International Day Against Nuclear Tests

August 29 is the International Day Against Nuclear Testing since the unanimous adoption of the UN General Assembly resolution in 2009 to raise awareness on the dangers of nuclear weapons testing and pursuing peace and security for a nuclear-weapons-free world.

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Much credit goes to Kazakhstan for closing the Semipalatinsk nuclear test site where over 456 explosions caused irreparable contamination and suffering for the people. As a result of their efforts, President Gorbachev took unilateral action by establishing a moratorium on nuclear testing on October 5, 1991.

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Photo credit: sputniknews.com

This was swiftly followed by nuclear testing legislation in the United States where the last explosion took place on September 23, 1992.

Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty

Multilateral negotiations on a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) were launched by President Clinton and gained traction and wide-scale public support thanks to protests over testing by France and China. The treaty to be open for signature on September 23, 1992. The CTBT will enter into force when China, Egypt, India, Iran, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan and the United States ratify it.

The CTBT is an important step forward. It prevents states with such weapons from improving existing and developing new ones and prevents other states from joining the nuclear club.  It will also provide for control, monitoring and inspections to ensure that all parties abide by the treaty.

North Korean Attack on Japan

The North Korean launch of ballistic missiles over Japan this morning risks provides a case in point. During the Cold War the nuclear threat came from two fronts. The threat is now multi-polar and escalating.

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Photo credit: Kim Kyung-Hoon/Reuters

The attack should serve as a warning to the international community and the public at large that pressing ahead for the ratification of the CTBT and achieving a world free of nuclear weapons are important priorities that deserve our attention.

 

 

 

Happy 85th Birthday Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev!

The book "Gorbachev in Life" is on display at the launch ceremony for a book about former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in Moscow, Russia, on Monday, Feb. 29, 2016. Mikhail Gorbachev turns 85 on Wednesday, March 3, 2016. (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev)

The book “Gorbachev in Life” is on display at the launch ceremony for a book about former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in Moscow, Russia, on Monday, Feb. 29, 2016. Mikhail Gorbachev turns 85 on Wednesday, March 3, 2016. (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev)

A few days ago in Moscow, Mikhail Gorbachev launched his latest book, “Gorbachev in Life”, a 700-page collection of memories and documents from him and others about his life experiences and the way his glasnost (openness) and perestroika (reform) policies have transformed the world hoping that the book would help Russians better understand their current history.

The Gorbachev File

As he celebrates his 85th birthday, the National Security Archive at George Washington University (www.nsarchive.org) has just released this morning a series of previously classified British and American documents with Western assessments of Gorbachev starting before he took office and until end of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Manifesto for the Earth

5195AFR1PJL._SX314_BO1,204,203,200_But one book that sheds light on Gorbachev’s commitment to the environment and social justice is his “Manifesto for the Earth”. Few would know that when he became Secretary-General of the Soviet Union in 1985, he got access to information about the scale of pollution coming from chemical plants and factories that were poisoning the environment and sickening people. One of the consequences of the glasnost reforms was access to previously classified information. As a result, the soviet people demanded action and over 1,300 of the most polluting plants were closed.

This is how President Gorbachev understood the power of civic engagement and the need to change the relationship and reconcile humanity and nature. Well before the fall of the Berlin Wall he called for the creation of a “Red Cross” for the environment. This idea was then raised during the 1992 Rio Earth Summit. Given the mounting crises of climate change, environmental degradation and social inequality, civil society leaders called for the creation of a Green Cross and for Gorbachev to lead this effort.

Green Cross International

This is how Green Cross International was launched in 1993. Today, Gorbachev is still at the helm of the organization as its chairman and Green Cross continues to work on addressing the challenges of security, poverty eradication and environmental degradation. With offices in some 30 countries, activities around the world and initiatives like the Earth Charter International and the Earth Dialogues, Gorbachev’s Green Cross story is still in the making.

Through his Manifesto for the Earth, Gorbachev describes how the story began and his quest for peace, social justice and a sustainable future for all.

Happy Birthday President Gorbachev!

Photo by Pavel Palaychenkoi

Photo: Pavel Palazchenko, Earth Dialogues in Geneva (2013)