First Committee hears humanitarian call for nuclear abolition
by Ira Helfand
The campaign to build support for a nuclear weapons convention took a big step forward at the UN Monday when a group of 34 nations and the Holy See released a joint statement calling for nuclear abolition.
The statement said, in part:
The only way to guarantee (that nuclear weapons are never used) is the total, irreversible and verifiable elimination of nuclear weapons, under effective international control, including through the full implementation of Article VI of the NPT. All States must intensify their efforts to outlaw nuclear weapons and achieve a world free of nuclear weapons. Civil society plays a crucial role in raising the awareness about the devastating humanitarian consequences as well as the critical IHL [International Humanitarian Law] implications of nuclear weapons.”
The next day the Swiss government and ICAN, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, hosted a lunch time briefing on the humanitarian consequences. IPPNW co-Presidents Ira Helfand and Bob Mtonga did a presentation on the medical consequences of a limited nuclear war, focusing on the impact that nuclear famine would have, particularly in Africa. They also presented PSR’s data on the medical effects of large scale nuclear war. Rebecca Johnson, co-Chair of ICAN then discussed the policy implications of this data making a powerful case for a nuclear weapons convention.
The standing room only briefing was attended by more than 100 diplomats and NGO representatives, including representatives of 3 nuclear weapon state governments, France India, and the US.
Swiss Ambassador Benno Laggner who chaired the meeting spoke of the upcoming conference on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear war in Oslo next March 4 and 5 , and the associated NGO meeting being organized by ICAN for March 2 and 3.