Australian news, and some related international items

Beatrice Fihn: How to implement the nuclear weapons ban treaty

Beatrice Fihn: How to implement the nuclear weapons ban treaty, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, By John Mecklin, December 7, 2020  

………..Beatrice Fihn, ICAN’s executive director spoke with me at length about how the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons might be implemented once it was ratified by the requisite 50 countries, an event expected to happen, at the time we spoke, within a matter of months. In fact, it occurred just weeks later, and the treaty will enter into force in January 2021.

The treaty was not supported by any of the nine countries that possess nuclear weapons, including the United States. Many of those opposed to the ban treaty have contended it is an unrealistic and naïve effort that could actually undermine nuclear nonproliferation efforts. US officials have been especially critical.

Here, Fihn lays out a possible future in which the ban treaty delegitimizes nuclear weapons, and nuclear weapons countries are persuaded to decide that it is best to give up the most fearsome weapons ever created—in those countries’ own interests…….

we’re trying to sort of remind the people that this issue still exists. This is still dangerous. These weapons are still around, and we’re really hoping that the treaty, and the progression will be the starting point of moving away from these weapons. Creating a new norm, implementing the treaty—in many ways, it’s just building normative pressure, building financial pressure through divestments.

see a lot of people really, really evaluating things during this year. What is it that we prioritize? And what is security? How come 200,000 Americans are dying from a pandemic, and we are still investing $35 billion in nuclear weapons? The structures that people in power have built to protect us, such as the police force and nuclear weapons, actually harm people and kill people. Both through police violence, through nuclear testing, for example. So I see a lot of possibilities for the next term to really start questioning the decisions our governments have made on our behalf around these things. …..

I think we have to be realistic. Ideally, we would want governments to take very strong measures and threaten to boycott if this doesn’t work. But in reality, of course, it’s the big economic powers that have nuclear weapons. And many countries are very dependent on them, and it wouldn’t be realistic to think that a small country in Africa can boycott the nuclear weapon states in that way. But I definitely think that there are a lot of potentials for action. First of all, I think we need to reckon—I think particularly in the West, in Europe and maybe North America—how the power dynamics in the world are changing quite rapidly. And this idea that we in the West are the center of the power in the world might not hold for very long……..

I can also see an emergence of a new power structure. This treaty in many ways is that a lot of countries are basically banning the power tool of the [UN] Security Council. And I think that’s going to have some very significant impact. But in practical terms, what we’re hoping for is, of course, that this treaty stands next to the Chemical and Biological Weapons Convention, like the bans on all weapons of mass destruction. This completes the treaty or treaties, in a way. So that the political pressure and the reputational cost of countries that don’t join this treaty is increased. We’re looking to focus quite a lot on the divestment side, making sure that banks and pension funds are pulling their money out of producing companies. And we’ve seen that influence on landmines and cluster munitions; they have quite a concrete impact in reducing companies’ willingness to be involved in these practices…….

Every year we do this “Don’t Bank on the Bomb” report that shows that it’s growing, the number of banks that have policies against this. We’ve seen just this year, the Norwegian Oil Fund, for example, pulled out of nuclear weapons companies and referred to the TPNW as a reason. One of the super banks in Japan, Mitsubishi Bank Group, or whatever they’re called. They adopted a new policy. Deutsche Bank last year adopted a new policy with nuclear weapons after work with ICAN in Germany. The Deutsche Bank [policy] wasn’t flawless, there’s some holes still, but it’s a sign that they are reacting to this.

So we have two of the five biggest pension funds in the world, the Dutch Pension Fund as well, the public one. We’ve been working on the local cities initiative as well, trying to see if the whole trend on the climate change issue and other issues as well, that cities are taking sort of international action and seeing themselves as almost actors on an international stage. We have over 400 cities around the world now, including I think something like 30 cities with over a million people, that have joined this call to action and that are supporting the treaty and calling on their national governments to join.  ……. New York City is supporting the TPNW. And it’s going to divest the city pension funds from nuclear weapons users.

……… this is an issue so solvable. I mean, it’s a lot easier to solve than climate change. It’s nine states. It’s not the whole world, it’s nine states that have them. …….. This is very old fashioned, wiping out a whole city and releasing radioactive fallout. It’s not the best strategy in any kind of warfare situation.

……..  this is all connected to power and holding power. A small group of actors are holding power and oppressing the larger majority. For people like me, for example, I’m Swedish. I live in Switzerland. Me and my family and my two countries will also die in nuclear war if there’s nuclear war. Yet, I don’t get a say. In that way, it’s much like climate change. What one country does, it’s not their own business.

……..  this is an issue that is connected to economic inequalities, sexism, racism, the disproportion in the way we use public funding and tax money in terms of protecting people—like taking the money from things that actually protect us, health care right now, education that will actually make people safer. Yet we divert it towards nuclear weapons and a hugely inflated military budget.

So I think that’s sort of what I would like to say to young people…………….

I think it’s really important to delegitimize nuclear weapons and devalue them. We’ve almost created this mythical perspective on these weapons, that they somehow are safeguarding the world and that they somehow have all these magical attributes, which isn’t true. It’s just a really giant radioactive bomb. It’s not magic, it’s not special. And it costs a lot of money and it’s very dangerous to the countries that have them, and it makes you a target of nuclear weapons. So I think it’s really important, for nuclear arms states also, to understand that the more value that’s put into nuclear weapons—both symbolic value and money value—the more vulnerable you are also to other countries getting that weapon.  …….

I think what’s extremely important is that we look also, again, at research and science and see that societies that have a lot of weapons, that invest a lot of money in weapons, are less secure and safe than societies that invest a lot in health care, education, equality, for example. And these are always seen as soft issues, unrelated to national security. We really urgently need leaders who are smart, who understand how to protect their people. And protecting their people is not through spending hundreds of billions of dollars on weapons……..


January 9, 2021 - Posted by | General News

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