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Abolishing the world’s worst weapons

Nuclear weapons abolition — a medical imperative

One could be forgiven for not noticing, but there has been groundbreaking activity going on that is headed in the direction of a ban on the world’s most destructive weapons. This year, 2015, could see the start of negotiations for a treaty to eliminate nuclear weapons, which were first used 70 years ago on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The medical profession, including in Australia, has a history of extremely important advocacy on this issue that must be continued.

The recent developments are a series of international conferences focusing on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons, hosted by the governments of Norway (March 2013),1 Mexico (February 2014)2 and Austria (December 2014);3 the Vienna conference attracted 158 governments. Each of these conferences has concluded unequivocally that the humanitarian impacts of nuclear weapons are so catastrophic that no government or non-government organisation would have the capacity to respond to either the short-term or long-term effects of their use.3 Many government delegations at the conferences noted that the risk of nuclear weapons use is higher than is commonly understood. (As an indication of this risk, on 22 January this year, the hands of the Doomsday Clock of the Bulletin…