Setting the Agenda for the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons

Submitted by Senator Douglas Roche, O.C.
Chairman, Middle Powers Initiative

To the World Conference on Religion and Peace
Standing Commission on Disarmament and Security
Kyoto, Japan

Since its First Assembly in Kyoto in 1970, the World Conference on Religion and Peace has recognized that disarmament is the most urgent and necessary element to preserve succeeding generations from the scourge of war.

The Amman Declaration of the WCRP Seventh Assembly reiterated the call upon religious communities to contribute in strengthening the international legal instruments in the field of disarmament at our disposal, such as the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).

Why has the steam apparently gone out of the nuclear weapons abolition movement at just the moment the Nuclear Weapons States have made "an unequivocal undertaking to accomplish the total elimination of their nuclear arsenals" at the NPT 2000 Review?

Why indeed are governments still being allowed to claim that the outmoded strategy of nuclear deterrence has even a shred of credibility or morality?

Why are the nuclear retentionists not being driven to obscurity by the sheer force of the moral, legal, political, and military arguments against the possession of nuclear weapons?

To address the paramount issue of our time with these probing questions brings us face to face with the hardest question of all: Does 21st century humanity have the vision, the courage, the strength, the perseverance to abolish the very instruments that can obliterate humanity itself? To that question we must give a resounding yes.

The Hague Appeal for Peace

Today billions are spent on arms and militarization, while worthwhile peace initiatives and programs for human security are starved for lack of funds. These priorities must be reversed. The WCRP has an integral role to play in the achievement of common security for humanity and all forms of life by fostering the moral and political environment to strengthen and enhance trust among nations. It is essential that the WCRP demand of our governments that they stop their duplicitous conduct of excessive military spending, moving beyond the traditional approaches of preventing war that have failed disastrously.

The Hague Appeal for Peace successfully redefined peace as not only the absence of conflict between and within States, but also the absence of economic and social injustice. Understanding the integrated agenda for peace, the Hague enterprise fused environmental activists, human rights advocates, feminists, spiritual leaders, humanitarian aid and development workers, and experts in disarmament to work together for the development of a sustainable culture of peace.

It is my firm conviction that a precondition to peace in the 21st century is the abolition of nuclear weapons. The most perilous of all the assumptions of a complacent public is the belief that nuclear deterrence is essential to their security. The truth is the reverse. Maintaining nuclear deterrence will lead to catastrophe since, as the Canberra Commission showed, it is a mathematical certainty that nuclear weapons, if maintained indefinitely, will at one point be used.

Nuclear deterrence prevents genuine nuclear disarmament. It maintains an unacceptable hegemony over non-nuclear nations. It fuels arms races around the world, as India and Pakistan have demonstrated. It spawns a militarism that is choking off development for the poorest sections of humanity. It is a fundamental obstacle to achieving a new age of global security.

The first and perhaps over-arching requirement in abolishing nuclear weapons and building a culture of peace is to have the confidence that it can be done. The doubters have had their way long enough. Having shown outrage at mis-placed public priorities, we must display our confidence that enough of us making a difference in the circumstances of our daily lives can indeed make a difference in the world as a whole.

A culture of peace is a process of individual, collective and institutional transformation. It grows out of beliefs and actions of people themselves and develops in each country within its specific historical, socio-cultural, and economic context.

A peace consciousness does not appear overnight. Constructing a culture of peace requires comprehensive educational, social, and civic action. It addresses people of all ages. An open-minded, global strategy is required to make a culture of peace take root in people's hearts and minds. It must be the goal of the WCRP to incorporate the interrelated aspects of community security, social, economic, and environmental security, all of which are inter-related in the development of the sense of common human security and a culture of peace. The security of some can never be permanently achieved by creating insecurity for others. H2>The Abolition of Nuclear Weapons To achieve a nuclear weapon-free world we must use the tools at our disposal, remembering that historical momentum is with us. Consider what has occurred:

In addition, the Non-Proliferation Treaty has been strengthened, not just by its indefinite extension in 1995, but by the 2000 Review Conference when the Nuclear Weapons States joined in "an unequivocal undertaking to accomplish the total elimination of their nuclear arsenals."

