Go to Home Page
  Library Treaties Non-Proliferation Treaty, NGO Statement 11, 1999

NGO Statement 11

School shootings. Ethnic cleansing. Aerial bombings. Refugees. Cruise missiles. Coiled carbon strand weapons. Depleted uranium bullets. Oil slicks threatening a Bulgarian nuclear power plant. Research reactors on NATO's hit lists. Military domination of outer space. Rape as a weapon of war. Terror as a weapon of war. Mutilation as a weapon of war. These are some of the

Printer Friendly


realities facing our world today.

To talk about general and complete disarmament in this time of war in Europe, Africa and South Asia and bombing in the Middle East may seem to be grasping at dreams, but these problems cry out for solutions. It is imperative that the question of general and complete disarmament be understood in the context of planetary survival. The weaponry of today is so powerful and expensive, and the targets so utterly toxic that the world can no longer afford war, financially and environmentally. There are poisonous chemicals and radioactive materials spread across the world. To blow them up with any sort of bomb puts us all at risk. Pollution knows no boundaries. Chernobyl taught us that.

The objective of general and complete disarmament in the Non-Proliferation Treaty began as part of American and Soviet disarmament proposals submitted to the United Nations General Assembly in the early 1960s. It was an intense, dangerous period of the Cold War. Yet, these plans submitted by adversaries were remarkably similar; they both called for a step-by-step decrease in reliance on national armed forces and a parallel increase in UN peacekeeping capabilities. Over the course of time, the radioactive shadow of the Cold War loomed too large and the task of negotiating the goal of general and complete disarmament was broken down into individual arms control components.

The two references in the NPT to general and complete disarmament are used by some as a way to delay real movement forward on all levels of disarmament. There are those, Party to the NPT, who resist mechanisms for achieving nuclear disarmament by claiming that nuclear weapons abolition is to be finalized "pursuant to a treaty on general and complete disarmament..." This hardline position is simply wrong and is disproven by the International Court of Justice when, in its July 8, 1996 advisory opinion, the Court focused on the nuclear dimension and made no suggestion whatsoever that nuclear disarmament is contingent upon general and complete disarmament. Certain nuclear weapons states assert that the ICJ's opinion inaccurately represents the NPT and the state of the law. Why do they continue to resist what they agreed to nearly 30 years ago? Nuclear disarmament is related to but not dependent upon general and complete disarmament, and vice versa.

Electromagnetic weapons. Ionosphere-based weapons Acoustic weapons. Laser weapons. Devices based on nano-technology. Weapons which target one ethnic group based on their genetic makeup. These are only some of the horrifying development that we need to nip in the bud.

New ideas of security need to be fostered. The weapons systems of today are more complicated and their use has far reaching policy and environmental implications. For every dollar or ruble or rupee spent on warmaking and death, food, medicine and human rights are stolen out of the lives of children.

New and developing weapons systems change the landscape of disarmament negotiations, speeding rapidly away from the ideal of general and complete disarmament. The weapons being used today are insidious and do not fit neatly into existing weapons categories. The prospect of space-based weaponry raises the specter of an entirely new theatre of global warfare.

Depleted uranium weaponry -- made from the wastes created by the use of nuclear energy -- scatters toxic waste and radioactive isotopes across landscapes that may be forever poisoned. This use of depleted uranium in war is antithetical to the ideas of using atomic technology for peaceful purposes. This kind of weaponry is not perceived to be within the scope of the NPT. That Depleted Uranium weapons are proliferating is a cause for concern. The implications of the use of Depleted Uranium should be the subject of discussion in this forum of the NPT review process.

Electromagnetic weaponry, which may have been employed in the current air war over Kosovo, has damaging effects and could be developed into high-tech weapon of mass disruption. All of the new weapons mentioned here, and others not mentioned, are either highly toxic or have indiscriminate effects and if their production, proliferation and use are not opposed on all levels, we face widespread genetic mutations, crop failures due to environmental poisoning and unprecedented control from above.

While the need for comprehensive disarmament must never be allowed to be an excuse for failing to accomplish nuclear disarmament, it is also true that there can and should be a dynamic interaction between the two endeavors. This is well illustrated by the problem of missiles. The nuclear age has been characterized not only by nuclear explosives, but by their combination with missiles and computers. There is now a disturbing and potentially destabilizing resurgence of interest in ballistic missile defense. This ignores that a far more productive approach would be to control and eliminate the missiles actually or potentially posing the threat. Indeed, states urgently need to find a way to commence negotiations on this subject on a global basis. But missiles can carry nuclear, conventional, chemical or biological warheads, so their control will link nuclear and comprehensive disarmament.

Since the birth of the United Nations, resolutions have been introduced to the General Assembly calling for progress toward nuclear disarmament. They are opposed and sidelined by the Nuclear Weapons States. On the eve of the new millenium, your task in preparing for the 2000 NPT Review Conference is to move forward and put into place the mechanisms and frameworks that are needed to dismantle nuclear weapons arsenals.

There are a number of programs and initiatives which aim at building a sustainable peace in the world. The Hague Appeal for Peace, an international conference meeting this week, builds on the First International Peace Conference in 1899 by envisioning an integrated program of disarmament, conflict prevention and transformation, strengthened and enforceable mechanisms of humanitarian law, and incisive efforts to redress the root causes of armed conflict. Governments and NGOs will have to join together in systematically applying conflict prevention and resolution measures and in carrying out the basic concept of the 1960s proposals for general and complete disarmament -- a step-by-step reduction of national armed forces to a level where they are sufficient only for the defense of national territory, accompanied by a step-by-step enhancement of multilateral UN and regional conflict prevention capabilities.

In building a secure, just, peaceful world in the new century, we must, as a people, understand the past and set our sights on the future, while addressing in diplomatic not military terms the difficult problems facing us today.

The Non-Proliferation Treaty begins by recognizing that nuclear war is abhorrent and must never happen, and that "every effort should be made to avert the danger of such a war." Make every effort. Create peace. If we can risk global nuclear annihilation, we can surely risk general and complete disarmament. Thank you for your time and attention.

CONVENOR: Stephanie Fraser, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom
339 Lafayette Street, New York, New York 10012, (212) 533-2125, sfraser@igc.org