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Hiroshima for Global Peace

[Column 1] Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and Future of Nuclear Disarmament

[Column 1] Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and Future of Nuclear Disarmament

Mahmoud Karem

At the outset I wish to praise the excellent work for the cause of a world free of nuclear weapons, disarmament, and non-proliferation done by the Hiroshima Prefecture in its annually published “Hiroshima Report”, and the 2011 Plan for “Global peace”. No one is more fit to achieve these pioneering objectives as the brave people of Hiroshima, Japan’s legends of the hibakusha, and the painful living memories of the first use of nuclear weapons against Humanity.

I also wish to praise the excellent work done in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in educating the youth, students with the scourge of a nuclear war and how to avert it.

Now it is necessary to historically address the question; why now a Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) and the Future of Nuclear Disarmament?

When the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) was signed in 1968, the euphoria and hope at the time was very high despite the inherent imbalances in the treaty between nuclear-weapon states and non-nuclear-weapon states. The world believed that article VI will be realized and its objectives reached in a relatively short period of time. However, the long history of repeated international crisis with the possibility of escalating into a global war closely linked to an aggressive doctrine of first use of nuclear weapons, all raised international frustration over the fact that little is being done to honor the obligations enshrined in Article VI by the nuclear-weapon states. Yes, important arms control agreements and some

reductions were reached but juxtaposed against a long period of time, fifty years to be exact, these achievements seemed little and albeit insufficient.

Part of this international frustration also went back to several issues:

1) Calls for reversing military expenditures on modernizing nuclear weapons remained unheeded, exceeding $100 billion per year depriving social and economic developmental needs of humanity.

2) Despite global developmental aspirations the impact of the nuclear arms race was never reversed contradicting the objectives of the 2015-2030 UN Sustainable Development Goals.

3) The nuclear weapons states could not realize the urgent need for reversing military expenditures and allocating them to solving persistent global problems such as water security, protecting the environment, climate change, poverty, spread of epidemics, food and energy security. Instead, the world continued to live under the fear that a regional conflict and a possible confrontation between nuclear-weapon states may exacerbate quickly into a nuclear exchange. In the same time nuclear weapon states continued to operate from hair trigger alerts, threatening first use options, and forcing these doctrines on countries under extended nuclear deterrence, thereby involving those non-nuclear- weapon states in conflicts thousands of miles away from them.

4) This all underscored the fact that deterrence policy anchored on rationality may not always succeed as we have seen in the case of the regional conflict in the Korean peninsula. The fear now is that leaders who can launch nuclear missiles may not be rational enough to take rational decisions, let alone allow for a war by accident.

5) This led many states in three international conferences to highlight the humanitarian impact of use of nuclear weapons, and no people in the world can present a moving example in this regard, other than the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

In conclusion, the TPNW must be evaluated in a proper context. It sends a distress signal to world conscious that continuing with the status quo is not permissible given global challenges. Therefore, the future path of nuclear disarmament should be based on several issues:

1) A strong political will from nuclear reliant states to join the negotiations as a measure to convince NWS to cooperate.

2) The need to address at present, several compromise solutions such as, a “framework agreement” to secure a broad agreement at the beginning leaving the details to further negotiations, consonant with the convention on climate change. Another idea is holding an NPT amendment conference and adding a nuclear disarmament protocol that would also cover fissile material, nuclear weapons free zones, WMD’s, de-alerting, stockpile reductions, and retirement of nuclear weapons placed in foreign countries. Further on, a no first use pledge signed and deposited in the UNSC and announced by all nuclear weapons states in an international nuclear disarmament summit that replicates efforts done previously in nuclear security summits.

3) My own preference is to consider all that under the umbrella of a new UNGA special session devoted to disarmament (SSOD) before 2020.

Finally, nuclear-weapons states should demonstrate political will and show the world that they are serious and determined to reduce their nuclear stockpiles within an agreed to timeframe towards achieving General and Complete nuclear disarmament.

Dr. Mahmoud Karem

Former Ambassador of Egypt to Japan