On 7 July something historic happened.
A Treaty banning the stockpiling and development of nuclear weapons was adopted by 122 governments at the UN in New York. That is 122 different countries that agree that nuclear weapons are unsafe and unnecessary in the world we live in.
This is a monumental treaty and adds nuclear weapons to the list of other banned armaments which are deemed unacceptable by the international community, as well as illegal under international law. Other such weapons with treaties are; biological weapons, chemical weapons, landmines and cluster munitions, the long term impact of nuclear weapons make them far worse than any of these, so the adoption of this treaty is a massive step forwards.
The text will be open for ratification from September 2017 onwards.
The major challenge is that the nuclear weapon states refused to be part of this momentous occasion, something that the history books will judge them for.
As I have argued previously, the banning of nuclear weapons is necessary for moving nuclear disarmament forwards. It is also a HUGE opportunity for the UK to show leadership in a world that is desperate for it.
Before one of the last UK elections, I asked an MP standing for election in my constituency what she thought about nuclear weapons, she said that in her heart of hearts she was anti-nuclear weapons but cited the Bay of Pigs standoff between Cuba and USA as proof that nuclear deterrence works. The MP felt that; because both countries had nuclear weapons, the Bay of Pigs incident and the subsequent Cuban Missile Crisis didn't lead to a mass loss of lives on both sides. This is an archaic argument.
Firstly, the Bay of Pigs incident was a complete disaster. U.S. President Kennedy had continued a policy of training Cuban exiles to be Guerrilla fighters so that they could go back and invade Cuba. The U.S., via the CIA planned and coordinated a 'secret attack' on an Island, about 100 miles from the U.S., in Cuban territory. The plan ended up being not so secret, many were killed and over 1000 prisoners taken. As you can see, it was not a national security triumph for any party involved.
National security arguments do not stand up to the pro-nuclear rhetoric, if we look at our top security challenges of today, such as cyber security and terrorism, none of them can be resolved by nuclear weapons! Cyber security requires us to be more vigilant and build computer systems that are much more resilient to attack. Combatting terrorism is not the same as a state to state battle, we have seen on the news that terrorists can be people who are British, American and even French citizens. We cannot target or frighten terrorists with nuclear weapons because it is an ideology that champions death, nuclear weapons do not cause terrorists to fear.
The problem with using past strategies for current day challenges is that the global paradigm has shifted and our challenges come from inside as well as outside the country. Investing in expensive, horrific and indiscriminate weapons will not change this.
As I have explained many times before, banning these weapons is the first step to making the world a safer place because it makes production illegal. Then we should negotiate ways of making an industry out of dismantling this industry. The government can also look at how to use the defence budget to invest in tools that will actually help us with our current day security challenges.
This is the only way to move forward and this new treaty banning nuclear weapons is the beginning of something great, which should be celebrated.