The 2010 Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference comes at a key time for the future of nuclear disarmament. The 2005 NPT Review Conference ended in failure. The nuclear weapon states have yet to fulfill their Article VI obligations to negotiate in “good faith” for complete nuclear disarmament in the 40 years since the NPT entered into force in 1970.
Despite these failures, there are signs of hope. The New START agreement recently signed by the US and Russia represents the beginning of a new era of bilateral cooperation. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has repeatedly stated his uncompromising dedication to achieving the abolition of nuclear weapons. Most important, support for a world without nuclear weapons is gaining momentum among the people of the world, as represented by polling data and by the 1,700 NGO delegates attending NPT proceedings at the United Nations this year.
David Krieger, President of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, and Rick Wayman, NAPF Director of Programs, traveled to New York to take part in many events around the 2010 NPT Review Conference.
Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Conference
On Friday, April 30, Rick Wayman attended the Second Conference of States Parties and Signatories to Treaties that Establish Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zones and Mongolia. He attended as a NGO observer at the invitation of the Chilean UN Mission.
Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zones (NWFZs) cover all of Antarctica, Latin America, the South Pacific, Africa, Southeast Asia, Central Asia and Mongolia. A consistent theme throughout the conference was support for a Middle East NWFZ, which many believe will provide a needed measure of security in a volatile and dangerous region of the world.
Speakers, including UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs Sergio Duarte and Mayor of Hiroshima Tadatoshi Akiba affirmed their strong support for the continued expansion of NWFZs around the world as a welcome step toward the complete elimination of nuclear weapons.
International Conference for Peace and Disarmament
The Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, together with many organizations around the world, co-organized a weekend conference at historic Riverside Church in New York City. Over 1,000 people from 25 countries participated in workshops and plenary sessions designed to educate, inspire and build lasting partnerships among people dedicated to the abolition of nuclear weapons.
The Foundation organized a workshop on May 1 together with the Acronym Institute for Disarmament Diplomacy entitled Debunking Nuclear Deterrence. The workshop, moderated by Acronym’s Executive Director Rebecca Johnson, featured NAPF President David Krieger; Randy Rydell, Senior Political Affairs Officer at the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs; and retired British Navy Commander Robert Green.
David Krieger argued that nuclear deterrence is a theory that cannot be proven. The assumptions on which nuclear deterrence are based, such as leaders acting rationally at all times, are themselves irrational and dangerous. Randy Rydell encouraged members of the audience to examine the logic and rationality of nuclear deterrence proponents and the motivations they have for using this flawed concept. Commander Robert Green discussed the indoctrination that he experienced as a nuclear weapons commander in the British Navy. He called nuclear deterrence “state-sponsored nuclear terrorism,” “unlawful,” and detrimental to national and global security.
In the afternoon, there was an emotional workshop featuring the testimony of survivors of nuclear weapon explosions. Junko Kayashige, a survivor of the Hiroshima atomic bombing who visited the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation in 2008, recounted her experience of the atomic bombing and the great losses she suffered on August 6, 1945 and in subsequent years. Matashichi Oishi told the audience of over 300 people about his experience on a fishing boat in the Pacific Ocean on March 1, 1954. His boat was in the vicinity when the United States conducted its massive Bravo nuclear test. Fourteen of the 20 crew members on the boat died from radiation-related conditions. Abbacca Anjain Madison of the Marshall Islands told of the devastation brought to the islands by the hundreds of nuclear weapon tests the United States conducted in the area. Countless Marshallese have lost their livelihoods, land and lives at the hands of these nuclear tests. Claudia Peterson, a resident of southern Utah, told a heart wrenching story about the effects US nuclear tests at the Nevada Test Site have had on her family. Parents, siblings and even her children have died due to the radiation that came from hundreds of nuclear tests in Nevada. To conclude her tearful speech, she said, “My story never changes; I just add more loved ones to it each time I tell it.”
Other workshops at the conference included “Nuclear Weapons Free Zone in the Middle East,” “Youth Lobbying and Messaging,” “The Nuclear Cycle: The Negative Effects from Mining to Militarism,” “Modernization of the Nuclear Weapons Complex” and “Disarmament, Climate Change and Justice.”
