If we set to one side the COVID-19 pandemic, the two most formidable existential threats are environmental degradation and the existence of nearly 14,000 nuclear weapons. Both could destroy human civilization and irreparably damage the ecosystem. Both are also the products of human decisions and actions; addressing the threat and containing the damage is now the responsibility of all humanity.
If you are feeling anxious about the state of global affairs, you are not alone. At Project Ploughshares, we are keenly aware of the multiple, overlapping crises facing the world today. So are millions around the world, increasingly concerned about the complexity of the formidable challenges before us – and about our collective ability as an international community to craft credible and effective responses.
“You can ignore reality,” said Russian-American author Ayn Rand. “But you cannot ignore the consequences of ignoring reality.” Canada needs to heed this warning. While it continues to support the policies of nuclear-weapon states, the multilateral policy landscape on which nuclear disarmament negotiations occur is being reshaped. And all parties that continue to shelter under a nuclear umbrella will be increasingly isolated.
On April 12, Global Affairs Canada (GAC) announced the cancellation of 29 permits for the export of Canadian-made surveillance and targeting sensors to Turkey. The decision was based on what GAC described as “credible evidence” that the exports in question were being unlawfully diverted by Turkey to the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh. The same report that announced the cancellation indicated that Turkish drones had also been diverted to support Turkish military operations in Syria.
Donald Trump opposed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA or Iran nuclear deal) even before he became President of the United States. Despite his hostility, the deal survived his term in office, although not unscathed. Now new President Joe Biden is cautiously optimistic that it can be salvaged. But steps to preserve the deal must be taken immediately, before the already narrow window of opportunity fully closes.
On October 24, Honduras became the 50th state party to join the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), triggering the 90-day process that will culminate in the Treaty’s entry into force. On January 22, 2021, the TPNW will officially become international law.
COVID-19 disrupted international security diplomacy this year and led to the postponement of the consequential Review Conference of States Parties to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). But 2020 remains a significant year for the global nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation regime.
Even during a health crisis, the need to make headway on security threats relating to nuclear weapons, autonomous robots, and other concerns remains. Project Ploughshares is still conducting rigorous research, providing fact-based analysis and commentary, engaging stakeholders in and out of government, proposing policy alternatives, and communicating our findings to our constituencies and the general public.
The next year will be critical in the attempt to achieve a world free of nuclear weapons—and the outlook is hardly promising. The global nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation regime, already at the breaking point, will certainly face various overlapping challenges.
Here are some focal points that Project Ploughshares will be following closely:
By Cesar Jaramillo Published in The Ploughshares Monitor Volume 40 Issue 3 Autumn 2019 Project Ploughshares works to create “a secure world without war, a just world at peace.” We focus …