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From New York to Perth

By Jo Vallentine - posted Friday, 28 October 2016

Being present in the first Committee of the United Nations General Assembly deliberating the establishment of a binding Treaty to outlaw nuclear weapons is somewhat déjà vu for me… I was at the UN Special Session on Disarmament in 1988, when I was a Senator for WA representing nuclear disarmament issues.

It seems on the one hand, that progress is moving like glue ….countries stuck in the past, hopinag that nuclear weapons states will do what they've said athey would do ever since the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty was entered into force in 1970.

And, on the other hand, excitement is growing as there are moves to increase the number of nations prepared to co-sponsor Resolution 41, put forward by Austria, which has now attracted 58 co-sponsors, with another fifty or so nations likely to support the motion when the vote is put.


So, it seems most likley to succeed; it is a question by how many votes, and whether the nclear weapons staes (NWS) and their minions, can bully smaller ai-dependent nations to withdraw their support.

The race is on: it is a highly charged political atmosphere, yet everyone is typically polite usig UN-speak to put their countries' positions. I have heard French and Russian delegates disparage the efforts of the majority of nations as "novelty ideas" & "populist proposals", whilst conveying their ongoing commitment to nuclear disarmament!

Well, we've been waiting for over sixty years for the abolition of these dreadful weapons of mass destruction ….too long already.

NWS have utterly failed to deliver on article VI of the Nuclear Non-Proiferation Treaty, which obliges them to dsimantle their nuclear weapons. Now, some of them, and their minions, have the gall to suggest that we reutrn to yet another round of negotiations, seeking consensus, before action is taken. Consensus has been, and remains, extremely elusive.

This is a recipe for maintenance of the staus quo. The nations which possess nuclear ut NWS are currently spending billions of dollars modernising weapons, now numbering nine, are reluctant (to put it mildly) to relinquish what they percieve as their privileged position. Metaphorically, they are kicking and screaming at most of the world's nations, representing more than 85% of the global population (and that figure stands for community opinion in NWS as well); they are affronted that countries beyond their direct control are daring to challenge their nuclear supremacy.

After thirty eight years of working on this issue, to say I'm fed up and unimpressed is an understatement. I have heard all this before: gradualism, consensus, deterrence. While the NWS espouse nuclear disarmament, and indeed there are half the number of nukes than when I began my anti-nuclear journey, they are spending billions of dollars modernising their nuclear arsenals, which is totally hypocritical.


Even NWS states like Pakistan express disappointment on nuclear disarmament measures, and critisise the larger NWS for trying to preserve their strategic advantage. The proposal for a ban treaty is dismissed as "pseudo progress" and it is claimed that the Conference on Disarmament is the only worthwhile foarum for progressing nuclear disarmament. Yet the Conference on Disarmament has been stuck for over twenty years, unable to even agree on an agenda for discussion! Yawn! It's a perfect recipe for ensuring that nothing happens.

And where is Australia in all this? Sadly, as a minion of the US Government, our country will be voting against L41. Not only that, the Australian delegation has been undermining the possibility of its passage (check Senate estimates last week about the move taken by our representatives in Geneva on August 19th). This is shameful, and I feel embarrassed.

Listening to the hopes of other countries for the ban treaty to be put in place is more hopeful, along with treaties banning the other mass-destructive weapons in the chemical and biological categories. The time has come for this nuclear ban to happen.

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About the Author

Jo Vallentine is a former Greens senator from Western Australian.

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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