Abolish nuclear weapons

Make no mistake - nuclear weapons are still a problem today. Although some may consider them an unfortunate relic from the Cold War, the truth is that the nuclear weapons states are clinging to them as hard as they can, reinventing new roles and designs for them, and recently even proposals for "smaller useable" weapons. And all this despite plenty of speeches, promises and legally binding treaties to get rid of them!

One of 1500 demonstrators, a quarter of the population of Raratonga, who turned out to protest French nuclear testing in 1995.

There is no such thing as a small nuclear explosion, any nuclear explosion will have catastrophic consequences for all living things on the planet. The existence and spread of nuclear weapons stands in theway of any real possibilities for true safety, security and peace. Theonly solution is to abolish them.

In recent years the threat has become even more unpredictable as the nuclear weapon states - the US,the UK, France, Russia and China - have failed to follow their promises made in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to disarm. Countries like Israel, India, Pakistan and North Korea have also joined the nuclear weapons club. And due to the widespread use of nuclear energy, about 40 other countries have access to nuclear weapons material and therefore possess the ability to develop nuclear weapons.

The International community as a whole and several key states in particular, must grapple with need to resolve the contradiction at the heart of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treatywhich some claim means nuclear energy is an "inalienable right". The"inalienable right" to nuclear energy is a historical and political mistake; the real legitimate right is to clean and safe energy and nuclear energy is neither. The world has witnessed the acquisition of nuclear weapons capabilities through so-called peaceful civilian nuclear programmes in India, North Korea and Iraq.

But there is hope, some countries have lead the way by getting rid of their weapons. South Africa had nuclear weapons in the 1970s but chose the benefits of disarmament, joining the international community as a country that valued cooperation rather than violence. Once the decision is made, disarmament can happen quite quickly.

Unless leaders of nuclear weapons states follow South Africa's example and begin to dismantle their arsenals, the political leaders in the aspiring nuclear weapons states are unlikely to either. Obviously the more leaders with fingers on the button, the more likely one of them will trigger a nuclear war, by accident or design.

In every case, politicians and military leaders have pursued nuclear weapons without democratic debate in their country. Public opinion polls conducted in nuclear and non-nuclear weapon states show large majorities favouring the abolition of nuclear weapons, and every year at the United Nations when all governments vote, we see the vast majority of the 191 countries voting for the abolition of nuclear weapons. Citizens in nuclear weapons states should question why their leaders feel so entitled to gamble with their lives.

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