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Sunday, March 26, 2023
UNITED NATIONS, Oct 23 2012 (IPS) - “It is of great concern that, even after the end of the Cold War, the threat of nuclear annihilation remains part of the 21st century international security environment,” according to a joint statement on the Humanitarian Dimension of Nuclear Disarmament released here on behalf of 34 states.
“Nuclear weapons have the destructive capacity to pose a threat to the survival of humanity,” said Benno Laggner, head of the Division for Security Policy and Switzerland’s ambassador for Nuclear Disarmament and Non-Proliferation of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs.
At a side event, entitled “Humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons, an imperative to act,” and organised by the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), speakers Tuesday expressed their deep concern over the catastrophic humanitarian consequences arising from use of nuclear weapons and stressed the pressing need for all states possessing such facilities to take stronger action to ban and outlaw their arsenals at the earliest opportunity.
“The implications (of nuclear weapons) are far wider than fatalities and casualties,” Laggner said in his opening remarks.
Any, even limited, use of nuclear weapons, whether intentional or accidental, could have extreme and long-lasting consequences for all citizens and future generations — ranging from devastating environmental and infrastructural impacts to disruption of the climate, agricultural productivity and local economy, as well as grave health effects, among others.
As a direct result of nuclear weapons use, Chinese rice production declined by 20 percent in a decade, according to Ira Helfand of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War.
Moreover, the experts stressed that several states are increasing their financial resources for maintaining and modernising their nuclear arsenals.
“Countries like United States, Russia, Great Britain, France and China are claiming to comply to disarmament commitments, while spending billions more of their various currencies on modernising, replacing, upgrading and adding value to their existing arsenals,” Rebecca Johnson, vice chair of ICAN, said.
“So, how realistically can we trust and have confidence in assisting approaches that could reduce the risks of the nuclear weapons use if all the nuclear arms states are still pouring more money into sustaining the weapons that they want to keep,” she added.
Johnson mentioned that, in November 2011, the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies adopted a resolution underlining not only the catastrophic humanitarian consequences resulting from any use of nuclear weapons but also emphasising that “it is difficult to envisage how any use of nuclear weapons could be compatible with the rules of international humanitarian law.”
Johnson hopes that an increasing humanitarian focus on the nuclear weapons issue could contribute to involve more countries into multilateral negotiation process, with an ultimate goal of preventing their use and elimination.
In the outcome document of the 2010 Review Conference for the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), the U.S., Russia, France, Great Britain and China acknowledged the devastating humanitarian consequences resulting from use of nuclear weapons. However, they did not participate in the joint statement released Monday.
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