Monday, January 1, 2018

The choice for the world in 2018: Fire and fury, or peace?

"They will be met with fire and fury, and frankly power the likes of which this world has never seen before."

"Processions of ghostly figures shuffled by. Grotesquely wounded people, they were bleeding, burnt, blackened and swollen. Parts of their bodies were missing. Flesh and skin hung from their bones. Some with their eyeballs hanging in their hands. Some with their bellies burst open, their intestines hanging out. The foul stench of burnt human flesh filled the air."

Which is more chilling? Setsuko Thurlow's eyewitness description of the horrific destructive power of the nuclear bomb which obliterated her hometown of Hiroshima in the summer of 1945, or President Donald Trump's thinly-veiled threat to unleash nuclear weapons amid the volatile mix of international relations in the summer of 2017? 

The past year saw nuclear weapons thrust back to the top of news headlines with more prominence than any time since the end of the Cold War. North Korea's missile and nuclear tests, trading provocations with Trump's belligerent rhetoric, returned the spectre of nuclear destruction to public consciousness around the world. As 2017 drew to a close, former chair of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen warned that the threat of nuclear war is, in his opinion, closer than ever before. 

Concern that nuclear weapons might actually be used (again) is an inevitable consequence of their continued existence. Only by outlawing and eliminating nuclear weapons can the world as we know it be safe from the threat of nuclear destruction. At a time when the structure of life on earth faces unprecedented threats on a huge scale, such as global warming and plastic pollution, getting rid of these ghastly weapons of mass destruction should be a relatively simple step towards a safer world. 

During the past year, despite the shadow of a possible war, we have also seen positive signs that the world has woken up to the need to deal conclusively with nuclear arms. Over 120 countries - a substantial majority of UN member states - took part in two lengthy sessions of negotiations which resulted in the Treaty of on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) becoming a reality in July 2017. From an Irish point of view, it was very positive to see Ireland as one of the proposers of the initial UN resolution which set up the talks, and as a strong advocate for a robust treaty during the negotiations. 

While the new treaty will not eliminate nuclear weapons overnight, it has the power to create a new international norm whereby, for the first time, development, possession, use, and the threat of use of nuclear weapons are clearly illegal. Providing assistance with any of these activities will also be illegal. Ireland was among the first states to sign the treaty when it opened for signature at the UN in September, and Irish CND will continue to work with politicians of all persuasions for speedy ratification of the treaty by the Oireachtas in 2018. 

The award of the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) highlighted both the urgency of nuclear disarmament, and the shift in international momentum in favour of meaningful steps towards nuclear abolition. Irish CND is proud to be one of ICAN's partner organisations. The Nobel Peace Lecture, delivered by ICAN's Executive Director, Beatrice Fihn, and Hiroshima survivor, Setsuko Thurlow, sets out a powerful rationale and a clear road map for nuclear disarmament. As Beatrice Fihn said during the lecture: "Nuclear weapons, like chemical weapons, biological weapons, cluster munitions and land mines before them, are now illegal. Their existence is immoral. Their abolishment is in our hands. The end is inevitable. But will that end be the end of nuclear weapons or the end of us? We must choose one." You can view ICAN's latest campaign video, including extracts from the Nobel lecture, here

As we look ahead to 2018, we hope that we will see this positive momentum towards a safer world continue to grow and bring results. Formal ratification by Ireland of the TPNW will be a priority for Irish CND's work. We will also work to promote the treaty, and meaningful steps towards disarmament, through our shared work with our international partners. 

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