Talk Works

TalkWorks is an independent documentary film project to record and disseminate through the medium of film the thinking of leading experts and public figures across a range of disciplines who, alarmed by the serious dangers posed by the uncontrolled proliferation of nuclear weapons, are putting their weight behind the international effort to avert and ultimately eliminate global nuclear threats in the 21st century. The subjects of TalkWorks’ films are people in positions of influence from different walks of life and political persuasions who are now cooperating to promote a series of concrete steps towards the goal of ‘global zero’ nuclear weapons as laid out by President Obama in his historic Prague Speech of 5 April 2009.

» TalkWorks website

Climate change and nuclear disarmament

On 17 May the World Future Council released its latest report entitled Climate Change, Nuclear Risks and Nuclear Disarmament: From Security Threats to Sustainable Peace. It is the outcome of groundbreaking research by Prof. Dr. Jürgen Scheffran of the University of Hamburg.

The report examines the linkages between nuclear and climate risks, noting that these two clear threats may interfere with each other in a mutually re-enforcing way.  It also acknowledges that finding solutions to one problem area could lead to solutions in the other: “Preventing the dangers of climate change and nuclear war requires an integrated set of strategies that address the causes as well as the impacts on the natural and social environment.” Prof. Dr. Scheffran offers an approach to move away from these security threats to building sustainable peace.

The study brings to light the multidimensional interplay between climate change, nuclear risks and nuclear disarmament, and its critical implications for the strategic security environment. In addition, it explores prospects and openings to tackle these key challenges, stressing the role played by institutions to “strengthen common ecological and human security, build and reinforce conflict-resolution mechanisms and low-carbon energy alternatives, and create sustainable life-cycles that respect the capabilities of the living world.”

MPI calls for a global ban on nuclear weapons

The Middle Powers Initiative (MPI), a coalition of eight international disarmament organizations, is calling on governments to “begin collective preparatory work leading to the enactment of a universal, verifiable, irreversible and enforceable legal ban on nuclear weapons.” MPI Chair Richard Butler, founder Douglas Roche and Executive Committee Member Alyn Ware have embarked on a series of consultations with governments at the United Nations and in capitals around the world on a draft brief exploring the modalities for such preparatory work.

The brief is stimulated by the agreement at the 2010 NPT Review Conference that “All States need to make special efforts to establish the necessary framework to achieve and maintain a world without nuclear weapons” noting “the Five-Point Proposal for Nuclear Disarmament of the Secretary-General of the United Nations, which proposes inter alia the consideration of negotiations on a nuclear weapons convention or a framework of separate mutually reinforcing instruments.” The tour of capitals by the MPI team over the next month will take in Beijing, Berlin, Brussels, Delhi, London, Moscow, Oslo, Stockholm and Washington.

The MPI brief also notes the affirmation by the 2010 NPT Review Conference of the application of International Humanitarian Law to nuclear weapons. “Landmines and cluster munitions were banned by treaty once people realized the humanitarian consequences of their continued use,” said Senator Roche. “There is now a similar realization of the threat to humanity, not just if nuclear weapons are used but by the threat of use, their possession and their proliferation… This is a moment for enlightened leaders to start convening meetings to draw together those who want to build a global law banning all nuclear weapons.”

The Placebo Effect – US tactical nuclear weapons in Europe

Last week I attended a small – but very good – meeting in Helsinki, organised by the Finnish Peace Union and BASIC, entitled “NATO Nuclear Deterrence and Defence: A Nordic Perspective”. It was an informal dinner and a seminar with government representatives from the Baltic States, Scandinavia, Eastern and Central Europe, think tanks and NGOs. Gunnar Westberg and I were there for IPPNW. The meeting was “behind closed doors”, so I can’t attribute any comments to anyone in particular, but I can tell you a little about what I gleaned from the discussion.

Read this article by Xanthe Hall on the IPPNW Peace and Health Blog

Feminism and Disarmament

The gender perspective as a necessity to achieve a world without nuclear weapons

Dr. Rebecca Johnson, Acronym Institute

Dr. Rebecca Johnson, Acronym Institute

In October 2010 Ursula Gelis talked to Dr. Rebecca Johnson, a scientist from the Acronym Institute for Disarmament Diplomacy in London/UK, when she was in Oslo to launch the Norwegian ICAN campaign to free the world of all nuclear weapons.

This interview is not about the behavior and debates of politicians but about grassroots activism, especially that of women who realise their visions through determined commitment and actions.

