Monday, January 1, 2018

The choice for the world in 2018: Fire and fury, or peace?

"They will be met with fire and fury, and frankly power the likes of which this world has never seen before."

"Processions of ghostly figures shuffled by. Grotesquely wounded people, they were bleeding, burnt, blackened and swollen. Parts of their bodies were missing. Flesh and skin hung from their bones. Some with their eyeballs hanging in their hands. Some with their bellies burst open, their intestines hanging out. The foul stench of burnt human flesh filled the air."

Which is more chilling? Setsuko Thurlow's eyewitness description of the horrific destructive power of the nuclear bomb which obliterated her hometown of Hiroshima in the summer of 1945, or President Donald Trump's thinly-veiled threat to unleash nuclear weapons amid the volatile mix of international relations in the summer of 2017? 

The past year saw nuclear weapons thrust back to the top of news headlines with more prominence than any time since the end of the Cold War. North Korea's missile and nuclear tests, trading provocations with Trump's belligerent rhetoric, returned the spectre of nuclear destruction to public consciousness around the world. As 2017 drew to a close, former chair of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen warned that the threat of nuclear war is, in his opinion, closer than ever before. 

Concern that nuclear weapons might actually be used (again) is an inevitable consequence of their continued existence. Only by outlawing and eliminating nuclear weapons can the world as we know it be safe from the threat of nuclear destruction. At a time when the structure of life on earth faces unprecedented threats on a huge scale, such as global warming and plastic pollution, getting rid of these ghastly weapons of mass destruction should be a relatively simple step towards a safer world. 

During the past year, despite the shadow of a possible war, we have also seen positive signs that the world has woken up to the need to deal conclusively with nuclear arms. Over 120 countries - a substantial majority of UN member states - took part in two lengthy sessions of negotiations which resulted in the Treaty of on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) becoming a reality in July 2017. From an Irish point of view, it was very positive to see Ireland as one of the proposers of the initial UN resolution which set up the talks, and as a strong advocate for a robust treaty during the negotiations. 

While the new treaty will not eliminate nuclear weapons overnight, it has the power to create a new international norm whereby, for the first time, development, possession, use, and the threat of use of nuclear weapons are clearly illegal. Providing assistance with any of these activities will also be illegal. Ireland was among the first states to sign the treaty when it opened for signature at the UN in September, and Irish CND will continue to work with politicians of all persuasions for speedy ratification of the treaty by the Oireachtas in 2018. 

The award of the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) highlighted both the urgency of nuclear disarmament, and the shift in international momentum in favour of meaningful steps towards nuclear abolition. Irish CND is proud to be one of ICAN's partner organisations. The Nobel Peace Lecture, delivered by ICAN's Executive Director, Beatrice Fihn, and Hiroshima survivor, Setsuko Thurlow, sets out a powerful rationale and a clear road map for nuclear disarmament. As Beatrice Fihn said during the lecture: "Nuclear weapons, like chemical weapons, biological weapons, cluster munitions and land mines before them, are now illegal. Their existence is immoral. Their abolishment is in our hands. The end is inevitable. But will that end be the end of nuclear weapons or the end of us? We must choose one." You can view ICAN's latest campaign video, including extracts from the Nobel lecture, here

As we look ahead to 2018, we hope that we will see this positive momentum towards a safer world continue to grow and bring results. Formal ratification by Ireland of the TPNW will be a priority for Irish CND's work. We will also work to promote the treaty, and meaningful steps towards disarmament, through our shared work with our international partners. 

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Nobel Prize: Hope and determination in the face of failure and threat

A statement from Irish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament chairperson, Dr David Hutchinson Edgar, on the presentation of the Nobel Peace Prize to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons

On Sunday, 10th December, the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize was presented to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN). The award was accepted on behalf of ICAN by Setsuko Thurlow, who was a 13-year-old schoolgirl in Hiroshima when the city was bombed in 1945, and Beatrice Fihn, Executive Director of ICAN.

