Viewing Nuclear Weapons through a Humanitarian Lens

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There is renewed and deep international concern about the catastrophic humanitarian consequences that would result from the detonation of nuclear weapons in populated areas. Yet 25 years after the end of the Cold War, nuclear weapons and nuclear deterrence remain central to the security doctrines of a significant number of states. Drawing on a range of perspectives, this volume explores what viewing nuclear weapons through a humanitarian lens entails, and why it is of value. Recent developments in this respect are also examined, and what these could mean for nuclear arms control in the near future.



The catastrophic humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons: The key issues and perspective of the International Committee of the Red Cross

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), and the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement more generally, have had long standing concerns about nuclear weapons. These concerns derive from the experience of the ICRC and the Japanese Red Cross Society in providing humanitarian aid to Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the wake of the 1945 atomic bombings. They also stem from the ICRC’s ongoing mandate to protect and assist the victims of armed conflict and its role in the development and implementation of international humanitarian law. In April 2010, the ICRC President at that time, Jakob Kellenberger, addressed the Geneva diplomatic corps and appealed “to all States, and to all in a position to influence them, to seize with determination and urgency the unique opportunities now at hand to bring the era of nuclear weapons to an end”. This statement was notable as it was the first time in its history that an ICRC president had asked to meet with states and collectively address them solely on the issue of nuclear weapons. It was also an indication that, at least from the perspective of the ICRC, the discussions about nuclear weapons at the international level might be changing.


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