August 14: Today, the Canberra Commission on the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons presented its final report to Australian Prime Minister John Howard. The report outlines practical steps world governments can take to achieve the verifiable elimination of nuclear weapons and the full safeguarding of weapons-usable nuclear material. The Commission calls upon the leaders of nuclear weapons states to "commit themselves unequivocally to the elimination of nuclear weapons and agree to start work immediately on the practical steps and negotiations for its achievement with the first steps taken in 1997."
The Commission is significant in that it is the first international commission to be charged with producing a working blueprint for diasarmament. The existence of the Commission and the report it has produced today further shifts the debate on nuclear disarmament out from the realm of theory and into the realm of the possible:
Karina Wood, Nuclear Disarmament Coordinator for Peace Action Education Fund welcomed the Commission's report, stating: "Following in the wake of July's ruling from the International Court of Justice that almost any threat or use of nuclear weapons is illegal, and appearing at a moment when the world is on the brink of completing a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, the Canberra Commission's report is a timely document which adds expert weight to the growing body of world opinion calling for the abolition of nuclear weapons."
Peace Action Education Fund hopes that the nuclear weapons states heed the warnings of the Commission when it says that the proliferation of nuclear weapons is amongst the most immediate security challenges facing the international community today. The United States and the other nuclear powers can significantly reduce the risk of nuclear war and thus enhance the security of the whole world, and implement their Non-Proliferation Treaty promises to disarm by putting the Commission's plan into action.
"The nuclear states can start by agreeing to establish a new Ad Hoc Committee on Nuclear Disarmament at the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva. This would provide a United Nations body to oversee negotiations towards multinational disarmament, and would help ensure the swift passage of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty to the UN General Assembly in September," added Wood.
In the words of the Commission's report: "The end of the Cold War has created a new climate for international action to eliminate nuclear weapons, a new opportunity. It must be exploited quickly or it will be lost."
Established by former Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating, and named after the Australian capital, the Canberra Commission comprises 17 eminent scientists, politicians, disarmament experts and military strategists from around the world. Its commissioners span the political spectrum from long-time disarmament advocate and the 1995 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Dr. Joseph Rotblat, to former Secretary of Defense and architect of U.S. nuclear policy of the Cold War Robert MacNamara.
Peace Action Education Fund is the sister organization of Peace Action, the largest grassroots peace and justice advocacy organization in the United States with 60,000 members and 27 state affiliates working to abolish nuclear weapons, halt weapons trafficking, establish a national economy based on peace not war, and create a world order that resolves conflicts non-violently.
FROM THE TEST BAN TO A NUCLEAR FREE FUTURE