At the discussion, esteemed panelists included H.E. Akan Rakhmetullin of Kazakhstan; H.E. Teburoro Tito of Kiribati; Dr. Ivana Nikolić Hughes, NAPF President and Member of the Scientific Advisory Group for the TPNW; Dr. Zia Mian, Co-Chair of the Scientific Advisory Group for the TPNW; and Brady Mabe, ICRC Legal Advisor. Moderated by Christian Ciobanu, NAPF Policy and Advocacy Coordinator and RTT Project Coordinator, the dialogue underscored the need for global cooperation to address nuclear threats.
H.E. Akan Rakhmetullin of Kazakhstan emphasized the importance of providing assistance to victims of nuclear use and testing, as well as remediating contaminated environments. Kazakhstan and Kiribati jointly served as co-chairs of an informal intersessional working group to the TPNW, leading to the drafting and sponsorship of a new resolution tackling these issues. The resolution, “Addressing the legacy of nuclear weapons: providing victim assistance and environmental remediation to Member States affected by the use or testing of nuclear weapons,” was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in December 2023.
H.E. Teburoro Tito of Kiribati articulated a vision for a peaceful world, free from the scourge of war and conflict. Expressing his sentiments, he questioned the regression of humanity, urging progress instead. He remarked, “Why are we moving back? Are we not moving forward as humanity? I think we should. We’ve had wars hundreds of years back; war doesn’t make sense.” The Republic of Kiribati collaborated closely with the Republic of Kazakhstan in securing the adoption of their resolution.
Dr. Zia Mian, Co-Chair of the Scientific Advisory Group for the TPNW, explained the pivotal role of the Group in bridging scientific understanding with the humanitarian imperative to address the destructive impact of nuclear weapons on humanity and the environment. Dr. Mian underscored the collaborative nature of this undertaking, highlighting the concerted efforts of diplomats, activists, scientists, and stakeholders from all backgrounds in propelling humanity forward and away from the dangers of nuclear weapons.
Dr. Ivana Nikolić Hughes, President of NAPF and Member of the Scientific Advisory Group for the TPNW, elaborated on the objectives of the TPNW, explaining its role in establishing an international norm aimed at prohibiting and ultimately abolishing all nuclear weapons. Quoting the late Daniel Ellsberg, a prominent peace and disarmament advocate, Dr. Hughes characterized nuclear weapons and related policies as “dizzyingly insane and immoral.” Reflecting on the sentiments expressed by the UN in 1961, she reiterated that “we must abolish nuclear weapons before they abolish us“.
Dr. Hughes strongly supports the implementation of Articles 6 and 7 of the TPNW, which address the need for victim assistance, environmental remediation, and international cooperation. Notably, she highlighted Kazakhstan and Kiribati’s resolution on nuclear justice, emphasizing the shared goal of a world free of nuclear weapons and the imperative for greater cooperation among states to address the humanitarian consequences of past nuclear explosions. Dr. Hughes explains that the two goals are inextricably linked: the harm and suffering tell us why nuclear weapons must be abolished.
Furthermore, Dr. Hughes discussed her recent article in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, titled “Nuclear deterrence is the existential threat. Not the nuclear ban treaty,” She highlighted the fragility of the nuclear deterrence theory, pointing out two key flaws: 1) There is no adequate humanitarian response to even a single nuclear weapons explosion and 2) Nuclear deterrence depends on rational and informed behavior from those in power. As such, there is no recourse in the event of a nuclear weapon explosion, and the fate of humanity rests in the hands of a few select individuals who are susceptible to misinformation, human error, and erratic behavior under pressure.
Brady Mabe, ICRC Legal Advisor, discussed the connection between nuclear weapons and international humanitarian law, emphasizing a fundamental conflict. He highlighted the humanitarian and environmental impacts of nuclear testing and use, demonstrating how these actions breach established principles of international humanitarian law. Mabe’s discussion shed light on the profound ethical and legal dilemmas arising from the continued existence of nuclear weapons, underscoring the urgent need for further dialogue and immediate action.
In considering the historical context of nuclear disarmament and humanitarian action, one must recognize figures like Fritz Bilfinger from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). As the first outsider to witness the devastation from the use of nuclear weapons, Bilfinger’s historic telegram from Hiroshima in 1945 stands as a poignant reminder of the catastrophic humanitarian and environmental consequences of nuclear weapons use and testing. His firsthand account underscored the urgent need for international assistance in addressing the unprecedented devastation caused by nuclear use. Moreover, there is a consensus among humanitarian organizations and experts that there would be no adequate humanitarian response to a nuclear weapon detonation. Despite occasional challenges to this assertion, this acknowledgment is imperative in galvanizing global efforts towards nuclear disarmament and fostering a deeper understanding of the profound and irreversible impacts of nuclear testing and use on civilian populations.