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Red Cross/Red Crescent movement calls for abolition of nuclear weapons

November 28, 2011

In an historic decision, the Council of Delegates of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, on November 26, adopted by acclamation a resolution calling for the abolition of nuclear weapons and calling on all national societies to conduct educational campaigns about the unique, catastrophic humanitarian consequences of nuclear war.

The resolution was first proposed by the national societies of Norway, Japan, and Australia, and has been the subject of intense internal debate within the Red Cross movement for the better part of the last year.

Masao Tomanaga of Japanese Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, IPPNW’s Japanese affiliate, addressed the Council before the vote, powerfully describing the immediate and ongoing medical consequences of the attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

During the debate speakers repeatedly argued that nuclear weapons were in violation of international  law, but they focused primarily on the inability of the Red Cross to respond to the aftermath of a nuclear war.

Both Dr. Tomanaga and Ira Helfand, IPPNW’S North American regional vice president, then participated in a special workshop for national affiliates interested in developing national campaigns to promote a nuclear weapons convention. The workshop was attended by 45 representatives from national Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies who are interested in working on the nuclear issue.

Dr. Tomanaga shared his data on the long term health problems of nuclear bomb survivors in Japan, and Dr. Helfand presented new research suggesting that catastrophic global famine would follow even a limited use of nuclear weapons.  They offered the full cooperation of IPPNW in developing national educational campaigns about the medical and humanitarian consequences of nuclear war.

The Australian Red Cross described the exciting campaign they have launched to promote public understanding of the need to abolish nuclear weapons. A full conference for interested national societies to develop national campaigns in their respective countries is in the early planning stages.

The final draft of the resolution presented to the Council of Delegates can be found here. This link will be updated when the final version, including any minor wording changes, is posted to the IFRC website.

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