear test site, the first such step in the world history of disarmament. 
The 456 nuclear weapons explosions conducted by the Soviet Union at the Semipalatinsk test site in eastern Kazakhstan have created a catastrophic impact on human health and environment, for current and future generations. The legacy from the nuclear tests around the world, including the Pacific, Asia, North Africa and North America, and the experience of the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the risks of nuclear-weapons-use by accident, miscalculation or design - establish a global imperative to abolish these weapons. 
We commend the leadership of President Nazarbayev and the people of Kazakhstan for voluntarily renouncing the world’s fourth largest nuclear arsenal, joining the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), achieving a Central Asian Nuclear-Weapons-Free Zone, launching The ATOM Project to educate the world about dangers and long-term consequences of nuclear tests, moving the United Nations to establish August 29 as the International Day Against Nuclear Tests, initiating a Universal Declaration for a Nuclear-Weapon-Free World adopted by the United Nations in 2015, and advancing a Manifesto “The World. The 21st Century” to end the scourge of war.
We support the ambition expressed in the Manifesto that a nuclear-weapons-free world should be the main goal of humanity in the 21st century, and that this should be achieved no later than the 100th anniversary of the United Nations in 2045.
We commend world leaders for taking action, through the series of Nuclear Security Summits and other international action, to prevent nuclear weapons or their components from falling into the hands of terrorists. However, world leaders should join President Nazarbayev in placing a similar high priority on nuclear disarmament. 
We deplore the continued testing of nuclear weapons by the Democratic Peoples’ Republic of Korea, and we express concern at the continuing modernization of nuclear weapons by all nuclear-armed States. With tensions growing among these states, an accidental or intentional military incident could send the world spiraling into a disastrous nuclear confrontation.
We recognize the special responsibility of the legislatures and legislators around the world for further advancement of nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament at the global level and for the adoption of relevant legislation.
We congratulate Kazakhstan on the country’s election as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) for 2017-2018. We are confident that Kazakhstan will work closely with other Security Council members to prevent nuclear proliferation and advance the peace and security of a nuclear-weapon-free world.
We support the initiative put forward at this conference for President Nazarbayev to establish an international prize for outstanding contribution to nuclear disarmament and the achievement of a nuclear weapon free world, and the announcement of the Astana Peace Summit in 2016. 
We welcome the progress made in the Open Ended Working Group on Taking Forward Multilateral Nuclear Disarmament Negotiations, and we urge governments around the world to do more.
We - as legislators, religious leaders, representatives of international organisations, academics, scientists, medical professionals, lawyers, youth and other representatives of civil society - specifically call on governments to:
  1. Sign and Ratify the CTBT, in particular the nuclear armed States, if they have not already done so, noting the symbolism of this conference taking place on the 25th anniversary of the closure of the Semipalatinsk nuclear test site and the 20th anniversary of the opening for signing of the CTBT;
  2. Initiate negotiations and substantive discussions in accordance with the adopted 2010 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Plan of Action, and the universal obligation to negotiate for complete nuclear disarmament affirmed by the International Court of Justice in 1996;
  3. Establish a Middle East Zone free from Nuclear Weapons and other Weapons of Mass Destruction as agreed at the 1995 Review and Extension Conference, and call upon the United Nations Secretary-General to advance this mandate; and establish additional nuclear-weapon-free zones, such as in North East Asia, Europe and the Arctic;
  4. Reduce the risks of nuclear-weapons-use by taking all nuclear forces off high-operational readiness, adopting no-first-use policies and refraining from any threats to use nuclear weapons;
  5. Fully implement their treaty and customary law obligations to achieve zero nuclear weapons;
  6. Commence multilateral negotiations in 2017 to prohibit and eliminate nuclear weapons;
  7. Support interim measures by the UN Security Council regarding nuclear disarmament, including to prohibit nuclear tests and nuclear targeting of populated areas;
  8. Further develop the methods and mechanisms for verifying and enforcing global nuclear disarmament, including through participation in the International Partnership for Nuclear Disarmament Verification; 
  9. Eliminate the reliance on nuclear deterrence in security doctrines, and instead resolve international conflicts through diplomacy, law, regional mechanisms, the United Nations and other peaceful means;
  10. Call on all nuclear weapon states to undertake deep cuts to their nuclear weapons stockpiles with the aim to completely eliminate them as soon as possible, but definitely no later than the 100th anniversary of the United Nations.
We are ready to support and cooperate with governments to abolish nuclear weapons. The cooperation between different constituents at this international event provides a platform for building the global movement to achieve nuclear disarmament.
Deeply concerned for the future of all humanity, and encouraged by the example of Kazakhstan in the field of nuclear disarmament we affirm the possibility and necessity to achieve the peace and security of a nuclear-weapon-free world in our lifetimes.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Isn’t It Time to Ban the Bomb?

