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What was the statement about?
- Recently, the 5 permanent members of the UN Security Council, i.e. China, the USA, Russia, France and the UK, released a joint statement on nuclear weapons.
- The statement reaffirmed that, given the far reaching consequences of nuclear war, it must never be fought. Such a war cannot be won.
- The P5 states reaffirmed that nuclear threats must be addressed. They emphasized the importance of preserving and complying with agreements and commitments– both bilateral and multilateral- with regards to disarmament, non-proliferation and arms control.
- The P5 statement expressed commitment to the NPT (Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons) obligations and to prevent unintended/ unauthorized use of nuclear weapons.
- It noted that a nuclear arms race would benefit no one and endanger everybody and the 5 permanent members would:
- Work with all states to establish a security environment that is conducive to progressive disarmament and with the ultimate goal of complete disarmament without diminishing security for all.
- Seek diplomatic approaches– bilateral and multilateral- to improve stability and predictability, to increase mutual understanding and confidence and to avoid military confrontations.
- Undertake constructive dialogue with mutual respect and mutual acknowledgement of each other’s security concerns and interests.
How significant is this statement?
- This is the first such joint statement by 5 major nuclear weapon states. This is being touted as indicative of political will of the countries’ leadership to prevent nuclear wars and to maintain global strategic stability.
- This statement, while unprecedented, is not a binding resolution.
- While it reiterates NPT’s core obligations, the review of the treaty remains postponed till August because of the pandemic.
- However, these factors don’t diminish the political significance and urgency of the joint statement- given the danger posed by the 13,000 odd nuclear weapons in possession of a handful of countries and the growing issue of loose nuclear weapons, which could potentially be deployed for nefarious purposes by armed terror groups.
What did the UN Secretary General say?
- Following the release of this joint statement from the P5, the UN General Secretary Antonio Guterres gave out a warning that ‘nuclear annihilation is just one misunderstanding/ miscalculation away’.
- He called for bold action on 6 fronts:
- Chart a nuclear disarmament path by the member states
- Agreement on new measures for transparency and dialogue
- Address the nuclear crisis in the Middle East and Asia
- Strengthen existing international bodies that work for non-proliferation (such as the IAEA/ International Atomic Energy Agency)
- Encourage peaceful use of nuclear technology
- Remind the people- especially the young- that eliminating nukes is the only way to guarantee that they will not be used
What is the way ahead?
- As taught by Gandhi, the right to peace is essential for all human rights and waging peace is everyone’s work– irrespective of profession, vocation or discipline.
- Peace is essential for rights, equality, freedom and justice. It is for this reason that we need peace education or what is called ‘education in the obvious’, as termed by Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.
- This is needed at multiple levels– planetary, global, supranational, regional, national and local levels.
- According to Betty Reardon, the general purpose of peace education is to ‘promote the development of an authentic planetary consciousness that will enable us to function as global citizens and to transform the present human condition by changing the social structures and the patterns of thought that have created it.’
- A significant global cultural change can be achieved by placing this ‘transformational imperative’ at the centre of peace education. This change will influence ways of thinking, values, behaviours, relationships, structure of public order and the world views.
- A critical peace education must perform several tasks, such as:
- Giving the truth about the realities and inequalities in the society
- Highlighting spaces for possible actions that could help challenge these realities
- Acting as ‘critical secretary of the people, programs and practices that are actually interrupting the dominant relations and building workable alternatives to them in educational institutions, communities and other sites’- as mentioned in 2017 book Critical Peace Education and Global Citizenship
- This means that peace education should create ‘critical secretaries’ to people’s movements, instead of masses of techno-public intellectuals.
- Gandhi would have welcomes the UN Resolution 39/11 of 1984– a slender but significant resolution that proclaimed that the people have a ‘a sacred right to peace’ and declared that the preservation of this right and the promotion of its implementation is each state’s fundamental obligation.
- The subsequent 1999 resolution (UN Resolution 53/243 B) declared a program of action for a culture of peace. It too owes a great deal to Gandhi’s mission and legacy.
- What is needed now is to stop privileging ignorance and to stop promoting social indifference.
The recent P5 statement is not legally binding. However, it is politically significant in setting the tone for future discussions, agreements and path-setting on nuclear disarmament.