Category Archives: Nuclear weapons


A new Report by the WILPF project Reaching Critical Will was launched this month arguing that although the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT) has been important, its structural weakness are becoming more significant and it is time to address them.  In particular its time to look at how we can move forward on the possession of nuclear weapons themselves and not just regulate who has access and on what terms.

Here is the report’s conclusion:

Forty-three years since the entry into force of the NPT, the international community is facing significant challenges around nuclear weapons.  If not addressed, the core principles of the NPT and the existing norms constraining nuclear weapons could be weakened or even lost. There is an urgent need to reinforce the principles of the NPT by addressing the fundamental problems facing the treaty. A treaty banning nuclear weapons could be instrumental in this regard.

The preamble of the NPT is explicit in its objective of facilitating “the cessation of the manufacture of nuclear weapons,” “the liquidation of all their existing stockpiles,” and the elimination of all nuclear weapon delivery systems. Yet the operative paragraph dealing with nuclear disarmament is comparatively vague.

Banning nuclear weapons would promote each of the goals and obligations as set forth by the NPT. It would make operational the Treaty’s goal of achieving a nuclear weapons free world and ensure that its non- proliferation aspirations are thoroughly supported.

It has been 68 years since nuclear weapons were used on Hiroshima and Nagasaki by the United States. The continued possession of nuclear weapons undermines the existing non-proliferation regime and presents a significant risk that nuclear weapons will be used again one day. It is time to establish a legal standard against the use, possession and development of nuclear weapons. This will change the political and economic landscape that currently allows some states to remain nuclear-armed.

This is clearly a direct and strong challenge to the status quo around nuclear weapons where the nuclear armed state parties have been able to portray themselves as moral actors on the world stage without much pushback.  In fact the report notes that the 5 nuclear armed state parties currently dominate NPT discussions thus ensuring that the focus remains on non-proliferation and not on possession and nuclear disarmament.

The report notes that nuclear-armed states are uncomfortable with any discussion about the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons:

These discussions are challenging because they highlight how unconscionable it is for anyone to possess these weapons. By moving ahead with a ban on nuclear weapons, non-nuclear-armed states are setting the stage to change the status quo in discourse and elaborate an explicit legal standard prohibiting these weapons.

The nuclear-armed countries have so far faced no effective pressure to advance with their disarmament commitments within the NPT context or other UN fora, because they can veto or ignore decisions to which they object. Banning nuclear weapons without expecting their consent will remove a key obstacle to progress—the veto—and empower non-nuclear-armed states to make effective change.


32 Australian Federal Parliamentarians have committed to support the Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons

The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) is a global campaign coalition working to mobilize people in all countries to inspire, persuade and pressure their governments to initiate and support negotiations for a treaty banning nuclear weapons.

One of the ICAN projects targets parliamentarians.

Parliamentarians have a vital role to play in advancing the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons. The ICAN appeal to parliamentarians aims to build global support for a treaty banning nuclear weapons. It will be presented at various intergovernmental meetings in 2013 and 2014 aimed at promoting nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament.

It is pleasing to see that Australia is one of nine countries where parliamentarians have responded to this appeal – in significant numbers.

This is what they have pledged:

We, the undersigned parliamentarians, conscious of our duty to protect and promote the safety and well-being of the people we represent, express our deep concern at the continuing threat posed by many thousands of nuclear weapons across the globe. Any use of these ultimate weapons of mass destruction – whether by accident, miscalculation or design – would have catastrophic consequences for humanity and the planet as a whole.

The only way to guarantee that they will never be used again is to outlaw and eliminate them without further delay. We call upon all national governments to negotiate a treaty banning nuclear weapons and leading to their complete eradication. A global ban on nuclear weapons is a humanitarian imperative of the highest order. It is necessary, feasible and increasingly urgent.


Australian Commonwealth Parliamentarian Signatories


Mr Adam Bandt MP

Senator Simon Birmingham

Senator the Hon Doug Cameron

Senator Trish Crossin

Senator Richard Di Natale

Mr Peter Garrett MP

Ms Sharon Grierson MP

Ms Jill Hall MP

Senator Sarah Hanson-Young

Mr Stephen Jones MP

Mr Andrew Leigh MP

Senator Sue Lines

Senator Scott Ludlam

Senator Gavin Marshall

Senator Christine Milne

Mr Rob Mitchell MP

Senator Claire Moore

Hon Judi Moylan MP

Mr Ken O’Dowd MP

Hon Melissa Parke MP

Mr Graham Perrett MP

Senator Louise Pratt

Senator Lee Rhiannon

Ms Janelle Saffin MP

Senator Ursula Stephens

Mr Kelvin Thomson MP

Dr Mal Washer MP

Senator Larissa Waters

Senator Peter Whish-Wilson

Mr Andrew Wilkie MP

Senator Penny Wright

Mr Tony Zappia MP

Citizens can support this project by showing public support to the above parliamentarians and urging others to sign this pledge.

US nuclear policy and nuclear disarmament: moving further apart

This is a summary of an article published by Stop War Sydney

In April 2009, in Prague, president Obama stated that the U.S. government was committed to building a nuclear-weapons-free world. Then on 19 June 2013 he called for nuclear disarmament negotiations with the Russians. Yet just a few hours later the pentagon released its ‘Nuclear Employment Strategy’

This strategy makes it clear that, nearly a quarter century after the disappearance of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, the U.S. government is still getting ready for nuclear war, including retaining the ‘first strike’ option.

