“A price too high”: An ICRC e-briefing on nuclear weapons

The unconscionable effects of nuclear weapons have been known to the world since the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. Yet for many, a full recognition of the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of those weapons has faded.

A 360° panoramic view of Hiroshima after the atomic bomb, from ICRC’s e-briefing “A price too high: Rethinking nuclear weapons in light of their human cost”.

Issued by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), this e-briefing shows the human cost of “the most terrifying weapon ever invented.

Upon entering the interactive publication, you will view photographs and 360° panoramics of the immediate aftermath of the atomic bombings in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and read the testimony of victims who survived.

The e-briefing also shows what international humanitarian law (IHL) has to say about nuclear weapons. It traces how the discussion on nuclear weapons has been reframed from one of deterrence theory and military strategy, to one focused on the profound and long-lasting humanitarian consequences that the use of these weapons would have.

The publication closes with an interview with Tadateru Konoé, president of the Japanese Red Cross Society and of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, and Peter Maurer, president of the ICRC, both of whom were in Japan in 2015 to mark 70 years since the the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Towards a global treaty banning nuclear weapons?

Last week States at met under the auspices of the United Nations in New York for a first round of negotiations on a treaty banning nuclear weapons.

Now that the views of the negotiating parties have been gathered, the president of the conference is to draft the text of the treaty, which will be the object of a second and final round of negotiations, from 15 June to 7 July this year.

The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement has called for the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons since 1945 and welcomes that such negotiations are now taking place in the framework of the United Nations.

In 2011 it appealed to all States “to pursue in good faith and conclude with urgency and determination negotiations to prohibit the use and completely eliminate nuclear weapons through a legally binding international agreement.” Six years later, States are making tangible progress towards that goal.

In his address to the United Nations, Peter Maurer hailed the “historic significance” of this conference:

“More than seven decades after calls for the elimination of nuclear weapons were first made, States are finally meeting at global level to prohibit these weapons under international law.”

Those negotiations had been called for in October last year via Resolution L.41, whereby a majority of 123 States voted “to convene in 2017 a United Nations conference to negotiate a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination”.

For ICRC Director-General Yves Daccord, and Australian CEO Judy Slatyer, the very future of humanity depends on this conference, which would be a milestone in averting a 21st century nuclear war:

“Of course, adopting a treaty to prohibit nuclear weapons will not make them immediately disappear. But banning nuclear weapons is a key step towards eventual disarmament. A new treaty banning nuclear weapons will reinforce the stigma against their use, support commitments to nuclear risk reduction, and be a disincentive for their proliferation.”

This Summer, the final round of negotiations could lead to a clear and unambiguous prohibition of nuclear weapons under international law. The indiscriminate effects and unspeakable suffering caused by nuclear weapons means putting an end to them is not an option — it’s a humanitarian imperative.

This article has been updated from this earlier version.

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