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Highlights from NGO statements at the NPT Review

May 8, 2010

[The following excerpts are from the written versions of NGO statements to the 2010 NPT Review Conference that were delivered orally on May 7 during a special three-hour session. The presentations to the delegates were sometimes shortened to fit the available time. Nobel Laureate Jody Williams departed from her prepared text entirely to deliver a passionate, stirring appeal for the eradication of nuclear weapons. All of the papers are available at Reaching Critical Will.]

“We welcome and embrace the increased attention to and talk about nuclear weapons and a world free of these unconscionable weapons of mass destruction. After all, opinion polls conducted in 21 countries in 2008 found that an estimated 76% of people around the world–including majorities in the nuclear states–support the idea of a binding, verifiable nuclear weapons convention.

“If this does not demonstrate to governments that they have a clear popular mandate to begin serious negotiations now, what will it take? If the nuclear states ignore the will of the overwhelming majority of people around the world, I worry what that means for our collective future. Since Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the people of this planet have been in thrall to those few nations who all too literally hold our very existence in their nuclear hands. There have been moments of great hope–Reykjavik–and moments of horrific fear–the Cuban Missile Crisis. After the NPT Review Conference of 2005, the nuclear future looked dismal. Now, with new possibilities again palpable, we cannot and we must not let this moment pass.

“The states gathered here in New York can seize this opportunity and change our future forever. With brave vision and even bolder action, the Promise of Prague can be transformed into the reality of nuclear abolition.

“This will not happen with rousing rhetoric or nuclear legerdemain. This will happen with a clear and honest assessment of the progress made and the challenges remaining in the implementation of the Non-Proliferation Treaty….

“Civil society and non-governmental organizations suffer no illusion that the journey to nuclear abolition will be easy, but we do know that it must begin now. Those few who hold our collective fate in their hands must respond to the collective will of the billions they allege to protect with nuclear weapons we do not want. It is time for all governments to come together–with the support of civil society around the world–to chart our course to a nuclear free future by beginning the negotiation of a comprehensive treaty banning the use, production, transfer and stockpiling of nuclear weapons. Now. Not in years or decades. Now.”

— Jody Williams, Chair, Nobel Women’s Initiative; 1997 Nobel Peace Laureate

“I am Taniguchi Sumiteru, a Nagasaki Hibakusha….

“In 1945, I was 16 years old. On the morning of August 9, I was riding my bicycle 1.8 kilometers north of what was to become the epicenter of the explosion of the atomic bomb. When the bomb exploded, I was burned on my entire back by the intense heat rays of 3,000 to 4,000 degrees Celsius, and also exposed to invisible radiation. The next moment, together with my bike I was blown about 4 meters and smashed to the ground by the bomb blast.

“When the blast ended, I looked up and found that the buildings around me had been smashed down and those children who had been playing around me were blown away and scattered here and there. I was struck by the fear of death, thinking that a big bomb had been dropped nearby. But I kept telling myself that I must not die like this.

“I am not a guinea pig nor am I an exhibit. But those of you who are here today, please don’t turn your eyes away from me. Please look at me again. I have survived miraculously, but for me, to “live” was to “endure the agony.” The atomic bomb survivors, who reached the maximum number of 380,000 at one time, have now decreased to 230,000. Bearing the cursed scars of the atomic bomb all over our bodies, we the Hibakusha continue to live in pain.

“Nuclear weapons are weapons of extinction that cannot coexist with humans. They should never, ever be used for any reason whatsoever. Possession of nuclear weapons, or even an intention to acquire them, is against humanity.”

— Taniguchi Sumiteru, Survivor of the US atomic bombing of Nagasaki on August 9, 1945

“[O]ne thing is clear: nuclear weapons are not the answer to our problems. Their indiscriminate nature goes against the progress that has been made in the implementation of international human rights over the course of the previous century. All people are entitled to the right to life, and no nation can define others as unworthy of this right. By maintaining nuclear weapons, states have the ability to indiscriminately kill whole populations of peoples and render the environment uninhabitable for generations to come. In signing the UN Charter, states committed themselves “to promote the establishment and maintenance of international peace and security with the least diversion for armaments of the world’s human and economic resources”. Nuclear weapons provide none of this.

