Thursday, April 05, 2007

Peace by peace

Just this week the blossoms have begun to fill the trees, and daffodils are emerging, as if from nowhere. Birds are singing as they busily make their nests. Spring has arrived. This time of year always makes me feel cheerful, and full of hope.

I associate hope, spring and flowers with orange shirts, flares and the peace rallies of my childhood. While these are now distant memories, nuclear weapons, sadly, are not. Last week I attended a meeting on “Challenges to International Security and the Non-Proliferation Regime on the Eve of the Next Review Cycle of the NPT[1]”. This meeting confirmed for me that now, more than ever, countries need to put aside their differences to find agreement on the main points of the NPT: non-proliferation of the non-nuclear weapons states, disarmament of the nuclear weapons states, and agreement around the “peaceful” production of nuclear energy. It seems that there is a stalemate, or a “crisis of trust” as one commentator put it, despite the progress made by regional groupings in implementing nuclear-weapons-free zones.

Despite this stalemate, there was a sense of hope when the Conference on Disarmament (CD) re-commenced this Spring. They are actually talking about agreement on a Programme of Work that might result in new international negotiations and agreements, so the mood is positive While states discuss possible agenda items such as the “Prevention of an arms race in outer space”, and “Transparency in armaments”, these issues are made real by contemporary issues such as China’s anti-satellite test in outer space in January this year.

The process of building peace seems at times an insurmountable challenge. But as I left the Palais des Nations last week, it was not only the sight of daffodils popping out of the ground that gave me renewed hope. Towering above me was the “Broken Chair”, a startling symbol of the international community’s commitment to repair the devastating impacts of conflict and war. Originally built as a reminder of the commitment to the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty, the chair has just recently been re-instated outside Geneva’s UN Building and encourages me to keep faith in the multilateral processes of peace and disarmament.

[1] The 1968 Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT)

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