During the standoff of the post-war period between the superpowers, possessing nuclear weapons had a bleak sense to it. The justified fear felt on all sides of their appalling potential consequences kept their use in check. Mutually assured destruction maintained the peace among a handful of nuclear armed nations. 20 years after the end of the cold war, however, the world has changed radically and we need to change our approach to nuclear weapons in consequence.
I believe that if governments do not act now by beginning to eliminate all remaining nuclear weapons, we will witness in our lifetimes the detonation of a device by a state or terrorist group. To get governments to act, everyone needs to get involved and we need to bring this issue to the top of the political agenda.
As a mother of and a founding leader of the Global Zero movement, I feel very deeply that the only way to safeguard our future is through the phased elimination of all nuclear weapons. The naysayers are wrong; it is not too late to put the nuclear genie back in its bottle, where it belongs. The Global Zero movement, which includes 200 former heads of state, foreign and defense ministers, national security advisers, top military commanders and faith leaders, has put together a compelling a plan to achieve this urgent global imperative.
The Global Zero movement does not just comprise these leaders though. It includes hundreds of thousands of citizens and activists and a burgeoning group of organizations hailing from every country in the world. The movement is growing fast across all continents.
Young people have taken the lead, with 50 Global Zero chapters already launched on college campuses worldwide. As just one illustration, this week a group of 12 committed young people will launch a road tour, traveling the breadth of the USA organizing community-based screenings of Countdown to Zero, a new film coming out in July which powerfully documents the peril we find ourselves in. There is a palpable sense of momentum behind our movement.
Our student leaders, along with partner organizations including Avaaz, MoveOn, Physicians for Social Responsibility, the New Evangelical Partnership, Vote Vets, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons and others, have launched a worldwide drive to collect signatures for our Global Zero petition for the elimination of nuclear weapons -- so far, more than 350,000 people from every country in the world have signed. We are delivering this petition to world leaders at the Nuclear Security Summit today.
History has shown us that when a consensus emerges on a vital questions, as is happening now on nuclear weapons, we can together affect major change. We must remember this because as President Obama passionately advocated this time last year: "...fatalism is a deadly adversary. For if we believe that the spread of nuclear weapons is inevitable, then we are admitting to ourselves that the use of nuclear weapons is inevitable..." This is a particularly poignant thought when I think of it in the context of my home region -- the Middle East - one of the dangerous corners of the world.
Good sense must lead us to action as there is nothing to recommend and everything to fear from the continued existence of weapons grade nuclear material of which there is currently an amount sufficient for upwards of 200,000 bombs. One does not require a defense expert to figure that some of this material will undoubtedly go astray at some point to end up in the hands of individuals who harbor nihilistic plans.
As South Africa showed the world in 1991 when they dismantled their nuclear program, it is possible to bid farewell to these ghastly nuclear arms. A very great many of them exist and they are capable of permanently benighting our wonderful planet and all its creatures.
There is still time to change direction and set our course to global zero; but the clock is ticking fast. The international community banned biological and chemical weapons some time ago. There is nothing holding us back from moving in earnest towards the same outcome with nuclear weapons. They belong in humanity's past; not its future. I entreat all who read this posting to sign the petition and join the Global Zero movement at globalzero.org.