The Appeal to End the Nuclear Weapons Threat to Humanity was initiated by the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation in early 2000. By April 2000 it had some 50 prominent signers. It was run as a half-page advertisement in the New York Times on the opening day of the Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference on April 24, 2000. Since then more prominent leaders from throughout the world have signed the Appeal. Signers include 35 Nobel Laureates including 14 Nobel Peace Laureates, former heads of state, diplomats, military leaders, scientists and entertainers, each a leader in his or her own field. What follows is the appeal set forth in italics with comments by signers of the Appeal.
We cannot hide from the threat that nuclear weapons pose to humanity and all life. These are not ordinary weapons, but instruments of mass annihilation that could destroy civilization and end all life on Earth.
According to Oscar Arias, a Nobel Peace Laureate and former President of Costa Rica, “The existence of nuclear weapons presents a clear and present danger to life on Earth.”
Jean-Michel Cousteau, the founder and president of the Ocean Futures Society, states, “The canary is dead…and we are going on with business as usual. How can we better move the public out of lethargy so we can protect the fragile peace?” This is our challenge with regard to the nuclear threats that confront humanity.
Former U.S. Senator Alan Cranston argues, “There is a simple reason for focusing on the nuclear issue. Many, many issues are of supreme importance in one way or another, but if we blow ourselves up with nuclear weapons, no other issue is really going to matter. Quite possibly there would be no other human beings left to be concerned about anything else.”
Father Theodore Hesburgh, the President Emeritus of Notre Dame University and one of the great educators of our time, writes, “The threat of nuclear war in our time has been the greatest threat that humanity has ever faced on Earth.”
Former Australian Ambassador Richard Butler states, “Disarmament requires politicians and governments who know the truth – nuclear weapons threaten all and must be eliminated.”
Nuclear weapons are morally and legally unjustifiable. They destroy indiscriminately – soldiers and civilians; men, women and children; the aged and the newly born; the healthy and the infirm.
Can there be any doubt that nuclear weapons, capable of destroying the entire human species and most other forms of life, are the most serious moral issue of our time.
The XIVth Dalai Lama has called for both internal and external disarmament. With regard to external disarmament, he states, “We must first work on the total abolishment of nuclear weapons.”
Gerry Spence, the famed trial attorney and author, writes, “All my life I’ve worked for justice. What kind of justice could possibly exist in a nuclear bomb?”
Another attorney, Jonathan Granoff, the vice president and UN representative of the Lawyers Alliance for World Security, writes, “We are the first generation which must choose whether life will continue. This living sphere may be the only such place in the entire universe where this gift of life, this gift to love, exists. We surely do not have the right to place it at risk through our collective ingenuity and in the service of something we have created.”
Harrison Ford, one of the great actors of our time, argues, “The United States must assume world leadership to end once and for all the threat of nuclear war. It is our moral responsibility.”
Nobel Peace Laureate Mairead Corrigan Maguire writes, “The hope lies in the truth being spoken that we cannot use these weapons to kill our own brothers and sisters, and in the process destroying our homeland, Mother Earth.”
Ambassador Richard Butler states the matter simply, “There are plenty of experts who can argue and discuss the problem of proliferation, but it is beyond doubt that this in itself will not do the job. Doctrines of deterrence obfuscate the central reality that the day these weapons are used will be a catastrophe.”
The obligation to achieve nuclear disarmament “in all its aspects,” as unanimously affirmed by the International Court of Justice, is at the heart of the Non-Proliferation Treaty.
The highest court in the world, known as the World Court, wrote in a 1996 opinion that it was their unanimous opinion that “There exists an obligation to pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament in all its aspects under strict and effective international control.”
Ten years have now passed since the end of the Cold War, and yet nuclear weapons continue to cloud humanity’s future. The only way to assure that nuclear weapons will not be used again is to abolish them.
Retired US Admiral Eugene Carroll, the Deputy Director of the Center for Defense Information, argues, “American leaders have declared that nuclear weapons will remain the cornerstone of US national security indefinitely. In truth, as the world’s only remaining superpower, nuclear weapons are the sole military source of our national insecurity. We, and the whole world, would be much safer if nuclear weapons were abolished and Planet Earth was a nuclear free zone.”
Retired US Admiral Noel Gayler, a former Commander in Chief of the Pacific Command, asks, “Does nuclear disarmament imperil our security?” He answers his question, “No. It enhances it.”
