Why do nuclear weapons play an important role in international policies? First they are more a political weapon than a military because there use for military purpose is very limited and even states are working on reducing their role in security doctrines. Within their role for “nuclear deterrence” they are more a political instrument to put pressure on other states. They are also defining hierarchies in international policies. The five official nuclear weapons states are also the five veto powers of the UN Security Council. Through that they can influence policy but also economy. For example no UN sanction like an embargo can be imposed without China, USA, Russia, France and Great Britain agreeing on it. This is how the five powers are dictating the rules to 184 other nations.
The so created imbalance is becoming visible also in the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Here nuclear weapons states and non-nuclear weapons states are named and manifested. But the treaty will determine to abolish the imbalance through oblige the nuclear weapons states to get disarm their nuclear weapons until an early date. This is what the non-nuclear weapons states together with representatives from civil society are demanding. This common demand for a comprehensive framework of agreements or a nuclear weapons convention is becoming stronger in the past years.
Opinion polls from 2008 conducted in 21 countries have revealed that, on average, 76% of people worldwide support the negotiation of a treaty banning and eliminating all nuclear weapons.
Supporter of a Nuclear Weapons Convention:
The Non-Aligned Movement, representing 116 parties to the NPT, strongly supported a convention at the Review Conference. The following nations also called for a convention in their statements: Algeria, Austria, Brazil, Chile, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Egypt, Holy See, Indonesia, Iran, Kenya, Lebanon, Libya, Liechtenstein, Malaysia, Mexico, Mongolia, Morocco, Norway, Philippines, Qatar, Senegal, Switzerland, Thailand, Tunisia, Yemen.
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MATERIAL: enough space
LOCATION AND TIME: inside or outside, time is depending on number of questions and length of interviews from 5-10 Minutes
What do you think! People need to position themselves according to an imaginary line from yes/very to no/never. Then you can interview people why they are standing at this point of the line. If you hear arguments changing your mind you can also change your position. It sometimes makes sense to ask the same questions in the beginning and at the end of a workshop to see if positions have changed.
Examples for questions to begin a workshop could be:
The opinion barometer can also be used within a special topic for example to motivate students to start a discussion.
- How important is the issue nuclear weapons for you?
- How important do you think is it for your community/country in general?
- Do you feel threatened by nuclear weapons?
- Do you think that nuclear weapons prevent wars in the past?
- Do you think a nuclear weapon could be used in the future?
- Do you think nuclear weapons can guarantee security?
- Do you think a world without nuclear weapons is possible?
- Do you think scientists have a responsibility for their invention?
- Do you think the western countries must prevent that other states like Iran acquire nuclear weapons?
- Do you believe that the commitment of civil society can lead to the abolition of nuclear weapons?
- Do you think that nuclear weapons play a role in the conflict in the middle east?
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MATERIAL: computer with printer and paper, internet, pens
LOCATION AND TIME: school area or city center, one day
Surveys can provide us with useful information about people’s opinions and their level of knowledge. You could conduct a survey to find out what other students at your school, or people from the wider community, think and know about nuclear weapons. Analyze your results and share what you discover!
Collecting personal data such as age, occupation, sex and city of residence can be useful. For example, you might discover that young people know more about nuclear weapons than older people!
An idea is to split the poll into three parts: Personal Data (Age, Sex, City), knowledge and personal opinion.
- Design your survey based on what you hope to learn.
- Distribute your survey along with instructions for returning it to you once completed.
- Compile the survey results in a spreadsheet.
- Analyze the results and pick out statistics that people will find interesting.
- Write a report of your findings, and consider sending it to your local paper.
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Why is a nuclear weapons convention necessary?
>> The non-further-proliferation regime must be transformed in a real non-proliferation system in which
the central element of the Non-Proliferation-Treaty is replaced by a Nuclear Weapons Convention. For
making this possible also the framework needs to be transformed which means that new international
treaties need to enter into force to create trust like the CTBT (Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty),
OuterSpace Treaty (Prohibition of weapons systems in outer space) and FMCT (Fissile Material Cut-Off
- The Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) is ineffective, asymmetric and therefore instable and not longer
- A global system based on pressure would be the consequence of the current deadbeat and
- Disarmament, Non-Proliferation and arms control are going hand in hand and need to be converted
into a new effective and pre-emptive arms control system
- Also the access to fissile material is splitting the world: this potential and the reality of being the basis
technology for a nuclear weapons program needs to be addressed
What would a Convention do?
