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146 nations gather at Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons Conference in Mexico
Ira Helfand, MD
February 13, 2014
The Second Conference on the Humanitarian Impacts of Nuclear Weapons got off to a remarkable start this morning. Mexican Foreign Minister Jose Antonio Meade called the possession of nuclear weapons unacceptable. Noting that they are the only weapons of mass destruction which have not been banned by treaty, he called for their prohibition and elimination.
The Conference has already moved beyond the Oslo meeting with two key themes emerging: The critical importance of PSR/IPPNW's message about the humanitarian consequences of nuclear war and the need to take action based on an understanding of these consequences. The program opened with a stunning session of Hibakusha testimonials. And the second working session began with Norwegian Foreign Minister Sten-Arne Rosnes summarizing the data presented at the Oslo meeting last year, including our presentation on nuclear famine.
The second speaker Dr. Gro Nystuen, discussed the role that attention to humanitarian consequences has played in the efforts to ban other weapons of mass destruction in the past. And the session closed with a presentation by Beatrice Fihn from ICAN who argued that the concern with actual humanitarian consequences needs to supplant the focus on arms control theory that has dominated discussion in the past. She highlighted the way that the humanitarian focus has inspired a rapidly growing civil society movement, noting particularly the stunning growth of ICAN in the last year and the success civil society has had in moving more than 120 governments to sign on to the recent statement at the UN advocating the abolition of nuclear weapons.
The conference will continue in a couple of hours with sessions on the economic consequences of nuclear weapons use and the short and and long term medical consequences.
Earlier, the Austrian Foreign Minister, Sebastian Kurz, announced that Austria will host the next international conference of this initiative in Vienna later in 2014. "Nuclear weapons are not only a permanent threat to all humankind but also a relic of the cold war that we must finally overcome. The international nuclear disarmament efforts require an urgent paradigm shift, not the least in light of the danger of further nuclear weapons proliferation," Kurz said.