The Right to Peace and the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons
By Senator Douglas Roche, O.C.
Chairman, Middle Powers Initiative
It is an honour to speak in New Zealand, the heart of the world-wide movement to eliminate nuclear weapons. The leadership of Prime Minister Clark and her colleagues in government, buttressed by committed civil society leaders, is a beacon for those of us who live far away and need periodic reassurance of the power of positive thinking. Put simply, New Zealand has a passion for nuclear disarmament. New Zealand has put its small body up against very big international machinery in declaring itself nuclear free. New Zealand believes in the immorality of nuclear weapons and that nuclear war would be a catastrophe for the planet. The sheer strength of New Zealand's commitment inspires nuclear weapons abolitionists around the world. So I thank you and in return pledge to you that, as long as there is breath in me, I will never stop fighting to rid the world of every last one of these instruments of death, truly called "the ultimate evil."
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I want to group my comments about nuclear weapons under three main headings:
- Historical Momentum Towards Abolition
- Obstacles to Abolition.
- Overcoming the Obstacles: The Right to Peace.
1. Historical Momentum Towards Abolition
We have lately been hearing a lot of gloomy talk about nuclear disarmament. The Conference on Disarmament in Geneva is at an impasse and negotiations to ban the production of fissile materials have not even started. NATO has reaffirmed that nuclear weapons are "essential" to its mission. Entry into force of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty is blocked and START II reductions stalled. The International Court of Justice's call for the conclusion of negotiations to eliminate nuclear weapons is ignored. Modernization of nuclear weapons continues. And now the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, a cornerstone of the non-proliferation regime is threatened by the United States' pursuit of a National Missile Defence (NMD) system. If NMD goes ahead, the whole architecture of nuclear disarmament, centering around the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), may well crumble.
It is even speculated that a new paradigm may be coming, in which deep unilateral cuts will be combined with missile defence systems while retaining nuclear deterrence indefinitely as a cornerstone of military doctrines. If so, the maintenance of nuclear deterrence by the powerful will further undermine international law and spawn nuclear weapons proliferation.
It serves little purpose to close our eyes to such palpable depression. But this current negative assessment must be inserted into a much larger picture in order to see the historical momentum that is actually building up towards abolition. This momentum is shown in legal and political actions and the statements emanating from the main branches of an ever more powerful civil society.
There is, first, the important 1996 Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice, the highest legal authority in the world. It determined that the threat or use of nuclear weapons is generally illegal, and that there exists an obligation to pursue and conclude negotiations leading to complete nuclear disarmament.
This ruling was followed by the political development of the New Agenda (Brazil, Egypt, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, South Africa, Sweden) which was responsible for securing from the Nuclear Weapons States "an unequivocal undertaking to accomplish the total elimination of their nuclear arsenals." This commitment, which strengthened the Non-Proliferation Treaty, was brought forward by the New Agenda in a resolution at the U.N. General Assembly in which 18 of the 19 NATO states, including the U.S. and U.K. voted in favour. In recent years, the General Assembly has passed many resolutions calling for comprehensive negotiations to begin, showing the support of the great majority of nations.
The legal and political groundwork has thus been laid for a Nuclear Weapons Convention, which would be an international treaty, achieved through negotiations, which would prohibit the development, testing and production of nuclear weapons. A model for such a convention is circulating as a U.N. document.
We have come this far through the assiduous work of like-minded governments and nuclear disarmament experts in civil society. The World Court Project team relentlessly pushed to have the ICJ Advisory Opinion come about, and the Model Nuclear Weapons Convention was developed by the Lawyers' Committee on Nuclear Policy on behalf of the International Association of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms, the International Network of Engineers and Scientists Against Proliferation, and the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War.
A wide range of statements from key elements of civil society backs up the legal and political work. Some of these statements have a government and military base, such as the Canberra Commission on the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons, launched by the Government of Australia; the Tokyo Forum Report, sponsored by the Government of Japan; the statement by 63 retired general and admirals from 17 countries including the U.S. and Russia, calling for the "irrevocable elimination of nuclear weapons"; and the statement by 130 civilian leaders, including 52 past or present leaders of state (Jimmy Carter, Mikhail Gorbachev and Nelson Mandela among them) affirming that "the world is not condemned to live forever with threats of nuclear conflict."
