Watch on global weaponry

The Tribune (NZ) - - FRONT PAGE - RICHARD MAYS

Ar­ti­cle 36. It sounds like the ti­tle of a sci-fi movie along the lines of, say Dis­trict 9, or a page-turn­ing multi-lay­ered spy thriller. It has a far deeper real world sig­nif­i­cance than that.

Ar­ti­cle 36 is a not-for-profit or­gan­i­sa­tion work­ing to pre­vent the un­in­tended, un­nec­es­sary or un­ac­cept­able harm to civil­ians caused by mod­ern weaponry, tak­ing its name from Ar­ti­cle 36 of the Geneva Con­ven­tion.

It’s an or­gan­i­sa­tion di­rected by ex-pat Palmy-naut, Thomas Nash. He’s back in the coun­try for a visit ‘home’.

‘‘The de­vel­op­ment and de­ploy­ment of weapons is shrouded in se­crecy with very lit­tle public scru­tiny,’’ Thomas says.

Ar­ti­cle 36 is to help pro­vide a greater level of in­ter­na­tional over­view by fo­cus­ing public at­ten­tion on these ar­eas, lead­ing to greater pos­si­bil­i­ties of cur­tail­ment and re­straint.

‘‘We work in three ar­eas. The first is to ad­dress the bomb­ing or bom­bard­ment of civil­ian dwellings – as in Gaza, Syria, Ye­men and the Ukraine. We’re say­ing that there shouldn’t be a sense of in­evitabil­ity that in con­flict, towns get re­duced to rub­ble.

‘‘[Deal­ing with] ex­plo­sive weapons in pop­u­lated ar­eas... is a tough area, but we have a re­spon­si­bil­ity to ad­dress it.’’

The sec­ond is the decades old prob­lem of nu­clear weapons, where New Zealand has a good rep­u­ta­tion. Thomas says the ap­proach is to get coun­tries to view nukes as weapons that have hor­ren­dous im­pacts on peo­ple and the en­vi­ron­ment, rather than as sym­bols of power, pres­tige and iden­tity.

New Zealand has not yet signed an anti-nu­clear pledge drawn up by Aus­tria, although 114 other coun­tries have signed up.

The third is deal­ing with the fu­ture threat of au­ton­o­mous weapons sys­tems.

‘‘There’s a real con­cern about the next gen­er­a­tion of drones that will be able to de­tect, se­lect and fire with­out any hu­man be­ing in­volved. The tech­nol­ogy is not a mil­lion miles away.

‘‘Au­to­matic tar­get recog­ni­tion sys­tems are be­ing tested now . . . These sys­tems chal­lenge the whole no­tion of hu­man­ity,’’ Thomas says.

PHOTO: GRANT MATTHEW/FAIR­FAX NZ

Thomas Nash out­side Frey­berg High School where his taste for in­ter­na­tional re­la­tions and weapons con­trol was con­firmed.

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