The humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons are horrific and cannot be limited over space or time. As the International Committee of the Red Cross witnessed after Hiroshima and Nagasaki, even a single nuclear bomb can lay waste to an entire city. As well as the lives lost in the blast, radiation affects health, agriculture and natural resources over a wide area and constitutes a serious danger for future generations.
With your help, the International Red Cross Red Crescent 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.
Community support for a ban on the use of nuclear weapons was made clear in a recent Australian Red Cross survey. The nation-wide survey revealed that more than 80 per cent of Australians support a legally binding treaty to ban the use of nuclear weapons.
As part of our campaign, the International Red Cross Red Crescent Movement joined governments and civil society organisations from around the world on 8 and 9 December 2014 when they came together in Vienna to examine the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons.
The Vienna Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons provided an important opportunity to ensure that this critical issue is kept firmly on the international agenda, and practical steps are taken to ensure they are never used again.
The International Red Cross Red Crescent Movement is calling for an international agreement to ban the use of nuclear weapons on humanitarian grounds. An historic resolution and action plan adopted by the Movement has seen the international organisation work closely with governments and civil society on this crucial humanitarian issue.
Nuclear weapons and IHL
The International Red Cross Red Crescent Movement has been campaigning for stronger international humanitarian law since before the first Geneva Convention in 1864. Also known as the laws of war, international humanitarian law protects certain categories of people and restricts the choice of weapons and how they can be used. Weapons that can't tell the difference between a soldier and a civilian are banned under these laws, as are weapons that cause widespread and long-term damage to the environment.
The laws of war have seen the establishment of treaties banning chemical weapons, landmines and cluster munitions on the grounds that they cause unnecessary human suffering and cannot be limited to legitimate targets. It is difficult to see how the use of nuclear weapons could be compatible with the rules of international humanitarian law, in particular the principles of distinction and proportionality.
Community support has been crucial in our ongoing global efforts to establish an international agreement to ban the use of nuclear weapons. Stage one of our 'Make Nuclear Weapons the Target' campaign reached more than 1 million people through social media, and helped renew the global push to ban the use of nuclear weapons.
We then took 'The Next Step' [**** this is a broken link****] calling on people around the world to share videos and photographs of something they love so we don't forget what's at stake. Your collective voice will continue to help us advocate for a ban on the use of nuclear weapons in forums such as the Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons.
A nuclear weapons free world - our unified goal
Dr Tadatoshi Akiba, the former Mayor of Hiroshima and anti-nuclear advocate, delivers an impassioned call for the elimination of nuclear weapons. "The destructive force of the world's nuclear arsenal is now far greater than the bombs used to destroy Hiroshima. Collectively, the threat approximates to 150,000 Hiroshima bombs," he said in the lead up to the Council of Delegates conference in Sydney last year.
Australian Red Cross and nuclear weapons
Red Cross has consistently voiced its deep concerns about nuclear weapons and the need for the prohibition of their use. Read more
A unique threat to humanity
The IHL Magazine 'A unique threat to humanity' focuses on nuclear weapons. Download.
IHL Magazine update. Download