Pressure Obama on nuclear disarmament, here’s how:

We are call­ing on Pres­i­dent Obama to speak at the Sep­tem­ber 26 meet­ing at the United Nations, the first ever Gen­eral Assem­bly high level sum­mit on nuclear disarmament.

Sign the peti­tion to add your voice: http://bit.ly/14v4DAz

 

–See below for more infor­ma­tion on nuclear weapons and the cam­paign for nuclear abo­li­tion–

Who has nuclear weapons?

All five per­ma­nent mem­bers of the UN Secu­rity Coun­cil (U.S., U.K., France, Rus­sia, and China) as well as Pak­istan and India have nuclear weapons. Israel is widely believed to have nuclear weapons, and North Korea has exploded three nuclear devices.

How many nuclear weapons exist in 2013?[1]

United States: 7,700 (2,150 are deployed/ ready to be used and 3,000 are await­ing dismantlement)

Rus­sia: 8,500 (1,800 are deployed and 4,000 are esti­mated to be await­ing dismantlement)

United King­dom: 225

France: 300

China: 250

India: 90–110

Pak­istan: 100–120

Israel: 80

North Korea: 6–8

TOTAL: approx­i­mately 17,270

How pow­er­ful are these weapons com­pared to the bombs that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945?

The yield of the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were com­pa­ra­ble to explo­sions of about 15 to 20 kilo­tons of TNT. The yield from today’s ther­monu­clear weapons varies but they are all much more pow­er­ful by com­par­i­son. The aver­age U.S. nuclear weapon would explode with a yield of 300 kilo­tons of TNT.[2]

Why should the world get rid of nuclear weapons?

Sim­ply put, because nuclear weapons make the world less safe. As long as nuclear weapons exist, the threat of use also exists, whether inten­tional or acci­den­tal. Nuclear mate­ri­als also remain vul­ner­a­ble to theft or sale for illicit pur­poses. While states cling to their nuclear arse­nals say­ing they are nec­es­sary for their secu­rity and the secu­rity of their allies, other states will also seek these weapons for their own secu­rity. And whether or not you believe deter­rence “worked” dur­ing the Cold War, it is impos­si­ble to believe nuclear weapons could deter non-state actors or ter­ror­ists, who by def­i­n­i­tion have no ter­ri­tory or pop­u­la­tion to threaten with nuclear retaliation.

What is the Nuclear Non­pro­lif­er­a­tion Treaty, and how does it relate to nuclear abolition?

The Treaty on the Non­pro­lif­er­a­tion of Nuclear Weapons, also referred to as the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), cod­i­fies a 3-part bar­gain: nuclear weapon states par­ties are oblig­ated to nego­ti­ate in good faith toward nuclear dis­ar­ma­ment; non-nuclear weapon states par­ties will not seek to acquire nuclear weapons; and all states have the right to use nuclear energy — under inter­na­tional mon­i­tor­ing — for peace­ful pur­poses. Nego­ti­a­tions began in 1968 and the Treaty was opened for sig­na­ture and entered into force in 1970.

The NPT rec­og­nizes five nuclear weapon states, all of which had exploded a nuclear weapon before the Treaty entered into force: U.S., U.K., Rus­sia, France, and China. Only three states have never been a party to the Treaty: India, Pak­istan, and Israel. North Korea with­drew from the Treaty in 2003 in advance of explod­ing its first nuclear device in 2006.

Arti­cle VI of the NPT includes the nuclear dis­ar­ma­ment oblig­a­tion for nuclear weapon states par­ties. Arti­cle VI reads:

Each of the Par­ties to the Treaty under­takes to pur­sue nego­ti­a­tions in good faith on effec­tive mea­sures relat­ing to ces­sa­tion of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear dis­ar­ma­ment, and on a Treaty on gen­eral and com­plete dis­ar­ma­ment under strict and effec­tive inter­na­tional con­trol.[3]

Are nations work­ing on a treaty to ban or abol­ish nuclear weapons?

Yes… and no! A Nuclear Weapons Con­ven­tion (NWC) was drafted by civil soci­ety in 1997 and sub­mit­ted to the UN later that year by Costa Rica. In 2007 Costa Rica and Malaysia sub­mit­ted an updated ver­sion of the NWC mod­eled on the con­ven­tions con­cern­ing land­mines and chem­i­cal and bio­log­i­cal weapons.

