Mairead Corrigan Maguire received the 1976 Nobel Peace Prize and the 1991 Nuclear Age Peace Foundation Distinguished Peace Leadership Award. She recently participated in the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation’s 2006 International Law Symposium, “At the Nuclear Precipice: Nuclear Weapons and the Abandonment of International Law.”
I believe one of the most hopeful trends in the world today is the interconnectedness of the Human Family. Technology has made us interconnected, and trade and the movement of people have made us interdependent. Even in the last 10 years, the world has changed, and the next 20 years will bring changes that none of us can imagine. But we human beings can shape the world to a great extent. I am very hopeful for the future because I believe we are often capable of good choices, we are resilient even in the face of great disasters, and we are creative. The massive people’s movement around the world should give us all hope. But governments must start listening and acting on what their people are saying, and particularly on such burning issues as nuclear weapons and war.
On nuclear weapons, I believe people of the world have chosen abolishment, but the governments are ignoring the wishes of their people. So, we have entered the second nuclear arms race, led by current US Administration and being followed by many other countries. If our governments don’t, at this point in our history, take seriously their international obligations under the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) to start decommissioning all nuclear weapons, there will be a serious proliferation within the next few years and we will truly be unable to abolish nuclear weapons. We will pass a frightful legacy to our children and grandchildren, a legacy of nuclear weapons and nuclear debt that will endanger them and their world. It is not only the next generation we will burden, but the cost of nuclear weapons in the past and today has robbed the materially poor of their rightful inheritance to be nurtured with basic rights of food, education and health care.
Governments are elected to take care of their citizens. But governments have not only a responsibility to nurture their own people; they have a responsibility to all of humanity. I believe this can best be done by all governments if, before taking serious policy decisions, they ask themselves, “Does this policy uphold domestic and international laws, and how will it benefit our nation’s people and humanity as a whole?”
This question is particularly relevant to the current American Administration. The whole world is now being affected by American foreign policies and American culture. All around the world, American television is beamed into billions of homes, Americanizing many people’s way of life. This recognition places enormous responsibility upon American government, media, corporations and people, to ask if what you are exporting is good for the world, or damaging it. What kind of ethical and moral values and example are you sending out to the world’s people, particularly an impressionable and vulnerable younger generation? Is offering the example of increasing nuclearism, ongoing wars, and the ignoring of international treaties and laws really going to make the world a safer place for us all? Yes, terrorism is a threat and we all want human security, but meeting terror with terror is not an answer. I believe that such approaches to date have made the world a more dangerous place both for Americans and many people throughout the world, and especially our Arab brothers and sisters.
After the horror of the Second World War, the world community recognized the need for legislation to protect citizens. Since then many international laws have entered into force. In the past, America played an important role in setting up many laws that would protect human rights. In l945, America gave full support for the United Nations. It supported the drafting of a Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), which affirmed the dignity of every human being. This Declaration has affected the policies of the United States and other countries all over the earth for more than half a century. The preamble to the UDHR states: “Member States have pledged themselves to achieve, in cooperation with the United Nations, the promotion of universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms” and it upholds “the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief, and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people.”
Under the UDHR, every citizen on the planet has a right to be free from fear of nuclear weapons, and every citizen on the planet has a right to be free from poverty, which condemns so many to lack of health care, education, shelter and the very basic necessities that enable human beings to lead full and dignified lives.
I believe we all have a human right to a nuclear free world and, in proclaiming that right, we affirm that we have chosen to live together, as the human family and friends, and not to die together as fools in a nuclear holocaust.