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PH’s role in nuclear disarmament movement

“We will continue to state the strong case for the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons and tirelessly call for the start of a process… that will fill the legal gap for the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons.” These last words in the Philippines’ closing statement that was delivered by Ambassador Lourdes Yparraguirre, the Philippines’ permanent representative to the United Nations, sums up powerfully the country’s strong stand on nuclear weapons’ abolition.

The result of the review conference on the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT RevCon) that was held at the UN from April 27 to May 22 was significantly flawed. There were no meaningful commitments to nuclear disarmament. In fact, at the closing plenary, governments from all the regions of the world expressed disappointment with the outcome document because it fell short of making credible progress.

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Ambassador Yparraguirre said, “There is nothing in the outcome document that lays down the concrete path towards the achievement of Article VI. Paragraph 154.19 of the draft outcome document recommends an ‘open-ended working group to identify and elaborate effective measures for the full implementation of Article VI,’ yet it does not say how the work of this group will feed into the Treaty.” (Article VI of the NPT obliges all state-parties to the treaty “to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a Treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.”)

On the issue of nuclear weapons, the Philippines has taken a courageous stance and a leadership role. The country has the distinction of being the first Asean country to endorse the “Humanitarian Pledge” and was among the first few countries that collectively issued an NPT RevCon Working Paper that highlighted the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of using nuclear weapons. The Philippines cited the need for effective measures towards a legal framework that will ban nuclear weapons. By the end of the NPT RevCon, 107 states had endorsed the “Humanitarian Pledge,” committing to work for a new legally binding instrument that would prohibit and eliminate nuclear weapons.

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The “Humanitarian Pledge” reflects a fundamental shift in the international discourse on nuclear disarmament. The increasing international support for this historic pledge indicates that many governments are ready to move forward on the issue of prohibiting nuclear weapons, even if the nuclear weapon states are not ready to join.

Indeed, the risk of the catastrophic humanitarian impact of a nuclear detonation is very real. Researchers, the International Committee of the Red Cross, UN agencies and other presenters, including the hibakushas (atomic bombing survivors) from Hiroshima and Nagasaki, assert this.

The use of a nuclear weapon on a major populated area would immediately kill tens, if not hundreds of thousands, of people. Hundreds of thousands of others would survive—but they would emerge from the holocaust blinded, burned, critically injured. The effects of just one nuclear weapon detonation are unacceptable. Beatrice Fihn of ICAN notes: “The long-term consequences would significantly harm the environment, development and the economy across borders and generations. These weapons fundamentally violate the principles of humanity…. It has been made clear that the nuclear weapon states are not interested in making any new commitments to disarmament, so now it is up to the rest of the world to start a process to prohibit nuclear weapons.”

Here lies the hope that the Philippines will continue to take the lead in encouraging other states to embrace this humanitarian initiative—as it had taken the lead in 2010 when it chaired the NPT RevCon that adopted a 64-point action plan in order to move forward. However, the states’ fulfillment of this action plan, in particular the disarmament requirements, is so far significantly lacking.

Negotiations to ban nuclear weapons need to begin and it will be a great contribution if the Philippines continues its courageous leadership vis-à-vis this issue for the good of humanity and this home of ours called Earth.

Loreta Navarro-Castro is the program director of the Center for Peace Education, and a professor of international studies and education at Miriam College.

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TAGS: hibakushas, Lourdes Yparraguirre, Non-Proliferation Treaty, NPT RevCon, nuclear weapons
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