The humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons is seen asone of the wild cards at the upcoming NPT Review Conference. In recent years, a growing number of non-nuclear weapons states (of the New Agenda Coalition) and civil society groups have been calling attention to the impact of nuclear weapons upon human welfare. Consequently, the humanitarian initiative calls for a ban on nuclear weapons because of the unacceptable humanitarian consequences of a detonation, which include tremendous loss of life and injury, radiation poisoning, and the possibility of a nuclear winter—all of which would be inflicted upon not just combatant states, but upon neighbors and bystanders. Despite being non-signatories to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and actively increasing their nuclear capabilities, both India and Pakistan have surprised international observers by attending all three conferences of the humanitarian initiative.
The humanitarian initiative was born out of an attempt by the nuclear “have-nots” to find an innovative way to apply pressure to the “haves.” Members of the initiative claim their movement is driven by frustration with the failure of nuclear weapons states to negotiate a treaty on “disarmament under strict and effective international control,” as committed to in the NPT. The 2010 NPT Review Conference witnessed the emergence of a group of states determined to place the humanitarian aspect on the NPT agenda, and ended with a statement referring to the “catastrophic humanitarian consequences” of nuclear weapons use. The initiative has since grown, with three conferences held since 2013 and the last one being attended by 158 states.
The full article can be read from The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists here.