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Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons International Conference Oslo, 4–5 March 2013

Posted by African Press International on March 3, 2013

The Government of Norway will host an international conference on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons.The aim of the Conference is to provide an arena for the international community to have a facts-based discussion of the humanitarian and developmental consequences that would result from a nuclear weapon detonation. The Conference will be focusing on what happens on the ground.

The Conference programme includes presentations by international experts concerning three key aspects:

  1. The immediate humanitarian impact of a nuclear detonation.
  2. The possible wider developmental, economic and environmental consequences.
  3. Preparedness, including plans and existing capacity to respond to this type of disaster.

The Conference will be held over two days, commencing with a brief opening session at 10h CET on Monday 4 March. There will be three substantive working sessions, followed by concluding remarks and a chair’s summary presented after lunch on 5 March.

The venue for the Conference is the Radisson Blu Plaza Hotel in Oslo, Norway. In addition, there will be a side-event on the evening of 4 March in Oslo City Hall hosted by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

All interested states, as well as UN humanitarian organizations, the Red Cross Movement, representatives of civil society and other relevant stakeholders are invited to the Conference.The Norwegian Minister of Foreign AffairsEspen Barth Eide, will open the Conference. The President of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Peter Maurer, high-level UN humanitarian agency officials, Norwegian People’s Aid Secretary-General Liv Tørres, and the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) will also address the Conference’s opening session.

Participation in the work of the Conference is aimed at relevant senior officials and technical experts from national governments, international organizations and civil society.

Why is Norway hosting an international Conference on the humanitarian impacts of detonation of nuclear weapons?

A nuclear weapon detonation, whether intentional or accidental, could cause catastrophic short and longer-term humanitarian, economic, developmental and environmental consequences. Such a detonation would be likely to have global implications.

Recently, the notion of examining the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons use has begun to gain renewed attention, along with the higher political profile given to the continued dangers nuclear weapons pose. For example:

  • In his speech in Prague on 5 April 2009, United States President Obama said that “One nuclear weapon exploded in one city—be it New York or Moscow, Islamabad or Mumbai, Tokyo or Tel Aviv, Paris or Prague—could kill hundreds of thousands of people. And no matter where it happens, there is no end to what the consequences might be—for our global safety, our security, our society, our economy, to our ultimate survival.”
  • Concerns about nuclear weapons proliferation have helped to bring awareness of the continued risks all nuclear weapons pose further to the fore than at any time since the vast majority of states signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in 1968 in recognition that the world would be a safer place without nuclear weapons.
  • In its agreed outcome document, the 2010 NPT Review Conference expressed “deep concern at the continued risk for humanity represented by the possibility that these weapons could be used and the catastrophic humanitarian consequences that would result from the use of nuclear weapons”.
  • A number of other significant expressions of humanitarian concerns about the likely humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons detonation followed. In particular, in October 2011 the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement recently emphasized the immense suffering that would result from any detonation of nuclear weapons, as well as the lack of any adequate international response capacity to assist the victims. Many states at the 2012 UN General Assembly also expressed their concerns, including through a 34-nation joint-statement.
  • In addition, there is accumulating scientific work indicating that the consequences of even small-scale detonation of nuclear weapons would be more serious than previously widely thought.

The consequences of a nuclear detonation are relevant to practitioners in such diverse fields as health services, development, environment, finance, and emergency preparedness. However, there has been no arena in which to begin to discuss this encompassing these perspectives. That is why Norway decided to organize this Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons, and to invite a wide-range of stakeholders.


What will the Conference cover?

The Conference will focus on how states, relevant international organizations, and non-governmental organizations are prepared—or not—to handle the consequences of a nuclear detonation. This will entail some framing of what those likely consequences would be.

The Conference’s programme will feature presentations by experts and discussions around three key issues:

  1. What is the immediate human impact of a nuclear weapons detonation? Any meaningful discussion about preparedness must be based on a common understanding of the basic challenge the world would be facing. For that reason, leading experts in fields such as nuclear physics, medicine and disaster response will present on topics such as what a nuclear weapon detonation is, what the medical considerations will be in responding, as well as what lessons might be drawn in this regard from historical experience.
  2. What are the wider developmental, economic and environmental consequences of nuclear weapons detonation? These consequences are not always reflected in current the inter-state discourse about nuclear weapons. Yet in an increasingly interconnected world, these consequences may be broader than previously anticipated, for instance in terms of damage and disruption to the environment, societal infrastructure, the global economy, movements of people and public health.
  3. What is the state of affairs when it comes to preparedness among states, international organizations and others? Having discussed the kinds of human consequences from a nuclear weapons detonation, how would the international community deal with these? Can it handle these consequences, either currently or in the near future?

