Nuclear weapons are the most destructive weapon ever invented. The immediate effect of a nuclear weapon, as was seen in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, is the destruction of a city, and hundreds and thousands of lives. There are also indiscriminate effects that last generations.
Despite this human cost, there has been an increase in the number of nuclear weapons states in the last 30 years. In addition, non state actors are now trying to obtain the material for nuclear weapons. We account that there are still at least 22,000 nuclear weapons in the world, held by more and more states. Their combined destructive force is equal to approximately 150,000 Hiroshima bombs.
Through our research we have concluded that there is no adequate international capacity to assist the victims of nuclear attacks – and such conclusions have consequences -it means that the only cure is prevention. For the Red Cross these are pretty compelling arguments on why something has to be done now.
In November last year, the International Red Cross Red Crescent Movement, comprising of all 187 national societies, the International Committee of the Red Cross and the International Federation of Red Cross Red Crescent Societies, took a defining step in its efforts on this issue. Findings concluded that use of nuclear weapons clearly violates international humanitarian law (IHL). A resolution was adopted 'towards the elimination of nuclear weapons'.
The resolution calls upon national societies, like New Zealand Red Cross, to raise awareness about this issue and to call on their governments to ensure these weapons are eliminated through a legally binding treaty.
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New Zealand of course is no stranger to this debate, not only is our nuclear free policy enshrined in our law but engrained in our national identity. But our anti-nuclear policy should only be seen as a starting point, a step towards a much larger goal: a world free of nuclear weapons.
In New Zealand although nuclear weapons cannot pass through our borders, “New Zealand would not be immune from the devastating effects of nuclear warfare,” says New Zealand Red Cross Advocacy and Policy Manager Gabrielle Emery. The humanitarian and environmental consequences of a nuclear attack today would be disastrous. Although the number of nuclear weapons has decreased, the nuclear weapons of today are smaller, more advanced and have the ability to wipe out civilisation.
A major focus for New Zealand Red Cross will be getting more young people involved in the debate and encouraging them to be global advocates just like many of their parents or grandparents were. Red Cross will be raising awareness of the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons by rolling out a host of innovative and interactive tools such as our www.targetnuclearweapons.org.nz which encourages people to have their say on the issue. As a country we need to once again make nuclear weapons the target again and not rest until they have been eliminated completely.