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A Call to Action

Mr. Chairperson, distinguished delegates, NGO representatives,

You have just heard a series of statements representing the diversity of opinion and expertise within the NGO community. In this concluding statement we wish not only to sum up, but want to underline a few specific ideas we believe require your urgent action. Because we are committed to the realisation of the World Courts unanimous view that the NPT requires the achievement of nuclear disarmament, we are here, working to ensure the fulfillment of the promises made over a quarter of a century ago when the treaty was agreed.  We ask you to take substantive measures over the next two weeks in order to sustain the world's hope and belief in those promises.

We appreciate that you have agreed to hear NGO views early in the PrepCom. We would urge that

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1998 NPT Index

you consider expanding the process of broader NGO participation by creating, at next year's PrepCom, an NGO delegation with observer status, similar to the NGO delegation from the International Campaign to Ban Landmines which contributed so substantively to the CCW Review Conference and subsequently, the Ottawa process.  Just as NGOs fully participate in UN meetings on Social, Economic, and Human Rights issues, so too should we be welcomed at disarmament talks.

The NPT regime is clearly capable of accelerating the process of disarmament .  At the NPT Extension conference, Nuclear Weapons States were called to conclude negotiations on the CTBT in 1996, and a CTBT was indeed negotiated and signed in 1996.  Under the enhanced review process agreed in 1995, Prepcoms are to hold substantive as well as procedural discussions and must now begin this forward looking work.  Paramount among the many issues this session of the PrepCom must deal with,  is the obligation under Article VI, re-affirmed by the ICJ,  to call for negotiations leading to a Nuclear Weapons Convention to begin immediately. We support the proposal made at last years Prepcom by the Marshall Islands to convene an inter-sessional working group to advance these discussions.

Mr. Chairperson, with two years remaining before the new millennium, it is unthinkable that we will enter the 21st century without a signed treaty banning nuclear weapons.

You now have in your hands a Model Treaty, drafted by a network of civil society organisations with the help of leading legal scholars, scientific experts and diplomats which proposes steps and methods for dismantling the nuclear scourge and monitoring and verifying compliance. For those who say it cannot be done, we urge you to use this document as a starting point towards the commencement of negotiations.  Test its premises and assumptions and start bringing your own expertise to bear on what it would take to ban nuclear weapons.  Let us learn from the experience of the Republic of South Africa, the only state to have rejected nuclear deterrence and dismantled its nuclear weapons stockpile.  Chemical weapons, biological weapons and anti-personnel landmines have now been banned. We must do no less with nuclear weapons.  The work must begin anew this year.

While the Nuclear Weapons Convention is clearly on our horizon, taking nuclear weapons off hair trigger alert is an important early step towards that goal.  As many of you know, in January 1995 a rocket was launched off the coast of Norway on an exploratory mission to study the Aurora Borealis.  This launch caused the Russian President to open, for the first time, the dreaded nuclear suitcase and brought the world very close to a nuclear exchange, closer than at any time since the Cuban Missile Crisis.  Lengthening the time between threat and use to allow for diplomacy and rational decision making as well as verification, will truly make this a post-Cold War era.  We urge you not to leave this NPT PrepCom without assurances from the Nuclear Weapon States that immediately, this year in 1998,  they will take their nuclear weapons off alert.

A plethora of similar steps towards nuclear safety and non-proliferation is available such as the removal of warheads from their delivery systems so perilously poised to wreak destruction and havoc on the planet;  declaring a production halt on fissile materials including tritium production which is planned to ensure the endurance of lethal arsenals; and the common sense step of making an inventory of all weapons usable radioactive materials, military and civilian.

We have argued that computer simulated nuclear tests and so called "sub-critical" nuclear tests are not consistent with the obligations and spirit of the CTBT.  The non-governmental community is convinced that blowing up plutonium 1000 feet below the desert floor in Nevada, and beneath the fragile Arctic permafrost in Novaya Zemlya; designing weapons and testing their earth penetrating capacity in Alaska, in other words, the ongoing qualitative improvement of nuclear weapons, makes a mockery of the long sought CTBT and violates the Article VI obligation to pursue "good faith efforts" towards nuclear disarmament.  The European Parliament shares our concerns.

Proliferation of nuclear technology and nuclear materials is a direct consequence of the so-called "peaceful uses" of nuclear energy. This is immediately apparent when we examine the unique requirement for entry into force of the CTBT which requires the signature and ratification of the 44 nations in possession of nuclear reactors.  The drafters of the treaty knew well that every nuclear reactor is a bomb factory.

There are other readily available and sustainable energy sources which would enable all of us to enjoy life equitably on our planet.   To stop nuclear proliferation, to stop further production of nuclear waste, to stop further havoc to health, to stop environmental racism and colonialism, we are going to have to rely on the only safe nuclear reactor we have -- our own radiant sun. Better sooner than later, before we have added perilously to the existing deadly pollution on Earth.

Mr. Chairperson, overwhelming majorities have indicated in public opinion polls, by petitions, and by joining the movements to abolish nuclear weapons, that we want a swift end to the nuclear age.   Humanity has created the circumstances by which intentionally or accidentally, life can be obliterated.  This proximity to annihilation for some is a form of power and euphoria - emotions we believe history will deem psychotic.  Many in this room, on the other hand, are galvanised into action by these existing threats.

Mr. Chairperson, we consider the strengthened NPT review process a forum for change.  The enormity of this task dawns on us all.  It is difficult, transfigurative, and will require a deep patience and determination.  While many problems created by the splitting of the atom are still begging for lasting solutions,  the elimination of nuclear weapons is feasible and attainable within our lifetimes.  Its achievement will demonstrate the capacity of the human species to act collectively for its own preservation, in short, to evolve.  It's time to put away these deadly instruments of war, cleanup the toxic legacy of the nuclear age, and use our precious resources to provide for the genuine needs of our human family on planet earth.

Thank you.

Statement Coordinator:  Felicity Hill, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, 777 UN Plaza, New York, New York, NY 10017, Ph 1 212 682 1265, Fax 1 212 286 8211