by Paul Dewar
May 18, 2016
If Canada is to win a seat on the UN Security Council, we need a campaign that is bold, global and pertinent. Leading a global effort on nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament should be a cornerstone of that campaign, and the upcoming G7 meetings in Japan represent a perfect opportunity to set the table for serious progress on the issue.
Before the formal meetings begin, U.S. President Barack Obama will be making a historic sojourn to Hiroshima. In and of itself, this is a bold move that no other U.S. president has made while in office. This event is also an opening to advance concrete propositions on nuclear disarmament.
The need to act on nuclear disarmament is clear. Nuclear weapons threaten our collective existence, especially in the hands of non-state actors, such as Daesh (also known as ISIS or ISIL), and belligerent countries, such as North Korea. The financial cost to build, maintain and refurbish nuclear weapons is unsustainable. The proliferation of nuclear weapons also raises the risk of false alarms that could lead to inadvertent use.
In the late 1980s and 1990s, incredible global progress was made in the reduction of nuclear weapons, leading to a period of peace and prosperity. Then momentum was lost in the early 2000s following 9/11.
In 2007 there was a resurgence of optimism with a surprisingly idealistic op-ed by George P. Shultz, William J. Perry, Henry A. Kissinger, and Sam Nunn. Titled “A World Free of Nuclear Weapons,” this bipartisan offering pleaded with the world to get serious about nuclear disarmament. This was followed in April 2009 by Obama’s historic speech in Prague that echoed president Ronald Reagan’s vision and then UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s five-point plan on the subject in August that same year.
Sadly, since that time we have seen little progress. In fact, nuclear weapon states are collectively investing trillions of dollars on refurbishment of their existing stockpiles; North Korea continues to act in a belligerent manner; and while there is some guarded optimism with the Iranian deal, efforts to negotiate a nuclear weapons-free Middle East are dormant.
The world needs leadership and action on nuclear disarmament, and Canada more than any other country is well positioned to move things forward.
It is important to remember the political and historic capital we have to make a significant impact on nuclear disarmament. As a county that has never developed nuclear weapons, we have credibility. As a G7 nation and a member of NATO, the Commonwealth, and the Francophonie, we have global connectivity. And we have some of the best experts in the diplomacy, science and verification of nuclear weapons.