Remarks by Thomas Nash, ICAN civil society forum, Oslo, 3 March 2013

Hello everyone.

My name is Thomas Nash, I worked a lot on banning cluster munitions, so I love Norway, and now I work at Article 36 which is part of ICAN UK. I’m also part of ICAN’s international steering group. So I’m very proud of this event.

Thank you very much for inviting me.

The government meeting hasn’t started yet but I feel like we have already achieved a lot.

We’ve all been saying that governments need to focus on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons and now 130 governments are gathering in this city to talk about just that.

We made this happen.

No matter what goes down during the conference we should remember that.

We’ve also got the P5 on the run.

Yesterday Gry Larsen said the P5 weren’t very convincing with their arguments. That’s for sure! Their diplomats have even gotten themselves in a spin on twitter. I bet some of them wish they were here to try and control what’s going on.

Because they can see there is only one road ahead once you start to think about the impact of nuclear weapons on people and the environment. And that road leads to a treaty banning nuclear weapons.

Maybe they think that by ignoring us or calling us a distraction, that we will go away. But from what I’ve heard over the past couple of days, I think that’s pretty unlikely.

Maybe they think we will be discouraged by their boycott; that we might see it as some kind of failure. But from what I’m hearing it probably actually makes us more confident that we can go ahead and get a treaty banning nuclear weapons even without them.

So I think the plan might just be working.

Of course we shouldn’t be surprised that we can have this kind of influence.

It’s true that this weekend has definitely felt like something new, with lots of friendly and groovy young Norwegians and all that.

But it has also felt like just the latest step in a history of effective civil society mobilisation to outlaw and eliminate weapons of mass destruction.

Richard pointed out that we have already prohibited two out of the three types of weapons of mass destruction, through the ban treaties on chemical and biological weapons.

And we have banned nuclear testing as well.

In these initiatives, civil society mobilised on the basis of the unacceptability of the humanitarian and health consequences of these weapons.

The campaign to ban testing was actually my first experience of campaigning. About 20 years ago as a young New Zealand high school student I took part in a delegation of activists who traveled to France to protest against French nuclear testing in the pacific, hosted by Mouvement de la Paix who are here today. So thank you for that – merci!

I want to spend a few minutes to look back on this forum, because I think it has been equally if not more important than the government conference will be over the next two days. So I’ve been collecting thoughts on here.

We had Patricia’s fabulous physics and femtometres and the launch of the new international campaign to keep the nucleus intact.

Rebecca set out why a ban treaty is practical, achievable, doable.

We heard about war and peace and preaching to the converted from the Cardinal. I understand he’s just left, I hope he does well at the conclave!

Gry Larsen, the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, told us that the elimination of nuclear weapons is not a utopia and that disarmament is about real people.

NPA’s youth promised us that they will work in Norway to make a ban happen.

The heavy-hitting science dudes and dudette gave us a crash course on the medical, social, climate and nuclear famine consequences of nuclear weapons.

Listening to the terrifying, personal stories of the Hibakusha, we reflected on the inhumanity of these weapons and their consequences.

Martin Sheen and John Deere sprinkled some stardust amongst us last night.

Martin Sheen told us that if Ghandi and Martin Luther King were alive today they would be part of ICAN.

Father John Deere told us that when people build movements, radical change happens. He also told us about giving speeches to submarines while swimming in the Atlantic – something I think we would all like to try sometime.

Then today we’ve heard from treaty makers.

We discussed zombie weapon eradication plans.

And how a treaty banning nuclear weapons would strengthen existing mechanisms like the NPT.

We heard about surrounding war with instruments of peace, justice, and human rights.

And Anna reminded us that we should never think that we as campaigners are not powerful; because we are.

And we’ve just heard from modern campaigners, text machines, people who have used social media and good organisation to get people out from behind their computers to events and polling booths and helped get people elected.

And we heard about sending more email – thanks for that!

Along the way we did some myth busting, we talked ethics, exchanged ideas in the marketplace and the speakers corner and had some amazing music and spoken word thrown in as well.

It has been a lot to take in.

But now the most important thing is the role that each and everyone of us is going to play in banning nuclear weapons.

We know this humanitarian approach works.

It has helped us ban weapons before; it has helped us ban nuclear testing; and it’s going to help us ban nuclear weapons.

When Nosizwe and Micha opened the forum yesterday morning, they talked about the importance of believing that change is possible; believing that a ban treaty is possible. Jasmin just repeated this just now.

In fact I think the only thing that can prevent us from getting a ban on nuclear weapons is if we don’t believe it is possible.

If we stick together and build our campaign respectfully and inclusively over the coming weeks and months we will find ourselves in the midst of a process to negotiate a ban on nuclear weapons before we know it.

I think once we get going in that process, we could be pretty hard to stop.

The next step for ICAN is the humanitarian conference tomorrow and Tuesday and ICAN has an important role to play there.

We don’t know what may or may not be announced during the conference as next steps to take this forward.

Whatever happens, I’m convinced that very soon ICAN is going to be working with governments, the Red Cross and Red Crescent movement and other partners on a fast track towards a new treaty banning nuclear weapons.

So, in closing, I want to thank the cool young Norwegians for hosting us so brilliantly over this weekend; to say that its been so inspiring and fun to be here with all of you and I feel like we have come a long way in the past couple of days.

I’m looking forward to seeing you all for more hard work, more fun and more inspiration at the next stop along this road.

Thank you very much, tusen takk.

Posted in: Conference statements, Nuclear weapons,