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Crucial Steps Towards a Nuclear-Free World


c/o Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation
Övre Slottsgatan 2
753 10 Uppsala, Sweden
Tel: +46-18-12 88 72
Fax: +46-18-12 20 72
Peace Depot
Transnational Institute
Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation
International Network of Engineers and
Scientists Against Proliferation




PRESS RELEASE 14 September 2000

Conference calls for Nuclear Weapon-Free Zones with Emphasis 
on South Asia, Northeast Asia, the Middle East and Central Europe 


UPPSALA (Sweden):

An International Seminar, attended by more than 50 scholars, experts, activists and diplomats from six continents, has called for Nuclear Weapons-Free Zones (NWFZs) to be established all over the world as transitional steps towards complete nuclear abolition. It underscored the urgency of such zones particularly in South Asia, Northeast Asia, the Middle East and Central Europe.

The Seminar, held between September 1 and 4 at Uppsala, was inaugurated by United Nations Undersecretary General for Disarmament Affairs, Jayantha Dhanapala, who delivered the keynote address. It deliberated on the moral, political, legal and security imperative of nuclear weapons abolition, highlighting the need for both comprehensive and incremental measures of disarmament.
‘At a time when some 30,000 nuclear weapons remain, NWFZs offer one of the few activities open to non-nuclear-weapon States not just to quarantine themselves from the nuclear contagion, but to pool their efforts to resist it,’ said Mr Dhanapala. 

The Seminar participants were unanimous that a decade after the Cold War, the world faces
a stark choice: achieve complete nuclear abolition, or face a second Nuclear Age with new generations of even more horrifying nuclear and other high-tech weapons. NWFZs, which ban the manufacture, deployment and transit of nuclear weapons in specific regions, and make them safe from nuclear attacks and threats from the nuclear weapons-states, are an important step towards nuclear abolition. Treaties to establish NWFZs have so far been reached in respect of Latin America (1967), South Pacific (1985), Africa (1996) and Southeast Asia (1997).

‘It is imperative that the treaties come into force fully and that the Nuclear Powers strictly adhere to their protocols,’ said Olle Nordberg, Executive Director of the Dag Hammarskjold Foundation, the Seminar host and one of its five international co-sponsors.

 ‘But it is even more crucial that the concept of NWFZs is itself radically transformed: from a measure of non-proliferation to a pro-active means of nuclear disarmament, i.e. thinning out, removal and actual dismantling of nuclear weapons where they already exist’, Mr Nordberg said.

After reviewing recent developments in disarmament negotiations, as well as the working of the existing NWFZs, the Seminar discussed at length the possibilities of such a transformation at a conceptual and practical level, especially as regards five specific zones.

In Central Asia, the emergence of a zone treaty, which seemed imminent, now faces some political obstacles. These need to be overcome.

In Northeast Asia, with Japan and the two Koreas at its centre, an NWFZ would offer the best guarantee of security without nuclear weapons while ensuring that no country crosses the nuclear threshold. ‘This is an eminently sensible proposal,’ said Hiro Umebayashi of Japanese civil society group, Peace Depot.

In volatile South Asia, which witnessed a nuclear breakout with the Indian and Pakistani tests of 1998, an NWFZ could prevent the deployment of nuclear weapons. ‘The demand for such a zone has been made for over 20 years in UN resolutions,’ said Achin Vanaik and Praful Bidwai, Indian anti-nuclear campaigners and initiators of the seminar. ‘Today a South Asian NWFZ is more relevant than ever.’ 

In the Middle East, the establishment of a zone free of Israel’s nuclear weapons, and all other weapons of mass destruction would be a key component of regional security. Said Fawzy H. Hammad, former chairman of Egypt’s atomic energy commission: ‘All the participants from our region agree that a zone free of all mass-destruction weapons is a realistic step forward.’

In Central and Eastern Europe, an NWFZ would defend the post-Cold War peace gains now threatened by NATO expansion and facilitate withdrawal of remaining tactical nuclear weapons. Fiona Dove, director of the Amsterdam-based Transnational Institute, another Seminar co-sponsor, said: ‘A Central European NWFZ would greatly enhance security and impel NATO de-nuclearisation in Europe’.

NWFZs have an advantage over other transitional measures towards disarmament. They involve a concerted effort by a whole region towards a common security structure. They carry the potential to include non-signatories to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. They do not suffer from the infirmities of the NPT, which does not impose effective disarmament obligations upon the nuclear states.

The Seminar participants emphasised the tremendous public education as well as disarmament potential of NWFZs. They welcomed declarations of nuclear weapons-free cities and local authorities. ‘Such nuclear-free areas have great moral and political value although lacking legal force’, said Masa Takubo of Gensuikin (Japan Congress against A- and H-Bombs).

The Seminar also discussed the issue of verification of NWFZ agreements and concluded on the basis of expert opinion that fairly reliable and accessible technological means exist to verify that all concerned states comply with their obligations. 

Seminar participants, who included a variety of civil society groups and campaigning organisations, underscored the relevance of the long-standing demand for a Nordic NWFZ and the concept of ‘single-state’ NWFZs being advocated for countries as varied as Austria, Mongolia and Sweden.

The participants dedicated themselves to campaigning for NWFZs in different forums, global, regional and national. In the Uppsala Declaration they adopted (attached below), they outlined a programme of future activities, including regional-level campaigns, publications and creation of a Website.


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