The model of a Nuclear weapons Convention (NWC) from 1999, overworked in 2007 by IPPNW (physicians),
IALANA (lawyers) and INESAP (scientists) would prohibit the development, testing, production, stockpiling,
transfer, use and threat of use of nuclear weapons. It would require all nuclear-armed countries to destroy
their nuclear weapons in stages. The model also prohibits the production of fissile material suitable for making
nuclear weapons and that the delivery systems are destroyed or converted to a non-nuclear function.
Phases of elimination
The Convention outlines a series of five phases for the elimination of nuclear weapons:
In the initial phases the US and Russia, which possess 95% of the world’s nuclear weapons, are required to
make the deepest cuts in their nuclear arsenals.
- Taking nuclear weapons off alert,
- Removing weapons from deployment,
- Removing nuclear warheads from their delivery vehicles,
- Disabling the warheads, removing and disfiguring the “pits”, and
- Placing the fissile material under international control.
Verification and Implementation
States would need to establish a national agency which is taking care for the implementation of the treaty on a
national level. The NWC would establish an agency to ensure that countries comply with the terms of the
treaty similar to the biological and chemical weapons conventions. It will be responsible for verification,
ensuring compliance, and decision making, and will comprise a Conference of States Parties, an Executive
Council and a Technical Secretariat.
Provisions are included for consultation, cooperation and fact finding to clarify and resolve questions of
interpretation with respect to compliance and other matters. A legal dispute may be referred to the
International Court of Justice by mutual consent of States Parties. The Agency is also empowered to request an
advisory opinion from the ICJ on a legal dispute.
For more information visit icanw.org.
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MATERIAL: colorful cards, flipchart and markers
LOCATION AND TIME: tables, and a board or a wall to put up the cards, approx. 10-20 minutes depending on the
size of the group
What would really be changed in world without nuclear weapons? Theoretical two different scenarios would
be possible: A world on the way to peace or a world on a way to a conventional world war. What do you think
is more likely? The group is collecting key words or pictures on cards on the question: How could a world without nuclear weapons look like?
- No incidents, security and health
- Security of the future: the power to destroy the world several times is not existing
- New divisions of power: more equality in the UN security council –> has an effect on decisions of the
council >> national interest are not that important any longer
- Could lead to an end of civil use of nuclear energy
- Success: could lead to new movement in disarmament on conventional weapons
- New wars with conventional weapons
- Suspension of beginning a war would be lower
- Constructive change of mind of people
- Balance of power between all states, because until now also the conflict between nuclear and nonnuclear states is leading to conflicts
- Political process created trust and is changing the international community and the feeling of need of
- Our environment is much saver
- Psychological effect: no longer a nuclear threat
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LOCATION AND TIME: it should be a quiet and comfortable location and a minimum of 30 minutes time.
For discussing the question of the dimension of a nuclear weapons free world along the question „Which ways
of thinking and structures of power needs to be changed to create the political will to abolish nuclear
weapons?“ the method of a “Fishbowl discussion” can be used.
The idea of a fishbowl discussion is that the discussion isn’t dominated by a few persons and everybody gets
the possibility to contribute. You put up a circle of outer chairs were everybody finds a place the so called
“fishbowl”. In the middle you put up 3-5 chairs depending of the size of the group for the “fishes”. Only who is
sitting at the inner chairs is allowed to speak. Everybody is invited to sit down at these chairs to contribute but
always one chair must be free for somebody new willing to join the discussion. That means if all chairs are
occupied one person, the one speaking now or said the most, needs to come to an end and leave the middle,
so that one chair gets free again. The people in the middle can discuss among each other.
Further questions on the issue could be:
- How is it possible to ensure that no state acquires nuclear weapons again? >> Therefore have a look at the „CTBT“ in the chapter “Radioactivity”
- How could the way towards a nuclear weapons free world look like? >> Therefore see the information part on a nuclear weapons convention
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The movement for the elimination of nuclear weapons has had some significant victories since it began. It’s
important that we celebrate these victories: they inspire us to persevere, even when we don’t seem to be
making much progress. They’re proof that the will of the people can prevail.
