Black Mist, White Rain

Gem Romuld

This April, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) organised a four-day, four-city speaking tour, 'Black Mist, White Rain', to highlight the ongoing impact of nuclear testing in Australia and the Marshall Islands, and to raise public awareness about the global diplomatic process under way to ban nuclear weapons once and for all.

The speakers were Aunty Sue Coleman-Haseldine (Kokatha-Mula), Rose and Karina Lester (Yankunytjatjara-Anangu) from South Australia, and Abacca Anjain-Maddison from Rongelap Atoll in the Marshall Islands. More than 500 people attended the forums in Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane.

Meanwhile, groundbreaking diplomatic talks on nuclear disarmament continued at the United Nations in May, with the overwhelming majority of governments agreeing that it is high time to start work on a global treaty banning nuclear weapons. Nations such as Brazil, Mexico, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines proposed that the first negotiating conference for the new treaty be held in 2017.

The third and final session of the talks will take place August 2016. The likely result will be adoption of a resolution this October in the UN General Assembly recommending the start of negotiations on a treaty banning nuclear weapons. This will be a major step forward.

The treaty will place nuclear weapons on the same legal footing as other weapons of mass destruction, which have long been prohibited under international conventions. It will make them illegal to use, produce and possess. While it is unlikely that the nuclear-armed nations will join the treaty at the outset, it will stigmatize nuclear weapons and create momentum for disarmament.

At the first round of talks in February, Australia spoke out loudly against a ban. But at the May session, it adopted a neutral position and kept a low profile. This is because the government was in caretaker mode prior to the federal election, and the Labor and Liberal parties have divergent policies on banning nuclear weapons.

Underpinning the renewed global push to ban nuclear weapons is a deep concern about the catastrophic harm these weapons inflict on people and the environment. Survivors of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, as well as survivors of nuclear test explosions, have been at the forefront of the process to achieve a ban.

Some of the speeches from the Black Mist, White Rain speaking tour are posted at www.icanw.org/au/bmwr and a 10-minute video is posted at https://vimeo.com/165237774

Find out more about ICAN at www.icanw.org/au

Gem Romuld is the Outreach Coordinator with ICAN Australia.

Published in Chain Reaction, national magazine of Friends of the Earth Australia, August 2016