Many religious leaders have spoken out. The World Council of Churches said nuclear deterrence is morally unacceptable, adding that the production and development of nuclear weapons constitutes "a crime against humanity." Pope John Paul II has called for the "banishment" of all nuclear weapons, and Holy See statements have emphasized: "Nuclear Weapons are incompatible with the peace we seek for the 21st century. They cannot be justified. They deserve condemnation." The World Parliament of Religions pledged to include the moral imperative of the abolition of nuclear weapons in studies and teachings.
The Federation of American Scientists has called on scientists throughout the world to stop working on further nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction. The Pugwash movement of distinguished intellectual leaders has shown that the abolition of nuclear weapons is both desirable and feasible. Women's groups, converging at the Beijing Conference in 1995, have called for meaningful progress in disarmament.
Mass movements in civil society are now involved.
- In 1995, nearly 4 million individually signed Declarations of Public Conscience – 3.7 million from Japan and 175,000 from the rest of the world – were presented to the International Court of Justice by a delegation representing 700 citizen organizations, as part of the campaign which led to the Court's historic Advisory Opinion.
- Some 2,051 organizations and municipalities in 93 countries have signed the statement initiated by Abolition 2000, which calls for negotiations for a convention requiring the phased elimination of all nuclear weapons within a time-bound framework.
- At the 1999 Hague Appeal for Peace, 7,000 people of 100 nationalities, launched peace programs, including a campaign to seek an unequivocal commitment from the NWS to begin comprehensive negotiations.
- At the People's Millennium Assembly at the United Nations in May, 2000, the 1,350 representatives of 1,000 non-governmental organizations urged governments to convene the global conference to eliminate nuclear dangers as first proposed by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan.
The contributions made by the leading elements of civil society to the series of U.N. global conferences on human security themes have been well recorded. The ardent desires of millions upon millions of people have been summarized by the People's Millennium Assembly. The Assembly called for a world that is human-centered and genuinely democratic, a world that builds and protects peace, equality, justice and development; a world where human security, as envisioned in the principles of the United Nations Charter, replaces armaments, violent conflict and wars; a world where everyone lives in a clean environment with a fair distribution of the earth's resources and where human rights are protected by a body of international law. Action on this wide agenda is carried out every day by countless groups in every region of the world.
It is true that the media generally has not yet awakened to the power of civil society movements, but the stirring of ever wider circles of people is laying the foundation for a pressure for change to a more human-centered world. What we are now witnessing is a "new diplomacy" that addresses the diffusion of security threats with regional institutions and smaller units of civil society such as non- governmental organizations.
The sources of problem-solving and decision-making are increasingly shared by national governments, supra-national and subnational institutions, all tiered at the global, regional, and community levels. The dynamism and effectiveness of such an approach has been seen in such initiatives as the Rio, Cairo, and Beijing Conferences as well as the Ottawa Process to Ban Landmines. Understanding the integrated agenda for peace, the Hague Appeal for Peace, for example, 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.
2. Obstacles to AbolitionWhile the historical momentum for nuclear disarmament is evident, so too are the obstacles we still face.
What is the real reason behind the nuclear states' refusal to let go of their nuclear weapons? Is not the logic of abolition overpowering? The Cold War is over, and there is no longer any superpower "enemy." Nuclear weapons have been repudiated by the World Court. They have no military use, threaten the existence of life on the planet, and undermine harmonious international relations needed to resolve new threats to global security – mass poverty and environmental degradation. Nuclear deterrence justifies military buildups and has not preserved peace. Nuclear weapons contradict every goal of the United Nations. What, then, is holding back the advance into a nuclear-weapon-free world?
There are two broad categories of problems that block abolition. I call them on-the-table problems and under-the-table problems. The former are discussed quite openly; the latter are seldom referred to.