It is not anticipated that a two-day Conference can settle the questions raised by these thematic discussions. But they represent a starting point for framing the humanitarian impacts of nuclear weapons, and what needs to be done to deal with—or better yet, avert—nuclear weapons detonation.

Is there really much risk of detonation of a nuclear weapon?

This Conference is not concerned with the level of likelihood of a nuclear weapons detonation. But it is grounded on awareness that, as long as the probability of a nuclear weapons detonation exists, the very high consequence nature of such an event means it must be of humanitarian concern. While the overall number of nuclear weapons in the world has fallen since the end of the Cold War, tens of thousands of nuclear weapons remain in the arsenals of states. Meanwhile, the number of states with access to these arms has risen. This, combined with continued documented nuclear weapons accidents and the ever-present risk of nuclear theft or diversion, mean that the dangers cannot be considered to be negligible.

In view of this, Norway believes that it and the international community bear a responsibility to confront the ramifications of a nuclear weapons detonation.

How does this Conference relate to treaties and other regimes on nuclear weapons at the international level?

This Conference is a freestanding event, although of course it does complement Norway’s international commitments to contain the spread of these arms and eventually eliminate them. Norway is a State Party to the NPT, for instance, and in 2010 the NPT’s Review Conference’s expressed “deep concern at the continued risk for humanity represented by the possibility that these weapons could be used and the catastrophic humanitarian consequences that would result from the use of nuclear weapons”.

Nevertheless, Norway is also conscious that not all states belong to the NPT. Addressing the humanitarian consequences of use of nuclear weapons detonation concerns all of the international community, and a freestanding event such as the Conference reinforces the notion that none are excluded from such dialogue.

What is participation in the Conference expected to be?

Norway anticipates a good level of participation from states from all regions of the world, and has already received confirmation from many that they will send representatives to the Conference. These confirmations continue to trickle in, so it is difficult to be precise about numbers, although around 100 state delegations are expected. UNDP has established a sponsorship program for the Conference to assist participation from those states requiring it.

The United Nations has already confirmed that it will be strongly represented at the Conference by personnel from field-oriented agencies including the High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres, the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and UNDP. In addition, the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement will feature, including several national societies. The ICRC’s role will also be significant in view of its careful work in recent years analysing the state of international preparedness for a nuclear weapons detonation. Civil society will also be well represented at the Conference.

What is the Conference’s intended outcome?

The Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs will produce a concise summary of proceedings to be presented in the final session of the Conference on 5 March. An agreement or negotiated document is not the objective of the Conference. Nevertheless, it is hoped that this Conference will represent one contribution to raising awareness and the state of knowledge about the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons, and that such dialogue will continue after 5 March.

What is the Conference’s relationship to ICAN’s civil society Oslo Forum?

Norway’s partner for the purposes of civil society participation in the 4-5 March Conference is the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN). ICAN is responsible for coordinating the many non-governmental organizations with an interest in nuclear weapons issues, including their credentials and civil society statements and presentations in the Conference.

Separately, ICAN has organized its own civil society Forum on 2-3 March, the weekend preceding the international Conference. ICAN describes this Forum as an open event, and invites participation from state representatives, the media and indeed anyone interested in attending. The Norwegian government welcomes ICAN’s decision to hold a Forum: believe that greater public interest and pressure is important to ensuring the humanitarian impacts of nuclear weapons receive sufficient international treatment. Nevertheless, the Forum and the Conference are not formally related.

The programme:

  • Venue: Radisson Blu Plaza Hotel, Oslo, Norway
    Registration: Sunday 3 March from 17.00 at the Radisson Blu Plaza Hotel
    Monday 4 March from 08.00 at the Radisson Blu Plaza Hotel
  • Monday 4 March

10:00–11:00 Opening
Espen Barth Eide, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Norway
Peter Maurer, President of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)
Antonio Guterres, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)
Liv Tørres, Secretary General of Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA)
Rashid Khalikov, the Director of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Geneva
Video statement from Civil Society

11:00 – 13:00 Working session I
Immediate humanitarian impact of a nuclear weapon detonation
Co-chairs: Ambassador Christian Guillermet, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Costa Rica and Ambassador Steffen Kongstad, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Norway
The aim of the first working session is to provide the conference with concrete description of a nuclear weapon detonation and the current global status, and its immediate effects on people, health and infrastructure. The session will start with expert presentations, followed by a plenary discussion open to all delegations.
Nuclear weapons: How they work and what they would do to you Dr. Patricia Lewis, Research Director, Chatham House, London
Immediate impact: Death, damage and medical needs Sir Andy Haines, Professor, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine
Medical effects of a nuclear weapon detonation Dr. Masao Tomonaga, Director of the Japanese Red Cross Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Survivors Hospital
Scenario of a nuclear detonation Norwegian Defence Research Establishment and Norwegian People’s Aid Elin Enger, Senior Scientist, Norwegian Defence Research Establishment (FFI)

