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Hiroshima Declaration by G-7 Foreign Ministers falls short

David Cameron, Prime Minister of the UK, and Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada, at the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington DC, 2016. Photo: Georgina Coupe.
David Cameron, Prime Minister of the UK, and Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada, at the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington DC, 2016. Photo: Georgina Coupe.

The so-called ‘Hiroshima Declaration’ adopted today by the G-7 Foreign Ministers is a major disappointment and a frittering away of a solemn opportunity, in the 70th year following the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, to commit to nuclear disarmament and the elimination of nuclear weapons.

It is unfortunate that the G-7 Foreign Ministers related their ‘commitment to seeking a safer world for all and to creating the conditions for a world without nuclear weapons in a way that promotes international stability’ to the turmoil in Syria and Ukraine and the nuclear programme of North Korea. In the fight against the Islamic State and addressing the instability in Ukraine, nuclear weapons are completely irrelevant. And threatening North Korea with force or nuclear weapons is counter-productive and cannot resolve the security situation in the Korean peninsula.

While the G-7 Foreign Ministers expressed support for the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and urged India, Israel and Pakistan to join the NPT, they downplayed the legally binding obligation of the nuclear-weapon states to eliminate their nuclear arsenals. This is not surprising, since the G-7 Foreign Ministers represent three nuclear-weapon statesFrance, UK and USAand four other allied states (Canada, Germany, Italy and Japan) all nestling under a security system firmly anchored in nuclear weapons.

It would have been appropriate for the G-7 Foreign Ministers to have recognized the dire humanitarian and environmental consequences of nuclear weapons and pledged to seek their total elimination through multilateral negotiations at the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva. In addition, France, UK and the USA could have changed their opposition to the UN General Assembly-mandated Open-ended Working Group on Taking Forward Multilateral Negotiations on Disarmament that will be meeting in its second session in May in Geneva, and announced that they would take part in these discussions to find ways of advancing the nuclear disarmament agenda. Such opposition by the nuclear-weapon states to the wishes of the vast majority of UN member states to discuss possible ways and paths to nuclear disarmament shows the true colours of the nuclear-armed states.

At the end of March, some 52 world leaders met in Washington at the Nuclear Security Summit (NSS) to discuss ways of strengthening the security of nuclear materials in civilian use, but some 83 per cent of the nearly 1,800 metric tons of the world’s nuclear weapon-usable materialshighly enriched uranium and plutoniumwere off the table as were the nearly 15,000 nuclear weapons.

G-7 Foreign Ministers should get serious along with the G-7 leaders when they meet at their 42nd summit meeting in Japan on 26-27 May 2016 and commit to irreversible nuclear disarmament; to join with the other nuclear-armed states to reduce and eliminate nuclear weapons and nuclear weapon-usable materials; and to work to bring the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, prohibiting all nuclear test explosions, signed in 1996, into effect before the end of this year. The challenges are big but time is short; G-7 leaders need to stand up to their responsibilities.


Tariq Rauf is the Director of the Disarmament, Arms Control and Non-Proliferation Programme.