On-the-table problems have two main divisions: a) technical and b) political.
a) Technical ObstaclesNuclear anarchy presents a technical challenge that has not yet been resolved. Civil stocks of plutonium used for nuclear power are growing enormously. Reactor grade plutonium and highly enriched uranium can be used for nuclear weapons. Even with international safeguards, as long as such stocks remain under national control they could be subject to political upheaval or changes in national strategy. International ownership and management of all stocks of weapon-capable material is needed to guarantee it will never fall into the wrong hands. Such curbs would collide with market demands, and the major industrial states have shown no willingness to be so hampered. However, sooner or later, the most stringent international control over all fissile material will have to be accepted. The status of international regimes to eliminate other weapons of mass destruction is another technical obstacle to a nuclear-weapon-free world. A robust verification regime to ensure that chemical and biological weapons are not being produced anywhere will be necessary before the nuclear powers will let go of their nuclear weapons. The possibility of "breakout" is a further technical reason why the nuclear powers have refused to countenance complete nuclear disarmament. There is a concern that an existing nuclear power could cheat by retaining a secret cache of nuclear weapons or fissile material. While it is true that such a cache might escape external detection, no state contemplating cheating could be certain that its transgression would not be revealed from within. Any cheating would be known to a considerable number of citizens. While governments can legitimately require citizens to keep secrets relating to lawful national security concerns, they cannot require them to break international laws. If just one individual refused to go along with the deception and "blew the whistle," all would be revealed. A deviant government could never be sure that it would not be exposed from within. "Breakout" would involve real risks of being caught and provoking massive international action against the offending state. Obviously, international confidence must be built at each successive step along the way by showing that the new arrangements are promoting, not detracting from, security.
The United Nations has done several verification studies that point to the feasibility of a comprehensive international verification system. Disarmament is expensive (which seems to surprise some politicians) but it is infinitely cheaper than both war and keeping today's highly sophisticated weaponry in a state of readiness. The political process must be encouraged to spare no resources to assure a high-confidence verification regime.
b) Political ObstaclesThe technical on-the-table problems, though complex, are not insurmountable, given the political will to solve them. But the political will is not present because the nuclear powers want to keep their nuclear weapons for political reasons.
When we speak of the nuclear powers in a political context, we must narrow our focus primarily to the United States. China has committed itself to a time-bound abolition program. Russia, emerging from the Cold War, has sought nuclear elimination, but hard-line elements in its military and political establishments fear humiliation brought on by economic collapse and insist on retaining nuclear weapons as a symbol of power. Britain and France are holding onto their nuclear arsenals to bolster their political standing as they jockey for power in the new Europe, but their position would be untenable if Washington implemented an unequivocal commitment to go to zero. India and Pakistan have committed themselves to global negotiations for elimination. Israel would not stand against U.S. desires. It is the United States that is in a decisive position: it is the Western leader, the lynchpin of NATO, and by far the strongest military power in the world. In any weapons negotiations, the Americans deal from a position of strength.
Unfortunately Washington today is at the centre of the glaring contradictions between the nuclear deterrence doctrine of the Western powers, their commitments to the Non-Proliferation Treaty, and now the undermining of international law posed by the National Missile Defence System. The determination of the Bush Administration to proceed with NMD, to the great concern of NATO allies and the outright opposition of Russia and China, has catapulted NMD to the forefront of the nuclear weapons scene. The political focus has shifted from new disarmament steps to containing irreparable damage to the nuclear disarmament regime by NMD. In this climate, it is important that the core issue of nuclear disarmament be the central response to missile defence system proposals. But the Bush Administration has so far shown that, while the number of strategic deployed weapons may be reduced, nuclear deterrence will remain at the core of its military policy. In this climate, the NPT obligations are given short shrift.
Washington holds that there are two classes of threats to which nuclear weapons remain important deterrents. First, since Russia continues to possess substantial strategic nuclear forces and an even larger stockpile of tactical nuclear weapons, the United States feels threatened. It fears that the deterioration of Russia's conventional military capabilities might force Moscow to place even more reliance on its nuclear forces. The future of Russian politics is so cloudy that Washington thinks it may one day again have to deter Russia's nuclear force.
