By Prof. Dave Webb – Chair of CND / Co-convenor of Yorkshire CND
As the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty Review Conference finally ground to a halt the final dismal statement was nothing more than a rejection of nuclear disarmament by the nuclear weapon states. All the P5 states who have signed the NPT (the US, UK, France, Russia and China) are committed under Article 6 to “pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament” and yet their only achievement since the last review conference in 2010 is to agree on a ‘glossary of key nuclear terms’. In the mean time the US has announced its intension to spend $1 trillion over the next 30 years for new nuclear bomb factories and delivery systems while the others (including the UK of course) plan to “modernise” their nuclear arsenals. The non nuclear weapon states are frustrated and angered by the lack of progress in the implementation of NPT disarmament obligations, so much so that the Marshall Islands have submitted a legal case against the nuclear armed states to the International Court of Justice. The nuclear weapon states did not go unchallenged in New York either.
We (CND Campaigns Officer Sara Medi Jones, CND Council member Jenny Clegg and I,) were in New York for the activities leading up to and during the first part of the Review Conference. Christian CND was also there – represented by Caroline Gilbert and Patricia and Michael Pulham. The few days before the start of the NPT were packed full of events organised and run by international civil society groups working to abolish nuclear weapons. Over 600 participants joined the wonderful “Peace and Planet” International Conference for a Nuclear-Free, Peaceful, Just and Sustainable World held at the Cooper Union in New York City, April 24-25. Plenary speakers included: Angela Kane (UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs), Taniguchi Sumiteru, Setsuko Thurlow (Japanese Hibakusha) Daniel Ellsberg, Prof. Zia Mian, Tony de Brum (Marshall Islands Foreign Minister) and Bill Kidd (Scottish Assembly). There were 44 workshops and CND was well represented – for logistical reasons we joined our workshop “Disarm Now: Breaking the Cycle of War and Nuclear Weapons!”with “NATO – Threat to Security and Far Too Costly” and Jean Lambert joined the panel. I was an invited speaker at a workshop on “US-NATO’s Eastward Expansion & South Korea-US-Japan Alliance: Missile Defense Deployments in Asia-Pacific”, Jenny was invited on a panel speaking on “Asia-Pacific: The U.S. Pivot, China’s Rise and Struggles for Peace with Justice and Security” and Sara was asked to co-chair the final plenary session.
Talking with peace campaigners from around the world, and especially from the US, there was general agreement that we need to strengthen alliances with interlocking campaigns in our own countries (anti-austerity, environmental, trade union and human rights groups, etc) and also maintain and build strong links with international groups to maintain solidarity and a global perspective.
The international rally on April 26th filled Union Square with between 10-12,000 people. The rally included over 1,000 Japanese activists, including 80 Hibakusha. Among the speakers was Jean Lambert MEP, Dan Ellsberg and Mayor Matsui of Hiroshima. A highlight of the rally was the launching of the Global Peace Wave by Rimma Velikanova of the Basel Peace Office and Karipbek Kuyokov, a second generation Kazakh nuclear weapon test victim. The march from Union Square to Dag Hammarskjold Plaza, opposite the UN building, was led by about eight Hibakusha in wheel chairs – there was a great atmosphere despite the heavy police presence. The Festival at Dag Hammarskjold was really impressive – with 35 stalls and the presentation of nearly 8 million petition signatures by Gensuikyo, Mayors for Peace and Peace and Planet to Angela Kane the UN High Representative for Disarmament and NPT Review President Ambassador Feroukhi.
The Global Peace Wave, launched at the NY rally, travelled westward, by time zone and included over 100 actions in more than 20 countries around the world – including many in the UK. It arrived back at the UN 24 hours later for the opening of the NPT Review Conference. The actions were to underline the global wish to wave goodbye to nuclear weapons and to help focus attention on the Review Conference.
And so the Review Conference began with statements from the participating countries being read out one by one at the UN. We were busy there too! On the morning of April 27th – the first day of the conference, I was speaking at the IALANA side meeting on “Nuclear weapons in Europe” and gave a presentation on the plans to upgrade Trident and in the afternoon we held our CND side meeting “Scrapping Trident: Assessing the Global Impact” and distributed our briefing “Trident: On its Way Out?”. The meeting was chaired by Sara and I gave a brief introduction followed by Bill Kidd MSP, Jean Lambert MEP, Jean-Marie Collin (France Parlementaires pour la Non-prolifération Nucléaire et le Désarmement), Jackie Cabasso (Western States Legal Foundation, USA) and Tadaaki Kawata (speaking on behalf of Gensuikyo). At that time we were fairly up-beat about the result of the general election and there was a good audience and an informative and interesting discussion about how important the scrapping of Trident would be to global nuclear disarmament. The world sees the UK as the most probable place for a historical change for the better (and still does – despite the election result!). Also on that afternoon Jenny represented CND at a packed meeting organised by the Japan Council against Atomic and Hydrogen Bombs.
On the afternoon of the second day I was on a panel speaking on the “modernization” of nuclear weapons states arsenals and weapons complexes organised by The Alliance for Nuclear Accountability (ANA). There was a very useful overview by Hans Kristensen and other speakers from France and Russia speaking on the modernization programs in their countries – a very informative session.
