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We must delegitimize nuclear weapons

May 12, 2010

by Tim Wright

More than four decades have passed since the NPT entered into force. Yet today many governments, particularly those in the Western Group, continue to regard nuclear weapons as legitimate instruments of national security. The few “privileged” states that possess nuclear weapons still attach great prestige to them.

If we are to succeed in the campaign to abolish nuclear weapons through a binding convention, we must effectively break down the perception of these weapons as the ultimate expression of state power. They are, in reality, instruments of terror. The process of negotiating a convention would itself have a delegitimizing effect also.

Yesterday the Swiss government, along with the Center for Nonproliferation Studies and the Monterey Institute, launched the results of a significant study aimed at debunking the theory of deterrence and delegitimizing nuclear weapons. The five authors have expertise in international law, nuclear physics, philosophy, global politics and history.

They suggest that a like-minded representative group of states, including nuclear-armed states and committed non-nuclear states, should stimulate the negotiation of a global convention prohibiting nuclear weapons and providing for their elimination. This approach, they note, is also the most likely to gain widespread public support.

Parliamentary activity

As discussions take place between diplomats in New York on advancing nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, parliamentarians are also debating the issues back home. Last week, for example, the New Zealand parliament passed a unanimous resolution endorsing the UN Secretary-General’s five-point proposal on disarmament, which includes consideration of a Nuclear Weapons Convention.

In March, German legislators called on their government to play an active role in the debate on a Nuclear Weapons Convention, and the Bangladesh parliament passed a similar resolution in April. Many of the 700 members of Parliamentarians for Nuclear Nonproliferation and Disarmament have signed a declaration supporting a convention.

Progress in Week 1

ICAN is closely monitoring debates at the NPT Review Conference, and has compiled a list of statements in support of a Nuclear Weapons Convention made during the first week: At least 25 nations expressed their individual support for negotiations on a convention. Two large groups of states also endorsed the call: the Non-Aligned Movement and the parties to regional nuclear-weapon-free zone treaties.

Tim Wright is the ICAN – NWC Project Coordinator

One Comment
  1. May 17, 2010 1:36 pm

    Only through grassroots demands will nuclear weapons be delegitimized. Change must begin inside the individual through self-mastery. If enough people are empowered, then governments will be compelled to disarm. In the meantime, we hope and pray.

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