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JEREMIAH N MAMABOLO: The “shift in discourse” from national security to a humanitarian focus was welcome, he added. The costs associated with the maintenance of nuclear arsenals were roughly double the development assistance provided to Africa. That was unacceptable in a world where the basic human needs of billions were not being met. Indeed, continued development of new categories of nuclear weapons was a clear indication that some countries aspired to the indefinite retention of those weapons, contrary to their legal obligations. Nuclear weapons had no place in today’s security environment, and humanitarian imperatives underpinned the need for their complete elimination.
Joint statement on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons
New York: Our countries are deeply concerned about the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons. Past experience from the use and testing of nuclear weapons has amply demonstrated the unacceptable humanitarian consequences caused by the immense, uncontrollable destructive capability and indiscriminate nature of these weapons. The fact-based discussion that took place at the Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons convened by Norway last March allowed us to deepen our collective understanding of those consequences. A key message from experts and international organizations was that no State or international body could address the immediate humanitarian emergency caused by a nuclear weapon detonation or provide adequate assistance to victims.
The broad participation at the Conference, with attendance by 128 States, the ICRC, a number of U.N. humanitarian organizations and civil society, reflected the recognition that the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons are a fundamental and global concern. We warmly welcome Mexico’s announcement of a follow-up Conference, scheduled for Feb. 13-14, 2014.
We firmly believe that it is in the interests of all States to participate in that Conference, which aims to further broaden and deepen understanding of this matter, particularly with regard to the longer-term consequences of a nuclear-weapon detonation. We welcome civil society’s ongoing engagement.
This work is essential, because the catastrophic consequences of nuclear weapons affect not only governments, but each and every citizen of our interconnected world. They have deep implications for human survival; for our environment; for socio-economic development; for our economies; and for the health of future generations. For these reasons, we firmly believe that awareness of the catastrophic consequences of nuclear weapons must underpin all approaches and efforts toward nuclear disarmament.
This is not, of course, a new idea. The appalling humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons became evident from the moment of their first use, and from that moment have motivated humanity’s aspirations for a world free from this threat, which have also inspired this statement.
The humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons have been reflected in numerous U.N. resolutions, including the first resolution passed by this Assembly in 1946, and in multilateral instruments, including the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. The world’s most eminent nuclear physicists observed as early as 1955 that nuclear weapons threaten the continued existence of mankind and that a war with these weapons could quite possibly put an end to the human race.
The First Special Session of the General Assembly devoted to Disarmament (SSOD-1) stressed in 1978 that “nuclear weapons pose the greatest danger to mankind and to the survival of civilization.” These expressions of profound concern remain as compelling as ever. In spite of this, the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons have not been at the core of nuclear disarmament and nuclear nonproliferation deliberations for many years.
We are, therefore, encouraged that the humanitarian focus is now well established on the global agenda. The 2010 Review Conference of the NPT expressed “deep concern at the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons.” That deep concern informed the Nov. 26, 2011, resolution of the Council of Delegates of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, and the decision last year of this General Assembly to establish an open-ended working group to develop proposals to take forward multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations. It underlies the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States’ call to the international community, in August 2013, to emphasize the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons during any discussion of nuclear issues.
Last month, at the High-Level Meeting on Nuclear Disarmament, numerous leaders from around the world again evoked that deep concern as they called for progress to be made on nuclear disarmament. Today, this statement demonstrates the growing political support for the humanitarian focus.
It is in the interest of the very survival of humanity that nuclear weapons are never used again, under any circumstances. The catastrophic effects of a nuclear weapon detonation, whether by accident, miscalculation or design, cannot be adequately addressed. All efforts must be exerted to eliminate the threat of these weapons of mass destruction.
The only way to guarantee that nuclear weapons will never be used again is through their total elimination. All States share the responsibility to prevent the use of nuclear weapons, to prevent their vertical and horizontal proliferation and to achieve nuclear disarmament, including through fulfilling the objectives of the NPT and achieving its universality.
We welcome the renewed resolve of the international community, together with the ICRC and international humanitarian organizations, to address the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons. By raising awareness about this issue, civil society has a crucial role to play side-by-side with governments as we fulfil our responsibilities. We owe it to future generations to work together to do just that, and in doing so, to rid our world of the threat posed by nuclear weapons.
- Joint statement on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons: delivered by New Zealand Ambassador Dell Higgie on behalf of the following Member States:
Afghanistan, Algeria, Angola, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Austria, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belarus, Belize, Benin, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Botswana, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chile, Colombia, Congo, Costa Rica, Côte d’Ivoire, Cuba, Cyprus, DR Congo, Denmark, Djibouti, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Fiji, Gabon, Georgia, Ghana, Grenada, Guatemala, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Haiti, Honduras, Iceland, Indonesia, Iraq, Ireland, Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kiribati, Lao PDR, Lebanon, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Liechtenstein, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Mali, Malta, Marshall Islands, Macedonia, Mexico, Mongolia, Montenegro, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Nauru, Nepal, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, Norway, Palau, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Qatar, Rwanda, Samoa, San Marino, Senegal, Serbia, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Solomon Islands, South Africa, South Sudan, Suriname, Swaziland, Switzerland, Tanzania, Thailand, Timor-Leste, Togo, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Tuvalu, Uganda, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, Uruguay, Vanuatu, Viet Nam, Yemen, Zambia, New Zealand, and the Observer State the Holy See.