The evening plenary session featured a keynote address by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. The Secretary-General opened his speech by thanking the grassroots activists and NGO representatives in the audience for their strong commitment and leadership for nuclear disarmament. Mr. Ban reminded the audience that “from my first day in office as Secretary-General, I made clear that nuclear disarmament is my top priority.” He lamented that “the world is over-armed and peace is under-funded.” The Secretary-General concluded his speech with words of encouragement for those in attendance. He said, “What I see on the horizon is a world free of nuclear weapons. What I see before me are the people who will help make it happen…We will rid the world of nuclear weapons. And when we do, it will be because of people like you. The world owes you its gratitude.” He was speaking to all of us committed to this goal.
March and Rally for Nuclear Abolition
On Sunday, May 2, over 15,000 people gathered in New York’s Times Square for a rally calling for the abolition of nuclear weapons. They then marched to Dag Hammarskjold Plaza, across the street from the United Nations, for a peace festival.
The Nuclear Age Peace Foundation distributed hundreds of briefing booklets and DVDs and talked to many Foundation members who made the trip to New York for this inspiring event.
Panel Discussion Inside the United Nations
On Monday, May 3, the Foundation organized a panel discussion entitled From Omnicide to Abolition: Shifting the Mindset. The panel, which took place on the first day of the 2010 NPT Review Conference, was designed to set a progressive and positive tone for the four-week conference. It stressed the omnicidal dangers of nuclear weapons as a motivating force to achieve progress toward a Nuclear Weapons Convention, a new treaty for the phased, verifiable, irreversible and transparent elimination of nuclear weapons.
The event started out with a screening of the short video The Nuclear Family by Angela How. The video was the winner of the Foundation’s 2010 Swackhamer Disarmament Video Contest. All of the winning videos from the 2010 contest can be viewed here.
Speakers on the Foundation’s panel included NAPF President David Krieger, NAPF Associate Steven Starr, NAPF Associate Alice Slater, NAPF Associate Commander Robert Green and Kate Dewes. A report on the panel can be found here.
Action Inside the NPT Review Conference
At the same time as our panel, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad spoke to the plenary session. Among the proposals he made are:
- Evolve the NPT to the “DNPT” – the Disarmament and Non-Proliferation Treaty;
- Establish an independent group to oversee the disarmament process outlined in Article VI of the NPT;
- Introduce legally-binding comprehensive security guarantees to non-nuclear weapon states;
- Terminate all research and production of nuclear weapons worldwide;
- Explicitly outlaw the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons; and
- Implement the Middle East Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone as agreed at the 1995 NPT Review and Extension Conference.
Ahmadinejad was also critical of the United States and Israel during his speech, which resulted in many delegates walking out on his talk. The full text of his speech is available here.
On the afternoon of the first day of the Review Conference, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke. She was strong on non-proliferation initiatives such as the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and the Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty, and promised further bilateral reductions with Russia. Clinton indicated that the US would seek to ratify the nuclear weapon-free zones in Africa and the South Pacific and was now ready to consult with other parties on the nuclear weapon-free zones in Central Asia and Southeast Asia. For the first time, the US revealed that the exact number of nuclear weapons in its deployed and reserve arsenal is 5,113 (plus “several thousand” more awaiting dismantlement). The full text of Secretary Clinton’s speech is available here. The document outlining the number of US nuclear weapons is available here.
The US delegation interacted much more with NGOs this year than in years past. They gave a major briefing on May 5 with Assistant Secretary of State Ellen Tauscher and other senior administration officials and answered questions after the briefing. David Krieger asked three questions:
- How much plutonium and highly enriched uranium exists in the world, and how much remains “loose” after the accomplishments you described?
- You describe the need for the US nuclear arsenal to be “safe, secure and effective.” I can understand the terms “safe” and “secure,” but what do you mean by the term “effective?”
- Would you consider conducting an Environmental Impact Statement on the use of nuclear weapons to increase awareness among Americans of the potential damage that would be caused in order to increase support for the president’s goal of zero nuclear weapons?
Their answers were as follows, with Thomas D’Agostino responding to the first two questions and Assistant Secretary of State Tauscher responding to the third:
- There is more nuclear material out there. That is why we need the rest of the world to join us in securing it.
- “Effective” means that the weapon will work as designed.
- We have no intention of doing this.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon made himself available to various NGO events and was very strong in his commitment to nuclear disarmament. Mr. Ban spoke at events by Mayors for Peace, Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization and hibakusha (survivors of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings). As mentioned earlier, he also delivered the keynote address at the conference that the Foundation co-sponsored on May 1.
