By Thalif Deen
NEW YORK (IDN) — When the United Nations hosted a high-level meeting on nuclear disarmament on September 28, the annual event was characterized by one underlying fact: the participation for the first time of young climate activists who warned of an impending threat from a Climate-Nuclear nexus. [2021-09-29 | 16] ITALIAN | JAPANESE TEXT VERSION PDF | RUSSIAN
Marie-Claire Graf (Switzerland), the member of the World Future Council’s Youth Present initiative and the Global North Focal Point for YOUNGO, said: “We are experiencing the effects of past and current decisions—not made by us youth, but which bind us with you in multiple existential crises, the most critical of which are the climate crisis and the nuclear threat.”
”Both have transboundary and trans-generational impacts. Both require that global cooperation and common security take precedence over national self-interest and militarism,” she added.
Graf also pointed out that the Climate-Nuclear nexus is incorporated into civil society initiatives such as the Move the Nuclear Weapons Money Campaign and Protect People and the Planet: Appeal for a Nuclear Weapon Free world.
UNFOLD ZERO, a platform for UN-focused initiatives and actions for the achievement of a nuclear-weapons-free world, says new thinking and action led by youth is vital to success in both the climate and nuclear disarmament movements.
Meanwhile, the high-level meeting also commemorated the annual International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons on September 26.
The UN meeting took place 4 days after the island nation of Vanuatu announced it was launching a process in the UN General Assembly to seek an Advisory Opinion from the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on the legal responsibility to stabilize the climate in order to protect current and future generations.
This initiative was inspired by the 1996 ICJ Advisory Opinion on the Legality of the Threat or Use of Nuclear Weapons, in which Vanuatu also played a leading role.
Over 60-75 speakers, including heads of state, foreign ministers, and ambassadors, addressed the three high-level meetings—on food insecurity (September 23), climate change (September 20) and nuclear disarmament (September 28).
Perhaps one of the best responses came from climate activist Greta Thunberg of Sweden who mocked world leaders when she said of the climate summit—which may also apply to the other two high-level meetings— “Net-zero, blah, blah, blah. Climate-neutral, blah, blah, blah. This is all we hear from our so-called leaders—words, words that sound great but so far has led to no action or hopes and dreams.”
Alyn Ware, member of the World Future Council and Global Coordinator of Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament, told IDN there are connections between the climate crisis and the threats from nuclear weapons.
In addition, the use of nuclear weapons in armed conflict could cause catastrophic climatic consequences, and climate change is a conflict escalator that increases the risks of a nuclear conflict.
And the global nuclear weapons budget—nearly $100 billion per year—is desperately needed to help finance carbon emission reductions and the phase-out of fossil fuels, he added.
John Loretz, Senior Consultant, International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW), a non-partisan federation of national medical groups in over 63 countries, told IDN: “Obviously, every gathering of states that focuses on the elimination of nuclear weapons is important and should receive much wider media coverage than they usually get”. The International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons is no exception.
But “I honestly think, however, that a more important meeting on the horizon is the first meeting of States parties to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), which has been rescheduled for mid-March next year. If we’re to see any evidence of headway, it will be there”.
“I would suggest some markers for measuring headway during the run-up to that meeting and coming out of it: 1) how many more member states will we have added between now and then? 2) How many non-member states will send observers, and will any nuclear-armed states be among them? 3) Will the agenda revitalize the focus on the catastrophic consequences of nuclear weapons and nuclear war as the basis for elimination? 4) Will member states come up with a practical/effective plan for using the treaty to ratchet up the pressure on the nuclear-armed states and their allies, especially when it comes to stigmatizing nuclear weapons and deterrence?” he asked.
“A lot of this comes down to an over-arching question about whether the unprecedented coalition of states, civil society, and international organizations that produced the treaty can hold together and re-establish the sense of urgency that drove the ban treaty process in the first place”.
The 1st Meeting will probably answer that question, said Loretz, who is also Editor, IPPNW Peace and Health Blog IPPNW Program Director. www.peaceandhealthblog.com
According to the United Nations, achieving global nuclear disarmament is one of the oldest goals of the United Nations and it was the subject of the General Assembly’s first resolution in 1946, which established the Atomic Energy Commission (dissolved in 1952), with a mandate to make specific proposals for the control of nuclear energy and the elimination of atomic weapons and all other major weapons adaptable to mass destruction.
“The United Nations has been at the forefront of many major diplomatic efforts to advance nuclear disarmament since. In 1959, the General Assembly endorsed the objective of general and complete disarmament. In 1978, the first Special Session of the General Assembly Devoted to Disarmament further recognized that nuclear disarmament should be the priority objective in the field of disarmament. Every United Nations Secretary-General has actively promoted this goal”.
Yet, today around 13,080 nuclear weapons remain.
“Countries possessing such weapons have well-funded, long-term plans to modernize their nuclear arsenals. More than half of the world’s population still lives in countries that either have such weapons or are members of nuclear alliances. While the number of deployed nuclear weapons has appreciably declined since the height of the Cold War, not one nuclear weapon has been physically destroyed pursuant to a treaty. In addition, no nuclear disarmament negotiations are currently underway”, said the United Nations.
Addressing the high-level meeting, Secretary-General António Guterres said the decision by the Russian Federation and the United States to extend the New START Treaty and begin a strategic dialogue is a welcome step.
So too, was January’s entry into force of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.
“I call on all States to support the Treaty’s goals and recognize its place in the global disarmament architecture. And the next year will bring fresh opportunities for the Member States to build on these developments.”
This includes the long-delayed Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. A critical moment to reaffirm and build on past commitments.
“As part of these discussions, we have a window of opportunity to adopt new measures to reduce the risk of a nuclear detonation. Of course, eliminating nuclear risk means eliminating nuclear weapons. And we must continue working towards that goal,” Guterres declared.
This is at the core of the Disarmament Agenda—the elimination of weapons of mass destruction, but also addressing the proliferation of conventional and new battlefield technologies.
“But until nuclear weapons are eliminated, it is in the interests of all States to prevent any possible use. I look forward to working with all Member States to make these upcoming meetings a success, and support their efforts to operationalize the new Treaty,” he said. [IDN-InDepthNews — 29 September 2021]
Thalif Deen is a former Director, Foreign Military Markets at Defense Marketing Services; Senior Defense Analyst at Forecast International; and military editor Middle East/Africa at Jane’s Information Group. He is also co-author of the 1981 book on “How to Survive a Nuclear Disaster” and author of the 2021 book on the United Nations titled “No Comment – and Don’t Quote me on That”— both of which are available on Amazon.
Photo credit: UNFOLD ZERO