Moving the Process
There have been visible signs of progress on various fronts by Member States – acting on a multilateral level, bilaterally and through unilateral actions – scientific institutes, civil society and grass roots organizations. The latter two, motivated further after the Fukushima Daichi nuclear plant crisis in Japan, have been driving the momentum to pressure their own Governments and others on rethinking the validity of possessing nuclear weapons.
As the UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs Sergio Duarte stated in his opening address at the substantive session of the United Nations Disarmament Commission on 4 April 2011: "the ultimate responsibility for the fate of disarmament initiatives lies at the doorsteps of our Member States, whose policies, priorities, and sheer persistence will shape the contours of our world to come, for better or worse. And these will in turn be influenced by the actions and expectations of civil society—that mass of humanity recognized in the Preamble of the Charter as the “peoples of the United Nations.” Hopes still remain for achieving our common goals and “together, we have a solemn legacy to maintain, and a new future to create, for generations yet to come.”
Nuclear disarmament, which UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has described as a “global public good of the highest order” holds the key to peace and security. The International Day against Nuclear Tests speaks to this important concept. Indeed, the significance of “global public good’ is apparent while reflecting on the threat of nuclear tests and nuclear weapons, and in recent years, the threat of nuclear terrorism. Several international commissions, as well as countless General Assembly resolutions, have endorsed this view, while underscoring the horrific effects of any such use—for humanity, for the world’s economies, and for our natural environment.
In recent months, there have been dynamic discussions in various fora related to pertinent issues, such as enhanced international monitoring and verification measures to detect nuclear weapons testing, de-alerting nuclear weapons, new nuclear security and safety measures, the granting of negative security assurances to parties to nuclear-weapon-free zones (NWFZ), the creation of new NWFZ to make this a safer world and the push towards a Convention against Nuclear Weapons or a framework of instruments outlawing nuclear weapons to reach their final abolition.
One of the most critical contributions to current thinking was provided by the Final Document of the 2010 NPT Review Conference, which expresses deep concern at the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons and reaffirms the need for all States at all times to comply with applicable international law, including international humanitarian law.
The Conference also reaffirmed “the essential role of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty [CTBT] within the nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation regime and that by achieving the cessation of all nuclear weapon test explosions and all other nuclear explosions, by constraining the development and qualitative improvement of nuclear weapons and ending the development of advanced new types of nuclear weapons, the Treaty combats both horizontal and vertical proliferation.”
The Preparatory Commission of the Comprehensive Test-Ban-Treaty Organization (CTBTO) and its 182 member States vigorously continue to push for the Treaty’s entry into force. The CTBTO’s unique monitoring system, already encompassing over 80 per cent of them, provides member States with confidence that no nuclear explosion would escape detection.
However, nothing can play as crucial a role in avoiding a nuclear war or nuclear terrorist threat as nuclear weapons elimination. Bringing an irreversible end to nuclear explosions will prevent the further development of nuclear weapons. Together the International Day against Nuclear Tests, various activities throughout the year and other commendable efforts by nations and civil society build the momentum towards a safe and secure world.
As a follow up to the 2010 Nuclear Security Summit convened by US President Barak Obama in Washington DC, the 2012 Nuclear Security Summit will be held in Seoul, Korea, from 26 to 27 March.