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Overcoming the Obstacles to a Nuclear Weapons-Free World
By Hon. Douglas Roche, O.C.
Address to 60th Anniversary Observance
August 4, 2005
Hiroshima

As we gather in this historic location to observe the 60th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, my first thoughts turn to the hibakusha. I pay my respect to these brave people who have suffered so much and who have taught the world. The stories of the hibakusha must never be lost. Future generations must understand the reality of nuclear weapons. They must continue to learn from these brave people who overcame Armageddon and chose the path of life. The hibakusha rejected retaliation and embraced reconciliation as their guiding force. That is a lesson for the ages.

I also wish to pay my deepest respect to Mayor Akiba for his world-wide leadership in building Mayors for Peace into a vibrant organization in the campaign to rid the world of nuclear weapons. The 20/20 Vision Campaign, articulated so brilliantly by Mayor Akiba, has provided new hope for all those who desire to live in a nuclear weapons-free world. I congratulate the people of Hiroshima for having selected such an outstanding world figure to represent their interests. I pledge today the continuing support of the Middle Powers Initiative for Mayor Akiba and the Mayors for Peace campaign.

* * *

The framework for a nuclear weapons-free world is coming into view even as the daily news seems discouraging. It is perhaps paradoxical that a light can be seen, by those with vision, even in the darkness of the moment.

My experience tells me that it is reasonable to hope for, and to work for, a world beyond the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. As a parliamentarian, diplomat and educator, I have worked on nuclear disarmament issues for more than 30 years. I understand the lassitude and obstinacy of governments all too well. But I also see the developments taking place in civil society where increasing numbers of highly informed and deeply committed activists are cooperating with like-minded governments to get things done to improve human security. The Anti-Personnel Landmines Treaty, the International Criminal Court, and the new surge of government commitment to Official Development Assistance have come about because of civil society's input into government machinery.

We stand on the threshold of the construction of a viable plan for a nuclear weapons-free world resulting from the active cooperation of knowledgeable leaders of civil society working with those politicians and officials of like-minded governments who truly want to move forward.

The day will arrive when either nuclear weapons abolition takes effect or the world will be devastated by a nuclear attack. One or the other will happen. No person, informed on the gravity of the situation, can deny it.

* * *

Dear friends, the eyes of the world are on Hiroshima today. It is our task to ensure that political decision-makers stay focused on solving the problems at the epicenter of Hiroshima. We must have national policies that ban the production, deployment and use of nuclear weapons by countries in all circumstances for all time. There can be no more equivocation. We must project our message for all to hear: nuclear weapons are immoral, they are illegal, they are the ultimate evil. No civilized person can any longer defend the possession of nuclear weapons. They must be banished from the face of the earth.

We who are assembled here today must gather new energy for our struggle. It is not yet too late to prevent a nuclear catastrophe - the third use of nuclear weapons. But the hour is late. The nuclear weapons States refuse to negotiate the elimination of their nuclear arsenals. Proliferation of nuclear weapons is occurring. Nuclear weapons have become part of war-fighting strategies. Terrorists seek nuclear weapons. The Second Nuclear Age has begun. This is the message we must get out to all those who think the nuclear weapons problems went away with the end of the Cold War.

Let us take heart as we renew our work today. We who stand for the abolition of nuclear weapons are not some isolated minority. Unthinking politicians may try to marginalize us. But we are part of a growing majority. An international poll of citizens in 11 countries showed that 86 percent of people either strongly agree or agree to some extent that all nations should sign a treaty to ban nuclear weapons. In Japan, the figure was 97 percent. The people of Japan want the abolition of nuclear weapons. We must tell the Government of Japan to work harder to obtain what the Japanese people so ardently desire.

In the United States, 76 percent of the people favour a treaty to ban all nuclear weapons. Yet the government of the United States stands today as the biggest obstacle to nuclear disarmament. I make that statement as a Canadian, a next-door neighbour of the United States, one who has lived among and loves the American people. But my parliamentary and diplomatic experience has shown me how the present Administration of the U.S. is undermining the rule of law. By refusing to accept today the commitments made in 1995 and 2000 to strengthen the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the government of the U.S. is weakening the non-proliferation regime. They have the ill-conceived idea that they can reserve to themselves the right to continued possession of nuclear weapons while proscribing their acquisition by other countries.

