76 years ago, on August 6, 1945, the city of Hiroshima was wiped out by a single nuclear bomb. On the 9th, Nagasaki suffered the same fate. More than 80,000 people died in the two towns on the day of the attack, and several thousand more died in the weeks, months and years that followed. Over the following decades, the experimental detonations caused death and serious damage to health and the environment.
Each year, on these dates, official ceremonies are organized in the two cities in honor of the victims and in favor of world peace. From 2007 to 2011, I had the honor of representing the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, in Hiroshima, except in 2010, when he appeared in person.
Since the advent of nuclear weapons, the international community has sought to achieve consensus on how to eliminate them. Numerous scientific studies show that the effects of nuclear detonations, whatever the cause, are not limited to national borders and are large in scale and long lasting. The environmental damage caused by a nuclear conflagration will be profound and potentially irreversible.
Multilateral efforts over the past seven decades have resulted in the adoption of several international instruments aimed at preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons. It has so far been possible to limit the number of countries possessing these weapons to nine. Five of them (China, United States, France, United Kingdom and Russia) are recognized as such by the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), whose members have pledged to negotiate measures of disarmament.
All the others are obliged not to obtain them, with the exception of North Korea, India, Israel (which does not officially affirm or deny the possession of nuclear weapons, but would have ‘an arsenal of around 90 warheads) and Pakistan, which did not adhere to this treaty and developed their own armaments. 114 countries on five continents have established nuclear weapon-free zones. Since 2006, no tests have been carried out with atomic explosives. Multilateral treaties prohibited the other two categories of weapons of mass destruction: bacteriological (biological) and chemical.
However, the arms race has not stopped, on the contrary, it has intensified. To date, there has been no agreement on nuclear disarmament. Owners continue to develop and perfect ever faster, more powerful and deadly devices and are unwilling to accept and consider proposals to eliminate their arsenals.
In 2017, for example, 122 countries negotiated the Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty (NPT), which entered into force on January 22. 81 countries have signed it and 54 have already ratified it. The ratification by Brazil is under consideration in the National Congress. Countries with nuclear weapons consider the treaty “premature” and “counterproductive”. They did not participate in the negotiation and refused to subscribe to it.
On June 16, the Presidents of the United States and Russia jointly declared that “a nuclear war will have no winners and must never take place” and pledged to explore future measures to control arms and reduce nuclear risks. It is a laudable intention, but not sufficient. These two countries have a duty to actively lead the search for legally binding, verifiable and irreversible commitments on nuclear disarmament. Only complete elimination can avert the threat of nuclear weapons to the survival of mankind.