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from issue no. 11 - 2004

Disarmament: a promise is a promise

World peace is linked to disarmament. And disarmament, to be very optimistic, is stagnant. So we head into 2005 remembering – from this point of view somewhat bleakly – the sixty years since the foundation of the United Nations, whose aspiration is that of seeking peace through international structures and cooperation.
In 2003, 956 billion dollars were employed on military spending, eleven per cent more than the preceding year and 18 per cent more than in 2001. And we can’t say that all of these expenses have to do with Iraq, but they are the effect of a chain reaction in a world unbalanced by the so-called fight against terrorism and oppressed by fear (640 million rifles are in circulation, and 14 billion rounds of ammunition are produced annually). But, going beyond just rhetoric, it is unquestionable that these enormous resources get diverted, especially to the sphere of underdeveloped countries, from their more reasonable and humane purposes: alleviating poverty, constructing homes, providing medical help (AIDS) and education. It can be legitimately asked in what way the provisions made by the UN in the Millennium development goals about the halving of world poverty by 2015 will be respected, if another UN text, the Human development index, states that in the last ten years half of the countries at the bottom of the list of the world classification of development, were at war. The UN experts by now have their shelves full of studies that show the connection between disarmament and development.
Further, not only nuclear arms and arms of mass destruction merit our attention but also the light ones (which kill 10,000 people every week), both to stop illegal and limit legitimate traffic through a new international ruling. The UN conference on light arms, programmed for 2006, must set itself this objective.
In 2005 there is however an unavoidable deadline: the Conference on the revision of the non-proliferation Treaty, the delicate nature of which has already been shown by the preparatory meetings, given the clear crisis of the agreement. The non-“nuclear” signatory states have the duty to avoid proliferation, the already “nuclear” ones that to negotiate the reduction of existing warheads: this was always the original exchange at the basis of the Treaty, a compromise which few remember today. Indeed, the atomic devices that were once the mere tools of the Cold War are unfortunately today part and parcel of the new military doctrines of the super powers. Thus we are moving towards the acceptance of a world divided between those who have an atomic arsenal and those who haven’t. While considerations of a legal and moral nature about what has been outlined remain firm, (John Paul II has defined nuclear arms in their entirety as instruments of evil), it should be added that since the concept of deterrence from the epoch of the two blocs is no longer applicable to today’s reality, there is no political or security reason to justify failure to implement the non-proliferation Treaty or for denying, for example, to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) the resources to work when States are spending them on rearming instead (it is further known that great quantities of atomic material mysteriously disappeared from Soviet arsenals after the collapse of the USSR).
So, we wait and hope that in 2005 new negotiations for the limitation of fissile material will begin; the IAEA will have control of the surplus production; measures will be fixed for checking on disarmament and that, at the next Conference, a committee will be created to carry out such checks; the moratorium on nuclear tests will be maintained until a treaty banning such tests comes into force; that finally the Treaty of non-proliferation will prevail universally.
History bitterly reminds us that 2005 is the sixtieth anniversary of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Responsibility for disarmament is in the hands of few. The re-elected American president promised on live TV – replying to his Democratic rival who had declared non-proliferation the greatest problem that the United States had to confront in the coming years – that he would deal with it. A promise is a promise, and we live in hope.

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