This week at the United Nations in New York, a majority of the world’s governments, together with international organizations and civil society, led by the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), http://www.icanw.org/, gathered to begin negotiations on a treaty to ban nuclear weapons. The treaty process is supported by the United Nations, over 120 governments, the International Committee of the Red Cross and Red Crescent, https://www.icrc.org/en/document/speech-icrc-president-nuclear-weapons-prohibition-treaty-negotiations, the Pope, http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/messages/pont-messages/2017/documents/papa-francesco_20170323_messaggio-onu.html, and other faith-based leaders, over 3,000 scientists, https://futureoflife.org/nuclear-open-letter/, and civil society. The UN defines civil society as the “third sector” of society, along with government and business, and comprises non-governmental organizations and institutions.
Recognizing the humanitarian impact of and suffering from the use of nuclear weapons is incalculable, the treaty process began, despite opposition from the nuclear weapons states. On Monday, the U.S., United Kingdom, France and a number of Eastern European allies held a protest outside of the United Nations. http://nuclearsecurityworkinggroup.org/united-states-and-allies-protest-u-n-talks-to-ban-nuclear-weapons/
In New Mexico, the incalculable humanitarian impact is evident for those exposed to radiation from the first atomic bomb test at the Trinity Site in the early morning hours of July 16, 1945. https://www.trinitydownwinders.com/ The U.S. has not recognized their suffering and has not provided the medical care and compensation received by the Nevada Test Site Downwinders through the federal Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA).
In support of the ban treaty, Downwinders from around the world spoke about the harm done, including those from Japan, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, Maralinga in Australia, and others. http://www.reachingcriticalwill.org/images/documents/Disarmament-fora/nuclear-weapon-ban/reports/NBD1.3.pdf p.4.
On Tuesday, the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability made a presentation about the proposed 11 percent increase to the U.S. nuclear weapons budget to “modernize” weapons and infrastructure. http://www.reachingcriticalwill.org/images/documents/Disarmament-fora/nuclear-weapon-ban/reports/NBD1.3.pdf p. 3.
Ray Acheson, a project director for the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, explained the work of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons. She said, “While it may seem daunting, fulfilling this task is fully within our means. In theory, it is an obvious thing to ban something so abhorrent. We have banned chemical and biological weapons, landmines and cluster munitions, and we even preemptively banned blinding laser weapons. We did this even without the support of users and producers of some of these weapons.”
Acheson continued, “We are motivated by the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons, the risk of their use, and the deplorable waste of resources currently being sunk into the on-going arms race. We understand the global injustice these weapons represent, and we are morally, ethically, and legally compelled to categorically prohibit these weapons of mass destruction once and for all.”