At the beginning of March, 500 activists from 70 countries gathered in Oslo for a Civil Society Forum organised by the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN). This preceded the Norwegian government’s conference on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons and reflected ICAN’s intention to redirect the debate towards the catastrophic impact of nuclear weapons and to push for a treaty banning them.
The first day focussed on the problem: hibakusha recounted experiences of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki; Red Cross and UN representatives emphasised the inability of states or the international community to respond adequately to such a catastrophe; and scientists unveiled research demonstrating that the ash generated by even a limited nuclear exchange could trigger a ‘nuclear winter’ lasting up to a decade, causing mass starvation.
The event closed with inspiring examples of action by young ICAN campaigners from Costa Rica, Nigeria, Japan, Chile, South Africa, Brazil, Egypt, Sweden and Germany.
Diplomats from 127 countries attended the government conference, at the end of which Mexico announced its intention to hold a follow-up event. 146 nations have expressed support for a ban, with 26 nations opposed and 22 countries undecided.