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Red Cross CEO welcomes ICRC statement on nuclear weapons

Ahead of the review of the Non Proliferation Treaty, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has called on States to establish a time-bound framework to negotiate a legally binding agreement

Friday February 20, 2015

Nagasaki in ruins after a nuclear strike. Photo: UN

Speaking to the diplomatic corps in Geneva yesterday, IC­­RC's President Peter Maurer said that "reducing the risk of nuclear weapon use and ensuring their elimination through a legally binding international agreement is a humanitarian imperative".   

Robert Tickner, CEO of Australian Red Cross fully supports this view. "States have been legally committed to prohibit and eliminate nuclear weapons since the advent of the Non Proliferation Treaty in 1970, but little progress has been made.  

"It is clear that with all we now know about the risks and very real dangers of nuclear weapons that this is a commitment whose time has come," Mr Tickner said in Melbourne today.  

A recent series of intergovernmental conferences looking at the humanitarian impacts of nuclear weapons have revealed new evidence that "should trigger a reassessment of nuclear weapons by all States in both legal and policy terms," Mr Maurer said.  

Even the use of a limited number of nuclear weapons in population centres would, in addition to their direct effects, have severe consequences for global food production. Furthermore, there is no effective means of assisting a substantial portion of survivors in the immediate aftermath of a nuclear detonation while adequately protecting those delivering the assistance.   

The risks of accidental detonation or unintended use of nuclear weapons is a very real danger, and recent research has shown that malfunctions, mishaps, false alarms and misinterpreted information have nearly led to the intentional or accidental detonation of nuclear weapons on numerous occasions since 1945.  

Mr Maurer called on States to make the NPT Review Conference in May this year a turning point for decision making and to commit themselves to a time frame to begin negotiations on the elimination of nuclear weapons, and a deadline for their conclusion.   

The speech reflects the position of the entire International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement which in 2011 appealed to all States "to ensure that nuclear weapons are never again used" and "to prohibit the use of and completely eliminate nuclear weapons through a legally binding international agreement, based on existing commitments and international obligations".  

Read the full transcript of the ICRC President Peter Maurer's speech.