The former Chief of the Indian Naval Staff, Admiral L. Ramdas, states, “We have to give expression to the need of the hour, which very simply put is to run down nuclear weapons to zero and recycle these huge budgets in the areas where it is most needed – human security.”
Queen Noor of Jordan argues persuasively, “The sheer folly of trying to defend a nation by destroying all life on the planet must be apparent to anyone capable of rational thought. Nuclear capability must be reduced to zero, globally, permanently. There is no other option.”
Ted Turner, the founder of CNN, states, “We should get rid of nuclear weapons. Nuclear weapons will not protect us. Only a more equitable world will protect us.”
Nobel Peace Laureate Betty Williams, states, “We must put an end to this insanity and ‘End the Nuclear Weapons Threat to Humanity.’”
We, therefore, call upon the leaders of the nations of the world and, in particular, the leaders of the nuclear weapons states to act now for the benefit of all humanity by taking the following steps:
- Ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and reaffirm commitments to the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.
- De-alert all nuclear weapons and de-couple all nuclear warheads from their delivery vehicles.
- Declare policies of No First Use of nuclear weapons against other nuclear weapons states and policies of No Use against non-nuclear weapons states.
- Commence good faith negotiations to achieve a Nuclear Weapons Convention requiring the phased elimination of all nuclear weapons, with provisions for effective verification and enforcement.
- Reallocate resources from the tens of billions of dollars currently being spent for maintaining nuclear arsenals to improving human health, education and welfare throughout the world.
Former US President Jimmy Carter has argued, “All nuclear states must renew efforts to achieve worldwide reduction and ultimate elimination of nuclear weapons. In the meantime, it requires no further negotiations for leaders of nuclear nations to honor existing nuclear security agreements, including the test ban and anti-ballistic missile treaties, and to remove nuclear weapons from their present hair-trigger alert status.”
Nobel Peace Laureate Oscar Arias argues that “the tens of billions of dollars that are dedicated to their [nuclear weapons] development and maintenance should be used instead to alleviate human need and suffering.”
Muhammad Ali, the great boxing champion and humanitarian, states, “We must not only control the weapons that can kill us, we must bridge the great disparities of wealth and opportunity among peoples of the world, the vast majority of whom live in poverty without hope, opportunity or choices in life. These conditions are a breeding ground for division that can cause a desperate people to resort to nuclear weapons as a last resort.” Ali concludes, “Our only hope lies in the power of our love, generosity, tolerance and understanding and our commitment to making the world a better place for all of Allah’s children.”
Father Theodore Hesburgh of Notre Dame University, argues, “This is a time to reinvigorate our efforts towards reductions while we still have the opportunity of doing so. Nothing should distract us from this ultimate goal, which is all in the right direction for the peace and security of humankind.”
How Can We Move Forward?
Our best hope in moving forward lies with the power of the people. We cannot count on our leaders to act in good faith and in a timely way on this issue without pressure from the people.
Australian Ambassador Richard Butler argues, “The key requirement for ending the nuclear threat to human existence is for ordinary people to bring the issue back to the domestic political agenda. Voters must make clear to those seeking public office that they will not get their vote unless they promise to pursue the goal of nuclear disarmament.”
Arun Gandhi, the founder of the M.K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence, concludes, “The people of the world must wake up to the negativity that has governed our lives for centuries giving rise to hate, discrimination, oppression, exploitation and leading to the creation of nuclear weapons of mass destruction.”
Harrison Ford puts the matter clearly, “We have been led to believe that we have come a long way toward world nuclear disarmament. But that is not the case. Our government is not doing all that it could. We must urge our leaders to fulfill the obligations of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.”
The mayor of Nagasaki, Iccho Itoh, states, “I believe that the abolition of nuclear weapons can be accomplished by consolidating the efforts of world citizens and NGOs and mobilizing the conscience of humanity. Let us focus all our efforts on realizing a 21st century free from nuclear weapons and building a world in which our children can live in peace.”
Maj Britt Theorin, a member of the European Parliament and former Swedish Ambassador for Disarmament, proclaims, “The unequivocal undertaking of the nuclear weapon states at the Non-Proliferation Conference to eliminate their nuclear arsenals is a victory. Together with scientists and NGOs, we now have five years to present a timetable for how and when all nuclear weapons will be eliminated.”
This is our challenge. The people must awaken and act in their own self-interest and the interests of all humanity to end the nuclear weapons threat to our common future.