Thursday, June 28, 2007

Margaret Beckett: Vision and Action Needed for a World Free of Nuclear Weapons

British Foreign Secretary “We need both vision - a scenario for a world free of nuclear weapons - and action - progressive steps to reduce warhead numbers and to limit the role of nuclear weapons in security policy.Carnegie International Nonproliferation Conference.

A powerful point that stuck out in my mind when listening to Beckett speak on Monday is equally lucid on paper:

History has shown us how bold vision can lead to bold action. Would William Wilberforce, for example, have achieved half as much if he had set out to "regulate" or "reduce" the slave trade rather than abolish it? I doubt it. So too with nuclear weapons. Believing that the eventual abolition of nuclear weapons is possible can act as a spur for action on disarmament. Believing, at whatever level, that it is not, is the surest path to inaction.

Beckett argues that there are three essential steps towards a world free of nuclear weapons:

1) Further reductions in warhead numbers, particularly in the world's biggest arsenals,
2) Pressing on with the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and with the Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty, and
3) Looking again at how we manage global transparency and global verification - constructing a framework that will give people the confidence to make deeper cuts in their arsenals and, one day, to give up their nuclear capability for good.

Beckett concludes:

Mine is a generation that has always lived under the shadow of the bomb. But there is a danger in familiarity with something so terrible. If we allow our efforts on disarmament to slacken, if we allow ourselves to take the non-proliferation consensus for granted, the nuclear shadow that hangs over us all will lengthen and it will deepen. It may, one day, blot out the light for good. We cannot allow that to happen.

I only hope that Beckett’s replacement, former Environment Minister David Miliband, will show the same zeal towards abolition of nuclear weapons that she has so eloquently championed.


Jay Denari said...

I agree with Beckett's vision (obviously), but she forgets one crucial part of an effective prescription for action:

4) Create extensive public support for non-proliferation and disarmament efforts, in part by reminding people of what nuclear weapons can do.

All of the other things she includes are important, but a worldwide public outcry against the bomb is the only thing that will make sure disarmament happens.

Jeff Lindemyer said...

Absolutely. And I would imagine that Beckett would also agree with you and would say that creating (and sustaining) extensive public support for non-proliferation and disarmament efforts ties directly into enacting her three points. After all, that is very much what the Center and other organizations are working towards at this very moment.