DISARMAMENT: What About The ‘Global Red Line’ For Nukes

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Image: UNGABy Ramesh Jaura

BERLIN - Reputed to be an ardent campaigner for a nuclear weapons free world, ICAN has yet again called upon the powers-that-be to ban all nukes threatening the very survival of planet Earth and entire humankind. The fervent appeal by the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons coincided with the UN high-level meeting on nuclear disarmament in New York.


In a statement on September 26, ICAN, a global campaign coalition of more than 300 organizations in 80 countries, asks: “Where Is the 'Global Red Line' for Nuclear Weapons? ”

The question alludes to U.S. President Barack Obama’s reference to the ‘red line’ having been crossed in Syria, in the wake of alleged use of chemical weapons, and threatening military action, which has been averted by Russia jumping in to build a bridge to President Bashar Hafez al-Assad.

“The horrors of the attack in Syria have shown the danger inherent in the continued possession of weapons of mass destruction. The global outrage in response to the carnage caused by the use of chemical weapons is proof that until they are eradicated, there is a significant risk that one day they will be used, whether by intention or by accident. Nuclear weapons, for all their status and symbolism, are not exempt from this stark reality, and the cost of neglecting to recognize this would be disastrous,” the ICAN warns.

Eight ‘confirmed signatories’ of the statement, besides Liv Tørres, General Secretary of the Norwegian People's Aid, who posted it on The Huffington Post, are: Madeleine Rees, Secretary General, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF); Philip Jennings, General Secretary, UNI Global Union; Jan Gruiters, Executive Director, IKV Pax Christi; Kate Hudson, General Secretary, Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND); Akira Kawasaki, Member of the Executive Committee, Peace Boat; Michael Christ, Executive Director, International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW); and Hirotsugu Terasaki, Executive Director, Soka Gakkai International (SGI).

SGI – a lay Buddhist movement linking more than 12 million people around the world – has a pride of place among faith-based organisations. It has been campaigning relentlessly for abolition of nuclear weapons since the second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda's Declaration Calling for the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons issued on September 8, 1957. In 2007, SGI launched the People's Decade for Nuclear Abolition campaign in order to galvanize public opinion in favour of banning all nuclear arsenal.

In fact SGI president Daisaku Ikeda put forward in his annual Peace Proposal 2010 the idea of organising a nuclear abolition summit in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 2015 to coincide with the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombings of those cities. He reiterated the proposal in 2011 and the following year, and suggested the possibility of even organising the 2015 NPT Review Conference in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

In Peace Proposal 2013, Ikeda went a step further and pleaded for an expanded summit for a nuclear-weapon-free world: "The G8 Summit in 2015, the seventieth anniversary of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, would be an appropriate opportunity for such a summit, which should include the additional participation of representatives of the United Nations and non-G8 states in possession of nuclear weapons, as well as members of the five existing NWFZs (nuclear weapons free zones) and those states which have taken a lead in calling for nuclear abolition.".

Global humanitarian threat

The statement carried by The Huffington Post stresses: “Nuclear disarmament is not solely the province of nuclear weapon possessors. Nuclear weapons are a global humanitarian threat, and the responsibility to eliminate them lies with nuclear free states as much as it does with nuclear weapon possessors.”

The signatories argue that nukes are indiscriminate weapons, whose effects cannot be limited or controlled. In fact, the use of even a small fraction of existing arsenals – more than 17,000 warheads – would disrupt the climate and threaten agricultural production, leading to the starvation of up to two billion people.

This is because, as was made clear by the Hiroshima Committee of Experts in their analysis of the U.S. bombing of Hiroshima, "It is not possible to protect civilians from a nuclear weapons attack. To protect civilians, there is no measure other than to prevent a nuclear weapons attack from occurring, whether it be deliberate or accidental. To prevent the use of nuclear weapons, there is no way other than to abolish nuclear weapons themselves."

In an attempt to drive home the point, the signatories of the statement say: “Study upon study has pointed to the inability to prevent or care for civilian casualties on a mass scale. Mitigation is simply impossible for a weapon capable of producing temperatures comparable to the centre of the sun.”

With an eye on states which tend to bury their heads in the sand, the statement adds: “Nuclear weapon possessors are, of course, not ignorant of the true effects of nuclear weapons, just as they are not ignorant of the double standard that is afforded these weapons compared to other weapons of mass destruction.”

The statement adds: “The truth is that, for decades, nuclear weapons have been given an almost mythological status: they are seen as 'keepers of the peace' or 'necessary evils.' They have been transmuted into symbols of power and prestige for the political and military elites of nuclear possessor states.”

While keeping the focus on the grave humanitarian impact of nukes, the eight ‘confirmed signatories’ of the ICAN statement emphasize: “Nuclear weapons are weapons -- not policy tools. No security doctrine or theory can completely obscure the fact that any use of nuclear weapons would entail catastrophic humanitarian consequences -- massive civilian casualties and irreparable damage to the environment, public health and the world economy.”

The Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons in Oslo held in March 2013, 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.

Experts pointed out at the Oslo conference that any use of nuclear weapons would eradicate hospitals, food, water and medical supplies, transportation and communications—infrastructure required for the treatment of survivors. They cautioned that 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.

Legally binding instrument banning nukes

Against this backdrop, the ICAN statement signatories said: “Recognising the catastrophic humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons means taking a clear position against the acceptability of these weapons. It means clearly articulating that the possession and threat of use of nuclear weapons are directly opposed to humanitarian principles and formulating that stigma into a legally binding instrument which bans them outright.”

Expanding this argument, ICAN campaigner Nosizwe Lise Baqwa said at the UN General Assembly on September 26: “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.”

Speaking on behalf of non-governmental organisations (NGOs), she said: “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,” she added.

Baqwa appeared to be sharing SGI President Ikeda’s conviction, when she said: “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.” [IDN-InDepthNews – September 27, 2013]

Image: UN General Assembly

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