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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…

Nuclear weapons abolition milestone is reached as ban treaty enters into force

January 21, 2021

The multinational Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons entered into force today, meaning that its prohibitions against developing, testing, producing, acquiring, possessing, stockpiling, and using or threatening to use nuclear weapons have now become part of the body of international law. Those prohibitions are binding on the 51 states that have joined the Treaty and on those that will join in the future. While the nuclear-armed states and their allies have so far resisted joining the TPNW, experience with similar treaties suggests that, over time, these prohibitions will increasingly influence the policies and practices of even the most recalcitrant governments, especially as the numbers of ratifications increase.

A coalition of the world’s largest health federations welcomed the TPNW’s entry into force with a joint statement hailing the Treaty as “an essential step towards preventing the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of the use of nuclear weapons and a big win for planetary health.” Read more…

The great evasion

January 18, 2021

Two related events—the 75th anniversary of the January 24, 1946 UN General Assembly Resolution 1 (which established a commission to plan for the abolition of nuclear weapons) and the January 22, 2021 entry into force of the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (designed to finally implement that goal)—should be a cause for worldwide celebration.  

In fact, however, they are a cause for shame.  The nine nuclear powers have refused to sign the treaty and, instead, today continue to engage in a nuclear arms race and to threaten nuclear war—a war capable of destroying virtually all life on earth. Read more…

Farewell to a friend and mentor: H. Jack Geiger, 1925-2020

December 30, 2020

When I met Jack Geiger in 1987, he was already legendary. One of the founders of Physicians for Social Responsibility and a co-author—along with Vic Sidel, Bernard Lown, and others—of a series of groundbreaking articles about the medical consequences of nuclear war published by the New England Journal of Medicine in 1962, he had just finished his term as PSR’s president when I joined the staff as communications director. I had no sooner arrived in Washington when my new boss, Jane Wales, sent me back to Boston to slow down, if not outright stop, a plan that Jack was developing with Vic and another board member, Jennifer Leaning, to start a new PSR journal. Much to Jane’s chagrin, I returned to Washington persuaded that the journal was a great idea. Much more important for me, I had met the three people who would be my mentors and, not infrequently, my most relentless taskmasters for many years to come. Read more…

Is the nationalist tide receding?

December 1, 2020

Nationalism—placing the interests of one’s own nation above the interests of other nations—has been a powerful force in world affairs for centuries.

But it seemed on the wane after 1945, when the vast devastation of World War II—a conflict fostered by rightwing, nationalist demagogues—convinced people around the globe of the necessity to transcend nationalism and encourage international cooperation.  Indeed, the widespread recognition of the interdependence of nations led to the creation of institutions like the United Nations (which established a modicum of global governance) and the European Union (which established a regional federation).

Thus, it came as a shock when, during the second decade of the twenty-first century, a new generation of nationalists, invariably rightwing populists, made startling political breakthroughs in their countries. Read more…

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