Finland to host 2012 conference on WMD free zone in Middle East

Finnish Under-Secretary of State Jaakko Laajava

Finnish Under-Secretary of State Jaakko Laajava

Finland has been designated as the host country for the planned conference in 2012 on a zone free of weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East. Jaakko Laajava, Under-Secretary of State in the Finnish Foreign Ministry, has been announced as the facilitator for the conference. United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and representatives from the United States, Russia, and Britain announced the decision on October 14th in New York.

Finland was also the host country for the first Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE), which led to a major de-escalation of tension in Europe during the Cold War and was the predecessor to the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). It is a neutral country and has a long history of involvement in conflict resolution, including the efforts of its former President Ahtisaari, who is now Special Envoy for the UN to Kosovo.

The conference emerged as the one condition that would allow consensus on a final document at the NPT Review Conference in May 2010, but is judged by many experts to be extremely difficult to realise, especially given the present political situation in the Middle East. The intention is that the conference will be attended by all the Arab states, and by the regional arch-enemies Iran and Israel, although neither country made any immediate comment on their attendance. It is also expected that the officially recognised nuclear weapon states will also be represented. Laajava said that the list of participants will firm up as a result of discussions he will have with the countries concerned, in his role as facilitator. The exact date for the conference has not been set, but it is planned to take place in 2012.

Anne Penketh, program director for the British American Security Information Council (BASIC),  said the low-key announcement on a Friday which is not a working day in the Middle East, is “a case of burying good news.”

Patricia Lewis, deputy director of the nonproliferation center at the Monterey Institute of International Studies in California, said the fact that all the Arab states, Israel and Iran, Russia, Britain and the United States agreed on the facilitator and the host “shows a strong commitment to moving forward with efforts to promote peace and disarmament in the Middle East.”

More news on announcement here: UN News Centre; Helsingin Sanomat; San Francisco Chronicle

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June 25 is Nuclear Abolition Day

International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear WeaponsWhat is Nuclear Abolition Day?

Nuclear Abolition Day is an annual global day of action for a treaty to outlaw and eliminate all nuclear weapons. It is coordinated by the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons. The date changes from year to year depending on significant events. The first global day of action was held on 5 June 2010 in response to the Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference, which had just concluded.

Why is this year’s day of action 25 June?

At last year’s Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference, the five original nuclear weapon states – the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, France and China – agreed to “accelerate concrete progress on … steps leading to nuclear disarmament”. The leaders of these five nations will meet in Paris on 29 and 30 June to discuss nuclear security as a follow-up to the Review Conference. June 25 is our opportunity to send them, and all other governments, a loud and clear message: it is time to begin work on a treaty to outlaw and eliminate all nuclear weapons.

What kinds of actions will take place?

On the 2010 global day of action, more than 80 actions took place in 30 countries. These included street demonstrations, benefit gigs, nuclear-free picnics, vigils, marches and education workshops. We encourage people to be as creative as possible. All actions must be non-violent. The aim is to raise public awareness about nuclear dangers and build political support for negotiations on a treaty banning nuclear weapons completely. This year we will also focus on online actions to promote abolition, such as tweeting.

Read more about Nuclear Abolition Day and ideas for action at nuclearabolition.org

Setting sights on 2012

Hillel Schenkel, co-editor of the Palestine-Israel Journal ‏ and member of IPPNW in Israel, writes in Haaretz: «While all eyes are focused on Libya, Syria and other regional venues of political drama, Israelis have probably forgotten − if they were ever aware − that, at last May’s Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference, it was resolved that in 2012 an international conference would be convened to discuss “the establishment of a Middle East zone free of nuclear weapons and all other weapons of mass destruction, on the basis of arrangements freely arrived at by the States of the region, and with the full support and engagement of the nuclear-weapon States.” The resolution also called upon Israel to sign the NPT and open its nuclear installations to inspection by the International Atomic Energy Agency.»

Read full article on Haaretz website

The Moral Challenge of a Nuclear-Free World

by Katsuya Okada and Guido Westerwelle, 4 September 2010

This May, delegations from more than 180 countries gathered in New York, at the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference, to discuss how to free the world from nuclear weapons. Despite the positive momentum that flowed from President Barack Obama’s 2009 speech on the issue in Prague, there was enormous pressure on the conference. With a spirit of cooperation and flexibility from all delegates, however, the conference lived up to its expectations.

As foreign ministers, we draw two conclusions from this. First, it is remarkable that all delegates agreed on the conference’s action plan, which includes various new and important commitments on nuclear disarmament as well as concrete measures to implement the 1995 Middle East Resolution, which called for the a weapons of mass destruction-free zone in the region. We should do everything possible to implement this agreement.

Our second conclusion is that the agreement is extremely fragile.

Without an intensive concerted effort, states will not honor it. The irreconcilable views expressed throughout the conference-on such issues as the Iranian nuclear program and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty’s rules for how signatories withdraw-will not fade away.

