International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons

 

On the occasion of the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons (26 September 2017), the 33 Member States of the Agency for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean (OPANAL) issued a declaration in which they express, inter alia: "their indignation at the existence, as of today, of about 15 thousand nuclear weapons that pose an unacceptable threat to humankind" and reiterate "their deep concern over the imminent danger posed by the existence of nuclear weapons, a danger that becomes more serious by the day".

 

Read the text of OPANAL Member States: Spanish/English/Portuguese.

 

Background

On September 26, 1983, Stanislav Petrov, then Lieutenant Colonel of the Soviet Air Force made a decision that prevented a nuclear war between the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) and the United States.

The USSR's satellite missile detection system issued the alarm that the United States had launched five nuclear missiles into the territory of the USSR. The alert required an immediate response. The USSR had only a few minutes to decide whether to launch nuclear missiles at the United States in retaliation or to wait and risk devastating damage. This decision was in the hands of Petrov who noticed that the conventional radar system did not detect any nuclear missile and chose to break the military protocol. Despite opposition from its command team, Petrov ignored the alert of the new missile detection system of the USSR. He disobeyed the chain of command and preferred not to respond to the alleged attack.

The supposed launching of the North American missiles turned out to be a false alarm, it was an error of the USSR missile detection system. Had the USSR responded to the alleged attack, the United States in turn might have launched a nuclear strike in retaliation, provoking an untold number of deaths and major disasters. Petrov's decision not to launch a retaliatory nuclear strike saved hundreds of millions of lives around the world.

 

International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons (26 September)

Following the High-level Meeting on Nuclear Disarmament held at the United Nations on 26 September 2013, the General Assembly adopted resolution A/RES/68/32 calling for "the urgent commencement of negotiations in the Conference on Disarmament for the early conclusion of a comprehensive convention on nuclear weapons to prohibit their possession, development, production, acquisition, testing, stockpiling, transfer, use or threat of use and to provide for their destruction."

Resolution 68/32 also declares 26 September "as the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons devoted to furthering this objective, including through enhancing public awareness and education about the threat posed to humanity by nuclear weapons and the necessity for their total elimination, in order to mobilize international efforts towards achieving the common goal of a nuclear-weapon-free world".

On 5 December 2014, this resolution was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly with 137 votes in favor, 28 against and 20 abstentions.

 

The commemoration in 2017

On 26 September 2017, the United Nations General Assembly will held an High-level plenary meeting to commemorate and promote the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons.