Statement on Nuclear Disarmament and Advocacy for a Path Forward
There has never been a time when nuclear weapons have been needed in our world. Not in their abhorrent deployment during World War II, not during the Cold War and the era of nuclear appeasement that followed, and certainly not today. In the midst of the backsliding of freedoms and attacks on human rights, the world has seen a rise in fascism and world conflict resulting in the erosion of international relations that offered a semblance of security from unilateral nuclear destruction.
Earlier this year at our organization’s 9th Parliament of the World’s Religions, over 8,000 global attendees advanced the convening’s theme “A Call to Conscience: Defending Freedom & Human Rights,” addressing the ways in which communities of faith, civil society, and nations states can foster freedom, human rights, and solutions for the most pressing issues of our time: autocracy, climate change, fascism, nuclear weapons, violence, and war. An official statement in 2018 affirmed the Parliament of the World’s Religions’ understanding of how dangerous these weapons and the nations that hold the world hostage with their possible use can be for the world at large.
The destructive capacity of nuclear weapons is beyond imagination, poisoning the Earth forever. These horrific devices place before us every day the decision whether we will be the last human generation. The power to unleash this destruction is in the hands of a small number of people. No one should be holding such power over the very creation, which we regard as a sacred gift for all today and for future generations. (Responding to the Unique Challenge of Nuclear Weapons, A Passionate Call From The Parliament of the World’s Religions, 2018)
For many nation-states, nuclear weapons are seen as a way to responsibly pursue global security through deterrence and mutually assured destruction. While these nation-states would have us believe that diplomacy and the threat of nuclear force can foster peace, recent events and the current state of the world have shown that all it takes is one despot, one tyrant, one fascist, one elected leader to destroy humanity and our planet. We cannot be naive enough to believe that as well-established global relationships are eroded, so too is there an erosion of control over the development, testing, production, acquisition, possession, stockpiling, use, or threat of nuclear weapons. Nuclear weapons leave no room for interpretations and conditionalities.
Last week, the President of the United Nations General Assembly, His Excellency Dennis Francis addressed the Assembly as part of the UN’s observance of the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons, stating:
I wish I was being hyperbolic, but the truth is that the risk of nuclear annihilation is not a chapter from our past; it is a haunting reality of our present. Our world is unprecedentedly fractured, torn by divisions that manifest themselves at every level, even within these hollowed halls. Reports paint a grim picture, revealing that over the last 15 years, violence has been on the rise at all levels…and the threat of nuclear force is once again being implied.
The Parliament of the World’s Religions has never taken the use of nuclear force as just a threat; nuclear weapons by their mere existence “…bring international insecurity for all time.” (The Hiroshima/Nagasaki Accord, 2020) Our international insecurity is made all the more clear by what recently has been flagged as “nuclear flashpoints.” These geographical areas of conflict (Ukraine, East Asia, South Asia, and the Middle East) are made all the more dangerous by the lack of nuclear-weapon-free zones and the ever-present threat of nation-states with nuclear capabilities, offering the world a false promise of nuclear deterrence while stocking tensions.
The Parliament of the World’s Religions has long been committed to the abolition of nuclear weapons, working alongside leaders like President Mikhail Gorbachev, US Secretary of State George Shultz; organizations like the Charter for Compassion, Religions for Peace, and the United Religious Initiative; and global experts around the world. Together, we have worked to mobilize organizations, communities, and individuals of diverse faiths and beliefs to commit to the elimination of these horrific weapons by advocating locally, internationally, and directly to the nine nations that hold the world’s nuclear arsenal. The call towards total nuclear disarmament is not new, and neither are the solutions generally accepted by leaders and nations around the world.
The only way to eliminate the nuclear risk is to eliminate nuclear weapons. Let’s work together to banish these devices of destruction to the history books, once and for all.
– António Guterres, Secretary General’s Message – 2023
And yet 53 years after the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) entered into force in 1970, our planet, our climate, our habitats, our fellow living beings, and our basic human rights continue to live under the threat of nuclear weapons and the global insecurity that it breeds. We need to only look at the inspiration for the UN observance of the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons to remind us how close we came to total annihilation and how easily the safety technology and processes in place can cause total annihilation.
The Parliament of the World’s Religions is committed to reaching out beyond the interfaith bubble to advance our mission toward a more just, peaceful, and sustainable world. In this endeavor, we invite direct advocacy to the nations of the world to commit to a no-first-use policy, the implementation of nuclear-weapon-free zones, and adherence to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) and the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW).
To the nine nations with nuclear capacities (the United States, Russia, France, China, the United Kingdom, Pakistan, India, Israel, and North Korea), we call for:
- A no-first-use policy, which commits to never being the first nation to use nuclear weapons.
- A checks-and-balances process that prohibits the unilateral decision to use a country’s nuclear arsenal.
- Endorsement and most importantly adherence to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) and the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW).
For the nations with no nuclear capacities, we call for:
- Signage of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons at the United Nations.
- Ratification of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons by its governing body.
- A diplomatic commitment to the nuclear disarmament of the United States, Russia, France, China, the United Kingdom, Pakistan, India, Israel, and North Korea.
Resources for Advocates:
- Check if your country is a participant in Disarmament Treaties at treaties.unoda.org/participants
- Check if your country has joined the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons at ICAN.org
- Learn more about the No-First-Use Policy at ucsusa.org
- Learn more about the Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zones at un.org
- Learn more about the international methods of Nuclear Disarmament at unidir.org