By Ramesh Jaura
BERLIN | ASTANA (IDN) - Kazakh Foreign Minister Erlan Idrissov has urged the civil society, social movements and the public at large to support governments in achieving a nuclear-weapons-free world by 2045, when the United Nations will turn 100, and to help in the establishment of a Global Anti-Nuclear Movement,
These goals were part of key international initiatives President Nursultan Nazarbayev tabled during the General Assembly session in September 2015. He also called for creating a single global anti-terrorist network, allocating 1 percent of countries’ defence budgets to sustainable development, organizing a high-level international conference on reaffirming the principles of international law and coordinating international efforts under the UN on promoting green technologies.
“President Nazarbayev’s speech at the UN demonstrated a new level of participation for Kazakhstan in global policies, and the initiatives have become important landmarks for the international community,” said Foreign Minister Idrissov in an interview with the Astana Times.
The Kazakh newspaper Astana Times carried the interview on February 20, within weeks after the adoption of the Universal Declaration for the Achievement of a Nuclear-Weapons-Free World by the UN General Assembly in December 2015.
“The Nevada-Semipalatinsk international anti-nuclear movement and The ATOM (Abolish Testing. Our Mission) Project are evidence of the power and real potential of civil initiatives,” Idrissov said.
The Kazahkh Foreign Minister recalled that when in August 1991, President Nazarbayev decided to close the Semipalatinsk Test Site, he relied on the will of the people. And this support of the people helped overcome the enormous pressure of the Soviet military lobby.
“Raising awareness of the catastrophic consequences of nuclear weapons; disarmament education; and the active efforts of public associations, nongovernmental organisations and scientific and educational institutions can break the passivity of the majority of the population and persuade governments to take more decisive steps towards nuclear disarmament,” Idrissov added.
Of special importance to the citizens of Kazakhstan, he noted, is the fact that from the UN platform, Nazarbayev promoted making a world without nuclear weapons humanity’s ultimate goal in the 21st century. Adopting the Universal Declaration for the Achievement of a Nuclear-Weapons-Free World is a new, important step in realising this goal.
The Kazakh diplomats promoted the draft declaration for five years. “As the result of this work, at the end of last year, we reached a stage when the draft was put to a vote by the UN General Assembly. An overwhelming majority of UN member states approved the declaration: 133 countries voted for the adoption of the document, while 23 countries voted against and 28 abstained.”
The Kazakh Foreign Minister admitted that despite the Universal Declaration having been developed as a consensus document based on universally accepted principles and earlier agreements, not all countries are at this stage ready to support it. This is demonstrated by the approaches of a number of nuclear-weapons countries and their allies that depend on their nuclear umbrella. They are not ready to renounce nuclear weapons.
In the coming years, he expects “a long process of universalising the declaration”. To this end, Kazakh diplomats had suggested that the resolution be reconfirmed on a regular basis, once every three years. A reporting mechanism of the member states to the UN and of the UN Secretariat to the General Assembly on the implementation of the goals and objectives set in the declaration is envisaged, he added.
“Reconfirming the goals and principles of the declaration will also help keep the attention of the international community on the declaration and keep the achievement of a nuclear-weapon-free world on the UN agenda . . . despite the complexity of achieving the goal of making the declaration universal, it is not unachievable,” Idrissov said in the interview.
In an attempt to drive home the point, the Kazakh Foreign Minister emphasized that nuclear weapons have enormous destructive power. Their direct effects de facto cannot be controlled; they do not discriminate. They kill and bring unbelievable suffering to even those at a great distance from the epicentre.
“Moreover, as the tragic stories of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, as well as hundreds of Soviet nuclear tests on the Kazakh land, have shown, nuclear weapons have long-lasting implications for people’s health reaching into future generations, for the environment and for the economy of the affected territories. Broadly speaking, nuclear weapons threaten the survival of humanity and the existence of civilization,” he declared.
Nevertheless, nuclear countries are not willing to renounce possession of them and the possibility of using them in certain circumstances, arguing that nuclear weapons are not prohibited by international law.
However, Idrissov said, the absolute majority of the world is confident that nuclear weapons must be destroyed and banned as inhumane, indiscriminate in nature, inflicting excessive suffering and violating international humanitarian law and laws of humanity.
In this context, he referred to October 21, 2014 Joint Statement on the Humanitarian Consequences of Nuclear Weapons that was joined by 155 countries. In 2012-2014, several similar statements were adopted and three international conferences on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons were held in Norway, Mexico and Austria.
At the end of 2015, Austria prepared the so-called Humanitarian Pledge to fill the legal gap for the prohibition of the latest type of weapons of mass destruction – nuclear weapons. A UN resolution was adopted in support of the statement. The recognition of the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons can form the basis of a process aimed at the total prohibition of nuclear weapons and their complete disarmament.
A significant contribution to the dissemination of information on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons comes from The ATOM Project. The initiative, launched by President Nazarbayev in August 2012, aims to inform to the public around the world about the tragedy of Kazakh people living near the Semipalatinsk nuclear test site, as well as other people of the world who have been victims of nuclear testing.
Anyone who wants to get acquainted with the content of The ATOM Project can visit its website and personally support it by signing the online petition to the heads of states and governments of the world to ensure the speedy entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty.
Meanwhile, nearly 220,000 people from more than 100 countries have signed the petition and supported it. “In this context,” the Kazakh Foreign Minister said, “we intend to continue the work on the implementation of another important initiative of President Nazarbayev concerning the formation of a Global Anti-Nuclear Movement. It also requires a hard work, which the Ministry of Foreign Affairs intends to do.”
The only guarantee of security is total and universal nuclear disarmament, declared Idrissov. The idea of the deterrent role of nuclear weapons is a dangerous misconception that encourages more countries to possess them.
In factthe final document adopted by consensus at the UN General Assembly Special Session devoted to Disarmament back in 1978 says: “The most effective guarantee against the danger of nuclear war and the use of nuclear weapons is nuclear disarmament and the complete elimination of nuclear weapons.” [IDN-InDepthNews – 21 February 2016]
IDN is flagship of the International Press Syndicate.
Photo: President Nazarbayev addressing the UN General Assembly in September 2015.