A NWC would ban the pos­ses­sion, devel­op­ment, test­ing, pro­duc­tion, stock­pil­ing, trans­fer­ring, and use of nuclear weapons in addi­tion to pro­vid­ing a mech­a­nism for their per­ma­nent elimination.

The UN’s First Com­mit­tee has passed a res­o­lu­tion in sup­port of a NWC each year since 1996.

Out of 192 nations at the UN, 146 (or approx­i­mately 81%) sup­port the imme­di­ate com­mence­ment of nego­ti­a­tions lead­ing to a NWC, while only 26 nations are opposed and 22 nations are unde­cided about a NWC.[4]

Despite all this sup­port, no nego­ti­a­tions have started on a NWC at the UN. A new ini­tia­tive has been taken up by mem­bers of civil soci­ety and is gain­ing sup­port from many non-nuclear weapon states: to draft a treaty ban­ning nuclear weapons. Mod­eled after the suc­cess­ful cam­paigns to cre­ate treaties ban­ning land­mines and clus­ter muni­tions, a Nuclear Ban Treaty would take a human­i­tar­ian approach to the issue, cit­ing the effects the use of nuclear weapons would have on the cli­mate, refugees, envi­ron­ment, and global pop­u­la­tion in gen­eral as a means to bring about a per­ma­nent ban on pos­ses­sion and use of nuclear weapons. More can be read about this cam­paign on the web­site of the Inter­na­tional Cam­paign to Abol­ish Nuclear Weapons.[5]

What work toward nuclear abo­li­tion is hap­pen­ing within the UN system?

There is work that is ongo­ing at the UN in addi­tion to the oblig­a­tions in the NPT – this work takes the form of what is called a “step-by-step” process toward nuclear dis­ar­ma­ment that many non-nuclear weapon states have stated they believe is going nowhere. This process includes work in the UN’s Con­fer­ence on Dis­ar­ma­ment (CD) on nego­ti­at­ing and rat­i­fy­ing treaties that would be steps toward nuclear abo­li­tion, such as the Com­pre­hen­sive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) and a Fis­sile Mate­ri­als Cut­off Treaty (FMCT). For var­i­ous rea­sons, includ­ing the con­sen­sus rule that requires unan­i­mous agree­ment, the CD has been stalled and unable to accom­plish any­thing since 1996.

The UN also has a Dis­ar­ma­ment Com­mis­sion, which is open to all mem­ber states, unlike the CD. The UNDC meets each year in April and reports to the GA, but has failed to adopt rec­om­men­da­tions at the end of its three-year cycle for the last decade.

The UN Gen­eral Assembly’s First Com­mit­tee meets each year in Octo­ber on mat­ters of dis­ar­ma­ment and inter­na­tional secu­rity. The First Com­mit­tee is where states have been vot­ing on sup­port for a NWC since 1996. In 1946 the very first UN Gen­eral Assem­bly res­o­lu­tion was adopted and called for “the elim­i­na­tion from national arma­ments of atomic weapons and of all other major weapons adapt­able to mass destruc­tion.”[6] Res­o­lu­tions passed by the GA are not legally bind­ing, but can estab­lish norms (i.e. cus­toms or stan­dards) for the inter­na­tional community.

Two impor­tant nuclear dis­ar­ma­ment mea­sures came out of the First Com­mit­tee meet­ings in 2012: the estab­lish­ment of an Open Ended Work­ing Group on Nuclear Dis­ar­ma­ment (OEWG) and the set­ting of Sep­tem­ber 26, 2013 as the date for a High Level Meet­ing on Nuclear Disarmament.

The OEWG had its first meet­ing in May 2013 and will meet again in June and August of the same year. The UNGA res­o­lu­tion call­ing for the OEWG reads: “Tak­ing for­ward mul­ti­lat­eral nuclear dis­ar­ma­ment nego­ti­a­tions for the achieve­ment and main­te­nance of a world with­out nuclear weapons.“[7] All five per­ma­nent mem­bers of the Secu­rity Coun­cil boy­cotted the OEWG’s first meet­ing. The P5 are also all nuclear weapon states: US, UK, Rus­sia, China, and France.

