The ban is coming, despite the boycott
As delegations from 146 States began to arrive at the venue for the Second International Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons, more than 100 civil society activists organized by ICAN completed a two-day campaigners meeting to ensure that we will have an impact of our own on what transpires here in Nayarit on Thursday and Friday.
The morning was devoted to regional strategy sessions—shared perspectives on how the nuclear weapons issue presents itself in different countries and political environments, and what strategies for pursuing a ban might be most effective.
There were two groups that were not organized by region. One included those of us from nuclear-armed states, while a second focused on States with extended deterrence relationships—Japan, the NATO countries, Australia, South Korea. (They think of this as a nuclear “umbrella,” but as I’ve said elsewhere, they’ve really invited their nuclear-armed partner to paint a bull’s-eye over their hostage populations.)
I was asked to speak about the situation in the US and described the lengths to which the inventor of the atomic bomb has been going to avoid the dialog about humanitarian consequences, including the shameful boycotts of both Oslo and Nayarit.
The collective absence of the P5 from this conference may be inexcusable, but it’s time to say publicly that it’s really a good thing. They don’t belong here because they are unwilling to make a constructive contribution to this process. If they were here, they would be acting as spoilers trying to change the subject, as they have done for decades now in the CD, the NPT, and the other “official” forums where they are willing to discuss everything except their own nuclear disarmament obligations.
Without their obstructive and distracting presence, the States who are here to discuss the true nature of nuclear weapons and to explore initiatives they can take to eliminate this threat should feel more empowered to do so on their own terms.
The campaigners meeting ended on an emotional note, with an impassioned talk by Setsuko Thurlow, a Hiroshima survivor living in Canada, who had volunteers unfurl a long yellow banner bearing the seal of her high school and the names of her classmates—hundreds of them—who died in the US atomic bombing of her city. Her message—that the victims of nuclear war are not statistics measured in the hundreds of thousands, rather they are individual people whose lives were cut short by the most horrifying weapons ever invented—sent everyone from the room ready to push for a ban treaty when we see the State delegations today.