CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 18 November 2017

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Words don’t come easy

HONG KONG (SE): The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons was announced as the recipient of the Nobel Prize for Peace for 2017 by the Nobel Committee in Oslo on October 6.
 
What grew out of a small group of people in Melbourne, Australia, some 10 years ago, has now mushroomed into a coalition of non-government organisations in over 100 countries.
 
But as well as being the first time that the Land DownUnder has even had a sniff of Nobel Peace Prize, the country where a recent ReachTEL poll revealed 70 per cent of the population in favour of banning nuclear weapons is touting the group with a certain amount of pride.
 
While most countries love a winner and Aussies are no different, the award poses a few problems in Canberra. While what other things they may agree upon may be a moot point, the one thing on which the thinking of Turnbull and Kim Jong-un does coincide 100 per cent is that nuclear weapons are vital to maintaining national security.
 
But the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported that the easy flow of words that usually roll from the silver-tongued prime ministerial mouth could only manage a hiccup when it came to the point of offering his congratulations to the group that has become the first Australian entity to be recognised with a Nobel Prize for Peace.
 
The Nobel Prize is recognising what to Australians is the home-grown International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons as having played a decisive role in paving the way for the landmark acceptance of the Treaty of the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons by 122 states at the United Nations earlier this year.
 
But upon instruction from the Turnbull government the Australian representatives were too busy to turn up that day, as along with the nine nuclear armed states and some of their minions, they believe the treaty does not take adequate account of their need for nuclear weapons to ensure their security.
 
However, three big allies of the United States of America were among the first to sign up; New Zealand, The Philippines and Thailand.
 
In its citation for the award, the Norwegian Nobel Committee says, “Through binding international agreements, the international community has previously adopted prohibitions against land mines, cluster munitions and biological and chemical weapons. Nuclear weapons are even more destructive, but have not yet been made the object of a similar international legal prohibition.”
 
The citation then notes that the work of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons was instrumental in filling this legal gap, because of its work in encouraging countries to approve of the Treaty to Abolish Nuclear Weapons.
 
It adds, “The coalition has been a driving force in prevailing upon the world’s nations to pledge to cooperate with all relevant stakeholders in efforts to stigmatise, prohibit and eliminate nuclear weapons.”
 
To date, 108 states, including the Vatican have put their commitment on paper by signing up to what is known as the Humanitarian Pledge.
 
The Nobel Committee emphasises that the next step in attaining a world free of nuclear weapons must involve the nuclear-armed states and describes the peace prize as a call to initiate serious negotiations with a view to the gradual, balanced and carefully monitored elimination of the almost 15,000 nuclear weapons in the world.
 
While the number of weapons that exist today is only a fraction of some decades ago, the number of states possessing them has risen alarmingly.
 
Had the nation’s first taste of a Nobel Peace Prize gone to the captain of the Australian cricket team for his work for using sport to promote peace or a top brass from the military, no doubt Turnbull would have been most effusive in his congratulations and jockeying to get a photo-op in the winner’s circle.
 
But on this matter of life and death with an opposition Labour Party that supports the nuclear ban breathing down his neck, it becomes easier to understand why words don’t come easy to the silver-tongued prime minister, although not necessarily any easier to forgive.

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