The High Level Meet­ing will address issues related to nuclear dis­ar­ma­ment and is impor­tant because the par­tic­i­pants will be Heads of State or high level diplo­mats. This will also be the first high level meet­ing of the GA on nuclear dis­ar­ma­ment. As of July 2013, the U.S. has not stated who will be in atten­dance this high level meeting.

What is civil soci­ety doing to push for nuclear abolition?

There are too many ini­tia­tives to list here, which means civil soci­ety is busy work­ing on nuclear abo­li­tion! Two recent devel­op­ments should be mentioned:

  • One major under­tak­ing was a con­fer­ence in Oslo orga­nized by the Inter­na­tional Cam­paign to Abol­ish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) in March 2013 on the cat­a­strophic human­i­tar­ian con­se­quences of the use of nuclear weapons. This event pre­ceded an inter­na­tional con­fer­ence on the same sub­ject hosted by Nor­way. Once again, the P5 were absent from the gov­ern­men­tal meet­ing. The US, UK, China, France, and Rus­sia released a joint state­ment say­ing they would not attend the con­fer­ence hosted by the gov­ern­ment of Nor­way on the human­i­tar­ian impact of nuclear weapons because it would “divert dis­cus­sion away from prac­ti­cal steps to cre­ate con­di­tions for fur­ther nuclear weapons reduc­tions.” The state­ment went on to say, “The prac­ti­cal, step-by-step approach that we are tak­ing has proven to be the most effec­tive means to increase sta­bil­ity and reduce nuclear dan­gers.”[8] A fol­low up con­fer­ence on the human­i­tar­ian con­se­quences of the use of nuclear weapons will be held by civil soci­ety in Mex­ico in Feb­ru­ary 2014.
  • The U.S. Con­fer­ence of May­ors unan­i­mously adopted a res­o­lu­tion in June 2013 call­ing for “U.S. lead­er­ship in global elim­i­na­tion of nuclear weapons and redi­rec­tion of mil­i­tary spend­ing to domes­tic needs.”[9]

Is the US tak­ing part in these inter­na­tional efforts?

The U.S. did not take part in the first OEWG ses­sion in May and has not stated whether it will take part in the rest of the Group’s meet­ings. The U.S. did not attend the meet­ing in Oslo in March on the human­i­tar­ian impacts of the use of nuclear weapons. The U.S. will be rep­re­sented at the High Level Meet­ing in Sep­tem­ber, but it is not clear yet who that rep­re­sen­ta­tive will be. The U.S. par­tic­i­pates in the reg­u­lar work­ings of the UN dis­ar­ma­ment machin­ery, includ­ing the UNDC, CD, and GA First Committee.

What can I do to help push the US to par­tic­i­pate pro­duc­tively in the mul­ti­lat­eral efforts toward nuclear abolition?

Sign and for­ward our peti­tion widely! Please click here or go to http://bit.ly/14v4DAz 

For more infor­ma­tion for how to get involved:

Go to http://www.peace-action.org/ or call 301–565-4050



[1] SIPRI Year­book 2013. Arma­ments, Dis­ar­ma­ment, and National Secu­rity — Sum­mary. Stock­holm Inter­na­tional Peace Research Insti­tute. Online at http://www.sipri.org/yearbook/2013/files/SIPRIYB13Summary.pdf

[2] Union of Con­cerned Sci­en­tists. Ask a Sci­en­tist, April 2010. Online at http://www.ucsusa.org/publications/ask/2010/nuclear-weapons.html

[3] Text of the NPT, online at http://www.fas.org/nuke/control/npt/text/npt2.htm

[4] http://www.icanw.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/nwcguide2012.pdf

[5] http://www.icanw.org/

[6] http://www.reachingcriticalwill.org/disarmament-fora/unga

[7] http://www.reachingcriticalwill.org/images/documents/Disarmament-fora/1com/1com12/resolutions/56.pdf

[8] http://www.reachingcriticalwill.org/images/documents/Disarmament-fora/oslo-2013/P5_Oslo.pdf

[9] http://www.pdamerica.org/news/item/1706-us-conference-of-mayors-unanimously-adopts-resolution-%E2%80%9Ccalling-for-us-leadership-in-global-elimination-of-nuclear-weapons-and-redirection-of-military-spending-to-domestic-needs%E2%80%9D