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Joining the nuclear weapons ban treaty has never been more urgent

May 4, 2021

It’s official – the first meeting of states parties to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) will be held on 12-14 January 2022 in Vienna.

The TPNW is the first new multilateral nuclear disarmament treaty to enter into force in 49 years, (since the 1972 Seabed Treaty prohibiting weapons of mass destruction on the seabed). Ironically nuclear weapons, the most destructive of all weapons, were the last weapons of mass destruction to be banned. Adopted at the United Nations in New York on 7 July 2017, the TPNW now has 86 signatories and 54 ratifications, and entered into legal force on 22 January this year.  

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The fateful choice: nuclear arms race or nuclear weapons-free world

May 3, 2021

The recent announcement by the British government that it plans a 40 percent increase in the number of nuclear weapons it possesses highlights the escalation of the exceptionally dangerous and costly nuclear arms race.

After decades of progress in reducing nuclear arsenals through arms control and disarmament agreements, all the nuclear powers are once again busily upgrading their nuclear weapons capabilities.  For several years, the US government has been engaged in a massive nuclear “modernization” program, designed to refurbish its production facilities, enhance existing weapons, and build new ones.  The Russian government, too, is investing heavily in beefing up its nuclear forces, and in July 2020, President Vladimir Putin announced that the Russian navy would soon be armed with hypersonic nuclear weapons and underwater nuclear drones. Meanwhile, ChinaIndia, Pakistan, and North Korea are expanding the size of their nuclear arsenals, while Israel is building a new, secret nuclear weapons facility and France is modernizing its ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, and missile-carrying submarines.

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Amid widespread disease, death, and poverty, the major powers increased their military spending in 2020

April 27, 2021

Last year was a terrible time for vast numbers of people around the globe, who experienced not only a terrible disease pandemic, accompanied by widespread sickness and death, but severe economic hardship.

Even so, the disasters of 2020 were not shocking enough to jolt the world’s most powerful nations out of their traditional preoccupation with enhancing their armed might, for once again they raised their military spending to new heights.

During 2020, world military expenditures increased to $1,981,000,000,000—or nearly $2 trillion—with the outlays of the three leading military powers playing a major part in the growth.  The US government increased its military spending from $732 billion in 2019 to $778 billion in 2020, thus retaining its top spot among the biggest funders of war preparations.  Meanwhile, the Chinese government hiked its military spending to $252 billion, while the Russian government raised its military outlay to $61.7 billion.  

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The solution to climate change must include nuclear disarmament

April 22, 2021

by Carlos Umaña

In this global crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the world has become aware of the importance of following science and evidence in policymaking, and there is a greater understanding of where true security actually lies and which countries and systems are more capable of protecting their people. 

This pandemic is a symptom of a disease that ails humanity, and that could very well lead to more pandemics once this one is over, if we, as a global community, do not take drastic action. 

This COVID-19 crisis has exposed many systemic flaws and vulnerabilities, and as serious as its impact has been to our health and our economies worldwide, it is not an existential threat, and its impact is insignificant compared to that of the impending climate crisis and of a nuclear war, whatever its proportions. 

Climate change and nuclear weapons are the 2 existential threats to life on Earth. They are intricately linked and mutually reinforcing. With the world’s climate being as unpredictable and changing as it currently is, the climate crisis is impossible to ignore. However, most people do ignore how serious the risk of nuclear war is and why nuclear disarmament is more important today than ever.

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Opposition to abolishing nuclear weapons—and what could help to overcome it

April 5, 2021

Given the fact that nuclear war means the virtual annihilation of life on earth, it’s remarkable that many people continue to resist building a nuclear weapons-free world.  Is the human race suicidal?

Before jumping to that conclusion, let’s remember that considerably more people favor abolishing nuclear weapons than oppose it.  Public opinion surveys—ranging from polls in 21 nations worldwide during 2008 to recent polls in Europe,Japan, and Australia—have  shown that large majorities of people in nearly all the nations surveyed favor the abolition of nuclear weapons by international agreement.  In the United States, where the public was polled in September 2019 about the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, 49 percent of respondents expressed approval of the treaty, 32 percent expressed disapproval, and 19 percent said they didn’t know.     