  • 13:00 – 14:30 Lunch hosted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Radisson Blu Plaza Hotel

14:30 – 17:00 Working session II
Wider impact and longer-term consequences
Co-chairs: Director General Nozipho Mxakato-Diseko, Ministry of International Relations and Cooperation of South Africa and Director General Aud Lise Norheim, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Norway
The second session aims to provide the conference with an overview of some of the wider impacts and longer-term consequences of nuclear weapon detonations. The session will start with expert presentations on the damage and disruption testing and use of nuclear weapons can cause with regard to food security, public health and the environment. The presentations will be followed by a plenary discussion open to all delegations.

Social and economic impacts: Structural restoration of lives and livelihoods in and around affected areas Neil Buhne, Director of the Bureau of Crisis Prevention and Recovery, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP BCPR)
The legacy of nuclear testing: The case of Kazakhstan Kanat B. Saudabayev, Chairman of the Commission on non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction under the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan, Director of the Nazarbayev Center
Food security and global consequences Peter Scott-Bowden, Senior Emergency Advisor, UN World Food Programme
Wider humanitarian impact: The long-term effects on health, environment and development Dr. Ira Helfand, International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN)

  • 18:30–20.30 Reception with buffet in Oslo City Hall hosted by State Secretary Gry Larsen
  • Tuesday 5 March

10:00–12:00 Working session III
Humanitarian preparedness and response
Co-chairs: Ambassador Alexander Kmentt, Director for Disarmament, Arms Control and Non-proliferation, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Austria and Director General Mona Juul, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Norway
The final working session will present an overview of the state of preparedness and the needs for adequate humanitarian response to a nuclear weapon detonation. Experts from national protection and response authorities and humanitarian organisations will provide presentations to be followed by a plenary discussion open to all delegations.
Emergency Preparedness and Response in the Event of a Nuclear Detonation, the cases of Norway and Romania

Preparedness and response: The role of OCHA and the Inter Agency Standing Committee Rashid Khalikov, the Director of OCHA in Geneva
Challenges in responding to the use of nuclear weapons Dr. Gregor Malich, Head of NRBC Operational Response Project, ICRC

  • 12:00–13:30 Lunch hosted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Radisson Blu Plaza Hotel

13:30–15:00 Concluding remarks and chair’s summary
Gry Larsen, State Secretary at the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, will chair the closing session. Following interventions from the floor by delegations, the Chair will present the chair’s summary.


source: mfa.norway

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Relocating IDPs, welcoming returning refugees

Posted by African Press International on March 3, 2013

MOGADISHU/NAIROBI,  – The Somali government plans to relocate thousands of internally displaced persons (IDPs) currently living in Mogadishu to camps on the outskirts of the city, but there are concerns over inadequate government capacity as well as security and access to services in the proposed relocation areas.

There are an estimated 369,000 IDPs or people living like IDPs in Mogadishu, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). Of these, about 270,000 could be relocated to three camps on the outskirts of the capital, helping to decongest the city, according to Mohamed Ahmed Nur Tarsan, Mogadishu’s mayor.

“Honestly, no mayor in the world would tolerate IDPs form[ing] shanty shelters in the capital city. This issue touches [on] the security of the city and remains a threat to the sanitation of the city,” Tarsan said, adding that there are no security problems on the outskirts of Mogadishu.

“I am not saying that we should put these people in faraway isolated places, but what I am saying is that we should get better places for them since these people are currently living in appalling conditions.”

IDPs in Mogadishu live in difficult conditions, under threat of extortion and eviction. Providing aid to them has also been difficult in the past due to security constraints.

But in reaction to the relocation plan, IDPs expressed concerns about security and the availability of basic services.

“If we are provided with security and health services, we will obey the government plans. But if we do not feel safe, we will just wait [for] our God here,” Abdullahu Olow Dhere, an IDP in Mogadishu’s Darwish camp, located next to Somalia’s parliament, told IRIN.

Another concern is the distance of the proposed relocation sites from livelihood opportunities.

Voluntary relocation key

Some of the IDPs may be unwilling to relocate from Mogadishu or to return to their original homes. Somalia has a relatively youthful population, meaning that, for some, Mogadishu is the only home they have known. “Those who may be unwilling to return to their previous locations should be relocated to camps on the outskirts of Mogadishu,” said Tarsan.

