Broken Chair and Nuclear Bans


Every day on my way to work I pass by the broken chair sculpture on the Place des Nations in Geneva. It is an enduring symbol of the world's opposition to land mines and cluster bombs. At first, it was there to raise awareness, mobilize people, and put pressure on decision makers. Today, it is a reminder that the world is capable of coming together around important disarmament issues. The Ban Land Mine Treaty, also known as the Ottawa Treaty, with its 162 signatories remains a noteworthy example of how civil society, NGOs, international organizations and governments can take decisive action for a safer, more peaceful world.

Unfortunately, the same does not apply to nuclear weapons. The Conference on Disarmament, the only multi-lateral framework we have - and which we created in 1979 to address these issues- has been locked into an 18-year-long stalemate. Nuclear weapons are the only weapons of mass destruction that we have still not managed to outlaw. This is totally unacceptable, simply beyond belief.

One cannot pass by the broken chair with indifference, particularly in light of the newly designated 'International Day for the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons'. This symbol now reminds us that we can be in the driver's seat when we really want to.

More concretely, we all have a part to play in driving this agenda forward. This means leaders at all levels but also the general public. Members of parliament, mothers, mayors and teachers - to name a few - should all be part of a greater movement that is at the heart of global peace and security.

The European Parliament and Members of over 50 Parliaments around the world, including Japan, Korea and Costa Rica have endorsed the initiative to mark this day. UNFOLD ZERO has been rolled out as a new platform to bring governments, cities, parliaments and citizens together and will show how we manage to give this issue the urgency it deserves.

Earlier this week over 600,000 people took to the streets to make their voices heard on the urgency for climate action. There is no reason why we shouldn't feel the same level of determination to eliminate nuclear weapons. The stakes are equally as high. The problem is that it's so scary to go through the real risks these weapons pose to us that it's easier to simply not talk about it. But that is no excuse. It's time to make a dent in the history of disarmament and change this landscape for good. Let's get started.