By Lawrence S. Wittner*
Although the mass media failed to report it, a landmark event occurred recently in connection with resolving the long-discussed problem of what to do about nuclear weapons.  On August 19, 2016, a UN committee, the innocuously-named Open-Ended Working Group, voted to recommend to the UN General Assembly that it mandate the opening of negotiations in 2017 on a treaty to ban them.
For most people, this recommendation makes a lot of sense.  Nuclear weapons are the most destructive devices ever created.  If they are used―as two of them were used in 1945 to annihilate the populations of Hiroshima and Nagasaki―the more than 15,000 nuclear weapons currently in existence would destroy the world.  Given their enormous blast, fire, and radioactivity, their explosion would bring an end to virtually all life on earth.  The few human survivors would be left to wander, slowly and painfully, in a charred, radioactive wasteland.  Even the explosion of a small number of nuclear weapons through war, terrorism, or accident would constitute a catastrophe of unprecedented magnitude.
Every President of the United States since 1945, from Harry Truman to Barack Obama, has warned the world of the horrors of nuclear war.  Even Ronald Reagan―perhaps the most military-minded among them―declared again and again:  “A nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.”
Fortunately, there is no technical problem in disposing of nuclear weapons.  Through negotiated treaties and unilateral action, nuclear disarmament, with verification, has already taken place quite successfully, eliminating roughly 55,000 nuclear weapons of the 70,000 in existence at the height of the Cold War.

Also, the world’s other agents of mass destruction, biological and chemical weapons, have already been banned by international agreements.
Naturally, then, most people think that creating a nuclear weapons-free world is a good idea.  A 2008 poll in 21 nations around the globe found that 76 percent of respondents favored an international agreement for the elimination of all nuclear weapons and only 16 percent opposed it.  This included 77 percent of the respondents in the United States. 
But government officials from the nine nuclear-armed nations are inclined to view nuclear weapons―or at least their nuclear weapons―quite differently.  For centuries, competing nations have leaned heavily upon military might to secure what they consider their “national interests.”  Not surprisingly, then, national leaders have gravitated toward developing powerful military forces, armed with the most powerful weaponry.  The fact that, with the advent of nuclear weapons, this traditional behavior has become counter-productive has only begun to penetrate their consciousness, usually helped along on such occasions by massive public pressure. 
Consequently, officials of the superpowers and assorted wannabes, while paying lip service to nuclear disarmament, continue to regard it as a risky project.  They are much more comfortable with maintaining nuclear arsenals and preparing for nuclear war.  Thus, by signing the nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty of 1968, officials from the nuclear powers pledged to “pursue negotiations in good faith on . . . a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.”  And today, nearly a half-century later, they have yet to begin negotiations on such a treaty.  Instead, they are currently launching yet another round in the nuclear arms race.  The U.S. government alone is planning to spend $1 trillion over the next 30 years to refurbish its entire nuclear weapons production complex, as well as to build new air-, sea-, and ground-launched nuclear weapons.
Of course, this enormous expenditure―plus the ongoing danger of nuclear disaster―could provide statesmen with a powerful incentive to end 71 years of playing with their doomsday weapons and, instead, get down to the business of finally ending the grim prospect of nuclear annihilation.  In short, they could follow the lead of the UN committee and actually negotiate a ban on nuclear weapons as the first step toward abolishing them.
But, to judge from what happened in the UN Open-Ended Working Group, a negotiated nuclear weapons ban is not likely to occur.  Uneasy about what might emerge from the committee’s deliberations, the nuclear powers pointedly boycotted them.  Moreover, the final vote in that committee on pursuing negotiations for a ban was 68 in favor and 22 opposed, with 13 abstentions.  The strong majority in favor of negotiations was comprised of African, Latin American, Caribbean, Southeast Asian, and Pacific nations, with several European nations joining them.  The minority came primarily from nations under the nuclear umbrellas of the superpowers.  Consequently, the same split seems likely to occur in the UN General Assembly, where the nuclear powers will do everything possible to head off UN action.
Overall, then, there is a growing division between the nuclear powers and their dependent allies, on the one hand, and a larger group of nations, fed up with the repeated evasions of the nuclear powers in dealing with the nuclear disaster that threatens to engulf the world.  In this contest, the nuclear powers have the advantage, for, when all is said and done, they have the option of clinging to their nuclear weapons, even if that means ignoring a treaty adopted by a clear majority of nations around the world.  Only an unusually firm stand by the non-nuclear nations, coupled with an uprising by an aroused public, seems likely to awaken the officials of the nuclear powers from their long sleepwalk toward catastrophe.
*Dr. Lawrence Wittner (http://www.lawrenceswittner.com) is Professor of History emeritus at SUNY/Albany.  He wrote Confronting the Bomb: A Short History of the World Nuclear Disarmament MovementHis latest book is a satirical novel about university corporatization and rebellion, What’s Going On at UAardvark?