The Foundation’s NPT briefing booklet was distributed to all UN country missions one month before the start of the Review Conference. We also distributed copies of the briefing booklet to delegates during events and plenary meetings inside the UN during the Review Conference.
Greenwich Forum on War & Peace
On Wednesday, May 5, David and Rick traveled to Greenwich, CT at the invitation of the Greenwich Forum on War & Peace. To begin the evening, David and Rick met at an informal dinner with Board members of the Greenwich Forum to get to know one another and talk about issues of mutual interest. After the dinner, approximately 45 people at the Greenwich Library came to hear a lecture by David entitled Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament: Changing Our Modes of Thinking.
The lecture was followed by a lively question and answer session, which focused in part on perspectives on the decision to drop atomic bombs on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. David challenged the conventional way the atomic bombings are taught in American schools; he said that typically Americans are taught to think of the bombs from above – that is, as a technological innovation that resulted in ending World War II in the Pacific. The Japanese, on the other hand, view the bombings from below – that is, the massive death and severe physical, psychological and environmental effects wrought upon those in Hiroshima and Nagasaki during the US atomic bombings in August 1945. David also encouraged greater US leadership to achieve a world without nuclear weapons.
Nearly everyone in attendance picked up copies of Foundation materials, including the NPT briefing booklet, the 2009 annual report and the DVD.
Other Notable Events
A key outcome of the trip to New York for the Foundation was strengthening the ties we have with other NGOs. We strengthened our existing ties with groups such as the Middle Powers Initiative, Mayors for Peace, Abolition 2000, INES, INESAP, Alliance for Nuclear Accountability and the World Future Council. We created stronger ties with many key NGOs including Peace Action, Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament and the Disarmament & Security Centre.
On May 5, David served as moderator on a panel organized by INES on nuclear weapons in Europe. Panelists included Dave Webb (UK), Peter Becker (Germany) and Yves-Jean Gallas (France).
On May 6, David and Rick had lunch with Foundation representatives Vernon Nichols and Masako London. The lunch was sponsored by Foundation supporters and UN representatives Frank and Nancy Colton, who were unable to attend due to health reasons.
On May 6, David participated in a meeting of the International Steering Committee of the Middle Powers Initiative. Rick represented the Foundation at the Abolition 2000 Global Council dinner and the Abolition 2000 Annual General Meeting.
The Foundation strengthened its ties with Commander Robert Green, a retired member of the British Royal Navy who was in charge of nuclear weapons. Green was a panelist at the Foundation’s workshop during the May 1 conference and again at the Foundation’s panel discussion at the UN on May 3. His new book, Security Without Nuclear Deterrence, was released during the first week of the Review Conference. Commander Green accepted the invitation to become an Associate of the Foundation.
Foundation Associates Jonathan Granoff, Alice Slater and Steven Starr were also active participants in panels and other activities at the 2010 Review Conference.
The NPT Review Conference will continue through May 28. There is no strong sense yet of the outcome, but there is a general sense of hopefulness that the outcome will be more positive than the failed 2005 Review Conference, and that perhaps countries will return to the 13 practical steps for nuclear disarmament agreed to at the 2000 NPT Review Conference.
During the first week of the 2010 Non-Proliferation Treaty
(NPT) Review Conference there was a much more positive tone than in previous
such conferences. United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon participated in
many civil society events during the conference, continuing to shine a light on
the need for a concrete plan for nuclear disarmament. The United States was
also more forthcoming with information on its nuclear arsenal, specifically in
releasing details of the size of its nuclear arsenal (5,113 nuclear weapons
deployed and in reserve plus several thousand awaiting dismantlement).
The draft of the final document, to be released at the
conclusion of the conference on May 28, contains some highly promising
provisions. The draft document states, “The nuclear-weapon states shall convene
consultations not later than 2011 to accelerate concrete progress on nuclear
disarmament in a way that promotes international stability and is based on the
principle of undiminished security for all.”
The draft document continues, “Based on the outcome of these
consultations, the Secretary-General of the United Nations is invited to
convene an international conference in 2014 to consider ways and means to agree
on a roadmap for the complete elimination of nuclear weapons within a specified
timeframe, including by means of a universal legal instrument.”
If these provisions make it into the final document of the
NPT conference, they could pave the way for a new treaty, a Nuclear Weapons
Convention, for the phased, verifiable, irreversible and transparent
elimination of nuclear weapons – one of the goals long sought by the Nuclear
Age Peace Foundation and other civil society organizations.