During the first week of the Conference Sara had fixed up a number of private meetings with ambassadorial delegates from the US, France and the UK. These meetings were in stark contrast with those we had with peace activists! People at the rally, global wave and the march talked of a better, safer, more just world – free from the nuclear sword of Damocles, where conflicts are solved through discussion, mutual respect and understanding. The UN official nuclear weapons states’ delegates talked of recognising the humanitarian consequences of a nuclear strike but of living ‘in the real world’, of current and possible future threats and a ‘responsibility’ to ensure they can respond. The French Ambassador insisted they were making steps towards disarmament and talked about the Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty they were introducing as one of those steps – disarmament is complex they said! They were also at pains to emphasise that nuclear weapons systems are secure and the technology developed is 100% risk free, saying that there was no real opposition from the population and nuclear weapons are seen a symbol of French independence. The US also explained that disarmament was difficult and there were many factors to consider – however they will be speeding up dismantlement by 20%.
The UK delegation refused to admit that there was any work under way on developing a new warhead at Aldermaston (despite all the evidence to the contrary) Baroness Anelay presented the UK’s statement to the NPT – using the familiar phrase that the UK will “retain a credible and effective minimum nuclear deterrent for as long as the global security situation makes that necessary” – which is of course incompatible with NPT obligations. The statement also warned against “forcing the speed of disarmament” as it “risks jeopardising the achievements of the NPT and undermining its future” – even though the real threat to the NPT is the lack of progress and plans to renew, modernise and upgrade existing arsenals. The UK boast was that it will reduce overall nuclear warhead stockpile to 180 by the mid 2020s – but this is still more than enough to kill tens of millions of people and possibly trigger a “nuclear winter”.
Although the presentations by the nuclear weapon states were predictably uninspiring and they have spent most of their time watering down drafts of the final conference statement put together by non-nuclear weapon states, there were some good points made by others. The statement of South Africa, presented by Ambassador Abdul Minty (a long-time friend of CND) described clearly why reductions in nuclear weapons are not the same as nuclear disarmament – they are made merely to get rid of redundant weapons. Disarmament has got to advance elimination. Ambassador Minty (and Ambassador Kmentt of Austria) challenged the nuclear weapon states point blank, saying that if they are unwilling to rule out the use of nuclear weapons under any circumstances, they should be clear about what circumstances they envisage actually using them. He also discussed the meaning of security and whether security for nuclear weapon states can be imposed on the rest of the world who do not rely on nuclear weapons for their security. They can’t have it both ways – either states need nuclear weapons for their security or they don’t. What makes the P5 countries so different that it is imperative that they remain the only ones that possess nuclear weapons while all others do without? Surely it is better that everyone should do without?
Civil society continues to call for States Parties to the NPT to agree to commence negotiations for the prohibition and complete elimination of nuclear weapons, supported by over 350 organisations in 45 countries.
As the review of the NPT operates by consensus, it was always very unlikely that the outcome document would reflect the views of the majority of states. It will instead centre around the lowest common denominator, with vague formulations that allow nuclear-armed states to stall for another five years. But then little or no progress is the norm at these 5 yearly review conferences. There was a glimmer of hope in 2000 when 187 states agreed to a set of 13 practical steps towards the implementation of Article 6 of the Treaty (the part that provides for nuclear disarmament) but nothing has yet come of it. At the 2005 Review Conference, states parties could not agree on a final document. In 2010, states parties adopted a 64-point action plan to move forward – but it is now clear this year that nothing has come of that either.
As Peace and Planet stated in their call for governments to agree to a plan for the prohibition and complete elimination of nuclear weapons – nuclear-armed countries spend over $100 billion per year on nuclear weapons and related costs and these are expected to increase as nuclear weapon States modernize their warheads and delivery systems. Spending on high-tech weapons not only deepens the reliance of some governments on their nuclear arsenals, but also furthers the growing divide between rich and poor. In 2013, $1.75 trillion was spent on militaries and armaments – more than the total annual income of the poorest third of the world’s population.
Many of the states speaking at the NPT also expressed concern about the humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons 159 countries have signed the Joint Statement on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons and 107 countries have so far pledged to prohibit and eliminate nuclear weapons, welcomed the three humanitarian impact conferences that took place in Norway, Mexico, and Austria in 2013 and 2014 and there were strong calls by countries from all continents for a legally binding instrument prohibiting nuclear weapons which would implement and strengthen Article 6. In response the nuclear weapon states say all this is nothing new – in fact it is the humanitarian and devastative effects that are at the centre of deterrence theory.
Civil society actions including Global Wave and Peace and Planet have certainly made a positive impact at the NPT by challenging the nuclear weapons states and supporting the non-nuclear states. It is ultimately up to us to ensure that the pressure for nuclear disarmament builds to a point where it can no longer be resisted. In the year of the 70th anniversary of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings we need to continue to build a united and widespread opposition to nuclear weapons – using all the resources and energy we can muster. The process to achieve a treaty banning nuclear weapons is growing but might not mean much unless one or two nuclear states sign up. We are still the most likely country to achieve a breakthrough – it’s a huge responsibility but not one we can afford to ignore.