Nuclear Disarmament – The Call of the Hour

Security Council Summit on Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament

The Fate of the Earth by Jonathan Schell is a book which can fill anybody with fear. His gory descriptions of a post nuclear war world are vivid and painfully haunting. The consequences of such a war would be fatal, not just for a country but for the entire mankind. This is not by any means a revolutionary statement, nor is it a groundbreaking discovery. It is in fact a simple truth which everybody is aware of. Yet, we continue to live in a world which is stocked with piles of nuclear weapons. Come to think of it, they offer nothing but a fake sense of security for the insecure. The risks associated with such security is suicidal to say the least and they deserve a place not among the arsenals but among the pages of history. To put it simply, complete nuclear disarmament is a necessity and the United Nations Office of Disarmament Affairs (UNODA) is on a mission perhaps most crucial for the future of our planet.


The single most important barrier towards a nuclear free world is the attitude of the states which already possess nuclear weapons. The problem is that they campaign ferociously against the further spread of nuclear weapons across the globe but they shy away from the talks of disarmament. They do not want to put their guns down. Instead, they want to walk around with it threatening those who want guns of their own. Such dominating behaviour is what pushes the desire of a nation to arm itself in search of security. The crux of the matter is that we always want what we cannot have. The greater the restrictions, the stronger the desire. What is needed is a leader, not a dictator. The United States being the superpower that it is, needs to lead by example by disarming itself of nuclear weapons totally. Somebody has to show the way. In fact, just showing the way is not enough, somebody has to walk it. It is a tough call but when did the leaders ever have it easy? Desmond Tutu, the famous South African anti-apartheid campaigner has called for the nuclear powers to “…apply the same standard to themselves as to others – zero nuclear weapons”. There can be no compromise on that, it has to be total zero or there is no point to it. It is no good getting rid of five snakes when there are ten in the house.


In their defence, the nuclear powers would cite the deterrent abilities of the nuclear weapons in an attempt to justify their possession. The story they would tell is that the fear of devastation is too chilling for any state to even entertain the thought of a nuclear attack on its enemy and thereby establishing “peace” between the states. There are two problems with this theory. Firstly, even if this theory is believed to be true there will be serious questions raised over the quality of “peace” that it brings if at all. Peace does not mean the absence of war just like joy does not mean the absence of sorrow. The absence of a state of being does not automatically create the presence of its opposite.

Secondly, as humans, we are not perfect, we make errors. It is one of us who will decide whether or not to press the button to a nuclear war. There is no guarantee that in a tense politically escalated situation, with a hell of a lot at stake a leader would remain calm and practical. The margin of error in such a scenario would be incredibly small, perhaps there wouldn’t be one at all.


For the reasons above and simply for the sake of this world, the UN must be backed on its mission. Yes, it is a battle which we may not win. But we don’t fight battles which we can win, we fight battles which need fighting.


 Maitreya Thakur




Desmond Tutu,


The Arms Trade Treaty

General Assembly Approves Global Arms Trade Treaty

The successful passing of the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) in the General Assembly on the 2nd April is a huge step forward in the regulation of the international trade in arms. In all, 154 states voted to support the treaty with just 3 voting against and 23 abstentions. Although it was a disappointment that there could not be global unanimous consensus on the treaty at the United Nations Conference on the ATT which closed on the 28th March, it can still be deemed a huge success that it was instead passed as a General Assembly Resolution.

The new treaty will cover battle tanks, armoured combat vehicles, large-calibre artillery systems, combat aircraft, attack helicopters, warships, missiles and missile launchers, and small arms and light weapons. The treaty will not impinge on domestic arms commerce or the right to bear arms but it carries a legal requirement for arms exporting countries to report arms sales and transfers which will make it significantly harder to obtain weapons and sow the seeds of war.

The text of the treaty includes provision for the prohibition of the transfer of arms which would be used in the commission of genocide, crimes against humanity and certain war crimes which was praised by the UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, Adama Dieng. However experts argue that there are still glaring omissions and ambiguities in the text of the treaty which could end up favouring the arms trade as there is nothing in the treaty prohibiting the sale of arms to non-state entities.

Although considering the shortcomings of the treaty is important, they are not sufficient to mar the huge leap forward that the treaty represents. It shows a global commitment to regulating arms and thus helping to prevent human rights abuses. It also marks the introduction of a new legal tool that can be used to protect those whose lives are threatened or whose groups are in danger of destruction.

The Office for the High Commissioner for Refugees published “The Global Burden of Armed Violence,” in 2011 which documented that more than half a million people die as a result of armed violence every year, fuelled in many cases by the widespread availability of weapons. Therefore the UNHCR sees the ATT as a positive step towards limiting the lucrative nature of the arms trade which is responsible for the majority of refugees being displaced from their homes due to violence made possible by the arms trade.

Bex Dunn