Skoll Foundation


Global Zero Summit Aims at Eliminating Nuclear Weapons

February 5, 2010 by

I attended the Global Zero Summit in Paris this week, representing Larry Brilliant of the Skoll Global Threats Fund, which is a financial supporter of Ploughshares, an organization that supports peace and security worldwide.  Global Zero is pushing for the elimination of all nuclear weapons based on a multi-stage, multi-year plan that all the world’s nuclear powers would embrace.  You can reach the basic approach here.

The key theme at the Summit – which included senior current and former officials from nuclear and non-nuclear states – is that the time for action is now. There is high-level political support for disarmament – U.S. and Russian Presidents Obama and Medvedev, UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown and UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon all had statements of support read at  the Summit.  There is general consensus that nuclear weapons no longer serve to deter the threats of today’s world – terrorism by non-state actors, regional conventional arms conflicts, and the like.  And there is growing fear that proliferation will make it more likely that weapons fall into the wrong hands.  On top of this, countries around the globe are expected to push for greater use of nuclear for non-carbon energy generation in the face of climate change, so there’s real interest in putting into place processes and practices that will make sure this can happen peacefully.  Reducing or eliminating nuclear weapons will help this process.

This was not a collection of wild-eyed do gooders.  The delegates were a veritable who’s who of arms control and spanned the political spectrum.  You can see a partial list here. Former U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz delivered the initial keynote.  Queen Noor of Jordan, who’s been an active figure on this issue (check her out on the Colbert Report), talked about the launch of a public awareness campaign by Global Zero that is designed to encourage citizens around the globe to push leaders to adopt a zero-nuclear approach.  There was active participation by China, India, and Pakistan.  The Summit launched a University Network initiative, with 30 students from around the world participating as delegates and meeting to determine logistics for engaging their fellow students on the issue.  The Summit also screened “Countdown to Zero,” a film by Academy Award winning producer Lawrence Bender about eliminating nuclear weapons that debuted at Sundance the week before (transparency statement:  “Countdown to Zero” is a film by Participant Media, founded by Jeff Skoll).

One of the key challenges Global Zero faces is that people tend to consider this a high-level policy issue, “out of their control.”  But a clear message from the Summit was that there are important political decisions coming up that citizens should weigh in on with their political leaders (in the U.S., ratification of an anticipated U.S.-Russia treaty, more broadly on the global Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, and several other initiatives.)  Given that arms control has largely been off the front burner for nearly two decades, there’s a tremendous amount of education that has to take place, both for publics and for politicians.  So Global Zero is going to be doing its best to engage citizens across the world.  One thing you can do today is sign their online petition supporting the goal of zero nuclear weapons worldwide.

Some photos from the event:

Source for all photos: GlobalZero

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