Along The Watchtower

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Accord to end nukes

SOMETIMES, a significant moment in history arrives but the global mainstream media chooses to ignore or downplay it.

Such was the case last Friday when the United Nations adopted the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons to create a legal framework to abolish the world’s worst weapons of mass destruction..

It was a huge victory for those who want to see the end of the arms race and the elimination of the most destructive, inhumane and indiscriminate weapons ever created by man.

The 10-page treaty, negotiated by more than 130 states, bans the development, testing, production, manufacture, possession, stockpiling and use of nuclear weapons.

It also allows a flexible means for nuclear-armed and nuclear-dependent states to comply with the prohibitions if they choose to join.

However, the nine countries which have nuclear weapons – the United States, Russia, Britain, China, France, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea – boycotted the negotiations, along with most North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato) members and Japan, the world’s single victim of nuclear attacks.

In the end, 122 states approved the 10-page treaty. Netherlands, the sole Nato member which took part in the discussions, opposed it. Singapore abstained.

For the record, the five members of the Security Council with veto power – Russia, the United States, France, China and Britain – were the first to develop nuclear weapons and have the largest nuclear stockpiles.

Besides the nine countries in the official “nuclear club”, six others – Belgium, Germany, Italy, Turkey and the Netherlands – deploy and store American nuclear weapons as part of Nato agreements.

The United States, Britain and France immediately rejected the treaty, saying it disregarded the “realities of international security such as the threat from North Korea”.

Their joint statement implied that their atomic weapons under the almost 50-year-old Non-Prolifera­tion Treaty (NPT) and the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) signed in 2010 already served as a deterrent against nuclear attacks.

But do they, really?

All these states now have programmes to upgrade their weapons and China, India, North Korea and Pakistan have even increased their nuclear arsenals.

“The world has been waiting for this legal norm for 70 years. We have managed to sow the first seeds of a world free of nuclear weapons,” said Costa Rican ambassador Elayne Whyte Gómez, who led negotiations.

Malaysia was among the countries which co-sponsored the UN resolution to start the negotiations for the accord this year.

Of course, it is still a long time before nuclear weapons are banned. The treaty will be open for countries to sign from Sept 20 and will only come into force when 50 nations ratify it.

The UN reopened discussions for a global nuclear ban in March, after more than 2,500 scientists from 70 countries signed a petition in favour of total nuclear disarmament.

It is a tragic shame that the crusade to ban these horrific weapons has gone on for more than seven decades.

Friday’s decision is momentous because it was agreed upon for the first time since the United States dropped a uranium bomb over Hiroshima on Aug 6, 1945 and on Nagasaki three days later. More than 210,000 people, mostly civilians, were killed.

In its first resolution adopted on Jan 24, 1946, the UN General Assembly called for the complete elimination of nuclear weapons and set up a commission to deal with nuclear weapons.

But groups which had been pushing for it were largely dismissed as “the loony left” until 10 years ago, when the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), a coalition of non-government organisations in 100 countries, started working with diplomats to initiate a strong and effective ban treaty.

The agreement is also hugely significant because before this, nuclear weapons were the only weapons of mass destruction without a prohibition deal, despite their widespread destructive power, the humanitarian consequences and the threat they pose to the environment and human survival.

The use of chemical and biological weapons was banned after World War I and reinforced with bans in 1972 and 1993 respectively. Land mines were banned in 1997 while cluster bombs were made illegal in 2008.

After the treaty was approved overwhelmingly, ICAN executive director Beatrice Fihn said: “We hope that today marks the beginning of the end of the nuclear age. It is beyond question that nuclear weapons violate the laws of war and pose a clear danger to global security. No one believes that indiscriminately killing millions of civilians is acceptable – no matter the circumstance – yet that is what nuclear weapons are designed to do.”

International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW), the founder and lead medical partner in ICAN, was an active participant in the negotiations for the treaty.

It ensured that the final document would fully reflect the scientific evidence about the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons.

IPPNW’s co-president Dr Tilman Ruff said the landmark achievement established the illegality of nuclear weapons once and for all.

“The Treaty is rooted firmly in the humanitarian principle that the consequences of nuclear weapons use are unacceptable under any circumstances and that any use of such weapons will be contrary to the rules of international humanitarian law.”

The question is, will these nine mighty states that have close to 15,000 warheads among them, give a d*** about breaching the rules or bother about global condemnation?

> Media Consultant M. Veera Pandiyan likes this quote by Albert Einstein: Peace cannot be kept by force, it can only be achieved by understanding.

Tags / Keywords: M Veera Pandiyan , columnist

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