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Abolishing nuclear weapons: ‘existential imperative’

Kimmy Igla takes hope from UN meeting on abolishing nuclear weapons.
Kimmy Igla speaks in KC MO Jan. 7, reporting on UN meeting on abolishing nuclear weapons.--Photo by Kriss Avery

By Kimmy Igla

Note: On Jan. 7 in Kansas City, Kimmy Igla gave this talk as part of a report on the 2023 UN meeting of states parties to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

I had heard the statement “Nuclear weapons are illegal” before, but I didn’t understand what it meant until (I attended) the 2MSP, the 2nd meeting of states parties to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, where the ratification and progress of the treaty was being put into action before my eyes.

For those that don’t know, there is an international Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons that has been ratified by dozens of countries. And this (late 2023) meeting was for a delegate from every country and group participating in the treaty. Growing up in a country that’s made nuclear weapons throughout my lifetime made the idea of abolition sound far-fetched. But at this meeting, hearing about what’s already been done—in other nuclear weapon-free zones—shows what’s possible.  

This didn’t happen overnight, and in the words of Melissa Parke, executive director of ICAN (International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons), the pace of progress has not matched the pace of the problem at hand. Ms. Parke encouraged delegates to expedite ratification in their countries, noting that our treaty has been enforced for three years and has brought the fight for nuclear justice to the fore, and to keep up the progress. 

This progress was evident in the subsequent meetings that week! 

I’d like to take this time to share more notable statements, quotes and commitments.

For example, the minister of science and innovation for the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Dr. Gilbert Kabanda Kurhenga, said of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons: It’s not just a legally binding instrument, it’s a tool of informing the community of nuclear risk—to spur the international community to avoid these weapons. And this was echoed in other statements highlighting the importance of educating the public effectively.

Patricia Jaworek, of the Nuclear Threat Initiative, made clear that the world and our societies have significantly changed since the Cold War, where the concept of Nuclear Winter was introduced to the world. Our societies are fragile and interdependent, and the impacts could be catastrophic. That is why education is a top priority—at all levels, in all languages.

This promotes dialogue, information sharing and research, and underscores the need to shift from a military to a humanitarian narrative. National security interests have dominated the conversation to the detriment of humanity as a whole. She highlighted the need to shift the focus away from uncertainties and focus on possibilities. Herself appearing to be millennial-aged, she said we need young people to be scholars, researchers, and public diplomats. We must make this information more accessible to people. And I couldn’t agree with her more.

Nuclear weapons abolition is an existential imperative for humanity, and there is a path forward toward progress.

I’ll share a powerful quote from No Nukes Tokyo, a youth organization and ICAN partner, whose members also highlighted the importance of ample educational opportunities. Attendees noted that the select youth represented there at the meeting are coming from a place of privilege and resources. These hurdles should be eliminated. It is only right that we uphold the value of inclusivity by investing in the growth of the younger generation. 

And with that said, I want to thank Ann Suellentrop and Spencer Graves for making it possible for me to go to this meeting and eliminating the hurdles for me. I am grateful to educate myself so I can help educate others, and I look forward to building towards a nuclear weapons free zone. 

And briefly, I will state that I was grateful to witness the power of international collectivism, and the opulence of the NYC UN. However, In the midst of what’s happening in Gaza, the UN is laughable, and is at the root of the conflict today. And is proof that people coming together to educate and organize is the solution. And us coming together to talk and learn together gives me hope. 

Thank you!

—Kimmy Igla serves on the PeaceWorks KC Board of Directors and is a leader in convening the April 12-15, 2024, “Resist Nuclear Weapons” retreat/action in KC MO. © 2024 Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike 4.0 International License.

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