One more reason to break up with nukes: the humanitarian impact

Tamara Kajtazović is a postgraduate student of international relations at the University of Ljubljana, Slovenia. As an active member of her Global Zero chapter, she devotes much of her academic focus to the elimination of nuclear weapons.

As Global Zero members from across the world announce they are breaking up with nukes this Valentine’s Day, representatives from governments and international organizations are gathering in Nayarit, Mexico, to address a critical issue: the implications of nuclear weapons on human life and public health, the environment and global economies – and what humanitarian response, if any, could be delivered in response to even a “small” nuclear explosion.

In addressing these questions, the Second Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons aims to deepen and expand the understanding of the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons. The first conference was held in Oslo last year, and the conclusions of that meeting were sobering.

“It is unlikely that any state or international body could address the immediate humanitarian emergency caused by a nuclear weapon detonation in an adequate manner and provide sufficient assistance to those affected,” warned officials from the Oslo conference after hearing presentations from organizations such as the International Red Cross Committee. “Moreover,” they continued, “it might not be possible to establish such capacities, even if it were attempted.”

Recently, I came across an infographic published by the Washington Post that detailed recent nuclear-material incidents that put their warning into perspective. The piece chronicles dozens of incidents in which nuclear materials have been mishandled, lost or stolen, few of which received much public attention at all. These episodes underscore the fact that, as long as nuclear weapons exist, there remains the possibility of their use – whether accidental or intentional.

Nuclear catastrophes do not stop at borders and continue far beyond the initial, devastating blast. If any of these incidents ever produced a detonation, we would have no way to limit the scope of the damage, the death toll or the many long-term consequences.

The second conference in Nayarit has great potential to yield actionable ideas that are shaped by the fact that the very existence of nuclear weapons constitutes an unacceptable, catastrophic risk to human life, and that the only way to address that threat is to eliminate them entirely.

That’s why this Valentine’s Day, as officials and experts discuss the humanitarian costs of nuclear weapons in Mexico, my Global Zero chapter and I will break up with nukes to remind the rest of the world exactly how destructive these weapons actually are.

Tamara’s message, along with others, will be delivered to world leaders after Valentine’s Day to show the growing support for the elimination of nuclear weapons. Want world leaders to see your message? Click here to add your image.

Leave comments

Stay Connected