Jeremy Corbyn MP, CND Vice Chair, is part of CND’s delegation to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Preparatory Committee at the UN in New York this week. Here’s his account of the first day at the conference.
The most powerful message of the day was Marshall Islands’ Foreign Minister Tony de Brum telling a packed opening session of his life.
As a nine-year-old boy he witnessed the Bikini Atoll nuclear test when an explosion, 1000 times greater than Hiroshima, destroyed the atoll and the lives of its people for decades to come. Then a UN Trusteeship, administered by the USA, the Marshall Islands is now an independent country.
Ironically, the Non-Proliferation Treaty Prep Com for the 2015 Review is meeting in the Trusteeship Council room, where the Marshall Islands finally got its independence. Now, the state has launched a legal challenge to the UK (and other nuclear armed states) in the International Court of Justice, for its failure to implement Article VI of the Non-Proliferation Treaty which requires the P5 (the UN permanent five and declared nuclear weapons states) to take steps towards disarmament at the same time as all other signatories are required not to acquire nuclear weapons.
In a packed side meeting after his dramatic speech Tony explained that, of the P5, only the UK accepts the jurisdiction of the International Court: hence the legal challenge.
I welcomed this as part of the CND delegation and invited him to come to Parliament to show MPs how every Government since 1970 has claimed to adhere to the NPT whilst actually developing new weapons or greater firepower and risk.
In a packed opening day powerful messages came from the African Union, League of Arab States, New Agenda Coalition, Vienna Group, Latin American nations and others essentially all giving two messages.
The failure of the NPT leadership to ensure that the conference of all nations in the Middle East to establish a weapons of mass destruction free-zone as called for by successive review conferences actually happens. It was like a re-run of the 2013 prep com when Egypt walked out in disgust. This time a unified regional voice pointed out that if Finland once again does not succeed in holding the conference then the NPT process could break down, allowing nuclear proliferation. The five yearly review is coming next year and urgency is needed to avoid a disaster.
The humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons conference held in Oslo was supported by most NPT states, but not the P5. The Mexican Government hosted a recall in February and despite specific invitations the P5 again refused to attend. Now the Austrian Government has agreed to host a conference in Vienna in December.
These are not a remote intellectual exercise but a realistic analysis of what any nuclear explosion does: the loss of life, environmental destruction and eternal poisoning of the land.
In the afternoon CND hosted a seminar on the issue of the Trident nuclear weapons system. Speakers from Mouvement de la Paix in France and the US movement headed by Judith le Blanc and myself set out the case for a nuclear free world. Replacing Trident will not only cost £100bn but also set us once again on the wrong side of history, and the law.
The NPT requires its member states to ‘negotiate in good faith’ to bring about nuclear disarmament. A new system and new submarines is the opposite. The other four P5 states are planning or doing much the same and plan to spend $1 trillion in the next decade.
The UN in New York, with all its sense of place and grandeur is the setting for the peace pursuing nations and civil society groups to confront the P5 with logic and humanity. The prize of a world free of nuclear weapons is worth striving for.