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The time to act is now

January 5, 2022

[The following presentation was made by Jasmine Owens, Lead Organizer and Policy Coordinator at Physicians for Social Responsibility (IPPNW’s US affiliate) at an event sponsored by the Peace and Planet network on 4 January. IPPNW is a member of the network, which has called on the postponed NPT Review Conference to “fulfill the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty’s promise of a nuclear weapons-free world.”]

Over the course of this pivotal tenth NPT Review Conference, when asked why the US has stalled on its Article VI commitments,  you will hear the US delegates claim that we must “create the environment for nuclear disarmament,” and that such an environment does not yet exist. If we are to entertain this notion that there could be a perfect environment conducive to nuclear disarmament, what the US fails to take into account is that this environment will not magically appear out of thin air. It takes genuine and sustained effort to illustrate to adversaries– and the world– that we are fully committed to maintaining peace. The US has done no such thing. Instead, we have continued to modernize and upgrade our nuclear arsenal, something that is both a blatant disregard of our Article VI commitments and serves only to encourage other nations to do the same. We have continued to stoke hostilities with Russia and China instead of committing ourselves fully to diplomacy, transparency and confidence-building measures. 

What we have in our midst is not just a failure to act, but a failure to lead, and a failure to hold ourselves accountable. The US prides itself on being a global leader; and yet, the only leading it has done is down the path toward a new nuclear arms race. Moving forward with a multi-year nuclear weapons modernization project while making little to no effort to ease tensions with our adversaries – these  are not characteristics of a good leader. And if the US believes itself to be a leader, then it cannot act shocked and surprised when other nuclear weapon states follow suit. The same goes for Russia and China, who also strive to be global leaders.

 We are sick and tired of hearing that the time is not right to focus on nuclear disarmament. We cannot afford to wait for some future, mythical “right time.” The time to act is now. When the US says we must defer disarmament because the timing isn’t right, this is not in the interest of the people but of key stakeholders who benefit from maintaining these weapons to line their own pockets. It’s time for  the US to actually live up to its Article VI commitments and make genuine efforts to move the needle closer to disarmament and not nuclear war. The United States can adhere to Article VI without unilaterally disarming all at once. This can be done by implementing a No First Use Policy, which is a simple yet powerful action the US can take to illustrate that it truly is committed to peace. Additionally, and most importantly, the United States must also work alongside other nuclear-armed states to begin negotiating the total elimination of their nuclear arsenals. 

What gives me hope moving into 2022 and beyond, is people like you. There are courageous and committed individuals all across the world who are holding the nuclear-armed countries’ feet to the fire, standing up and saying ‘we’ve had enough.’ One such effort is the TPNW. The entry into force of the TPNW is a monumental achievement to bolster the NPT regime and say to the nuclear weapon states that ‘we see right through your facade;’ that we will no longer sit idly by while you all play games with our lives. 

What also gives me hope is the growing understanding that we must build an intersectional nuclear disarmament movement if we truly want to succeed. Here in the US, organizations like my own Physicians for Social Responsibility understand that we must create the links between nuclear weapons and more proximate security issues for everyday citizens, because only then can we build support and start demanding access to resources and funds that belong to the people but are currently being wasted on weapons that threaten the very existence of humanity itself. Only then can we leverage our power to force governments to listen to the people, not a few vested interests. 

As we enter a new year, fraught with danger as far as the eye can see, we must remain hopeful. The entry into force of the TPNW was just the beginning; a seed planted that is growing quickly, spreading its roots across the world, becoming more powerful each day. We, the people, planted that seed and we, the people, will watch it flourish, watch its beauty mesmerize us all and wrap us into the folds of its leaves, giving us the support we need to continue this fight for a world free of nuclear weapons. 

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