How can the United States expect Russia to unilaterally give up its nuclear weapons when NATO has insisted that nuclear weapons are "essential," when Washington is forging ahead with development of NMD and a new generation of nuclear weapons, and when the U.S. has stated that nuclear deterrence is a permanent policy? The onus is on the United States to reassure Russia, with concrete action, that nuclear weapons have no place in a post-Cold War security partnership. When that assurance is given, both sides can work together to get to zero. Such a plan would start by joint action towards a "zero-alert" posture.
The second American concern involves the potential nuclear threat from what are termed "rogue states" or "states of concern." Washington believes that knowledge of a powerful and ready nuclear capability is a significant deterrent to would-be proliferators. It believes that the Saddam Husseins, the Muammar Kaddafis and the Kim Chom IIs of the world are deterred from developing their own nuclear weapons only by a reliable and flexible American nuclear capability, and so it would be irresponsible to dismantle that capability before new and reliable systems for preserving stability are in place.
This argument is met by the recognition that vertical proliferation – the policy of the nuclear states to perfect their arsenals – has been a major reason why other states have tried to develop nuclear weapons. They confer prestige. The link between possession of nuclear weapons and a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council must be broken. Would-be nuclear states must be convinced, first that the nuclear powers are genuinely moving to zero, and second that going nuclear would vastly exacerbate any regional disputes they may be involved in. Here, the international community must give much stronger backing to the U.N.'s conflict-mediation procedures.
Because of its strength, the United States can provide the leadership needed to encourage all states to foster dialogue, openness, and other trust-and confidence-building measures with their neighbours. This would be a more reliable and effective means of providing global security than confrontation or deterrence. A credible American commitment to a nuclear-weapon-free world would encourage other states to strengthen collective and cooperative means of addressing their security concerns. The process of eliminating nuclear weapons would enhance the possibility of developing a global cooperative security system. If the United Nations could be built out of the ashes of World War II, so too an international agency to keep the peace can be developed out of the Cold War experience.
However, the United States believes there is no reasonable prospect that all the declared and de facto nuclear powers will agree, in the near term, to give up all their nuclear weapons. As long as only one state refuses to do so, Washington argues, it will be necessary to retain an American nuclear force. Even if the nuclear powers were to accept abolition, the difficulties of maintaining an enforceable verification system in a time of political tension or crisis would be insurmountable. Moreover, the world is still heavily armed with conventional weapons, and thus nuclear weapons are needed to discourage the resort to force.
Again, such arguments ignore the knowledge gained from the Cold War and reflect the militarist mentality that peace can only come out of the barrel of a gun. This mentality is short-sighted, pessimistic, and produces a profound despair among people who feel that the powerful have learned nothing from twentieth-century history. The world has lived under the mushroom cloud since 1945 and the cumulative psychological impact has been overwhelmingly negative. If the United States is determined to retain its nuclear weapons, at least until every last conventional weapon in the world has been laid down, then no amount of counter-argument or planning for a nuclear-weapon-free world will satisfy it.
Power: The Real Obstacle
Arguments about these on-the-table problems keep going round and round. They all involve, at their centre, one word: security. But that is not the real reason the Western nuclear powers are so adamant. Their opposition to abolition stems from another word: power. Power is the under-the-table reason. The "enemy" that Western nuclear states train their nuclear weapons on is not another country, but the potential loss of their power. Nuclear weapons are for the protection of the Western way of life against the rising clamour of the disenfranchised of the world, who increasingly resent being exploited.
The clamour for equality is growing, showing up in all the debates over human rights, economic growth, and now nuclear weapons. Already, we can see that the defining problem of the early twenty-first century will be the struggle for equity – between and among all nations, between and among all people.
The basis of the South's claim to equality is that every human being has a right to development, which means the right to have access to those goods and instruments necessary for the provision of basic human needs. The North has resisted this through the years because of what it perceives as the consequences: a sharing of resources rather than control over them.