As a partner organisation of ICAN in Ireland, Irish CND is proud to share in this award. We acknowledge the tremendous work of hibakusha (literally, explosion-affected people) like Setsuko Thurlow in keeping the utter horror of the impact of just one nuclear weapon in public consciousness, the visionary campaigning of ICAN's small, dedicated staff, and the committed partnership of campaigners across more than 100 countries working together for a better, safer world.

The award highlights ICAN's role in working for an international treaty explicitly outlawing nuclear weapons, which came to fruition earlier this year with the approval by the United Nations of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. Since September, the treaty has already been signed by over 50 countries, including Ireland.

This award also recognises that the ghastly spectre of nuclear warfare has not gone away; although there are less nuclear warheads now than at the height of the Cold War, there are still enough to destroy life on earth as we know it many times over. The volatile state of international relations today makes their detonation - through reckless political leadership, through a terrorist attack, or through accident - as probable, if not more probable, than at any stage since 1945. The level of silent threat is truly frightening.

In many ways, the award is an elegy for 70 years of failure to address the appalling potential for destruction posed by nuclear weapons. Rather than recoiling from their horror, a small number of states embraced their terrifying possibilities. Despite the obligation to negotiate nuclear disarmament in good faith imposed on the nuclear weapons possessors who signed up to the 1970 Non-Proliferation Treaty - France, China, Britain, Russia and the United States - these states have refused to engage seriously with genuine disarmament; on the contrary, they continue to renew their nuclear arms capabilities. Their bad faith in terms of their lip-service to the NPT while undermining it with their actions stands to their shame. Equally, the acquisition of nuclear weapons by India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea brings not elevated status, but dishonour on their countries.

One such state - South Africa - has destroyed its nuclear weapons. A co-sponsor with Ireland, Austria, Brazil, Mexico and Nigeria of the UN resolution which eventually led to the Prohibition Treaty, South Africa is now a leader in working for nuclear disarmament.

Failure also lies both with campaigners for disarmament and non-nuclear weapons states opposed to the continued existence threat of nuclear arms, in terms of their inability over decades to present a powerful, coherent discourse moving forward the urgency of disarmament. In 1985, the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War. Frustratingly, over 30 years have passed since then, but nuclear weapons are today a greater threat than ever.

In this gloomy scenario, this year's award acknowledges a moment of genuine opportunity and hope: not in the award itself, but in the way that the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons has changed to landscape in relation to the development, possession and threat of use of nuclear weapons. There is now an international legal instrument which explicitly bans nuclear weapons, negotiated by a sizeable majority of UN member states, which will enter into force once ratified by 50 states. Under the umbrella of ICAN, civil society campaigners, scientists, medical and legal experts across the world have joined forces with non-nuclear-weapons states to create the conditions for this new treaty to come into being.

The momentum has changed. An international stigma, codified in law, now attaches to nuclear weapons possession - and the nuclear weapons industry - as never before. The initiative has been seized by those who believe that a safer world is created by removing the threat of absolute destruction, not by maintaining or recklessly increasing that threat. The new treaty is just a step, but still a significant step in the right direction. There is now a moment, right across the world, when people can see not only the threat, but the hope that there is a way out of this threat: an alternative to destruction. Ignorance, denial, powerlessness, resignation - negative impulses which have stood in the way of progress towards nuclear disarmament - have been faced down by the clear scientific evidence and political realism which made the treaty a reality.

We in Irish CND welcome the constructive role the Irish government has played in supporting the Prohibition Treaty process, and the fact that Ireland was among the first states to sign the treaty in September. We urge the Irish government to ratify the treaty formally at the earliest opportunity, and to transpose its provisions into Irish law.

The opportunities of this moment must be seized by all those committed to consigning these weapons of mass destruction to the dustbin of history. An award, even one as prestigious as the Nobel Peace Prize, is not victory. The Nobel Peace Prize gives renewed vigour, prestige and impetus to our campaign. Victory still lies ahead in the goal of a nuclear-weapons-free world. The campaign continues tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after that, until that goal is reached. 

