“A world free of nuclear weapons”

Pacific calls for elimination of WMD

Pacific governments have endorsed a call for a legally binding agreement to ban nuclear weapons at a major international summit discussing the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons. On behalf of six Pacific nations, Teue Baikarawa of Kiribati presented a joint statement to the Second Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons held at Nayarit, Mexico in February. The statement, endorsed by delegations from Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Tonga and Tuvalu said that nuclear weapons must be outlawed and eliminated without delay. Drawing on a long history of regional opposition to nuclear testing, the statement reads: “Pacific Island nations have long called for a world free of nuclear weapons.

Today, we reiterate our firm belief that the only way to guarantee that these terrible weapons of mass destruction are never used again is to ban and eliminate them. “It is unacceptable that the deadliest weapons of all – nuclear weapons – are the only weapons of mass destruction not yet expressly prohibited by an international convention. A treaty banning the use, manufacture and possession of nuclear weapons is long overdue. This conference has demonstrated that there is a clear humanitarian imperative for us to start negotiations.” Jeban Riklon serves as Senator for Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands Nitijela (Parliament).

As a young child, he was living with his grandmother on Rongelap Atoll, one of the northern atolls in the Marshall Islands affected by radioactive fallout from the March 1954 Bravo nuclear test. Speaking in Mexico, Senator Riklon said: “I was only 2 years old, but I grew up to witness and experience the unforgettable human consequences from the fallout. When you spend your whole life seeing that much physical and emotional pain, your tears dry up and you force yourself to question intentions, justice and human value.

Many of our survivors became human subjects in laboratories and almost 60 years on, we are still suffering.” “Six decades later, our people are still exiled from their home islands; our people continue to endure health, physical and emotional pain,” he added. “A recent report commissioned by the UN Human Rights Commission on the ongoing effects of nuclear radiation in the Marshall Islands has highlighted immense delay in the proper disclosure of documents and the lack of attention to the ongoing distress of the Marshallese people.” One outcome of the Nayarit conference is a proposal to commence new studies on the effects of radiation on nuclear survivors. The joint statement from Pacific delegations to the conference called for the study on the impact of nuclear weapons and radiation to be extended to the Pacific region.

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