Vid FN:s konvention om förbud mot kärnvapens andra statspartsmöte som pågår på FN i New York höll den internationella läkarrörelsen mot kärnvapen, International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW), ett anförande under den allmänna debatten om den moraliska och yrkesmässiga skyldigheten att kräva och arbeta för en framtid utan kärnvapen.
Delivered by Dr. Sally Ndung’u, IPPNW Board Member, 29 November, 2023, United Nations Headquarters NYC
Dear President, Esteemed Delegates, and Colleagues,
My name is Dr. Sally Ndung’u, a medical doctor and public health specialist from Kenya. Thank you for this opportunity to speak on behalf of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War. As a health professional myself, I have a moral and professional obligation to call for a safer, healthier future without nuclear weapons.
Distinguished delegates – Almost 80 years into the nuclear era, we have survived not because of wise leaders, or sound military doctrine, or infallible technology but because of luck. And now, events of the last year have laid bare how profoundly dangerous it is to gamble the safety of the world on a hope for indefinite good luck. As medical professionals, we have pledged to dedicate our lives to the service of humanity but the looming threat of a nuclear war steals from us the hope of honouring this pledge.
Delegates, in the event of a nuclear war, any attempt by the medical fraternity to offer care and treatment to the victims, we included, is likely to be futile. We must therefore focus on primary prevention by ensuring that nuclear weapons are never used again. The TPNW indeed provides a clear legal and moral pathway to eradicate these instruments of indiscriminate mass destruction.
New research since the First Meeting of States Parties has revealed that a nuclear war would be far more xatastrophic than we previously thought. In fact, even a so-called “limited” or “regional” nuclear war would be a planetary-scale event; crashing the climate, global food supply chains, and likely public order. Ensuing famines and unrest would lead to the starvation and death of 2 billion people in the first two years. Even in my region, far removed from the nuclear blasts, innocent Africans would not be spared these indirect horrors. A large-scale war between the United States and Russia would cause a full nuclear winter and global famine that would kill more than 5 billion people in the first two years.
Despite these devastating, almost unimaginable risks, all nine nuclear-armed states continue to:
– spend vast sums of money on improving and enlarging their nuclear arsenals; investments that could otherwise be used to address urgent humanitarian needs such as accessibility to proper nutrition, sanitation and healthcare;
– flout their disarmament obligations under Article VI of the NPT;
– and engage in de-stabilizing activities, including waging two violent wars, with one having made explicit and credible threats to use nuclear weapons.
In August 2023, more than 150 leading medical journals, including The Lancet, the British Medical Journal, the New England Journal of Medicine, and the Journal of the American Medical Association issued an unprecedented joint editorial calling for urgent steps to decrease the growing danger of nuclear war and for all nations to join the TPNW. Citing the special responsibility of the health community, the editorial urges “health professional associations to inform their members worldwide about the threat to human survival.” In this regard, the United Nations and its Specialized Agencies also have a vital role to play.
In 1980, the UN Secretary General issued a Comprehensive Study on Nuclear Weapons. In 1983 and 1987, the World Health Organization issued successive editions of its landmark report “Effects of nuclear war on health and health services.” These reports, published more than 30 years ago, are now out of date as much new relevant evidence has since emerged.
While the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research has issued reports about nuclear weapons and disarmament, very few other UN agencies have engaged with nuclear weapons issues in a substantial or ongoing way. Yet nuclear war would have profound implications for every sphere of human activity.
This year, the first priority identified in the UN Secretary General’s “New Agenda for Peace” is the elimination of nuclear weapons. We therefore urge all States Parties to the TPNW to build on and extend the work of the Scientific Advisory Group by taking the following steps at 2MSP:
(a) Urge and support the World Health Organization to convene an international committee of experts to produce a 21st century report on the effects of nuclear war on health and health services. One of the most effective ways to support this work would be for states to provide the necessary funding;
(b) Urge the UN Secretary General to produce a new United Nations comprehensive report on nuclear weapons, with contributions from all relevant United Nations agencies;
(c) Request the TPNW Scientific Advisory Group to encourage, assist, and where appropriate, contribute to these initiatives.
This second Meeting of States Parties to the TPNW occurs at a moment of extraordinary danger where the world is sleepwalking towards a nuclear catastrophe of unimaginable magnitude. It is time to wake up, before our nightmare becomes reality. From this Meeting must emerge a clarion call to action that the world cannot ignore.