Partnering with The Elders
Jessica Sleight, Program Director | October 1, 2019
Last month, representatives of The Elders – a distinguished group of global leaders working together for peace, justice and human rights started by Nelson Mandela in 2007 – visited Washington to speak on the urgent need to reduce the risk of nuclear use. Former President Mary Robinson and former Prime Minister Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland, both long-time Global Zero leaders, met with policymakers to discuss a nuclear “minimization” agenda released at the Munich Security Conference earlier this year, outlining immediate steps nuclear-armed countries should take to minimize nuclear risk, including unequivocal no-first-use commitments from every nuclear-armed country.
This agenda is closely aligned with Global Zero’s roadmap for the worldwide elimination of nuclear weapons, which calls for global no-first-use policies accompanied by verifiable changes to nuclear postures to back up such commitments, such as taking all nuclear weapons off high-alert.
On September 26, Global Zero partnered with The Elders on a special event for the diplomatic and expert community in Washington on the need for global no-first-use commitments, New START extension, and other risk reduction measures. The panel discussion was hosted by Norway’s Ambassador to the United States Kåre R. Aas; included remarks from Global Zero Co-Founder Dr. Bruce Blair, former Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Brundtland, former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Thomas Countryman, and Nuclear Crisis Group Director Jon Wolfsthal; and was moderated by Alexandra Bell, a former State Department official now serving as Senior Policy Director at the Council for a Liveable World.
Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland
What seems unthinkable now is likely to be far more achievable in a decade’s time if a nuclear minimization agenda develops momentum. In the words of The Elders founder Nelson Mandela, ‘It always seems impossible until it is done.’
Thirty years after the Cold War, nuclear weapons continue to pose an existential threat to humanity. With tensions running high between nuclear-armed countries, cooperation on international arms control under threat, and plans for expensive and dangerous new weapons moving forward, world leaders have a responsibility to call for and implement practical steps to reduce the risk of nuclear weapon use whether by accident, miscalculation or intent.
As Dr. Brundtland mentioned in her remarks, “small steps can be significant. What seems unthinkable now is likely to be far more achievable in a decade’s time if a nuclear minimization agenda develops momentum. In the words of The Elders founder Nelson Mandela, ‘It always seems impossible until it is done.’”
Last week’s event at the Norwegian ambassador’s residence was part of a new initiative by Global Zero to champion No First Use in nuclear-armed countries and get the world back on track to reducing and ultimately eliminating all nuclear weapons globally.