By Ramesh Jaura and Katsuhiro Asagiri
As divisions between States on how to achieve nuclear disarmament grow, countries like Kazakhstan must lead the way to common ground and inclusive dialogue. Such leadership is urgently needed to make our world truly secure, said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in a message delivered to the conference on ‘Building a Nuclear-Free World’.
Welcoming participants, President Nursultan Nazarbayev explained why Kazakhstan was leading the way: “August 29, 1991 is marked by an event of historic significance both for our country and the whole world. 25 years ago, we legally stopped the most sinister experiment of militarism, which had been tormenting our land and our people for almost 40 years. Several decades before that event, the world tried to lower the threshold of nuclear threat through the processes of nuclear weapons reduction, and a moratorium of its testing.”
He added: “We, in Kazakhstan, were the first to cut the ‘Gordian knot’ by adopting a decree on closing the largest nuclear test site in the world. After our decision, test sites of all leading nuclear powers became silent but they have still not been closed anywhere. Kazakhstan was the first to take such a step. This was the will of our people. It shows the great importance of this event for the entire planet.”
The conference on August 29 was co-hosted by the Parliament of the Republic of Kazakhstan, the country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Parliamentarians for Nuclear Disarmament and Non-Proliferation (PNND).
Legislators, religious leaders, academics, scientists, medical professionals, lawyers, youth and other representatives of civil society from 50 countries from around the world participated in the conference. Representatives of international organisations included:
Secretary General of the Disarmament Conference in Geneva, Michael Møller; Executive Secretary of the Preparatory Commission of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO), Lassina Zerbo; President of the Nobel Peace Laureate Pugwash Conferences, Jayantha Dhanapala.
Others were: President of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) and Co-Chairman of PNND Saber Chowdhury; President of the Pan African Parliament Roger Nkodo Dang; Chairman of the Parliament of World’s Religions Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid; and Soka Gakkai International (SGI) Executive Director for Peace and Global Issues, Kazuo Ishiwatari.
In hosting the conference, Ban said, Kazakhstan had “once again” demonstrated its “commitment to the pursuit of a world free of nuclear weapons”.
In addition, the UN Chief said: “Kazakhstan has played a leading role in the creation of a Central Asian Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone. It spearheaded the Universal Declaration on a Nuclear-Weapon-Free World at the General Assembly. President [Nursultan] Nazarbayev has called nuclear disarmament a top global priority.”
The outgoing UN chief was hitting the nail on the head. The Declaration adopted by the conference – ‘The Astana Vision: From a Radioactive Haze to a Nuclear-Weapon Free World’ – acknowledges Kazakhstan and President Nazarbayev’s historical role in pushing for finishing the unfinished UN agenda, vigorously promoted by Ban.
The Declaration recalls that closure of the Semipalatinsk nuclear test site was “the first such step in the world history of disarmament”.
The 456 nuclear weapons explosions conducted by the Soviet Union at the test site in eastern Kazakhstan have indeed created a catastrophic impact on human health and environment, for current and future generations.
The legacy from the nuclear tests around the world, including the Pacific, Asia, North Africa and North America, and the experience of the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the risks of nuclear-weapons-use by accident, miscalculation or design – have established a global imperative to abolish these weapons.
The Declaration says: “We commend the leadership of President Nazarbayev and the people of Kazakhstan for voluntarily renouncing the world’s fourth largest nuclear arsenal, joining the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), achieving a Central Asian Nuclear-Weapons-Free Zone, launching The ATOM Project to educate the world about dangers and long-term consequences of nuclear tests, moving the United Nations to establish August 29 as the International Day Against Nuclear Tests, initiating a Universal Declaration for a Nuclear-Weapon-Free World adopted by the United Nations in 2015, and advancing a Manifesto ‘The World. The 21st Century’ to end the scourge of war.”
The conference participants supported the ambirion expressed in the Manifesto that a nuclear-weapons-free world should be the main goal of humanity in the 21st century, and that this should be achieved no later than the 100th anniversary of the United Nations in 2045.
The Declaration commends world leaders for taking action, through the series of Nuclear Security Summits and other international action, to prevent nuclear weapons or their components from falling into the hands of terrorists. It call upon world leaders to “join President Nazarbayev in placing a similar high priority on nuclear disarmament”.
It congratulates Kazakhstan on the country’s election as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) for 2017-2018. “We are confident that Kazakhstan will work closely with other Security Council members to prevent nuclear proliferation and advance the peace and security of a nuclear-weapon-free world,” states the Declaration.
The Declaration supports the initiative put forward at this conference for President Nazarbayev to establish an international prize for outstanding contribution to nuclear disarmament and the achievement of a nuclear weapon free world, and the announcement of the Astana Peace Summit in 2016.
The Declaration specifically calls on governments to:
- Sign and Ratify the CTBT, in particular the nuclear armed States, if they have not already done so, noting the symbolism of this conference taking place on the 25th anniversary of the closure of the Semipalatinsk nuclear test site and the 20th anniversary of the opening for signing of the CTBT;
- Initiate negotiations and substantive discussions in accordance with the adopted 2010 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Plan of Action, and the universal obligation to negotiate for complete nuclear disarmament affirmed by the International Court of Justice in 1996;
- Establish a Middle East Zone free from Nuclear Weapons and other Weapons of Mass Destruction as agreed at the 1995 Review and Extension Conference, and call upon the United Nations Secretary-General to advance this mandate; and establish additional nuclear-weapon-free zones, such as in North East Asia, Europe and the Arctic;
- Reduce the risks of nuclear-weapons-use by taking all nuclear forces off high-operational readiness, adopting no-first-use policies and refraining from any threats to use nuclear weapons;
- Fully implement their treaty and customary law obligations to achieve zero nuclear weapons;
- Commence multilateral negotiations in 2017 to prohibit and eliminate nuclear weapons;
- Support interim measures by the UN Security Council regarding nuclear disarmament, including to prohibit nuclear tests and nuclear targeting of populated areas;
- Further develop the methods and mechanisms for verifying and enforcing global nuclear disarmament, including through participation in the International Partnership for Nuclear Disarmament Verification;
- Eliminate the reliance on nuclear deterrence in security doctrines, and instead resolve international conflicts through diplomacy, law, regional mechanisms, the United Nations and other peaceful means; and
- Calls on all nuclear weapon states to undertake deep cuts to their nuclear weapons stockpiles with the aim to completely eliminate them as soon as possible, but definitely no later than the 100th anniversary of the United Nations.
The cooperation between different constituents at the international conference provides a platform for building the global movement to achieve nuclear disarmament, states the Declaration.
Deeply concerned for the future of all humanity, and encouraged by the example of Kazakhstan in the field of nuclear disarmament, the conference participants “affirm the possibility and necessity to achieve the peace and security of a nuclear-weapon-free world in our lifetimes” – not somewhere in a distant future.
But this would require political determination. As Ban said in his message: “Political will is essential to replace the costly, divisive and dangerous rivalries that prevail in our world with a sense of global solidarity for our shared future. I call upon all States to summon the political will to advance progress towards realizing our vision of a world free of nuclear weapons.”