“Today, the money, technology and human intelligence that is being devoted to these instruments of death, could instead be devoted to the preservation of life. With other, more viable alternatives we don’t see any need for any country in this world to maintain nuclear arsenals, to stick to nuclear weapons and nuclear power plants, to invest in arms and create toxic, radioactive waste, targets for terrorists and increase the risk of proliferation. A safer world and one without nuclear weapons must reflect the principles of “our common future” and “our shared security”, a security that benefits every human being. Governments need to invest in human security by ensuring enough clean drinking water, sufficient food and access to necessary medical care.

“Our generation was born after the Cold War. We had nothing to do with the creation and proliferation of these weapons. The Cold war is over and humanity is facing new problems. These 21st century problems cannot be solved by 20th century weapons. …Weapons are not protecting us from potential enemies – they are creating them. But communication gives us the ability to bring down borders.

“Nuclear weapons are now 65 years old. Don’t you think it’s time for compulsory retirement?”

— Barbara Streibl and Fatih Oezcan, Ban All Nukes generation

“[N]uclear deterrence doctrine is a potentially terminal delusion that needs to be challenged head-on because it is the final justification for never getting rid of nuclear arsenals. If we are right, then all that is preventing rapid progress in complying with Article VI of the NPT is a terrible, naïve misunderstanding associated with hitherto unquestioned acceptance about what nuclear weapons are supposed to do. This issue is one of the most urgent that we need to address now because, as Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon rightly observed on United Nations Day 2008, ‘the doctrine of nuclear deterrence has proven to be contagious.’ This needs an immunization programme which persuades security planners that nuclear deterrence is irrational and unacceptable….

“Some allies of the nuclear weapon states are re-assessing the value of extended nuclear deterrence. In our view, extended nuclear deterrence is unnecessary and counterproductive for security. First, the nuclear states risk being pushed into first use of nuclear weapons when their own security is not directly threatened. Secondly, the misnamed “nuclear umbrella” could become a lightning rod for insecurity because of the high risk of rapid, uncontrollable escalation to full-scale nuclear war. Even limited use could also magnify catastrophic climate change, causing widespread famine for millions….

“Sixty-five years after Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and over twenty years after the Cold War ended, we need to have the courage and wisdom to discard that security blanket, and strip away the deceits of nuclear deterrence. If the political and military leaders of the nuclear weapon states and their allies cannot think their way beyond the circular logic, myths and misleading promises of nuclear deterrence, then it is up to responsible, conscientious citizens to call their bluff and demand more humane, lawful and safer non-nuclear – and preferably non-violent – security strategies. As with the abolition of slavery, we need to generate unstoppable political will in support of the UN Secretary-General’s courageous plan to remove and dismantle the scourge of nuclear weapons under a Nuclear Weapons Convention, so that the world is not destroyed if – when – deterrence fails.

— Rob Green, Disarmament and Security Centre, retired Commander of the British Royal Navy

“Negotiations on the reduction and elimination of nuclear arsenals are not discretionary; they are required by Article VI, which mandates that the negotiations are to be conducted in good faith and in accordance with international law. And they must be brought to conclusion, as the International Court of Justice unanimously advised.

As any climber will tell you, the destination and the journey are equally important. Nuclear disarmament is both a destination and a process; and a multilateral treaty – some kind of framework or comprehensive nuclear weapons convention that will codify in law and practice both the prohibition of the acquisition and use of nuclear weapons and also the safe and secure elimination of existing arsenals – has aspects of both. Getting to the right destination will require paying careful attention to the verifiable dismantlement and elimination of the existing warheads and delivery vehicles and to making sure the fissile materials and other components are disposed of or stored so that they cannot be stolen, reacquired or used for weapons in the future. All this must be done in ways that minimize the hazards for the environment and our health, and provide confidence against cheating, break-out and the acquisition of nuclear weapon capabilities by terrorist governments or actors in the future.

