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Non-aligned nations urge disarmament

John Pendergrast — July 1984

On May 22, 1984, after a year of work by Parliamentarians for WorId Order, six world leaders ~ representing four continents issued a joint statement advocating nuclear disarmament.

The leaders — Indira Gandhi of India, Miguel de la Madrid of Mexico, Julius Nyerere of Tanzania, Olof Palme of Sweden, Andreas Papandreou of Greece and Raul Alfonsin of Argentina decried the arms race and urged detente. More specifically, they advocated an immediate freeze on the testing, production and deployment of nuclear weapons and their delivery systems, to be followed by nuclear arms reductions leading to general and complete nuclear disarmament.

The specific content of the proposals is not as important as the fact-that countries not directly involved in the arms race have now asserted their right to be involved in the discussions aimed at ending it.

“The people we represent are no less threatened by nuclear war than the citizens of the nuclear weapons states,” the Declaration states. “It is primarily the responsibility of the nuclear weapons states to prevent a nuclear catastrophe, but this problem is. too important to be left to those states alone.”

According to Olafur Grimsson, Chairman of the Council of Parliamentarians for W orId Order (PWO) , “most of the time most other countries have seen themselves as reluctant spectators, passing resolutions urging .the nuclear powers to do ~ better, but doing nothing more. These heads of government .have decided to change that. Success for us means changing the process to one in which the concerns, ideas and suggestions of other countries are actively involved.” .

Representative Thomas Downey, an American member of PWO, concurs: “This is not the same sort of U.N. resolution that people vote on and walk away from and then go back to the people in their country and tell them ‘We have done everything we can on the arms race.’ That frankly is not enough.” .

On the same day that the six leaders launched their “Four Contintent Peace Initiative,” copies of their declaration were delivered at. the United Nations to the delegates of the five nuclear weapons states. This will be followed up by continuing consultation with the governments of those states.

PWO also have an interesting suggestion for altering the negotiating process itself. Rather than relying, as- in the past, on proposals and counter-proposals by the US and the USSR, which turned the bargaining process into “a contest to see which government would be slowest to change its position,” PWO proposes a “single text” negotiating technique.

In this “single text” approach, PWO would assemble an expert working group to prepare detailed recommendations for halting the arms race. This single text would then be circulated for comment and revision among all the nuclear weapons states, with the leaders of the Four Continent Initiative using their good offices to promote agreement. Since no superpower would be seen as yielding to the other, it might be easier to reach agreement.

Even if this specific proposal is not accepted, the leaders of the Four Continent group proposes to act in a more general sense as intermediaries between the two sides, striving to lift discussions above the technical level.

Initial reactions from Washington and Moscow were not unexpected. The American government declared itself in favour of peace but against any kind of nuclear freeze. The Soviet government, in a much longer statement, outlined its own proposals for a nuclear freeze, a no-first-use policy, a ban on nuclear weapons in outer space, and the establishment of nuclear weapon-free zones, and noted that the Joint Declaration followed “the same trend.”

The Soviet government did not, however, directly endorse the initiative, and no member of the Communist bloc participated in it. Direct endorsation did come from the Pope, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, the Commonwealth Secretariat, the World Council of Churches, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, the President of Spain, the SPD Party in West Germany and the Green Parties of seven European countries.

The position of the Canadian government regarding the Initiative is especially interesting, since in many ways it resembles the initiative taken earlies by Prime Minister Trudeau. Mr. Trudeau indeed noted in a written statement that he had “indicated my hope that other leaders would take up the cause” and accordingly congratulated the siX leaders and the PWO as a whole for their efforts. He further concurred with several of the more general statements contained in the Declaration, but indicated that he was not in total agreement with the Declaration as a whole. .

The Commons debate was more revealing. Trudeau remarked that “I think it was expected or hoped that I would be a signatory.”

Obviously, I am. very much in agreement with the over-all thrust and intention. of the statement and so is the Government. However, dealing with some of its specifics, I am quite sure that unless the Leader of the Opposition is successful in persuading President Reagan, as the main force in NATO, “to change some of his policies, it would be difficult to subscribe to it. “ Presumably Mr. Trudeau was referring to the call for a nuclear freeze.

In September, 1985, the NonProliferation Treaty, with 122 signatory nations, will come up for its third review. This treaty, which adjures each signatory to “pursue negotiations in good faith,” is a fitting occasion to press anew for the internationalization of disarmament negotiations, particularly since the superpowers have not fulfIlled their obligation under the Treaty to achieve a Comprehensive Test Ban.

The Four Continent Initiative is clearly only a first step, really nothing more than a declaration of intent. If it signals a move away from superpower confrontation to multinational discussions on global security, then it will be seen in retrospect to have been a profoundly significant event.

It is unlikely that the US and the USSR will be any more willing to give up their exclusive rights to negotiate than they have shown themselves willing to give up ownership of nuclear weapons. If this is to be changed, the leaders of the Four Continent group will have to show considerably more detennination than any leader has shown to date.