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The Ukraine war and international law

February 1, 2023

The Ukraine War has provided a challenging time for the nations of the world and, particularly, for international law.

Since antiquity, far-sighted thinkers have worked on developing rules of behavior among nations in connection with war, diplomacy, economic relations, human rights, international crime, global communications, and the environment.  Defined as international law, this “law of nations” is based on treaties or, in some cases, international custom.  Some of the best-known of these international legal norms are outlined in the United Nations Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the Geneva Conventions.

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90 seconds to midnight: what the Doomsday Clock means in 2023

January 27, 2023

We are now at the most dangerous moment in history. We face multiple existential crises that are not under control, but growing more acute, while failures of leadership become more damning. 

We have no time to lose.

This week, in Washington DC, the international scientific and policy experts of the Science and Security Board of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists announced that they were moving the hands of the iconic Doomsday Clock forward from 100 to 90 seconds to midnight, the closest to global catastrophe it has ever been

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Cities are not targets

January 25, 2023

by Carlos Umaña, MD

Carlos Umaña at the IPPNW European Forum in Hamburg.

[IPPNW co-president Carlos Umaña spoke on 21 January at the IPPNW European Forum in Hamburg, Germany.]

I am honored speak on such a special occasion, to such a special crowd, and humbled to do so in such a special place. Here, the name of my presentation, “Cities are not targets” takes a special meaning, as in the basement of St. Nikolai’s Memorial Church one cannot help but marvel at the grandeur of human enterprise, while at the same time be appalled by the reaches of human destruction.

“Cities are not targets,” the title of my presentation, is also the name of a campaign launched in 2006 by Mayors for Peace, an organization founded in 1982 by the mayor of Hiroshima with the aim of producing nuclear abolition, an organization that currently has over 8,200 member cities.

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An outstanding historical achievement

January 16, 2023

Review: Gambling with Armageddon:  Nuclear Roulette from Hiroshima to the Cuban Missile Crisis, by Martin J. Sherwin

The development and the deployment of nuclear weapons are usually based on the assumption that they enhance national security. But, in fact, as this powerful study of nuclear policy convincingly demonstrates, nuclear weapons move nations toward the brink of destruction.

The basis for this conclusion is the post-World War II nuclear arms race and, especially, the Cuban missile crisis of October 1962. At the height of the crisis, top officials from the governments of the United States and the Soviet Union narrowly avoided annihilating a substantial portion of the human race by what former US Secretary of State Dean Acheson, an important participant in the events, called “plain dumb luck.”

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Nations of the world unite!

December 30, 2022

Russia’s war upon Ukraine should remind us that violent international conflicts not only persist, but constitute a plague upon the world.

Over thousands of years, wars have brought immense suffering to people around the globe.  In addition to the widespread annihilation of human life, wars have produced vast material losses, including the destruction of homes, schools, hospitals, entire cities, the environment, and much of what people value as civilization.  They have also channeled enormous financial resources into military buildups that, even if not employed in battle, deprive other public and private programs of adequate attention and funding.  Also, since World War II, when nuclear weapons were first developed and used with terrible effect, the means of waging war have entered a new dimension, giving it the power to destroy virtually all life on earth.

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Imperialist wars—and what could be done about them

December 5, 2022

Although all wars are not imperialist wars, it is remarkable how many imperial conquests have occurred over past centuries.

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China, Russia and the bomb

November 24, 2022

Even international alliances can unravel when nations confront the insanity of a nuclear holocaust.

Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev (left) withdrew assistance in developing nuclear weapons from China in the 1950s over concerns that chairman Mao Zedong (right) would be unrestrained in their use.

