By David Krieger*

In the cause of nuclear disarmament, breakthroughs have occurred all too infrequently. But we¹ve just had an important breakthrough, and this should be acknowledged. The five declared nuclear powers (US, Russia, UK, France and China) agreed to make an ³unequivocal undertakingŠ to accomplish the total elimination of their nuclear arsenals.² That is diplomatic language for a commitment to the goal of nuclear weapons abolition.

They also committed to generating ³agreed measures to further reduce the operational status² of nuclear weapons, and to a ³diminishing role for nuclear weapons in security policies to minimize the risk that these weapons will ever be used and to facilitate the process of their total elimination.²

These breakthroughs emerged from the Sixth Review Conference of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which concluded on May 19th. The President of the Conference, Ambassador Abdallah Baali of Algeria, enthused, ³Today is a great day for the cause of nuclear non-proliferation and nuclear disarmament.²

When the conference began at the end of April, I presented Ambassador Baali with two documents in a public ceremony at the United Nations. The first was an original copy of the Abolition 2000 International Petition, which has now been signed by some 13.5 million people. The petition calls for ending the nuclear threat by steps such as de-alerting nuclear arsenals; signing a verifiable treaty to eliminate nuclear weapons; and reallocating resources from maintaining nuclear arms to meeting human needs.

The second document I presented to Ambassador Baali was an Appeal to End the Nuclear Weapons Threat to Humanity. This Appeal, signed by some of the world¹s great peace leaders, was organized by the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation and was placed as an ad in the New York Times on the opening day of the Treaty Conference. This Appeal began by stating, ³We cannot hide from the threat that nuclear weapons pose to humanity and all life. These are not ordinary weapons, but instruments of mass annihilation that could destroy civilization and end all life on Earth.² The Appeal calls for ratifying the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, reaffirming commitments to the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, de-alerting nuclear weapons, and other steps.

Giving these documents to Ambassador Baali was a symbolic way of letting him and the other delegates to the conference know that people throughout the world cared about the outcome of their deliberations. The Ambassador received the documents graciously and promised to convey their contents to the delegates.

Pressure has been building on the nuclear weapons states to make an ³unequivocal undertaking² to achieve the speedy and total elimination of their nuclear weapons by both middle power countries and civil society peace organizations. The New Agenda Coalition -- composed of Brazil, Egypt, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, Sweden and South Africa -- has been officially pressing the nuclear weapons states for such a commitment since 1998.

Abolition 2000, a global network of organizations committed to seeking the total elimination of nuclear weapons, recently expanded to over 2000 network organizations and municipalities. As one of the founders of this network, I have watched it grow from modest beginnings in 1995 to become one of the largest networks in the world. The network has over 2000 organizational members in 95 countries.

Perhaps the people were heard at this latest Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference. Perhaps the people of the world, when aroused to action, are truly a force to be reckoned with, a force that can move governments and change policies.

The words of the nuclear weapons states tie them to achieving a specific result ‹ the elimination of their nuclear arsenals. These countries, however, did not tie themselves to a timeframe for implementation. It will be up to people everywhere to keep the pressure on, so that the promise to end the nuclear threat to humanity will actually be converted to a true end to that threat. As was reaffirmed at the conference, ³the total elimination of nuclear weapons is the only absolute guarantee against the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons.²

If you¹d like to know more about what you can do to help end the nuclear threat to humanity, visit the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation web site at www.wagingpeace.org or contact the Foundation at PMB 121, 1187 Coast Village Road, Suite 1, Santa Barbara, CA 93108-2794.


*David Krieger is President of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation. He can be contacted at .