In 2010, the administration’s Nuclear Posture Review declared that it would work toward making deterrence of nuclear attack the “sole purpose” of U.S. nuclear weapons. The 2013 report, however, without any explanation, reported that “we cannot adopt such a policy today.” Thus, as in the past, the U.S. government considers itself free to initiate a nuclear attack on other nations…..

The 2013 “Nuclear Employment Strategy” also retained another controversial aspect of U.S. nuclear policy: counterforce strategy. Designed to employ U.S. nuclear weapons to destroy an enemy nation’s nuclear weapons, delivery systems, and associated installations, counterforce is potentially very destabilizing, for it provides an incentive to nations caught up in a crisis to knock out the opponent’s nuclear weapons before they can be used. And this, in turn, means that nations are more likely to initiate nuclear war and to desire large numbers of nuclear weapons to avoid having their weapons totally destroyed by a preemptive attack. Consequently, as Hans Kristensen of the Federation of American Scientists has noted, the report’s emphasis on counterforce “undercuts efforts to reduce the role and numbers of nuclear weapons.”

Yes, the rhetoric of 2009 was very inspiring, landing Obama a Nobel Peace Prize and raising hopes around the world that the nuclear menace was on the verge of extinction. But fairly little came of it, with the modest exception of the New START Treaty with Russia.

This administration unwillingness to discard the immensely dangerous, outdated nuclear policies of the past flies in the face of public support for abolishing nuclear weapons, whether expressed in public opinion polls or in the resolutions of mainstream bodies like the National Council of Churches and the U.S. Conference of Mayors. But, unless there is a substantial public mobilization to end the American government’s reliance on nuclear war, it seems likely that U.S. officials will continue to prepare for it.

To read the full article, go to

Nuclear Disarmament – Marked by a distinct lack of progress


As the world watches events as they play out on the Korean Peninsular it is worth considering the broader issues pertaining to nuclear threats.

According to the Nuclear Weapons – State of Play Report launched at ANU this week, 2012 marks 50 years since the Cuban missile crisis.

The good news is that there are fewer nuclear warheads today than during the Cold War. The risk of a deliberate nuclear war being started between the United States and Russia is also much reduced.

However according to this report over this period:

The overall risks of nuclear war have grown – as more countries in more unstable regions have acquired these deadly weapons, terrorists continue to seek them, and as command and control systems in even the most sophisticated nuclear-armed states remain vulnerable not only to system and human error but, increasingly, to cyber attack. Even a “limited” regional nuclear war would have catastrophic global consequences.


The important high-level message delivered by the very extensive and detailed report is that:

While the need for total nuclear disarmament is more urgent than ever, its achievement remains little or no closer, both among the nuclear-weapon states (NWS) as defined in the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), viz. China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States, and the other four nuclear-armed states outside the NPT, viz. India, Israel, Pakistan and North Korea. There has been some small progress in reducing the overall US and Russian nuclear weapons stockpiles and the number of deployed strategic weapons, and in improving transparency among some NWS. But there has been only minimal progress in shifting nuclear doctrine, and no progress in either taking weapons off high-alert launch status, or in addressing the issues of ballistic missile defence and conventional arms imbalances, differences over which are presently seriously inhibiting further disarmament movement. And, despite the efforts of many dedicated non-governmental organizations and research centres, the cause of nuclear disarmament has achieved very little of the traction needed to put governments under serious political pressure.

Citation: Ramesh Thakur and Gareth Evans, eds. Centre for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament, 2013

The long shadow of Hiroshima

In this article, In Hiroshima’s Shadow Noam Chomsky reminds us that August 6, the anniversary of Hiroshima, should be a day of somber reflection, not only on the terrible events of that day in 1945, but also on what they revealed: that humans, in their dedicated quest to extend their capacities for destruction, had finally found a way to approach the ultimate limit.

He also reminds us how at significant points in history since then  leaders have acted with a clear understanding that they are increasing the risk that such an atrocity could be initiated again.

For example, historian Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr, refers to the Cuban missile crisis as an event initiated with a clear understanding of the risks of starting a nuclear war

Disaster was perilously close in 1962, and there has been no shortage of dangerous moments since. In 1973, in the last days of the Arab-Israeli war, Henry Kissinger called a high-level nuclear alert. India and Pakistan have come close to nuclear war. There have been innumerable cases when human intervention aborted nuclear attack only moments before launch after false reports by automated systems. There is much to think about on August 6.

This is a good article about the failure of world leaders to grasp the opportunity to  move to a  less nuclear armed state of global affairs.

A World Without The Bomb: Australia’s contradictory position

A World Without The Bomb |

In this article Dr Sue Wareham OAM reports that. when it comes to policies on nuclear weapons, Australia cannot claim to be on the side of the angels. Rather, Australia is part of the problem.

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Nuclear Weapons and the arms trade: Effects on the human rights reputation and impact of the UK says WILPF UK

This summary note focusses on three critical issues that WILPF UK believes need to be taken up during the UK peer review session, with a view to assisting the UK government to make improvements that will contribute more effectively to ensuring and upholding human rights: the development and deployment of nuclear weapons, including costs and humanitarian consequences; the arms trade and protection of civilians; and the importance of enhancing human rights to fully achieve the Millennium Development Goals.

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