Appeals Are Not Enough

TRANSCEND MEMBERS, 8 Feb 2021

David Adams | Transition to a Culture of Peace – TRANSCEND Media Service

1 Feb 2021 – At the end of this month’s CPNN bulletin concerning the Treaty on Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, we say the following:

“Many of the organizations above make demands of the nuclear states to begin the process of nuclear disarmament. And people are invited to sign appeals to these governments such as the Appeal for a Nuclear-Weapon-Free World. But there is no indication that the nuclear powers are listening. We must do more than that.”

Here’s why appeals are not enough.

As documented in my History of the Culture of War, the governments of the nuclear powers all share in the culture of war. Nation-states have come to monopolize the culture of war over the course of many centuries and there is no indication that they will change of their own accord.

It is true that over 50 nation-states have now signed and ratified the Treaty, but none of them are among the nuclear powers. The only countries from Europe are Ireland, San Marino and Malta. Nor are there other developed countries such as Japan, Canada and South Korea. Instead, they are the countries from the Global South, Latin America, Africa and Asia-Pacific, along with Nepal, Myanmar, Thailand, Viet Nam and the State of Palestine. These countries that do not have the resources to develop nuclear weapons, even if they wanted to.

And it is true that one country has renounced nuclear weapons after having developed them. It was South Africa when President de Klerk was negotiating was Nelson Mandela. This is certainly a special case.

The problem with appeals to the nation-states, such as that mentioned above, is that it gives a false sense of effective action to those who seek a nuclear-free world. Activists may be tempted to make their appeal and then sit back and say, “We’ve done all we can.”

Instead, activists in the nuclear states should mount serious campaigns in their country to force their government to undertake unilateral nuclear disarmament. Although such campaigns are not likely to be successful in the short term, in the long term they could set an important precedent.

Perhaps most important, such campaigns may force activists to recognize their government’s intransigent culture of war and they may come to the same conclusion as me, that the nation-states are hopeless with regard to nuclear disarmament.

Once having come to that point, activists should join me in working replace the nation-state in the direction of the United Nations, putting the UN in the hands of the mayors or parliaments of the world instead of the national governments.

Cities, unlike nation-states, have no vested interest in nuclear weapons.

The advantage of a United Nations run by mayors is that it could develop and implement an effective plan for multi-lateral nuclear disarmament instead of insisting on the unilateral nuclear disarmament of individual states.

To those who say that the nation-states will never give up their power at the United Nations, I say the following.

1. We may be on the verge of a global economic crash followed by a global political crash that may greatly weaken the hold of the governments of the world on the United Nations.

2. Already the great powers have to some extent abandoned the United Nations. The situation has not changed since I wrote the following in the blog back in June 2016: “1) The national governments of the world increasingly ignore the United Nations when faced with global problems. . . We first saw this trend with the global economic crisis of 2007-2008; the powerful states, meeting as the G-7, ignored the relevant financial institutions of the United Nations, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, and responded to the crisis with meetings of their finance ministers. Then in 2010, the powerful countries ignored the United Nations Non-proliferation conference  and met in Washington in a parallel conference  called by President Obama. Only Iran sent a head of state to the United Nations conference. Finally, even when the national governments attend a United Nations summit, the results are not adequate, as illustrated by the conferences to confront global warming in 2012 in Rio  and 2015 in Paris.”

I repeat the message at the end of last month’s blog that “a crash of the global system of governance will give us a window of opportunity for the radical change that is needed from the culture of war to a culture of peace. But such a change requires advance preparation. We need to work on this now, and I hope to address this question in my next blogs.”

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Dr. David Adams is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace Development Environment and coordinator of the Culture of Peace News Network. He retired in 2001 from UNESCO where he was the Director of the Unit for the UN International Year for the Culture of Peace.  Previously, at Yale and Wesleyan Universities, he was a specialist on the brain mechanisms of aggressive behavior, the history of the culture of war, and the psychology of peace activists, and he helped to develop and publicize the Seville Statement on Violence. Send him an email.

Go to Original – decade-culture-of-peace.org


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