IDPs in Mogadishu grapple with insecurity, including rape and other forms of sexual and gender-based violence, raising concerns that violence will be a problem in the proposed new locations as well. “If we just simply resettle people from one location to another, I don’t think we should expect any improvement in the security [or] protection of those people, especially the single-female [headed] households. Unless we put in place the conditions for success, success is not assured at all,” Justin Brady, the head of the OCHA office in Somalia, told Radio Ergo in a recent interview.

But according to Tarsan, “Rapists will be killed, as the President said, and we anticipate Mogadishu to [have] zero rape within the coming three months.”

He added, “We are providing security as well as the land, and it is the responsibility of aid organizations to provide services like health and water.”

Aid agencies are getting ready.

“What we are looking at is how the government plan can be assisted by the partners… to make this as ethical and humane a resettlement – and voluntary, that being the key part for the IDPs – going forward,” Brady told Radio Ergo.

“We need to review exactly what is required… It is not simply a shelter issue or a protection issue, but all of the service providers across the spectrum of clusters need to be involved.”

According to Brady, the Somali government hopes much of the relocation will happen this year. “The government’s plan has a very ambitious timeline. They wish to see a good portion of it done by the 20th of August, which is obviously a very symbolic date in Somalia. We will be engaging with them to see… the key points where effort needs to be put in to ensure that the conditions are right for resettlement.”

On 20 August 2012, the mandate of Somalia’s transitional government ended, paving way for a new parliament and the subsequent presidential election, the first in more than two decades. The successful election led to growing optimism about the future of Somalia, prompting thousands of people to return to Mogadishu.

Refugees returning

Some refugees are also returning from the Dadaab refugee complex in northeastern Kenya, which is home to close to half a million refugees.

The returns have been, in part, driven by growing pressure by the Kenyan government on Somali refugees to return to Somalia.

“Almost 20,000 Somali refugees have voluntarily left Kenya since repatriation calls started,” states Hasty Repatriation: Kenya’s attempt to send Somali refugees home, a recent report by the Heritage Institute for Policy Studies, a Somali-based think-tank.

“Vacancy rates of houses and apartments in Eastleigh [a heavily Somali district in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi] have rocketed and, subsequently, rent rates have plummeted… Schools in the area have reported considerably reduced student numbers.”

Speaking at the launch of the report, the Somalia ambassador to Kenya, Mohamed Ali Nur, said that while the Somali government is willing to welcome back the refugees, “and we want them to come back to help in rebuilding the country, we want the refugees to go back in a coordinated manner.”

According to the report, the Somali government is not prepared to accommodate the almost 600,000 Somali refugees living mainly in Kenya and Ethiopia. Still, “the Somali government is devising an ambitious plan to establish large camps inside Somalia, near the Kenyan border. It hopes to move hundreds of thousands of refugees to the new camps before the end of 2013. Not only is the implementation of this plan unrealistic, but it could also expose vulnerable refugees to dangerous conditions.”

The report’s author, Anab Nur, said, “To send such a large number of refugees back at this time, I think, will be destabilizing. They are already dealing with an IDP issue.”

The report recommends that Kenya and Somalia work closely through their Joint Cooperation Committee to find a satisfactory solution, and for the Somali government to “capitalize on recent security gains by establishing state institutions that can absorb the influx of refugees”.

“Key to this,” it states, “is addressing the emotive issue of land in Somalia. Unresolved land disputes will likely lead to a re-eruption of violence in southern Somalia. An orderly, well-timed return of refugees would, however, solidify recent gains made and lay the foundations for a stable Somalia.”

amd-aw/rz source

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Peace agreement for DR Congo gives cause for hope

Posted by African Press International on March 3, 2013

“This agreement on peace, security and cooperation in the Democratic Republic of Congo offers hope to a population that has endured great suffering,” said Minister of Foreign Affairs Espen Barth Eide.

The Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework for the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Region, which was signed in Addis Ababa on 24 February, addresses not only the acute security situation in DR Congo; it also points to the fact that the underlying political problems need to be solved and economic and social development strengthened if lasting peace is to be achieved.

“A major effort involving a large number of countries is needed to resolve the conflicts in this region. I therefore welcome the fact that so many countries, in addition to the UN and the African Union, have signed the agreement,” Mr Eide said.

The Framework was signed by a number of African leaders. The Chairperson of the African Union Commission Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon witnessed the signing.

“Addressing the underlying causes of the conflict will require a concerted effort on the part of the authorities in DR Congo, neighbouring countries such as Rwanda and Uganda, and the international community. As with all agreements, the most important and most difficult part will be its implementation,” Mr Eide said.

The conflicts and the enormous suffering they have brought to the civilian population in eastern DR Congo have prompted a major humanitarian effort by Norway. In 2012 Norway provided NOK 163 million in emergency aid to DR Congo. These efforts are continuing.


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