By J Nastranis
Note: This report draws heavily on information and analysis provided by the Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament (PNND) and UNFOLD ZERO, a platform for UN focused initiatives and actions for the achievement of a nuclear weapons free world. – The Editor.
NEW YORK (IDN) - As surging tensions between North Korea and the U.S. raise again the spectre of a nuclear war, the United Nations has called on leaders around the world to come together in a High-Level Conference to reduce nuclear dangers and pave the way for nuclear disarmament.
In a resolution adopted by the General Assembly on November 1, the UN has set the dates and mandate for a High-Level conference on nuclear disarmament to take place from May 14-16, 2018 at the world body's headquarters in New York.
UNFOLD ZERO, in cooperation with the Basel Peace Office, PNND and Abolition 2000, are building civil society, parliamentary and government support for the success of the Conference on Nuclear Disarmament next year. They have called on world leaders to commit to attend the conference at the highest possible level – with prime ministers, presidents or foreign ministers participating.
As PNND points out, similar UN High Level Conferences held over the past few years have been very successful, including the conference on Sustainable Development (2015) which achieved agreement on 17 Sustainable Development Goals; Climate Change (2015) which achieved the Paris Agreement; Refugees and Migrants (2016) which achieved the New York Declaration and Oceans (2017) which achieved the 14-point Action Plan to Protect our Oceans.
The resolution reminds nuclear-armed States that they have previously agreed to hold an international conference to "eliminate nuclear dangers", but not yet done so. And it calls for progress to be made on a nuclear weapons convention – a global agreement which would include the nuclear-armed States and provide a phased and verified process for prohibiting and eliminating nuclear weapons.
"The increasing possibilities of a nuclear exchange between North Korea and the United States, or between India and Pakistan, or between Russia and NATO are frightening," said Alyn Ware, Convener of UNFOLD ZERO, the global coalition coordinating civil society support for the 2018 UN High-Level Conference.
"It is time for leaders to come together at such a conference and take nuclear war off the table. They should meet to discuss measures to reduce nuclear threats and start the process of mutual nuclear disarmament," he added.
Christine Muttonen, President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), which has adopted declarations supporting the 2018 UN High-Level Conference said: "Parliamentarians from across the political spectrum have been calling on governments to step back from the nuclear brink."
An Austrian member of parliament, Muttonen added: "This includes adopting policies to never use nuclear weapons first, to attend the 2018 UN conference at the highest level, and to support UN nuclear disarmament negotiations. We are ready to support governments in this vitally important initiative."
The OSCE Parliamentary Assembly – which includes the parliaments of France, Russia, Great Britain, USA and the other 52 OSCE member states – adopted declarations in 2016 and 2017 urging member governments to reduce nuclear threats, adopt no-first-use policies and support UN negotiations including on the nuclear ban treaty and at the 2018 UN High-Level Conference.
"Non-nuclear countries have already taken a lead in adopting a treaty on the prohibition of nuclear weapons," said Ware, referring to the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons adopted on July 7. "We hope and expect that the number of countries signing the treaty will grow from the current 53 to 100 by the end of the UN Conference (in May 2018). This will give strong support to global nuclear disarmament," he added.
Jonathan Granoff, UN Representative of the Summits of Nobel Peace Laureates and President of the Global Security Institute, said: "Nine nations continue to hold the world at risk of nuclear annihilation. Although 120 non-nuclear weapons states have negotiated a treaty to ban the weapons, the states with the weapons remain deadlocked in inertia. It is time for leaders to come together the high-level conference, to discuss measures to reduce nuclear threats and start the process of collective universal nuclear weapons elimination."
"The UN conference provides an opportunity for the UK and other nuclear-armed States to make progress on incremental disarmament measures to which they agreed in the Non-Proliferation Treaty conferences but have not yet implemented," said Baroness Sue Miller, Member of the UK House of Lords and a PNND Co-President. "Prime Minister Theresa May should commit now to attending the 2018 conference and working with her colleagues from the other nuclear-armed States to adopt concrete measures at the conference," she added.
"The human and economic resources currently committed to nuclear weapons – over $100 billion per year – are a waste and could instead be used to create jobs, support renewable energy, protect the climate and implement the sustainable development goals," said Saber Chowdhury MP, Honorary President of the Inter Parliamentary Union (IPU) and PNND Co-President. "The UN conference provides an opportunity to make mutual commitments to re-direct some of these resources, as we phase out reliance on nuclear weapons," he added.
PNND has joined with World Future Council and International Peace Bureau on 'Move the Nuclear Weapons Money', a global campaign on nuclear weapons spending which highlights the connections between nuclear disarmament and achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
PNND and the IPU standing committees on United Nations Affairs and Peace & International Security, organised a special session at the 137th IPU Assembly in St Petersburg on October 16 to encourage parliamentarians to work with their governments to sign and ratify the treaty, support the UN High Level Conference, and undertake other actions outlined in the Parliamentary Action Plan for a Nuclear-Weapon-Free World.
Bill Kidd, Co-chair of the Scottish Parliament Cross-party Group on Nuclear Disarmament, said: "The nuclear-armed States are threatening not only themselves but the whole world with their arsenals on hair-trigger alert and with first-use policies. These weapons, including the ones deployed in Scotland by the UK, make us a target in a nuclear exchange, rather than a force for peace. The UN conference provides an opportunity for the nuclear-armed governments to realise that we all would be safer in a non-nuclear-armed world."
Dr Hedy Fry MP, Member of Parliament for Vancouver Center (Canada) and the Special Representative on Gender Issues for the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, said: “Countries like Canada which are under extended nuclear deterrence relationships, have a role to reduce the reliance on nuclear weapons and support effective disarmament measures,’ said ‘The UN High Level Conference provides an opportunity to do this."
Thore Vestby, Vice-President of Mayors for Peace, said: "The series of conferences on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons hosted by Norway, Mexico and Austria demonstrated that any use of nuclear weapons would have catastrophic human, environmental and economic impact on cities and on populations around the world."
Vestby added: "Mayors who have a responsibility for safety in their cities, are therefore joining together to support nuclear disarmament, and will be attending the 2018 High-Level Conference along with parliamentarians and other civil society representatives."
"Will silence and repeating past positions resolve the very real dangers posed by the huge arsenals of Russia and the United States, the tensions with North Korea or India and Pakistan?” Granoff asked.
"It is time for leaders to come together the high-level conference, take nuclear war off the table, and commit to a negotiating process directed toward achieving a nuclear weapons free world, a duty already embodied in the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty," he added. [IDN-InDepthNews – 6 November 2017]
Photo: Bill Kidd MSP, PNND Co-President chairing a PNND meeting in Astana in August 2016. Others pictured are Senator Damen-Masri (Jordan), Saber Chowdhury, Alyn Ware, Jonathan Granoff and Denise Pascal Allende MP (Chile). Credit: PNND
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