Prior to the conference, major nuclear-weapons states took some remarkable steps. The U.S. and Russia agreed to further cut their strategic nuclear weapons. The U.S. also presented a new approach in its Nuclear Posture Review, published in April, which provided strong negative security assurances (that is, assurances that it would not use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear states).

We welcome and support the Obama administration’s commitment to achieving a world without nuclear weapons and strengthening nuclear security. Together with nuclear-weapons states, including the U.S., we are ready to discuss how to reduce the role of nuclear weapons-by, for example, committing to possess them only for the purpose of deterring others from using them. Even if nuclear states cannot immediately agree to abandon their nuclear weapons, they can take practical measures to reduce clear and present risks.

It is also necessary to make the possession of nuclear weapons unattractive. North Korea and Iran must understand that acquiring nuclear weapons in contradiction of their nonproliferation obligations would never be tolerated and would not elevate their status in the international community.

Like climate change, nuclear disarmament raises the question of whether mankind can feel a sense of responsibility across national borders and generations. Nuclear disarmament asks whether mankind can act to reduce the risks of self-destruction posed by “God’s fire.” We should never forget how human beings and buildings vanished in the tremendous flash of light and heat in Hiroshima and Nagasaki 65 years ago. This is a global issue that tests our sense of responsibility and morality.

Morality has recently played an important role in bringing about the success of treaties on land mines and cluster munitions. It is thus no coincidence that the Final Document of May’s conference cited the need for states to comply with international humanitarian law.

Some may ask themselves why Japan and Germany are seeking to pursue nuclear disarmament with such vigor when both countries rely on the United States for nuclear deterrence. Our countries have long been advocates of disarmament. Since re-emerging from total devastation in the second world war, both countries have pursued a peaceful and stable world and the total elimination of nuclear weapons. It is in such a shared conviction that we find a common role.

And we believe that pursuing nuclear disarmament is the path that will most reliably minimize nuclear risks and enhance international security.

The 21st century will be about managing our planet. History will remember favorably those countries that respond with a sense of global responsibility. Let us set upon the realistic and responsible path towards a world without nuclear weapons. It is a moral responsibility.

Mr. Okada is foreign minister of Japan. Mr. Westerwelle is foreign minister of Germany.

This article was originally published by the Wall Street Journal.

NGO Statement: Response to Main Committee 1 Report

Statement by the NGO Abolition Caucus of the NPT Review Conference 2010
Response to the Report of Main Committee I and the Draft Action Plan of Subsidiary Body I
The NGO Abolition Caucus of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference 2010 in general welcomes the Report of Main Committee I: Chairman’s Draft on Substantive Elements and Subsidiary Body I: Chairman’s Draft Action Plan released on Friday, 14 May 2010. The Caucus supports, in particular, the overall emphasis that both documents place on the need to achieve the complete elimination of nuclear weapons as a matter of urgency and within a specified timeframe. The 26-point draft action plan prepared by the Chair of Subsidiary Body I sets out a concrete and detailed
programme for advancing a nuclear-weapon-free world. It reflects a compromise between the overwhelming calls from civil society, together with a majority of countries, for the immediate commencement of negotiations on a Nuclear Weapons Convention and the positions of some States not yet ready to begin such negotiations.
We support the affirmation by the Conference that all States, in particular all States possessing nuclear weapons, need to make special efforts to establish the legal framework required to achieve nuclear disarmament and maintain a world without nuclear weapons. This should include preparatory work, which can begin without delay. We also welcome the acknowledgement by the Conference that UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s five-point proposal on nuclear disarmament, which includes consideration of a Nuclear Weapons Convention or a framework of mutually reinforcing instruments, contributes towards efforts to eliminate nuclear weapons.
The Caucus expresses its general support for Action 6 of the 26-point draft action plan, which calls for consultations not later than 2011 to accelerate concrete progress on nuclear disarmament aimed at the rapid conclusion of negotiations on reductions of all types of nuclear weapons, the removal of nuclear weapons stationed in Europe as part of a nuclear-sharing arrangement, a further diminishment of the role of nuclear weapons in military and security doctrines and policies, the announcement of declaratory policies against the use of nuclear weapons, a reduction in the operational readiness of nuclear weapon systems, the elimination of the risk of accidental or unauthorized use, and the enhancement of transparency measures. We believe that such consultations, rather than being limited to the nuclear-weapon States, should include other States and non-government organizations.
The Caucus also supports the proposal that States parties invite the UN Secretary-General to convene an international conference to consider ways and means to agree on a roadmap for the complete elimination of nuclear weapons within a specified timeframe, including by means of a universal legal instrument. With sufficient political will, this could occur before 2014. At this Review Conference, States parties should offer their support to these specific proposals for action, as well as others contained in the 26-point draft action plan.
Forty years after the entry into force of the Treaty, it is vital that parties adopt an outcome document that puts us clearly on track to nuclear abolition.