Saturday, March 05, 2011

Nuclear Issues: New Vienna Organisation to Spur Disarmament

IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano, CNS Director William Potter, Minister for European and International Affairs of Austria Michael Spindelegger, MIIS President Sunder Ramaswamy, and Executive Secretary of the CTBTO Tibor Toth | Credit: MIIS

By Jamshed Baruah Courtesy of IDN-InDepth NewsAnalysis

BERLIN/VIENNA (IDN) - The Vienna Center for Disarmament and Non-Proliferation is a new feather in the cap for Austria, which served as a bridge between East and West under the leadership of Chancellor Bruno Kreisky in the 1970s, and was the venue of some early rounds of the Strategic Arms Reduction Talks (START) between the United States and the now defunct Soviet Union.

Along with two eminent UN organisations -- the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban-Treaty Organization (CTBTO) -- focussing on arms control by taming atomic energy, the new Vienna Center for Disarmament and Non-Proliferation (VCDNP) will advance international peace and security in the twenty-first century.

The establishment of the Center is an initiative of Austrian Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger, very much in the spirit of Kreisky. It will be managed by the James Martin Center for Non-proliferation Studies (CNS) of the U.S.-based Monterey Institute of International Studies (MIIS), a graduate school of Middlebury College.

CNS is the largest non-governmental organization in the United States involved in research and training in the fields of nonproliferation and disarmament. The Monterey Institute's Nonproliferation and Terrorism Studies (NPTS) master's degree program, launched in August 2010, is the only one of its kind in the U.S.

Significantly, the VCDNP has been set up in the wake of the conclusion of the new START Treaty between the United States and Russia, which observers have described as a welcome development in the nuclear disarmament field.

The IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano rightly says: "Reducing the role and numbers of nuclear weapons is a positive step towards a safe and peaceful world free of nuclear weapons which can impact positively on nuclear non-proliferation efforts. But, of course, further steps are needed."

Amano is a national of Japan, which is the only country to have experienced the horrors of nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This lends an added significance to his remark at the VCDNP opening ceremony on February 25, 2011: "Disarmament and non-proliferation education have an essential role to play in maintaining and strengthening the momentum towards achieving a world free of nuclear weapons."

This is an objective that the President Daisaku Ikeda of the Tokyo-based Buddhist organisation Soka Gakkai International (SGI) has been passionately pursuing since 1983 by tabling a set of peace proposals on January 26 every year. Ikeda's Peace Proposal 2011 not only pleads for a complete elimination of all nuclear arsenals, but also that a nuclear summit be held in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 2015 to abolish all atomic weapons.

With a view to creating awareness of the need to ban nukes, SGI organised an exhibition titled 'From a Culture of Violence to a Culture of Peace: Transforming the Human Spirit' at the UN headquarters in Vienna from October 4 to 15, 2010, with representatives of the IAEA and CTBTO Preparatory Commission speaking at the opening ceremony.

The IAEA deputy chief Ana MarĂ­a Cetto underlined the importance of the exhibition: "It examines what is meant by human security, and how the sense of human security lies at the heart of a culture of peace. It brings before us the issues that apathy turns into problems, problems that have a much wider reach than the purely local."

The IAEA has for decades been actively involved in promoting nuclear non-proliferation education. "My colleagues and I speak about nuclear non-proliferation throughout the world. We organize briefings here in Vienna for members of parliament, government officials, think tanks, academics and other groups," Amano said on February 25, 2011.

According to CNS, the VCDNP will serve as a platform for independent expertise in the field of nuclear security that contributes to the global efforts in the field of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation. Its main objectives are:

1 -- to further international peace and security, in particular, nuclear security through disarmament and non-proliferation measures; and

2 -- to further international discourse, education, and training on disarmament and non-proliferation.

These goals are to be achieved through:

-- Conferences, seminars and other meetings to foster result-oriented dialogue among international organisations, governments, non-governmental experts, scholars, and civil society;

-- Educational and training programs for professionals, faculty members, students, journalists, and the broader public from various countries;

-- Research and analysis of disarmament and non-proliferation issues and the dissemination of findings ;

-- Partnership with international, non-governmental, and academic institutions and organisations in Austria and other countries in achieving the aforementioned objectives and promoting dialogue, education, research, and analysis.

Welcoming the new Center, Amano said at: "It is vital that we educate the people of the world about how devastating nuclear weapons are and build awareness of the importance of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation."

"As a human being, as Director General of the IAEA -- and particularly as a citizen of the only country ever to experience the unspeakable horror of nuclear bombs -- I believe with all my heart and soul that these horrific weapons must be eliminated," Amano said.

"Achieving that goal will require continued global efforts to increase awareness and understanding of the vital importance of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation," he added


In addition to disarmament and non-proliferation issues, Amano also identified terrorism, nuclear security, nuclear power and nuclear law as potential areas of cooperation between the IAEA and the VCDNP.

He mentioned, for example, attending a Nuclear Security Summit hosted by U.S. President Barack Obama in Washington, D.C. in April 2010, which saw the participation of leaders from 47 countries.

"I was pleased that the IAEA's efforts to help countries make their nuclear facilities and borders more secure against the threat of nuclear terrorism were recognized at the highest levels. The heads of government gave strong moral and political support to our work," Amano said.

The IAEA Director General emphasized the role and importance of education in the nuclear field and spoke highly of his former Professor and friend Bill Potter, Director of CNS, for being a "tireless advocate of the importance of disarmament and non-proliferation education."

However, the work of the IAEA goes well beyond non-proliferation and nuclear security. "It also includes helping countries which want to introduce nuclear power -- which is the sovereign decision of each state -- to do so safely, securely and sustainably. We help them establish the technical and regulatory infrastructure and put the necessary legislation in place."

The Austrian Foreign Minister Spindelegger, the Executive Secretary of the Preparatory Commission of the CTBTO, Tiber Toth, the President of the Monterey Institute of International Studies, Sunder Ramaswamy, and CNS Director Bill Potter also spoke at the opening.