September 26 was the first International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons. The aim of the day is to enhance “public awareness and education about the threat posed to humanity by nuclear weapons and the necessity for their total elimination, in order to mobilize international efforts towards achieving the common goal of a nuclear-weapon-free world.”
For decades, faith-based and civil society organizations have sustained attention to the need for nuclear disarmament through serious research, creative organizing and effective advocacy. After a long hiatus, broken only by the slow step-by-step approach of U.S.-Russia bilateral negotiations, increased attention to the urgent need for nuclear disarmament is beginning to balance what, since the end of the Cold War, has been a singular focus on nonproliferation.
Multiple important events have taken place in the past year to reignite momentum toward the total elimination of nuclear weapons. Among them were several meetings of and a report from the Open Ended Working Group on Nuclear Disarmament; two successful international conferences in Norway and Mexico on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear war, with another planned for Vienna in December 2014; movement, if very slow, toward a conference to establish a weapons of mass destruction free zone in the Middle East; and the Republic of the Marshall Islands lawsuits filed in The Hague and in California against all nine nuclear-armed nations (United States, Russia, United Kingdom, France, China, Israel, India, Pakistan, North Korea) for their failure to honor their disarmament obligations under the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). These efforts will continue.
The United Nations Open Ended Working Group (OEWG) was established by the UN General Assembly in November 2012 following widespread frustration at the lack of progress in other forums, including the Conference on Disarmament, which has not been able to negotiate any disarmament agreements since the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty in 1996…