Sixty-four years ago, the horror of atomic bombs was unleashed on Japan, and the world witnessed the destructive power of nuclear weapons. Today, with just a year until the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference convenes at the United Nations in the spring of 2010, we, the undersigned Nobel Peace Laureates, echo U.S. President Barack Obama’s call for a world without nuclear weapons and appeal to the leader of every nation to resolutely pursue this goal for the good of all.
We find ourselves in a new era of proliferation. Despite the near universal ratification of the 1970 treaty, which binds states to nuclear disarmament, little progress has been made to fulfill this pact and eliminate nuclear weapons from our world. On the contrary, as the nuclear powers have continued to brandish their weapons, other nations have sought to produce their own nuclear arsenals.
We are deeply troubled by this threat of proliferation to non-nuclear weapon states, but equally concerned at the faltering will of the nuclear powers to move forward in their obligation to disarm their own nations of these dreadful weapons.
The fact that humanity has managed to avoid a third nuclear nightmare is not merely a fortunate whim of history. The resolve of the A-bomb survivors, who have called on the world to avert another Hiroshima or Nagasaki, has surely helped prevent that catastrophe. Moreover, the millions who have supported the survivors in their quest for peace, as well as the reality of our collective restraint, suggest that human beings are imbued with a better, higher nature, an instinct for inhibiting violence and upholding life.
In the months leading up to the NPT Review Conference, this higher nature must rise to guide our efforts. Nations are now reviewing progress in the treaty’s implementation and mapping a path forward. For the first time in many years, the opportunity exists for genuine movement toward reducing and eliminating nuclear arms.
As this process unfolds, world leaders will be faced with a stark choice: nuclear non-proliferation or nuclear brinkmanship. We can either put an end to proliferation, and set a course toward abolition; or we can wait for the horrors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki to be repeated.
We believe it is long past time for humanity to heed the warning made by Albert Einstein in 1946: ”The unleashed power of the atom has changed everything save our modes of thinking, and we thus drift toward unparalleled catastrophe. We shall require a substantially new manner of thinking if mankind is to survive.”
We know that such a new manner of thinking is possible. In the past ten years, the governments of the world, working alongside international institutions, non-governmental organizations, and survivors, have negotiated treaties banning two indiscriminate weapons systems: landmines and cluster bombs. These weapons were banned when the world finally recognized them for the humanitarian disaster they are.
The world is well aware that nuclear weapons are a humanitarian disaster of monstrous proportion. They are indiscriminate, immoral, and illegal. They are military tools whose staggering consequences have already been seen in the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the long-term impacts of those attacks. Eliminating nuclear weapons is indeed a possibility — more than that, it is a fundamental necessity in forging a more secure planet for us all.
As Nobel Peace Laureates, we call on the citizens of the world to press their leaders to grasp the peril of inaction and summon the political will to advance toward nuclear disarmament and abolition. To fulfill a world without nuclear weapons, and inspire a greater peace among our kind, humanity must stand together to make this vision a reality.
* This declaration was published by the Hiroshima Peace Media Center