As the stress on the ecosphere worsens – brought about by a combination of large populations and poverty in the South and over-consumption and pollution in the North – the demand of marginalized peoples for their place in the sun will grow. The image of mendicant beggars is already giving way to one of strident demanders working their way up the ladder of market economies. The military capacity of countries normally thought of as poor is surprisingly strong. Some thirty-five non-NATO countries already have non-nuclear ballistic missiles, including Algeria, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Egypt, India, Pakistan, Israel and Saudi Arabia. Nearly twenty non-NATO countries are capable of installing either nuclear, biological, or chemical warheads.
In the face of pressures bound only to increase in this new century – pressures of the poor and homeless demanding resources and space, pressures of regional disputes over scarce commodities, pressures growing out of the resentment against the West for hogging the lion's share of the world's benefits (an imbalance made ever more visible through the exploding communications revolution), pressures from the ambitious military of the south – nuclear proponents will stand their ground. Nuclear weapons are needed, they will argue, not necessarily to use, but to threaten those who would challenge the Western way of life. There might not be enough of everything needed to sustain Western lifestyles – land, resources, wealth. Who knows what might happen? All the problems surrounding the basic needs of humans on a planet with definable limitations of growth are only getting worse. The turbulence of today could become the gales of tomorrow, and so – according to the nuclear powers – nuclear weapons are necessary to protect the West against the unknown forces of the 21st century.
3. Overcoming the Obstacles: The Right to Peace
What steps should now be taken to increase the momentum for nuclear disarmament and overcome the daunting obstacles?
Here I would offer three principal areas of thinking and action: a) our attitude, b) morality and law, c) new coalitions.
a) Our Attitude
How we think about this problem is the starting point for change. The most important change that people can make is to change their way of looking at the world. We can change studies, jobs, neighbourhoods, even countries and continents and still remain much as we always were. But change our fundamental angle of vision and everything changes – our priorities, our values, our judgements, our pursuits. As the great British economist Barbara Ward observed, "This total upheaval in the imagination has marked the beginning of a new life…a turning of the heart, a ‘metanoia,' by which people see with new eyes and understand with new minds and turn their energies to new ways of living."
It is now 55 years since the atomic horrors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. New generations have come to maturity without any first-hand knowledge of nuclear devastation. Much of the public today has lost the understanding that nuclear weapons are not just a more powerful form of conventional weapons. With their radioactive fallout, they have the power to decimate the natural environment that has sustained humanity since the beginning of time.
Nagasaki Mayor Itoh concluded his description of the atomic bomb's effects on his city by telling the World Court:With their colossal power and capacity for slaughter and destruction, nuclear weapons make no distinction between combatants and non-combatants or between military installations and civilian communities; moreover, the radiation released by these weapons cannot be confined to specific military targets. It can only be said, therefore, that nuclear weapons are inhuman tools for mass slaughter and destruction."
Such descriptions of the overwhelming effects of nuclear weapons are not found in the general political and military literature on the subject. They were, however, emphasized by Judge Christopher Weeramantry in the Opinion he attached to the ICJ decision. The brutalities often tend to be hidden behind a veil of generalities, platitudes, and obfuscation. One of the favourite phrases of nuclear proponents is "unintended collateral damage:" any civilian deaths from a nuclear bomb are unfortunate but unintended. Such phrases make a mockery of language. The very nature of nuclear weapons is to kill massively.
The public generally seems blithely unaware of nuclear danger. Let us bring the basic facts into sharp focus. Today, eight nations possess some 32,000 nuclear bombs containing 5,000 megatons of destructive energy, which is the equivalent of 416,000 Hiroshima-size bombs. This is enough to destroy all major cities of 500,000 population or greater in the United States, Canada, Europe, Russia, Japan, China, India, Pakistan, Korea, Vietnam, Australia, South Africa, and Cuba.