“Making a start on the preparatory work for a nuclear weapons convention will mean courageous governments, elected representatives and citizens taking individual and collective initiatives that will hasten the journey and clear the obstacles from the path. Early steps will include removing nuclear reliance from deterrence doctrines and taking steps to universalise the legal recognition that any use of nuclear weapons would violate international law. Our route, timing and even humanity’s survival will depend on whether we can commit and resource ourselves for this journey now. This NPT Review Conference needs to agree on the treaty destination and set in motion the preparatory process and plans to get there as quickly as humanly possible.”

— Rebecca Johnson, Acronym Institute

“We believe that nuclear disarmament will have to be codified through a single global convention that can both promote and verify a complete ban on nuclear weapons. While the timing for pursuing such a convention must be carefully considered, we are convinced that this is the moment to establish the technical and legal details to facilitate total nuclear disarmament and to set specific timelines for achieving the realistic goal of a world without nuclear weapons. We urge the NPT Review Conference to facilitate such an effort.

“The faith-based partners of Religions for Peace understand that we have our own role to play in encouraging our respective faith communities to become part of a great global movement for nuclear disarmament.”

— Most Venerable Gijun Sugitani, Religons for Peace

At the end of the 1995 conference I said from the chair – ‘The permanence of the treaty does not represent a permanence of unbalanced obligations, nor does it represent the permanence of nuclear apartheid between nuclear haves and have-nots.’

“The focus on the DPRK and Iran – and on nuclear terrorism – also serves to distract attention from the inherent dangers of nuclear weapons themselves. It has been stated and restated that if there were no nuclear weapons under a verifiable nuclear disarmament regime there can be no proliferation or nuclear terrorism. How do we exercise our responsibility to protect the goal of a nuclear weapon free world?

“The only credible alternative appears to be the proposal for a Nuclear Weapon Convention on which negotiations must begin immediately. We already have in the NPT one international compact, which was an agreement between nuclear weapon states and non nuclear weapon states for a transitional period when the former would join the latter in a nuclear weapon free world. That has not happened for forty years. The hedging in the statements setting a nuclear weapon free world as an objective undermines the determination to reach that goal.

“We do need a radical change. In the same manner as we have outlawed biological and chemical weapons among weapons of mass destruction; and, anti-personnel landmines and cluster weapons as inhumane conventional weapons, we need to begin the process of outlawing nuclear weapons.”

— Jayantha Dhanapala, President, Pugwash

“The year 2020 is essential because it is the natural limit imposed by the average age of the hibakusha, which is now over 75. We are duty bound to abolish nuclear weapons while they are still alive. We do owe it to them, who have shown us through their sufferings and sacrifices, that nuclear weapons are absolute evil.

— Tadatoshi Akiba, Mayor of Hiroshima, President of Mayors for Peace

“In 2008 U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon proposed starting negotiations for a convention prohibiting nuclear weapons. At the 4th Nagasaki Global Citizens’ Assembly for the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons held in February of this year, participating NGOs from around the world expressed great interest in such a convention. In the Nagasaki Appeal 2010 they urged world leaders to support the proposal. It is time for the international community to start making sincere efforts towards a convention prohibiting nuclear weapons.

“Arguments about nuclear weapons are usually made in terms of national interest, benefit to military industry or military effectiveness. However the one thing that must never be forgotten is the human point of view. Do the representatives of nuclear-armed nations truly realize the horror of the weapons they possess? Nuclear weapons burn human beings to ashes at temperatures of many thousands of degrees. They generate ferocious blast waves that smash and shatter bone. They release radiation that damages each and every cell in a victim’s body. Today, 65 years after the atomic bombings, survivors still suffer from terrible illnesses caused by the aftereffects of the bombs. Can we honestly say we understand their endless suffering?”

— Tomihisa Taue, Mayor of Nagasaki, Vice-President of Mayors for Peace

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