This report contains detailed information about what happened at the recently concluded conference in Nayarit, an evaluation from IPPNW’s perspective, and recommendations for concrete actions by IPPNW affiliates for the remainder of this year.
Please read this carefully, and share it widely. We will be communicating with you regularly from now on about the important opportunities for engagement with ICAN, with your Red Cross and Red Crescent societies, and with your governments in the run-up to the next conference in Vienna later this year.
—John Loretz, Program Director
The Second Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons, held in Nayarit, Mexico on February 13-14, was a huge success. Despite the boycott by most of the nuclear-armed States (India and Pakistan, to their credit, sent delegations), 146 countries registered for Nayarit, and were fully engaged with the program from beginning to end.
ICAN held a two-day campaigners meeting in Nayarit on February 11-12 for more than 100 civil society delegates to the conference. Campaigners shared perspectives on how the nuclear weapons issue presents itself in different countries and political environments, and what strategies for pursuing a ban might be most effective. We’ll be sharing a lot more about this in the weeks and months ahead.
Nayarit in a Nutshell
I hope you all have had an opportunity to read the reports that have been sent out from ICAN and from Reaching Critical Will, as well as the posts to IPPNW’s Peace and Health blog during the conference. As the conference chair, Mexican Foreign Minister José Antonio Meade Kuribreña said in his closing remarks, Nayarit was “a point of no return” on the road to a world without nuclear weapons.
For the complete record of what happened in Nayarit, you can find most of the presentations, many of the statements made by governments and civil society, and the Chair’s summary on the conference website.
ICAN has a number of news articles about the conference and civil society participation, including a link to a great new ICAN video that makes the humanitarian case for the ban treaty and that was premiered in Nayarit, and an op-ed from Desmond Tutu.
ICAN had several opportunities to speak from the floor, including a final statement during the closing session.
Reaching Critical Will has prepared an excellent summary, along with an analysis of the discussions among State participants and an overview of the challenges we’ll be facing between now and the follow-up conference in Vienna.
The big news coming out of Nayarit, of course, was the announcement by Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz that Austria will host the Third Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons later this year, with the intent of exploring what States and civil society can do to address the evidence about the dangers of nuclear weapons that was presented in Oslo and Nayarit.
IPPNW’s Impact on Nayarit
IPPNW played a key role in both the conference and the civil society delegation. We helped shape the agenda for the conference at the invitation of the Mexican government, we were able to place a number of speakers on the program, and nearly every presentation bore our imprint in one way or another. Several of us were on the civil society delegation: Co-presidents Tilman Ruff, Ira Helfand, and Bob Mtonga; Board Chair Lars Pohlmeier; Jans Fromow and Ruby Chirino of the Mexican affiliate; former Co-President Ron McCoy of Malaysia; Alexandra Arce and Carlos Umana of the Costa Rican affiliate; Xanthe Hall of IPPNW-Germany; Josefin Lind of SLMK; Gyaneshwor Rai of PSR-Nepal, and Program Director John Loretz. (Regional Vice President Masao Tomonaga was there in his capacity as head of the Japanese Red Cross Hospital in Nagasaki; Maral Hassanshahi, a member of PSR-Iran, participated as a member of the Ban All Nukes Generation [BANg] youth delegation.)
There was hardly a moment when IPPNW’s most important messages about the catastrophic medical, environmental, and humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons were not being echoed from the stage. Hibakusha from Hiroshima and Nagasaki offered moving testimonies about the effects of the detonations that killed and injured hundreds of thousands of people. A delegate from the Marshall Islands, spoke movingly from the floor about the long-term health effects of nuclear testing on indigenous communities. An expert from Mexico’s civil defense agency presented a classic IPPNW “bombing run,” describing the devastation a nuclear explosion would inflict upon Mexico City.
Dr. Zhanat Carr from the World Health Organization’s radiological unit reviewed the WHO’s long-standing engagement with the nuclear weapons issue and its conclusion that “primary prevention” is the only approach to treating the health consequences of nuclear war. ICRC vice-president Christine Beerli, who spoke at IPPNW’s World Congress in Basel in 2010, reiterated the Red Cross position that there could be no meaningful medical response to the use of nuclear weapons, and that outlawing and eliminating them is the only responsible option.
(As a side note, 20 Red Cross Red Crescent national societies from every part of the world met for two days in Nayarit to plan the next steps in implementing the nuclear weapons action plan adopted in Hiroshima in May 2013. Ira was invited to discuss nuclear famine, and pledged IPPNW’s support in helping the Red Cross Red Crescent implement the four-year action plan that was adopted last year in Hiroshima.)
IPPNW had a major presence at the conference podium. Regional vice-president Masao Tomonaga, who is the head of the Japanese Red Cross Hospital in Nagasaki, described what would happen if a modern nuclear weapon were used against Hiroshima today. Excerpts from his talk are on IPPNW’s YouTube channel.
