Fulfilling the Mission: Empowering the UN to live up to the world's expectations UN Proposal 2006

Excerpt: "Sharing purpose"

Together with poverty alleviation, disarmament, specifically nuclear disarmament, is vital if we are to put paid to the culture of war.

If the ideal of humanitarian competition is to take root in the international community, we must firmly establish the awareness that no society can found its security and well-being upon the terror and misery of another; we must create a new set of global ethics.

The theory of nuclear deterrence, in seeking to ensure the security of one state by threatening others with overwhelming destructive power, is diametrically opposed to the global ethics the new era demands.

The UN hosts an associated forum for multilateral talks on disarmament, the Geneva-based Conference on Disarmament. It is distressing, however, that disagreement among parties has kept it virtually nonfunctional for almost ten years since its last achievement, the adoption of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty in 1996.

The stalemate persisted through last year, the sixtieth anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, whose symbolic significance could have been expected to provide impetus to disarmament efforts. The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference in May closed without producing any concrete results. Then in September the World Summit at the UN General Assembly issued an outcome document from which all mention of nuclear weapons had been deleted, to the great disappointment of all those who seek global peace.

It was against this backdrop that, in June 2006, the Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission, an independent group of international experts chaired by Hans Blix, the former chief UN arms inspector for Iraq, submitted a proposal on nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation to Secretary-General Annan.

This document calls for a World Summit to be held at the UN to address the issues of disarmament, non-proliferation and terrorist use of weapons of mass destruction. To break the present deadlock at the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva, it proposes that only a two-thirds majority, instead of unanimity, be required to place issues on the agenda. "All states possessing nuclear weapons," it also recommends, "should commence planning for security without nuclear weapons. They should start preparing for the outlawing of nuclear weapons...."1

These proposals are in line with the direction I have consistently asserted and it is thus very easy for me to support them. I earnestly hope that all states will take the Commission's carefully considered recommendations seriously and promptly launch diplomatic efforts to break the impasse that is blocking progress toward disarmament.

Ten years have passed since in 1996 the International Court of Justice issued an advisory opinion on the legality of nuclear weapons. In that opinion, the Court stated that "the threat or use of nuclear weapons would generally be contrary to international law," and "that there exists an obligation to pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament in all its aspects under strict and effective international control."2 I think we should once again urge governments to recall the gravity of this opinion as we continue to build a committed international consensus for nuclear disarmament.

As the report of the Blix Commission points out, "Over the past decade, there has been a serious, and dangerous, loss of momentum and direction in disarmament and non-proliferation efforts." What is required is the political will for nuclear abolition. "And with that will, even the eventual elimination of nuclear weapons is not beyond the world's reach."3 It is thus all the more important now that the people of the world raise their voices.

Toward this end I would like to propose a UN decade of action by the world's people for nuclear abolition. With nuclear weapons proliferation continuing unabated, the first step in challenging the harsh reality must be to bring more people to the awareness that the nuclear threat is both relevant to their lives and something they can take action about. Such a decade of action, jointly promoted by the UN and NGOs, would be vital in promoting this awareness. I likewise support the early convening of a World Summit as called for by the Blix Commission or, alternatively, a Special Session of the UN General Assembly dedicated to intensive deliberation of disarmament issues. Such actions on the part of states would both reflect and support an emerging international consensus for disarmament.

The importance of working progressively toward the creation of a world without war through relentlessly pressing for nuclear disarmament and, ultimately, abolition: This was one of the points on which the late Sir Joseph Rotblat, emeritus president of the Pugwash conferences on Science and World Affairs, who passed away last year, and I deeply agreed.

If we are to bring down the curtain, once and for all, on an era lived under the threat of nuclear destruction, we must rethink the understanding of national interest that would justify nuclear weapons as a "necessary evil" essential for deterrence. Both the Russell–Einstein Manifesto (1955), co-signed by Dr. Rotblat, and my mentor Josei Toda's Declaration for the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons (1957) refuted the theory of deterrence and adamantly refused to acknowledge the use of nuclear arms under any circumstances.

As Toda strikingly phrased it, nuclear weapons threaten humanity's right to existence and are therefore an absolute evil; their abolition is humanity's common duty. The central goal of the decade of action by the world's people for nuclear abolition that I am proposing would be to elevate this concept into one of the central tenets of our age.

Here I have examined the challenges of poverty alleviation and disarmament from the perspective of a shared sense of purpose. There are, of course, many other issues that weigh heavily upon humankind. Among these is the global environmental crisis, the particular complexity of which lies in the fact that its resolution requires a fundamental reexamination of human civilization. My own sense of crisis has prompted me to call, in my annual peace proposals, for accelerated efforts to create an institutional framework that will bring together the wisdom of humankind toward the resolution of environmental challenges, including giving them dramatically greater centrality at the UN.

The issues of poverty, disarmament and the environment all demand the concerted efforts of international society based on a sense of belonging to humanity and a sense of responsibility toward the future. It is for these reasons that it is absolutely essential to establish a shared sense of purpose through the United Nations.

  • 1 WMDC (Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission). 2006. “Weapons of Terror: Freeing the World of Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical Arms.” p. 109.
  • 2 ICJ (International Court of Justice). 1996. “Legality of the Use or Threat of Nuclear Weapons.”
  • 3 WMDC (Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission). 2006. “Weapons of Terror: Freeing the World of Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical Arms.” p. 17.

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