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“No small mistakes”: ICAN Civil Society Forum, Day 1

Posted by John Loretz on March 3, 2013

“There are no small mistakes with nuclear weapons.”

That simple statement by Chatham House research director Patricia Lewis set the theme for the first day of ICAN’s Civil Society Forum on the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons, March 2 in Oslo.

The results of the big mistakes, ranging from the destruction of Oslo itself by a 100-kiloton nuclear bomb to the eradication of most life on the planet in a nuclear winter, were described throughout the day in graphic detail by experts on the physical, medical, and environmental effects of nuclear weapons, including Sir Andy Haines of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, IPPNW co-president Ira Helfand, and Rutgers University climate scientist Alan Robock.

The scientific information about the effects of nuclear weapons was inserted into a non-stop, high energy stage production that included poetry and song, the personal stories of Hiroshima and Nagasaki survivors, reflections on war and peace by the Catholic cardinal of Abuja, Nigeria, a rousing call to action by ICAN co-chair Rebecca Johnson, and an evening of conversation with actor and activist Martin Sheen and peace activist John Dear.

Johnson told the auditorium filled with more than 400 people from 20 countries that “we can no longer leave the decisions about how and when to ban nuclear weapons to those who own them.” She was echoed by Gry Larsen of the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who assured us that the goal of a nuclear-weapons-free world is something to which her country is committed.

Larsen described the goals of the international conference that will start in Oslo on Monday, for which 132 countries have now registered. Commenting on the boycott of the conference by the nuclear-weapon states, she quoted Norway’s foreign minister, who had told the press earlier in the week that the reasons the P5 had given were “not very convincing.”

The civil society conference continues today with a focus on campaigning and the treaty process from a humanitarian perspective.

[UPDATE: Mischa just informed us on the opening of day two that more than 500 have now registered!]


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