U.S. and Russian nuclear-weapons systems remain on high alert. This fact, combined with the aging and weakness of Russian technical systems, which the Kursk submarine disaster and the Moscow Tower fire illustrated, has increased the risk of accidental nuclear attack. The New England Journal of Medicine estimated that an accidental intermediate-sized launch of weapons from a single Russian submarine would result in the deaths of 6,838,000 persons from firestorms in eight U.S. cities. A similar catastrophic toll of death would result in Russia from a U.S. accident.
Nuclear war is a horror that surpasses description. In the words of George Kennan, a distinguished American diplomat who originated the American "containment" policy towards the Soviet Union:The readiness to use nuclear weapons against other human beings – against people we do not know, whom we have never seen, and whose guilt or innocence it is not for us to establish – and, in doing so, to place in jeopardy the natural structure upon which all civilization rests, as though the safety and perceived interests of our own generation were more important than everything that has taken place or could take place in civilization: this is nothing less than a presumption, a blasphemy, an indignity – an indignity of monstrous dimensions – offered to God!
b) Morality and Law
A changed attitude to nuclear weapons then enables us to concentrate on two over-arching findings on which to base our action. Nuclear weapons are immoral and they are illegal.
The moral case against nuclear weapons is clear-cut. Nuclear weapons assault life on the planet, they assault the planet itself, and in so doing they assault the process of the continuing development of the planet. This is an affront to God, the Creator of the universe, an affront to the mysterious process of creation that makes a connection between us and an unfathomably distant past that the present generation has no right to interrupt. Nuclear weapons rival the power of God. They challenge God. They lure us into thinking we can control the destiny of the world. They turn upside down the natural morality that ensues from the relationship between God and humanity. Nuclear weapons are evil, because they destroy the process of life itself. They invert order into disorder.
Nuclear weapons are supposed to be governed by the covenants of humanitarian law. In fact, a nuclear war would destroy the very basis of humanitarian law. The structure of our civilization would disappear. Nuclear weapons, with no limitation or proportionality in their effect, make a mockery of old "just war" theories. How can self-defence be cited as a justification for the use of nuclear weapons when their full effect destroys the "self" that is supposed to be defended?
We do not want violence done to ourselves, yet we do it to others. This shocking dichotomy ought to awaken us to reciprocity, a universally valid moral value. As Confucius taught: "What you do not want done to yourself, do not do to others." The rule of reciprocity is defined by followers of Christ as The Golden Rule. Now in the twenty-first century, this means that governments should take as a starting point in the formulation of their policies the impact of those policies on other states. As the doctrine of nuclear deterrence so pointedly illustrates, one nation's security can mean another's insecurity. Mountains of U.N. documents on global security can be summed up by the simple dictum: states should treat others as they wish to be treated in return.
Throughout the Cold War, moral teaching on nuclear weapons was uncertain. While some ethicists condemned outright the concept of nuclear deterrence as a crime against God and humanity, others gave limited acceptance to the possession of nuclear weapons in the genuine belief that they were an aid to peace. Recognition of the ultimate evil took a back seat to the immediate gain of preventing nuclear conflict. There was a great deal of twisting and turning, as religious leaders tried to reconcile the opposing demands of natural law and political realism. Moral constraints had to compete with "reasons of state." The tensions between them got caught up in the old religious arguments about passivism and "just war." The barrage of propaganda about Soviet forces about to charge the Western gates skewed, or at least intimidated, a moral consensus on the evil of nuclear weapons.
Political acceptance of nuclear weapons to deter "the enemy" became the over-riding consideration. When the Soviets disappeared as the enemy, the nuclear establishment had to find a new one. This time the enemy is some political leader, now or in the future, who will threaten the West with a nuclear weapon. The circle of fear, perpetuated by those with a vested interest in maintaining nuclear weapons, is unending. Unchallenged, this is a trap humanity will never escape from.
Discussions on ethics frequently become esoteric, not to mention divisive. But a new global ethic can be expressed sharply, succinctly, and irrefutably, as the 1993 World Parliament of Religions did: "Every human being must be treated humanely!"
This echoed a dramatic appeal contained in a 1955 manifesto issued by a group of scientists led by Bertrand Russell and Albert Einstein who, having worked on the development of the atomic bomb, called for its abolition: "We appeal, as human beings, to human beings: Remember your humanity, and forget the rest."
The Western nuclear powers must be challenged, for, in clinging to spurious, self-serving rationales, they are deliberately deceiving the world. The gravest of futures lies ahead for humanity if the world is to be ruled by militarism rather than law. The doctrine of nuclear deterrence can no longer claim the slightest shred of moral acceptance: it is morally bankrupt. The dangers of proliferation make it essential that religious leaders teach, much more vigorously than in the past, that nuclear weapons are immoral. The military doctrine of nuclear deterrence must be forthrightly condemned. Nuclear planners would then be deprived of any further claim to moral legitimacy.
Similarly in the legal realm, the time has come for governments to formally declare that the use of nuclear weapons is per se unlawful based upon the rules of international law. A world ruled by law is the only hope for a peace with security and stability.
The International Court of Justice has made a profound contribution to de-legalizing nuclear weapons by reaffirming the cardinal principles of humanitarian law, which are the following: in order to protect the civilian population, states must never use weapons that are incapable of distinguishing between civilian and military targets; it is prohibited to cause unnecessary suffering to combatants, and hence states do not have unlimited freedom of choice of weapons. Even though nuclear weapons were invented after the established principles and rules of humanitarian law had come into existence, it cannot be concluded that humanitarian law does not apply to them.
The so-called "loophole" in the ICJ Opinion – that the Court could not decide whether the use of nuclear weapons would be legal in cases of extreme self-defence – must now be closed. It is a canard to state, as nuclear retentionists do, that a nuclear weapon can be used in a proportionate or limited way, even using so-called "low-yield" weapons in defence.
In his comprehensive new work, Nuclear Weapons and International Law in the Post Cold War World, Charles J. Moxley, Jr. charged that the U.S. misrepresented existing law in its submission to the Court. The U.S. held that the effects of low-yield nuclear weapons need not be materially greater than those of conventional weapons. But Moxley holds that the radiation effects of such weapons are uncontrollable, and that the U.S. must be held accountable to an international law that prohibits any use of a nuclear weapon.
It is time to press forward, as the Court suggested, to a Nuclear Weapons Convention that would prohibit the possession, development, threat, and use of nuclear weapons. The Court's opinion enables politicians and activists who support nuclear disarmament to take the legal high road against nuclear retentionists, who are now vulnerable to accusations of flouting international law. The Court's opinion challenges NATO's doctrine of nuclear deterrence, and that challenge must now be taken up.
The contradiction between what the NWS say in the NPT context and do in holding onto their nuclear arsenals is astonishing. The very same countries that pledge an "unequivocal undertaking" to the total elimination of nuclear weapons then, in the next breath, re-affirm that nuclear weapons are "essential." The double-speak is breathtaking.
c) New Coalitions
So formidable are the obstacles to total nuclear disarmament that it is virtually impossible for any one country or any one organization by itself to effect a change in NWS policies. New coalitions to build and exude strength are necessary. This was, in fact, a principle that the Middle Powers Initiative (MPI) was built upon. MPI's unique mission is to influence and assist middle power governments to encourage and educate the NWS to commit to immediate practical steps to reduce nuclear dangers and commence negotiations to eliminate nuclear weapons. This same principle animated the New Agenda countries which, in a very short period, have achieved remarkable progress.
The new diplomacy of nuclear disarmament that I envision would have a grand coalition of like-minded governments and civil society leaders. Such a powerful combination – linking governments and grass roots movements – could not only dint but pierce the NWS self-serving, protective armour. The NWS, by their actions at the NPT 2000 Review, proved that they are not impervious to the organized voices of the world community.
