Effective Measures to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons

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Section nine of ten of SGI President Daisaku Ikeda’s 2016 peace proposal, “Universal Respect for Human Dignity: The Great Path to Peace.”

The nuclear-weapon states and their allies adhere to the idea that they have no choice but to maintain a nuclear deterrent as long as these weapons exist. They might believe that possessing a nuclear deterrent puts them in control. Yet the truth is that the dangers of an accidental detonation or launch multiply in proportion to the number of nuclear weapons and states possessing them. Seen from this perspective, the nuclear weapons possessed by a state actually hold the fate of not only that country but of all humankind in their grasp.

Twenty years have passed since the International Court of Justice (ICJ) issued an Advisory Opinion on the Legality of the Threat or Use of Nuclear Weapons. Citing Article VI of the NPT, it states:

“There exists an obligation to pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament in all its aspects under strict and effective international control.” [42]

However, good faith negotiations involving all the nuclear-weapon states have not even begun, leaving no prospect of nuclear disarmament being achieved for the foreseeable future. This is an intolerable state of affairs.

In an attempt to break this deadlock, the Humanitarian Pledge was submitted to the 2015 NPT Review Conference. Well more than half of the UN member states—121 countries—have so far added their voices to the call to cooperate with all relevant stakeholders, international organizations and civil society, in “efforts to stigmatise, prohibit and eliminate nuclear weapons.” It also urges all states, as an immediate priority, to “identify and pursue effective measures to fill the legal gap for the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons.” [43]

Last autumn, following the submission of several resolutions calling for such effective measures, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution setting up an Open-ended Working Group (OEWG) to engage in substantive deliberations in pursuit of this. The resolution states that the OEWG will convene in Geneva this year “with the participation and contribution of international organizations and civil society representatives” and that participants should “make their best endeavours to reach general agreement.” [44]

I strongly hope that the OEWG will succeed in breaking the deadlock that has plagued the NPT Review Conference and fulfill the obligation set out in the Advisory Opinion of the ICJ to “pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament.”

In view of the humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons, I call on the OEWG to consider the following three items as they attend to the concerns and integrate the voices of civil society in their deliberations:

The first two should be implemented in all haste given the current situation where the unusable nature of nuclear weapons has become evident in light of their humanitarian consequences and military ineffectiveness.

Here, we should remind ourselves about the way the use of biological and chemical weapons—which were developed in a climate of intense competition over the course of two world wars—is now considered impermissible due to their humanitarian consequences.

As former UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs Angela Kane strikingly put it:

“How many states today boast that they are ‘biological weapon states’ or ‘chemical weapons states’? Who is arguing now that bubonic plague or polio are legitimate to use as weapons under any circumstance, whether in an attack or in retaliation? Who speaks of a bio-weapon umbrella?” [45]

Most notably, the Final Document of the 2010 NPT Review Conference called upon the nuclear-weapon states to promptly “diminish the role and significance of nuclear weapons in all military and security concepts, doctrines and policies.” [46]

In that sense, it is noteworthy that a group of states including Brazil submitted to the General Assembly in October 2015 a resolution encouraging “all States that are part of regional alliances that include nuclear-weapon States to further promote a diminishing role for nuclear weapons.” [47]

Another resolution submitted during the same session, whose lead sponsors included Japan, “Calls upon States concerned to continue to review their military and security concepts, doctrines and policies, with a view to reducing further the role and significance of nuclear weapons therein.” [48] I believe that Japan should take the lead in transforming its security regime, which is currently reliant on the extended deterrence of the US nuclear umbrella.

In the lead-up to the G7 Summit scheduled for May this year, the G7 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting will be held in April in Hiroshima. I hope that the inhumane nature of nuclear weapons will be part of the agenda, along with nonproliferation issues such as the North Korean nuclear program and diminishing the role of nuclear weapons as a step toward the denuclearization of Northeast Asia.

The third item, the modernization of nuclear weapons, is something I warned against in last year’s peace proposal. By continuing to spend more than US$100 billion per year to maintain these weapons, we risk permanently entrenching the grotesque inequalities of our world.

A resolution proposed to the UN General Assembly by South Africa and other states in October 2015 notes that, “in a world where basic human needs have not yet been met, the vast resources allocated to the modernization of nuclear weapons arsenals could instead be redirected to meeting the Sustainable Development Goals.” [49]

If modernization of nuclear weapons continues at its current pace, it will ensure that for at least the next several generations humanity will be forced to live under the threat of nuclear weapons. Even assuming that nuclear weapons are not used, the diversion of resources will be a severe impediment to the achievement of the SDGs and to the meaningful amelioration of the inequality that afflicts global society.

In the words of the South African representative, “Nuclear disarmament is not only an international legal obligation, but also a moral and ethical imperative.” [50] I think that these words give potent expression to the feelings of the survivors of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki who have undergone indescribable suffering and of other hibakusha severely affected by nuclear weapons development and testing in other parts of the world. They also resonate with the governments that have endorsed the Humanitarian Pledge as well as all of the peace-loving people of the world.

Notes

42 ICJ, Legality of the Threat or Use of Nuclear Weapons, 267.
43 ICAN, “Humanitarian Pledge.”
44 UN General Assembly, “Taking forward Multilateral Nuclear Disarmament Negotiations,” 3.
45 Kane, “Disarmament: The Balance Sheet,” 2.
46 UN General Assembly, “2010 Review Conference,” 21.
47 UN General Assembly, “Towards A Nuclear-weapon-free World,” 5.
48 UN General Assembly, “United Action Towards the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons,” 3.
49 UN General Assembly, “Ethical Imperatives for A Nuclear-Weapon-Free World,” 3.
50 UN General Assembly, “Statement by South Africa,” 2.

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