An illustration of this point occurred recently, after Vladimir Putin once again threatened Ukraine and other nations with nuclear war.  “To defend Russia and our people, we doubtlessly will use all weapons resources at our disposal,” the Russian president said.  “This is not a bluff.”  In response to this statement and to sharp UN condemnation of Russian nuclear threats, Chinese president Xi Jinping issued a public statement early this November, assailing “the use of, or threats to use nuclear weapons.”  To “prevent a nuclear crisis” in Europe or Asia, he insisted, the world should “advocate that nuclear weapons cannot be used” and “a nuclear war cannot be waged.”

Aren’t these two nuclear-armed nations currently aligned in their resistance to U.S. foreign policy?  Yes, they are, and when it came to Putin’s war upon Ukraine, Xi refrained from suggesting a Russian withdrawal.  But nuclear war, as the Chinese leader made clear, was simply not acceptable.

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Nuclear weapons abolition must be part of the climate agenda

November 23, 2022

by Arun Mitra

Humanity is on a “highway to climate hell with our foot on the accelerator,” the UN secretary general has warned, saying “the fight for a liveable planet will be won or lost in this decade.”

He told world leaders at the opening of the Conference of Parties (COP27) UN climate summit in Egypt, “We are in the fight of our lives and we are losing … And our planet is fast approaching tipping points that will make climate chaos irreversible.”

He warned that the world faced a stark choice over the next fortnight of talks: either developed and developing countries would work together to make a “historic pact” that would reduce greenhouse gas emissions and set the world on a low-carbon path – or fail to do so, which would bring climate breakdown and catastrophe.

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“We will not be silent in the face of evil”

November 22, 2022
Dr. Mary-Wynne Ashford, 1939-2022

[Ed. note: Dr. Mary-Wynne Ashford, IPPNW’s co-president from 1998-2002 and a former president of Canadian Physicians for Global Survival, died on November 19 as the result of injuries from a fall. A prolific writer and eloquent speaker, Dr. Ashford was an ardent advocate for peace, health, global security, human rights, and the environment. We offer these excerpts from Mary-Wynne’s speech at the closing plenary of IPPNW’s 14th World Congress in Paris, on July 2, 2000, where she spoke movingly about the interconnections among the major global issues of our time.]

Twenty years ago, in the dark times of the Cold War, a handful of doctors challenged orthodox beliefs about the enemy and founded an organisation of doctors determined to prevent nuclear war. From its beginning, IPPNW focused on the fact that there could be no meaningful medical response to a nuclear war, that prevention is the only rational course.

We are not a group of activists who happen to be doctors; we are doctors first, committed to easing suffering and death. We bring that commitment to the global stage in our attempt to prevent the ultimate suffering and death of nuclear war. The tools of our work are research, education and advocacy, and our unique contribution is that we bring the skills, expertise and ethics of medicine to the work of preventing war. We are non-partisan and neutral with regard to conflicts but we will not be silent in the face of evil. We recognise that nuclear war cannot be prevented without preventing conventional war.

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500 kilometers by bike from Nairobi to Mombassa: planning the trip to IPPNW’s 23rd World Congress

November 15, 2022

by Victor Chelashow

[Victor Chelashow, IPPNW Co-International Medical Student Representative, reflects on his experience leading a reconnaissance bike trip from Nairobi to Mombasa, Kenya. In April 2023, dozens of IPPNW Students, young doctors, and supporting members from around the world will take the 500km bike tour in advance of our 23rd World Congress in Mombasa, Kenya. Follow IPPNW Students on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram to stay up-to-date on the bike tour and get involved.]

A brief stop on a bridge outside of Voi, Kenya

It’s been slightly over a month since I wrapped up my first bike tour, enough time to accept that the trip is done and reflect on the lifelong impression the experience has on me. I learnt a lot from my friend and IPPNW colleague, Timothy Ronoh, who accompanied me on the trip, cyclists I met along the way, kind strangers, and from the trip itself. I thought it best to share thoughts and reflections as a novice rider hoping you find some inspiration and lessons, not just for the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW) bike tour in 2023, but for those who would like to take on biking as a hobby/way of life.

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