On April 27, representatives of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty’s 190 member countries will meet in New York for a four-week review of the 45-year-old pact. The attendees would be wise to consider an important fact: Although the NPT requires its members to “pursue negotiations in good faith” on nuclear disarmament, a wide legal gap still remains when it comes to eliminating nuclear weapons. It is time for the NPT’s signatories to initiate disarmament negotiations.
This year also marks the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, on August 6 and 9, when citizens everywhere will have an opportunity to pay their respects to the hundreds of thousands of people who were killed or wounded on those tragic days. This is also an occasion to honor the survivors, by supporting their call to eliminate all nuclear weapons, thereby ensuring that no one will ever suffer as they have.
We, the mayors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, are but two voices among representatives from more than 6,600 cities in 160 countries and regions worldwide who support this historic goal. Our organization, Mayors for Peace, was created in 1982 as a way to transcend national borders and work together toward the abolition of nuclear weapons. More mayors are joining our cause every year, and our determination to pursue nuclear disarmament will only deepen in the years ahead.
It is fitting that mayors, driven by their sense of responsibility to protect their citizens’ safety and welfare, take a keen interest in this cause. The horrific, indiscriminate, and long-term consequences of nuclear weapons for humanity and the environment cannot be overstated – especially when they target densely populated areas.
The danger that nuclear weapons will be used again, either intentionally or accidentally, will exist for as long as they remain available, a conclusion reached at three major international humanitarian conferences and strongly affirmed by the United Nations. And it is scandalous that vast sums are being devoted to maintaining and modernizing these weapons at a time when budget constraints undermine efforts to address pressing human needs around the world.
The number of nuclear near-misses – accidents and miscalculations that have almost led to disaster – is shocking. Moreover, such weapons and their related facilities and components are attractive targets for terrorists. It is a matter of no small public concern that international security still depends on “nuclear deterrence” – a doctrine based on mutual distrust that aims to keep the peace through the threat of mass killings. Worse, there have been suggestions of their actual use.