World Conference against A & H Bombs
Dave Webb, Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, U.K.
2015 World Conference against A and H Bombs
Chair, Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament
A Nuclear Weapon-free, Peaceful and Just World
It is a great honour for me to be here representing the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and I bring greetings and solidarity from the UK. This year we are separated from the first use of nuclear weapons by 70 years - a lifetime - and we will remember all of those lives that were horribly cut short or severely affected by those criminal acts. The resilience and passion of the Japanese peace movement and the commitment of the hibakusha to rid the world of nuclear weapons continues to be an inspiration.
As we continue our struggle to rid Britain and the world of nuclear weapons we are aware of the increasing challenges you face here. The US has pushed hard on Shinzo Abe to force through a law through parliament to allow Japanese armed forces to fight alongside its allies. This forced reversal of your country’s renunciation of war and the preparations for war through Article 9 of the Japanese constitution is an unforgivable action taken by your Prime Minister against your wishes. The ‘peace clause’ is respected internationally and you have passionately supported and defended it. We support and stand with you as you continue to resist the growing tide of militarism and aggression.
The outcome of the 2015 NPT Review Conference made it clear that, despite the pressure exerted by non-nuclear weapon states and the citizens of the world, the nuclear weapon states have little intention of honouring Article 6 of the NPT and moving in good faith towards nuclear disarmament. However, 159 countries at the conference signed the Joint Statement on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons that was delivered by Austria and 113 countries have signed the humanitarian pledge to ban nuclear weapons. Although support for a ban is growing it may not mean much until a nuclear state signs up and so far none have. The UK is perhaps a likely candidate but is too closely tied to US policy and we will need to work very hard to make any progress. In 2016 the UK government is set to vote on a £100 billion replacement for the current Trident submarine based nuclear weapons system which could tie us in to a nuclear weapons programme for another 50 years. The result of the general election a few months ago means that it might not be a favourable outcome for us and we will have to work hard to make a breakthrough – but we will try!
We live in dangerous times, we are told that the global economy is in crisis and so we will have to endure severe cuts in public spending on welfare with severe implications for the poor, the elderly and the infirm. The crisis does not affect everyone in the same way and the gulf between rich and poor widens. Existing policies are flawed and unsustainable. The failure to address climate change is beginning to show in crop failures and increased tensions over the scramble for diminishing resources. Conflicts arising from poverty and marginalisation have resulted in severe challenges and refugee problems. Yet instead of addressing the root causes of these problems governments are trying to divert our attention by the use of scare tactics and an emphasis on military action which is only leading to more problems. The aggressive expansion of NATO in Europe and the US push in the Pacific to contain Russia and China are fuelling a new Cold War and associated arms race. Despite all the additional humanitarian help that is needed, NATO is telling its members to increase military spending and the nuclear weapon states seem unprepared to relinquish the status that they think the possession of nuclear weapons gives them.
However, people are looking for alternatives to current failed strategies. In June some 250,000 people joined an anti-austerity march in London, many carrying messages to scrap Trident. In Scotland - where the Trident system is based – nuclear weapons became a huge issue during the vote on independence last year and in the run up to the General Election in May. The Scottish National Party brought a breath of fresh air to British politics by saying loud and clear that there is no place for weapons of mass destruction in Scotland. They won 56 of the 59 Scottish parliamentary seats, 50 more than they had previously, and destroyed the myth that nuclear disarmament is an election loser. The result also shook the Labour Party which lost 40 seats to them, only retaining 1 seat in Scotland and losing the election. Unfortunately, early indications are that the Party may mistakenly feel it needs to move even further to the right to get re-elected. Even so, a significant number of young Labour Party election candidates, some of whom were elected as MPs, were in favour of scrapping Trident and CND vice-chair Jeremy Corbyn is standing in the Labour leadership contest and doing very well! There is no other place in the UK where Trident submarines could berth and forcing a replacement on a Scotland that refuses it will not be easy for the government. It is even possible that the SNP will force another vote for independence before a replacement for Trident comes into service if they win that then there could be nowhere for the nuclear submarines to go except the scrap yard!
The next few years will be difficult but like you we are committed to work for the total elimination of nuclear weapons. Campaigners around the world are saying that we need to strengthen alliances with other campaigns and build stronger links with international groups. Let us once more then commit to our goal – and work together until the last nuclear weapon is gone.
No more Hiroshimas!
No more Nagasakis!
No more Fukushimas!
No more Hibakusha!