Since the NWS continue to modernize their nuclear arsenals, the obstacles to nuclear disarmament remain formidable. But they can no longer be considered overwhelming, because active work leading to the goal has been validated. The "unequivocal undertaking to total nuclear disarmament" accepted by the NWS puts them in direct contradiction with their own nuclear deterrence doctrines.

The nuclear powers stoutly resisted the first New Agenda resolution at the U.N. First Committee for good reason. They saw it as an unacceptable challenge to the underlying doctrine of nuclear deterrence. The New Agenda countries have always realized that if the fallacy of the nuclear deterrence doctrine could be exposed as the immoral, illegal, and militarily unsustainable policy it is, then the whole framework supporting nuclear weapons could crumble.

Of course, given the tenacity with which the nuclear powers are holding onto nuclear weapons as the core of their military doctrine, it would be totally unrealistic to think that they will immediately implement that to which they have signed onto. Nothing in their record over the 30-year history of the NPT could provide any confidence that the nuclear powers will suddenly honour their obligations.

But the final NPT Review document is worth far more that a grudging acknowledgment from the NWS. It gives the nuclear weapons abolition movement the strongest base it has ever had. Whether the NWS fully accept it or not, the principle of "total" elimination is institutionally formalized and the doctrine of nuclear deterrence puts them in direct opposition with their NPT obligations.

But this is still a paper commitment. The NWS have not yet given a timetable for elimination, nor even their agreement to start comprehensive negotiations for elimination.

The WCRP and the Middle Powers Initiative

Why then is there no real action for elimination on the part of the NWS? Because the political will has not yet been developed.

The time for those who understand the threat to humanity posed by nuclear weapons to make their voices heard, to wake up the public, to shake up governments is now. A great coalition of like-minded governments and the advanced wave of civil society can, as indeed it must, move the global political agenda forward to a nuclear weapon-free world. The "Ottawa Process" to ban landmines demonstrated that when leaders in civil society work with like-minded governments, powerful results can be obtained.

The moral challenge to nuclear weapons must be reinvigorated. Religious leaders and their communities have a most pivotal role to play in heightening the pressure on governments to begin effective negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament. It is essential that religious leaders teach, with one voice, that nuclear weapons are immoral. Nuclear planners would then be deprived of the slightest claim to moral legitimacy.

The WCRP must speak out to decry the very instruments that attack humanity. This is not "moralism," it is not "rhetoric," it is not "simplism." It is, rather, the teaching that human conscience must assert itself in any understanding of right and wrong. To fail to do this is to consign humanity to denigration of intellect and loss of will, to deny it the very essence of humanity.

With the "unequivocal undertaking" to eliminate nuclear arsenals, the door to nuclear abolition has been opened. It is now the responsibility of civil society to push it wider in order to put a worldwide spotlight on the recalcitrance of the NWS governments and show them that human consciousness has moved beyond them.

Our instruments of change are a revivified United Nations, a stout-hearted New Agenda sustained by a growing body of nuclear abolitionists in civil society. In all of this, the Middle Powers Initiative (MPI) is pledged to play a role to influence and assist middle power governments.

MPI will continue to concentrate on identified middle power countries, encouraging them to press the nuclear powers to commence negotiations forthwith on a treaty to eliminate nuclear weapons and implement the 13 steps in paragraph 15 of the section on Article VI in the 2000 NPT Review Final Document. I ask for the support of the WCRP in this important work.

I believe we can, as indeed we must, move the global political agenda forward to a nuclear weapon-free world. My hope lies in the blossoming of human intelligence and the emergence of a caring, activist civil society. There is no organization better placed to cultivate this than the WCRP. With the application of our minds and hearts, we can overcome the nuclear retentionists. The struggle is long, but we must never stop.