Friday, October 6, 2017

Nobel Peace Prize for Nuclear Disarmament

The announcement that the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize is being awarded to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) represents a timely recognition of the urgency of ridding the world of these horrific weapons of mass destruction. 

Making the announcement, the Norwegian Nobel Committee stated that the award is for ICAN's work "to draw attention to the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons and for its ground-breaking efforts to achieve a treaty-based prohibition of such weapons." The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, negotiated earlier this year, opened for signature at the United Nations last month. 

With headquarters in Geneva, ICAN currently has 468 partner organisations in over 100 countries, including the Irish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. 

In its response to the announcement, ICAN stated, "The treaty categorically outlaws the worst weapons of mass destruction and establishes a clear pathway to their total elimination. It is a response to the ever-deepening concern of the international community that any use of nuclear weapons would inflict catastrophic, widespread and long-lasting harm on people and our living planet ... This is a time of great global tension, when fiery rhetoric could all too easily lead us, inexorably, to unspeakable horror. The spectre of nuclear conflict looms large once more. If ever there were a moment for nations to declare their unequivocal opposition to nuclear weapons, that moment is now."

Commenting on the award, Irish CND chairperson Dr David Hutchinson Edgar said, "It is very exciting to see the work of international campaigners for a world without nuclear weapons receive this kind of prestigious recognition. It is a tribute to the tireless work of activists, researchers, survivors of atomic testing and of the 1945 atomic bombs, and many others who have come together under the umbrella of ICAN to try to bring their vision of a safer, more peaceful world to reality. 

"At the same time, the award implicitly acknowledges that the continuing existence of nuclear weapons poses a grave threat to life on earth as we know it. That threat is as great - perhaps greater - today than ever before. Recent belligerent actions and rhetoric from certain states have brought its terrifying reality into focus. They have also shown the utter bankruptcy of the argument put forward by nuclear-armed states that nuclear weapons help keep the world safe: safety laced with the spectre of annihilation is an absurd fallacy. 

"We welcome the leading role that Irish diplomats have played in bringing the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons into existence, and the fact that Ireland was among the first group of states to sign the treaty. We appreciate the constructive co-operation which took place between the Disarmament Section of the Department of Foreign Affairs and civil society organisations, particularly ICAN, during the negotiation process. We look forward to Ireland speedily ratifying the treaty, and hope that our politicians and diplomats will use their influence internationally to promote the urgent need for other states to do so also."

Ban Treaty opens for signature at the United Nations

As the Treaty on the Prohibition for Nuclear Weapons opened for official signature at the United Nations on 20th September, fifty states signed the treaty within a matter of hours, with more expected to do so in the coming weeks. The Treaty will enter into force once it has been formally ratified by fifty signatories.

Irish CND welcomes the fact that Ireland, represented by Minister for Foreign Affairs, Simon Coveney, was among the states to sign at the opening. In 2016, Ireland was one of the co-sponsors of the UN Resolution which established the negotiations for the Treaty.

President Michael D. Higgins has issued a statement welcoming the treaty, acknowledging both the work of Irish diplomats and Ireland's partner countries in promoting the negotiations, and also praising the role of civil society activists and researchers.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Annual Commemoration of the Bombing of Hiroshima, 6th August 2017

The annual commemoration for all victims of atomic bombs and 'test' explosions will take place on Sunday, 6th August, the 72nd anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima, at 1.10 p.m. at the memorial cherry tree in Merrion Square Park, Dublin 2.

Approximately 16,500 nuclear weapons remain in the world today. While this is less than the Cold War peak, it is still enough to destroy life on earth as we know it many times over. 

The ceremony will take place at the memorial cherry tree planted by Irish CND in 1980. The commemoration will be opened by Cllr Larry O'Toole, representing the Lord Mayor of Dublin. Ms Midori Yamamitsu, Counsellor and Deputy Head of Mission at the Japanese Embassy in Ireland, will also speak. There will be short contributions of poetry and music from Irish and Japanese artists (weather permitting) and the laying of a wreath at the memorial tree. Representatives of several other embassies will also be in attendance. 

