Nuclear weapons: Which direction are we heading?

by Corianne Nieuwenhuis
Advocacy Intern, Pax Christi International

On Monday, 19 March, Professor Tom Sauer was the guest speaker at a lunch conference in Brussels which Pax Christi attended. At the conference, Professor Sauer talked about the current threat of nuclear weapons, the way non-nuclear weapon states view nuclear weapon states, and the importance of citizens’ initiatives. Thanks to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), the nuclear weapons ban treaty is a reality, he said.

After being introduced by Willy Claes, former secretary general of NATO, Professor Sauer took the floor with an interesting speech. In 2017, his newest book was launched on the ‘battle for peace’. He emphasised the current threat nuclear weapons present, since these weapons are modernised rapidly now and the number of nuclear weapons states is increasing. Besides modernising, or even because of this, the level of threat is higher than ever. It is getting more likely that states will use nuclear weapons, or that non-state actors will get possession of these weapons.

Despite the threat, Professor Sauer hopes for a dialogue. He pleads for international politics to go back to the core of international declarations regarding nuclear, biological and chemical weapons. These declarations all emphasise disarmament.

Besides the international declarations, nuclear weapons also have an exclusive effect. That is why Sauer stressed the importance of looking at nuclear weapons from another perspective.

Non-nuclear weapon states are in favor of prohibiting these weapons since nuclear weapons are a threat for them only. There is need for a prohibition/new declaration since the nonproliferation treaty (NPT) does not work.

Professor Sauer had a positive view on the future because now, for example via ICAN, citizens speak up to prohibit nuclear weapons. They speak up and make the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons a reality. Several states, also important powers, showed their loyalty towards the treaty and signed it. It is not enough, but still it is a sign. It is a signal from both citizens and non-nuclear weapon states that they want to end this dangerous situation.

Sauer called upon citizens to speak out against nuclear weapons which are against all human rights treaties and the rules of war. He stressed that there is no one in favor of nuclear weapons yet still the nuclear weapons arsenal is modernising very rapidly. We must keep control over these weapons.

Nuclear weapons need to be stopped. ICAN is a good example of a humanitarian initiative. Although it is not a final goal in itself, it is a necessary starting point.

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