By Ramesh Jaura*
BERLIN - There is a lot of good news on the nuclear disarmament front but there are miles to go before the campaigners for banning the bomb can ‘lie down and sleep in peace’. Almost seventy years after the first use of nuclear weapons in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, about 17,000 continue to threaten the very survival of humankind.
The few countries that keep these weapons of mass destruction are planning to spend more than USD 1,000,000,000,000 over the next decade to maintain, and modernize them. More than one trillion dollars over ten years, or USD 100,000,000,000 per year.
While the majority of that comes from taxpayers in the nuclear armed countries, a new report, shows that the private sector is investing over USD 314,349,920,000 in the private companies that produce, maintain, and modernise the nuclear arsenals in France, India, the UK and the US.”
The good news is that 124 countries around the world, including reluctant nuclear umbrella states such as Japan, have endorsed a landmark statement stressing that it is “in the interest of the very survival of humanity that nuclear weapons are never used again, under any circumstances”.
In fact, as ICAN, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, points out, in 2013 alone the number of states and international organizations compelled by the undeniable evidence of the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons to express deep concern about the limited progress of nuclear disarmament has grown exponentially.
In March 2013, the conference on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons, convened in Oslo by the Government of Norway, concluded that no international reaction plan could effectively be put in place to respond to a nuclear detonation.
In September the first high-level meeting on nuclear disarmament, summoned by the UN General Assembly (UNGA), despite resistance from nuclear-armed states, put focus on the humanitarian approach and numerous calls to ban nuclear weapons. Building on this momentum, the Government of Mexico has announced a conference to continue the discussion around the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons, to be held on February 13-14, 2014 in Nayarit on the country’s Pacific Coast.
The significance of the joint statement issued by New Zealand on October 21, 2013 at the First Committee of the United Nations General Assembly is underlined by the Dutch peace organisation IKV Pax Christi’s study Don`t Bank on the Bomb together with ICAN, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons.
Against this backdrop, Soka Gakkai International (SGI), an organization that has been involved in the quest for a nuclear weapon-free world for more than half a century, has welcomed and expressed support “for the ongoing effort to clarify the inhumane nature of nuclear weapons and to establish a clear international norm against their use under any circumstances”.
The catastrophic consequences that would result from any use of atomic weapons, SGI Executive Director of Peace Affairs Hirotsugu Terasaki told IDN, call for the next step that obliges governments “to unequivocally state that any such use would be a violation of international humanitarian law”.
At the same time, Terasaki who is also Vice President of Soka Gakkai, pointed to “practical limitations of the humanitarian argument for banning nuclear weapons – most critically the continued non-cooperation of the nuclear weapons states”.
He called for concerted efforts to reach opinion leaders and policymakers in the nuclear weapons states: “Many of them have already acknowledged the essential bankruptcy of deterrence doctrine in a world where non-state actors are seeking access to nuclear weapons technology and stated that a nuclear weapon-free world will be a safer world.”
Challenge to Civil Society
In this regard, the civil society is confronted with an important challenge, said Terasaki: “to develop a common language so that both nuclear-weapon-states and non-nuclear-weapon states can engage in productive dialogue”.
And this because, Terasaki added, “there is both a practical and moral imperative to rid the world of those apocalyptic weapons. In that sense, the work of eliminating those weapons is essentially a global enterprise, one in which all parties have a constructive role to play.”
This applies to diplomats in particular. ICAN Co-Chair Rebecca Johnson said: “Diplomatic action to ban and eliminate nuclear weapons will be the best way to prevent a nuclear catastrophe in the future.”
“The 124 governments that have co-sponsored this important (joint) statement on the humanitarian impacts of nuclear weapons are putting the security of their people above the militarist justifications for some states to have nuclear weapons,” she added.
Beatrice Fihn, member of ICAN’s International Steering Group, commented: “The humanitarian focus on nuclear weapons has again proven to be successful. A growing number of states are showing concern about the unacceptable harm that these weapons of mass destruction threaten to unleash. This debate strengthens our confidence and resolve that there is a credible way forward towards the prohibition of nuclear weapons.”
ICAN, a campaign coalition with more than 300 members in 80 countries, is working closely with the Mexican government to ensure effective and significant participation of civil society at the February 2014 conference. It will help to facilitate this process for civil society, and will make sure that it is open and inclusive. ICAN will also have a sponsorship programme for campaigners from developing countries, the campaigners said.
Miles to Go
Why there are miles to go to usher in a nuclear weapons free world is illustrated by the IKV Pax Christi and ICAN report, Don`t Bank on the Bomb. It is the only report to feature how 298 private and public financial institutions from around the world invest almost USD 314 billion in 27 companies involved in the production, maintenance and modernization of nuclear weapons.
The report’s executive summary lists all financial institutions which are found to have financing relationships with nuclear weapon producers. 175 are based in North America, 65 in Europe, 47 in Asia-Pacific, ten in the Middle East, and one in Africa. None are based in Latin America or the Caribbean. Among the banks and other financial institutions most heavily involved are: Bank of America, BlackRock and JP Morgan Chase in the United States; Royal Bank of Scotland in the UK; BNP Paribas in France; Deutsche Bank in Germany; and Mitsubishi UFJ Financial in Japan.
Several states and financial institutions have spoken out against the risks and effects of these weapons of mass destruction, but as the study’s worldwide research shows, in the last three years financial institutions provided: loans for a total of at least USD 63 billion; investment banking services worth at least USD 43 billion; and owned or managed shares and bonds for at least USD207 billion.
Nevertheless, avers the study, many financial institutions do not want to wait for what seems to be a slow political process to outlaw nuclear weapons. “Instead of waiting for a multilateral treaty process to begin, some financial institutions have enacted policies prohibiting or limiting their investment in nuclear weapons producers. These financial institutions have acted on their ethical responsibility to prevent gross humanitarian harm,” observes the report.
It adds: “Next to the growing emphasis on the ethical responsibilities of financiers there is a growing emphasis on the on individual responsibilities of citizens to send a clear signal to their financial institutions as well as to their governments that the continued possession or development of these weapons is unacceptable.”
In fact, unlike biological or chemical weapons, nuclear weapons are the only weapons of mass destruction not yet banned by international law, despite global recognition that they kill indiscriminately and that they could fall into the wrong hands. On June 19, 2013, in Berlin, US President Obama said “so long as nuclear weapons exist, we are not truly safe”.
“Our collective efforts to move away from the nuclear abyss have remained too modest in ambition and brought only limited success,” warned Heinz Fischer, President of Austria at the UN General Assembly High Level Meeting on nuclear disarmament. “Nuclear weapons should be stigmatized, banned and eliminated before they abolish us,” he said.
To date, all 190 states party to the NPT – Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons – have recognized the “catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons”, the next step is, as said by the International Committee of the Red Cross, to “outlaw and eliminate them”.
Precisely this lends weight to the old adage: Hope springs eternal in the human breast.
*Ramesh Jaura is global editor of IDN and its sister publication Global Perspectives, chief editor of IPS Germany as well as editorial board member of Other News. He is also executive president of Global Cooperation Council, board member of IPS international and global coordinator of SGI-IPS project for strengthening public awareness of the need to abolish nukes. [IDN-InDepthNews – October 28, 2013]
Image credit: ICAN