Building a critical mass for abolition

By Chris Wood
May 4, 2010

The NPT Review Conference opened here in New York on the 3 May 2010 with major statements from Ban Ki-Moon, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Hillary Clinton.

United Nations delegates, along with hundreds of representatives from international NGOs, eagerly anticipated the speech of the Iranian President in the opening session of the General Assembly.

Ahmadinejad addressed the Assembly with a message of “nuclear weapons for no-one”, and emphasised the double standards of the Nuclear Weapons States in failing to fulfil their commitments under the NPT to disarm while pressurising other States over their nuclear programmes.

This issue will certainly need to be addressed by the Nuclear Weapons States if confidence building measures are to be realised here at the NPT.

Hillary Clinton, in an encouraging gesture of transparency, revealed that the that the US currently has 5,113 deployed nuclear weapons, but this declaration only adds to the argument that the focus of this Conference should fall upon the States that possess nuclear weapons to disarm rather than on States such as Iran that have none.

These questions were further developed at CND's lively fringe meeting '”Persistent Proliferators”: can we expect better from the Nuclear Weapons States?' Speakers from peace organisations in the UK, China, France, the US, and from the only country to be devastated by a nuclear attack - Japan - came together to share their struggles of working for disarmament in their respective countries and how these separate campaigns can be strengthened and supported.

What came across strongly from this meeting was a spirit of cooperation and solidarity which will prove invaluable in galvanising the critical mass of support behind global abolition.

The previous day, almost 15,000 people from across the world had taken to the streets of New York to declare 'No Nukes, No Wars', marching from Times Square to the UN headquarters, and it was greatly encouraging to be part of this diverse community committed to a shared vision of a world free from nuclear weapons. It can only be through the concerted pressure of global citizens that governments will be compelled to act and disarm.

It would be easy after forty years of the NPT to be cynical about the prospects for the negotiations at the 2010 Review Conference. And yet, we should not neglect to recognise the great efforts of the peace movement as the voice of conscience, restraining the actions of our governments to prevent further proliferation.

It is true, the Nuclear Weapons States must go much further in fulfilling their obligations under Article VI of the NPT to work towards complete disarmament. However, it is our hope that small steps such as the renewed START agreement between the US and Russia is just the beginning of negotiations that will lead to a comprehensive Nuclear Weapons Convention for global nuclear abolition.

There is still a long way to go, but, as Niu Qiang, from the Chinese People's Association for Peace and Disarmament correctly emphasised, “a journey of 1,000 miles begins with a first step.”

This is one of a series of on-the-spot reports and reflections for Ekklesia from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference held from 3–28 May 2010 at the United Nations in New York.

The official NPT Review Conference website can be found here:


(c) Chris Wood works for the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) in the UK ( and also the Christian Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament ( on behalf of Quaker Peace and Social Witness (

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