Press Information from the IPPNW 19th World Congress in Basel

“The danger that nuclear weapons will be used in the future is underestimated” warned Prof. Dr. Andreas Nidecker, President of the Organisation Committee for the Swiss affiliate of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, on the eve of IPPNW’s World Congress, taking place this year in Switzerland. As many as 800 doctors and medical students are expected to meet in Basel to discuss the status of disarmament efforts and debate how to reach a world without nuclear weapons.

At the Review Conference of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) this spring in New York, the Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey labelled nuclear weapons as “illegal”. She announced Switzerland’s support for a Nuclear Weapons Convention (NWC), a legal framework that would complement Article VI of the NPT. This article obligates the Nuclear Weapon States to eliminate their nuclear weapons. “Switzerland is new to the large circle of NWC supporters that are promoting a rapid implementation of Article VI” said Nidecker. He sees a next step towards abolition of nuclear weapons as being the creation of nuclear weapon-free zones. The final document of the NPT Review Conference contains the obligation to create a nuclear weapon-free zone in the Middle East. A conference is to take place in 2010 with all the affected countries to agree upon the first binding measures to establish such a zone.

Prof. Tilman Ruff, Chair of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear weapons (ICAN) is a vehement supporter of a NWC. ICAN was started two years ago as a citizen’s movement taking up the call of an overwhelming majority of the world’s population and 140 governments for a world free of nuclear weapons. “Every type of indiscriminate, inhumane weapon that has been banned was abolished through a treaty. Chemical and biological weapons, landmines and cluster munitions – why not nuclear weapons too?” asks the Australian IPPNW doctor. “The medical prescription is clear: negotiating a Nuclear Weapons Convention  is the most urgent priority for global health,” said Ruff.

Dr. Claudio Knüsli, President of the Swiss IPPNW affiliate, pointed out the damage to health caused by radiation from the bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The incidence of cancer, and also heart disease, is still increasing in the victims. New findings show that the risk posed by radioactivity has been underestimated up until now. This has substantial consequences for the basis for future calculation.

The issue of major economic interests at work behind nuclear armament is the subject that Steven Staples is presenting at the IPPNW World Congress. The Canadian disarmament expert thinks that the financial crisis has revealed that the G8 is becoming increasingly dependent on the help of developing countries with growing markets to solve global crises. “Power is shifting away from the traditional economic and military powers, towards many new states which do not see nuclear weapons as a requisite for their own global influence or national prestige,” said the Director of the Canadian Rideau Institute. He believes that this shift will delegitimise nuclear weapons as a symbol of power and strengthen the growing international call for the abolition of nuclear weapons.

Alex Rosen, a young paediatrician from Düsseldorf, relies on public education. He and a group of 40 young medics from all over the world rode bicycles 700 kilometres from Düsseldorf to the IPPNW Congress in Basel, in order to canvass support for a nuclear weapon-free Europe. On their way from Germany to Switzerland, they met with politicians, organised publicity events in inner cities and talked to passers-by about abolishing nuclear weapons. Medical students continue the decades-old commitment of the IPPNW founders and today’s activists.

Contact person: Angelika Wilmen, IPPNW, Tel. 0049 (0)162 205 79 43, IPPNW Germany, Körtestr. 10, 10967 Berlin, Email: wilmen@ippnw.de, www.ippnw.de; Claudia Bürgler, PSR / IPPNW Schweiz, ÄrztInnen für soziale Verantwortung/ zur Verhütung eines Atomkrieges, Klosterberg 23, CH-4051 Basel, Tel./Fax 0041 (0) 61 271 50 25, sekretariat@ippnw.ch, http://www.ippnw.ch

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