SUVA, 10 JULY 2017 (ICAN) — Pacific campaigners on Monday welcomed the adoption by the United Nations of an historic nuclear weapons ban treaty that for the first time establishes international obligations towards victims of nuclear testing and environmental remediation.
“We hope that all states of the world will fully embrace the spirit of this treaty and assist in helping to clear our poisoned lands and lagoons and address the health needs and suffering that many nuclear test victims still suffer,” said Vanessa Griffen from Fiji’s FemLINKPacific.
The landmark Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons was adopted on Friday, when 122 nations voted for the long-awaited accord, including most of the nations of the Pacific and South East Asia. The treaty will open for signature on September 20 at the UN in New York.
Australia boycotted the talks, at the behest of the US. So too did all other nuclear states, and NATO states apart from The Netherlands, which voted against the treaty.
The treaty’s obligations on victim assistance and environmental remediation are in keeping with its humanitarian imperative and previous treaties banning landmines and cluster munitions. It is also the first treaty to recognise gender-related aspects of nuclear programs and the disproportionate harm nuclear weapons and testing have caused to women and girls, as well as to Indigenous people, including in Australia and the Pacific.
Over 50 years from 1946, some 300 nuclear test explosions were conducted in the Pacific. Pacific islanders continue to experience legacies of cancer and chronic disease as a result of the radioactive fallout that blanketed their homes and the vast Pacific Ocean, upon which they depend for their livelihoods.
Roland Oldham, President of Moruroa e Tatou, the organisation representing nuclear veterans in French Polynesia, told the UN conference in the lead-up to the adoption of the treaty that the nuclear tests in the Pacific by France, the United States and Britain were “a crime towards Indigenous people, and the defenceless people of the Pacific.”
“It is a racist crime–nuclear racism,” he said. “This destroyed and contaminated their environment, the natural resources that they depend on to live. The damages are irreversible.”
Griffen also told a plenary session of the UN conference that the treaty resonates for all people and nations with experience of nuclear weapons testing.
“Alongside the survivors of the bombs used on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, test victims have all been determined to ensure these experiences are never felt again,” she said.
Abacca Anjain-Maddison, former Senator for the Marshall Islands who addressed the closing session of the UN treaty negotiations after the final vote, said the treaty had special meaning for those in the Pacific and around the globe who have suffered from nuclear weapons testing and use. In her speech, she said:
“For years, my home, the Marshall Islands, was used as a testing ground for nuclear bombs, which contaminated our beautiful, pristine atolls for all time.”
“Today, we carry in our bodies the legacy of these dreadful experiments. The cancer rate in the Marshall Islands is among the highest in the world. They treated us as guinea pigs. They told us it was for the good of mankind.”
“The adoption of this landmark agreement today fills us with hope that the mistakes of the past will never be repeated. For decades, we have spoken out against the bomb. Now, it is as if the world has finally heard our cries…. PACNEWS [/restrict]