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Peace cannot be achieved by threatening to use the world’s most destructive weapons

August 2, 2022

An Appeal to The Rt Hon Patricia Scotland QC, Commonwealth Secretary 

From Commonwealth affiliates of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW)

27 July 2022

International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW) is an international federation of physicians working together for the abolition of nuclear weapons, the prevention of armed violence, and world peace. Established in 1980 amidst the Cold War which threatened our planet with nuclear catastrophe, IPPNW was honoured with the Nobel Peace Prize in 1985 for its global campaign to educate world leaders and the public about the medical and environmental consequences of nuclear weapons and nuclear war. It has more than 54 national affiliates worldwide working for peace on different levels.

We are representatives of national affiliates of IPPNW from countries which are also members of the Commonwealth of Nations; we are concerned that the possession and development of nuclear weapons by nine nations, three of which are members of our Commonwealth, pose threats to world peace and the very survival of humanity. These threats are aggravated by deteriorating and unstable international relations. The war in Ukraine with its risk of escalating to actual nuclear detonations is the most prominent current example of armed conflict involving a state which possesses nuclear weapons. While nuclear weapons exist, their detonation remains possible, either by intent or by accident: any such use would cause unprecedented harm on a scale which would be beyond the meaningful capacity of any response from health or emergency services. The only way to remove this risk is to abolish the weapons.

We urge that the goodwill that exists between Commonwealth Nations be used to promote peace at all levels, and in particular the abolition of all nuclear weapons. The 2017 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), which now forms part of international law, sets out a clear path to this goal, and is the only current global initiative that does so. We urge support for the Treaty by all nations.

Peace cannot be achieved by threatening—explicitly or implicitly—to use the world’s most destructive weapons. They violate human dignity and the limitations imposed on armed conflict by international humanitarian law. They have failed utterly to prevent wars, as the Ukraine war demonstrates most tragically.

On the occasion of the Commonwealth Games 2022 in Birmingham UK, we appeal to the heads of State and governments of all Commonwealth member states to commit to a nuclear weapons free world. Those nations that possess nuclear weapons have particular and obvious responsibilities, but all nations can and must work for this goal. Promotion of the TPNW, in combination with the 1970 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty – the two treaties being entirely complementary – provides the mechanism to achieve it.

Without many tens of billions of dollars annually being diverted to nuclear weapons programs, the goals of human development, health, education and social security for all people, based on the principles of equity and justice as laid down in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, could far more readily be achieved.

We urge that the occasion of the Commonwealth Games be used to promote an awareness of the fragility of our human existence while nuclear weapons exist, and a renewed determination to restore human dignity and respect by abolishing these weapons which threaten us all.

Yours sincerely,

Dr Michael Keem

National Secretary, Medical Association for Prevention of War (MAPW)—Australia

Dr Jonathan Down

President, International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War Canada


Dr Arun Mitra

President, Indian Doctors for Peace and Development (IDPD)— India

Prof Alan Maryon -Davis MBE

Board Chair of MEDACT—United Kingdom

Dr Tipu Sultan

President, Pakistani Doctors for Peace and Development (PDPD)—Pakistan

Dr Frank Ernest Boulton

MEDACT Nuclear Weapons Group—United Kingdom

  1. August 18, 2022 12:32 pm

    This opinion predictably piece fails to mention Russia, its repeated nuclear threats, and its violation of Ukrainian sovereignty and territory.

    Remarkably, Russia’s neighbor Ukraine has ceded its nuclear arsenal. As part of the 1994 Budapest Memorandum, Russia agreed to respect Ukraine’s sovereignty and borders.

    As a permanent veto-carrying member of the UN Security Council, Russia eventually shed its responsibilities, making a mockery of the UN Charter, nuclear agreements and controls.

    Yet, Russia first violated the Budapest Memorandum in 2003 when it attempted to alter the Kerch Strait to enable its ships to avoid Ukrainian waters.

    Ukraine remained neutral until 2014, after Russia seized Crimea and invaded eastern Ukraine.

    This seizure and the current Russian war against Ukraine make it extremely unlikely that any nuclear power from North Korea, Iran, or Israel to the United States will ever shed its atomic arsenal.

    The United Nations, nuclear disarmament advocates, and the IPPNW failed to understand and support the Budapest Memorandum from 1994 to 2014. That small window of opportunity is now lost.

    Many members of these organizations even mocked Ukraine as incapable of mastering its nuclear arsenal. The current Ukrainian war effort has shown otherwise.

    President Zelensky addressed the UN General Assembly in September 2019 in a peace message from a country that ceded its nuclear weapons and was then under attack and occupation by a UN Security Member and atomic power.

    President Zelensky’s peace message is worth listening to.

    An opportunity has been lost, and not only Ukraine will pay the price.

    IPPNW’s dream of a nuclear-weapon-free world has died. A new vision and strategy are necessary.

    Bohdan A Oryshkevich, MD, MPH

  2. John Wills, M.D. permalink
    August 4, 2022 12:30 am

    The risk of the use of nuclear weapons by Russia in the context of the war in Ukraine cannot be overstated. Is there currently any interaction between IPPNW physicians in Russia and the West to mitigate this risk? Or are there any members of IPPNW active in Russia? Or China? Or Iran? It’s time for concerted action.
    Einstein reportedly said, “ I don’t know with what weapons WW III will be fought, but WW IV will be fought with sticks and stones.”

  3. August 3, 2022 4:36 pm

    Reblogged this on THE ONENESS of HUMANITY and commented:
    Increased references to nuclear war in recent months serve as a powerful reminder of the urgent too often neglected matter of abolishing all nuclear weapons on Earth..

  4. David Spence, MD, MPH permalink
    August 2, 2022 11:52 pm

    This is brilliant. India and Pakistan are threatened by no other nuclear armed nation than themselves. Mutual, verifiable nuclear disarmament under the guidance of TPNW by the two of them could be like removing the critical log in a log jam. While while we are at it, let’s ask the Scots how they feel about being in the bull’s eye for a nuclear attack.

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