Two minutes to midnight

Toronto Star | 5 August 2018

Despite an initial de-escalation in the nuclear confrontation between the United States and North Korea, the world is still at the greatest risk of a nuclear catastrophe since the Cuban missile crisis. With an erratic American president in control of the U.S. nuclear button, the Doomsday Clock stands at 2 minutes to midnight.
President Donald Trump has wondered why, if the U.S. has nuclear weapons, it would not use them and has warned Iran that the country would face, “CONSEQUENCES THE LIKES OF WHICH FEW THROUGHOUT HISTORY HAVE EVER SUFFERED.”

The nuclear weapon states are modernizing their nearly 15,000 nuclear war heads. Eighteen hundred missiles, both Russian and U.S., are on launch-on-warning, threatening North American and Russian cities with weapons many times more devastating than those that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The disarmament promised by the nuclear weapon states is at a standstill. By accident, miscalculation, or design, nuclear annihilation looms.

One year ago, on July 7, 2017 at the United Nations, 122 countries took a bold, historic step when the delegates voted to adopt the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. The treaty filled a gaping hole in international law, providing a comprehensive prohibition on the last weapons of mass destruction to be declared illegal; the only weapons that could not only end all of us, but deny future generations the very possibility of being born.

As a survivor of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, I felt stunned and speechless with tears of joy welling in my eyes when the voting results were displayed at the UN Conference. In the din of thunderous applause, I understood the significance of the event.

I intuitively shared my euphoria with the spirits of those massacred indiscriminately in Hiroshima and Nagasaki 72 years before, to whom we made a vow that their deaths would not be in vain, that we would commit our lives to ensure that their suffering would not be repeated.

With great conviction I declared, “Nuclear weapons have always been immoral, now they are illegal! This is the beginning of the end of nuclear weapons! Let us move forward together and change the world!”

Last December, I was elated and humbled to co-accept the Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons. The treaty combined with the Nobel Peace Prize have become a powerful force to further stigmatize nuclear weapons and their possession.

The treaty opened for signatures at the United Nations on Sept. 20, 2017 and the second signing ceremony will be opened this Sept. 26. We are now up to 59 signatories and 14 ratifications from diverse regions. When the 50th nation ratifies the treaty it will enter into force.

Regretfully, Canada has been shamefully absent in the worldwide effort to abolish nuclear weapons. At the behest of the Trump government, which directed its NATO allies to oppose a ban treaty, Canada boycotted the UN negotiations. When questioned in Parliament, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau replied that the UN treaty was “useless.”

Canadians have the right to know from their government whether their cities are targeted by nuclear weapons or how they would be affected by radiation fallout from nuclear explosions in the United States. What emergency measures do the federal, provincial and city governments have in place if nuclear weapons are used?

Toronto City Council asked its Board of Health to hold public hearings this April on the dangers of nuclear weapons and radiation fallout. After presentations by myself and dozens of other peace, faith and environmental organizations and individuals, the Board of Health unanimously called on Toronto City Council to request that the Canadian government sign the UN ban treaty.

City Council unanimously passed this motion and sent it to the prime minister, the minister of Foreign Affairs, and to the minister of Health, but none of them has responded. City councils across Canada may well want to hold similar public hearings and convey their concerns to the prime minister.

Canada must return to its legacy of global peace building and be on the right side of history by ratifying the UN Ban Treaty.

Setsuko Thurlow, a survivor of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, will speak at the Hiroshima Nagasaki Commemoration at the Toronto City Hall Peace Garden on Monday, 6 August.

Another chance to step up: Canada and the Nuclear Ban Treaty

Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists | excerpt | 7 July 2018

… [The] widespread perception—that Canada and the United States agree on nuclear weapon issues—is partially true. But not always. Earlier this year, as part of a project on Canada’s position on the Ban Treaty, we conducted a careful review of how Canada has voted on United Nations resolutions dealing with nuclear weapons; Canada, it turns out, does not always march hand in hand with the United States when it comes to all things nuclear, and there have been significant divergences. Indeed, in the last 50 years, there have been only three years when Canada and the United States voted identically on all nuclear-related resolutions at the UN General Assembly …

Read the full article at the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists website.