A model for such a coalition is the "Ottawa Process," in which like-minded governments, in this case led by Canada, and highly knowledgeable, dedicated NGOs formed a working partnership. The partnership worked because both wanted the same goal – the elimination of the pernicious evil of landmines. Some say that the Ottawa Process is not transferable to nuclear weapons because these weapons are central to NWS doctrines whereas landmines are not. I do not agree. In fact, the World Court Project pioneered some aspects of the Ottawa Process. The Partial Test Ban Treaty Amendment Conference, which led the way to the full Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, was driven by a coalition led by Parliamentarians for Global Action. The treaty establishing an International Criminal Court is another example of spontaneous coalitions producing action.
At present there are many non-governmental organizations working in the nuclear disarmament field. Abolition 2000 has tried to erect a huge umbrella over them, but it is not intended to stimulate coordinated action. Many of the disarmament groups have sub-sets of goals and that makes liaison difficult. Some are concerned with guarding their own domain. All this is understandable, but the nuclear weapons problem is so severe that NGOs need to gravitate around one clear goal in order to have the impact they are capable of. That goal should be to have governments end their doctrine of nuclear deterrence and negotiate the elimination of nuclear arsenals.
That is why the global conference suggested by U.N. Secretary-General Annan is so important. It would put a global spotlight on the central issue of unacceptable nuclear dangers that the whole world is living with. It would be impossible for the media to ignore the issue when it is presented on a massive, dramatic scale – with governments around the world showing their deep concern, backed up by the combined voices of thousands upon thousands of knowledgeable, committed representatives of civil society.
We should tell Kofi Annan that he is right to call such a conference; and that we will promote the idea so that the power of those demanding the conference can overcome the naysayers. Such a conference should demonstrate that nuclear weapons abolition unites like-minded governments and a thoughtful, concerned civil society.
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The Right to Peace
I have stressed in this lecture the need to promote attitudinal change in society so that it seeps into moral and legal thinking to both stimulate and sustain new government policies. A whole new way of thinking about nuclear weapons is required to effectuate change. This is the goal of UNESCO in promoting knowledge of a culture of peace.
A culture of peace is the set of values, attitudes, traditions, modes of behaviour and ways of life that inspire respect for all life, rejection of violence, and promotion of all human rights. A culture of peace is a process of individual, collective and institutional transformation. It grows out of beliefs and actions of the people themselves and develops in each country within its specific historical, socio-cultural and economic context. Mobilizing public opinion and developing new education programs, at all levels, are essential.
The themes of a culture of peace form the architecture for a right to peace. The protection of the right to life and bodily security are at the heart of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. When a weapon has the potential to kill millions of people in one blast, human life becomes reduced to a level of worthlessness that totally belies human dignity as understood in any culture. No weapon invented in the long history of warfare has so negated the dignity and worth of the human person as has the nuclear bomb. The most devastating attack on the Declaration of Human Rights comes from those who would assault the very existence of human life on the planet.
We are yet some distance from a general societal recognition that the right to peace demands the abolition of nuclear weapons. But let us have a vision that morality and law, fully developed, will bring us to this vision. While we must bring our head to this matter, we must also bring our heart.
I reject the thinking of those who hold that the end of nuclear weapons is at least 100 years away and that until then "we must live with nuclear weapons as responsibly and quietly as we can." That is dangerous pessimism. The world does not have 100 years to stamp out this pernicious cancer that is eroding human security. There are too many people suffering, too much political frustration, too much potential for global devastation, to allow a mood of passivity. The abolition of nuclear weapons will not, by itself, bring peace, but it will allow the international community to deal more effectively with other threats to peace.
All great historical ideas for change go through three stages: first, the idea is ridiculed; then it is vigorously objected to; finally, it is accepted as conventional wisdom. The movement to abolish nuclear weapons has entered the second stage.
The struggle to rid the world of nuclear weapons will be long and difficult: it is not for the faint-hearted. The opposition of those who, through ignorance, ideology, or greed, want to keep the status quo, will be vigorous and perhaps ugly. But it cannot be denied that the historical momentum to contain, and then abolish, nuclear weapons is growing. We dare not lose our courage, our determination, our hope.
To hope for abolition means learning to think in a more human-centered way. To hope for abolition means putting the good of humanity in first place in public policy. To hope for abolition means committing ourselves, every day, to the further ascent of humanity.