Read interview on ICAN website

Discussions continue on nuclear disarmament at CD

The Conference on Disarmament (CD) met on Thursday morning to discuss agenda items 1 and 2, with a particular focus on nuclear disarmament. Statements were made by the delegations of Chile, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), Belgium, Pakistan, Syria, Iran, the United Kingdom (UK), Algeria, the United States (US), Japan, and the Russian Federation.

CD president Oyarce from Chile invited delegations to make detailed comments on measures for nuclear disarmament and asked member states to give their views on either a complete programme of nuclear disarmament such as a Nuclear Weapons Convention (NWC), or a step-by-step approach.  The delegations of DPRK, Pakistan, Syria, Iran, and Algeria stated that nuclear disarmament is their main priority and called for the CD to establish an ad hoc committee on this topic.  Ambassador Kennedy of the US argued that progress on nuclear disarmament takes time and highlighted that the US administration plans to address deployed and non-deployed, strategic and non-strategic nuclear weapons within a year.  While emphasizing that the US supports the step-by-step approach “rigorously”, Ambassador Kennedy announced that she was interested to hear discussions of a NWC, how would it be verified, and how would it deal with compliance.

Read more on Reaching Critical Will homepage

Conference on Disarmament begins 2011 session

This year’s Conference on Disarmament (CD) in Geneva opened its session on January 25th with Ambassador Marius Grinius in the President’s Chair. He, like others before him, has his work cut out for him since the CD has yet again not been able to agree upon a programme of work. Following the UN Secretary-General’s speech on January 26th and a general debate, thematic discussions on core issues began. The first of these on February 1st covered nuclear disarmament as a topic. Unsurprisingly, the overwhelming majority of delegations participating in the discussion highlighted nuclear disarmament as their top priority in the CD. New START was welcomed but many states called for further reductions, particularly in non-strategic nuclear weapons. Ambassador Lauber of Switzerland noted that achievements in disarmament seem “rather modest compared to the overall scope of the problem” and argued that “efforts are random instead of systematic and coordinated.” He further argued, “disarmament steps are often results of budget cuts or consequence of technological changeover rather than the conception of a long-term plan to one day give up all these weapons.”

Several countries spoke favorably of a legally-binding agreement to prohibit nuclear weapons or a NWC, such as Pakistan, Argentina, Algeria, Chile, Iran, South Africa, Indonesia, Egypt, Austria, and Switzerland. While the degree of commitment to such a process continues to vary, several delegations highlighted the UN Secretary-General’s five-point proposal for nuclear disarmament, which includes such a legally-binding agreement.

The Swiss delegation argued that nuclear weapons are fundamentally immoral because they cause massive and indiscriminate destruction in terms of human lives, material resources, and for the environment, and that they are illegal with regard to international humanitarian law. Their indiscriminate effect “violates without exception all fundamental principles and rules of international humanitarian law.” Austria also highlighted the NPT outcome document’s reference to international humanitarian law.

Ambassador Marschik of Austria, who was the chair of the Subsidiary Body I on nuclear disarmament at the NPT Review Conference in 2010, noted that the NPT action plan called for negotiations and discussions of core issues at the CD. However, he asked if the CD really could deliver and shared concerns that this body is becoming obsolete. He argued that in a changing international environment, the institutions must adapt or perish.

A full report on discussions in the CD can be found at Reaching Critical Will. Also Reaching Critical Will’s Guide to the Conference on Disarmament 2011 can be found here.

Learn about Nuclear Weapons

In order to reach the goal of a world free of nuclear weapons, broad public opinion is needed. The youth of today are the opinion makers of tomorrow. To influence your future you need knowledge.

Learn about Nuclear Weapons is a web-based education tool from the Swedish Physicians against Nuclear Weapons (SLMK). It is available in Swedish, English and Norwegian and is designed for people who want to influence their future.

The problem is not exactly a lack of material on nuclear weapons and disarmament. However, sometimes it is difficult to sift through all information available and to find what you are looking for. SLMK and the Swedish Peace and Arbitration Society offer material for anyone looking for basic or in-depth knowledge of nuclear weapons and disarmament issues.

Here you find information about the history of nuclear weapons; about the science behind it; about international law, treaties and organisations; about medical and psychological consequences of nuclear weapons; about political and financial aspects of nuclear weapons; about who possess nuclear weapons; about environmental effects of these weapons and about ethical and religious reasoning around nuclear weapons.