The UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons is now open for signature (#nuclearban).
I wrote about this agreement in my post entitled 'The End of A Nuclear Era', and what a historic moment it was.
Since then, we have heard of missile tests from North Korea, one that tested a bomb that could reach the U.S., this has led to tighter sanctions by the UN Security Council (rightly so), and worrying rhetoric from all sides (ironic use of the phrase 'all sides' here).
There is no better time for a nuclear ban treaty than today, right now in fact. Some would argue that the world becoming more dangerous gives us a bigger need for weapons of mass destruction, that these weapons somehow protect us and help us feel more secure. The 122 countries that signed the agreement creating the Treaty Prohibiting Nuclear Weapons disagree with this. There are more countries in the world that don't have nuclear weapons than ones that do, and the ones that have nuclear weapons seem more insecure than the ones that don't.
The U.S, Russia, UK, France and China are the 5 nuclear weapon states. These are states with nuclear weapons who agreed to further the goal of reaching complete nuclear disarmament. Their lack of leadership in this area has led to other countries developing and obtaining nuclear weapons, which has in turn contributed to creating a more dangerous world.
The U.K in particular could show a lot more leadership in this area. Before one of the last major elections I interviewed my local Labour and Conservative MP's as well as the former Head of the Green Party Natalie Bennet. Surprisingly, all three said they were against the use of nuclear weapons, indeed I remember the Conservative candidate saying 'we would never use them', a similar phrase was used by David Cameron (running for re-election at the time).
If the UK keeps saying we will never use these weapons, then why do we spend over £100,000,000,000 on them? For the cost of these we could do so much more, to help people in the UK and others, we could even do so much more in the area of defence with this money, instead of using it on a weapon that we say we will never use! I discussed this further in my post entitled; Is It Not Time to Abandon the Sinking Ship We Call Trident? Trident has not made us a stronger, more powerful nation, any positive growth has been despite trident not directly because of it.
Germany is arguably the strongest economic power in Europe, since the end of World War II, it has grown from strength to strength in industry, business and innovation using the insights and experience of people who joined Germany from other countries. Despite being a strong player in the regional and global sphere of politics, Germany has not felt the need to acquire nuclear weapons. It seems to have learnt from its neighbours that present security challenges require a new response and not old ways of working.
There have been other countries that dabbled with nuclear weapons and then rightly decided that nuclear weapons did not make their countries secure, countries such as South Africa. In 1989 South Africa dismantled its 6 nuclear bombs and ended its nuclear weapons programme and it has since then become one of the emerging national economies (BRICS). They realised what most countries have and should realise; national security issues take precedence and national security issues, especially the ones we face today such as terrorism and cyber-attacks, will not be resolved by nuclear weapons.
There is a recent article in the New Yorker where a reporter talks about visiting North Korea, he mentions that North Korea saw giving up their nuclear weapon unilaterally as losing power vis a vis the United States. Multilateral nuclear disarmament, on a set date, facilitated by the UN and non-nuclear weapon states is key to the success of a nuclear ban. All involved need to remember that nuclear weapon use is a zero sum game, no-one emerges better off in the expensive acquiring, testing or use of nuclear weapons. Nobody gains actual strength or power from acquiring nuclear weapons, nuclear posturing can actually detract from a country's strengths economically and in terms of investment in the military.
If you are not interested in economic power or security threats, then consider the impact of a nuclear weapon, even accidentally, detonating. There are many videos and films showing what would happen to the UK in the event of a nuclear explosion; hospitals would be overwhelmed, children would be scarred, internal bleeding, exposure to radiation, are just a few possible results. Furthermore the environmental effects of this would be disastrous with drinking water contaminated, eco-systems destroyed, lack of drinking water and food, the country would be unable to look after the severely wounded. This is not a scare tactic, this is a genuine, sober and very understated summary of some of the consequences of nuclear weapon use.
On this day where the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons has opened for signature. Australia has already seen protests from citizens asking the government to sign the Nuclear Ban Treaty, and New Zealand has long championed a nuclear ban. I appeal to you to please write to your UN Ambassador, you can do so on this page: http://nuclearban.org/, contact your local MP on this issue too. Let's rally political leaders around this treaty, this is a chance for us to leave a legacy for the future. This issue touches every area of our lives and we must take the opportunity to do something about it. The history books will judge us by our action or inaction.