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Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty

Nuclear disarmament has assumed a new urgency on the world stage as States gather in New York to review their obligations under the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

The Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) is the only binding commitment to the goal of disarmament by States possessing nuclear weapons. The Treaty aims to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons, to promote cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy and to further the goal of achieving nuclear disarmament.

The international Red Cross Red Crescent Movement (Movement) is part of a renewed global effort to raise awareness of the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons to ensure they are never used again. As part of this campaign to target nuclear weapons, the Movement is calling for a legally binding treaty to conclusively ban their use.

In the lead up to the Conference, the President of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Peter Maurer, reflected on new evidence on the humanitarian impacts of nuclear weapons.

"Nuclear weapons are often presented as promoting security and stability, but weapons that risk catastrophic and irreversible humanitarian consequences cannot seriously be viewed as protecting civilians or humanity as a whole," Mr Maurer said in a speech to the diplomatic community in Geneva.

Modern climate-modelling techniques suggest that even a so-called 'limited' regional nuclear war could trigger global climate cooling, cutting food production and putting a billion people at risk of starvation. There would be no realistic means of providing assistance to those who managed to survive.

Mr Maurer called for States to meet their existing obligations under article VI of the NPT, to work in good faith towards an agreement for the elimination of nuclear weapons.

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," he said.

"While other weapons such as chemical weapons, land mines and cluster munitions have been conclusively dealt with under international humanitarian law, nuclear weapons have not."

"It is clear that with all we now know about the risks and humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons that this is a commitment whose time has come," Mr Tickner said.

Join the conversation on Twitter using #NPT and #targetnuclearweapons and on Facebook.

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