This annual ceremony gives us all an opportunity to stand in solidarity with the victims of these horrific weapons of mass destruction, and to affirm our determination to work for their elimination, the only way to ensure that the ghastly events of Hiroshima and Nagasaki will not be repeated. Please do come and attend this moving and inspiring ceremony if you can.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Nuclear Ban Treaty Agreed by United Nations

A new international treaty declaring nuclear weapons illegal has been agreed on Friday 7th July, following weeks of negotiations at the United Nations in New York. For the first time, it will be explicitly contrary to international law to "develop, test, produce, manufacture, otherwise acquire, possess or stockpile nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices."

The treaty, drawing heavily on the humanitarian impacts of nuclear weapons, also contains provision on providing assistance for victims and environmental remediation, and explicitly recognises the disproportionate impact of nuclear weapons on women and children.

While nuclear-armed states boycotted the talks, the new treaty will play an important role in stigmatising and de-legitimising the possession of nuclear weapons, and has been hailed by campaigners as an major milestone which brings the eventual elimination of nuclear weapons significantly closer.

Responding to the historic vote, Beatrice Fihn, Executive Director of the International Campaign to abolish Nuclear Weapons, said, "This treaty comprehensively bans nuclear weapons and related activities. We hope that today marks the beginning of the end for nuclear weapons. We now will work to ensure that all countries committed to international humanitarian law and human rights match their values and words with action."

Welcoming the agreement of the treaty, Irish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament chairperson Dr David Hutchinson Edgar said, "This is an important step towards a world free of the horrific threat of nuclear war. The determined efforts of civil society campaigners and states opposed to weapons of mass destruction have shown that progress is possible even in the face of the failure by nuclear-armed states to live up to their legal obligations to disarm under the 1970 Non-Proliferation Treaty."

"It is also particularly encouraging for Irish CND, as the main Irish voice in campaigning against nuclear weapons, to see that the Irish government has played a prominent role in bringing this treaty to reality," he continued.

The treaty opens for signature at the UN in September, and will enter into force when it has been ratified by 50 countries.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Draft Text of Treaty to Ban Nuclear Weapons published by United Nations

The draft text of a treaty to ban nuclearweapons has been released in advance of negotiations resuming at the United Nations later this month. Following initial discussions involving over 130 states in March, the talks chairperson, Costa Rican UN ambassador Elayne Whyte Gomez published the draft of the Convention on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which would introduce clear-cut international prohibitions on the development, possession or use of nuclear weapons.

The introduction to the draft treaty bases it firmly in the recognition of the catastrophic humanitarian consequences caused by nuclear weapons, and declares that any use of nuclear weapons would be contrary to international humanitarian law.

The text speaks of how nuclear weapons “pose grave implications for human survival, the environment, socioeconomic development, the global economy, food security and for the health of future generations” and specifically notes “the disproportionate impact of ionizing radiation on maternal health and on girls.”

The draft text has been widely welcomed by campaigners. Beatrice Fihn, Executive Director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, said: “The draft language is strong and categorically prohibits nuclear weapons. The President of the negotiations, Ambassador Elayne Whyte Gomez, has captured the key elements agreed upon in March. And while we expect debate on the text as this process moves forward, we are confident that this text provides a good basis for adopting a treaty by July 7.”

“We are particularly happy the text is rooted in humanitarian principles and that it builds on previous prohibitions of unacceptable weapons, such as biological and chemical weapons, landmines and cluster munitions,” Fihn added.

As one of the key sponsors of the UN General Assembly resolution to establish the negotiations, Ireland has been a strong supporter of the process. The Irish delegation played a prominent role in the March discussions, and is expected to play a leading role again during the next round of talks, which aims to see a revised draft agreed by early July.