Fighting for a future without nuclear weapons

James Kon

Since 1945, the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement has been calling for the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons.

The call to ban nuclear weapons was first driven by suffering caused by the atomic bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Japanese Red Cross Society witnessed first-hand while attempting to provide relief to the dying and injured.

The atomic bombings killed hundreds of thousands, mostly civilians in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Seven decades on, the world continues to bear witness to the long-term effects of nuclear weapons as Japanese Red Cross hospitals continue to treat thousands of cancer victims due to radiation.

Yet, in today’s world there are nearly 16,000 nuclear weapons stored at sites in 14 countries, a vast majority of which are more powerful than the ones used in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

A woman sitting on the bench looks at Atomic Dome from Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park
Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall before the nuclear bombing. PHOTO: ICRC

With the huge stockpile of nuclear weapons, there is concern of the danger of intentional or accidental detonation.

International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement’s studies and those of other organisations have also shown that there is no international plan to respond adequately to even a limited use of nuclear weapons.

The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) is a hopeful step towards the total elimination of these destructive weapons. It is the first globally applicable multilateral agreement to prohibit nuclear weapons on the basis of international humanitarian law (IHL). Not only does it prohibit the use, threat of use, development, production, testing and stockpiling of nuclear weapons, it also commits states to remedying environmental damage and helping victims affected by the testing and use of nuclear weapons.

The ICRC recently congratulated Malaysia for its ratification of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) on September 30, 2020. The signing makes Malaysia the 46th state to ratify the treaty, which will enter into force 90 days after the 50th instrument of ratification is deposited.

Malaysia has always been a strong supporter of global nuclear disarmament, as evidenced by its contributions leading up to and during negotiations on the TPNW. Malaysia with Costa Rica, had submitted a proposal on nuclear disarmament in the form of a “Model Nuclear Weapons Convention” as a discussion document in the United Nations (UN) General Assembly in 1997. Malaysia is also engaged in the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) regime, having chaired the third session of the preparatory committee of the NPT Review Conference. In 2021, Malaysia will chair Main Committee I at the NPT Review Conference.

Head of ICRC Kuala Lumpur Regional Delegation Biljana Milosevic said, “It takes courage and sense of responsibility to the generations of today and tomorrow to take the path towards a world without nuclear weapons. That Malaysia has remained steadfast on this issue should serve as encouragement to others to walk the same path for humanity.

“Together with the Malaysian Red Crescent Society who is our partner in the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, the ICRC Kuala Lumpur Regional Delegation is committed to continue supporting Malaysia’s efforts towards global nuclear disarmament.”