What does it mean to take a humanitarian approach to nuclear weapons, and is it something new in the world of international affairs? Last Wednesday, the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR) launched their latest publication, “Viewing Nuclear Weapons Through a Humanitarian Lens” at the UN. Peace Boat attended the launch, where researchers discussed the need to reshape the discourse on nuclear weapons and to instead view the use and possession of nuclear weapons from the perspective of human impact.
Publication authors Mr. Tim Caughley and Dr. John Borrie were both present to share their views on the topic, as were Dr. Patricia Lewis, Research Director for International Security at Chatham House, Director of Article 36 Thomas Nash, and Ms. Maria Antonieta Jaquez Huacuja, Deputy-Director General for Disarmament, Non-Proliferation and the GA, Directorate General for the United Nations, Foreign Affairs Secretariat in Mexico.
Similar events we have attended on disarmament share the view that nuclear weapons are regularly treated as exception or special, when in fact they are merely ordinary weapons that are capable of causing unnecessary suffering and superfluous harm. As Dr. Lewis stated, there is a contradiction in wanting to control and reduce nuclear weapons, and yet they are given a sacred role in defense. Which begs the question, do governments REALLY want to get rid of nuclear weapons after all?
As Dr. Borrie and Mr. Nash further suggested, it’s past time for politicians and international organizations to consider the human impact that nuclear weapons have, just as the international community immediately reacted following Hiroshima and Nagasaki. If policies exist globally that address the humanitarian harm on other weapons such as landmines and explosives, why should nuclear weapons be any different?
The personal experiences of survivors such as the Hibakusha, and Japan in the aftermath of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, allowed the international community to see the real social and health complications that persist following such a large scale attack. However, as the Ambassador to India further commented, the current complications with the Non-Proliferation Treaty has much to do with shifting the terminology of the “use” of nuclear weapons to merely the “possession” of such weapons.
It is clear that a critical dialogue must still continue across international governments to further understand and approach the human effects of not just using, but also possessing nuclear weapons. We encourage you to read more about this issue by viewing the latest UNIDIR publication, available for download at unidir.org/publications.
This post was created and published by: Trixie Cordova (Volunteer Staff at Peace Boat US)