Human Rights are universal, yet what they mean to each of us can be very different. The right to live a free and equal life may only become important once our freedom is taken away, by war or by political oppression.
For all humans to enjoy these rights there must be peace – as Amnesty International state in their summary of the UN’s Declaration of Human Rights, ‘we have a right to peace and order so we can all enjoy rights and freedoms in our own country and all over the world.’
When your right to peace is taken away
“For me the right to peace is the right to be able to choose your own future free from fear. Nuclear weapons are the complete opposite of the right to peace.” Carol Naughton, nuclear weapons campaigner
As the recent attacks in Syria have shown, weapons of mass destruction (WMD) epitomise the opposite of peace because they can take away the right to life for hundreds of men, women and children in an instant.
Yet this ability for WMD to cause such devastation is often over-looked because their use is seen as highly unlikely – a last resort in an otherwise ‘cold’ game between governments. Many support their governments’ ownership of these weapons because they have become a symbol of power, and those who have power get to live in peace.
(And anyway, if a nuclear weapon is used against you surely it’s better to have your own so you can fight back? That idea, of course, is MAD – mutually assured destruction.)
“A ‘peace’ created by massive military spending backed by nuclear hardware merely maintains the gross imbalance of global political power: it would not be peace at all for the billions who are gravely impoverished and deprived of quality of life, prospects and of human rights.” Frank Boulton, Quaker
The city of Hiroshima has been fighting back against its own devastation for 68 years. Nowhere is the meaning of peace so present than at its Peace Memorial Park – commemorating those affected by the atomic bomb that hit the city in 1945, and located at Ground Zero.
Tam Fowles first visited Hiroshima when her daughter moved to Japan. She was so touched by the stories of the Hibakusha that she met (survivors of the bombing) that she now runs workshops in the UK spreading the message that peace means a world free of nuclear weapons. She says:
“Hiroshima has resurrected itself as a community that tirelessly works together to campaign for the right to peace. That is how they are fighting back. Of the many dedicated disciples to peace that I met there, the most remarkable were the Hibakusha. They told me their stories, how their lives were so affected in that instant. The losses they endured – whole families torn apart – and how they continue to piece their lives together by embracing a mission to ensure no other community will ever suffer as theirs has.”
However likely a nuclear attack Eric Schlosser, author and journalist, believes a nuclear explosion is much more likely than we might think. In his new book, Command and Control, he has unearthed information about hundreds of accidents by those who handle these weapons that could have led to a deadly explosion.
One of the most horrifying is an accident in the US involving a plane carrying nuclear weapons. The plane broke apart and one of the bombs fell to earth. It would have destroyed North Carolina if it hadn’t been for a defective trigger.
Eric has warned that these safety breaches could mean Britain is in more danger from its own nuclear arsenal – Trident – than the danger it supposedly poses to others. A sobering thought when you consider Trident is more than 1,000 times more powerful than the bomb that hit Hiroshima, and is based just off the coast of Scotland.
“Nuclear weapons pose a threat to humanity: their intended or accidental use would be the indiscriminate killing of millions of people. The after effects would have a long-term and dangerous impact on climate, food sources, and world order. Possession of these weapons is not worth the risk, especially when security and safety standards around the world are not good enough.” Rachel Staley, Program Manager, BASIC
Power vs Peace
Ultimately the creation, stockpiling, and use of all WMD are a violation of our human right to peace because they make peace a prize – a luxury to be enjoyed by those with the power (and for power read deadliest weapon), rather than by anyone and everyone who has the human right to live freely and safely. And the reality is they maintain their power because they can and will be used to kill millions – whether it’s on purpose or by accident.
This post is part of Blog Action Day, an annual day of action by writers and organisations across the world and was written by Hannah Cornford, WMD Awareness campaigner
Read the stories of the Hibakusha – survivors of the Hiroshima atomic bomb