(With inputs from The Economist)
The international Global Zero movement was launched in December 2008 for the phased, verified elimination of all nuclear weapons worldwide. But the Global Zero got going in late 2006 itself. Its two founders were Bruce Blair, a former Minuteman ballistic-missile launch-control officer and fellow of Brookings Institution who had set up the World Security Institute, a think-tank in Washington, DC, a few years earlier and Matt Brown, who had served as a youthful secretary of state for Rhode Island.
It was started with the belief that the only way to eliminate the nuclear threat — including proliferation and nuclear terrorism — is to stop the spread of nuclear weapons, secure all nuclear materials and eliminate all nuclear weapons: global zero.
From scratch to being a global movement Global Zero had its share of luck.
In January 2007 a seminal article in the Wall Street Journal by Henry Kissinger, Bill Perry, George Shultz and Sam Nunn, all veterans of America’s cold-war security establishment with impeccable credentials as believers in nuclear deterrence, asserted that nuclear weapons had become a source of intolerable risk. The authors became known as the “four horsemen of the apocalypse”.
They argued that the terrifying risk of accidents, misjudgments or unauthorised launches could only be reversed by a concerted effort to free the world of nuclear weapons. Suddenly, Global Zero was able to recruit people who were a far cry from the old “ban the bomb” crowd.
Global Zero announced itself with a meeting in December 2008 that drew together more than 100 international political, diplomatic, military and academic bigwigs. They agreed to set up a commission that would draw up a practical, step-by-step plan. They also sent a jointly signed letter to Barack Obama and his Russian counterpart, Dmitry Medvedev, who were about to meet for the first time, urging them to make a commitment to eliminate nuclear weapons and start making further big cuts in their own arsenals.
The UN Security Council endorsed in September 2009 the goal of Global Zero. In February 2010 in Paris, the 2nd Global Zero Summit convened 200 eminent leaders from around the world. Presidents Obama and Medvedev and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon sent strong statements of support, including President Obama’s declaration that Global Zero “will always have a partner in me and my administration.”
More than 400,000 people from every country in the world have signed the Global Zero declaration in less than 3 years of its existence. Students are getting involved, starting over 70 Global Zero chapters on college campuses worldwide.
Global Zero, in partnership with the Academy Award winning team behind An Inconvenient Truth, Lawrence Bender and Participant Media, produced Countdown to Zero, a major documentary film which opened in theaters across the US in July 2010 and which is now available on DVD.
Global Zero held its third annual “summit” in London this week.
India’s clean record gives her more say than her actual global status in such an international initiative. And that was conveyed properly by PM Dr. Manmohan Singh when he extended support for a world free of nuclear weapons. Excerpts from speech of Dr. Singh:
India has been steadfast in its support for global, non-discriminatory, verifiable nuclear disarmament. “Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi presented a visionary Action Plan for a Nuclear-Weapon-Free and Non-Violent World Order. This Action Plan sets out a roadmap for achieving nuclear disarmament in a time-bound, universal, non-discriminatory, phased and verifiable manner. We are glad to note that the Global Zero Action Plan is based on similar principle and that, like India, it has supported the global elimination of nuclear weapons in a time-bound framework.”
The goal of nuclear disarmament can be achieved by a step-by-step process underwritten by a universal commitment and an agreed multilateral framework that is global and non-discriminatory. Progressive steps are needed for the de-legitimization of nuclear weapons. Measures to reduce nuclear dangers arising from accidental or unauthorized use of nuclear weapons, increasing restraints on the use of nuclear weapons and de-alerting of nuclear weapons are essential steps. There is need for a meaningful dialogue among all states possessing nuclear weapons to build trust and confidence and for reducing the salience of nuclear weapons in international affairs and security doctrines.
This campaign can be taken forward by forging a renewed consensus on non-proliferation and nuclear disarmament. Public awareness and support is vital to generate and sustain an irreversible momentum until we reach our cherished goal of a world without nuclear weapons. Transforming this vision into reality is a task worthy of the distinguished participants of the Global Zero Campaign.
I extend my best wishes for a successful conference.”
(With inputs from The Economist)