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U.S. NGOs Urge Prompt Action to Make Nuclear Disarmament a Global Enterprise
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Statement to 3rd Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons in Vienna

For Immediate Release: Dec. 9, 2014

Media Contacts: Kingston Reif, Arms Control Association (202-463-8270 x107); Hans Kristensen, Federation of American Scientists (413-695-1089); Sean Meyer, Union of Concerned Scientists (202-331-5429); Catherine Thomasson, Physicians for Social Responsibility (503-819-1170);

(Vienna/Washington) Today at an extraordinary international conference in Vienna on The Humanitarian Impacts of Nuclear Weapons, some 800 diplomats and civil society representatives from more than 150 states discussed the implications of the catastrophic effects of nuclear weapons testing, production, and use.

In a statement to the conference, the leaders of five major U.S.-based organizations—the Arms Control Association, Institute for Energy and Environmental Research, Nuclear Information Project of the Federation of American Scientists, Physicians for Social Responsibility, and the Union of Concerned Scientistsincluding two presenters at the conference, urged prompt action to make disarmament a global enterprise.

Noting that follow-through on the consensus action plan developed at the 2010 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference has been “very disappointing,” the leaders said “creative, practical ideas are needed to overcome the obstacles and excuses.”

They urged government leaders and civil society to come together around four major objectives, among others:

1. Examine dangerous doctrines. In 2010, all of the NPT nuclear-weapon states committed to “diminish the role and significance of nuclear weapons” and “[d]iscuss policies that could prevent the use of nuclear weapons.”

“Unfortunately,” the NGO statement said, “none of them has undertaken demonstrable, concrete steps to do so.”

Reif and the others said: “At the 2015 NPT Review Conference and elsewhere, the leaders of the world’s nuclear-armed states should be called upon to explain the effects of their nuclear war plans, if these plans were to be carried out, and how they believe the use of hundreds of such weapons would be consistent with humanitarian law and the laws of war as some nuclear-armed states claim.”

“Given the catastrophic consequences of the large-scale use of nuclear weapons against many dozens, if not hundreds of targets, as envisioned in the U.S., Russian, French, Chinese, British, Indian and Pakistani nuclear war plans, it is hard to see how the use of significant numbers of nuclear weapons could be consistent with international humanitarian law or any common sense interpretation of the Law of Armed Conflict,” they wrote.

2. Accelerate U.S.-Russian nuclear cuts and freeze other nuclear-armed nation stockpiles.Further nuclear reductions need not wait for a new U.S.-Russian arms control treaty. As long as both sides continue to reduce force levels below the treaty limits, U.S. and Russian leaders could undertake parallel, verifiable reductions well below New START ceilings,” the five organizations argued. 

“Other countries must get off the disarmament sidelines, particularly China, France, India and Pakistan, which continue to improve their nuclear capabilities. [Their] arsenals,” the statement noted, “are just as dangerous and destabilizing.”

“A unified push for further U.S.-Russian arms cuts combined with a global nuclear weapons freeze by the other nuclear-armed states could create the conditions for multilateral action on disarmament,” they said.

3. Convene Nuclear Disarmament Summits: “In order to provide a forum to follow up on the important discussions held in Oslo, Nayarit, and Vienna,” the NGO leaders said “[n]ow is the time for a group of concerned states to invite the leaders of a representative group of 20 to 30 nuclear and nonnuclear weapon states to a one- or two-day summit on the pursuit of a joint enterprise to achieve a world free of nuclear weapons.”

“The high-level meeting—ideally held near the August 6 and 9, 2015 anniversaries of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki—could be an historic, new, and productive starting point for discussions (not simply speeches) on proposals for advancing nuclear disarmament,” they said.

4. Follow through on the CTBT. “The vast majority of the world’s nations recognize that nuclear explosive testing is no longer acceptable, but due to the inaction of a few, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) has not formally entered into force. In the interest of global security and out of respect for the victims and survivors of nuclear testing, it is past time to act,” they said.

In their call for action, the leaders of the five organizations cited President Barack Obama’s statement from June 2013 in Berlin: ‘[S]o long as nuclear weapons exist, we are not truly safe. Complacency is not in the character of great nations.’”

“In the coming months and years, creative, bold approaches will be needed to overcome old and new obstacles to the long-running effort to eliminate the potential for nuclear catastrophe,” they said.

The organizations' letter to the White House is available online.

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Posted: December 9, 2014