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Nuclear weapons: Overdue debate on long-term impact begins

13-02-2014 News Release

Mexico/Geneva - States must ensure that nuclear weapons are never used again, according to the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, which will take this message to the Second Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons, in Nayarit, Mexico, on 13 and 14 February 2014.

The Movement calls upon States, on the basis of their existing obligations, to prohibit and eliminate nuclear weapons once and for all, because of the weapons' catastrophic humanitarian consequences.

The meeting in Nayarit follows the 2013 Oslo Conference, where for the first time governments came together with international and civil society organizations to discuss the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons. The Oslo conference emphasized, among other things, that the casualties and damage in the immediate aftermath of a nuclear explosion would be so extensive that it would be virtually impossible to provide adequate assistance.

"In Hiroshima in August 1945, the Japanese Red Cross and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) came face to face with the grim reality of nuclear weapons. The destructive power of these weapons has only grown since then," said Christine Beerli, vice-president of the ICRC, who will speak at the opening ceremony of the two-day conference. "The debate about nuclear weapons must be shaped by a full grasp of the short-, medium- and long-term consequences of their use. We welcome the fact that States are expanding the discourse on nuclear weapons beyond military and security interests to focus on such essential issues this week."

In the immediate run-up to the Nayarit conference, 21 National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies from the Americas, the Caribbean, Africa, Europe, the Middle East, Asia and the Pacific met to discuss ways to call attention to the Movement’s concerns and position on nuclear weapons.

"The humanitarian consequences following a nuclear explosion would cause unprecedented devastation. Any rescue or relief operation undertaken by the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement for those affected would be virtually impossible. The inability to ensure safe access for rescue teams would further complicate relief operations for the affected populations,” said Fernando Suinaga, Mexican Red Cross president and member of the Movement in Nayarit.

At its statutory meetings held in Sydney last November, the Red Cross and Red Crescent, through a four-year action plan, renewed its commitment to expand contacts with governments, decision makers and others on the humanitarian and legal issues associated with nuclear weapons.

"We hope the lessons learned from Hiroshima and the new insights gained from the Oslo and Nayarit meetings will feed into the reflections of States as they consider how best to advance nuclear disarmament in the 21st century," added Ms Beerli.

ENDS

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