Nevertheless, surprisingly large numbers of people remain unready to take the step necessary to prevent the launching of a war that would turn the world into a charred, smoking, radioactive wasteland.  Why? Read more…

A rapidly globalizing world needs strengthened global governance

March 1, 2021

The world is currently engulfed in crises—most prominently, a disease pandemic, a climate catastrophe, and the prevalence of war—while individual nations are encountering enormous difficulties in coping with them.

These difficulties result from the global nature of the problems.  An individual nation is unable to institute adequate measures to safeguard public health because diseases spread easily across national boundaries.  Similarly, an individual nation cannot stave off the deterioration of the climate because the climate is a worldwide phenomenon.  Furthermore, an individual nation cannot prevent warfare (including the drift to a disastrous nuclear war) because nations live in a state approaching international anarchy, with each relying on its own military strength to safeguard what it views as its national interests. Read more…

Advancing the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons

February 19, 2021

[The following commentary was originally published by the Toda Peace Institute, and is reprinted here with permission.]

The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) entered into legal force on 22 January 2021. It is the first multilateral nuclear disarmament treaty to be negotiated in 25 years (since the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, CTBT) and the first such treaty to enter into force in 49 years (since the Seabed Treaty which prohibits weapons of mass destruction including nuclear weapons being placed on the seabed).

The TPNW is here to stay and is a game-changer. It provides the first comprehensive and categorical prohibition of the worst weapons of mass destruction, the only weapons which pose an acute existential threat to humans and planetary health. Read more…

Saving one life while working to save all our lives

February 18, 2021

Monday, December 9, 1985: As members of IPPNW’s executive committee met with the international press before the Nobel Peace Prize award ceremony in Oslo, a journalist suddenly slumped over in his chair and began convulsing—the victim of cardiac arrest.  An international team of IPPNW physicians rushed to his aid as the press conference dissolved into a battle for the life of the stricken camera operator. The story became a parable for IPPNW’s work. When the press conference resumed Dr. Bernard Lown, who died this week at the age of 99, had this to say:

We have just witnessed what doctoring is about. When faced with a dire emergency of sudden cardiac arrest, doctors do not inquire whether the patient was a good person or a criminal. We do not delay treatment to learn the politics or character of the victim. We respond not as ideologues, nor as Russians nor Americans, but as doctors. The only thing that matters is saving a human life. We work with colleagues, whatever their political persuasion, whether capitalist or Communist. This very culture permeates IPPNW. The world is threatened with sudden nuclear death. We work with doctors whatever their political convictions to save our endangered home. You have just witnessed IPPNW in action.

Dr. Eugueni Chazov administers CPR to a Soviet journalist in Oslo as Dr. Bernard Lown looks on at upper left.

Drs. Lown and Chazov respond emotionally after the event.

IPPNW mourns co-founder Dr. Bernard Lown (1921-2021), calls on people worldwide to continue his legacy

February 17, 2021

IPPNW’s founding co-president Dr. Bernard Lown, 1921-2021.

International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW), 1985 Nobel Peace laureate organization, mourns the loss yesterday of our co-founder Dr. Bernard Lown, just months short of his 100th birthday.

Dr. Lown was a tireless visionary and pragmatic activist whose example continues to inspire countless physicians, students, and citizens worldwide.  Those who knew Dr. Lown know that he would insist that the most meaningful way to honor his memory will be to carry on his work. Read more…

Nuclear weapons ban treaty is now international law

January 26, 2021

by Arjun Makhijani

Today, January 22, 2021, is a historic day. The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons enters into force, three months after the 50th country, Honduras, ratified it. Nuclear weapons are now illegal under international law in every aspect. Possession is illegal; manufacture is illegal; use is illegal; threatening to use is illegal; transfer is illegal; aiding and abetting any of these things is illegal.

I salute the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, where the idea for this treaty originated — though its antecedents go much farther back — to the 1990s, when many non-government organizations, including IPPNW, created a mock treaty to ban nuclear weapons. Read more…

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