The Future of Nuclear Disarmament – A Swiss perspective

Published on Current Concerns no 18, Source:, Oct. 2010.

Speech held by the Federal Councillor M. Calmy-Rey, Swiss Foreign Minister on the occasion of the 19th IPPNW (International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War) World Congress 27 August 2010, Basel, Switzerland … //

… Let me now look into the role which non-nuclear-weapon States like Switzerland and civil society organizations could play in the disarmament arena. We are all stakeholders in our planet’s survival. We have the right – and the obligation – to get involved. We cannot leave disarmament to the nuclear-weapon States. We cannot leave health policy to the smokers.

What can we do in concrete terms? 

  • We need to keep disarmament on the agenda and in the public debate. We have to make it clear over and over again that security doctrines based on nuclear deterrence are not sustainable. They are an invitation to nuclear proliferation and to arms build-up.
  • We need to actively engage with the nuclear-weapon States. We must let them know our concerns and expectations.
  • We also have to support visionary politicians within the nuclear-weapon States. The political will to disarm can change. We need to propose legal instruments to help nuclear-weapon States translate their political will into tangible, durable results.
  • We can offer platforms for disarmament talks and negotiations. Switzerland, as a neutral country and host of the Geneva disarmament platform, plays a specific role in this respect.
  • We can offer intermediate steps on the way towards complete disarmament, such as proposals which lead to reducing the alert levels of nuclear weapons. Switzerland, along with other countries, has been active in this area. It has sponsored a United Nations resolution and produced a study on the issue, in cooperation with Russian and US experts.
  • We need to work towards reforming the institutions which are responsible for negotiating disarmament treaties, such as the Conference on Disarmament which has been blocked for far too long. We need to work for its revival.
  • We need to reach out to relevant constituencies within the nuclear-weapon States, for instance the military. Many military leaders are aware that nuclear weapons are actually unusable. They are unusable between the major powers which have second-strike capability. And they are unusable in confronting terrorism. Military leaders are starting to view nuclear weapons more as a very costly liability than an asset.
  • And, most important, we need to insist on the inherently inhuman nature of nuclear weapons and the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of their use. This will help prepare the ground for outlawing and ultimately eliminating them. Switzerland, the depositary of the Geneva Conventions, feels a special responsibility in this respect. Your organization holds the same convictions. We need to bring the humanitarian perspective to the heart of the debate on nuclear disarmament. We need to delegitimize nuclear weapons … //

… I agree that the vision of a world without nuclear weapons may not be realized in the short term. But it is not an illusion either. Nuclear weapons were created by human beings. They can be eliminated by human beings. Yes, this will be difficult. Nuclear weapons cannot be uninvented. We will need an unprecedented system of controls and verification. But this is not impossible. There is no law of nature stating that humanity cannot get rid of nuclear weapons.

States, civil society, all of us have a role to play in making the vision of a world free of nuclear weapons a reality. Let’s get to work. I thank you for your attention. (full text).


International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War IPPNW: IPPNW is a non-partisan federation of national medical organizations in 62 countries, representing thousands of doctors, medical students, health workers, and concerned citizens who are united behind the goal of creating a more peaceful and secure world freed from the threat of nuclear annihilation … (full text on IPPNW /Homepage).
(see also on our blogs).

see IPPNW also on wikipedia.

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