UN Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons

September 29th, 2020 - by UNFOLD ZERO

Actions and Events for the UN Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons


(September 29, 2020) — Three days ago, Saturday September 26, it was the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons. People around the world commemorated the day with events and actions, including a global civil society event organised by #WeThePeoples2020. Below are a few highlights from the day.

Strategic competition or cooperation? UN Secretary-General’s video message

The United Nations circulated Opting for Strategic Competition over Cooperation Makes Nuclear Dangers More Acute, a video message by UN Secretary-General António Guterres for the International Day on the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons.

In the message, Mr Guterres laments the reality that ‘Relationships between States possessing nuclear weapons are characterized by division, distrust and an absence of dialogue.  As they increasingly choose to pursue strategic competition over cooperation, the dangers posed by nuclear weapons are becoming more acute.’
Mr Guterres calls on the states possessing nuclear weapons to ‘reduce nuclear risks and take tangible steps in nuclear disarmament. They should reaffirm the shared understanding that a nuclear war cannot be won and must not be fought.’

Cries from Every Corner, USA

Massachusetts Peace Action organized a novel action on Saturday called Cries from Every Corner. With COVID-19 pandemic ruling out large events, Cries from Every Corner involved small groups of peace campaigners marking the event from street corners in towns and cities in Massachusetts and in other states in the United States. Above is a photo-montage of a few of these. Click here for a short report of the event with more photos. 

A Nuclear-Weapon-Free World: Global Civil Society Event

#Wethepeoples2020 organised A Nuclear-Weapon-Free World, a 10-hour long, 2-part global civil society event that included over 50 speakers from around the world in presentation sessions, video messges, breakout groups, panels and music. Below are a few of the event highlights.

Opening message by Ms Izumi Nakamitsu
UN High Representative for Disarmament

In her opening video message for the event, Ms. Nakamitsu highlighted that ‘Among the many lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic is that global threats require a global response,’ and called on the nuclear armed states to ‘reduce nuclear risks, uphold and strengthen the taboo against the use of nuclear weapons and take practical steps in the elimination of nuclear weapons.

Karipbek Kuyukov, Kazakhstan
Renowned artist and 2nd generation victim of Soviet nuclear tests

Karipbek KuyukovHonorary Ambassador for the ATOM Project, in this video message for the Nuclear-Weapon-Free World event on September 26, talks about the devastating impact of the Soviet nuclear tests in his region of Kazakhstan, the rise of the anti-nuclear movement led by poet Oleg Suleimenov which closed down the Soviet nuclear test site, and the importance to eliminate nuclear weapons to ensure a world for future generations.

Kelly Slater, USA
11 times world surfing champion

In this video released at the Sep 26 civil society event, surfer Matej Moles interviews Kelly Slater from Hawaii (USA), 11 times world surfing champion. Slater discusses the risks of nuclear weapons, including from nuclear tests sites such as the one in the Marshall Islands, and highlights the benefits the nuclear weapons budget could do if it was instead allocated to peace.

Ela Gandi, South Africa
Founder of the Gandhi Development Trust, Grand-daughter of Mahatma Gandhi

Ela Gandhi, in this video message for the Nuclear-Weapon-Free World event on September 26, reminds us of the obligations in the UN Charter to end war, respect human rights, and advance economic justice. She discusses ways to demolish militarism, abolish nuclear weapons and advance peace, sustainable development and non-violence. 

Hon Gareth Evans, Australia
Convenor, Asia-Pacific Leadership Group for Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament. Former Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs

Hon Gareth Evans, who also served as Co-Chair of the influential International Commission on Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament, gave a presentation to the Sep 26 civil society event on How to achieve a Nuclear-Weapon-Free World.

In the presentation, Mr Evans highlights the political difficulties in moving nuclear-armed and allied States to give up nuclear deterrence and eliminate their arsenals, and noted that it is highly unlikely they will join the new Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. However, he emphasized that progress toward a nuclear-weapons-free world is possible ‘if we do four things: utilize the power of emotion; utilize the power of reason; unite around a common, realistic disarmament agenda that does not make the best the enemy of the good; and, above all, stay optimistic.’

Mi-Kyung LEE, South Korea
President of Korea International Cooperation Agency 

Mi-Kyung LEEPresident of the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA), in a video message for the Sep 26 event, highlights the importance of peace and nuclear disarmament to assist COVID-19 management and recovery and to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. 

General Bernard Norlain (France)
Vice-President, Initiatives pour le Désarmement Nucléaire. Former Air Defense Commander and Air Combat Commander of the French Air Force 

General Bernard Norlain (France, retired), in a video message for the civil society event, describes the idea of gaining security from nuclear weapons as a myth that subverts democracy and consumes resources required for genuine security. He calls on us to join together as actors for our collective future. 

Roger Waters (Pink Floyd)
Two suns in the Sunset

With the support of Roger Waters (singer/songwriter and guitarist for Pink Floyd), the event included his recent remake and release of the classic Pink Floyd anti-nuclear song Two Suns in the Sunset.

The video opens with the dire warning that we are 100 Seconds to Midnight (a possible nuclear holocaust) and closes with the warning that if the DoomsDay Clock strikes midnight, we are all dead. See ‘Two Suns in the Sunset’ re-released as the nuclear arms race heats up.

Additional Video Messages for September 26

The above and additional video messages for the Nuclear-Weapons-Free World event on Sep 26 are viewable on the Move the Nuclear Weapons Money facebook page.

Global Call to Governments

The UN General Assembly will hold a High Level Meeting on the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons on October 2, 2020 at which government leaders (Prime Ministers, Presidents, Foreign Ministers and UN Ambassadors) will speak.

We encourage you to send a message to your government calling on them to use the day and the UN High Level event to make concrete progress in preventing nuclear war and achieving a nuclear-weapon-free world. Click here for a sample letter plus names and contact details (emails and twitter handles) for leaders and UN ambassadors for most countries. 

Yours sincerely,
UNFOLD ZERO and #WeThePeoples2020

UNFOLD ZERO is a platform for United Nations (UN) focused initiatives and actions for the achievement of a nuclear weapons free world.

UNFOLD ZERO aims to unfold the path to zero nuclear weapons through effective steps and measures facilitated by the UN General Assembly, UN Security Council, UN Secretary-General and other UN bodies.

UNFOLD ZERO is a project of PragueVisionPNNDBasel Peace OfficeMayors for Peace 2020 Vision Campaign, Aotearoa Lawyers for Peace and Global Security Institute.