Moving Toward Global Zero

The Right Honorable Sir Malcom Rifkind welcomed Global Zero Summit participants to London with the famous opening of Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”

These are apt words for today’s efforts to achieve a world without nuclear weapons. As Rifkind, the former British Foreign Secretary and current Member of Parliament explained, extraordinary advances have been made on reducing global nuclear threats over the past three years. However, there are still significant international challenges that threaten to derail further progress – including the nuclear programs of Iran and North Korea.

That’s what the Global Zero London Summit was all about: continuing to build a movement that can push for progress during the best of times and provide international leaders with political support and creative proposals to overcome the worst.

During the two-day summit, more than 100 Global Zero signatories – diplomats, policymakers and government officials, former military officers and national security heavyweights who have signed on to Global Zero’s Action Plan (PDF) to eliminate all nuclear weapons worldwide by 2030 – analyzed the current political environment and shared ideas on advancing Global Zero’s objectives.

Since its launch in December 2008, the Global Zero movement has grown to more than 300 high-level Global Zero signatories and over 400,000 citizens from every country that have joined the movement by signing the Global Zero declaration.  At the London Summit, Global Zero received written endorsements from President Barack Obama, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, UK Prime Minister David Cameron, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. Obama’s message read, “I want each of you to know that Global Zero continues to have a partner in my Administration and that we will never waver in our pursuit of a world free of nuclear weapons.”

Global Zero is currently in the first phase of its action plan, laying the groundwork for multilateral negotiations to reduce and eliminate all nuclear weapons.

“The situation is favorable to move forward,” said Global Zero signatory Col. Gen. (Ret.) Victor Esin, former Chief of Staff of the Strategic Rocket Forces in the Russian Federation. Esin added that the 2015 Nonproliferation Treaty Review Conference could provide an incentive – and a timetable – for the major nuclear weapons states to begin negotiations towards a multilateral accord.

Global Zero’s critical next step is continuing to build international public support for a world without nuclear weapons. This kind of public engagement reminds politicians that their constituents care deeply about nuclear weapons issues, and provides leaders with the political support to stay on course, especially when things get difficult.

To reduce nuclear weapons in the short term, international leaders must demonstrate progress on a number of challenging issues, including negotiating a technical and political framework for U.S.-Russian missile defense cooperation, resolving regional conflicts in areas where nuclear weapons play a role (like in India and Pakistan), and finding diplomatic solutions to the nuclear programs of Iran and North Korea.

As we move forward, the path to zero will be riddled with opportunities and challenges representing both the best of times and the worst of times. Part of Global Zero’s role will be to build momentum and public support to energize and empower international leaders to take concrete steps toward achieving a world without nuclear weapons. As a Financial Times editorial declared at the end of the Summit, “Global Zero’s plan has shown the direction to be travelled; the world’s leaders must now start moving.”