Note: The joint statement was presented on 21 October 2013 to the UN General Assembly First Committee during a discussion on disarmament and national security.
- Related: Discourse shifts in First Committee from cold war ‘balance of terror’ logic against nuclear weapon use to catastrophic humanitarian impacts (summary, extracts from debate)
No State or international body could address the immediate humanitarian emergency caused by a nuclear weapon detonation or provide adequate assistance to victims, the representative of New Zealand told the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) today, in a joint statement on behalf of 118 States and the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations. Past experience from the use and testing of nuclear weapons, she declared, had amply demonstrated the unacceptable humanitarian consequences caused by their indiscriminate nature and immense, uncontrollable destructive capability.
Those appalling consequences had been evident from the moment of those weapons’ first use, and from that moment had motivated humanity’s aspirations for a world free of nuclear threat, she said. As early as 1955, the world’s most eminent nuclear physicists had said that nuclear weapons threatened the continued existence of mankind, and a war of that kind could put an end to the human race.
Yet, she said, while those expressions of profound concern remained as compelling as ever, the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons had not been at the core of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation deliberations for many years. It was encouraging, therefore, that the humanitarian focus was now well established on the global agenda.
The delegate from the Solomon Islands also expressed concern that there were “gaps” in the mechanisms to address the catastrophic humanitarian, genetic, social and environmental consequences of nuclear weapons. He pointed out that even peaceful nuclear use carried impact in the event of deliberate or inadvertent disaster, which the countries in his region did not have the capability to respond to. Nuclear weapons were a “security threat enhancer”, and global military postures made non-nuclear-weapon States nervous, he declared.
Switzerland’s representative said that nuclear weapons should be stigmatized and put on equal footing with other mass destruction weapons which were already subjected to comprehensive bans. Likewise, the Philippines’ representative said his delegation had lent a hand to efforts aimed at criminalizing nuclear weapons possession and had strongly pushed for their inclusion on the list of prohibited weapons with the International Criminal Court.
India’s representative said the international community could not accept the logic that a few nations had the right to pursue their security while threatening the survival of mankind. It was not only those who lived by the “nuclear sword” who, by design or default, would one day perish from it, but all of humanity.
Although nuclear weapons were now an integral part of India’s security policy as a feature of its credible minimum deterrence — nor was there any question of India joining the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty as a non-nuclear-weapon State — India’s support for a global non-discriminatory nuclear disarmament was not diminished. With that, he called for meaningful dialogue among all nuclear-weapon States to build trust, in an effort to reduce the salience of nuclear weapons in international affairs and security doctrines.
The representative, during the thematic debate on Cluster 1 on nuclear weapons, introduced two draft resolutions, on Reducing Nuclear Danger (document A/C.1/68/L.20) and on a Convention on the Prohibition of the Use of Nuclear Weapons (document A/C.1/68/L.21).
Nigeria’s representative introduced a draft resolution entitled Africa Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty, also known as the Treaty of Pelindaba.
ABIODUN RICHARDS ADEJOLA (Nigeria), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement and the de-alerting group, as well as the statement by New Zealand, stressed the relevance and importance of calling on nuclear-weapon States to decrease the operational readiness of their nuclear weapons. On behalf of the African Group, he introduced the draft resolution entitled “Africa Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty,” also known as the Treaty of Pelindaba (document A/C.1/68/L.46). The significance of such zones lay, not just in the fact that they banned the production and possession of nuclear weapons within their member States, but that they also prohibited the stationing of those weapons in their territories, which was highly significant.
He said that while nuclear-weapon States had clung to their stockpiles, a new phase in the nuclear arms race was evolving with more States acquiring the capacity to develop nuclear weapons. Reductions in the arsenals of the nuclear-armed States were merely cosmetic measures, as the remaining stockpiles continued to endanger humankind. It was for that reason that Nigeria welcomed the CTBT and urged those countries that had yet to sign or ratify it to do so without delay. Additionally, there was the threat of nuclear materials falling into the hands of non-State actors, including terrorist groups. He therefore welcomed the role of the IAEA in monitoring and inspecting nuclear facilities and urged concerned countries to ensure strict observance of the Agency’s safeguards.
JEREMIAH N MAMABOLO ( South Africa), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement and New Agenda Coalition, said NPT’s three pillars were central to the balance and effectiveness of its regime, and each required equal attention. The outcome document of the 2010 NPT Review Conference had reiterated the obligations of nuclear-weapon States under the Treaty’s article VI. The impact of any nuclear weapon detonation would “be with us for generations”, and South Africa was pleased to join the growing number of States concerned by the unacceptable humanitarian consequences of such an act. The “shift in discourse” from national security to a humanitarian focus was welcome, he added. The costs associated with the maintenance of nuclear arsenals were roughly double the development assistance provided to Africa. That was unacceptable in a world where the basic human needs of billions were not being met. Indeed, continued development of new categories of nuclear weapons was a clear indication that some countries aspired to the indefinite retention of those weapons, contrary to their legal obligations. Nuclear weapons had no place in today’s security environment, and humanitarian imperatives underpinned the need for their complete elimination. [Read more]
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