War or Peace in Cyberspace: Whither International Cyber Security?

Conference report | Balsillie School of International Affairs, Waterloo, Ontario | May 24, 2018

Executive Summary

Cyberspace and the Internet represent a unique human-created environment on which global society is increasingly dependent for its welfare. This space has experienced a major “militarization” in recent years with armed forces establishing cyber security units and many developing offensive cyber capabilities. Diplomatic efforts at developing agreed norms of responsible state behaviour in cyberspace have not kept pace with the growth of cyber security capabilities within national security establishments. The security “frame” imposed on discussions of international cyber policy has tended to marginalize human rights and humanitarian perspectives. The re-emergence of great power rivalry provides an opportunity for middle powers to exercise leadership in promoting cooperative security options for cyberspace. The wider stakeholder community including the private sector and civil society need to be better integrated into state-led discussions of international cyber security policy.

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It is urgent to eliminate tactical nuclear weapons in Europe

From: Marc Finaud
Sent: June 27, 2018 5:30 AM
To: Marc Finaud
Subject: Elimination of Nuclear Tactical Weapons from Europe

Dear Colleagues / Chers Collègues

I am circulating the appeal below (in English and French), initiated by members of the French Nuclear Disarmament Movement (IDN), for a negotiation on the elimination of all nuclear ‘tactical’ weapons between NATO and Russia because of the danger they pose to the security and stability of Europe. This does not prejudge anyone’s position on the legitimacy or illegitimacy of nuclear deterrence or the need for any other measures to reduce the risk of nuclear war, but we strongly believe that the opportunity of the upcoming NATO Summit (11-12 July 2018) should not be missed.

If you agree with us, please let me know whether we can add your name to the list of supporters of the appeal, and whether you wish to do this on an individual basis or on behalf of your organization.

Anticipated thanks and best regards,

Marc Finaud
Bureau Member
Initiatives pour le Désarmement nucléaire


The United States under the Trump administration is not showing any sign that it is willing to withdraw its 150 so-called non-strategic nuclear weapons deployed on the territory of five NATO European nations. It is even planning to dedicate $11 billion to their modernization. Such a move is not only militarily senseless but it would threaten the security and stability of the European continent by transforming gravity bombs with a mainly political value into precision-guided weapons with variable yield which would aggravate the risk of nuclear war in Europe. To overcome the current obsolescence of the existing tactical nuclear weapons, the best solution is not to modernize them but to eliminate them, in Europe and in Russia. But the necessary dialogue with Russia on such weapons is badly needed. As a response to Moscow’s behaviour deemed aggressive in Ukraine and its pressure on the Baltic states, NATO, in the 2016 Warsaw communiqué, merely recalled that “NATO’s nuclear deterrence posture also relies, in part, on United States’ nuclear weapons forward-deployed in Europe and on capabilities and infrastructure provided by Allies concerned”.

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Good News Service #57: June 2018

  1. Peace activist Ecuador Foreign Minister Maria Fernanda Espinosa elected President of the UN General Assembly
  2. AVAAZ obtains a total ban on pesticides that kill bees in all 28 countries of Europe
  3. A Senior’s Version of Facebook: Is this you?
  4. In this grim time for journalists, a breakthrough in South Sudan
  5. Despite the chaos in Washington writers find plenty of “Better Angels” alive and well in Middle America
  6. Scandinavians reach their targets for Renewable Energy ahead of schedule
  7. Citizens walk for peace in Afghanistan
  8. Cease-fire in Afghanistan for Eid
  9. Afghan Peace Volunteers and schools for street kids

Download the full issue here (docx)

Interview with Izumi Nakamitsu, UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs

Sean Howard writes in the Cape Breton Spectator: For a view from inside the current UN leadership on the philosophy, politics and prospects of the new Agenda, I spoke by phone on June 14 with Izumi Nakamitsu, Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for Disarmament Affairs. Nakamitsu took office on 1 May 2017 — two months before the adoption of the Ban Treaty by 122 UN states – following a distinguished and varied career in the organization, most recently as assistant administrator of the Crisis Response Unit at the United Nations Development Program (UNDP).

Read the full interview here: