Nobel Peace Laureates Express Grave Concern about New Nuclear Arms Race, Call for Strengthening of NPT and UN

 Event Report
by Dr. Urs Cipolat, University of California, Berkeley
Rome, Italy
November 12, 2004

From 10-13 November, twenty-three Nobel peace laureates and laureate organizations met in Rome, Italy for the 5th Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates. As in previous years, their annual Summit was organized by the Gorbachev Foundation and co-hosted by former Soviet President and Peace Nobel Laureate, Mikhail Gorbachev, and the Mayor of Rome, Walter Veltroni. Under the theme, “A United World or Divided World?,” the laureates focused on identifying core values and policies that would help political leaders and activists around the world promote human rights, strengthen multi-ethnicity, eradicate terrorism, and stop the new arms race.

The increasing threat posed by nuclear weapons took a central position in the Summit’s deliberations. Numerous laureates and laureate organizations stressed the immorality and illegality of nuclear weapons and called upon the growing number of governments possessing such weapons of mass destruction to eliminate them.

In their Final Statement, the Nobel peace laureates expressed grave concern about the resurgent nuclear arms race, the disrespect for international law and the failure of the world’s governments to adequately address the root causes of terrorism, that is, poverty, ignorance and injustice. The Statement also casts doubt on the long-term viability of the US-led ‘war against terror.’ “Only by reaffirming our shared ethical values – respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms – and by observing democratic principles, within and amongst countries, can terrorism be defeated,” the Statement reads.

The Nobel laureates rejected the existing nuclear ‘double-standard’ and collectively called upon governments, parliamentarians, and civil society as a whole to
– preserve and strengthen the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which is the only legally binding instrument that stipulates the total elimination of nuclear weapons;
– uphold the moratorium on nuclear testing pending entry into force of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty;
– demand the verifiable and irreversible reduction of existing arsenals;
– stop the development of a new generation of ‘usable’ nuclear arms (so-called mini-nukes and bunker busters); and
– reject new military doctrines that view nuclear weapons as legitimate means of war-fighting and threat pre-emption.

In his opening speech to the plenum, former President Mikhail Gorbachev (1990) deplored the missed opportunity at the end of the Cold War to establish a new, more peaceful world order, and called for a Perestroika on the international level that would help strengthen the UN, reduce the rampant levels of violence worldwide, reverse the renewed arms race, and prepare the ground for a genuine culture of peace.

Kim Dae-jung (2000), former President of South Korea, underscored that the ultimate solution to the crisis on the Korean peninsula lies in the total elimination of all nuclear weapons world-wide. The possession of nuclear weapons by some States, Kim pointed out, continues to provide the most powerful incentive for other States and terrorists to acquire them.

Sir Joseph Rotblat (1995) from the United Kingdom emphasized that the retention of nuclear weapons, rather than increasing security, actually threatens it. “[T]he continuous existence of nuclear arsenals in some countries greatly increases the probability of such weapons being used by a terrorist group,” Rotblat argued. Deploring the development of new generations of nuclear weapons, in particular by the US and Russia, the first scientist to quit the Manhattan Project (to develop a U.S. nuclear bomb) when it was discovered that Germany was not developing the nuclear bomb called upon all States to live up to their commitments under the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, which requires the nuclear “haves” to eliminate their arsenals while prohibiting the “have-nots” to acquire such weapons. “If you want peace, prepare for peace,” Rotblat concluded, and pointed out that such preparations can only be successful if States are willing to give up some degree of their national sovereignty to create a truly collective and hence more effective system of global governance.

Link to Sir Joseph Rotblat’s Speech

Jonathan Granoff from the United States of America, Head of Delegation of the International Peace Bureau (1910) and President of the Global Security Institute, reflected on the interconnectedness of the various global threats that humankind is presently facing. Identifying the widespread indifference to human suffering and the pride of power and religious exclusivity as dangerous sources of all man-made threats, Granoff called for the establishment of UN Centers for Non-violent Conflict Prevention across the globe to help foster dialogue between the world’s innumerable cultures, religions and ethnic groups. “We must commit to promoting a culture of peace founded on the rule of law, the dignity of our higher qualities, and deeper dialogue amongst peoples,” Granoff stated. “Where our common humanity is affirmed and love expressed, fear, the breading ground for fanaticism, is overcome,” he stressed.

According to Granoff, poverty, another driving force of violence and terrorism, could be more effectively addressed if military spending were substantially reduced and resulting surplus funds invested in economic development and social programs. “The US nuclear arsenal costs the American taxpayer over $100 million a day,” Granoff observed, “yet it failed and will continue to fail deterring terrorists from attacking us. Using these enormous funds – $36 million per year – to feed the hungry, employ the poor, and educate the disenfranchised around the world would make a real contribution to strengthening national and international peace and stability.”

Link to Jonathan Granoff’s paper on “Human Unity”

Alyn Ware from Aotearoa/New Zealand, Vice-President of the International Peace Bureau (1910) and Coordinator of the Parliamentary Network for Nuclear Disarmament, highlighted the need to implement peace and disarmament education at all levels of society in order to build a culture of peace. Ware encouraged Nobel laureates, parliamentarians and civil society leaders to support initiatives that would reduce nuclear dangers and achieve nuclear abolition, including an international appeal on reducing the operational status of nuclear weapons (i.e. to take nuclear weapons off alert and abandon policies of launch-on-warning and first-use of nuclear weapons) and the Mayors for Peace Emergency Campaign for Nuclear Abolition. He highlighted UN Security Council Resolution 1540 (2004) on the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and called upon parliamentarians worldwide to use this opportunity to enact national legislation that criminalizes any form of Weapons of Mass Destruction activity, whether undertaken by non-State actors or government officials.

Link to Alyn Ware’s Speech

Professor M.S. Swaminathan from India, President of the Pugwash Conferences (1995), observed that an important aspect of the currently divided world is the persistence of nuclear haves and have-nots. Stating his belief that such a two-class world cannot endure and reaffirming that Pugwash is “totally committed to the goal of abolishing all nuclear weapons,” Swaminathan called for a paradigm shift in global security. “We need a shift from a competitive to a cooperative global security system . which does not depend on nuclear or any other weapon of mass destruction,” Swaminathan observed.

Link to Prof. Swaminathan’s Speech

Professor Gunnar Westberg, MD, from Sweden, Co-President of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (1985), underscored that not only terrorism, but also the war against terrorism, keep the world divided and war-torn, and that nuclear terrorism is becoming an increasing danger. He concluded his presentations by identifying nuclear weapons as the most serious threat to the survival of mankind. “Nuclear weapons and mankind can in the long run not coexist. One will have to go,” Westberg said.

Link to Dr. Gunnar’s Speech

Interventions by other Nobel Peace laureates and laureate organizations focused on a variety of issues, including terrorism, poverty, human rights and their violation, or the reconstruction of post-conflict societies. [Link to Presentations by Mairead Corrigan Maguire, Mary Ellen McNish and Paul Lacey] The Summit honored Yusuf Islam aka Cat Stevens with the “Man for Peace” award and issued a supplemental statement demanding the immediate release by the authorities of Myanmar of Aung San Suu Kyi, 1991 Nobel Peace laureate.

Link to A Call For Freedom

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