Before leaving New York City for the World Social Forum (WSF) in Dakar, Senegal, I attended to one of these discussion. Today's theme was the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty: Where do we stand? And after, what?
It seems that the nuclear issue is at an historic moment. Before, but especially, after, the Cold War ended, there has been a growing awareness that these nuclear weapons are neither necessary nor useful, and are instead a waste of economic and human resources that actually make them a major obstacle for sustainable progress and for the fight against hunger and poverty.
The end of the journey is not yet in sight. There are still 20,000 nuclear warheads around the world, the use of atomic weapons as a deterrent is still used, and modernization of nuclear programs for military purposes is always on the agenda of some countries.
Comforting is the fact that this is the only treaty that has so far gained the support of all but three countries in the world: Israel, India and Pakistan. Then there are others like North Korea and Iran who have trouble interpreting the Treaty and its implementation.
In his speech, Sergio Duarte, U.N. Representative for Disarmament Affairs, emphasized several times that the most effective deterrent to the use of nuclear weapons is their elimination and the elimination of nuclear weapons is now a practical necessity and a moral imperative. In the economic crisis we are going through, we can find resources for economic progress and poverty reduction only by reducing other costs, beginning with those for the production of weapons, especially nuclear weapons.
Since 1968, there’s been an ongoing effort to reach three aims: the non-proliferation of these weapons, mutual monitoring, and the peaceful use of nuclear energy. In the negotiations on atomic energy, good faith is necessary which is measured by the collective will to eliminate nuclear weapons and the realization that the use of these weapons is in explicit denial of universal human values.
The Convention which will take place this year faces one of the sensitive issues: to find a place where the weapons can be safely destroyed, and where nuclear waste can be stored for future productive use.
We are therefore at this point. And what’s next? The discussion brought up several questions.
First, the basic objection: Are we sure that the elimination of nuclear weapons will give us a peaceful, safer world? We can destroy nuclear warheads, but not the knowledge for production of new ones and this suspicion, together with the fear that others will do it, can make us more insecure and hamper the relations between countries.
This is true, said Duarte. But we have dreams and desires, to project a world of peace free from threats, in which nuclear weapons will be banned forever. Without this hope, we sink into the mire of the expenditure of energy for weapons of all kinds, not just nuclear weapons. Suffice it to say that, nowadays, only New Zealand, out of 192 U.N. member countries, has a Minister for Disarmament. All others keep such a Minister in the area of Defense that is aligned with war.
The decision to abolish nuclear weapons would give a big boost to the peaceful use of nuclear power, not only as an alternative energy, but for applications in other fields. A good example is the recent agreement between Brazil and Argentina for the use of nuclear energy in medicine.
There has to be a collective commitment in order to reach the planned Convention of 2015, with the desire not only to reduce but to eliminate completely the nuclear threat.
New York, 02.02.1011