On December 7th, 2010, the Canadian House of Commons gave unanimous consent in calling on the Government of Canada to engage in negotiations for a nuclear weapons convention as proposed by the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, in his address to the East-West Institute on October 24th, 2008.
In his address, Ban Ki-moon laid out a five-point proposal that can be summarized as follows:
I. All parties to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), especially the nuclear-weapon States, should fulfill its requirement to enter into negotiations on nuclear disarmament, which could focus on either a convention or framework of agreements banning nuclear-weapons.
II. The nuclear-weapon States could assure non-nuclear-weapon States that they will not be the subject of the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons.
III. Existing nuclear arrangements and agreements (e.g. a ban on testing, nuclear-weapon-free zones, and strengthened safeguards) need to be accepted by States and brought into force.
IV. The nuclear Powers could also expand the amount of information they publish about the size of their arsenals, stocks of fissile material, and specific disarmament achievements.
V. Complementary measures are needed such as the elimination of other types of WMD; new efforts against WMD terrorism; limits on conventional arms; and new weapons bans, including of missiles and space weapons.
While the recent move by the Canadian House of Commons should be welcomed, it is also a small step forward in the quagmire of the politics of power.
|Country||Warheads active/total[nb 1]||Year of first test||CTBT status|
|The five nuclear-weapon states under the NPT|
|United States||1,950 / 8,500||1945 (“Trinity“)||Signatory|
|Russia (former Soviet Union)||2,430 / 11,000||1949 (“RDS-1“)||Ratifier|
|United Kingdom||160 / 225||1952 (“Hurricane“)||Ratifier|
|France||290 / 300||1960 (“Gerboise Bleue“)||Ratifier|
|China||~180 / 240||1964 (“596“)||Signatory|
|Non-NPT nuclear powers|
|India||n.a. / 80-100||1974 (“Smiling Buddha“)||Non-signatory|
|Pakistan||n.a. / 90-110||1998 (“Chagai-I“)||Non-signatory|
|North Korea||n.a. / <10||2006 (2006 test)||Non-signatory|
|Undeclared nuclear powers|
|Israel||n.a. / 80||possibly 1979 (See Vela Incident)||Signatory|
*NOTE: Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Turkey also share nuclear weapons capabilities with the five states that are NPT members. The NPT is a voluntary treaty signed into force on March 5, 1970 to which India, Pakistan, North Korea and Israel have not signed on and which any member can withdraw from with 90 days notice if “extraordinary events … have jeopardized the supreme interests of its country”. Its goals have been summarized as non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, disarmament and the right to peacefully use nuclear technology.
From a high of 65,000 active weapons in 1985, there are now nearly 8,000 active nuclear warheads and more than 22,000 total nuclear warheads in the world in 2010. Many of the decommissioned weapons were simply stored or partially dismantled, not destroyed.
When it comes down to it, the NPT is also a treaty that cannot be enforced. Iran is a signatory to the NPT, and claims that it only seeks to utilize nuclear technology for its civilian nuclear energy program, but the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which is utilized to inspect nuclear programs, cannot verify Iran’s peaceful intentions completely. This has led to sanctions being imposed on Iran with little effect.
One of the major problems with nuclear disarmament has been that governments have not listened to voters. In scores of polls over the past few years, citizens of countries that have nuclear weapons overwhelmingly want their governments to eliminate nuclear weapons altogether- in Canada, Canadian Broadcast Company (CBC) polls from 2008 indicate that almost 90% of citizens feel that nuclear weapons make the world a more dangerous place.
As citizens, we must note the poor performance of politicians on nuclear disarmament over the past 40 years and demand that this issue remains on the agenda before our worst fears about the dangers of nuclear weapons is realized.
-International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons: Polls – A nuclear free majority
-Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament: UN Secretary-General calls for a Nuclear Weapons Convention
-The United Nations Secretary-General, SG/SM/11881/DC/3135
-Wikipedia: Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty, List of Nations with Nuclear Weapons, International Atomic Energy Agency