Atlanta Consultation III
The Carter Center
Atlanta , Georgia
January 21, 2010
My friends, colleagues, on behalf of the Middle Powers Initiative and the Global Security Institute let me express our heartfelt gratitude to President Carter and the entire staff of the Carter Center and especially the Carter Center’s Vice President John Stremlau for their generosity in hosting this important conference. We have the privilege of being here today because of the passion of President Carter for getting rid of nuclear weapons. Thank you.
Normally we commence such a meeting by asking people to put away their Blackberries or whatever berry they might have. Please take out whatever device you have and turn it on. Please take down this email address of MPI Chairman Ambassador Henrik Salander who is unable to travel here from Sweden due to a painful ailment: firstname.lastname@example.org. Lets just take a moment and email him a little get well note. And you can tell him that you miss him and that you will keep me in line. (laughter) You don’t need to tell him that, he knows. He is still bed ridden and his frustration is quite pronounced because he really wants to be here with us. I hope this will give him some comfort.
This leads me into the first point I’d like to make in commencing this gathering. When President Carter was in office could anyone have imagined and described the internet and the alacrity with which it would come into being? Could any of us have imagined these Blackberry devices that we have that integrate global communications for the common man at a level that even heads of state then didn’t have at their disposal? How many intelligence agencies predicted the fall of the Berlin Wall with any degree of accuracy at all, the end of apartheid without bloodshed, or the outcome of Massachusetts’s Senate election this week. Game changers can be for good or bad and although they happen without expectation we can be certain they will happen. Sometimes a slight unpredictable quirk of history, like a chauffeur carrying a head of state’s taking a wrong turn in Sarajevo and coming into contact with a lone assassin, leads to a world war.
We know from the complexities of geopolitical security issues that we don’t know what the future is going to bring regarding nuclear weapons. We don’t know how fast change will happen, but we know that we are at a moment in which decisions that are made will certainly affect the direction and opportunities that arise when the next game changer takes place. We had expected a game changer when in September the President of the United States convened a Security Council Summit on nuclear weapons and non-proliferation and disarmament. Maybe history will record that even as a game changer. This was the first Security Council Summit on the subject and the first Security Council chaired by a US President. It has certainly helped place the issue front and center. Yet, no one challenged the P5 countries to pledge to never use nuclear weapons first and no one put forward a challenge for commencing negotiations on a nuclear weapons convention. No one put forward the position that the use of a nuclear weapon, intrinsically, implicitly, because of its indiscriminant and horrific effect, is a crime against humanity. Those kinds of challenges were not made. The final resolution, SC 1887, could hardly be considered dynamic or historically transformative.
However a diplomatic challenge was made and the Security Council remains seized of the issue, the NPT parties remain seized of the issue and the issue remains prominent before the public in way that it has never been so pronounced since the beginning of the nuclear age. Ambassador Salander’s outstanding speech that he prepared addresses this moment of tension and this moment of opportunity and I would like to make sure that it is distributed and I’d like to quote from some of it here to ensure that the Chairman of the Middle Powers Initiative’s message is heard clearly and forcefully because I think it is extraordinarily on point. It is being circulated amongst us now. While this is being done and before I read it, please let allow me to share a few more thoughts.
As a civil society organization, MPI can arrange consultations, meetings, and share ideas, and in that regard, we very much hope that you find the briefs that MPI distributes to be of value. Although we have different roles and naturally different perspectives, at this time in history, for success, it will take governments and civil society working together to meet one of humanity’s most critical challenges, the elimination of nuclear weapons.
As you might have noted, Security Council Resolution 1887, passed at the Security Council Summit, highlights the role of civil society organizations and I think that alone is quite extraordinary. Non-governmental organizations are not constrained by the limitations of representing only a country. We have the freedom and thus the responsibility to view issues from a global and holistic perspective. That freedom not only affects our capacity to advocate but it impacts the way we look at things. We can look at the issue of nuclear weapons with a much more dilated lens. How does that lead to different thinking? Well, let’s take the way the regime is structured itself.
Imagine the Biological Weapons Convention contained within it a provision which said that all states were prohibited from using polio or smallpox as a weapon, but nine states, because they are so very responsible, reliable, trustworthy, and efficient, nine particular states can use the plague as a weapon to maintain international peace and security. Such a proposition would fail morally and practically. I think it would be considered absurd. It is this kind of incoherence with which we are challenged when looking at the current posture of nuclear weapons globally. I believe Ambassador Salander’s presentation gives some insightful and substantive proposals on how we might move forward to free ourselves from the instability and risk inherent in the current regime.
(READING OF MPI CHAIRMAN HENRIK SALANDER’S SPEECH, “COMPASS POINT OF ELIMINATION, FINDING THE PATH”)