We must say clearly to the U.S.: you cannot have a two-class world on nuclear weapons. You owe it to humanity to work with other countries in a constructive manner to negotiate the complete elimination of all nuclear weapons. As Chairman of the Middle Powers Initiative, I approach this work in a positive and constructive spirit, not one of recrimination. I want to help the U.S. understand that, together, the world community can build the architecture to provide security in a nuclear weapons-free world.

I am announcing today that the Middle Powers Initiative will sponsor an "Article VI Forum" for like-minded States to start work on identifying the legal, political and technical requirements for the elimination of nuclear weapons. We will invite senior representatives of 28 countries to a special meeting in early October at the United Nations to specify steps that could be taken unilaterally, bilaterally, regionally and multilaterally to enhance security without relying on nuclear weapons. This process may well produce the outline of how negotiations, as called for in Article VI of the Non-Proliferation Treaty and reinforced by the International Court of Justice, can proceed. A framework for negotiations could be started. The Article VI Forum, with its ongoing work, will, of course, pay attention to non-proliferation issues, but the focus will be principally on nuclear disarmament issues, which are at the true center of the nuclear weapons crisis.

The MPI cordially invites the Government of Japan to join the Article VI Forum. Membership in the Forum, in the opening stages, will be confined to like-minded non-nuclear weapons States. They need to spend some time working together and allow their creativity and commitment to surface. At some point in the new deliberations, the nuclear weapons States interested in joining a new process to fulfil their Article VI commitments could be invited to join.

All of this work is intended to strengthen the Non-Proliferation Treaty so that negotiations for the elimination of nuclear weapons will not only be pursued but concluded. I see this work as a direct contribution to the Mayors for Peace campaign for a Nuclear Weapons Convention to come fully into effect by 2020. The immediate steps of Mayors for Peace to stimulate productive work at the United Nations First Committee and to get talks started early in 2006 is highly commendable. Governments must begin to work together on specific issues leading to nuclear disarmament, as Mayors for Peace has stated. It is the duty of middle power states to lead the way. The Article VI Forum would help them to fulfil this function.

The MPI work in building some momentum through having like-minded States concentrate on preparing the way for a nuclear weapons-free world and the Mayors for Peace work in driving the First Committee work forward go hand-in-hand. Together, the Middle Powers Initiative and Mayors for Peace can contribute to progress. We can show all the nuclear weapons States that the world can work together in addressing this greatest of all security problems. However, MPI and M4P cannot do this alone. Much will depend on public backing and political support for these new initiatives. A rising public demand for nations to get on with negotiating and implementing a Nuclear Weapons Convention to ban the production and deployment of all nuclear weapons may take hold in the future. The work of Mayors for Peace, with its growing and extensive network around the world, could stimulate that demand.

It can be expected that one or more of the nuclear weapons States will resist and continue to claim that it still needs nuclear weapons. But such claims would have less and less credibility in a world where the architecture for security without nuclear weapons became better understood and where the universal norm against the possession of nuclear weapons was growing in stature.

* * *

Let us always remember: we have the historical momentum for the abolition of nuclear weapons on our side. The Non-Proliferation Treaty, the International Court of Justice, the votes of the majority of nations are all calling for an "unequivocal undertaking" and systematic progress towards the elimination of nuclear weapons. The proponents of nuclear weapons have been reduced to ridiculous arguments to justify nuclear retention. Not only are nuclear weapons immoral and illegal, they are devoid of any intellectual standing. Those who defend nuclear weapons should be laughed at - as one day they will, when humanity discovers it has the strength to overcome the merchants of evil. Future generations will look back on our time and say without hesitation that nuclear weapons were an anachronism, the obsession of old men trapped in the past. It will be a source of wonder to future generations how humanity ever tolerated the means to its own mass destruction.

It is our job to work towards this future of enlightenment. The people of the world want us to succeed in building true human security. We must feel confident that we can do the job. We must know that we can respond to our historical calling. We must be forever determined to build a nuclear weapons-free world. Hiroshima gives me that strength and hope.

Sen. Douglas Roche, O.C. is Chairman of the Middle Powers Initiative