WAAS Program on Abolition of Nuclear Weapons
Project leaders: Jasjit Singh & Garry Jacobs
The devastating consequences of nuclear war and the potential destructive applications of science and technology were paramount concerns among Einstein, Russell, Oppenheimer, Rotblat and others who supported the founding of the World Academy. Over the past seven years, the Academy has revived the focus on this original concern of our founders.
In November 2004, the WAAS jointly organized a one-day workshop in New Delhi in collaboration with the International Commission on Peace & Food (ICPF) and the Mother’s Service Society (MSS) to examine issues related to nuclear weapons and international security, employment and economic development. Participants included senior Indian military experts, Fellows and other international participants, including a senior NATO expert from the Netherlands. After the meeting, Fellows Harlan Cleveland, Walt Anderson, Ivo Šlaus, Garry Jacobs and Jasjit Singh, proposed to initiate a new Academy program on the abolition of nuclear weapons.
Progress to Date
In September 2005 a workshop was conducted in Washington DC with Former Defense Secretary Robert McNamara focusing on the urgent need to outlaw and abolish nuclear weapons.
In October 2005 Ivo Šlaus organized a NATO-sponsored two-day workshop on nuclear abolition, terrorism and international security issues at Zagreb prior to the WAAS General Assembly.
Following the Zagreb GA, the Board of Trustees established the Standing Committee on Peace & Development (SCPD) to continue work on these issues and explore the linkages between peace and development. Garry Jacobs was appointed chair.
A resolution was passed by the Board in July 2006 to the effect that the World Academy formally supports and will take steps to bring about the total eradication of nuclear weapons. In addition, a decision was taken to channel a special contribution of $200,000 to the Global Security Institute (GSI), led by Fellow Jonathan Granoff, to support a special high level initiative for total nuclear disarmament.
Immediately following the Board meeting, the Academy organized a session on nuclear disarmament at the World Futures Society annual conference in Toronto. Walt Anderson, Jasjit Singh, Garry Jacobs and Ashok Natarajan participated on behalf of the Academy. Discussions were also held with Jonathan Granoff concerning the possibility that India could take a leadership role in calling for nuclear disarmament.
Several members of the SCPD also represented the Academy at meetings of the Nobel Peace laureates in Rome in 2005 and at a high level meeting organized by the Middle Powers Initiative and hosted by the Government of Canada with representatives from 25 nations and many leading international NGOs held in Ottawa in September 2006. Shortly after the Ottawa meeting, North Korea detonated a nuclear weapons test, openly declaring itself a nuclear weapons power for the first time. This was followed by reports that Iran was also developing nuclear weapons.
In October 2006 a “Workshop on Nuclear Disarmament” was organized at the UN in New York by the SCPD in collaboration with GSI and MSS. Walt, Bob, Lincoln Bloomfield, Harlan, John, Robert van Harten, Garry, and Ashok participated.
WAAS also participated in another meeting of the Middle Powers Initiative in Vienna in March 2007 addressed by Hans Blix, the former head of IAEA and Chairman of the International Commission on Weapons of Mass Destruction, and other leading disarmament experts.
A meeting on nuclear abolition was also organized by SEED-WAAS in Zagreb in April 2007.
In May 2007 Futures Journal published an article by Jasjit, Manpreet Sethi and Garry on “Abolishing Nuclear Weapons”, which was based on their presentation at WFS annual conference in Toronto.
In February 2008, another meeting was organized in collaboration with GSI in New York on “Weaponization of Outer Space”.
In Spring 2008, WAAS collaborated with the World Federation of UN Associations (WFUNA) on a global student essay contest to promote the goal of nuclear abolition. WAAS/WFUNA organized a week-long event in Geneva, initiated and sponsored by WAAS and co-chaired by Hans Blix. WAAS was represented by Bob and John.
In June 2008, Jasjit Singh organized a major international conference “Towards a Nuclear Weapons Free World” in New Delhi sponsored by the Government of India on the issue of nuclear weapons. Dr. Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister of India, inaugurated the conference pledging India’s full support for complete eradication of nuclear weapons, the first of the declared nuclear weapons powers to make such a pledge. India’s Foreign Minister, Vice President and other senior diplomatic and military personnel participated together with a cross section of distinguished international security experts. Jonathan Granoff , Garry Jacobs and Ivo made presentations and interventions on behalf of the Academy.
Throughout this period, Ivo has been actively representing WAAS on this issue in numerous meetings of Pugwash and the European Leadership Forum, a high level group of former European diplomats working for abolition of nuclear weapons.
In February 2011, Jasjit Singh’s Centre for Air Power Strategy (CAPS) sponsored a two day meeting of the Academy on nuclear weapons in New Delhi, in which Bob Berg, Pushpa Bhargava, Jonathan Granoff, Garry Jacobs, Winston Nagan, Ashok Natarajan and Ivo Šlaus interacted with Jasjit and a range of senior Indian military personnel and diplomats on strategies to enhance international security, including the dangers of nuclear proliferation and nuclear accidents.
An article entitled “Universal Nuclear Disarmament” by Manpreet Sethi was published in Cadmus Issue 2 in April 2011.
Outlawing Nuclear Weapons paper presented by Winston Nagan at the Delhi GA in Nov 2011
Abolition of nuclear weapons (NWs) is a strategic objective of the Academy. In his presentation to the General Assembly, Winston Nagan delineated the role of law in achieving this goal.
The perspective of the professional legal culture today is not sufficient to challenge conventional political wisdom about human rights and global security. International law is not just a mechanical reading of preexisting laws. It is also about the affirmation of values which are its very foundation. NWs defy the fundamental principle of humanitarian law. In his landmark opinion in 1996, Judge C.G. Weeramantry of the International Court of Justice rejected the legality of any usage of NWs whatsoever.
Winston poses the critical question: How effective can the structure and the processes of legal discourse be in influencing the critical constituencies that still affirm an important role for NWs and delivery systems in the management of global security priorities? Though nations cite military necessity as the rationale for the usage of NWs, their justification is dubious. The serious threats posed by the use of NWs can never be confined to a single nation-state or to purely military objectives. They invariably target large civilian population centers. The consequences of their use are likely to be transnational. Therefore, any usage must be regarded as a crime against humanity. Now is the time for the ICJ to unequivocally declarethe illegality of these weapons.
The disaster at Fukushima, Japan, raises parallel questions about the threat presented by nuclear energy plants. The fallout from a nuclear accident could well cross national boundaries and affect civilian population centers in other countries, violating traditional notions of national sovereignty and raising fundamental questions regarding the sovereign rights of humanity as a whole. The real risks of nuclear accidents and potential cost of remediation make nuclear power the costliest form of energy. These critical issues justify a reappraisal of alternative energy sources and the benefits of closing existing nuclear plants in other countries, as Germany and Switzerland have recently announced.
It is unlikely that the nuclear weapons states will take initiative on their own to completely eliminate nuclear weapons in the near future. Those in power rarely renounce it unilaterally. Therefore, a breakthrough will require sufficient pressure to be generated by global public opinion. Today WAAS is well networked to promote an umbrella of like-minded organizations (ELF, GSI, MPI, IPPNW, Pugwash, national academies, Global Zero, Abolition 2000, etc.) which in combination may be able to generate sufficient awareness and exert sufficient influence to mobilize international public opinion to act decisively for the total abolition of nuclear weapons.