- 1946: The United Nations General Assembly, in its very first resolution, calls for the complete elimination of
nuclear weapons and establishes a commission to deal with the problem raised by the discovery of atomic
- 1955: Eleven leading scientists and intellectuals sign the Russell–Einstein Manifesto, warning of the dangers
posed by nuclear weapons and calling on world leaders to find peaceful solutions to international tensions.
- 1957: Internationally renowned physician and Nobel Peace Prize winner Albert Schweitzer publishes the
famous Declaration of Conscience, his public appeal against the development of nuclear weapons.
- 1970: The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty an international treaty promoting nuclear non- proliferation and
nuclear disarmament – enters into force.
- 1981: Thousands of women march to Greenham Common, a military base in the United Kingdom housing 96
nuclear missiles, and commence a 19 year protest which results in the removal of the missiles and the closure
of the base.
- 1982: The biggest demonstration to that date takes place in New York, with one million people gathering in
support of the second United Nations Special Session on Disarmament and to express opposition to nuclear
- 1984: Jo Vallentine is elected to the Australian Senate as a candidate for the Nuclear Disarmament Party,
becoming the first person in the world to be voted into office on the single issue of nuclear disarmament.
- 1984: New Zealand becomes the first single-nation nuclear-free zone, with the Labour government
implementing a nuclear prohibition policy despite considerable opposition from its Western allies.
- 1985: International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War win the Nobel Peace Prize for raising
awareness of the catastrophic consequences of nuclear warfare and for generating opposition to nuclear
- 1991: The Cold War ends, marking the beginning of an era of reduced reliance on nuclear weapons, with
Russia and the United States substantially reducing the size of their nuclear arsenals.
- 1991: South Africa completes the process of dismantling all of its nuclear weapons, making it the only nation in
the world to have developed nuclear weapons and then voluntarily given them up.
- 1995: Civil society organizations from across the globe join forces to create Abolition 2000, a network which
shifts the world’s focus from nuclear arms control to nuclear weapons abolition.
- 1996: The International Court of Justice, the highest court in the world, holds that there exits an obligation
under international law to pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion negotiations leading to complete
- 1996: The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, an international treaty banning all nuclear explosions in all
environments, whether for military or civilian purposes, opens for signature.
- 2000: The Review Conference of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty adopts a final document with 13 practical
steps towards disarmament
- 2007: The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons is launched throughout the world with the aim
of generating a groundswell of popular support for a treaty that would ban nuclear weapons.
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MATERIAL: paper and pens, tabe, computer with internet
LOCATION AND TIME: room with a free wall, approx. 30-60 minutes
Young activism as two pillars: Youth are getting active when they can implement their own ideas. An action is
successful if it is also fun. As motivation for an own action it can be helpful to have a look on what already was
done successfully. Look at websites like bang-europe.org or ippnw-students.org to see what kind of action
people take for nuclear abolition. Design an overview on the different kinds of actions and add your own ideas!
How such an overview could look like:
||Exhibitions, movies, memorials, signature collection, concerts, workshops in school
and with youth groups, seminars, articles, flyer, paiting, theater, information desks
in the city such as My cup of tea or Target X, article in newspapers
||Demonstration, open letter, banners, fast, flyer
||Letters to members of parliament, mayors or others, attending international conferences, visitng embassies and missions
|Communication & networking
||Intercultural meetings, festivals, seminars, sponsored travel
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MATERIAL: computer with internet
LOCATION AND TIME: long-term project at the internet
You would stay updated on nuclear weapons and also inform others? Where would this work better out than at
the internet? Here you have a few ideas on online projects for an exchange of information.
- Creat your own blog: You can create your own blog free of charge through websites such as
blogspot.com or wordpress.com. A blog would let you to post your thoughts about eliminating nuclear
weapons, including photos and even videos. You could link your blog to similar blogs.
- Form a Facebook group: There are many applications on the social-networking site facebook.com that
you could use to promote nuclear weapons abolition. For example, you could set up a “cause” or a
“group” and invite your friends to join and donate money. You could then encourage them to invite
- Discuss nuclear weapons: The internet is home to several discussion forums about peace and
disarmament. Consider joining these to make your views heard. There are also chat rooms where you
can do the same. Many newspapers are now published online as well as in hard copy and enable you
to post comments.
- Make and post a video: Many computers, particular laptops, have a built-in video camera that allows
you to record your thoughts in a movie. You can edit the movie using a program such as Windows
Movie Maker and upload it to a website like Youtube.com or DailyMotion.com.
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