UN Hosts Nuke Abolition Exhibition in Vienna


Nuclear Abolition News | IDN

By Ramesh Jaura
IDN-InDepth NewsReport

VIENNA (IDN) - "Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed." These words from the preamble of UNESCO's Constitution, inscribed on an exhibition panel, have caught the attention of Ana María Cetto as she walks around the exposition. [P] ARABIC TEXT VERSION | GERMAN | JAPANESE TEXT VERSION | SPANISH | TURKISH | URDU

This is "one of the most evocative . . . phrases of any UN constitution," declares Cetto, opening the exhibition at the UN headquarters in Vienna. Cetto is the deputy director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), set up as the 'Atoms for Peace' organization in 1957.

Referring to the exposition titled 'From a Culture of Violence to a Culture of Peace: Transforming the Human Spirit', Cetto says: "Exhibitions in the cause of peace, like this one, are devoted to a single aim: to construct those defences in the minds of each person that comes into contact with them."

Pointing to another telling phrase on a different panel, "the silent violence of apathy", she says, it underlines "a state of human willingness to live comfortably while ignoring the suffering of others".

"Apathy is a great threat to the defence of peace," Cetto cautions. "It's the parent of the insidious whisper that tells us that an individual can't do very much, or that the problems of people far away are inevitable, impossible to prevent, not that bad really, or maybe even their own fault."

What lends a particular significance to the exhibition, says the IAEA deputy chief, is: "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."

Cetto adds: "In the IAEA, we are convinced that ensuring human security is key to ensuring global peace. We say that no lasting security is achievable without development, and that no sustainable human development is possible without security."

The exhibition, the IAEA's deputy chief opened on October 4, comprises of 36 panels and will continue till October 15. Its venue, the Vienna International Centre, also hosts the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) Preparatory Commission and several other UN agencies and offices.

The CTBTO Preparatory Commission, set up in 1996, is an interim organization tasked with building up the verification regime of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) in preparation for the Treaty's entry into force as well as promoting the Treaty's universality.

CTBTO Preparatory Commission's external relations director Genxin Li is pleased that: "There is fortunately no longer large scale nuclear testing as was the case in previous decades. We have the CTBT and we have a fully functioning and capable verification regime to monitor compliance of the prohibition of nuclear testing."

"However, despite moratoria on nuclear testing, the legal door is not yet firmly closed. Although 182 countries have signed and 153 have ratified the CTBT, the Treaty is not yet in force," adds Genxin Li in his opening remarks. Though, that would be an important step towards nuclear disarmament and against nuclear proliferation.

"To achieve that step and to move forward on disarmament and non-proliferation, we require the utmost unity of purpose of the international community. It is therefore important to mobilize interest and to inform the public that this is an issue that directly concerns them," says CTBTO Preparatory Commission's external relations director.

He adds: "The 'People's Decade of Action for Nuclear Abolition' is the type of grassroots activity that can help achieve this goal."

The exhibition in the Austrian capital has been jointly organised by the NGO Committee on Peace Vienna and the Soka Gakkai International (SGI), a Tokyo-based Buddhist organization, which launched it first in 2007 as part of the campaign entitled People's Decade of Action for Nuclear Abolition, with a view to building international public opinion against nuclear weapons and calling for a Nuclear Weapons Convention (NWC).

Vienna NGO Committee on Peace chairman Klaus Renoldner makes an impassioned plea for a Nuclear Weapons Convention: "We know about the destructive effects of nuclear weapons, and as a physician I can certify that there is no treatment against this disease. A megaton bomb can destroy a large city and kill a million or more of innocent people at once. There is only prevention, and prevention in this case means abolition of these weapons."

The significance of the exhibition lies in the fact that it communicates the links between the nuclear weapons issue and human security, making clear that nuclear abolition is at the heart of the work of building human security. It demonstrates that, in order to solve nuclear weapons issues, changes in values and perspective -- from arms-based security to human security and from a culture of war to a culture of peace – are indispensable.

Since its launch, the exhibition has been shown in more than 200 cities in 24 countries. Notable showings include those at the Palais des Nations in Geneva during the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Preparatory Committee session in April-May 2008, the Mexican Senate Building during the 62nd Annual UN Department of Public Information/Non-Governmental Organizations Conference in September 2009, the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre during the Parliament of the World’s Religions in December 2009 and the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum in February 2010.

"This long itinerary in itself is a testament to the universality of the message it carries," states Cetto. "In Vienna, however, it has a special resonance, as it is in this very building that the international community mobilizes its efforts to create a world free from the threats of nuclear proliferation and nuclear test explosions and thus bring us closer to the ultimate goal of a world free of nuclear weapons."

"We are very happy to be able to hold this exhibition in Vienna, host city to the CTBTO Preparatory Commission and the IAEA, both key UN agencies in the fields of disarmament and non-proliferation, and to do so in collaboration with important civil society partners," SGI vice president and executive director for peace affairs, Hirotsugu Terasaki, tells IDN.

The latest showing comes within four months of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference in May 2010 in New York. The conference expressed its "deep concern at the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons" and reaffirmed the need for all states at all times to "comply with applicable international law, including international humanitarian law".

"In contrast to much intergovernmental debate on the nuclear issue, which has often been framed in political or military logic, this language in the Final Document gave clear precedence to humane values and human dignity," says Hiromasa Ikeda, SGI vice president in his opening remarks.

For the first time ever, the conference's Final Document made reference to proposals to outlaw nuclear weapons through a Nuclear Weapons Convention. This outcome was achieved through the determined efforts of global civil society and governments working together toward a shared vision and goal.

"We must make this experience the basis for further collaborative endeavors as we advance, step by step, toward the establishment of an NWC," adds the SGI vice president conveying the message from his father Daisaku Ikeda who presides over the organization.

Complete versions of the exhibition are available in English, Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, Thai and Nepali with partial translations in Serbian. A German-language version will soon be completed, and this exhibition will be seen in schools and other educational institutions in Austria.

"There is nothing more important than empowering young people with the confidence that they can bring a world without nuclear weapons into being," says Terasaki. (IDN-InDepthNews/05.10.2010)

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