TALKS TO BAN NUKES
They say the threat of nuclear disaster is growing thanks to mounting tensions fanned by North Korea's nuclear weapons programme and an unpredictable administration in Washington.
Supporters point to successful grassroots movements that led to the prohibition of landmines in 1997 and cluster munitions in 2008.
“I expect that this will take a long time, let’s not be naive,” Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom said at the UN last week.
No progress has been made on nuclear disarmament in recent years despite commitments made by the major nuclear powers to work toward disarmament under the 1968 Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), said Beatrice Fihn, director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, an international coalition of NGOs.
Then-US president Barack Obama announced a drive in 2009 to reduce the role of nuclear weapons and eventually eliminate them.
But, his administration strongly encouraged North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies to vote against this year’s UN negotiations, saying a ban would obstruct cooperation to respond to nuclear threats from adversaries.
President Donald Trump threatened a nuclear arms race in a tweet shortly before he took office in January, saying “we will outmatch them at every pass and outlast them all”.
Even with the major nuclear powers boycotting the debate, a treaty would oblige them to revisit their policies sooner or later — even if, like Russia and the US, they are modernising their nuclear weapons arsenal.
“Even if major (nuclear weapon) producers don’t sign it, they have a big impact,” Fihn said of global treaties.
“Look at Russia denying using cluster bombs in Syria. Why? They did not sign (the cluster munition ban), but they know it’s bad.” AFP