Rutger’s professor Alan Robock, IPPNW’s principal science advisor on the climate effects of nuclear war, presented compelling new data on the severe and long-lasting declines in Chinese grain production that would result from the use of even a fraction of existing nuclear arsenals in a regional conflict. He was followed in the next panel by Ira Helfand, who held the participants spellbound as he explained the implications of Alan’s findings for the two billion or more people who would face starvation from nuclear famine, and went on to describe the consequences of a major nuclear war between the US and Russia—something that Bruce Blair of Global Zero would later warn could not be ruled out as long as the weapons exist. Ira’s complete presentation is also on YouTube.
What Happens Next?
While we heard an overwhelming desire for action to eliminate nuclear weapons in Nayarit, our work is still cut out for us to persuade States that they have the power to outlaw nuclear weapons even without the cooperation of the nuclear-armed States, and that a ban treaty would compel the US, Russia, and the others to do what they’ve been unwilling to do under the NPT. Mexican foreign minister Meade threw down the challenge. What happens next is up to us.
Building on the success of Nayarit and ensuring that the Vienna conference marks the beginning of a political process to ban and eliminate nuclear weapons is going to take the full engagement IPPNW and all of its affiliates and student groups. As the founder and lead medical NGO in ICAN, we need to participate fully in the campaign events and activities that will be organized over the next several months. IPPNW’s medical message is at the center of ICAN’s strategy for a humanitarian-based ban treaty, and we must keep this message at the front of our communications with governments, the public, and the media between now and Vienna. The following activities are high priorities for IPPNW and its affiliates for the rest of this year. We’ll be following up with more details about all of them at appropriate times, and doing everything we can to help affiliates engage in as much of this work as possible.
1) Get connected/stay connected with ICAN—IPPNW gave ICAN its start in 2007, and the campaign has now grown to include 350 partner organizations in 90 countries. If there is an ICAN group in your country, please make sure your affiliate is actively involved, and that IPPNW’s medical message is presented at ICAN-sponsored events and meetings with government officials. If you are an IPPNW activist, you need to be an ICAN campaigner!
2) Get your government to commit to Vienna—While the dates for the conference in Vienna have not yet been set, we expect it to happen later this year. It’s not too soon to start promoting the next conference as a transition point between knowledge and action. If your government sent a delegation to Oslo and/or Nayarit, it needs to commit to Vienna as well. More important, it needs to start developing concrete proposals about a process to outlaw and eliminate nuclear weapons, and to share those proposals with like-minded States. IPPNW and ICAN are urging that States come together around a process for a ban treaty. Familiarize yourself with the arguments for a ban and look for opportunities to discuss them with decision makers in your country.
3) Present the nuclear famine findings—The newest and, in some ways, the most powerful new evidence we have about the destructive nature of nuclear weapons comes from the work of climate scientists such as Alan Robock. Ira Helfand has studied the implications of these scientific findings for food security, nutrition, and global health, and has produced a report that we need to place in the hands of as many people as possible. You will find a nuclear famine Powerpoint presentation, in both English and Spanish, on IPPNW’s website. This is a very user-friendly presentation, and we encourage you to download it and use it.
4) Partner with your national Red Cross Red Crescent society—As mentioned above, the Red Cross Red Crescent has a new four-year action plan on nuclear weapons. Some RC societies, especially those who were in Nayarit, have made a firm commitment to implement this plan, and there are ways IPPNW affiliates can support RC activities. We’ll come back to you with more concrete suggestions in the near future.
5) Reach out to local Rotary clubs—Ira has been laying some great groundwork for collaboration with Rotary, which is renewing its interest in the nuclear issue. Several affiliates have already answered Ira’s call to form a pool of IPPNW speakers who can give presentations about the humanitarian consequences of nuclear war at local Rotary Clubs. Getting Rotary to partner with ICAN and/or to send a delegation to the Vienna conference would be a big accomplishment.
6) Support a new World Medical Association resolution on nuclear weapons—A new resolution will be brought to the WMA General Assembly in Durban in October. Contacting national WMA member organizations and urging them to support the resolution can help reaffirm the WMA’s commitment to the elimination of nuclear weapons in the weeks leading up to the Vienna conference. We’ll provide more information when we have a final draft of the text and know more about the process by which it will be considered.
7) Come to Astana with an ICAN action plan—IPPNW’s World Congress will take place a few months before the Vienna conference. We encourage all of you to come to Astana ready to report to the International Council on actions you’ve already taken and on your plans for keeping the momentum going into (and beyond) Vienna.
This is already a lot to digest, and it’s only the beginning. We’ll have more to say about all of these activities in the coming months. But as I’ve said, what happens next is up to us—all of us.